Tag Archives: jazz chords for improvisation

The Real Magic of Jazz Chords – Easy & Amazing

What is really great about Jazz chords or comping in Jazz is that you are allowed to improvise with the chords and choose what sounds you play, especially in terms of extensions but it can go a lot further as you will see in this jazz chords guitar lesson.

In this video, I am going to show you some really simple but also really great ways to add some chromatic notes and even entire chords to your playing. This works great if you are playing Jazz of course but it is also really useful in other genres that use extended chords.

In chord progressions and static chords

I am going to go over some different examples of how to mess around with a chord. I am going to show you how it works on a single chord but also how you can use it on a chord progression.

The first few are examples only moving one note in the chord and then it is going to get a little more extensive and you will learn how to start to add chromatic chords as well.

When it says Cmaj7 in the chart you can play a Cmaj7, but you can also play a C6. The difference between these two is a B and A :

We can play what we want as long as it sounds like the right chord in the context and as long as it does not clash with the melody or the soloist. For the different chords in this video, I will give you some examples of extensions you can use.

Why I Don’t Add Extensions to Chord Symbols

This way of improvising with the chords is also why I often don’t write extensions on the chords of a song: We are allowed to chose. (b-roll? comping You Stepped out of a dream with chord symbols)

You can also move from one to the other, and you can even add a chromatic leading note in between like this:

If you use this on a II V I then it becomes:

It does not have to be in the top note melody, it sounds great in the middle of the chord too:

The 9th – Another great extension

Another extension you can add to a Maj7 chord is the 9th. That can move down to the root:

The example is also moving the b13 to the b5 on the altered dominant. Whenever I chose a note to move to in the scale that works with the chord.

In example 5 I am moving the 7th and the 9th, but one of them alone

Stealing from Stairway to Heaven

So now we start moving several notes and before I go into chromatic chords, let’s have a look at how you can also move them in opposite directions (ala Stairway to Heaven)

Here are two ways of doing that on a Dm7. On a Dm7 you can use other extensions from the scale, the 9th and the 11th are pretty safe most of the time if Dm7 is the II or the VI chord in the scale.

Notice that the chord in between is actually an Fm7, but that is actually a coincidence which is why I did not write the chord symbol.

Chromatic Passing Chords on a G7

Now let’s add some chromatic chords. For a G7 you can play the G7 but also choose to add either a 9th or a 13th.

A 3-note version of adding some chromatic chords as leading chords could be something like this:

The idea is really just to move the chord a fret up or down when it resolves as you can see I do both in the first bar going down and the second moving up.
This is pretty easy to play on guitar so you should really explore that for more chords than just the dominants.

Another way to use this is to let the melody move one way and the chord another. This is what I am doing in this example:

Here the melody is the same in bars 1 +2 and bars 3 + 4.

The first example is using an Ab7 to harmonize the Ab in the melody, and the 2nd example is using a Gb7. The difference is that in the second example the melody is moving down while the chord is moving up (Gb7 up to G7).

If you want to explore more sounds and chords that you can use when you comp then check out this video where I am covering different inversions of chords you probably already know plus some great voice-leading tricks you can add to your playing.

Add some Chromatic chords to your comping

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How To Embellish Jazz Chords With Beautiful Chromaticism

A great way to add some surprising sounds to your Jazz Chords and comping is to add chromatic passing notes in the different voices but also as complete chromatic chords.

Using Chromatic passing notes is a part of jazz and we all know how the greats like Charlie Parker and George Benson use chromaticism in their solos. But you can also use this in your comping in several different ways to get some great sounds.

In this video I am going to go over some example of how you can add chromatic passages to your chords in a few different ways: in the melody, as inner-voice movement, and as complete chromatic passing chords.

When you start using chromatic notes in the melody and in voice-leading then sometimes you are going to come across chords that may seem out really of place but make perfect sense in the context. This is where we can let the melody over-rule all the rules we know about chords.

Expand your voicing Vocabulary

If you want to check out some more voicings that you can use and add these types of voice-leading and chromatic ideas then check out this video where I go over 9 types of very useful voicings that are common in Jazz.

Jazz Chord Voicings – The 9 Different types you should know

Content:

0:00 Intro – Chromaticisim in Chords

0:34 Passing Notes, Inner-voices, and Chromatic Chords

0:43 Melody is more important than Harmony!

1:08 #1 Top Note-Melody

2:06 Example 1 Slow  

2:14 #2 Inner-voices Polyphonic Chromatic Ideas

2:58 Common ideas on a Maj7

3:18 Example 2 Slow

3:28 #3 In-complete chords and Line-Clichés

4:05 Example 3 Slow

4:12 #4 Close voicings with chromatic passing notes

4:51 Example 4 Slow

4:59 #5 Chromatic Passing Chords

5:44 Example #5 Slow

5:51 #6 A Tritone Dominant as a Chromatic Chord

7:22 Example #6 Slow

7:33 Like The Video? Check out my Patreon Page

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15 Minor II V I – Beautiful Jazz Chords You Need To Know

Having good Jazz Chords for a minor II V I can be difficult. This progression is much more complicated than it’s Major counterpart. At the same time, it is a really beautiful progression. Especially because of the rich tonic minor chords and altered dominants.

