Tag Archives: how to learn jazz on guitar

Save Your Chord Melody Playing With These 3 Tactics!

Chord Melody like you hear it with Joe Pass or  Barney Kessel is a beautiful part of playing Jazz guitar, and it is a lot of fun to play a piece as a complete arrangement of a song. But is also difficult, and when you play then you are busy with the chords, extensions, and keeping the thing going.

There are a few things that can ruin your chord melody and some things that you can add to make it sound better and become easier to play,  so let’s have a look at some of my chord melody secrets (that everybody else also uses)

Getting Started With The Arrangement

The basic way to get started playing a song as a chord melody arrangement is to get the melody on the top strings, mostly the two top strings, B and E,  and occasionally you can go to the G string.

From there you can add chords under the notes and here shell-voicings are a very useful tool since they have a bass note on the low E or A strings and the chord part, 7th and 3rd on the middle strings G and D.

You basically add chords when you can, and mostly on beats 1 & 3 to make the sound of the chords and the time clear.

There is one thing that you ALWAYS need to get right otherwise your chord melody won’t make any sense, and there are a lot of things you can add. Let’s start by avoiding that pitfall!

Melody Is King!

This is something that I say to students very often if I give feedback on Chord melody arrangements: The melody is not clear enough.

It simply doesn’t work if you play the but nobody can hear what song it is…

Luckily, this is not incredibly difficult to fix. The first step is to realize that it is a problem, and there is an app for that! It’s the camera in your phone, so that you can record yourself playing, and then listen while you pay attention to whether you clearly hear the melody, and actually also how it is phrased, but in the beginning, just make sure that it is clear.

You can also practice playing chords where the top note is louder than the rest, something that is also very useful for comping., just to develop that technique.

So like this Dm7, and just try and play it slowly, maybe try to play the melody alone, and then when you play it you want to hear it as a melody note with a bit of chord under it.

Ideally, you want to really let the melody sing, and for some guitarists then that is more important than the chords, which is clear if you listen to more modern guys like Bill Frisell or John Scofield.

They are both only adding chords here and there and really focusing on getting the melody across.

And if you start using your chords like this then that can be a lot easier!

Don’t play the complete chord all the time

We call it chord melody, which almost suggests that the chord is more important than the melody but you just heard how that is not the case.

The way the basic recipe works then you will get chords on the heavy beats and especially when the chords change,

but it can actually be a lot more interesting if you open that up for a few reasons:

#1 Phrasing

Playing the chord and the melody at the same time actually makes it more difficult to really phrase the melody, so if you separate the melody and add the chord later then it is often easier to really get the melody to stand out and have the right dynamics

#2 Variation & Flow

The next situation where this is really useful is if you have a long note on that chord because this is pretty boring: Stella first note (with metronome at tempo 50? drinking coffee)

And I am playing the same chords, but this is still a lot more interesting:


So even without changing the notes in the chord you can still make the melody stand out, avoid long boring sustained chords and keep the time and the groove flowing.

#1 Make The Melody Stand Out

#2 Avoid Long Boring Chords

#3 Keep The Groove Flowing

Let’s look at another way to add movement to your chord melody arrangement, this time using more chords.

More Movement and More chords

The problem you saw in that first example with Stella by Starlight was that there was a long note in the melody and nothing was happening. When you harmonize Jazz Standards, that is actually pretty common:

But very often you can easily add a passing chord or two to make things flow a little easier.

If you have All The Things You Are then a basic version would sound like this, though I did add a tritone II V in there because I really like that sound in this song:

But you can also add some tritone substitutions as passing chords like a B7 to go to Bbm7 and an E7 to take us to the Em7 and A7:

And these are just dominants and tritone subs that resolve into the next part of the progression, that s a great first place to look: chords that resolve as dominants or down a half step, and still fit the melody, but there are more options like this diatonic Eø passing chord (and a dominant on Days of Wine And Roses:

Diminished chords can also be really effective and easy to work with, especially the dominant diminished chords like the C# and F# dim I am adding here on Polkadots and moonbeams:

But there are more ways to keep things moving along besides using passing chords.

