Category Archives: Lesson

Autumn Leaves – How To Use Drop 2 For An Easy Chord Melody

One of the things that I learned the most from when it comes to harmony and comping was harmonizing melodies, so making chord melody arrangements. When I was starting out I harmonized everything I could and that taught me so much about how to comp with more melody and play chords under a theme.

Often when people play chord melody arrangements then they are made to be solo guitar arrangements with bass notes under all chords (b-roll chord melody arrangement) but that is not the only way you want to harmonize a song.

In this lesson, I am going to show you an arrangement of Autumn Leaves that uses drop2 voicings and you can use this as a solo arrangement but it also works great if you are playing in a band. I am also going to add some extra tricks to give you a way to add some color to your own songs.

Chord Melody Arrangement

You probably already know that I made another chord melody arrangement of this song using the lower octave for the melody and shell-voicings. You can mix these two as well to change things up, I will link to that video in the description.

The arrangement is pretty basic, but I will show you some other things you can add in along the way as well in terms of great chords for ending a song and reharmonizing a minor II V.

You can scroll down to the end of the article to download a PDF of the entire arrangement or check it out on Patreon in this post:

https://www.patreon.com/posts/autumn-leaves-to-38986576

When To Add Chords

When you harmonize the melody then the easiest way to do so is to try to put chords under long notes that are on the heavy beat.

That is what I am doing in the first 8 bars here, the chord is on the Cm7, Bbmaj7

Notice that I play the melody on the top 3 strings because that is where you will have an easier time putting a chord under it.

Having a good overview of the fretboard and being able to move around the melody so that it is easier to add chords under it is essential for making these arrangements, but making arrangements is also a great way to really get a solid overview of the neck.

On the F7 and Ebmaj7 then there is no melody so I add those on the 4& to have a little rhythm and that also makes it easier to play the pickup

Learn the Melody and be practical

I am not really talking about the Drop2 voicings, but if you want to explore that topic more since that is something that is very useful and a very powerful tool then I will link to a playlist in the video description.

Autumn Leaves is a melody with a very strong motivic structure, in fact, it is the same motif moved through the changes. This actually makes it easier to harmonize because you can just use the logic of the melody and let that help you decide when to add chords and also which notes to harmonize. Autumn Leaves is a pretty clean example of this, but it is pretty common.

That is also how I am harmonizing the Aø D7 Gm6. Just using the same principles as in the previous section. Since the chords are not moving on the Gm then I am playing with changing between the Maj7 and the 6th

2nd A and some more chord movement

The 2nd A is really just the same as the 1st in terms of melody and you can, of course, play it the same twice, but often it is good to try to change it a bit and use that the audience already knows what is supposed to happen to surprise them a little.

In this case, I am using some secondary dominants and tritone subs for that.

The melody has a long note every other bar and you can fill that up with an extra chord that pulls towards the next one.

Here I am adding Gb7 before F7, E7 before Ebmaj7 and Eb7 before D7, so I am using a tritone substitution as an extra color in the arrangement.

As you will see, I am using some of these concepts in the B-part too, but also a few other nice ways to introduce movement. I have thought about using Autumn Leaves as a way to demonstrate reharmonizations going over 4 or 5 versions, let me know in the comments if that could be an interesting video. Later in the video, I also go over some options for different interesting changes.

B-part – Problem Solving Taking the easiest solution

In the B part, there are a few places where you need to figure out how to harmonize the melody in a nice way without making it too difficult, and actually the first chord is already getting us into trouble – Aø explain the solution

the rest is similar to the first A.

Cm7 F7 Bbmaj7 Ebmaj7 – the same as in the 2nd A but with another melody note (C) – Moving from Bbmaj7 to Ebmaj7 – D using a major triad as a chromatic approach to the Ebmaj7 while keeping the D in the melody

Chromatic passing chords – (its’ actually Free Jazz!)

You can do a lot by interpreting the chords and add new sounds using harmonization. In this lesson, I will give you some suggestions for the last part of the song.

The one that is the easiest to use, and similar to what you already found earlier in the lesson.

Aø Eb7 D7 – again using Eb7

You can extend this by turning it into a complete chromatic II V example. Here I am also changing the Aø to an Am7 to get another brighter color there.

And another version that makes it an even longer parallel II V progression, quite similar to Wes’ Four on Six.

A more radical, but still beautiful harmonization is to use the bass movement of a II V, but then move in parallel using other chords. This can be a little more tricky to get to work, but when it does then it is very beautiful as shown below:

Different types of chords for the last note.

