Tag Archives: extensions

Rootless Voicings – Part 1 – Triads

Starting to use chords that doesn’t have the root as a bass note can be tricky in the beginning. In this lesson I want to demonstrate how reducing some voicings gives you triads and how you can practice and use that in comping. I am also suggestion a way to expand the melodic possibilities with the triads.

 

Chords without root bass notes

When you learn guitar you are taught a lot of chords that all has the root as the lowest note. Most of the time you are also taught to orientate by the root and thinking of the rest of the chord as a visual or physical shape on the guitar. This way of thinking about chords makes it fairly easy to learn chords but makes them less flexible and also makes it hard to play chord voicings that do not have the root as the lowest voicing.

In example 1 I have first written a fairly standard set of II V I chord voicings, and then written the same voicings but without the bass note. You might notice that the 2nd set of voicings consist of an F major triad, a B dim triad and an E minor triad. You can also try to play the example and hear that they will still convey the movement of the II V I.

Rootless Voicings - Part 1 - Triads - ex 1

The theory is fairly simple: If Cmaj7 is C E G B, then without a C it is E G B which is E minor.

Since we can use these triads to play each of the chords we can also use their inversions,so that will give us 3 rootless voicings that we can apply to any of the chords diatonic to the major scale.

If you are familiar with my lesson Jazz Chord Survival Kit You will notice that example 2 and 3 are those drop3 and drop2 voicings without the root. This way of thinking about them makes it easier to keep the root in mind without actually playing it. In the beginning I found that to be a huge help.

Rootless Voicings - Part 1 - Triads - ex 2

Rootless Voicings - Part 1 - Triads - ex 3

Example 4 is then the root position triads which, as I show in the video, you can also see as derived from a set of voicings, but some of them you might not be using that often.

Rootless Voicings - Part 1 - Triads - ex 4

In examples 2-4 I have written the chord name above the chord that this triad is used for. It can be very useful to keep them in mind when practicing this through a key.

Basic Cadences and other exercises

The first thing to check out is probably this simple set of II V I voicings with the triads.  There are several options in terms of voice-leading this, but I like these. When you play them try to relate each voicing to the root.

Rootless Voicings - Part 1 - Triads - ex 5

To create a bit more options in terms of variation of the melodies we can create with these voicings I made example 5. The idea is fairly simple, the highest note, also called the melody, of the chord is suspended with the diatonic note one step above it. If you take this through the scale with the 2nd inversion triads you get the following exercise.

Rootless Voicings - Part 1 - Triads - ex 6

In the video I play the same exercise for the two other inversion, you should try to figure them out for yourself, that is an important step in becoming more free with the triad voicings and be able to make more different sounds with this material.

I cover this more in depth in my lesson: Jazz Chord Essentials – Triads  if you want to take this further.

Using Rootless voicings

To give you an idea about how you can use the triad voicings and exercise 6 I have made 3 examples with a few different common progressions. You should try and play the examples and try to see what voicings the triads are derived from.

The first one is applying example 6 to the first part of example 4, so a melody on a basic II V I in C major.

Rootless Voicings - Part 1 - Triads - ex 7

The second example is a II V cadence to A minor. the E7 is using A harmonic minor, so it has a b9 (and a b13, but that’s not in this voicing) You can see some more info on using harmonic minor on dom7th chords in this lesson: Minor II V I cadences

Rootless Voicings - Part 1 - Triads - ex 8

The third example is a III V II V I in C. Again using the technique of suspending the melody note with the diatonic note above. The A7 is resolving to Dm so the extensions used are here also from the D harmonic minor scale: a b13.

Rootless Voicings - Part 1 - Triads - ex 9

I hope you can use the exercises and examples to start using or expanding your use of rootless voicings.

If you want to download a PDF of the examples I went over here you can do so here:

Rootless Voicings – Part 1 – Triads

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Jazz Chord Essentials – Drop2 voicings – Part 2

In this lesson I want to continue with exploring the Drop2 voicings that I introduced in the 1st part: Jazz Chord Essentials – Drop 2 voicings – Part 1. Mainly I want to talk about how you make voicings with extensions and what sort of voicings you end up with.

Adding extensions to chords

Let’s look at how we can add more colors to the voicings we already have and a few tricks that will help you use and expand what you already know.

So far we’ve been concerned with the basic chords so Am7 was simply root, third, fifth and seventh, but as I explained in the first lesson you can use Am9 or Am11 instead of Am7. Instead of making 5 or more note voicings we can use these rules to exapand the sounds:

  • 9th (or b9 or #9) can replace the root
  • 13th, b13th, b5, #5 can replace the 5th
  • 6th can replace the 7th
  • 4th or 2nd can replace the 3rd

This means that if we want to make an Am9 voicing you take the Am7 voicing and change A to B. You might notice that this means that you’ll be playing the notes B C E G which is a Cmaj7, so you can use Maj7 voicings to play minor 9 voicings. If you use the same approach to D7, you have D F# A C and that becomes E F# A C which is F#m7(b5). On Gmaj7 you have G B D F# and get  A B D F# which is Bm7.

These are vocings you already know, but you still need to get used to thinking of them as another type of chord. While playing you don’t have time to think of a voicing as a Bm7 inversion when the chord is a Gmaj7.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Drop 2 voicings part 2 ex 1

To get used to how the chords sound with 9s I have made II V I cadences in all positions:

Jazz Chord Essentials - Drop 2 voicings part 2 ex 2

You’ll notice that I prefer just using the “category” Chord symbols Am7 even though I am playing the 9th. Think of it as part of the process of not having a one to one combination from chord symbol to voicing, something you probably already had to abandon with several ways to play a C or a G chord.

In example 3 I employ some more of the rules I listed above to make some more common voicings.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Drop 2 voicings part 2 ex 3

One of the ways I’d suggest you work on this is that you experiment with the voicings in a context, so that you can hear what they sound like. Learning inversions up and down the neck out of context is probably not very useful, and often you will not be practicing associating the voicing with the chord you need to use it for.

Example 4 is demonstrating a few variations of how a Gmaj7 chord can be played using Maj7, 9ths and 6th chords.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Drop 2 voicings part 2 ex 4

To give an example of how this works on a song I made a demonstration of it on the first 16 bars of Autumn Leaves. You could go check out how it compares with the exercise in the first lesson.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Drop 2 voicings part 2 ex 5

In the etude you’ll notice that I used mostly 9 chords through out. I did not add a 9 to the Am7b5 because I think the natural 9  does not fit the context here (it is of course possible, but I’d consider it a departure from the song). On the D7 I added a b9 since that is the most natural sound for a dominant resolving to a minor chord. I chose to use Gm6 and Gm6/9 on the tonic minor chords because I think that is a beautiful sound and it is often done in jazz.

I hope you can use the exercises to expand your Drop2 voicing repertoire and come up with some nice new chord voicings for the music you play.

In the 3rd lesson on Drop2 voicings I will talk more about alterations and give some examples of some more modern or advanced sounding harmonic choices.

Check out how I use Drop2 voicings in this 3 chorus transcription/lesson:

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Jazz Chord Essentials – Drop 2 voicings part 2

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I hope that you liked the lesson. If you have any questions or comments then feel free to leave them here or on the video. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Facebook, Google+ or Twitter to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.