Tag Archives: jazz blues chords guitar

Jazz Chords – The 3 Rules That Make You Sound Pro!

I am incredibly lucky that I get to jam with great musicians, and one of the reasons for that is something that Jazz beginners miss: You need to be able to lay down great-sounding chords that feel comfortable to play over. If you can’t play chords and comp then nobody wants to play with you. Let me show you 3 rules that your comping needs to follow, and don’t worry none of them are about difficult complicated chords and with the 3 rules, you can start to play beautiful and swinging comp, and even though I am starting with really simple chords, you can go as far as you want with this, check it out!

Let’s take a simple medium Bb blues, with a focus on playing as if you are in a duo with a horn, a vocalist, or another guitarist which means that when you are comping then you are responsible for three of the main ingredients of the song:

The Tempo, The Groove, and The Harmony.

#1 Be Clear

You need to be clear! Make it easy to understand what you are playing, where the time is, and how the groove sounds.

If we start with Time and rhythm: There is a great Peter Bernstein quote: “Don’t Be Afraid of the one when you are comping” – What that means is you have to communicate the groove to both the soloist and the audience, so stay grounded and play a chord on beat 1 often. That’s what makes it comfortable for the soloist and easy to follow for the audience. Be Clear!

When it comes to notes then being clear is about working with simple chords with a bass note

Like this:

I am playing shell-voicings here, so these easy 3-note versions of the chords: Bb7 and Eb7, Fm7 Bb7.

A trick I am using for Getting the groove across is that I split the shell-voicing into two layers: bass and chord,

You’ll see later just how much you can open that up and how powerful that is! Here it is helping me get the swing feel in there. Like this:

Notice how having two layers already is a melody, similar to how a drumkit has a bassdrum and a snare drum for comping.

A mistake that I sometimes hear is when a student plays too many sustained chords. Long sustained chords make it hard to feel the groove, and that works better if you are playing with somebody else who is laying down the groove, so try to avoid this:

And aim more for this:

Let’s look at the next rule which is more about HOW you play before getting to what you can do with the chords:

Be Connected

Be connected! This topic often concerns something that seems scary to most students trying to learn comping.

As you know, some people have the reputation of being magic at comping behind soloists, think of Herbie Hancock behind Miles or Wayne Shorter, or somebody like Wynton Kelly behind Wes Montgomery, but what makes them magic?

A lot of it is about having the right balance between 3 things:

  1. What is going on in the music or song
  2. What is the soloist playing
  3. What can I do with the harmony and the rhythm

The first two are about the most important part of playing Jazz chords, which is not rhythm, extensions or voice-leading. The most important part of playing Jazz chords is listening, and knowing when to play. You need to listen to the entire band and to the soloist. You can make horrible mistakes with that, for example, make sure that you don’t play a million syncopated chords

if the feel is more relaxed and open and the rest of the band sounds like this:

Another pitfall, that I see in lessons where I am teaching comping is that it turns into being about ear training and being able to, on the spot, transcribe and analyze everything being played while you are also playing the chords. That is not really how it works, of course, you want to hear and catch as much as you can, but you should also keep in mind that if the soloist is really busy and playing a lot then you don’t have to do so much, and you can even stop playing for a bit, or at least pull back to make it very basic. What is also important to keep in mind is that even if you know exactly what is being played then you are much more likely to get in the way if you also play a lot.

So you want to be connected with the song and the soloist so that what you play fits the mood and the energy and is nice to play over. But you also want to be connected to what YOU are playing.

That connection needs to be there, and it is so important to work on getting it in there so that it doesn’t sound like we are starting a new song every 4 beats. There is a great fairly simple way to start working on this: You need to learn to listen to yourself and you need to learn to think in phrases!  The best way to work on this is to start with the rhythm, and I’ll show you some tricks with the chords in the next part of the video. An easy way to train this is to repeat stuff through a song, and you will find that a lot of soloists find that very nice to play over because it is predictable and easy to both play off and get ideas from and you can rely on it.

So spend some time just taking a riff or rhythm through the song and then slowly start to develop or vary it, but keep the longer story in there as well! Once you can do that you can always open it up.

Make sure to practice with a metronome that is the fastest way to get better time and really be able to lay down a groove! If your groove sounds good with a metronome then your groove sounds good. If your groove sounds good with a backing track then maybe the backing track sounds good. I’ve said it before. Now we need top open up the chords!

Be Creative

We all want to play big beautiful chord voicings because that’s probably what we love about jazz chords: all the colors and extensions,  but at the same time it is much more important to get the rhythm right and not get in the way of the soloists or the other band members when you’re comping. If you are playing with a drummer and your rhythms don’t match that will sound horrible. When it comes to chords then If you check, you would probably be amazed at how most people you admire play very basic and simple chords most of the time. The groove and clarity is the most important!

So a good place to start is to add some forward Motion with the help of some easy and basic passing chords. As you will see, There’s no difficult theory or complicated formulas needed, I am just playing something that’s a half step, or a fret,  away from the chord that I want to go to and using that to drive the progression forward with some nice sounding energy! Something like this.

