Tag Archives: jazz chords guitar tutorial

How To Explore Jazz Chords – A Better Approach

I very often get asked: “How can I learn to remember all those chord shapes?” and the answer to that is maybe a little surprising.

There is one way that you should be learning and practicing chords that is really overlooked, and that is a pity because it is very efficient and a practical way to come up with some great sound chord ideas that you can actually use.

Inversions And What You Might Be Missing

Usually when you are starting with learning a type of Jazz chords like Drop2, then the first thing that you focused on is learning inversions of a chord like this Dm7:

Obviously, that is a good way to learn the voicings for a specific chord, and anyway a good exercise, but you also need to learn the inversions for the other chords

And then you would have to repeat that process for voicings when you add extensions or alterations. And in the meantime, you are not working on actually using the chords to make music. It is not put together and used for anything.

So instead of focusing too much on practicing tons of inversions where the chords are not in any type of context and you are not making music with them then there is another thing that is much more useful to explore.

That is what I will show you how to do in this video.

Finding The Music in the Chords

As you can see, I am using Drop2 voicings in this video, but really the same is true for all other types of chords whether they are drop3 or triad voicings.

If you went over the chords that I showed at the beginning of the video then you can put 3 voicings together and play a II V I like this:

And you could go over inversions of this as well, but I think there is something else that is more useful.

If you want to comp with these chords in a piece of music then that could be something like this.

 

So you want to add different melodies and rhythms, and as you can hear I am using a lot of different voicings, but it is really just coming from the 3 basic chords that I started with. So the next thing to do is to take one of those basic voicings and then try to open it up so you can comp like this with it.

And this is not about learning some other chord voicings that you put in instead, it is about knowing variations of these chords, it is about opening up the voicing so that you can create some interesting colors, melodies, and voice movement. When you practThat is what we all love about Jazz chords after all.

How To Remember All The Chord Shapes

If you are using chords to comp or play a chord solo then the most important thing is flexibility. And if you only practice chords as grips and inversions then you are not organizing the chords in a way that helps you make music with them.

So instead it is much more practical to not think about different chord voicings, and instead, just have a lot of variations of the same voicing.

It is a little bit like a Pizza, we just think of it as one thing, but you can have pizza’s with all sorts of toppings and we still think of it as a pizza and don’t have to remember them as separate meals.

Let me show you what I mean.

Voice over example 6

If you look at the Dm7 voicing I am using:

If you know the notes around this chord then you can make some variations of this voicing:

Example 6

And it is still really the same chord, it is just adding different colors to it. Similar to putting different things on top of your pizza.

*Cut-in: The big question now is what extension is the pine-apple on the Pizza, but maybe we can leave that discussion to the comment section

The big advantage is that I have all these voicings as variations on one thing, so I don’t have to practice all of them in inversions, I am checking them out in a place where I can use them, and if you were to try to work through all these in inversions then you would get some pretty difficult chords and maybe not get to making music.

So the answer to the question at the beginning of the video: “How can I learn to remember all those chord shapes?” Is that I don’t remember different chord shapes I just know a lot of variations of the same chord, and I practice them so that I can use them together instead of only working on them as separate things.

So I am using that if I can make a pizza with pepperoni then I can also make a Pizza Hawaii.

The next thing to work on is how you practice to think like that

Practicing and Exploring Towards Making Music

Let’s start with the Dm7 voicing and explore some options there around that.

If you want more voicings with different extensions or alterations then you need to understand the context of the chord.

For this video, you can just see the Dm7 as being a part of the C major key and the II chord in a II V I.

If you want to have different options then you need to know the scale around this voicing.

Of course, we only need the top part, but you want to know your scales anyway.

If you look at the first voicing in this example:

then the notes of the chord are put so that we have low to high

3rd – 7th – root – 5th

To make changes to the chord then you still want to keep the core notes in the chord, and those are the 3rd and 7th. The root and the 5th you can change around and replace with other notes you want to use.

So you can play the 9th(E) instead of the root, the 11th instead of the 5th, or both so you have a 9th and an 11th in the chord. You can also replace the 5th with a 13th.

