Tag Archives: chord solo

Best exercise for jazz guitar chord solos!

Chord solos have been a part of the Jazz Guitar skill set since the 50’s  and 60’s when players like Joe Pass and Wes Montgomery used it in their music. A Chord solo is a harmonized melody line, so you don’t only improvise a melody, you also harmonize it by adding chords to it.

This might seem a little scary to start working on, but if what you want to work on is harmonising melodies. One of the simplest melodies you can harmonize is a scale, so in this lesson I will take an F major scale and show you how you can harmonize it with both some chords and some progressions.

This material I will also put to use in some chord solo licks that I have written over a turnaround in F.

The Scale

The scale that I am using for the exercises is this segment from the F major scale. It is on the top two strings because then it is easier to put a chord under it. In the exercises I might choose to move notes between the strings depending on the chords and voicings.

Right hand technique

For me it is easier to play the chords with enough control if I use my fingers on my right hand. You can of course do this with a pick or with your thumb. Just make sure that the melody is clear when you play. It is quite common for students to focus only on the chord and forget that it is actually a melody with some chords under it.

The first exercises – Harmonizing the scale with one chord

To start with we can take the F major scale and harmonize it with an Fmaj7 chord. That is shown here below in example 1

Notice that I often use the same chord for several melody notes. This is purely to make it practical and easy to play. Another point of interest is the Bb. This note does not sound good over an Fmaj7, so I harmonize it with a Gm7. You can do several things in terms of choosing chords or even just changing the Bb to a B and play a Fmaj7(#11). What you end up doing is a question of the context and your taste.

In example 2 I harmonize the same scale with a Gm7 chord.

Here again I am using the same “chord” over several notes. The difficult  note is in this case an E. I opted for a Gm13 voicing, but you could also use a C major triad or Am7 passing chord.

You probably want to work out your own versions of these exercises for a few of the chords in F major, so I, II, IV, V, VI and maybe also try it on some harmonic minor or altered scales for some of the common dominants like C7 and D7.

Harmonizing the scale with a progression

Once you can get through the scales with one chord at a time then you can start using a progression so that the chords change along the melody. This is getting you a step further in being able to play chord solos.

In example 3 I have used a II V I VI(7) to harmonise the scale: 

So here we get a bit in trouble with the Bb on an Fmaj7 again, but here I solve it by making it a B. In that way I am able to keep the Fmaj7 there, since it would be problematic to just sub the chord for another chord.

Example 4 is harmonizing the scale with a I VI(7) II V:

This get’s us into trouble already in the first bar. The F and D7 chords are fine, but we end up with a Gm13 and a C7sus4 because there we have the E and the F as melody notes. For the rest it is quite easy to go up the scale. In the last bar we have an E over the D7. While this is possible a D7 in this context would really ask for an Eb. I could have changed the note but opted for a Dm7(9) chord. Another option would have been to use an Abdim chord.

Chord solo licks!

To demonstrate how I come up with chord solos I have written three examples of chord solo licks. They are all on a medium I VI II V in F major because that is a common progression especially in the types of pieces where you might play a chord solo.

If you want to check out some more examples you can also check out this Chord Solo on a Blues In F

Scale runs and chord economy

In this first example I am starting with a scale run over the Fmaj7. This is moving from the A down to E harmonized with two different chords. THe D7 is using the same C,F# tritone with first an Eb and then an F in the melody.

On the Gm7 I am using an ascending scale run from D to A. On the D and F I am using a Bb triad. The E is harmonized with a C major triad which is also easy to play. The last chord is a C7 altered. and is really just using the same voicing but first leaving out the top string.

Motif chord solos

The next example is using a simple motif and then first playing it on the I VI progression. Then it is repeated on the II V. The motief is a really simple repeating melody. The first part is harmonized with an Am7 voicing where I can change the top note. The dominant is taken care of with drop2 dim chords. On the Gm7 I can repeat the exact same idea as on the Fmaj7 but then 2 frets lower. The melody is varied on the C7 where I use a chromatic Db7 passing chord before I resolve to Fmaj7 

It is important to take care to make strong melodies when playing chord solos which I hope to illustrate with this example.

A great trick for harmonizing larger interval skips

In the last example I start out with a a  scale run on the Fmaj7 up to the #9 on D7. From there I it moves down to the Eb and then skips up to an Bb over the D7. This is achieved by using the same voicing but just adding the Bb on a higher string. This is a great smooth way to deal with the skib from Eb to Bb.