More Movement and More Notes

Here’s a fairly basic example with a fill going from Eø to A7 and really ending in the A7 chord, which is always a smooth transition:

But you can also play fills that mix single notes and chords like this example on Body and Soul, and try to notice the B7 that is used as a suspension that delays the Bb7:

It is mostly a matter of really knowing the song and then taking a spot out to come up with some options using arpeggiation, passing chords, and fills.

A Beautiful Different Take On Chord Melody

One of my favorites when it comes to Chord Melody is Bill Frisell, who somehow manages to really mix traditional chord melody that you might hear with Joe Pass with a more modern approach borrowing from Bluegrass and Blues but also more modern harmony like Bill Evans, and it is magical that he can get all of that to melt together and become incredibly beautiful music. Check out this video on how he works with Days Of Wine And Roses

Amazing Chord Melody Without Any Chords? So Beautiful That Nobody Cares

Get the PDF and GuitarPro on Patreon:

You can get the PDF and GuitarPro files on Patreon here:    

Get the PDF!

You can also download the PDF of my examples here:

Get a free E-book

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

Sign up for my newsletter – Get the II V I Ebook

Jazz Guitar Insiders Facebook Group

Join 14000+ Other Jazz Guitarists 🎸Join us in the Facebook Jazz Guitar Group Community: http://bit.ly/InsidersFBGroup

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.

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. 

Amazing Chord Melody Without Any Chords? So Beautiful That Nobody Cares

It is not often that you come across someone who manages to re-invent a style like this into something both beautiful and unique,  but this take on Days Of Wine And Roses is a such a beautiful version of the song that uses a lot of new techniques, and actually stuff you can use in your own playing that isn’t that common in Jazz guitar.

With most Jazz guitarists when you say Chord Melody then they think of people like Joe Pass or  Barney Kessel

Both of these are of course fantastic, but they are what I would consider a more traditional approach to chord melody, and Jazz is not only a tradition, it is also a style of music that while staying true to it’s roots also (luckily) keeps changing and evolving.

When it comes to playing chord melody then usually we are already having a hard time just laying down the harmony and playing the melody at the same time with any kind of phrasing, because  that is already quite a lot to have going on. But what if you could open it up with a completely different sound an instead of trying to sound like a piano or use traditional drop voicings then you can explore  the independent sound and possibilities of the electric guitar to create something else. I think that is exactly what Bill Frisell does in this version, and he manages to have a very clear connection to both Jazz tradition and to other styles especially Bluegrass but certainly also Blues and even Pop music.

The Blues and Wine And Roses

I don’t think I had this association right away, but if I listen now then to me the intro is really Blues inspired, and borrowing a lot from what you might hear in an acoustic blues song, something like Lightnin’ Hopkins, I am curious what you think? It is all pretty much just a playing a good old campfire C chord with some sparse fills giving you a #9 and a b7 to really make it more dominant and also make it sound like blues. One phrasing technique that I really connect with Bill Frisell is sliding down to a note. He seems to do that more than most people I am aware off, within Jazz at least. I think Guthrie Govan does it really a lot as well, he sort of re-invented what could be done with using slides to me, but I don’t really consider him Jazz. Here Frisell uses a slide to get to the minor 3rd from the major 3rd, It’s the blues thing. Because C is the V of the key, which is F major, then the intro still works as a “normal” intro where I think most Blues intros would set the mood up on the I chord, but Days Of Wine And Roses is of course not exactly a 12-bar blues.

What is also really great about this is that he is starting a Jazz chord melody with something that is mostly a triad sound, so it is not exactly Bebop tradition, he is almost hiding the extensions and I think the way he does that is really inspired! I A huge difference in both the intro and really the whole performance is how the priority for Frisell ito create a beautiful mood around the melody more than a sort of clear functional harmony based intro or a groove. This is also how he gets to incorporate some of the very uncommon chord sounds and voicings that he uses, but we’ll get to those.

