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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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