Tag Archives: guitar chord embellishments

Chord Fills and a Great Pentatonic Trick on the Guitar

If you want to really open up the way you play chords and be a lot more free with how you comp or make fills in a chord melody arrangement, then you have to start working on different ways to make harmonized melodies that you can fit into a chord progression.

In this lesson, I am going to show you how I make chord runs or chord fills like I was using in the intro and break down a few examples.

One thing that is really useful for this is a way to use the pentatonic scale as chords and in that way make some really great sounding fills.

Let’s first take a look at a few examples and then talk about developing the pentatonic ideas later in the lesson.

3 Chord Runs Mixing Scales and Chord Voicings

The above example has a different run for each chord. Let’s have a look at how they are constructed.

Mixing Am pentatonic and Dm7

The Dm7 run below is the most complicated of the 3. Here I am harmonizing a melody that is from the Am pentatonic scale. The Am pentatonic scale is a “neutral” sound over a Dm7. All notes sound good but the scale lacks a little color because there is no F.

In the run, I start with a Dm triad and I also end with a Dm7(9) or Fmaj voicing. These two ensure that the sound of the chord is clear. In between, I am using C major and Am voicings. They sound neutral but are not too clear.

Harmonized G altered scale

The G altered run is mixing voicings and the scale. You can see how the 3 voicings shown in diagrams below work as a way of harmonizing the melody on each string. The red note marks where the melody is moving to in the line.

The entire voicing in the scale is shown in the lowest diagram, with the voicing in Blue.

Em pentatonic scale as a Jazz Chords for Cmaj7

In the example above I am generating voicings by stacking notes in the Em pentatonic scale. Since the entire Em pentatonic scale works as a Cmaj7 sound then this produces some great sounding voicings and I can move around and have a scale to play melodies with,

In this case, it is an ascending melody harmonizing every other note.

Two-layer Chord Runs

This example is using quarter note triplets to create a floating effect over the meter. It is also separating the melody from the chords to give the run a call response or solo-comp character.

On the Dm7 the technique used is similar to what I did on Cmaj7 in the previous example. The only difference is that here the chord is split into two so that the highest note in the chord is played separately.

Dm Pentatonic Run

Turning this into an exercise down the neck would give you this run:

The Cmaj7 bar is using the exact same thing but with an Em pentatonic scale instead of a Dm pentatonic.

G7 altered Exercise

You can also turn the G7 altered lick into a longer exercise moving in the scale. SInce the G altered scale is a 7 note scale I had to adapt the melody a little to get it to work.

A way to practice for more flexibility

The exercise below is using the Em pentatonic scale. This is really just a way to practice playing several pentatonic voicings but builds your ability to make melodies and create variations.

Using Pentatonic Positions

The pentatonic chords that I have used until now were all along the neck. This is a great way to work with voicings, but the open sound of the chords you get makes it possible to also do this in position.

These 3 exercises help you explore that:

Pentatonics and Arpeggios on a Jazz Standard

If you want to explore how you can get some great solo lines mixing pentatonics and arpeggios on Lady Bird then check out this lesson, or get it at a reduced price as a part of the Easy Standards Bundle:

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What Jimi Hendrix can teach Jazz Guitarists

Jimi Hendrix is a one of the most influential guitarists in history. There is a lot to be gained from checking out guitarists outside the jazz guitar. In this video I will go over how you can apply some of the ideas that Hendrix uses in his playing when you are playing chords in jazz.

The examples in this lesson are all on the first 4 bars of the jazz standard “You Stepped ut of a dream”, which consists of two bars of Cmaj7 and two bars of Dbmaj7.

A Jazz comp example

The way we mostly comp in jazz is by using complete chords and then use different voicings to create movement in the top notes or in the inner voices of the chords.

This is shown in the example here below:

How Hendrix would play it

If we take the chords and try to imagine playing them in the style Hendrix might use on his ballads like Little Wing or Wind Cries Mary then that might yield something like this:

The important thing to notice here is that the chords are played in the begining of each chord to state the harmony.  The variations that are used are not complete chords but more double stops and partial chords. The sound of this approach is  a lot lighter than using only complete chords and that can be a nice variation to add in your comping vocabulary.

The way I am playing example 2 is of course also changing the  feel of the song, so we still need to find a way to apply this to a jazz standard without making it sound like a Jimi Hendrix cover.

The way the chord is split up in bass note and chords so that it spells out a back beat groove and this is probably the main reason it sounds so little like a jazz groove.

A more jazz example of this approach

Example 3 is taking some of the techniques used in example 2 and then adding more of a jazz feel to it. The idea is quite simple, the chord is still initially stated and then the rest of the time is used to add fills and partial chords. The fills do convey the sound of the chord, but does not yield a complete chord sound all the time.

In this example I am using the same ideas for fills but taking away the back beat feel so that the jazz feel isn’t lost. 

A closer look at the Techniques in the fills

The two main ingredients of the fills Hendrix uses are probably the chords themselves and then mixing this with pentatonic ideas.

A “jazz” version of this could be to use the chord and also use a pentatonic scale that fits the chord. In this example the chord is a maj7 chord so a suggestion for a pentatonic scale could be the E minor pentatonic scale as shown here below.

If we relate the Em pentatonic scale to C maj 7 we get:

E   G   A   B   D   E

3   5   6   7    9   3

One thing that wouldbe useful to explore is some of the intervals we have in the scale. The 3rd bar shows a simple set of intervals in the scale.

Practicing Fills from Chord shapes

On the Cmaj7 I am using some of the Em or G major pentatonic ideas that you would often associate with a G major chord. One good exercise to get used to some of the G major fills that are in the style of Hendrix is to go over the fills that I have written out in example 5. This is associtated and based on the E minor pentatonic scale and the G chord shown in the 3rd bar.

Another possibilty is to take the same exercise and use the fills associated with the C chord in the 8th fret. This is shown in example 6 here below:

Applying the Hendrix exercises to a Cmaj7 chord

As a short example of how I apply the G Hendrix fills to a Cmaj7 I have written out the chord and the fills here below. 

Using Fills in comping and soloing

With the long history of jazz guitar it has become a common thing that we add to the style by borrowing techniques and ideas from other styles. I personally find it great that we keep developing the style and that jazz in this way keeps changing and evolving.

Incorporating fills into your playing is a good way to add some color to your comping. You can of course also use these ideas in your solos as melodic material, something you will also hear Hendrix do in his solos.

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If you want to download a Free E-book of 15 II Valt I licks then subscribe to my newsletter:

Get the PDF!

You can also download the PDF of my examples here:

What Hendrix can teach Jazz Guitarists

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics or how I can make the lessons better 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.

Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Instagram,Twitter Google+ or Facebook to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.