Category Archives: Blog

Blog Posts by Jens

6 Triads for a Cmaj7 Chord (well 10 actually..)

Using triads to play jazz chords is a great way to get the sound of the chord and have a flexible three note voicing that you can change the extensions and melody on. This video is going over 6 triads that I use for my Cmaj7 voicings and will also demonstrate how you can use them in a II V I cadence in C major. At the end of the video I go over 4 more triads that are a bit tricky to use but also yield more interesting sounds!

Finding the triads

The most important note in a Cmaj7 voicing is probably the major 3rd: E.

If we want to find the triads that can be used it is probably a good idea to just look at what options are available with the diatonic triads that contain an E.

As you can see here below I have written out the triads where E is the 3rd, the root and the 5th. Which gives us C, Em and Am triads. But we can also use the sus4 triads. The second half of the example below are the sus4 triads where E is the root, 5th and 4th.

The Bsus4 is not really diatonic to C major, but is a great sound to use for a Cmaj7(#11) or Lydian sound.

The Tonic triads

The C major triad is of course a good candidate to convey a Cmaj7 sound. The example below shows how that might be used:

The C major is of course lacking a bit of color, but it can still be used. I chose to use it with the E in the melody because if it has  the root in the melody it immediately sounds like the ending of the song.

Em triads – Triad from the 3rd of the chord

A lot of very common Cmaj7 voicings are in fact just Em triads with a C bass note (as I demonstrate in the video) This of course means that yet again the structure from the 3rd of the chord is incredibly useful as a voicing for the chord.

The Am triad – C6 chords

When using the Am triad we don’t actually get a Cmaj7 sound but instead a C6 sound. As you probably already know, the two are interchangeable so this is also a useful triad to have in your vocabulary

Esus4 The super triad

A very rich Tonic sound is the Cmaj7(13) and this is what you get if you use an Esus4 triad to spell out the Cmaj7 as shown here below:

Asus4 The 6/9 upper structure

Using an Asus4 as a Cmaj7 voicing gives you an C6 chord with an added 9. This sound is very common in Bossa Nova and other Brazilian styles but is in general of course also a beautiful sound on a tonic chord and a great alternative to the more common Cmaj7 sounds.

Lydian with a Bsus4

The last sus4 triad is the Bsus4 which is in fact diatonic to G major not C major. Bsus4/C gives us a maj7, 3rd and b5 (or #11) which is a lydian sound.

Combining the triad sounds

Now that we have 6 different ways to play the Cmaj7 chord we can combine them to get a varying set of colors on the tonic chord.

This is shown in the example below where I am first resolving to Asus4 then Am and further on to Esus4. This small move on Cmaj could also be a riff for a song with a period of static Cmaj7.

The second example is starting with a very basic II V voicing set. From there it resolves to C using Asus4, then an inversion of Asus4 that moves up to a Bsus4 and on to Esus4 before it resolves to a Gsus4.

The Gsus4 is a great choice for a Cmaj7 but it is a little more context sensitive as it does not contain an E.

The secret triads

There are four more triads that I often use for voicing a Cmaj7, but these last ones are a litte more difficult to work with because they are more incomplete or very specific in the sound that they convey.

The four triads are shown here below:

The first three are difficult because they don’t contain an E, and the last one is tricky because it has the #5 of C in the voicing.

The beautiful incomplete voicing – Gsus4

In the example here below I am using the Gsus4 triad. The Gsus4 mostly works as a C voicing because the fact that is missing the E is somehow compensated by the C in the voicing.

G/C Upper-structure triads

This voicing is fairly open sounding and not too specific as a Cmaj7 sound. This comes from it only containing the upper part of the chord. One way that it still sounds great as a Cmaj7 voicing is to have it preceded by a G7alt, because the strong pull from the G7 will then automatically make it sound like a resolution.

The Lydian Upper-structure

Another example of only using an upper structure is the D major triad. This triad spells out the 9th, #11 and 13th over the chord. Since we are missing both 3rd and 7th it is not really giving us the sound of the chord, at the same time the Lydian sound is so  heavily represented that it is still fairly clear what is going on.

