Tag Archives: jazz chords

Jazz Chord Secrets Every Jazz Beginner Should Learn

You know how this feels: You are playing a song and then the chords look like completely insane (Db7(b9,b13,no5)

and your brain is thinking (picture of hand knot on the fretboard), and that is just one chord, because they keep on coming all the time. But we can’t all be like BB King and just hire somebody to play chords while we say “I am horrible With Chords” And the main reason for that is that you will have a lot of fun playing chords and you can make great music with them, you just need to know how!

In this video, I am going over the 3 I’s as a way of dealing with chords and making it easier to deal with chord progressions,

 

hearing, understanding, and turning them into music. It should not be complicated to play music, so first you want to make the whole thing a bit simpler.

#1 Ignore

When you look at a chord like C7(#11,b9) then that is a lot of information, and you don’t want to spend too much energy on it while playing. Figuring out what those notes are, or trying to remember a grip that works like this C7(#11,b9) but is far away from the Gm7 I was playing or doesn’t really fit with where the music is or where it is going is not going to be useful. But you can actually also just ignore all of that and just play a C7, especially if you are a beginner, that is probably the best way to go, but you do need to play the right type of simple C7, as I will show you, and later in the video I’ll show you how to be much more strategic and flexible with the chords, and not a slave to some numbers and letters, because numbers and letters are not music.

This is about not getting stuck with thinking about each chord so to begin with then a m7 chord will work if it is just a m7 chord and a dominant works if you play it without extensions as well.

Start by just playing the simple harmony.

As Joe Pass says:

“you must think of the chords in their simplest form….”

In the beginning, if you just ignore all the extensions and alterations you can easily play the chords as shell voicings, and as you probably know, a shell voicing is a voicing consisting of root, 3rd and 7th,

so it doesn’t clash with any b9s, #11 or b13s that might also be in the music. For a II V I then you could have these chords:

But you can also reduce those to something like this:

Or the other position:

And using shell voicings you can clearly spell out the harmony:

And there is still a lot of room for adding rhythm to the music:

With chords like that, you can pretty much play any progression and get it to sound tight, you can be rhythmical and you hear how the chords move, so you still get the essential flow of the harmony. It is important that you remember that, in Jazz, the chords are not isolated islands. They are a part of a progression and you want to think of them as words, not get stuck spelling the letters, which is exactly where you get stuck if you think too much about the extensions of one chord and not on how the chords flow together.

Which is the next thing to learn.

#2 Interpret

When you read the chord and start to analyze the extensions and alterations, then you are thinking about something that isn’t music, it is numbers and letters, and in the moment it is not helping you play any better. I came across this interview with Joe Diorio where he talks about asking Wes about this, and Wes’ answer is so spot on:

“What do you think when you see Dm7 G7 Cmaj7? – It is a Sound!”

But how do you turn chords into sounds and what does that have to do with reading chord symbols? For most people, the easiest way to do that is by connecting chords to songs, so learning how they sound in one song and then using that to hear the chords in the next song,and you do that not by thinking of a single chord but by learning to recognize the building blocks that make up the song.

That’s also why there are 2 billion lessons on II V I tricks, it is the most common building block for Jazz songs, but far from the only one, and whenever you learn a song, it pays off to think about the building blocks in there!

Let me show you how this helps you deal with complicated chord symbols in a more musical way. Because, if you ignore the extensions and then look at what the chord is a part of, then you can treat it as a piece of music and use the vocabulary you already have.

Let’s say that the music you are reading says D7(b9b13)

If you only look at the chord then that is all the information you have, but if you ignore the extensions and zoom out a bit and see that it is part of a minor II V I: Aø D7 Gm6

then you have a way of playing it where you are worrying about playing a specific chord, but you are working on playing a passage in the music that has melody and rhythm, not numbers and symbols,

and that context will also tell you what extensions and alterations might be a part of the sound because instead of trying to calculate what the b13 of D is and how to play that, then you are playing a D7 resolving to Gm. Adding that context to a chord is much closer to a sound and also easier to hear.

The important thing here is that you start to look at songs as having chunks that are smaller chord progressions and recognize how they are similar and when something sounds similar,

it does take time to build a vocabulary of chord progressions and get them into your ear, but it is worth it! Then you know what you can do with the chord, what notes you can add, and which melodies might work. You need that because Jazz is about improvising, also when it comes to chords.

#3 Improvise

One of the great things about playing Jazz is that soloing and playing chords is really pretty much the same thing, you are taking the chords and improvising to turn them into music, but in one case you create a melody and in the other, you are creating a background for somebody else’s melody. So the point of playing chords is mostly to improvise and to connect the chords with voice-leading, rhythm, and melody. But one of the problems here is that a chord symbol is a static thing, and not really something you can improvise with., so instead of thinking of D7(b9b13) then thinking of it as D7 resolving to Gm is going to give you a lot more options that you can make melodies with and turn progression into a piece of music, and check out how this example uses a b13 but it isn’t there all the time

So you want to learn to see a chord symbol not as a single grip or a few grips, but instead, you zoom out a bit and see it as a lot of options that you can put together as a piece of music, and depending on the context, then if it says D7(b9) you don’t have to play the b9, and you can often add a b13 that will sound great because those two notes are both a part of the sound of that chord, whether they are written in the chord symbol or not.

