When it comes to adding fills and embellishments to your chord melody arrangements and comping then when you are listening, it can sound like you need to have a degree in quantum physics and be a brain surgeon at the same time, just to come up with it.
And of course, sometimes it is about adding a lot of chords and reharmonizing the song, but it doesn’t have to be.
Let me show you what you can do on this song, with some beautiful ways to add chord runs and embellish the harmony, and most of them are actually pretty simple and easy to add to your own chord melody and comping.
I was really baffled by this in the beginning if I listened to Joe Pass or Ted Greene and heard all these extra chords and inversions flying left and right, and it was too difficult to figure out and also seemed impossible to play. And of course, some of that IS difficult and complicated, but it doesn’t all have to be.
An Easy Start
When you want to add something to a chord melody then it has to either be built into the melody and fit around it or you add it when nothing is happening in the melody
The first bar of Misty is great to work with because you have a long note, the maj7th D:
For this first bar you can create a fill using pentatonic scale chords, so chords that you construct in the pentatonic scale, and move around.
The pentatonic scale from the 3rd of the chord is useful for this since that will give you 3rd 5th 13th maj7th 9th which are all great sounding notes and colors over an Ebmaj7.v
If you create chords on the middle string set you get this:
Essentially it is just playing the Gm pentatonic scale as 3-note chords, and everything fits and you have already stated the chord so that part is taken care of. Later in
the video, I will show you another option with some beautiful open chords voicings, in fact they are huge voicings but they sound amazing. On the following II V then there isn’t much room around the melody, but on the Abmaj7 you can use a trick that I incorporate very often: Creating a melody by moving one note in the chord and in this case a chromatic melody moving from the maj7th down to the 6th. Barry Harris likes this one as well, it is sort of a bebop sound.
What I was using in the previous example is that you can freely decide whether you want to use a maj7 or a maj6 chord. Since the first chord is low and only 3 notes then it is easy to create some movement, and actually also some rhythm with a motif that is moving around in the bar.
Let’s try something a bit difficult: using the “James Bond” line-cliche on the Abm7 Db7 II V. I’ll also show you an easier option as well.
Some Difficult Cliches
This is clearly difficult to play but the wide range and the static melody really make it sounds great.
Line-clichés work really well on II V progressions, and the other one, The Stairway To Heaven cliché, is also a great, more playable option here:
Partly Voiceover Ex6 end of sentence back to talking head
As you can see, then the melody is also really active here, so there is not really room to add extra chord runs and embellishments. This is also true for the next two bars, where the melody is moving all the time, but then you have the turnaround which is really just one long note and therefore a lot more flexible. And here I can show you how I deal with one of the things I really don’t like about using the diminished scale for chords.
A Turnaround of many tricks
This is the turnaround:
Here are a few things to work with. I am not really doing a lot on the Db7, but on the C7alt that follows I am using a combination of different voicings together to play a melody, and this is a great fairly easy way to play something that is a block harmonized phrase, and as you will see it is using how voicings fit together across types different types of voicings.
These are all just C7alt voicings, first a drop3 then two drop2 voicings and together I have a melody that is an Ab major triad that makes the whole thing work.
You can do this with other chords as well, like a Bb7(13), starting with a drop3 and then moving to drop2:
Or an Abmaj7:
And with a melody like this then it is easy to get it to flow into the next chord.
The next thing is a really practical way to play harmonized moving melodies, especially arpeggios. On the Fm7 you have a melody harmonized in 3rds to move on to the Bb7. The melody is a Cm triad and all the 3rds fit perfectly with the Fm7:
but you could also do this moving in a stepwise manner. Like this:
The Diminished Dilemma
On the Bb7 I am using a solution to my diminished dilemma, and I am cheating a little bit. The diminished scale is incredibly practical because it is symmetrical, so you can move things around in minor 3rds, and that makes it easy to play chords. But the problem with that is also that moving things around sounds pretty predictable and boring, so you want to disguise it a bit.
What I am doing here is that I have two voicings that fit together, one is a shell voicing and the other sort of looks like a dom7th(b5) without the root. I don’t really think of them as independent chords, so we can call them A and B, the first part is playing A-B and then I move up a minor 3rd but to disguise the symmetry a bit then I switch around the chords and play B-A. I really like this effect and it keeps things pretty easy to play without very being boring copy-paste chords (unless you do it really a lot)
I said I was cheating and that is because, if you are playing the song, then you need to make space for the pickup for the second A, which I didn’t do, but before we get into comping then I do want to add one more trick on that first tonic chord:
Some Beautiful Huge Chords
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Here I am using a chord run using 3 drop2&4 voicings. These chords have a beautiful open sound, but they are often hard to use in a chord melody, however, for this type of effect it is great to have a few of them next to each other.
Here, I am moving up from Ebmaj7 to Gm7 and then an Ebmaj7 inversion.
To show you how this might fit in comping then I am going to go over a chorus on Lady Bird using these different tricks, and actually, that is a great strategy for working on things like this: figure it out in a chord melody arrangement and then start using it in comping to make it easy to play and really get it into your system
Comping With Pentatonics, Tricks, And Intervals
The first 4 bars use the pentatonic scale trick on the Cmaj7 and also the 3rd intervals on the Fm7 Bb7, so first stating the chord and then adding a melody with the pentatonic voicings. Essentially the 3rd intervals are used in the same way, first the chord and then the intervals to help move to the next chord.
The pentatonic scale used is from the 3rd of the maj7 chord, so in this case, that is Em pentatonic over Cmaj7. Let’s add some beautiful open voicings and a line cliché
Here you can hear how the drop2&4 voicings really fill up the bars nicely and then transition into the II V to Ab that is using the Stairway to Heaven line cliche.
Once the song is on the Abmaj7 then that becomes a great place to use the inner-voice trick moving from 7th to the 6th
and then use the other line cliché on the Am7 D7, also because that fits perfectly with the same range and makes that chord change incredibly smooth.
The final II V showcases the idea with the triad melodies over chords shifting across different chord types, here it works on both the II and the V chord, and the II chord is actually starting with a drop2, but the principle still clearly works:
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