One way that I like to end the song is this below, really getting the beautiful sound of the tonic minor major sound. It does require me to change the melody.

Another option that is very common and the favorite of many bass-players is to play a C7. Essentially the C7 is just a Gm6 with a C in the bass, and also the IV in the melodic minor scale.

The Neapolitan subdominant is a great option for the final note in a song. This makes the final note (which is usually the root) the maj7th in the chord. The neapolitan is the bIImaj7, so in this case an Abmaj7.

The Jim Hall/Ron Carter solution is to end the song on a Db7, which is, in fact, turning the tonic chord into a secondary dominant to go back. This works because the first chord of the song is the IV chord: Cm7, but this is a great way to keep the form moving and take us to the next chorus. It is also a very different sound compared to the original Gm6 option.

Digging into Chord Melody

Chord Melody Survival Kit

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Triads And How To Make Great Lines With Them On a m7 Chord

Triads are an amazing resource to add to your solos and a great way to add some color to your lines and create strong melodies.

In this video, I am going to show you not only what triads you can use on a m7 chord but also some great strategies for making lines with them.

Finding Triads for the chord

First, let’s look at the triads that are available. That is also a great way to use a little theory and then I will go over some ways to use the triads and some chromatic and voicing tricks. Keep in mind that analyzing like this works for pretty much any chord in any scale.

For this video, I am going to use an Am7 chord as it is found in the G major scale.

G A B C D E F# G

The basic arpeggio is

A C E G

In the arpeggio, you already have Am – A C E and C major C E G

And we can find triads that are related to the chord by stacking on top of the arpeggio:

A C E G B D

which gives us an Em and a G major triad

So now we have Am, C, Em and G triads for the chord and can start working on some different ways to use them like diatonic and chromatic passing chords, triad pairs and spread triads.

Basic triad from the 3rd

The example below is using the C major triad over the Am7. This triad is a very strong choice on the chord.

It’s good to start with a basic triad, in this case, the triad from the 3rd of the chord: C major. Another way to see how this is a very clear sound is to notice that it is the top part of this chord:

A Difficult Triad and a Trick

The G major triad is a little tricky on the Am7 because we can easily lose the connection to the sound of the chord, with only the b7 as a basic chord tone.
One way to deal with that is to use the G major triad in a line where it is combined with the 3rd of the chord C, to make that connection a little stronger.

A modified version of something that I have come across with both Chris Potter and Michael Brecker: A G major triad + a low C which becomes a sort of a quintal maj7 arpeggio

Diatonic Passing Chords

Since you are looking at the triads as a part of a scale you can use that when you make lines as well. The triads that we like to use are a 3rd apart, but that means that between two triads that are closely related to the chord you will have one that you can use as a passing chord.

An easy way to practice these is to go over the diatonic triads on a string set like this:

The example below starts with a C major triad and then moves via a Bm triad to an Am triad. So here I am using the Bm triad as a diatonic passing chord.

Chromatic Passing Chords

You probably already know how it works to have a chromatic approach note in a line:

so and you can do the same with enclosures like this

but you can use this with an entire triad as well, and that is what I am doing in the example below. Here I am using a Db major triad to approach a C major triad. This is a little more difficult to make lines with but it is a nice thing to have in your vocabulary for a little variation.

Spread Triads

You can look at Spread Triads as being the Drop2 version of triads.

If you take a 2nd inversion Am triad like this: and then move the 2nd highest note down an octave then you get this: Am

Spread triads are also a great way to practice alternate picking and string skipping:

The Spread or Open-voiced triads are great for introducing larger intervals
Triad Pairs

A triad pair is a set of triads without common notes. In a major scale that means that it is two triads next to each other (you can chew on that a bit if you want to figure it out)

For an Am7 chord then Am and G form a great triad pair spelling out the notes of an Am7(9,11) A C E + G B D

And you can use that in a line like this:

Use the triads on these Jazz Standards

I talk about this quite often: The way you really learn something is by using it on songs in your real playing. This is as important as practicing scales and arpeggios.

Jazz Standards – Easy Solo Boost

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A Great New Sound In Your Jazz Solo

Arpeggios and scales are often reduced to the notes they contain against a chord, but by doing that you throw away other information that is more important for the sound of your jazz solo, and this is something you want to be aware of and not miss.

It is a way to get so much more out of scales and even pentatonic scales that you already know because you can use them in a different way.