The Melody Can Stand Alone!


I might get slaughtered in the comments for this, since I am saying that he doesn’t use chords, because he is playing a chord in the first  bar of the melody, and a very basic and simple jazz chord at that. But he doesn’t harmonize the song the way you would usually work through a Jazz song. The “standard” way to create chord melody, that I have also taught in several videos, even using this song, is to put a chord under the melody on the heavy beats of the bar. For Days Of Wine And Roses that might give you an opening like this:

And that is very solid because it gives you a very clear picture of the harmony and the melody, but this approach is also very much focused on harmony and making that an important part of it, where Frisell’s take is much more about giving the melody a chance to shine, something you will see several examples along the way, and he also talks about it in his masterclass video:

This way of giving priority to the melody also sort of explains why he often prefers to just play the melody alone, and once that is there and if there is room then he adds things around it. While this is not the way we usually do things in Jazz, then I do think he has a point, and playing a complete chords under the melody also sort of takes away from the melody. If you listen to him like this then you understand what he does a lot better, at least to me it makes a lot more sense. Lets’ check it out and then also explore what he does with chords instead of playing full chords.

So you have the chords in here which are first an Fmaj7 shell voicing, so yes a very very basic Jazz chord, and this Eb7 which is really just an interval, but which does give you enough information in the context to hear what is going on, and if you listen to the melody that adds the 3rd of the chord G, that completes the picture with the Eb7.

It is Rubato!

A quick side-note about the sheet music: If you are only reading the tabs then you won’t care about this, but this entire performance is rubato, so I had to interpret it quite heavily when I was writing out the examples, and I wanted to keep the original structure of the song in there, since he is playing that song, but everything is actually out of time, so it may be difficult to follow, and I did have to make some choices to fit everything in there, but to me, it just makes more sense to relate it to the song to see it in that context.

Turning Chords into Arpeggios

On the two bars of D7 that follows he turns chords into a mix of arpeggios and smaller voicings, something you will see more great examples of as well. Here there are two voicings put together in a phrase that makes up the D7 and none of them are complete D7 chords. He is really as much playing them as a fill as he is playing them as chords. While doing that he makes the fill interesting with grace notes, open strings and sustaining minor 2nd intevals, and notice that he uses his thumb to grab a low note.

A Beautiful Gm Voicing

Another example of this is on the Gm7 chord that follows which also is an example of how he uses the volume pedal to add color to the sound, here it is sort of built around this shape

But he always splits it up also when he uses it later in the  song

When Intervals Are Chords

The song moves from Gm7 to Bbm, so subdominant to minor subdominant,  and here he fills up the long notes with shifting 3rd intervals and also adds some slides to add a different dynamic and sound to what is going on.

He sort of uses the same idea in the second half, but the he is playing it with 10th intervals

You already saw in the first bars of the song how he also just plays intervals as chords, and this is a part of the open sound that he uses.

There are also some really unusual dominant sounds and chords that are relying on interval structures, but I will get those in a bit together with an amazing ending chord for the song.

Bill Frisell

To me, Bill Frisell is one of the 3 most important Jazz guitarists of his generation with John Scofield and Pat Metheny being the other two, and I have listened really a lot to all 3 them.

I am aware that this may be a polarizing opinion, and it is certainly an opinion more than anything else, so you can always run amok in the comments with complaints about leaving out Mike Stern or John Abercrombie or maybe someone else that you like more. Frisell is probably the least famous of the 3, but like the others he has really managed to stay true to himself and keep on creating new music and new sounds, and he still does. The last year or two I have seen both his trio and a bluegrass project of his live, both concerts were fantastic,  I can only recommend that you check him out if you get the chance, his playing is truly impressive and actually a lot more technical or flashy than the example I am covering here.

