Tag Archives: jazz chord

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

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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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Passing Chords – The 3 Types You Need for Comping and Chord Solos

Passing chords are a great way to expand the sounds you have available in your comping and chord solos. As you will see in this lesson they are also making it easier to make you comping sound more melodic and musical. In this lesson I am going to discuss 3 types of passing chords and demonstrate how they can be used.

The Diatonic Passing chords

The easiest place to look for chords to use when harmonizing a melodic comping idea is of course to use the diatonic chords of the scale at that point in the song.

This is what I am doing in example 1 here below. The example is on a II V I in G major, which is the chord progression that I will use for all the examples.

In the example the diatonic passing chords are used on the Am7 chord. The first part of melody consists of the notes C, D and E. On the Am7 I am harmonizing the melody with the chords Am, Bm7 and Am7. Using the neigboring chord when harmonizing notes is a very common and very useful way to use diatonic passing chords. In this example the Bm7 chord is used to harmonize the D and it voice-leads nicely up to the following Am7(9) voicing that harmonizes the E.

Different versions of Passing chords solutions for an Am7 melody

Of course there are several ways you can take diatonic passing chords. Below you’ll see examples using only Am7 voicings, a Bm7 and a G6 diatonic passing chords.

Diminished Passing chords

This approach to using passing chords is to harmonize melody notes with a dominant diminished chords. On the II chord, Am7, the dominant is E7 and the associated is a G#dim.

This example is also using a G# diminished chord to harmonize some notes on the Am7 chord. The notes that belong to the dominant in the scale are the prime candidates for using the diminished chord. In the example below I am using it to harmonize the D and B notes.

Practicing the Diminished passing chords

One way to work on practicing the this way of alternating a II chord with a diminished chord is to do the exercises here below.

You may recognize this exercise as the Barry Harris 6th diminished scale, which is build on exactly this idea of alternating tonic with a dominant chord.

Chromatic Passing Chords

Chromatic passing chords is a great way to especially harmonize chromatic passing notes in the melody. This means that having this in your vocabulary is going to make it possible to add chromaticism to your comping melodies. 

The example below shows how you can use chromatic passing chords on both the Am7 and the D7 chords.

On the Am7 the B, Bb, A melody is harmonized with Am(9), Bbm7 Am7 and in the same way the D,Eb,E melody on the D7 is harmonized with D7,Db7 and D7.

Notice that the voicie-leading is also chromatic, so the way to use this is to look at the note that the chromatic note is resolving to. The chord that is used to harmonize the resolution will also work well to harmonize the chromatic note. On the D7 it is clear that the Db7 is just shifting up a half step to become the D7. 

Sometimes you can also reverse this so that the chord moves one way and the melody another which can be a great effect, but that is for another lesson. You can always leave a comment on the YouTube video if you would like a video on this,

Expand you the possibilities with chords

Passing chords is a very powerful tool in comping and chord solos and of course also in chord melody arrangements. Checking out these techniques are really something that is applicable in so many areas of playing and will pay off on a lot of levels besides the direct use.

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Using Passing chords in Comping

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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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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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.

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Drop2 – Tactics to Create Cutting-Edge Jazz Guitar Harmony

Drop2 voicings is probably one of the most important chord types that we use in jazz guitar. This video is going to demonstrate how you can embellish the melody you play with inner-voice movement and sometimes an extra layer of harmony. 

Exploring ideas like this are great for really understanding how the harmony moves and how each voice is moving. This will give you a great overview of the notes in the chord and also a lot of useful insight in what is possible with a chord voicing.

The Cadence

For this video I will demonstrate the ideas on a II V I in A minor. The basic A minor cadence would be:

Bm7(b5) E7(b9) Am6

Since we use melodic minor on tonic minor chords the A minor chord is an Am6.

The II and V chords are coming out of A harmonic minor.

The basic Drop2 voicings

To begin with it is probably useful to just go over the basic cadences on the top string set. This is shown in all inversions here below:

I have kept the voicings very basic but did opt for using a dim chord for the E7 to have the b9 in the chord.

