Tag Archives: jazz chords lesson guitar

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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Beautiful Jazz Chords That Make You Less Boring

Do you get bored listening to yourself playing chords? Let’s look at some 3-note jazz chords that change things up a bit so you are not always playing the same tired harmony.

Warning: Some of the chords in this video can be both rootless jazz chords and incomplete, they are so hip that they are almost only alterations.

Make Chords Your Own

This example has a few “advanced” sounds but it also still makes sense and has a natural flow.

You could see this example as derived from these chords that you then change a few notes and make more interesting, and the way I do that is something you can also do with the chords you play.

On the Am7 we have the 11 instead of the 5

On the D7, #9 instead of b9

Gmaj7: First  #11 instead of 5 and then chromatic up to #5 and then #11 instead of 5

Why You Use 3-Note Jazz Chords

As you can see some of what makes it more interesting is also that I move around voices in the chords, and that type of movement is a lot easier to execute if you play 3-note chords, in fact, you can really start to improvise with them as if they were 3 voices. This is much harder with 4-note voicings that are a lot less flexible. (B-Roll 3-note voicings?)

Open Up How You Think About Chords (No More Wonderwall)

One of the things that you should develop if you want to play chords and Jazz harmony is that you don’t want to get stuck only thinking about the chords as static grips where you don’t know what notes are in there. As you can see in the previous example you open up an entire world if you are able to start changing the different voices in the chord. (b-roll, changing the notes of a chord?)

Exploring chords and working with the type of things I do in this video is a great way to get into that. Making your own chord melody arrangements is another one. In the end it is important that you don’t find yourself screwing up the music and say

Next: Let’s try the same type of thing but then also break a few rules for the chords.

Color is more important than Rules!

When you play voicings like these then the context of the II V I is pretty predictable, and therefore you can really get away with playing pretty vague chords as you can see here.

The voicings in the example above are derived from this set:

Here I chose to have a 9th instead of a 7th on the Am7

The D7 doesn’t have a 7th either because I include both b5 and b13. You could see it as coming from this voicing.

The Gmaj7 is actually a G6/9 and you could see it as an Em triad where the G is replaced with an A.

This is followed by a voicing that is really just constructed from what you can fit under the melody, which is the 3rd. The important part of the sound is the minor 2nd interval between #11 and 5th.

But of course, you can also explore these sounds on the high-string sets as I do in the next example.

It Is Fantastic Not To Be Tuned In 4ths

With these voicings you don’t have to sit on the middle string set all the time, you can also branch out to the top strings, and with standard tuning that makes some voicings a lot easier to play.

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5 Levels Of Maj7 Chords & How To Make Your Own Voicings

One of the most fun parts of learning and playing Jazz is exploring the Jazz chords and the beautiful colors you can add to it and the freedom you have to improvise with them.

In this video, I am going to go over how we start with basic shell-voicings and then end up with voicing with lots of extensions and colors.

And this is also a great way to really get better at checking out and connecting different types of chords and explore the fretboard

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Content:

00:00 Intro

00:34 Level 1 – Shell-voicings, Maj7 & Maj6 chords

01:18 Maj7 & Maj6 chords

01:59 Samba comping with Shell-voicings

02:24 Level 2 – Shell with extension & Drop3

03:25 Comping with The Bigger Chords

03:43 Level 3 – Triads & Rootless Jazz Chords

05:17 Jazz Standard with Triad Voicings

05:36 Level 4 – Drop2 and Inversions

07:24 Level 5 -Inverting Shells with extensions

08:36 Adding more colors to a Standard

08:58 More Colorful Chords and Less boring Chord Progressions!

09:05 Like the video? Check out my Patreon page!

 

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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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5 Jazz Chords You Need To Use More

You probably already know some Jazz Chords, Drop2 or Drop3 voicings, or Shell-voicings, and those systems are really great to build a vocabulary. But sometimes you want to play some different chords that sound really beautiful and a little more surprising to the ear so that you don’t make the song boring.