What is the difference?

If you listen to how quartal arpeggios sound on a II V I: 

Compared to a more traditional bop line:

Of course, you can mix the two as well, but I think this makes the difference quite clear.

There are a few ways to approach this, and I am going to go over both diatonic and pentatonic options using the II V I in G major: Am7 D7alt Gmaj7

The Scale and a Diatonic Arpeggio exercise

For the Am7 and Gmaj7, you can use the G major scale, and it is fairly easy to play a G major scale in diatonic quartal arpeggios:

The construction of a diatonic quartal arpeggio is really simple:

G A B C D E F# G A B C D

if you want to find the quartal arpeggio on B you just stack 4th intervals: B E A:

 

or for C: C F# B, but notice here that you get an augmented 4th between C and F#:

Using this on the Am7 chord

It is easy to make some lines using these arpeggios on Am7, especially if you avoid using the ones with the F# in there (for now anyway)

That gives us these:

Example using Quartal Arpeggios on Am7

Here I am using two quartal arpeggios on Am7, the one from B and the one from A. I actually continue with quartals on the D7 altered, but I am going to cover those a little later.  First, let’s try to come at this from a pentatonic scale instead of a major scale.

Am pentatonic scale and an important exercise

You all know the Am pentatonic scale:

And if you play this exercise in that scale:

A lot of these are quartal arpeggios (high light and explain) also the C and Am triads

Example using the Pentatonic scale

You can use this as a way to get to this sound in a lick like this

Quartal Arpeggios on an Altered Dominant

Now let’s look at how you can also use quartal harmony on an altered dominant:

Here I am using quartal harmony on all 3 chords and it is constructed so that I am moving two quartal arpeggios on each chord as a motif.

You can practice the quartal arpeggios in the Eb melodic minor

See this in use on a song:

Lady Bird – Arpeggios & Pentatonic Scales

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How To Make It Sound Like Jazz – Great Embellishments

In this lesson, I am going to show you some techniques and ways to play simple phrases that make them sound more like Jazz. There are some very common phrasing techniques in Jazz Guitar that are a huge part of the sound, and you can quite easily start adding them to your playing if you want to work on your Jazz phrasing.

I am going to go over how you might play them and also give you some good examples of how they can be added to a line.

In the lesson, I will show you how to get better sounding lines by adding them to a basic Cmaj7 arpeggio, and while I was preparing this video I was actually quite surprised about how they really give you a lot of sounds, especially some of the longer embellishments at the end of the video.

Slides (and the triplet trick)

The basic Cmaj7 arpeggio can be played as is shown below.

I am also going to play it with a leading note and then making it a triplet which is also a very bebop thing to do, which is shown in the following bar.

Adding a Slide to the top-note

One of the easiest ways to get this slightly boring arpeggio to have a little more life is to use slides, so you can slide into the top note, which serves as a sort of target for the arpeggio when you use the triplet.

Notice how I play the notes at the end of the phrases short most of the time, that is also a way to connect with the groove and make the lick sound better.

This is a big part of Wes Montgomery’s phrasing vocabulary like this from his solo on Unit 7. which is a Gm(11) arpeggio over a C7 chord

Delaying the target note

Chromatic passing notes are great for getting things to sound like Jazz, and this is a quite simple way to make that work on the Cmaj7 arpeggio. As I said before, the “target note” of the arpeggio is the B, and delaying this works really well:

Sometimes you will get told that chromatic leading notes have to be on the offbeat and resolve back on the beat. As you can hear in this example that is not true, but don’t take my word for it, ask Charlie Parker:

Above you can see how Parker uses a leading note on the beat. In bar 2, beat 4 and in bar 6, beat 3 and 4.

Turns

The names for embellishments like this are a little open, so sometimes what I am calling turns here are also called trills and slurs. It’s like chord symbols, just try to figure out what is meant and don’t worry about it.

For this video, a turn is more or less a short faster phrase with notes close to a target note. The examples will make it easier to understand what I mean.

There are a few ways you can add turns to this arpeggio.

Turn #1 – 16th note pull-off

The first variation is shown here below:

The easiest way to work on this is probably to play the scale with the turn on one string like this:

Turn #2 – 16th triplet – Mid Phrase

The 16th note triplet is also a good way to get into this. It should be executed with a quick hammer-on/pull-off and is a very common and very effective way to break things up.

Turn #3 – 16th triplet – Begin Phrase

Another way you can use this embellishment is at the beginning of a phrase.