Adding Extensions and alterations

One possible next step could be to add some more extensions to the chords. This can be done following the ideas that I went over in this lesson: https://jenslarsen.nl/jazz-chord-essentials-drop2-voicings-part-2/

To quickly demonstrate this you can look at the example below:

Here  the Bm7(b5) has an 11 which replaces the 3rd and the E7b9 has an b13 that replaces the 5th. The Am6 has an added 9 where the 9th(B) is replacing the root.

Inner-voices in a Minor Cadence

The first example has a half note top melody moving from A to C and finally B on the Am6(9).

The second highest voice is moving from D up to F on the E7(b9) and on the E7 it makes a small melodic movement with F, G and D. The is voice then resolves to E on the Am6.

On the Am6 the lowest voice travels from 6(F#) chromatically up to the Maj7(G#).

Melodic movement in more parts of the harmony.

In this second example the top note melody is moving on the Bm7(b5) and then the 2nd voice takes over on the E7. The E7 voicing on beat 3 has a #9 and also a #11 suspending the 3rd. The inner voice moves from A# to C and on the C the top note melody takes over and moves from F to G to resolve to the 5th(E) on Am.

On the Am the first voicing is an Am6(Maj7) and there is an inner voice melody travelling from G# to B on the final chord.

Counter Harmony – Counterpoint 2.0

The beginning of the 3rd example has the top note melody moving, similar to what was happening in the 2nd example. 

On the E7 the melody is a high C and under this I move all three voices adding a different layer of harmony. The first voicing is an E7(#9b13) and the idea is to move the #9 down to the b9 via the 9th. The way I do this is by adding B7 on the F# so that there’s a quick B7 passing chord under the sustained C note melody.

From there the E7 is resolved via a dim chord voicing to an Am6. On the Am6 the 2nd voice is moving from the 6th(F#) via the root to the Maj7(G#).

 

A practical way to learn this

The examples that I went over in this lesson are of course quite dense with innner-voice movement. I made them like this to demonstrate what is possible and to give you some ideas to make your own chord progressions.

When you want to work on this you should probably try either take one of the ideas I use (so one of the chords in the example) and then insert that into your playing. This will make it easier to work on getting used to thinking like this.

 

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Drop2 – Inner-voice movement and Melody – Minor II V I

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.

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First II V I chord voicing sets

You don’t really have to learn a thousand chords to play through some of the simpler standards. In this lesson I want to show how you can get through a few with just two sets of II V I chord voicings for a major II V I cadence.

The Chord voicings

The II V I is the most common cadence in Jazz, you’ll find it and variations of it all over the place. This makes is a good place to start if you want to learn and apply some voicings. The idea being that you can cover a lot of ground if you know how to play a II V I cadence.

The two II V I chord voicing sets that I suggest you check out to begin with would be these two cadences, shown in example 1 in the key of C major.

First II V I voicings ex 1

In example 1 I have notated not only the type of chord (maj7,m7 and dom7th) but also the extensions I use. I won’t do that later since it is in jazz open to interpretation how you choose to use the extensions for color.

If you want to check out how to learn a larger set of basic voicings you can check out my lesson: How to play Jazz Chords on Guitar Which cover all basic chord groups in a few versions and gives you all the tools you need to play pretty much any standard or jazz song.

Some technical exercises

To get started it is a good idea to get the voicings into your fingers and check them out in a few keys. One way of doing this is shoen in example 3 and 4 where I play the cadences down in whole steps across the neck.

First II V I voicings ex 2

First II V I voicings ex 3

Remember to not only learn to play the exercises but to also keep track of exactly what chord you’re playing and what key it’s in. Later when you start using the songs you need to be able to find the chords you need and they are not always in a II V I

Playing standards

The two most important things that we miss now is a minor cadence and a dim chord, but if the song does not contain that then you can probably play it with the 6 voicings I went over here.

To demonstrate that here are the voicings you’d need to play the Ellington/Strayhorn tune: Take the A-train:

First II V I voicings ex 4

 

When you try to play songs like this one you might have to ignore an extension or two, The 2nd chord in Take the A train is often written as a D7(#11), b5 or similar. For now the best way you can deal with it is to try with what you have and see if you can make it work. A similar solutuib is when you see a C6, you can get away with playing a Cmaj7.

Here are the voicings needed to play through the changes to Sonny Rollins Pent Up House.

First II V I voicings ex 5

You’ll notice that the song consists of a II V I progression and two II V’s.