15 Jazz Chord Sets

In this video, I am going to go over 15 sets of jazz chords for a minor II V I in D minor. They will give you some solid ideas with extensions, the melodies and also some inner-voice movement.

What makes this progression difficult is probably in part the IIø chord that is a little hard to get used to and also the mix of harmonic minor and melodic minor used on the V and the I chord. Very rich colors but also a bit hard to handle.

I am of course very curious about what you think about the video format, so if you have ideas for other topics that would work in a video like this then let me know!

Content:

0:00 Intro -15 Minor II V I chord sets

0:30 Do you have suggestions for another topic?

0:42 #1 – Upper-structures for Eø

1:01 #2 – Cluster-like Altered Dominant and Rich Tonic Minor 

1:31 #3 – Inner-voice movement in Melodic Minor

1:56 #4 – Expanding Melody

2:20 #5 – ø11 Cluster-like voicings – maj6 and maj7 on a I chord

2:44 #6 – Melodic Skips in the Top-note melody

3:08 #7 – Maj7(b5) voicings and Altered Voicings for the Tonic Chord

3:32 #8 – The Minor 3rd Trick and the Maj7(#5) voicing

3:54 #9 – Diminished Voicings for Dominants

4:18 #10 – Melodic Pedal Point

4:42 #11 – Arpeggiating is a forgotten art!

5:06 #12 – Counter-movement in the lower voices

5:31 #13 – b5 Upper-structure triad on the V

5:56 #14 – Tune Up in Minor

6:21 #15 – Tritone voicings and a great way to resolve them

6:45 Like the video? Check out my Patreon Page!

More lessons like this

If you want to check out similar lessons then maybe one of these are useful:

25 Jazz Guitar Exercises – How To Improve Skills In A Musical Way

10 Arpeggios over a Maj7 chord

10 arpeggios over a m7 chord

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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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Beautiful Jazz Chords That You Never Played

Learning Drop2 and Shell-voicings is a great way to learn some systems of jazz chords and a lot of inversions all at once. But if you only think in systems you forget to explore what chords you can come up with that are not in those systems. That’s what I explore in this Jazz Chords Lesson.

In this lesson, I am going to talk about some of the guitar jazz chords that I like to use and find really beautiful which I don’t really hear people use a lot, probably because they don’t fit in the systems. And they are not even that difficult to play, so there is no need to not check them out!

Looking outside the systems

It is important not to be locked down by systems, also when it comes to learning chords. The Chords that I am using in this lesson are more aimed to be beautiful rich sounding chords. I mostly use them as sustained chords that I can leave there as a rich harmonic background for a soloist. They are not really intended for more rhythmical comp. When I do that I go for other chords and focus not on a single chord but as much on the movement.

Adding extra notes to a Dominant

The voicing that I am first going to show you is a chord that is really associated with the melodic minor scale. The first way to use it is as an altered dominant. In this case a G7(#9):

The Dm7 is a straight Drop2 voicing for an Fmaj7, which in this context is a Dm7(9). The G7 voicing is a basic 3-note G7 with an added #9(Bb) on top. This resolves nicely to another surprising voicing which is the Cmaj7. Here I play this with a G triad and a lower C (you can’t really call it a bass note).

Turning it into a Lydian Dominant.

In some ways this voicing works even better when you use it as a Lydian dominant. That is shown here below where I use it as a backdoor dominant in C major.

When used like this it becomes a Dominant chord with a #11 and a 13.

The Cmaj7 voicing is another rich chord voicing which has a 9th and a 13th. It is an Asus4 upper-structure and a B.

New Altered Options

This chord is another way to play an altered voicing and also have the 7th in the melody. The voicing in this case is a G7(#9): B(9), G(1), Bb(#9), F(b7). In the example I am moving the F down to a b13(Eb) and resolves it to the 9th of Cmaj7.

The Dm7 voicing is derived from a Drop 2 where the 5th has been replaced with the 11th and the root with the 9th.

The same voicing is also great for a Lydian dominant. Here it becomes a dom7th(13#11).

In the example below I am using it as a Bb7 in a backdoor dominant chord progression.

Bb7: Ab(b7),E(#11), G(13), D(3).

I am using the same voicing for the Cmaj7 as in the very first example.

Sus4 triads can be upper-structures too

This example is using three chords all based on upper-structures.

The Dm7 voicing is a Dm7(11) using a C major triad.

G7 uses an E major triad to create a G7(13b9)

C6/9 is made using a Dsus4 triad.

Why don’t you ever play a b5,b13 chord?

This last “bonus” example is a little different because it is a chord that you probably already know, but don’t use like this.

The Dm7 and Cmaj7 voicings are both drop2 chords.

The G7 voicing is a chord you probably know as a Db7(9) chord. Since Db is the tritone substitute of G7 we can also use this voicing as a G7.

That would give us this G7: B(3) Eb(b13) F(b7) Db(b5) – G7(b5,b13)

Explore more voicings

A great place to start exploring new sounds and voicings is to work with 3-note jazz chords. These are very flexible and great to use both as they are and as a starting point for adding more voicings.

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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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