The Augemented Maj7 – E/C

In this last example the chord sound is actually altered, but since it is by now a very common sound I chose to include it anyway. The E major triad is in fact a Cmaj7#5 without a C, so it is in that respect a very clear sound. That said you should probably be a bit careful with what is going on in the music before you start using this sound.

How to use these 10 triads

This exercise is mostly and overview of what triads you have available as voicings but it should give you some idea on what you can try to use. 

You probably want to spend some time with each one that you want to get into your vocabulary and work on them one at a time to get used to how they work in different contexts.

This can ofcourse also be applied to solos, so maybe that is something to do a video on at some point.

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Get the PDF!

You can also download the PDF of my examples here:

6 Triad Voicings for Cmaj7

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics or how I can make the lessons better then please let me know. Leave a comment on the video or  send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make them fit what you are searching for.

Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Instagram,Twitter Google+ or Facebook to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.

Sight-reading and interpreting a Jazz Standard Leadsheet

Sight-reading music is a tricky situation to be in for most jazz guitar players. Most of the time when you are in a situation where you have to read music from a leadsheet or similar you actually have to interpret what is there as much as you have to be able to read a specific melody or set of voicings. This interpretation and analysis is what I try to discuss in this video.

The video covers a discussion and an analysis of the song and different approaches to comping and strategies to keep in mind.

1:00 The song
1:22 Analysis: The Form
4:45 Advantage to understand the form
9:07 Playing I remember You
10:21 Analyzing and Correcting the Chords
13:46 Generalizing Chord Progressions
18:48 Reading the melody and incorporating that into the comp
20:11 Extensions behind the melody
23:25 Turning this into instant chord melody arrangements + Practical thoughts
25:43 Comping The Tune
26:03 Different types of comping
26:27 Comping with inner-voice movement and a bit of counterpoint
27:58 Comping more rhythmical and riff oriented (Drop2 and Triads)
29:00 #IV diminished stategy
29:29 Comping example: Cadence for the #IV
30:33 Leave space for the soloist
31:06 Comping just laying down the harmony
32:03 Strategies for soloing
33:24 Chord Reduction of the song
34:27 Solo on I Remember You
36:51 Reducing and Things to watch out for
38:19 Problem with Chord Scale theory

Allan Holdsworth Chords on a Jazz Standard – Advanced Modern Chord Voicings

Allan Holdsworth is of course famous for his fantastic chord voicings and use of extended chords. I thought it would be an interesting experiment to take a standard and try to play through it with the type of chords that Holdsworth might use, so I took the song Days Of Wine And Roses and went through that applying chords and voicings with that in mind.

Holdsworth and Standard Jazz Harmony

The music of Allan Holdsworth is of course not based on the same type of harmony that you find in a jazz standard, and in his chord vocabulary there are many different types of voicings. The ones I chose to focus on in this video are the more open chords that are spread out over several octaves. Since the music that Holdsworth plays is also a different harmonic language my chord choices are a bit different. This is mostly because I would have to completely reharmonize the piece to get closer to those chord sounds, and for now I feel that it would missing the point. I really want to try to bridge the gap between this type of  voicings and more standard jazz chord progressions for this lesson. Maybe in another lesson I can also adapt the chord sounds a bit.

A lot of these are Drop2&4 voicings or derived from that, though not all of them. If you want to check out more on drop2&4 voicings to make it easier to play and understand what I am doing here you can do so here:

Drop 2&4 chords

Using the funny inverions and Drop2&4 voicings

The chord voicing is actually an inversion of a very common Fmaj7(9) voicing with the notes A G F and E spread out over two octaves. The original is a very common “bossa nova” chord: F A E G.

The 2nd chord: Eb7 is constructed by voice leading the first voicing, so A moves to G, F to Eb, G to A and E to Db. This gives us an Eb7(b5) voicing which is in fact also an inversion of an Drop3 Eb7(b5).

The Am7(b5) voicing has some added “Holdsworth color” because I opted for a Am7(9b5) which I here play with an Ebmaj7(#5) Drop2&4 voicing. 

The D7alt is voiced with a drop2&4 D7(b9b13) chord, which you could also look at as being an Ebm6 chord.