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How To Make Jazz Chords Sound Amazing – 7 Recipes 😎

Jazz Chords Are Like Cake!

Beautiful Jazz Chords are chords like this: rich-sounding chords with lots of colors and extensions, they are the amazing pastry of harmony, and like cakes, it is not the only thing you need. But it is Nice, VERY NICE!

What makes a chord beautiful is in part the chord itself, but it is as much about the chord progression, so I am going to use a lot of rich and colorful chords but also show you how amazing they sound in some great chord progressions that work as II V I alternatives if you need to add a bit of variation to your chord playing.

So the starting point is this progression:

But as you will see then we can pretty much go anywhere starting here, and you can easily make your chords a LOT more interesting!

#1 Borrowing From Minor and Not Always A Maj7

The first thing you can try is to not play a normal II chord, but instead, use a half-diminished chord so in this case a Dø.

Another thing you want to notice is how I am not playing a maj7 chord for C, but instead going with a 6/9 chord.

You want to get used to mixing those up because they can pretty much always replace each other:

B-roll: C major diatonic + C minor diatonic chords (maybe highlight Dø?)

A theme you will see in a lot of these examples is that the progression is in C major, but I am using chords that are in C minor to change things up:

 

#2 Don’t Always Play A Dominant

 

The strongest pull in music is probably the dominant resolving to the tonic like G7 to C.

But it is then also a bit obvious and not so interesting, so in that respect, it is a pity that so many people try to explain all theory as V I resolutions, it makes it boring, and you can replace a V chord with a subdominant chord that is much tastier and mysterious with an Fm chord that has some nice colors added:

#3 Dark And Light – Night And Day

This next progression is using a bright chord for a minor subdominant, namely the bVI maj7th, but that then resolves via the dominant to an even brighter maj7 tonic. This is the main cadence in Cole Porter’s Night And Day,

and maybe the lyrics are actually fitting the harmony by starting in minor and ending in major?

For this one, I added a #11 to the tonic chord making it even more bright and shining,

And it it sounds great:

#4 Bright, Brighter And Brightest!

You can also choose to stick to only using maj7th chords and create a mysterious progression where it feels like every chord could be the resolution. Here I am starting on the IV chord, Fmaj7,

then moving to the Neapolitan subdominant Dbmaj7

before resolving to a beautiful Cmaj7 variation.

The Neapolitan subdominant is, in this case, a IVm triad, so Fm with a Db in the bass as a leading note down to Cmaj7, so it is still a minor subdominant and it always sounds fantastic.

Here’s the entire progression:

The next example will also add some pentatonic chord tricks on the Cmaj7 chord!

#5 How Is That Even A II V I?!

Before diving into the pentatonic passing chords, then I need to introduce another minor subdominant variation: The Backdoor dominant, in this case, Bb7 which is the bVII in C major, so this dominant chord is actually a subdominant chord in the context.

 

The next chord is a classic Jazz trick: The Tritone Substitution

This is a pretty simple idea: In C major, the dominant is G7, and a G7 chord actually shares a tritone with another dominant: Db7. So you can exchange one for the other and the basic flow of the harmony still works.

Check out the example then I’ll explain the pentatonic chords on Cmaj7.

Let me know which of these progressions or chords is your favorite in the comment section!

In this example, I am playing 3 chords on Cmaj7 (example) and if you take away the C that I sometimes add under it, then really this is just playing chords made from Em pentatonic:

This works because we need to hear a C in the bass and then notes that give us a maj7 sound, and Em pentatonic

Em pentatonic will give us a lot of nice colors against C:  E G A B D – 3 5 13 maj7 9 and the chords are pretty easy to play.

Here’s a different take on changing the chords with a progression pretending to be a II V

#6 Maj7 chords pretending to be a II V

This way of using maj7 chords can work as a nice suspension but here it also becomes a sort of motivic development with the chord progression that is really smooth combining the bVI

and bII maj7 chords.

There is another even more weird way to use maj7 chords, that I’ll show you after this one.

#7 Altered Dominant Maj7

In this next example, I am moving around maj7 chords, starting on the bVI so Abmaj7

and then going up to this Bmaj7(b5)

which is really like a Db7 with a B in the bass, so it is a disguised tritone substitute or altered dominant which then resolves beautifully to Cmaj7:

Improvising With Chords And Harmony

With a progression like this then you can also hear how you have a creative component to putting together chords both in how you voice-lead them and how you choose what chords to add to the progression. The best place to develop that is to use it in chord melody where you can color the chords and really add your own take to the melody. If you want to explore this way of playing then check out this video where I cover both the basic approach and some of the ways you can create variations of common progressions that actually fit the song.

How Chord Melody Will Help You Master Important Skills

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The Biggest Misunderstanding About Jazz Chords And How To Quickly Fix It

The way you think about Jazz chords is most likely wrong, and that is because you have been taught to think about chords in the wrong way from probably the first guitar lesson you ever had.