That is what I am doing in the example below, think of it as a way of sending off the arpeggio. The line continues with a slide to the high B.

Joe Pass using “Double Turns”

To give you an example of how this is used by jazz artists, here is a lick from Joe Pass on a II V I in D major.

Pass uses the turns in the 2nd half of the A7 bar, and the last turn is used to introduce a b13 and create a little tension before resolving to Dmaj7.

Take It To a Song and Into Your Playing!

Take The A Train – Bebop Embellishments

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The Most Important Solo Tools For a Half Diminished Chord

I think many consider the half-diminished or m7b5 the most difficult chord to improvise over, but it is a very common sound in Jazz Standards so you do need to figure it out. I often people try to choose another scale and run up and down that without making any sense r really having anything to say, which isn’t really a solution either.

In this video, I am going to go over some solid solutions for this chord that can help you play better solos and have an easier time improvising over m7b5 chords and minor II V I’s in general, and they are surprisingly simple.

The m7b5 chord – Construction

Let’s first construct a m7b5 chord and look at how it fits in a minor II V I cadence. Then I will cover some of the things you can use when improvising including 7th chord arpeggios, triads, quartals and pentatonic scales. You can never have too many options when it comes to material to improvise with. I will also talk about why you don’t want to always use the locrian nat 2 scale.

Arpeggios and Scales I will cover:

  • 7th Chord Arpeggios
  • Triads
  • Quartal Arpeggios
  • Pentatonic Scales

This is pretty simple: Here is a Em7 chord: E G B D and the half-diminished or Em7b5 chord will then be: E G Bb D.

The chord symbol we use is either m7b5 or you use the symbol for diminished but then put a line through it to note that it is not a full diminished chord but a half-diminished chord.

This is one of the few places where my Danish heritage is extremely useful  for learning Jazz harmony since the letter ø is a part of the Danish alphabet and on my keyboard, so for once I have an unfair disadvantage!

Diminished vs Half-diminished

The difference between a diminished chord and a half-diminished chord is that the diminished chord has a diminished 7th which is enharmonic to a 6th, the half-diminished has a

So an E diminished would be E G Bb Db

where the half-diminished is E G Bb D

In this lesson, the m7b5 chord is the II chord in a minor II V I like this:


The m7b5 arpeggio

There is nothing wrong with the m7b5 arpeggio, you already know it and you are already using it. It can be a great idea to expand your options so you have a basic arpeggio melody like this:

But  an arpeggio is a bunch of notes that you can play in many ways, and this is certainly something you want to explore. Here is an example  with a little octave displacement like this:

Triad from the 3rd

If you look at an Eø and the notes in there Eø: E G Bb D then you could choose to not use the root and make some lines focusing on the top 3 notes: G Bb D which is a Gm triad.

For your comping the Gm triad might also prove a useful voicing to explore.


Maj7 from b5

On a m7b5 the arpeggio from the b5 is a great option to get the b5 and the 11th in a line. This arpeggio does contain the b9 which is considered an avoid note, but in this case it is hidden inside the arpeggio so you don’t naturally emphasize that note.

 

Magic Arpeggio

The Magic Arpeggio is a an altered version of the previous example, but now the b9 is changed in to the root so that you don’t have that problem.

Normal Bbmaj7: Bb D F A -> Bb D E A – Bb Magic Arpeggio

In the end it is more important that this arpeggio just sounds great I guess:

 

It’s funny how the magic arpeggio is not allowed to be called maj7b5, on my other video on half-diminished chords I had one guy ranting over the term “half-diminished” Which is weird to me because it is a pretty logical name if you know the theory.

Why not always Locrian #2?

Of course, it makes more sense to choose arpeggios and structures so that they don’t contain notes that don’t really sound good with the chord. At the same time, I think that with the m7b5 chords it has become a trend to use Locrian nat 2 because it does not have any avoid notes. There are a few problems with that:

1. You are better off worrying about what to play and find things that sound good, and not spend time on what you shouldn’t play
2. You should choose the scale so that it contains what you think sounds better in the context if that 9th is important then play that, but chances are that is not what you hear in the music.
3. It is not a good strategy to choose a scale so that it has no avoid-notes and you can run up and down it at random. That is not how you make music.

Quartals

If you are coming up short when looking for things to play over a chord then going over the quartal arpeggios in the scale is almost always a great idea.