In Polyphony Less Really Is More

You have already seen how Bill Frisell uses a lot of voice-leading and is very creative with that. The next part of theme shows how he will sometimes take out a single voice and leave out  almost everything else to let this voice shine next to the melody. In this case, it is very effective and he is really just using one simple melody to move from Gm7 to C7 and continue from Eø to A7

It is really just a guide tone line, and it is simple but also really used in the right place. Notice how this also means that he relies only on the melody and just leaves out most of the chords for this section.

There is another spot later where he does something similar but here the voices are really moving at the same time and there is a bit more going on also in the harmony, even if he is still just spelling out the harmony with one or two notes at a time. Beautiful minimalism using intervals and arpeggiating chords while having a top melody and a 2nd voice moving down. Playing this with full chords would not have the same effect.

Let’s look at some more of those strange dominant chord sounds.

Frisells Funny Dominants

Before the 2nd half of the theme, Bill changed the C7 into an Gb7, so a tritone substitution, fairly straight forward, but as you saw on the D7 in the beginning then chords are turned into a combination of arpeggios and intervals.

In this case he is using that a Gb7(b5) is the combination of 2 7th intervals: Gb E and C Bb, I know I am being a bit liberal with the enharmonic spelling here.

And then moves on while sustaining some notes to add a simple fill on top, and keeping it all practical and playable.

The D7 chords are, maybe except from the ending, the chords which are most surprising. This next example is first an example of a place where the melody is block harmonized (sort of) and then it disappears into a dissonant incomplete A diminished voicing that works as a D7. In this example, you also hear how the extensions and intervals within the chords are more important than a clear picture of the harmony, which is especially on the first two chords that don’t contain a 3rd and the first one is really just a Dm triad. It is actually funny that being vague is also a statement in music.

The Song and The Sound

Days Of Wine And Roses, is a Jazz standard that Bill Frisell really likes to play, since there are quite a few versions of it on YouTube and he also uses it in his masterclass video as an example for chord melody, I thought this was from there, but I am not sure about that anymore, since this is a different guitar? What is great about it is not only all the different things he is using borrowing from other styles and playing  surprising things.  It is as much how he manages to make that into a complete piece of music that doesn’t sound like things put together with copy-paste licks and gimmicks. In that respect he really reminds me of Hendrix.

This video of Days of Wine and Roses has him playing an SG, which is not the most common jazz guitar, but which I found out was his main guitar for quite a long time after he had stopped using an ES175, and in fact he was at one point playing in a band with Vinnie Colaiuta, this is a bit random but I thought it was very funny that they had been in a band together since they are so different. In the video, It sounds like the bridge pickup through a fender amp to me, but I can’t really tell for sure. Frisell often uses solid-body guitars, mostly telecasters and strats. I have also seen him play a 335 type guitar quite a few times. He also had a period where he played a Klein solid-body. In the video you hear quite a bit of reverb and delay which is probably a lexicon LXP-1 for reverb together with a digital delay. He was one of the people I saw using an LXP-1 that made me decide to get one. I had also seen Scofield, Rosenwinkel and Ben Monder using LXP-1 reverbs.  You can even see his settings for the lexicon here if you want to in this clip:

In the song, you also hear a fair amount of volume pedal, plus that and I am pretty sure he is also using a compressor of some sort.

A Suspension that more people should use

The ending of the song shows a few things that I think deserve to be highlighted, and actually we should all steal the ending chord!

First you get a C(b9) and then a typical very simple F triad melody, played largely with the left hand thumb!

And then he comes out on (yet another) strange dominant sound, in this case  a phrygian chord: Fsus2/E. He switches to playing with his right hand thumb to get the a different sound and the chord then resolves by letting it ring and playing the low F with the thumb on the left hand.

Check out another great chord melody player:

This Jazz Blues Solo is Perfect And Nobody Is Talking About It

Get the PDF!

