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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2 thoughts on “Chord Solos – How To Get Started The Easy Way

  1. Alfons Labisch

    Dear Jens Larsen

    Great lesson as ever ! You and my lifelong teacher Jürgen Sturm are the best teachers to get. Maybe you know Jürgen Sturms master pupil Wolf Martini, who is also living in the Netherlands.

    One short remark and one question:

    Among the very first chord-solo-players was Kenny Burrell, the master of tone and time. He was also among the first guitar players, who studied music, mainly piano. And you can hear it. Maybe sometime you ponder a little on KB, who seems to be underrated.

    The question: also being a patreon member since quite some time I have problems do download the pdfs. What is the problem.

    Kind regards – happy to have you as a companion on the long road to really know about jazz.

    Alfons Labisch

    1. jens Post author

      Hi Alfons,
      Thank you! Glad that you are finding the lessons useful and also that you are taking real lessons! Say hi to Jurgen! :)

      As for the PDFs I need to know what you mean exactly, maybe send me an e-mail at and then we can figure that out.

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