Those voicings are what this video is about!

Some of these chords are a little stretchy, but as you will hear, they are worth the effort, just don’t start by playing them in the 1st position.

I am going to introduce them in chord progressions because I think that is how they are the easiest to hear, but you can of course also use them one a single chord vamp.

#1 – Beautiful m7(9,11) Upper-structure Triad

Upper-structure Triads

These 3 voicings really fit well together and they are all using upper-structure triads, something that makes them sound both colorful and strong.

The Am7 is a C and a G major triad which gives us 3rd, 11th, 7th and 9th

Here I am combining it with a D7(13b9) and a G6/9

The D7 uses a B major upper-structure and the G uses an Asus4 triad as an upper-structure, and this is something that you will see throughout the video.

Any Easy Way To Be Creative With These Chords

Arpeggiating chords

Turning it into a Maj7 chord

In the later examples, you will also see that a lot of these voicings can be used for different chords, and in that way they are a very practical way to increase your chord vocabulary.

The Am7 voicings is also great as a tonic chord in C major, even though it does not have a 3rd.

Here it is a more modern sounding Cmaj7 in this II V I with a tritone substitution.

#2 – Close-voiced Maj7(9,13)

This vamp is using the Cmaj7(9,13) voicing which is 7th,9th,3rd,13th and then alternating that with a Bb7, the backdoor dominant.

Notice that this Cmaj7(9,13) also works as a G6/9 which was how I used it in Example 1

There it is 3rd 5th 6th and 9th.

#3 – Dom7(13b9) the most beautiful Dominant sound

The 13b9 sound on a dominant is one of my favorites. It is a great mix of an altered and unaltered sound which I find really rich.

Here I am using that on a II V I in F major, mixing it with a Gm7(11) and an Fmaj7(9,13)

The C7(13b9) is a voicing with an A major triad as upper-structure which is also a part of why it sounds so stable while still working as a dominant.

Another great way to use this same type of voicing is as a diminished chord. You can do that like this on “The Song Is You”

Here it becomes a Dim(b6) but you can also move it around to get to other extensions.

#4 – The Magic Chord – The Maj(b5)

Can you hear it? It is the sound of the #11 Police coming to get us for notating this chord as a Maj(b5) – Clip from Mad Max

You are probably using this set of notes, but using it in this voicing is really a great sound and it is so incredibly flexible.

In this example, I am using it as both a tonic minor chord and a half-diminished chord.

First, an F#ø(11) which leads into a B7(13b9) using another version of the Ab major upper-structure and continuing to an Em6/9 played with two different voicings.

#5 – Dom7th(#5)

The Dom7(#5) chord is a great voicing for melodic minor sounds, and you can make some really beautiful sounds with the inversions as I do in this example, where it is used on the II chord in a minor II V I in Am.

But you can also use it for the tonic minor chord and use the same type of fill like this:

 

 

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Beautiful Chromatic Sounds And how to add them to Jazz Chords

When you solo in Jazz you use chromatic passing notes and enclosures all the time, it is really a part of the sound, and actually this is true for Jazz chords as well. There are many ways to use chromaticism in your comping or chord melody and it is a great way to add more movement and color to what you play.

In this video, I am first going to show you one way of adding chromatic passing chords that is pretty visual and easy to use and then later I am going to start creating chromatic melodies in the chords and this is a great way to get to know your chords a lot better and also gives you a lot of great-sounding options to add to your playing.

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Content:

00:00 Intro

00:47 Chromatic Passing Chords – Look where you are going

01:36 You can also move down a half-step

01:46 G7= G7(13) and Cmaj7 = C6?