The quartal arpeggios in the scale would be this on the middle string-set:

 

In this example I am using thequartal arpeggios from

Bb: Bb E A and A: A D G

 

 

Locrian Pentatonic

Another great resource to explore for a chord is finding some pentatonic scales that work. There a few that could work, and especially this one which is essentially a minor pentatonic with a b5:

Em pentatonic: E G A B D E
E Locrian pentatonic: E G A Bb D E

You could play that like this:

 

A line using this scale could be something like this:

 

What you want to notice is that I play the scale using 2 notes per string and then try to exploit that when I search for melodies. In a way that is using the strength of pentatonic scales.

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Chord Solos – How To Get Started The Easy Way

I am sure you have heard Wes, George Benson or Joe Pass play great chord solos, and it is a great sound that seems almost impossible to get into your own playing, but if you are a little practical about how you start working on it then it may not be as difficult as you think. In this lesson, I am going to take one area of the neck and a II V I in G major and then I will show you how to start making your own chord solo licks with a few voicings that you probably already know.

 

The II V I

Keep in mind that this will help you develop your own chord solos, but it can also be a great addition to your comping and chord melody arrangements. I am going to build this up using drop2 voicings. The starting point is this II V I in G major. A chord solo is a melody that is harmonized with chords, so from these chords you want to be able to play a melody. Let’s start with the Am7 and the D7.

Chords for Am7

For Am7 you caa use these 4 melody notes which only really use two chords: In the sheet music I have written out what extensions are in the chord, but that is not that important, you can better just think of all of them as Am7 and as chords you can use to make melodies You might be thinking, 4 notes? That’s not enough for solos! But actually you can make some really good melodies just with these simple voicings Chord solos tend to have a lot simple melodies, which is good because that also makes it a lot easier to play them. Since you are playing a full chord you don’t have to spell out the harmony with arpeggios and It is as much about the rhythm. Here is another basic example:

Chords for D7

The same top note melody for the D7 could be these voicings:

A II V I Chord Solo Lick

For now I am going to stick with one Gmaj7 voicing and then we can expand on that later in the video along with adding alterations and some different types of chromatic chords. With these voicings then you already can make a line like this: The melody is pretty simple and I am as much trying to make the rhythm interesting while having a strong stepwise (and often repeating) melody.

Chromatic Passing Chords

The next thing to do is to add some chromatic chords. For the Am7 you could add two chromatic leading notes to the melody that you can harmonize by inserting a chord that is a going to slide into its target note from a half step below: You can play the slides like that or pluck both chords. The same but then descending where I am adding an Eb7 that moves down to D7 would be this: With these chromatic passing chords you can now make a much more interesting II V I lick like this: And as you can see I am just using the chords and melodies from the previous examples. How to work on this and get it into your playing. When you practice this then you should first just play through the exercises and get those into your fingers a bit. If you then use my examples as inspiration to make some II V I licks for yourself and from there move it into a song that you know. Remember that a great way to practice this is also to use that way of thinking and playing when you are comping, there you have more time to work with it and it doesn’t have to be so busy so you can really get the techniques and the melodies into your playing in a more natural way.

The b9 Guitar-hack

If you look at a D7(b9): D F# A C Eb  then that is really a F#dim with a D in the bass. This is useful because diminished chords are symmetrical so they are really really easy to move around on the guitar and that makes them perfect for chord solos. For the area of the neck that I am using that means that I have these voicings: This you could use in a II V I like this: On the D7 you can also use chromatic chords similar and here that means more dim chords which are nice and easy to play

A few more options for Gmaj7

Now we can have a look at what to do with the Gmaj7. Here are 3 voicings that will work really well. Notice that I am using a G6 to harmonize when the G is in the melody. This is also going to give us some more options in the next section.

Some Chromatic tricks for Gmaj7

There are few ways to add chromatic movement to a Gmaj7. The first one is a similar passing chord to the previous examples, but the second one is keeping some of the chords in one place and move the outer voices in half steps.

II V I lick with the new Chromatic voice-leading

If you put these to use in a II V on lick then that could be something like this:

Level up your chord soloing!

Summertime – Chord Solo

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5 Pentatonic Scales That Are Great On A Maj7

Pentatonic scales are a great resource to get some solid melodies and colorful extensions to shine on a maj7 chord. In this video, I am going to go over 5 options for pentatonic scales that are really great on a maj7 chord. Some of them you know already, but I will also show you how to get them to sound a little more interesting. A few others you probably don’t know and I actually had a hard time finding the right name for them.