Give Your Comping A Melody

The easiest way to make your comping sound good is to tie together the chords with melody. This is in part, voice-leading so that the transition from chord to chord is pretty smooth, but it is just as important that you think about the melody in the chords and also the rhythm in that melody to really make it a piece of music.

Here is an example of a II V I using the Dm7 voicings and this area to play chords.

The Dm7 you can probably recognize. The main thing to notice is that it is really about the top-note melody.

The G7alt voicings are really done in the same way as the Dm7, but I am using a G7 from the altered scale.

The Cmaj7 is also using the same concept, but for the tonic chords in a II V I you can actually choose between having a maj7 and a maj7 so I am using that as well to make the Cmaj7 into a C6/9.

So what you want to practice is more about exploring the melodies you can play with the chords and not only playing them but also making small phrases as I did here.

A thing that will really open up your comping is also to realize that you can leave out the top note for this set of voicings so that you can play a big chunk of a scale and use that as well in comping.

I do have some videos where I explore this type of thinking on Satin Doll, I will link to one in the description.

 

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Easy Way To Make Your Jazz Chords Sound More Interesting

Just playing Jazz chords isn’t enough to make it sound great. You have to know how to make it interesting and keep the song moving.

In this video, I am going to give you some really easy examples that you can make your chords sound a lot better, stuff that helps you sit in the groove and keep things moving, and it is a simple trick that is more visual than a lot of complicated music theory.

A Basic G7 Voicing

The basic technique that I am using in this video and develop into a lot of great ideas is extremely simple. For a G7(13) chord like this:

You can add a harmonized chromatic melody to this chord like this:

And the rootless version of this which is often a little more practical.

What is happening here is really just that I am playing a melody going down in half-steps and then the chord use the chord on the D, the last note in the melody as a way to harmonize the note leading to it. In that way everything just slips into place and it is also very easy to play.

And this works for other chords as well, not just dominant chords, let’s check that out.

Chromatic Passing Chords on a II V I

Here you can hear how it also works on the II Chord, and of course, you can also use it on a tonic chord like this:

Here I am using a Db6 to get from the Cmaj7 to the C6

Another Great Trick With Chromatic Chords

Now you have one way to harmonize chromatic passing notes, but there is another one that is also pretty easy and works just as well and even makes

In bar 3 I am playing a melody that moves down in half steps, but instead of harmonizing it with the chord a half step above then I shift the first G7(13) chord down a half step, and then the lower part of the chord moves up and the melody moves down

This means that you now have two ways to create some chromatic melodies with chords. Let’s try that out on a few chords.

Exploring More Melodies And Options

To give you a way to get this into your playing let’s go over how this works on a few chords.

If you want to move from this voicings to this voicing:

If you use these two options then you can start with a voicing like this (1st chord in example 6) and then there are two ways you can move the melody down in half-steps:

With the starting chord, you have two ways you can move down, you can use the target chord as we did in the beginning, and you can also start by shifting the first chord.

Here’s another version. If you go from then you have these two options: 7a then there are these two ways to do this:  

Putting this to use on a Jazz Standard

You can put this to use on a song like Ladybird like this. Try to see if you can analyze what is going on.

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Minor II V I – 3 Levels You Want To Know

When you learn chords, and especially jazz chords where there are so many variations and options, it is important that you check them out in the right order and use a strong foundation to explore all the great sounds in there. In this video, I am going to take a basic minor II V, that you probably already know, I and show you how you, step by step, can open that up and turn it into a flexible set of chords that you can use for comping and even chord soloing.

This video is going to get you beyond just playing grips, it is time that we end that once and for all, the campfire era is over.

Level 1 – The Basic Chords

If you know your basic Jazz chords then you probably know this way of playing a minor II V I with it’s somewhat awkward II chord:

The great thing about playing chords like this is that you get to hear what the harmony sounds like and that is very useful for learning a song and getting it into your ear.

This is of course very important if you want to improvise over the progression, so using these chords to become familiar with the sound, the movement of the harmony and the bass line is really useful.

If you are getting into these then make sure to also checking out how to treat them as 2 layers in comping, a bass note, and a chord. This is great for duo playing.

