Tag Archives: how to play jazz chords on guitar

Do this Every Time you Learn a New Jazz Chord

You need to check out a lot of different jazz chords and voicings when you want to learn Jazz, and you need them for comping and for chord melody arrangements.

In this lesson, I am going to show you some techniques that can really help you get more out of your voicings so that you don’t have to spend too much time practicing chords and help you use one voicing that you already know to create a ton of other chords that you then don’t need to practice as much.

A little music theory can really save you a lot of time!

I am going to do this in 3 parts – first look at finding similar voicings, then change the voicing and finally what other chords we can use this voicing for.

This is all about using what you practice as much as possible and getting the most out of what you have learned.

Part 1 – Connect the voicing to all the other things you know.

Let’s keep it a little practical. Let’s say you have learned a shiny new voicing like this Drop2 voicing for a C7(9).

It’s a drop2 voicing, but if we forget that and just look at it and associate it with other types of voicings then something great happens:

Below, you can see that it is coming from this voicing (bar2) and that it is also related to this voicing (bar3)

The reason that I am saying this is that it is important to tie see how the chord has different components from other voicings that we know.

That makes it easier to use it with other chords and for examplie having C-D top note melody.

Another thing that is good to notice is that it is related to this Drop3, this triad or this shell voicing.

We are just taking a look at how it works and finding things we can do with it.

Right now we can make a melody like this with what we just discovered:

or a comping riff like this:

Part 2 – Change The Voicing – Make a New Jazz Chord

This is really an important way to look at how to come up with more sounds and really explore what we can do with a chord.

To keep it a bit practical I am not going to change the 3rd and 7th of the chord because then we have a completely different type of chord and open up for a lot more information, that is possible and you should experiment with it, but my video would get too long.

If we explore changing the 2nd highest note, the G, then we have these chords:

So, of course, you need to understand where you want to use the chords to figure out what fits. A blues in C with C7(9,b13) chords may not be the sound you want (or are hired to play)

We can do the same with the top note:

And I am not going to go over the different combinations of this, but that can be fun to explore as well!

Part 3 – Using this voicing for other Jazz chords

Now we have connected the chord to a ton of other voicings and made a lot of variations on it.

If you look at the notes that are in the C7(9) voicing we have Bb,E, G and D.

If you order these in different ways we have:

E G Bb D which is Em7(b5) or You can look at it as G Bb D E which is a Gm6

So this means that the original voicing could be used like this:

These are two of the obvious choices, but you could also go through this in a systematic way and just check out what these notes are against any root.

They could work as a Bb6(#11) or F#7alt. Thinking of notes against a root is something that is also very useful for soloing!

If you use the chord as an F#7alt then you have this: Example 8

Connect the chords don’t just remember separate things

This way of thinking about voicings where you are looking at it not only within a system but also really connecting to other types of chords and voicings is a very good practice for developing and making your vocabulary more useable. If you want to see another video where I talk about this then check out this video where I am going over a 3 level process of creating and using jazz chords.

Jazz Chords – The 3 Levels You Need To Know

And you could also consider checking out the Jazz Chord Study Guide

Apply it to a Bb Jazz Blues

Take things even further by using some of the same principles on a Jazz Blues:

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Jazz Chords – The 3 Levels You Need To Know

In this video I am to cover some different types of Jazz Chords and talk about the order you should learn them. I’ll show you the basic idea with the chords and how you can use this order to gradually build a chord vocabulary that you can also make music with.

I don’t focus on the types of voicings, like drop2 drop3, etc. because they are just names, it is more important to chords you can play music with.

Level 1 – A Set For Playing Music and Songs

To play songs and easily find the chords we need one set with the root on the 5th and one set with the root on the 6th string. This is shown in the example here below:

If you are used to finding chords in other genres this is probably how you think about it.
These chords are basic chord sounds, not too many extensions. 