I am going to go over the 5 scales but also give you some tips or hacks on how to make more interesting melodies with pentatonic scales because that is something that is very underestimated.

#1 Am Pentatonic (or C major)

The first one is sort of obvious: Am pentatonic is C major pentatonic so that works on this Cmaj7 chord. If you first try this then it probably sounds dull and lacks any interesting color, but that is a matter of the types of melodies you can make with a pentatonic scale as you will see in the example and  exercises If you look at the scale against a C then is sort of giving you the sound of an A C6/9 chord:

A C D E G 6 1  9 3 5

As you will see in this video I use the name of the pentatonic scales from the minor root because that is how most people first learned them. In the end it doesn’t matter too much what name it is as long as it is the same group of notes. In the line, I am using two open triads that are found in the scale, a 1st inversion Am and a root position C major. Using melodies like that can really change the sound a lot so that it does not have to sound like a Country solo when you use this scale. Another great exercise to check out on pentatonic scales is an exercise which is a bit like playing diatonic chords through the scale. An example of a line using this type of melody sounds like this: The scale I use here is another position which is this: and the exercise I use is coming from this pattern through the scale. ex 5

#2 Em Pentatonic

I have mentioned this one quite a few times before and it is a great sound on Maj7 chords: The minor pentatonic scale from the 3rd of the chord. This time I am also going to go over a little hack that I really like to get a different sound out of this scale. The scale could be played like this: Against the Cmaj7 it gives you these colors:

E G  A B D 3 5 13 7 9

and a lick using it sounds like this: Notice how I am again using the quartal arpeggios in the line to get a different sound.

The Blues Hack

A variation on this sound is to use the E blues scale on a Cmaj7. So this is the same scale but with an added Bb or A#. The added note does not fit with the Cmaj7 chord but does work well as a leading note for either the A or the B Using that could sound like this:

#3 Bm Pentatonic – Lydian sound

The final”normal” Pentatonic scale is using the minor pentatonic scale from the 7th of the chord. For Cmaj7 that is B minor pentatonic EX 10

With this scale we have:

B D E   F#  A 7 9 3 #11  13

So a lot of colors and especially the #11 that can be extra colorful if it is in a place that we expect to hear a tonic major chord. A line using the Bm pentatonic scale sounds like this:

#4 Hirajoshi Scale

This scale is actually a Cmaj7 chord with an added #11. From E it is E F# G B C but you could see it as Cmaj7:

C E G B plus F# 1 3 5 7        #11

The scale has a tritone which interval from C to F# and that really makes the melodies sound very different. You can play the scale like this: I am playing these scales with two notes per string because that means that I can easily translate my patterns from other pentatonic scales on to this, this means a few stretches but also makes it really easy to get a lot of vocabulary fast when you start using the scale. and if you use it in a line it sounds like this:

#5 Locrian Pentatonic

This scale I couldn’t find a name for, but I ended up calling it Locrian Pentatonic: F# A B C E. You could look at it as a F#minor pentatonic with a b5. if you have a better suggestion for a name  then feel free to let me know in the comments. This is also a scale giving you a #11 or Lydian sound on a maj7 chord. The scale I am using on the Cmaj7 is the F# Locrian Pentatonic: Against C that is

F#   A   B C E #11 13 7 1 3

You can play it like this: This scale also has the tritone between C and F# which I am using for some nice quartal arpeggios in the example like this: A great little exercise to get used to the sound of this scale is a variation of the chords exercise I went over in the beginning:

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5 Basic Jazz Chord Exercises That You Want To Know

There is something special about how we play chords in Jazz. A part of that is the jazz chords themselves but another part that is just as important is how you play those chords. This video is going over 5 basic jazz guitar exercises that you can play and get started developing your Jazz chord skills. Some of them you probably know and some of them you can add to your playing.

I am using parts of songs to demonstrate this, so going through these exercises will also help you get started learning Jazz Standards which is another important part of learning Jazz.

#1 Shell-voicings – 6 chords in 30 seconds

First, we need some chords to play. To keep it simple I am going to quickly cover some voicings and then give you an example of how you can practice them on a song. To keep it simple I am going to start with easy 3-note voicings called shell voicings. A shell voicing is a simple chord that covers the basic sound of the chord and is very playable. They consist of a root, 3rd, and 7th (or 6th) Later I will start adding some notes to these to add a little color, but it is great to start playing music with these already. If you put these to use on a song like “Afternoon in Paris”, then you get something this: You can use this exercise to get the chords into your fingers, but you won’t really get them into your playing before you start playing other songs with them, so don’t forget to try that.