Mixing drop3 and drop 2 and 4

Both Drop2&4 and drop3 voicings share that they contain larger intervals, and this means that you can often easily get away with mixing them.

This happens on the Gm7 below where the first chord is a Bbmaj7 drop2&4 voicing that then is followed with a drop3 Bbmaj7 voicing. The drop3 is played a bit odd because I skip a string in the middle, but like this the sound between the two fits better. I didn’t actually notice that it was a drop3 in the beginning.

The Bbm7-Eb7 is a straight ahead way to voice IVm II V in F: Dbmaj7 and Eb7(b5) both drop2 and 4.

The chord voicings that I am using on the Am7 is a stack of 4ths over a low E. The voicing is less common because it has the 3rd and 7th high in the chord and the 5th and 11th lower.

The Dm7 chord is coming out of voice leading the Am7 to F, so it has a Dm7(9) sound.

On the Gm7 C7 I start with the Drop3 Gm7(9) and move from there to a C7(13) drop2&4.

Spread Triads with added notes

To me the emphasis, when using these voicings is on the sound of the chord more than the functional character of the progression. This is evident both in the voice leading and also in the way I play the chords as mostly sustained surfaces of sound.

That actually makes it a bit difficult to really get it to work on the kind of progression shown here below. The First two bars are repeating material that I already covered.  The only thing worth noticing is of course that the Eb7(b5) from bar2 can also work as an A7(b5).

On the Gm7 I use a Bbmaj7 spread or open-voiced triad and then over that triad I add an 11th( a C). This voicing has a 5ht interval as the highest interval and I move this interval up a 1/2 step to the C7alt (which is then a C7(b5b9).

Parallel fifths!

The parallel fifths that are moving already on the Gm7, C7alt are resolved as a G and D on the Fmaj7. This is coming from voice-leading the C7alt.

The Eb7(b5) is a standard drop2&4. The Am7(b9) is also a drop2&4 this time I am using a CmMaj7 chord voicing to add the 9th to the sound. THe D7(b13) is another drop 2 and 4 voicing.

Re-using voicings on other chord types

The first two voicings on Gm7 are the same as in the first half. On the Bbm7 I am using the same voicing as I started with on the Fmaj7 in bar 1. Now I am playing it from F and it contains F,Db,Eb and C which is a Bbm(9,11) sound. In the context the Ab is not really missed. 

The Eb7 is coming out of voice leading the Bbm chord and contains G(3rd),Db(b7),A(#11) and C(13th).

A few different ways to derive new voicings

The Am7 voicing here below is using the same structure as we saw on the Gm7 before the half of the song: An Open triad with an added 11th. The Dm7 is a Drop2 and 4 Fmaj7 voicing where the A is substituted with a G so that we have a Dm7(9,11).  I really like this voicing with it’s stack of 5ths and the added 9 on top.

On the Bm7(b5) I am using a straight Bm7(b5) drop2&4 voicing. 

The Bb7 is played with an FmMaj7 voicing, this one derived from teh Fmaj7(9) voicing I used in the beginning but now with an Ab instead of an A. 

The last 4 bars start with an Am7 voicing that are coming out of voice leading the Bb7. I chose to add a 9 even if that is not really in the key of F.

The Dm7 and Gm7 are both drop2&4 voicings that I talked about earlier.

The C7alt voicing is another drop2&4, but this time with a C7(#9b5) which has a major 6th as the highes interval (Gb toEb).

The turnaround is reharmonized a bit so instead of going to F I resolve first to a Dbmaj7 using the drop3 voicing I also used on Gm7 and a Gbmaj7 that is voiced with the chord I also started with. This also makes it easy to loop the whole progression.

How to use this lesson

I hope you can use this etude to learn some new chords and hopefully you can also get some ideas for new voicings and also a bit of insight in how you comp with these larger interval structures in the style of Allan Holdsworth.

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You can also download the PDF of my examples here:

Allan Holdsworth Voicings on Days of Wine

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics or how I can make the lessons better then please let me know. Leave a comment on the video or  send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make them fit what you are searching for.

Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Instagram,Twitter Google+ or Facebook to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.

Vlog: How many ways can you Reharmonize a II-V-I in C major?