You can also download the PDF of my examples here:

Get the PDF and GuitarPro on Patreon:

You can get the PDF and GuitarPro files on Patreon here:    


Get a free E-book

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

Sign up for my newsletter – Get the II V I Ebook


Jazz Guitar Insiders Facebook Group

Join 13000+ Other Jazz Guitarists 🎸Join us in the Facebook Jazz Guitar Group Community: http://bit.ly/InsidersFBGroup

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.

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.

If I started Jazz Guitar In 2023 then this is what I would practice

The problem with learning Jazz Guitar is not finding the information, you can find everything explained and almost everything written out on the internet, but where do you start? What is important to learn and what should you practice?

In this video, I will talk about how to keep it practical and what goals to aim for, but also highlight how we now have things available that make it easier, things I didn’t have access to back in 1996 or 7 when I started playing Jazz, and maybe they are not all great..


Let’s see if it really is easier to learn Jazz now than it used to be.

#1 Play Music – The Most Important Goal

Getting started without taking lessons is pretty difficult.  When I was first trying to learn a Jazz Standard, then I picked one that I thought sounded cool and tried to solo over it.  But at that time, I didn’t have a Jazz teacher, and working it out on my own was a complete disaster.

Even with all the mistakes and skills I didn’t have, I did get one thing right with that.  If you want to learn Jazz then you want to learn some music to play, that is the big goal around everything:

playing music, and you want to built the rest in a practical way around that. I’ll get to some basics on how to learn a song in a bit, but first you need to understand why it is important that you focus on learning songs.

Why You Want To Learn Jazz Songs

Anything you practice you want to learn to use when you make music, so you actually need to practice to use it, which is almost always missing in the equation, and that is what the songs are for: They are what you play when you make music.

They become the place where you take everything you work on whether it is a lick, an arpeggio or a chord voicing, and learn how to actually make music with it. Some students think that you just need to practice scales or arpeggios and then they magically become great licks in your solos, and that NEVER ends well…..

How You Learn Songs – It is pretty easy now!

There are a few very useful tools to learn songs that were not around when I learned Jazz. In the long run, you want to focus on learning songs by ear. In the beginning, then the chords are difficult to do by ear, so I would suggest always trying to learn the melody by ear first, and here it is a lot easier that we have things like Spotify, or YouTube and don’t need to buy cds or records of the songs, or even figure out what album a song is on. Everything is pretty easy to find on the internet and you can check out different versions and use those to learn the melody. This is great ear training and will also help you develop important skills that I’ll get to later in the video.

You should have a decent shot at learning the melody, and If you can, then check out the chords as well, but otherwise we have things like iReal, or Google to help with that, and of course the trusted old RealBook, but of course, those have been around for a long time! (as you can tell from the coffee stains and tape holding it together.

The Short list of things to focus on when learning a song for jazz soloing would be to:

Learn the melody

Because it will help you hear the harmony, understanding the form something to tie it all together.

Learn the chords

We mostly improvise over chords and if you know the chords and the arpeggios + the key of the song then you are already pretty far in terms of what you need to solo. Playing the chords in time helps you hear the harmony and the flow of the song, which makes it easier to improvise a solo.

Start soloing

Practice the scales and arpeggios in one (or more) positions so that you can solo over the song without having to skip around the neck at random.

And Don’t try to do the entire neck at once if you are new to it, just keep it simple, that is a super common mistake, and nobody learned anything from only practicing scales, except may to not only practice scales…

#2 Scales and Exercises

With learning songs there are a lot of tools that can help you learn faster, with scales and exercises then that is a bit more down to you to put in the work, and make the right choices

I think it is important to not get lost in working on too many things here, so just start with major scales, maybe don’t do all positions, but instead focus on what you need in the songs you play, and work on some exercises in those scale positions that help you solo better.