So I am going to the Eb7 from above and approaching the Bb7 from below, simple stuff just sliding the chord in place.

And of course, you can also use that if you just want to change things up while you’re on the same chord for a longer time.

Earlier in the video I showed you how to split the chord in two parts so that you have a bass note and a chord, but check out how you can take that up a few levels because that goes really really far and you can do all sorts of things!

You can probably tell that this is the same principle:  First playing the complete chord, maybe a simple version, to set up and be clear about where we are in the song. But after that then I don’t play the root anymore and instead, I am free to play a chord fill in between.

As you can see then I’m using all these other kind of voicings that are kind of coming out of the shell-voicing but also some drop2 and some triads. You can really do a lot with this and it’s a great way to create some fills. It is also great for adding some blues flavor to the whole thing.  Like this:

Getting Back To The Blues

I am essentially using the same as what I would do in a solo, so grace notes for the 3rd and making it short and simple prases that stay around the triad with the melody.

And once you clearly establish the chord, then you don’t have to play complete simple voicings on every 1 of every bar, that can be much more open, even completely rootless if that fits. I didn’t do anything with the bass yet, so let’s do that!

Bass!

Thinking like this you can also turn it around and then say well I want to have more movement in the bass and add either small parts of bass movement or walking bass like this:

or go to a complete section where you’re playing walking bass all the time, really adding that quarter-note drive which moves the whole thing forward and sounds great!

Once you start to add other chord voicings and complete chord solo fills then you also need to have a way to think about the chords that tie all those different voicings together. I go over a simple system for that important process in another video, and it is a lot easier than you might think and also sort of coming from how Joe Pass approaches chords. Check it out!

The Biggest Misunderstanding About Jazz Chords And How To Quickly Fix It

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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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Jazz Blues Comping – Drop2 Chords You Need To Know

This lesson is one chorus of simple jazz blues comping and then talk about a skeleton voicing + a few variations and some ideas for variations. I also discuss a few secret tricks that most people don’t think about with chords but that work really well to play more complicated phrases or embellish comping and chord solos

One of the most important types of voicings you want to have in your vocabulary if you want to play jazz, blues or R&B is the drop2 voicing. In this video I am going show you a simple way to apply Drop2 chords to a 12-bar Jazz Bues with just a few voicings and som variations that are easy to get into your playing.

Along the way I am also going to cover some some phrasing and rhythm ideas to really lay down the groove, and a few secret tricks that most people don’t think about with chords but that work really well to play more complicated phrases or embellish comping and chord solos

Drop2 chords are in many ways the go to voicing that you need when comping in a mainstream or hardbop jazz style.

If you want to look into more Drop2 Voicing ideas then you can also check that section of my Jazz Chord Study Guide

The big take away from this lesson

The most important thing to learn from this is that instead of learning a million separate voicings it makes a lot more sense to learn one voicing and realize that a lot of other voicings are variations of that basic voicing.

When you are comping you are not thinking about voice-leading or extensions as much as you are thinking about the melody that is in the top note of the voicing and the overall sound of voicing. 

The Jazz Blues Comping Chorus

Here below is the chorus that I play in the video. I suggest you check it out in the video.

A good way to use this lesson is to go through the voicings in the examples below and then return to this first example and recognize what is going on.

The Bb7 Drop2 voicing and it’s variations

Instead of having a focus on the inversions of the drop-2 voicing it is much more useful to think about how to create melodies. 

Here below is shown a very basic Bb7 chord and then followed by a few variations that are helping you have different options for creating melodies with this chord in this area of the neck.

The Eb7 voicing

This example here shows some of the common Eb7 chord variations in this position of the neck. Notice that there are not that many, but in the end you don’t really need a lot. If you try to play a complicated melody in your comp it will most likely be way to busy (and get you fired)

Bb7 altered dominant Drop2

The Bb7alt chord in bar 4 is there to pull towards the Eb7 in bar 5. Some options for that voicing is shown here below.

The final II V Cadence in bar 9 and 10

The cadence is a II V in Bb major, so Cm7 F7. I chose to use F7alt to have another altered dominant.

Secret trick #1 – Chromatic Passing Chords

When moving from one chord to the next then it can be useful to add a chromatic passing chord and then just sliding that into the next chord. This is surprisingly easy and creates a lot of movement in your comp (or chord solo…) 

This is one of the few things that is easier on guitar compared to piano.

I do this quite a few times in the chorus: Bar 1 with a slide and Bar 10 without a slide.

If you want to check out more ideas on chord soloing and using chromatic ideas then check out this lesson: Best exercise for jazz guitar chord solos! 

Secret trick #2 – Using Pull-offs in Comping

A great way to play faster phrases in a comping situation where you have a top-note melody that moves a lot (like an 8th note triplet) is to use legato. I especially like using pull-offs for this,

You can see examples of this in bars 5,9 and 12.

More Blues Comping

If you want to see further examples of comping and also expanding this beyond the drop2 voicings then check out this WebStore lesson:

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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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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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