As I mention in the video the changes played during the melody of this song a bit more complext than what is used in the solo.

Taking you comping further on Autumn Leaves

Expand your Chord Vocabulary with this lesson on the famous standard Autumn Leaves:

Autumn Leaves Comping – Lesson

If you want to download a PDF of the examples I went over here you can do so here:

First II V I voicings

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 thme fit what you want to hear.

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Drop 2 voicings – Part 1 – Jazz Chord Essentials

In this lesson on Drop2 chords I want to demonstrate a set of voicings that are fairly easy to play on the guitar and very useful for playing chords with extensions. I also want to talk a bit about how you approach playing chords in terms of interpretation of chord extensions, substitutes, connecting or voice-leading the chords. Hopefully it can help you learn and construct some new chords, and I hope it also helps you find new ways to play songs you already know and expand your ability to play chords freely.

What is a drop2 voicing

You might have heard the term Drop2 voicings before, and it is more or less considered basic voicing knowledge for mainstream jazz guitar. Lot’s of Wes Montgomery solos use drop2 voicings and it is also a huge part of bebop piano and bigband arranging.

To explain why drop2 voicings are very handy on guitar try to play the first half of example 1.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Drop 2 voicings part 1 - ex 1

You should quickly notice that these basic inversions of an Am7 chord are very difficult to play and almost impossible to change a note in. Mainly because they are very stretchy to play.

The term Drop2 comes from taking the 2nd higest note in each one and drop it down an octave. This makes it possible to get the notes together in one position and yields the 4 voicings in the 2nd bar of example 1. As you can tell these voicings are much easier to play and much more flexible so that we can change notes in them (that will prove essential in later lessons..)

Basic Exercises

I chose to keep it simple and only work with the top set of strings. In the long run it can be very useful to also check out the middle set of strings and possibly the lowest set. A complete overview of the drop2 voicings can be found here: Scale charts and chord voicings

If you have checked out my lesson:  Jazz Chord Survival Kit  You know that in a major scale we have four basic types of 7th chords: m7, dom7, maj7 and m7b5. Here are the voicings for those 4 types of chords on the top string set:

Jazz Chord Essentials - Drop 2 voicings part 1 - ex 2

To get used to the sound of these chords and to get the voicings in to your fingers you should of course practice example 2 in all keys, but it can also be very useful to check out all cadences like I’ve written out in example 3:

Jazz Chord Essentials - Drop 2 voicings part 1 - ex 3

This way of grouping the chords together in the order you are very likely to use them is of course also very handy. And important part of the cadences is also that I chose vocings that have correct voiceleading which in this case means that you just stay in the neighbourhood whenever changing to the next chord. You could consider doing the minor cadences too.

Another very useful exercise is to take the different drop2 inversions through a major scale as I have done in example 4. I only did two of the inversions, maybe try to figure out the last 2 by yourself. It should help getting to know major scales on the strings besides training the voicings themselves.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Drop 2 voicings part 1 - ex 4

Putting it to use

As soon as you have a basic understanding and ability to play these voicings it is just as important to start working towards using them in real music. Below I’ve written out how I play the first 16 bars of Autumn Leaves with drop2 voicings. You should try to do this with a few songs as well. Autumn Leaves, Fly Me To The Moon and All The Things You Are could be good tunes to try because they cover a lot of chords from the same key(and some in more keys as well..)

Jazz Chord Essentials - Drop 2 voicings part 1 - ex 5

You could with this exercise of course try starting with each of the Cm7 voicings and then work out how to play the whole song, it will present you with choices because the guitar (like all instruments) have certain limitations for how low or high you want to go and then you should just try to find a practical and musical solution, that is how it works in a playing situation so that is what you should practice too.

In the next part of the drop2 lessons I’ll start working on how to add extensions and alterations to the voicings. I’ll also give some more practical advice on how to use the voicings.

I hope you can use the exercises to get started working on Drop2 voicings and that you can get it into you playing.

As always you can download the examples as a PDF here:

Jazz Chord Essentials – Drop 2 voicings part 1

Check out how I use Drop2 voicings in this 3 chorus transcription/lesson:

Drop2 voicings on There will never be another you

I hope that you liked the lesson. If you have any questions or comments then feel free to leave them here or on the video. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Facebook, Google+ or Twitter to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.