So here I am talking about learning basic exercises like diatonic triads and 7th chord arpeggios, triad inversions and add leading notes to arpeggios. The things you need for playing Jazz lines,

remember that there should be a connection of some sort. Then you can add more positions and more scales along the way, but again focus on what you need when you solo and try to practice so you improve that, don’t practice scales that you have never heard being used or that you won’t use for another few years. In fact, this is important for any exercise.

The same goes for chords, be careful with massive systems, inversions and permutations because they will eat up your practice time and instead keep it simple and build a vocabulary of chords that you can actually use when you play. I have other videos that give you a more practical approach for that. Let me know if you want a link.

I think this is mostly about working with a metronome, practicing the exercises and I don’t think there are that many differences between now and when I started out. But one thing is knowing all the technical parts of this, putting it together so that it sounds like a Jazz solo is something else entirely, and again it is a lot easier to come by information than it used to be, maybe  even too easy?

#3 Learn The Language

All the scales and arpeggios: someone with a lot of books or practicing with list of scales and chords popping in?

When I started out learning Jazz then I was already listening to a people like Charlie Parker, John Scofield and Pat Martino, but I also tried to find some books in the library that could help me learn, and at the time there was not a lot I could use. The only books I found were on Bebop and the material in there was a lot of boring exercises with lines that did not use songs and did not sound like the stuff I heard when I listened to the music, so I quickly dropped using them, and kept going figuring out bits and pieces by ear, because that was the best I had.

You can know all the scales and arpeggios in the world and still not know how to get anything to sound like a Jazz phrase. Like any style of music, Jazz needs a certain flow and the right notes need to be in the right place. There are a few ways you can study this, and not studying the language and just inventing your own melodies will often mean that you don’t REALLY sound like Jazz when you improvise, at the same time, that is also a question of taste, so feel free to leave angry comments on personal expression and artistic freedom below, maybe Wes is too clinical for you, Metheny is artificial or Joe Pass is boring. It is a sensitive topic.

The David Baker book that I checked out didn’t appeal to me, but in hindsight maybe a big part of why it didn’t do that was that I had to read the music to hear what it sounded like and I didn’t know how to phrase Jazz lines, so the examples were not really Jazz when I played them. So at the time it probably sounded like this,

But now you can find many lessons with both audio and video examples so that you can hear how the vocabulary you are trying to learn actually should sound, both examples from famous solos and stuff that people on the internet come up with. The important thing is to learn to make your own licks using that language and that takes time, but it is essential that you learn to understand how the lines work, that may be one of the most important reasons why Barry Harris and his approach is such an incredible resource, a resource where you no longer need to be in the room with him since his masterclasses are on YouTube and there are channels dedicated to how he teaches.. Another way to learn vocabulary is the next topic which is also one of the best ways to improve almost everything about your playing.

#4 Phrasing and Ear training

This is SO important for learning to actually sound like Jazz and being able to play in style. When it comes to learning Jazz then it is fairly easy to learn the big rough building blocks, so the scales, arpeggios, analyzing chords and playing licks.

But it is much much more difficult to learn all the subtle things in the phrasing like how much distance is there between 8th notes (because that is much more important than you might think). When should you play behind the beat, what notes should have subtle accents, which ones shouldn’t.


And it turns out that for most people those are things that are very difficult to learn by analyzing and explaining them compared to learning solos by ear and getting them into your ear and into your playing without having to analyze it.

Getting started with learning solos by ear can be very difficult, but it is worth the effort, because you will learn A LOT from it. I think this is one thing where it has become so much easier with YouTube, Spotify and having a lot of music available, plus that you can slow down music with the help of programs like Transcribe!

or even work within YouTube using things like the Vidami pedal that really makes it so much easier to check things out by ear.

The only thing missing is some advice on what great beginner solos to check out, and that can really mean the difference between impossible and super easy, barely an inconvienience, which also relates to the next part of learning Jazz.