You can think of how you play as accents played on the drums with bass and snare which is mostly how drummers comp in a swing groove, and also what you want to lock in with when you play.

Level 2 – Rootless Chords

The basic chords are great for getting the harmony into your ears, but if you are playing in a band then it is better to leave the bass notes alone and not be exposed to angry bass players

Dave Holland 16:04 + text – Stupid Guitar Voicings with bass notes (busy two-layer comping)

Dave Holland 17:34 + text – Finally some rootless voicings!

While I may be using Dave Holland to joke around, this is an amazing band and one of my all-time favorites you can check out this concert with the link in the description: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uvG8B39_Alc

This is really easy because you can just think about the voicings from example 1 but only play the top part like this:

When you play the chords like this then you have quite a few more options to change the notes and create some more interesting melodies and voice-movements. You are not stuck with a fairly static chord that is “just a grip”

An example of how you can add melody would be something like this:

And of course, when you really use this it will be with a bit more rhythm, something like this:

Where there is a lot more happening than “Example 2”

and we can take this even further by adding more color to the chords

Level 3 – Bigger Chords and More Color

Since we started with 4-note chords and turned them into 3-note chords then it is worth exploring what happens if we add notes on top of these. To me, this was always about being practical so looking at what is there but only use what is easy to play and then be creative with that.

This is btw something I think is very efficient in most aspects of practicing and playing, but that is another discussion

If we take a look at what is available for the Bø you get something like this:

And for E7

and finally Am6

The way I use this is that I check out what is there and I try to get an overview of what is easy to play and then that is what I will use. You can try to expand options, but watch out that you don’t get lost in trying to check out too many chord voicings, which  is often taking up a lot of time without helping you play better.

Using these voicings to comp the minor II V I could be something like this

 

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Rootless Jazz Chords – This Is What You Want To Know

If you are getting into some of the rich sounding Jazz chords on the guitar and want to use that in your playing then one thing that can really add a lot more life and color to your chord playing is to start using rootless Jazz chords.

Playing Rootless Jazz chords in your chord melody, comping and chord soloing will give you 10x as many options and also really start to free you from thinking static grips and more work with playing progressions that flow into one another.

And it is pretty simple to get into…

Basic Example with Chords Already You Know

You probably already know these chords:

Making these chord voicings that you already know into rootless voicings is really simple:

Now you are probably asking what is the big deal? They are a little bit easier to play but for the rest it doesn’t really matter.

Advantages to Rootless Voicings

There are two advantages to using rootless voicings:

1 If you are in a band then you want to stay out of the way of the bass player, and constantly having the root in that register is often clashing with the bass player which is not so nice for you or the bass player.

2 You have a lot more freedom to improvise with the notes when you don’t have to play the root. I am going to give you a lot of examples of this in the video, but if we take the example from above then you could start working on changing the top note of the chords and get some really great sounding chord movements That’s what I am going to cover next.

Making Easy variations to the chords

In this example I am using other melody notes from the scale that are easy to add to the chord. The examples are all practical and pretty easy to play

But there is one note that is added in there which is the b9 which acts as a chromatic leading note in the G7 to the 5th of Cmaj7. This is another way to understand alterations on dominants.

And you can go a lot further than this by adding notes on the top string as well, which is now a lot easier:

And with this you can also start to make movement inside the chord and make the different voices move independently. That’s the next thing to explore

Voices not chord grips

Let’s try this with another set of chords that you probably already know:

This can be turned into this set of rootless voicings:

And a basic variation of this could be something like this:

Notice how I am again using a b13 as a chromatic leading note to go from E down to D on the Cmaj7.

Another thing to notice is that I am only playing the chord once and then moving the melody on top while the other notes are sustaining, this gives it more of a polyphonic or even orchestral sound.

And you can expand on this quite easily adding more movement in the voices, especially G7:

Chromatic inner-voices

The next thing to start experimenting with is adding chromatic movement in some of the lower voices not just moving the melody.

Here I am adding the melody C A# to lead to the B on G7 and a great chromatic movement from B to Bb to A moving the maj7th to the maj6th

Get a solid foundation in Rootless Jazz chords

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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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