#2 Great basic rhythm – Charleston

Rhythm is more important than notes in Jazz, so the rest of these exercises are going to be more on rhythm and how to rhythms that sound like Jazz. The most basic and most important rhythm to know is probably the Charleston rhythm. You can practice that with Shell-voicings through 8-bars of Satin Doll like this: In this exercise, I play two chords per bar to make it a little more difficult, but it also helps you learn to anticipate a chord which is also important for Jazz phrasing.

#3 Two layers and a little more groove

Before we start adding notes to the voicings then you want to try to get the most out of them and actually, you can split up the shell-voicing in the bass note and the chord, and then you can play some rhythms with two layers. This is especially useful for giving it a little more groove and to keep things moving when you have more than one bar of one chord like this in Take The A Train:

#4 Bossa Nova

Another great groove to play is a Bossanova groove. In this example, I am using the first 8 bars of Girl From Ipanema. To change things up and make it a little more challenging I also add a note to each voicing for a little more color. The chords I use are: And then if we add this basic Bossanova pattern then you can play Girl From Ipanema like this: Like the other exercises in this video, this is just a basic example and you can do a lot more with both extensions and rhythms. You can check out links in the video description if you want to dig deeper into this.

#5 Simple Walking Bass

Another way to become more flexible and really lay down a swing groove is to play chords and walking bass. This works really well with Shell-voicings and could be something like this:

Playing Jazz Chords – What’s next?

If you want to explore more things with Jazz Chords and how to play them then check out this collection of lessons:

Comping – Putting It All Together

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If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics 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 InstagramTwitter Google+ or Facebook to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts, and releases.

5 Exercises That Will Boost Your Technique And Practice

The exercises that really improve your playing are usually not only developing one thing. You can be a lot more efficient by improving your guitar technique and also learn something about the fretboard, music theory, or rhythm when you practice.

In this video, I am going to give you 5 examples of exercises like that so that you can start making your practice more efficient. Some of these exercises are made so that you can work on them as a part of a technique practice routine to develop your skills, but others are more exploring what is there and some of the later ones I found that even if you go through them once slowly they really open up things for you and give you new ways of playing and exploring things.

#1 – Alt Picking exercises + Diatonic Chords:

This way of practicing is combining two very important techniques: Alternate picking which is the default approach for most melodies and diatonic chords which is one of the most important things to know about any key or scale. With alternate picking, I found that working on very difficult things to pick really helped me overall and the most tricky thing to alternate pick is probably one note per string patterns. But Instead of just running up and down the same arpeggio all day I often combined this with learning diatonic chords, especially Drop2 voicings. A basic example would be to play C major like this Exercise 1 but you could also challenge your music theory a bit more by doing this in Eb and then starting on the lowest available note Bb: Exercise 2 This exercise forces you to have a good overview of the diatonic chords, and you could take it even further and do E harmonic minor Exercise 3 For me, this was a great way to develop both my alternate picking, fretboard overview, and knowledge of diatonic chords. Notice that I included the diagrams because it is really important to think of the chords as one thing when you do this exercise.

#2 – Economy Picking and Phrasing Triads

This exercise is great for knowing the triads in a scale, but is also a technique that I use very often in my playing. There are a lot of structures that we play that have three notes and that are one note per string, especially triads, but also quartal arpeggios and shell-voicings. This way of playing them works really well for jazz lines because you have a melody that is the highest note in the triad and it is naturally accented and moving on top of the beat: C major from F major triad: and of course, you can work on stuff like this in a more challenging scale, for example, G melodic minor:

#3 – Music Theory and Drop2 Voicings in all keys

Another way to work on chord voicings and diatonic chords is to take a common chord progression and work it out through all 12 keys. For example: Let’s say that I want to play a turnaround like Cmaj7 A7(b9) Dm7 G7(9) and then take that through some keys staying in the same area of the neck.