The II-V-I is at the center of almost all jazz harmony. In this lesson I set out to try and see a big set of the possibilites you have in reharmonizing a II V I and make a long list of possible chord substitutions. The Jazz Theory that I mostly apply to the II V I cord progression in this reharm lesson is classical or functional harmony. The approach I mostly use. In the later options I also rely on some modal interchange and more freely associated jazz chord substitutions.

List of contents:

0:59 Different sounds on G7
6:09 Tritone substitution
7:59 IV minor chords
15:45 V minor chords
16:28 Diatonic substitution from the Altered Scale
17:45 Diatonic substitution with Tri-tone subs
18:59 Other Dominants from the Diminished scale
19:14 Dominant derived from the diminished scale
19:58 Combining substitutions and getting far out
22:30 Did I miss a good substitution?

Lydian Dominant Licks – The Best Modern Arpeggios and Structures

In the Lydian dominant sound you can access a lot of cool sounds and you can put it to use in modal situations, blues, tritone subs and IV minor chords. This video will give you some new ideas and non diatonic arpeggio structures to add to your Lydian dominant ideas. I will use 3 Lydian Dominant Guitar Licks to demonstrate how great the arpeggios work in the context of this sound!

You can use the Lydian Dominant Scale as refreshing and surprising sounds besides the fact that you need for some of the chord progressions you will keep running into in jazz standards and originals.

The Scale and the chord

All the examples in this lesson are using an A7(#11) as the Lydian dominant. The Lydian dominant scale that goes with this chord is the 4th degree of the E melodic minor scale as shown here below:

The first Lydian dominant example – The Gmaj7(b5)

The first example is using two non diatonic arpeggios and a triad pair.

The diatonic arpeggios in E melodic minor are EmMaj7, F#m7, Gmaj7(#5) A7, B7, C#m7b5 and D#m7(b5). Basically the arpeggios you get by stacking 3rds in the scale.

But besides those you can also construct other chords in the scale. One of those is the Gmaj7(b5) which is what I use as the first 4 notes of this example. From there it continues with another non diatonic arpeggio: the A7(b5). After this I continue with a very common triad pair with A and B major triads. This is a very common triad pair to use for melodic minor. The triads are played in 2nd inversion.

Crazy arpeggio ideas – Drop2 and diatonic sus4 arpeggios

The first arpeggio in the second example is using a Drop2 version of the A7(b5) arpeggio. The line continues with a Bsus4 triad.

The combination of Bsus4 and A7(b5) voicing works as one large arpeggio structure. If you want to learn more of this approach you can do so here: Crazy Arpeggios

From the Bsus4 arpeggio the melody continues by moving up to the next diatonic sus4 triad: Asus#4.

The last part of the line is coming out of a G augmented triad idea.

Using them as Tritone dominants or as an altered chord

The previous example resolves to a D#, which you can directly interpret as an Eb, the 5th in Abmaj7. It is important to keep in mind that these lines can be used as tritone dominants or altered scale ideas as well.

Sweeping maj7#5 arpeggios and add some Quartal ideas!

A great arpeggio for the Lydian dominant sound is the maj7#5 arpeggio. For an A7(#11) this is a Gmaj7#5, which I am using as the opening statement in the 3rd example. From here the line continues with an F#m7 arpeggio. 

The 2nd bar is combining two Quartal arpeggios. First from G that you might recognize as an A7(13) chord. From here it continues with the one from C#. Together these two spell out an A7(9,13) sound.

The line ends on a D#. This is also an example of a line that would make a great Eb7alt or tritone guitar lick.

Summing it up

I hope you can use these ideas with some non diatonic arpeggios and quartal arpeggio ideas to expand on your own Lydian dominant vocabulary!

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If you want to download a Free E-book of 15 II Valt I licks then subscribe to my newsletter:


You can also download the PDF of my examples here:

Lydian Dominant licks

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics or how I can make the lessons better then please let me know. Leave a comment on the video or  send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make them fit what you are searching for.

Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Instagram,Twitter Google+ or Facebook to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.

Jazz Guitar Q&A #27 – Up tempo solos – Practice goals – Jazz and other genres

This weeks Q&A on Transcribing Chord progressions, Practice goals, Up tempo soloing and how to work towards it, and if Jazz skills translate directly to other genres.