#5 Learning Path and Information Overload

What should you work on? This is a common issue especially if you are trying to teach yourself jazz guitar using online materials. If you don’t know what is missing in your playing then it is also incredibly difficult to figure out what to work on next and how to learn that. On the internet then there are usually 100 different suggestions, but how do you choose what fits you and helps you the most?

I think the obvious solution here is to find a good teacher who has more experienced ears and a better overview of what you need to learn. I have had a lot of really good teachers, which is probably the easiest way to speed up your learning process. But, of course it is not always possible to find a teacher that fits you or that is available when you are, so if you want my take on getting started learning Jazz in a step-by-step process then check out my Jazz Guitar Roadmap course, where you can also get some feedback on your progress by posting videos in the course community, and that helps catching things that are specific to you and that you maybe can’t hear yourself.

Is it easier to learn Jazz now?

Is it easier to learn Jazz now? I am really curious what you think. I guess that I think it is, but you are faced with a lot of other problems that are often disguised as advantages because we underestimate information overload and how much it takes to choose the right thing to work on. Few things are as useful and efficient as having real lessons. It is hard to beat having a teacher as your main source of information and as your guide in what to practice and what to focus on. But it does have to be a teacher that fits to you and is available. Did it get easier to learn Jazz? Let me know what you think in the comments!

Get the PDF and GuitarPro on Patreon:

You can get the PDF and GuitarPro files on Patreon here:    


Get a free E-book

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

Sign up for my newsletter – Get the II V I Ebook

Get the PDF!

You can also download the PDF of my examples here:

Jazz Guitar Insiders Facebook Group

Join 7500+ Other Jazz Guitarists 🎸Join us in the Facebook Jazz Guitar Group Community: http://bit.ly/InsidersFBGroup

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.

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.

Pentatonic Chords are Magic! Amazing New Way To Use The Scale!

This way of turning the pentatonic scale into chords is surprisingly easy and already built into the way we play the scale, so if you can find a pentatonic scale that fits a chord then you have a great way to create some beautiful chord runs with a lot of movement and some really nice colors.

Let me show you how it works, and then explain and expand on how you can start using this great sound:

This is a fill to fit a Cmaj7

and the pentatonic scale used is this Em pentatonic scale, I’ll go over choosing scales in a bit:

Here, I am turning the pentatonic scale into chords by playing 3 notes at a time. In the previous example, I used these 4 chords:

Why Does It Work?

So I am really just thinking of them as playing notes in the scale at the same time, I am not thinking 4 different chords. The combined sound of all of them is what works and they fit together perfectly because they are in the scale.

Of course, you can do this for the entire position, and you can also use the same chords but change how you play them:

The way this works is about moving around in one position, but as you will see, you can also add some nice melodic tricks and start moving along the neck as well.

Finding Pentatonic Scales For Cmaj7

But first, let’s look a bit at finding pentatonic scales for a maj7 chord, later I will also show you some other chords and a great pentatonic scale that fits on a m6 or mMaj7 chord. The construction is a bit weird, but it sounds amazing, actually, I am going against my own rules in the name of it.

When you are looking for pentatonic scales it is not super complicated.

A Cmaj7 chord is either the I chord or the IV chord in a major scale.

If Cmaj7 is the one chord in C major then you have 3 possible minor pentatonic scales:

C major: C D E F G A B C D E F G A B C

Am: A C D E G A

Dm: D F G A C D

Em: E G A B D E

In this case, the Dm pentatonic is not really going to sound like a Cmaj7 mainly because of the F. But both Am and Em work really well. If you look at the notes of Am pentatonic, that is really just a C6/9 chord: C E G A D,

but since this way of using the scales is about adding color then the Em pentatonic is a little bit better because you also have the B, the major 7th so it is a little richer, and we want it to be as rich as possible!

The same type of analysis works if Cmaj7 is the 4th degree, here the scale would be G major and the available pentatonic scales would be Em, Am and Bm. Em and Am I already talked about but in this case the Bm is interesting because it has the two important notes for the chord: E and B, 3rd and 7th and then you have the 9th, the 13th, and the #11.