On the Gm7 I am using a simple melody consisiting of A and G which is harmonized with the same chord. The C7alt is a repeating note and chord which then resolves to Fmaj7. 

Conclusion: Make your own exercises!

So what you have to remember with this material is that you will learn the most if you make your own exercises that use the voicings you are comfortable with and you know the sound of. This will also help you figure out how to go through the scales and solve the problems that give, which is also very helpful!

Chord Solo transcription and Lesson!

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Best exercise for jazz guitar chord solos!

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Jazz Blues Chord Solo

This weeks lesson is a short etude, a chord solo on an F blues. You should be able to use it as inspiration and resource to make your own chord solos but if it was played less dense it will also work well for comping.

Chord solos is a great thing to add to your repertoire to have a different approach to improvising on a song. They are of course also part of the standard vocabulary for guitar since Wes Montgomery and Joe Pass.

Here’s a transcription of what I played:

Jazz Blues Chord Solo - ex 1

Some exercises and how to make your own

Since this is a blues in F there are a few exercises that you should make for yourself to have voicings to make the lines with. This follows the concept I talked about in the lesson on Soloing with Chords Part 1 So for each chord we are trying to harmonize the scale using only that chord, and if necessary something that is close to it (that would be harmonizing the 4th over a dominant in this lesson)

Jazz Blues Chord Solo - ex 2

As you can see I am mostly using 3 and 4 note voicings and that I am trying to keep it easy to play. Iit can be very useful to make different versions of this exercise, for example it might work well to figure it out for the scale on the high E and for the scale on the B string. It is not so important that you play it fast, it is more important that you figure it out and use voicings that you can easily play and that connect well.

Example 3 is the same exercise for Bb7.

Jazz Blues Chord Solo - ex 3

As you see I that whenever I have to harmonize the 4th over a dominant I am changing the chord to a sus4 chord.

For the II chord in the final cadence you could make an exercise like this:

Jazz Blues Chord Solo - ex 4

The Valt chord in the final cadence could be coming out of this exercise.

Jazz Blues Chord Solo - ex 5

The fact that we use melodic minor gives us a #11 instead of an 11 in the scale so we don’t need to make a sus4 chord.

As you can see in the exercises I mostly use a mix of Drops2 3 part quartal harmony and Triad based voicings in the solo and these exercises, since I find that those fit the style where I use chord soloing the best, and they are fairly easy to play.

The Solo

A good way to work under stand the solo is to play it through leaving out the chords, so in fact just play trhe melody. It is easy to get lost in voicings when working on this and it is in the end about the melody and the rhythm in the solo.

The first 2 bars are a motif that I first play on F7 and then sort of repeat in Fminor on the Bb7, a melodic trick that I use quite a lot. You’ll find it in the Ornette Coleman blues Turnaround too btw.

Bars 3 and 4 are first a melody with a chromatic passing note followed by  a similar idea using the F7alt sound. You can check out how to practice Chromatic Passing chords in this lesson: Chromatic Chords – part 1

In bars 5 and 6 I am really using this altering notes in the melody to make a motif and develop it again. Since the chords are Bb7 and Bdim I have a melody consisting of C descending scalewise to F on the Bb7. The only thing I need to change to fit the dim chord is to play a B instead of a C as a first note. To me this approach to melody is very strong and creats a bigger context than just some notes on the chord.

Bar 6 is a fairly common C minor pattern harmonized with F7 chords using the scale in example 2. On the Am7b5 D7 cadence the melody is trying to stay within the 5th position so that it is easy to play.

The line on the II chord is Gm(9) followed by a scale run. In the run I uses a C major triad as a diatonic passing chord which is a sound I think works well on that chord.  The C7alt line is fairly straight ahead, for the Bb I am not playing a chord but just the note. Sometimes that works better for a line and will get the melody to stand out better where harmonizing everything would sound heavy.

The final turnaround is a fairly straight forward, on the D7b9 I am using F# dim voicings and the melody over the Gm7 is harmonized with a single chord under it, in a way similar to how Red Garland would sometimes play block chords.

Hopefully you can put these exercises and examples to work in making and playing your own chord solos.

As always you can download a PDF of the examples here for later study:

Jazz Blues Chord Solo

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