Tag Archives: jazz blues chord progressions

Jazz Blues Chords – How To Make It Sound Like Jazz

If you are trying to learn to play Jazz Guitar and especially comping songs then you have probably already found out that it is not only about knowing the right chords, there is a lot more to it.
In this video, I am going to show you how I comp a slow medium jazz blues. I have transcribed a chorus and I will go over the chords but I will also show you how I play the chords and make the comp more interesting by using melodies, arpeggios and other tricks to color the chords. In fact, it may surprise you how rarely I “just” play a chord.

The Blues Transcription

Let’s first check out my comping with the transcription, then I will break down 5 of the techniques I use to make it sound more like a piece of music and more interesting.

The next thing to do is to have an overview of the voicings. If I play through the blues with just the chords because that is the backdrop for what I am doing.

Just the chords

After that, I am going to talk about how I am using melodies and fills, inner-voices and arpeggiation to make it come alive and I am going to give you some easier examples to work with.

As you can see most of the voicings are really simple and for the most part chords you probably know already.

If there is a chord that you don’t recognize then try to play or imagine playing the root under it.

bar 1 Bb789,13) magic chord

bar 6 Edim

bar 8 Dø G7  – It is a II V, and the movement is done by moving the 7th(C) of Dø down to the 3rd(B) on G7(b9)

Melody is more important than voice-leading

The first two bars are more about the melody I am playing than connecting the chords. I am using the chords to fill in around the melody.

The first chord is just a color, after that, you get this melody and on the long note in bar 2 I add the rest of the chord but I arpeggiate the chord to create a little extra movement.

The same type of thing is happening on the Eb7 moving to Edim. First the chord, then a melody that takes me to a G, and under that, I add the rest of the chord.

Playing Jazz Chords One Note at The Time

In the previous example, you could see how I arpeggiate the chords and in that way get more movement out of a single chord.
This is something that I use quite a lot. Two examples in this blues are bar3:

and bar 7

Both are using the same basic Bb7 voicing and the notes are spread out across the bar.

In bar 6 I do this as well, but here I am adding an extra note while arpeggiating and in that way starting to have two melodic layers, something that I use to create almost a counterpoint in another place.

Notice how I actually use voice leading to go from the Edim to the Bb7 even though it is hidden by the way I play Bb7

Electric Counterpoint (in a Jazz Blues)

In bar 8 we have this fragment:

Here I play a sustained F as the melody on Dø, and then add the rest of the notes and that turns into a second melody under the F that yields the G7(b9) voicing. This is an example of adding the chord tones in arpeggiating and that gradually takes on its own meaning as a melody and I treat it like that as well, not just as an arpeggio.

Grab what is easy to get by

Being efficient is important when you comp, also because you need to be ready to react to what is happening around you.

One of the ways I use block chords in comping is to just change the melody and keep the same chord which is what I am doing in bar 9 on the Cm7.

Improvising with the harmony

Since you are improvising when you comp then you can also change the chords a bit. The final turnaround has two examples of this. The 2nd chord is written out as a Db7, though you would expect a G7 there I play (and think) Db7

Whenever you have a dominant chord that resolves then you can choose to use the tritone substitute. That is what I am doing here. And added bonus is that the Db is the #9 of Bb which makes it sound like a harmonized blue note. That is also why I have that note at the top of the chord. In Music context is everything.

In the last bar, I am also changing the harmony, but I am doing so by delaying the F7. II V cadences are very flexible and you can often get away with leaving out one of the chords or as I do in this case, leave the F7 until beat 4 and then use it almost as a chromatic leading chord for the Bb7 in the next chorus. The quarter note triplet rhythm also adds extra energy by being a sort of tension against the groove.

Learn some amazing drop2 voicings

The majority of chords that I use in this video are drop-2 voicings, and a lot of the other ones can easily be seen as derived from drop2 by being drop2 without a root note for example. So studying drop2 voicings and being flexible with them is very useful if you want to be good at comping and free to choose what to play.

Drop2 Bundle – Build Your Voicing Vocabulary


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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.

Get the PDF!

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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