  • They are Easy to play.
  • Similar to the bar chords you already know
  • Include the root – full picture of the harmony
  • A Complete set of chords

Why start with these:

  • You can play the song alone and hear the harmony. 
  • Works well in a duo
  • Easy to add extensions and develop
  • Easy to turn into very flexible rootless voicings

Level 2 – Rootless voicings for Bands and Flexibility

Now you can play the chords and to get some more options then the best place to go is to just take the chords from Level 1 and then remove the lowest note: The Root.
The essential exercise is this:

We can now start making the chords more flexible and add melody by changing the top note and even adding an extra higher note as shown below in example 3 for a C7.

Why:

  • Works better in a band
  • Is much more flexible
  • You can play melodic ideas with the chords

Level 3 – Inversions and more melodic options

Now we can start working on inversions, and a good place to start is to take these voicings that we come across while adding notes to the 3-note chords.

The idea of a chord inversion is really just to find the same notes in another order on the neck. The chords we have are called drop2 voicings, and I go over how to make the inversions in the Drop2 lessons in this guide: How To Learn Jazz Chords

If I take the four basic chords and play those inversions then I have this:

How To Learn Using These Chords

Whenever you practice something like this it is very important that you also practice using it in songs. Learning a lot of stuff that you don’t use in music is usually a waste of time and you just forget it again.

Check out some more in ideas with Drop 2 voicings

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The Missing Triad in your Jazz Blues Chords – Simple and Easy

Flexible voicings like triads are very practical to add to your jazz blues chords. We can do a lot with Triads and they are fairly easy to play and move around. This video is taking a look at how we construct 3 note voicings for a jazz blues and then adding a triad voicing that fills a gap on the fretboard.

From there I show how you can take that thorugh a chorus and develop it into another similar type of chord which also gives us a complete set of voicings on the blues.

3-Note Jazz Blues Chords

Most of us use triad chords coming out of the chords that we already use but without a root, so for F7 we end up with these two voicings: F7 + F9 as seen in example 1 here below:

They work really well, but there is a long gap from rootless F9 to F7.

Constructing another voicing to close the gap

If we look at the F7 chord then a basic F7 is an F root and an A diminished triad and we can use that triad as a voicing as well.

A C Eb and that sort of bridges the gap between the two.

If I use a bit of voice- leading I can comp through a blues using this type of voicing as shown in the example 2:

The F7 is here the A dim triad: A C Eb. On the Bb7 this is voicelead into Ab C D which works as a Bb7(9). Then back to F7 and going to a F7(b13) : A Db Eb.

In bar 5 the chord is again the Bb7(9): Ab C D. The B dim is easy to create changing the C in to a B, so Bdim: Ab B D.  This moves up chromatically to the F7: A C Eb. The D7(b9) is achieved by moving up the entire voicing so that the top note is an F#: C Eb F#. 

The Gm7 is the upper-structure: Bb major triad: Bb D F.  This is turned into a C7(9) by lowering the F: C7(9) Bb D E. The F7 is the original voicing and the last C7 is the C7(b9) version of the other voicings: Bb Db E. 

Another voicing to check out!

There is one more voicing that we can check out from the previous example.

The 2nd chord on Bb7 is this Bb7(9): Ab C D. If this is transposed to F7(9): Eb G A

This can be turned into a complete other chorus:

In example 3 I have a shift from the D7(b13) down to a Gm7 chord that is a 1st inversion Bb major triad. This is one way of doing this, but another way would be to really aim for getting smooth voice-leading:

This is a bigger stretch but also a very smooth moving chord progression.

Harmonizing the F7 scale based on the 3 voicings

A cornerstone in my vision on comping is that the top note melody has to make sense. To make this possible it is very important to also be able to play the entire scale with a chord sound.

This lesson started with two 3 note voicings that I then added a 3rd voicing to, and using these 3 chord voicings you can harmonize the F7 scale as shown here below:

3-note flexibility and voice-leading

The flexibility and the fact that you can easily be quite free when working with 3-note chords is probably a huge part of why I use these voicings so much. I hope you can use this material to get more out of your comping and make it easier to play some solid ideas in your comp and in your solos.