#4 – Fretboard Overview – Extreme visualization

With the two first exercises you are working along the neck and you are using your ability to see arpeggio shapes along the neck using your knowledge of the key or scale. But you could also take another structure that you move where you really use your overview of the fretboard to see the pattern move up the neck. An example could be playing diatonic quartal arpeggios in different keys: So playing this exercise is a way to tap into your overview of the C major scale by moving a pattern up note-for-note, similar to this: And you should try to see that as notes moving up along the fretboard in the scale like this:  

#5 – Position Workout – Chords and Arpeggios

A great way to turn exercises into a way of creating new material is to design them directly on songs. In the exercise below I am taking the first 8 bars of Stella By Starlight and practicing the arpeggio from the 3rd of each chord. This way of practicing helps you:

  • Practice material that you can use on the song
  • Learn the song better
  • Get a better overview of the chords in the song

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Jazz Blues Chords – How To Make It Sound Like Jazz

If you are trying to learn to play Jazz Guitar and especially comping songs then you have probably already found out that it is not only about knowing the right chords, there is a lot more to it.
In this video, I am going to show you how I comp a slow medium jazz blues. I have transcribed a chorus and I will go over the chords but I will also show you how I play the chords and make the comp more interesting by using melodies, arpeggios and other tricks to color the chords. In fact, it may surprise you how rarely I “just” play a chord.

The Blues Transcription

Let’s first check out my comping with the transcription, then I will break down 5 of the techniques I use to make it sound more like a piece of music and more interesting.

The next thing to do is to have an overview of the voicings. If I play through the blues with just the chords because that is the backdrop for what I am doing.

Just the chords

After that, I am going to talk about how I am using melodies and fills, inner-voices and arpeggiation to make it come alive and I am going to give you some easier examples to work with.

As you can see most of the voicings are really simple and for the most part chords you probably know already.

If there is a chord that you don’t recognize then try to play or imagine playing the root under it.

bar 1 Bb789,13) magic chord

bar 6 Edim

bar 8 Dø G7  – It is a II V, and the movement is done by moving the 7th(C) of Dø down to the 3rd(B) on G7(b9)

Melody is more important than voice-leading

The first two bars are more about the melody I am playing than connecting the chords. I am using the chords to fill in around the melody.

The first chord is just a color, after that, you get this melody and on the long note in bar 2 I add the rest of the chord but I arpeggiate the chord to create a little extra movement.

The same type of thing is happening on the Eb7 moving to Edim. First the chord, then a melody that takes me to a G, and under that, I add the rest of the chord.

Playing Jazz Chords One Note at The Time

In the previous example, you could see how I arpeggiate the chords and in that way get more movement out of a single chord.
This is something that I use quite a lot. Two examples in this blues are bar3:

and bar 7

Both are using the same basic Bb7 voicing and the notes are spread out across the bar.

In bar 6 I do this as well, but here I am adding an extra note while arpeggiating and in that way starting to have two melodic layers, something that I use to create almost a counterpoint in another place.

Notice how I actually use voice leading to go from the Edim to the Bb7 even though it is hidden by the way I play Bb7

Electric Counterpoint (in a Jazz Blues)

In bar 8 we have this fragment:

Here I play a sustained F as the melody on Dø, and then add the rest of the notes and that turns into a second melody under the F that yields the G7(b9) voicing. This is an example of adding the chord tones in arpeggiating and that gradually takes on its own meaning as a melody and I treat it like that as well, not just as an arpeggio.

Grab what is easy to get by

Being efficient is important when you comp, also because you need to be ready to react to what is happening around you.

One of the ways I use block chords in comping is to just change the melody and keep the same chord which is what I am doing in bar 9 on the Cm7.

Improvising with the harmony

Since you are improvising when you comp then you can also change the chords a bit. The final turnaround has two examples of this. The 2nd chord is written out as a Db7, though you would expect a G7 there I play (and think) Db7

Whenever you have a dominant chord that resolves then you can choose to use the tritone substitute. That is what I am doing here. And added bonus is that the Db is the #9 of Bb which makes it sound like a harmonized blue note. That is also why I have that note at the top of the chord. In Music context is everything.

In the last bar, I am also changing the harmony, but I am doing so by delaying the F7. II V cadences are very flexible and you can often get away with leaving out one of the chords or as I do in this case, leave the F7 until beat 4 and then use it almost as a chromatic leading chord for the Bb7 in the next chorus. The quarter note triplet rhythm also adds extra energy by being a sort of tension against the groove.

Learn some amazing drop2 voicings

The majority of chords that I use in this video are drop-2 voicings, and a lot of the other ones can easily be seen as derived from drop2 by being drop2 without a root note for example. So studying drop2 voicings and being flexible with them is very useful if you want to be good at comping and free to choose what to play.

Drop2 Bundle – Build Your Voicing Vocabulary

 

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