03:02 Chromatic Chords in Context

03:43 Beyond Shifting Chord Shapes

05:14 Analyzing the voice-leading example

05:48 The Bebop Trick

06:58 Two Types of contrary motion

08:27 Suspending notes in the chord

09:40 Passing Chords And How To Sound Amazing With Them

 

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Maj7 Chords

How To Use Maj7 Chords As Amazing Substitutions

Maj7 chords have a great open yet resolved sound, but even if they sound very much at rest you can easily use them in some very interesting chord substitution concepts.

In this video, I am going to show you some of the great sounding chord progressions you can make using maj7 chords in chord substitution, and later in the video, I am going to show you how changing one note in the voicing gives you a lot more beautiful sounds.

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Content:

0:00 Intro – Maj7 Chords for reharmonization

0:39 Tonal and Chromatic

0:50 bVImaj7 – Borrowing from minor in major

1:41 Using it on a few Jazz Standards

2:47 bIImaj7 – The Neapolitan Subdominant

4:01 Finding a scale for the chord

4:28 How to use it on a few Songs

6:09 Chromatic maj7 chords #1

6:54 Chromatic approach #2 

7:28 Maj7(b5) Chords (and a little disclaimer)

8:58 Maj7(b5) as an Altered dominant

9:48 Maj7(b5) as a Backdoor dominant

10:28 Like the video? Check out my Patreon page

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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Jazz Chords – 5 Exercises You Need To Know About

Playing Jazz Chords is a huge chunk of what you do when we play Jazz on the guitar. It is what we need for comping, chord melody arrangements and, chord solos.

Learning new chord voicings and especially learning to use new chord voicings can be very difficult and often a lot of time is wasted just playing inversions and exercises when that is not how you would playing the chords if you are playing a piece of music.

Content:

0:00 Intro

0:43 The Strategy

1:17 #1 Inversions

2:52 #2 Diatonic Chords

4:57 #3 Turnarounds or Short Basic Progressions

6:35 #4 Composing Comping Melodies -Step-wise melodies and making music

7:58 #5 Making Music With The Chords

8:41 #6 Bonus exercise

9:13 Like the video? Check out my Patreon page!

Use the Voicings on Jazz Standards!

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Jazz Chord Magic On Take The A Train – This Is How To Use Triads

Triads and triad based chords are fantastic jazz voicings! In this lesson, I am going to show you how you can get started with some triad voicings from what you already know and then go over 5 levels of how you can play some great sounding comping ideas using these voicings.

This is something I use all the time myself, and if you check out the Chord solos of Joe Pass he is also using this all the time.

Take The A-Train – Basic set of chords

Let’s start with taking the A-part on Take The A-train and play that with a set of chords that you already know:

Triad-based voicings

If we play these without the root then you have these voicings:

Converting the Jazz voicings and doing great things

I am going to show you two important things about these voicings:

#1 There are more melody options. You can change the top note and give us some options:

#2 All the voicings are triads

Cmaj7 without C is E G B = Em

D7 without D is F# A C = F#dim

Dm7 without D is F A C = F major

G7(b9) without G is (in this voicing) F Ab B = F dim

A7(b9) without A is Gdim = G Bb C#

Top-Note Melodies and Some Jazz Rhythm

First, you should look at the chords and find another melody note for each one. (this is powerful because you can make start making riffs and making things sound a lot more interesting.

Using Inversions of the triads

Since all the voicings are triads then you can also use the inversions of these triads. If you use the inversions as well then you have some options similar to this:

Chromatic melodies & Inner-voice movement

Of course, it is possible to use movement in the other voices, not only the melody. In fact, that is what I am doing on the D7 above.

The example below takes that a bit further.

I am also using some chromatic movement in the melodies most clearly in the top note melodies on the D7 and G7 chords, and in the inner voice melody on the Cmaj7.

Altering the voicings for more modern jazz sounds

And beyond changing the top note you can also experiment with changing notes inside the chord and in that way create some new voicings.

In the example below on the D7, you will see one such voicing. The first voicing on G7 is a similar construction.

How to make music when comping

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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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