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You can also download the PDF of my examples here:

Jazz Blues – The Forgotten Triad Chords – Great, Simple and Easy

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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F Blues Guitar Survival Kit – What You Need To Know

F blues is something you can get started with quite easily. You only need a few different things:The Chords, the Scales and the Arpeggios. I cover all of this and also have a transcribed solo using this material so you can get started both comping and soloing on an F Jazz Blues.

The 12 bar Blues is a key component when it comes to jazz chord progressions and F is for jazz blues probably the most common key. Billie’s Bounce, Straight No Chaser and Au Privave are all blues songs in the key of F

The 4 Chorus Lesson

In this lesson I have made 4 choruses of exercises: The chords, the arpeggios that go with the chords. The scales that fits with the chords and arpeggios and finally a solo chorus which demonstrates how you might use the other exercises when playing over the F blues.

To keep it simple I have kept all exercises in one position so that if you go through the exercises you should begin to have a tool set to improvise over the Bb blues in that position.

The chord voicings

To improvise over a song you probably need to be able to play the chords so you can hear the harmony and how it moves. In the following example I have written out a set of voicings to play the F Blues.

The voicings can also be played from these diagrams:

You’ll notice that I in general don’t write out which extensions I use, so I write out the basic type of chord and if whoever is playing a chord he can fill in extensions to his own taste. This is common practice in Jazz in general.

The F Blues Arpeggios

When playing over changing harmony the best way to really follow the chords is of course to use the notes of the chords in your solo. Therefore it is very important to be able to play the chords of the progression as arpeggios. In example 3 I have written out the arpeggios in this position.

To make it easier to connect the different arpeggios I have written them out in a similar range which means that I don’t always start on the root of each chord.

You should practice the arpeggios like I’ve written them out, but you would get a lot from also improvising over the progression just using the arpeggios.

The Scales for the chords

In the 2nd example I added a scale to each chord. The way I am playing the scales is that I start on the root and run up to the 7th, this gives you a bit of time to switch to the next chord. This way of applying scales to a progression is the same as you’ll find in Barry Harris exercises. It is a nice way to add the scale in a musical way so that you hear how they spell out the harmony.

The F7,Bb7, Gm7 and C7 are easily understood in terms of where they sit in the key, since they are all mixolydian or dorian scales.

The B dim scale is in fact an C harmonic minor from B to Bb. You can see how I arrive by this by looking at it from the Bb7 scale:

Bb C D Eb F G Ab Bb

If I need to fit an B dim in there then an easy way to do that is to replace the Bb with a B.

B C D E F G Ab  which you can write out from F to recognize that it as an C harmonic minor scale.

For the D7(b9) you need to look at it as a dominant resolving to Gm7, which tells us that we should use a Cm scale for it. In this context the (actually in most contexts) that means using the G harmonic minor scale. You can use this approach to determine what scale you should use for any auxiliary dominant.

The F Blues Solo

As an example of how you can use the material I have written out a short improvised solo on a F blues.

I hope you can use the exercises and the materials to get started improvising over a Jazz Blues progression. You can check out some of my other lessons on Blues, arpeggios and target notes for more ideas.

Take you Blues Playing up a level with this solo lesson

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F Jazz Blues Survival Kit

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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How to Learn to Play Jazz Chords – Study Guide

You want to learn how to play Jazz Chords. An important part of playing Jazz is to be able to interpret and play the rich chord language of the genre. This list of lessons is an ordered way to work your way through this from getting to know a basic vocabulary to having more freedom in comping with different types of chord voicings.

Your Feedback is very valuable

Remember that the guides are here to help you so if you have suggestions for this or other guides then let me know! I might have missed something or you have another idea for something that is important to check out! Feel free to send me an e-mail or message via social media.

I have also collected the videos in a Playlist on Youtube if you prefer that:

Playlist: How to Learn to Play Jazz Chords – Study Guide

The Jazz Chord Survival Kit and vocabulary

The first three lessons deal with a basic chord vocabulary and how to use it when playing important chord progressions and jazz standards

Leaving out the root and getting used to upper-structures

Once you know some chords and can play a few songs you can start to expand your vocabulary.