In the video I talk about what and how you learn from transcribing and how you work with transcriptions in different ways. I also talk about how to incorporate licks and melodic material into your jazz guitar solos.

If you have any questions on guitars, effects, improvisation, technique or improvisation then leave a comment on my video or send me a message on Facebook or Instagram.


0:14 Intro
1:15 Learning tunes by ear
10:00 Practice goals, what to work towards?
13:15 Uptempo solos and how to practice that
20:16 Applying Jazz Skills to other genres
26:25 Outro + Questions?

Important Jazz Guitarists  –  Who to Know and study

I teach at a young talent program at a jazz conservatory, and part of what I do is of course also to try to expose the students to some of the influential Jazz Guitarists through time. 

It is important to be aware of where the music developed from and of course the playlist is not supposed to be a complete chronological guide, or history assignment. It is meant more as some suggestions to check out if you want to know something about jazz guitar.

I am curious what you think! Let me know who your favourites are! 🙂

To have a small resource to quickly pass on I made a Spotify playlist that you can check out here: 

If you want to follow what I recommend and listen to on Spotify then do so via this link:


I have made a video on this in the past as well that you may find interesting:

Bebop Jazz Guitar Licks – Classic Bebop Sound Decoded

Checking out bebop jazz guitar licks is a huge part of learning a style of music like Bebop. This also means out how to incorporate what makes them Bebop Guitar them into your playing. This would be true both for phrasing and specific arpeggios, chromatic enclosures that are being used in Bebop.

In this video I will go over 3 good examples of Bebop Jazz Licks, and then I will analyze them and talk about how they are constructed and what the building blocks of this type of jazz lick is.

The Bebop Dominant

Since the bebop style is very focused on dom7th chords I have made examples of V I progression in the key of G major. It is of course also possible to use these on a II V I in G major.

In general the people who play bebop and teach it (like Barry Harris) will focus more on the dominant than the II chord in a cadence.

Bebop Jazz Guitar Lick #1

One of the really common Bebop phrasing ideas is to use 16th note scale runs in the middle of an 8th note line to create some variation. The first example here below has this in the middle of bar 1.  The easiest way and to play this and get it to sound good in terms of phrasing is to use pull offs towards the target note.

Another very common device is using chromatic enclosures which what you see in the 2nd half of bar 1. The enclosure is used to target and emphasize the 3rd of D7 on the 1 of the 2nd bar.

The first half of the 2nd bar is in fact just a D7 arpeggio, but the line is constructed by playing a descending D7 arpeggio and then displacing the last three notes an octave. This yields a very beautiful and melodic 6th interval between the F# and the D.

At the end of the line I included a D augmented triad that nicely resolves to the 9th(A) of Gmaj7.

To practice playing the 16th note trills with legato you can take this exercise through a position of 3 notes per string major scale. I have only written out the first 3 string sets.

Bebop Jazz Guitar Lick #2

This example contains two ideas that you will find in a lot of bebop lines. The first is playing a 7th arpeggio with a triplet, which is how the line starts. In the line I am playing a descending Em7 arpeggio. 

From here the line skips back to A for a descending scale run. 

In the 2nd bar you’ll first hear a 16th note triplet trill between root and b9. This is again executed with legato. From here the line continues down the arpeggio. Inserts a leading note a half step below the 3rd of D7 and uses another octave displacement before resolving to the 3rd(B) of G

The triplet idea can be practiced in position as shown in the exercise here below. It’s an extremely good alternate picking exercise if you use that technique and will also work really well with sweeping (as I demonstrate in the video)

To work on the trill (and work on your legato technique) you can do this exercise which is taking the trill idea from the line above through a G major scale position.

Bebop Jazz Guitar Lick #3

The ascending 7th chord arpeggio with an added leading note is a very typical for bebop licks. In this example I am using that on an F#m7(b5). F#m7(b5) is the arpeggio from the 3rd of D7 and a great arpeggio to use over a D7.

 From the high E I add a chromatic leading note and make a short chromatic run before going to C on the 1 of bar 2.