So this is can also be a very useful scale for the chord giving you a sort of open floating lydian sound:

The Secret To This Approach


One thing that it is important that you realize with this approach is that playing these pentatonic chord runs is like arpeggiating a chord. If you arpeggiate a chord then you have to hear a few notes before you can hear what chord it is.

This works the same, so not all the 3-note pentatonic chords are complete versions of for example a Cmaj7, but the entire run will sound like a Cmaj7.

If you look at the 2nd chord it is A D and G so it lacks the E and the B but those notes are in the surrounding chords so the whole thing still works.

In fact, this is similar to how you use quartal voicings, where you move around a voicing and sometimes it is not a complete chord, like this II V I in C major where the chords on beat 2 and 3 are not really complete Dm7 or G7alt voicings, but the entire thing still works.

In the end, just come up with something that sounds cool and it will probably work. Let’s try it out on an m7 chord and explore moving out of positions which can make things a lot easier sometimes.

Pentatonic Chords for a m7 chord

If you look at the 3 pentatonic scales in C major and compare them to a Dm7 chord, then it makes sense that the scale that will work the best is the Dm pentatonic since that is the only one that has both a 3rd and the 7th, so F and C.

Instead of playing in position then you can also move along the neck, and turn that into some beautiful moving harmony that is often also easier to play.

The basic Dm pentatonic voicings could be this:

And you can easily turn that into a beautiful II V I  and notice how I use the Em pentatonic scale as a short extra fill on the Cmaj7. It doesn’t always have to be large runs all the time, it can also be a small detail.

Now you can cover a lot of ground already, so I guess it would be nice to find a nice scale for a m6 or a mMaj7 chord, so let’s try that.

The Minor Pentatonic b1-scale

I actually hate the name I gave this scale, but it is by far the easiest way to construct it, so that is why I am sticking with it, even if it annoys every pedantic theoretically correct principle in my brain!

The scale I want to use is a scale that fits over a minor chord with a maj 6th and a maj7th which is really the sound of melodic minor.

For Cmaj7 you have Em pentatonic: E G A B D (3 5 6 7 9) with all the nice colors and extensions.

If only we had a minor version of that… Oh wait:

Em Pentatonic b1 : Eb G A B D

So here I am essentially just taking the Em pentatonic scale and changing E to Eb, hence the b1 pentatonic scale.

A better name for this scale is G major b6 pentatonic, which I believe I took from Rick Beato, but I am not 100% sure.

If you want some pentatonic chord magic on an Am6 chord then you use the C#m pentatonic but change the C# to a C, which gives you E major b6 pentatonic.

And now you can create 3 note voicings like this:

And then you can create some nice chord runs for an Am6 or AmMaj7 chord, it is really an amazing sound, and after that, you probably know what I am going to do next.

Altered Dominants And Counter-Movement

Now that you have a great pentatonic scale for a melodic minor sound then the next thing to do is (of course?) to put that to use on an altered dominant!

This is going to be a few steps, but it is worthwhile!

Let’s take G7alt:

G altered is Ab melodic minor.

The Pentatonic scale for Ab melodic minor is Cm with the C turned into a B (or Cb)

So this scale:


And then you have these chords:

And now you can create an all-pentatonic chord run that works great as an intro but is maybe a bit busy for comping. You also want to notice the counter-movement in the  Dm7 voicings.

Get the PDF and GuitarPro on Patreon:

You can get the PDF and GuitarPro files on Patreon here:


Get the PDF!

You can also download the PDF of my examples here:

Get a free E-book

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

Sign up for my newsletter – Get the II V I Ebook

Jazz Guitar Insiders Facebook Group

Join 7500+ Other Jazz Guitarists 🎸Join us in the Facebook Jazz Guitar Group Community: http://bit.ly/InsidersFBGroup

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.

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.