There are two main topics you should add first: Triads as Jazz chord voicings and Drop2 voicings. These two are the foundation for most other voicings and you can build on this knowledge to really build an extensive chord vocabulary.

The Essential Drop2 Voicings

Drop2 chords form a huge chunk of all the voicings that are used in jazz. These lessons will take you through a lot of material using drop2 voicings. If you want to hear Drop2 chords in action then just put on a Wes Montgomery album, he used them extensively in his chord solos and comping.

Developing Comping skills beyond the chords

Playing Chords does require more than just knowing what chord to play where. Some of the other skills that are equally important are discussed in these lessons:

More Modern sounds

If we look beyond the triads and Drop2 voicings it is of course possible to start checking out more modern sounds that may not immediately be covered in the lessons I already included. These voicings are both more extreme with having large intervals or much more cluster like with second intervals:

Allan Holdsworth Chord Series

One of my favorite players when it comes to modern jazz chords is Allan Holdsworth. Since I have made several lessons inspired by his chordal language I though it only right to include some of these lessons. 
I am obviously a huge fan, but there is a lot to be learned from him and the chords are very beautiful and worthwhile checking out. Even if they are not all easy to play.

Chord Solos

One way of getting good at comping is to get good at playing chord solos. Being able to improvise solos with chords really helps develop your freedom and ability to play solid comping behind others. 

For that reason I have included a few of the lessons I have on chord soloing that you can dig into if you want to take this approach.

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Look Mom No Root! Jazz Chord Survival Kit Part 2

You are probably familiar with reading basic jazz chord shapes and you can work your way through a tune without too much trouble. The next logical step is to take that knowledge and then turn the basic jazz chords into rootless voicings and start adding more melodic variation and interesting rhythms.

In this video I am going to go over how you can take a set of jazz chords for the song Lady Bird and then reduce them to rootless 3 note voicings. Then I will try to cover a way you can add more options for top note melodies and play an example of how you can use this.

A basic set of Jazz Chords for Lady Bird

The chords we start with are a set of voicings that you would get if you went over this progression using the material from my lesson How to play jazz chords

You can check out that lesson if you are not familiar with any of the chord voicings.

Look mom no root!

Taking away the root is a fairly simple task since it is just removing the lowest note.

This transforms the voicings in example 1 to the jazz chords shown here below:

Notice how most of them are in fact triads. The mighty triad is there in every aspect of music…

More Melody and more rhythm!

Now that we are using one finger less it is going to get easier to come up with some melodic variations by changing the top note of the chord.

Once we have more than one melody note available for each chord it also starts to make a lot more sense to playing small riffs and explore more rhythms while comping.

In example 3 here below you see the different options. I ket it quite simple so that everything is fairly easy to use and relate back to the original chord shape. For each of the chords there are 2 or three choices for top note.

You can of course work on the different chords isolated to get started with making small riffs and then later try to combine them in the progression. I actually expect that once you have tried to make a few riffs with each of the chords you should quickly be able to do so.

In the video I also show a chorus where I comp through the progression with this material improvising a melody through the changes.

Taking a more sytematic approach.

Besides the advantage of putting the ideas directly to use on a song it can also be very useful to take the concept through some of the exercises you may or may not already know for the standard chords.

This will help you keep the overview of the chords even if you don’t play the root and also just open up for more options when playing the chords in terms of passing chords etc.

In Example 4 I have one of the exercises from the How To Play Jazz lesson, the rootless version i shown in example 5

 

Putting it all together

Playing the more compact rootless voicings is a much more efficient way to play chords in an ensemble. The chords you play will sit much more in a register where they don’t interfere with the bass player and that also makes it much easier to get complicated rhythms to sound good.

You should try work on this both on tunes and once in a while take voicings through a scale or inversions and work with the rootless versions.

The place you could go if you want to continue from here would be to start working on Drop2 voicings: Drop2 playlist

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Get the PDF!

You can also download the PDF of my examples here:

Look Mom No Root! Jazz Chord Survival Kit Part 2

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.