The 2nd bar is first a descending Cmaj7 arpeggio that then continues to the b9(Eb) on beat 3. From here the line uses octave displacement and continues with a line to resolve to the 3rd of G, and tagging it with a G. Another trademark bebop move.

To practice the arpeggios you can of course take them through the scale. There are several ways to do this, one of them is shown here below.

Making new licks with the building blocks

The main point of this lesson is of course that you can start making your own lines that sound more like bebop. To demonstrate how you might do that I have included two bebop licks that are constructed from the ideas that I used in the first three licks.

Derived Bebop Lick #1

In this first line I start with the opening idea from Lick no 3, but now I am using it on a D7 arpeggio.  This is followed by a 16th note scale run fill as in the first example.

In bar 2 I continue with a descending scale run. This leads into the 3rd of D7 where I use the same octave displacement idea that I used in Lick no 2, only now played an octave higher.

In this way we end up with the lick shown here below:

Derived Bebop Lick #2

In the last lick I am starting with the 16th note trill idea from Lick no 1. This is followed by a scale run that leads into two arpeggios chained together, an Am7 and a F#m7(b5). The line ends with the “bebop” ending that resolves to a D and then drops down to the 9th(A)

I hope you can use these exercises and building blocks and the process to start incorporating some more bebop into your lines. Bebop is a very rich melodic language with a great amount of things you can use even in more modern bop based jazz guitar solos.

Get a Free Ebook

If you want to download a Free E-book of 15 II Valt I licks then subscribe to my newsletter:


You can also download the PDF of my examples here:

Bebop Jazz Guitar Licks – Dominant Ideas and Analysis

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics or how I can make the lessons better then please let me know. Leave a comment on the video or  send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make them fit what you are searching for.

Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Instagram,Twitter Google+ or Facebook to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.

Vlog: Advanced ideas: Triads and Spread Triads on Out Of Nowhere

Triads and Spread Triads are invaluable as tools for making jazz lines, especially in the realm of more modern sounding melodies. The video is in three main parts: An analysis of the chord progression, Finding triads that can be used and discussing outside or exotic scale choices, and finally making lines with the material and talking about the colors of the superimposed jazz guitar triads. How to make guitar licks and what rules come into play when using triad pairs and spread triads in jazz guitar solos.

This video turned out to be a lot longer than I thought, but especially the ending I think is a good documentation of how I write lines and you see me experiment with the material I find through the analysis and the triad options.

There’s also a lot of good discussion on melodies and how you write strong melodies with material like this.

🔴 Subscribe for more free Jazz Guitar Lessons and Videos:

0:00 Intro


1:01 Analysis of chords and form
1:28 Key and form
1:56 The Chords and their function
2:14 The mysterious Eb7 German Augmented Sixth Chord
2:43 The Double Diminished #IV explanation
3:45 Back to the Harmonic Analysis
4:49 How Out Of Nowhere is about Eb7 in G major
5:46 Analysis of The 2nd half of the song
7:02 A modal aspect of Out Of Nowhere
7:46 Why Triads and Diatonic triads are so great for solos

Finding Options Triads for the chords

8:44 Selecting Triads
9:16 Triad options for Gmaj7

10:17 adding the Lydian Options to Gmaj7
11:56 Harmonizing the melody with a lydian sound
12:51 Lydian Augmented triads on Gmaj7
13:48 Augmented Scale on Gmaj7
14:30 Bbm7 Eb7
16:45 C7(#11)
17:15 Bm7
17:32 E7 altered
18:53 Am
22:07 Am7 D7
22:54 D7 altered
23:26 D7 Diminished

Making Lines:

24:48 Making lines with triads
26:31 Extensions in the melody of Out Of Nowhere
26:48 G major/ B minor triad over Gmaj7
29:21 Voice-leading B minor to Bb minor
31:11 Bbm Eb7
33:48 Connecting Gmaj7 C7
34:47 G major – Melodic Minor Hack
37:13 Bm7 E7alt – E7 triad pairs
38:48 Ab+ and Bb major
41:21 Am
42:18 The might Am triad
43:26 Making D7 altered lines
45:18 D7 Diminished Line Ideas

