Tag Archives: chromatic passing chords

Passing Chords And How To Sound Amazing With Them

Passing chords are a great Jazz trick to add some surprising but also beautiful sounds to chords. In this video I will show you 4 types of passing chords and examples of how they sound and how to use them. You can use the examples to get them into your own playing and add amazing new colors to how you play chords.

I am going to go over examples using, diatonic, chromatic, diminished and dominant passing chords and show you how you can make some beautiful embellishments of a simple II V I turnaround in C.

I am going to cover the 4 types of passing chords by giving you some examples of how they sound. For this lesson I am not going to discuss the music theory involved with the chords. I think it is more important that you have some options and that you explore what they sound like.

Ironically the last one is the easiest to play, the one that adds the most color and movement and it would be the hardest to explain.

Basic Progression

I am using a simple turnaround to show you where you can add extra chords, and the basic progression is this one:

The first version is using complete chords with the bass note, but the 2nd one is using drop2 voicings which are a little more flexible. Most of the chords I am using in the lesson will be drop2 chords.

Diatonic Passing Chords

The first type of Passing chord is a diatonic passing chord. You mainly use diatonic passing chords in a step-wise manner where you are walking from one chord in the scale to the next.

The first example shows a descending approach from Fmaj7 to Dm7.

This 2nd Diatonic example is using a single Em7 as a passing chords going up to Em7 and then back down to Dm7(9)

Diminished Passing Chords

The Diminished chord is often a bit mysterious but it is a great very flexible chord to add to a progression. In this example I am using different types of diminished chords, but mainly there is a C#dim pulling us to Dm7 and a Gdim resolving to the G7.

For more information on the theory behind the diminished chords and the different functions they can have you can check out this article: Secret to play over Diminished Chords

This example is using a diminished chord as a type of suspension of the Cmaj7.

Dominant Passing Chords

The way a passing chord works is by having a natural resolution to the chord it is targeting. Using the dominant of that chord is of course a great approach.

Below you can see how the A7 on beat 4 works as a passing chord towards the Dm7.

This is repeated in the next bar with the A7(b13) resolving to the Dm7(9)

Side note: Em7 voicing for Cmaj7

I very often get asked why I write Cmaj7 and then the chord voicing looks like an Em7 (for example beat one of example 6)

The explanation is fairly simple. If you look at bar 1 below then it is clear that it is an Em7 chord.

Em7 is E G B D, but if the bass plays a C then the notes sound like a Cmaj7(9): E(3rd of C), G(5th), B(7th), D(9th)

Another way to look at it is shown in bars 2 and 3 below.

You probably know the Cmaj7(9) in bar2. The rootless version of that is, of course, still a Cmaj7(9), and you could add a high G to that which would give you the voicing in bar 1.

Chromatic Passing Chords

A huge part of the sound of a Jazz solo is the use of chromatic passing notes and enclosures. The chromatic passing chords is a way to harmonize this type of melody, maybe even the harmonic counterpart to this.

The first example has a C#m7 to pull toward the Dm7. You should notice that to get this to work you have to think in melodies, and the top-note melody should be pretty strong. Here is D, D# to E.

the 2nd bar has an Ab7 approaching the G7 with a similar descending melody.

You can also use the chromatic passing chords as suspensions similar to how I used the diminished chord in example 5.

Here there are also chromatic approach chords for the Dm7 and Cmaj7.

Take your comping skills up a level

This collection of lessons will teach you a lot of material with passing chords, top-note melodies and riff comping. Focus is on using this on songs so that you can get it into your own playing.

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Passing Chords – The 3 Types You Need for Comping and Chord Solos

Passing chords are a great way to expand the sounds you have available in your comping and chord solos. As you will see in this lesson they are also making it easier to make you comping sound more melodic and musical. In this lesson I am going to discuss 3 types of passing chords and demonstrate how they can be used.

The Diatonic Passing chords

The easiest place to look for chords to use when harmonizing a melodic comping idea is of course to use the diatonic chords of the scale at that point in the song.

If you want to know more about Drop2 chords and other voicings then check out the Jazz Chords Study guide

This is what I am doing in example 1 here below. The example is on a II V I in G major, which is the chord progression that I will use for all the examples.

In the example the diatonic passing chords are used on the Am7 chord. The first part of melody consists of the notes C, D and E. On the Am7 I am harmonizing the melody with the chords Am, Bm7 and Am7. Using the neigboring chord when harmonizing notes is a very common and very useful way to use diatonic passing chords. In this example the Bm7 chord is used to harmonize the D and it voice-leads nicely up to the following Am7(9) voicing that harmonizes the E.

Different versions of Passing chords solutions for an Am7 melody

Of course there are several ways you can take diatonic passing chords. Below you’ll see examples using only Am7 voicings, a Bm7 and a G6 diatonic passing chords.

Diminished Passing chords

This approach to using passing chords is to harmonize melody notes with a dominant diminished chords. On the II chord, Am7, the dominant is E7 and the associated is a G#dim.

This example is also using a G# diminished chord to harmonize some notes on the Am7 chord. The notes that belong to the dominant in the scale are the prime candidates for using the diminished chord. In the example below I am using it to harmonize the D and B notes.

Practicing the Diminished passing chords

One way to work on practicing the this way of alternating a II chord with a diminished chord is to do the exercises here below.

You may recognize this exercise as the Barry Harris 6th diminished scale, which is build on exactly this idea of alternating tonic with a dominant chord.

Chromatic Passing Chords

Chromatic passing chords is a great way to especially harmonize chromatic passing notes in the melody. This means that having this in your vocabulary is going to make it possible to add chromaticism to your comping melodies. 

The example below shows how you can use chromatic passing chords on both the Am7 and the D7 chords.

On the Am7 the B, Bb, A melody is harmonized with Am(9), Bbm7 Am7 and in the same way the D,Eb,E melody on the D7 is harmonized with D7,Db7 and D7.

Notice that the voicie-leading is also chromatic, so the way to use this is to look at the note that the chromatic note is resolving to. The chord that is used to harmonize the resolution will also work well to harmonize the chromatic note. On the D7 it is clear that the Db7 is just shifting up a half step to become the D7. 

Sometimes you can also reverse this so that the chord moves one way and the melody another which can be a great effect, but that is for another lesson. You can always leave a comment on the YouTube video if you would like a video on this,

Expand you the possibilities with chords

Passing chords is a very powerful tool in comping and chord solos and of course also in chord melody arrangements. Checking out these techniques are really something that is applicable in so many areas of playing and will pay off on a lot of levels besides the direct use.

In-depth examples of Passing Chords

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Using Passing chords in Comping

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.

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