How to play Jazz Chords on Guitar

Sometimes we bury ourselves in exercises and details and forget to play music with what we work on. In this lesson I am going to go over a few exercises that should enable you to play the chords of most jazz standards. It is important to practice towards using the material we work on and hear how it sounds in the context of a song.

This lesson is a remake of a lesson I recorded 2 years ago on my mobile phone. I thought it deserved a better video and audio which is why I chose to go over it again. You can have a look at the original here: Jazz Chord Survival Kit

Diatonic chords

The exercises are meant to give you the vocabulary of chords to work your way through a jazz standard, and a jazz standard is always in a key. The first two exercises are the diatonic chords of a key which should give you the majority of the chords you’ll come across in a standard.

As guitar players we are usually identifying chords from their root notes on the 5th or 6th string, so to use this I have made two set of diatonic chords one with the root on the 5th string (example 1) and one with the root on the 6th string (example2)

How to play Jazz Chords on Guitar - ex 1

And with the root on the 6th string.

How to play Jazz Chords on Guitar - ex 2

You should notice that while the two exercises have the root on different strings the chord part of each voicing is on the on the B, G and D strings so that we can go from one type to the other and have a fairly smooth transition if we stay in the same position on the guitar.

Already with the chords of example 1 and 2 you can get through most jazz standards, but another part of learning to play jazz chords is to read progressions.

II V progressions

If you see a lead sheet for a jazz standard for the first time it is quite likely that you will be overwhelmed by the amount of chords that are in there. For that reason it is very practical if not essential to learn to view groups of chords as one thing rather than each chord by itself, since that makes it a lot easier to remember the song by heart, and in the end also analyse or understanding the song while playing it. That is the reason why I have made the next 4 exercises. One of the most common two chord progressions in jazz is a II V.

A II V is a minor 7th chord moving up a 4th or down a 5th to dominant 7th chord like this:

Dm7 G7

The reason why I am not including the I chord, ie II V I is that very often the II V is resolving differently so it is handy to just pair those two for now.

The II V voicings that I can build with the voicings in the first two exercises are pretty ok, but by adding a bit of extensions I can make them easier to play and transition better from one to the other so here’s an exercise where I let the II V resolve to another II V etc.

How to play Jazz Chords on Guitar - ex 3

And starting on the 6th string:

How to play Jazz Chords on Guitar - ex 4

In examples 3 and 4 I started adding more extensions and colors to the chord voicings which is of course also a part of jazz tradition. There are rules for how you add extensions and alterations, but I won’t go into them too much right now. Try to judge by ear, you will get further than you think on songs that you know!

Minor II V

Since we are already busy with II V cadences in major the next logical is to add the minor II V as well. Same idea as the major counterpart. We add some extensions, and in this case alterations to the dominant to make it easier to play and make the II V move more smooth from II to V, and also to color the V so that it fits with a dominant resolving to a minor chord.

How to play Jazz Chords on Guitar - ex 5

The m7b5 chord is probably one of the most hated voicings by beginning students and it is a bit difficult and takes some practice, but there is really no way around them and with a bit of work everybody gets used to them!

Here’s the set with the root of the II chord on the 5th string:

How to play Jazz Chords on Guitar - ex 6

 

The diminished chord

The final chord type that we need to play standards is a diminished chord. These are not diatonic to a major scale but are found in harmonic minor or major. In example 7 I have written out two voicings for dim chords with roots on the 5th and on the 6th string.

How to play Jazz Chords on Guitar - ex 7

The way you want to use this lesson is probably to check out diatonic chords in a few keys and when you play any of the exercises to keep in mind what chord you are playing. You should probably follow it up with trying to work through a jazz standard and try to play the chords without skipping up and down the neck.

If you want to study the examples away from the video or article you can download a pdf here:

How to play Jazz Chords on Guitar

You can also check out one of the drop2 lessons in my webstore:

Drop2 voicings on There will never be another you

 

If you want to see how I use these exercises on the Standard “I Remember You”

You can download a PDF of the voicings here:

How to play Jazz Chords – I Remember You

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics or how I can make the lessons better then please feel free to leave 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 want to hear.

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.