46:15 Exotic scales and Spread Triads

47:24 Spread Triads On Gmaj7
51:33 Bbm Eb7 ideas with Open Triads
52:41 Spread triad ideas for E7alt
53:40 Rules of melodic movement in a Jazz Lick
56:06 Mark Turner and Kurt Rosenwinkel
57:30 Emphasizing upper structures and extensions
58:51 Resolving into the Lydian Augmented sound

Jazz Counterpoint – Discover New Harmonic Ideas

Counterpoint is a beautiful way to add another dimension or layer to our jazz comping vocabulary! This lesson is going to cover how I add another melodic layer to some simple II V I ideas. I will also go over how you can use jazz counterpoint as an approach to add fills and movement in a chord melody arrangement. For this I have included the beginning of the song Stella By Starlight harmonized with this approach.

The II V I examples

In the II V I examples I am using voicings with three notes. This is mostly a practical limitation. Three note voicings are a bit more flexible and easier to keep a melody note sustained while adding another melody.

All the II V I examples are in the key of C major.

Keeping it simple!

The first example has a very simple step-wise top note melody. It is moving from C to B and then stays there.

The counterpoint idea is also a slow stedy moving quarter note melody moving one voice a chord to another voice in the next chord.

Notice that I am using an alternate fingering for the first Dm7 (F triad in fact) This is often necessary to make it possible to play a melody under the top note. 

The way you work on making these is to try to play the chord voicings and then add a scale melody under the top note. I have done this for all the II V I examples in this lesson. The first one is shown here below.

More melodic movement

In the second example Moving into more movement in the top melody. On the Dm7 the top note melody is still just an A. On the G7alt it is a three note walk from #9 via b9 and back. This resolves to the B on the Cmaj7.

The Dm7 and G7(#9) are fairly common voicings. The Cmaj7 is an open voiced Em triad which is not at all far fetched even if we don’t use it as often.

The Example starts with stating the Dm7 chord and then adds a melody to take us to the G7. It is in fact targetting the B. On the G7 the chord is sustained while the top note melody is moving and then immediately after the lower melody continues with a G altered line that resolves to the low G in the Cmaj7 voicing.

As in the first example here is an exercise to find the notes available for these voicings.

A little more activity in the movement!

In the third example I now have movement in the top note melodies of both Dm7 and G7alt.

The Basic voicings are:

The Dm7 melody is moving from F to G and then the lower melodies takes over and leads us into the G7(b9) voicing. Here the lowest note is starting a descending melody that leads into another G7 voicing. Here the lower part of the 2nd voicing has a small melodic fragment that encircles the 5th of the last voicing. On the C the inner part of the voicing is moving from the 7th(B) to the 6th(A).

If we turn the last voicing set into an exercise similar to the first two examples we get this:

Getting your priorities straight

You should keep in mind that once you start playing the counter melody then you don’t need to try really hard to sustain the chord (if you played one) the collected amount of pitches and the melody should be enough to spell out the sound of the harmony. This also makes it technically a lot easier to work with.

Chord Melody on Stella By Starlight

The idea I am using in this fragment from Stella by Starlight is to use the main melody as the top note melody and then make a counter melody whenever there is a long note in the melody.

On the Em7b5 the counter melody is purely consisting out of arpeggio notes. This will happen a few times in these few bars. On the A7 the melody is moving so I don’t add a counter melody. 

The Cm7 transition to F7  with a small melody that uses a chromatic approach to the 3rd(A) of F7. On the Fm7 the melody is a sustained G. Under this I add an Fm7 arpeggio melody that takes us into the Bb7. From Bb7 to Ebmaj7 the melody is moving.

On the Ebmaj7 I add a melody that takes us down to the Ab7 by playing a descending Cm Coltrane Pattern.

Taking Jazz Counterpoint to another level!

In the examples that I used for this lesson I am playing the chord on the one of each bar to associate the counter melody with the chord. But of course it is possible to leave the chord out and just rely on two layers of melody moving around. As a short example that I play of this in the video is shown below:

A few concluding thougts

My examples in this video are a bit busy and maybe not entirely suited for comping, but I thought it better to really emphasize the melodic movement and the two layers. You will probably use this in a more sparse way, at least I do, but it is anyway fun to work with!

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Jazz Counterpoint – Discover New Harmonic Ideas

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