Rhythm Changes Chords – Hidden in the Easy Chords

Rhythm Changes Chords are essential to check out. If you want to explore jazz and bebob guitar then the rhythm changes progression is a must. The progression is often used and parts of it are common in countless other songs.

In this lesson I will first go over a basic set of chord voicings to play the progression. I will then expand on these voicings by first turning them into rootless voicings. Then I will show you how you can start making variations of the top notes to create more interesting comping ideas like that. Finally I will go over how you can even add notes and create another set of 4-note voicings.

The Basic Rhythm Changes chord set

We don’t need a lot of different voicings to play a Rhythm Changes A part. In fact it is mostly the same turnaround: I [V] II V and then a short trip to the IV and back.

The chords are shown here below:

If you want to read them using chord diagrams or chord boxes you can do so here:

In the above progression I use a #IVdim (Edim) chord to go from Eb back to Bb in bar 6. Another common way to do this is to play a IV minor chord. In most cases this is a backdoor dominant. In Bb major that would be Ab7. This variation of those bars is shown here below:

Introduction to Jazz Chords

The way I play these chords is coming out of some the lessons in this study guide:

How to Play Jazz Chords

Making the voicings rootless and adding melody

An easy way to create some more flexible 3-note voicings is to just leave out the root.

This is shown here below in example 3:These are more flexible and it is fairly easy to change the top note so that we can play several  melodies using these voicings. 

One way of adding these options is shown in example 4:

Creating 4-note voicings (and recognizing them)

Another way to vary the melody is to add an extra note on top of the voicing. This can be done quite easily since we are only playing 3 notes.

An example of how this works is shown in example 5:

As you can probably see these voicings are mostly drop2 voicings.

The most important Lesson of this Process

This way of coming up with different chord voicings is of course a way of giving yourself options, but is is also a way of associating different voicings together so that we don’t have to remember unconnected sets of notes. 

This is a very practical way to think about chords and a great way to help you learn a lot of chords by just really remembering one.

What do you think?

Get the PDF!

You can also download the PDF of my examples here:

Rhythm Changes Chords

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