When it comes to playing Jazz then you should take the advice of Joe Pass:

“You must think about the chords in the most simple possible form”   

As you will see, that way you will avoid a lot of problems. This is probably connected to what made you interested in Jazz chords  in the first place:

When I first started to learn about Jazz chords then I heard all these incredibly beautiful sustained chords with a lot of colors, and I loved how they sounded.

And that is how most of us start out thinking about chords: as separate grips and each with its own name that tells you exactly what extensions and alterations are used.

The problem with that is that it is impossible to remember all those different chords, and when you are playing Jazz then it is as important that you can get from one chord to the next, which doesn’t get easier if you have to fit together thousands of different chords

Instead,  you should work on a way to think of groups of chords, Which will make it easier to play music because:

#1 It’s Visual And Easy To Remember

#2 You can improvise and Connect Chords

#3 Makes it Simple To Add Chromatic Chords

And as you will see later in the video, it is also a direct and incredibly effective shortcut to playing Chord Solos, something that is quantum physics if you have to think about each chord separately! In fact, I will clear up 3 misunderstandings about Jazz chords along the way because there is a lot of bad information out there.

Making Jazz Chords Simple!

But we are not going to start with the chord solos and chromatic passing chords. Let’s start with this C7(13). It is a fairly common voicing, but what can you do with it?

First, you want to boil it down to a simple more flexible form, similar to what Joe Pass said, because that is something you can improvise with. Instead of using this 4-note chord voicing then maybe look at what is the core of it: The 3rd and 7th, which in this case are on the middle strings, are what you want to focus on.

These are the important notes that get the sound of the chord across. The fact that it is a C7 is more important than the 13th, that note is just an extension and one of many options. The bass-note you can leave to the bass player, that way you don’t get in the way of him or her and you have one more finger to do something interesting with the chord.

When it comes to remembering chords then we get very used to navigating chords using the 5th and 6th strings as reference points because that is where we play the root.  Now, what you want to make a habit, is to be able to play the chord and see it on the neck as a C7 with that root, but you are not playing it.

So if you played a II V I in F major then you think or visualize the root but just play the top part

As you can hear from the II V I example then you can reduce all chords like this, and for now, then you can keep the 3rd and 7th on the middle string set, because then you have room above for melody and extensions and below for bass notes, depending on what you need to play.

Now that you are getting rid of one Jazz chord misunderstanding and have a way to think about simple chords then you might as well kill another one and then we can get into a hack for chromatic passing chords so that they are incredibly simple! (voiceover?)

Adding Melody Not Extensions

In Music, and certainly, in Jazz, context is everything! And the idea that chords are these isolated and static things and not really a part of a piece of music is completely misguided, that is in fact the 2nd misunderstanding I want to clear up. Most of the time, Jazz is all about connecting those chords and making the transition beautiful and creative.

Instead of thinking of chords like that then you want to think of a chord as something much more flexible, almost like a scale where you play the sound of the chord but you can add notes if you want to and you should also think about it as something that has movement built into it, a Chord is not just a chord it is in a context.. Peter Bernstein says it nicely here:

 

The most important part of that movement is melody, but

adding the melody is not that difficult now that you already reduced the chord to two notes.

I’ll first show how to find notes that work and then talk a bit about how to create melodies.

It is a little bit like taking the chord

and the scale that goes with it, and then seeing what notes are available on the top strings that also fit with the sound of the chord.v

In this case, with the C7 you get all of these options:

And you can see a C7 not as a C7(13) or a C7(9) but as a place where you can play a melody using these notes, and notice how I just call all of them C7

Now, my point with writing C7 doesn’t mean that you should not know what the extensions are, it is just to make it clear that when you see C7 like this then you can use a C7(13) or a C7(9). It’s a little bit like most languages have words that contain letters that we don’t pronounce anymore but we do know how to spell it and use all the letters in writing.

You can do the same thing for Gm7 and Fmaj7 and add notes over the 3rd and 7th of those. Notice that I am leaving out the Bb over Fmaj7 because that doesn’t really work in that chord, but you probably already know that.

Making Chords Into Music

Now you can start working on making melodies. This example is possibly a bit busy, but it is also a bit to show you what is possible:

You can go over a progression like this one or a song and then explore how you can improvise melodies.

For now, this is for comping behind a soloist so make sure to:

#1 Play mostly stepwise melodies

#2 Don’t play too many notes and chords

#3 Make sure to once in a while clearly lay down a long chord on a heavy beat.

Misunderstanding #3: Never Play Chords On The Downbeat

The last one is the 3rd misunderstanding, and it is something that I sometimes see in comments online: “You should never play chords on the downbeat”

Which is of course pretty insane and not what you hear on any recording of any Jazz musician, you of course want to learn to play off beats but you are supporting the music and the soloist and that means that you once in a while need to lay down the groove with clarity and give the soloist something to work with. There is really no reason to be afraid of playing a clear chord on the one or on the three so that you are really connecting to the song. Your off-beats only make sense when they are in balance with your downbeats, it is like trying to cook but only use pepper and no salt.

Let’s move on to a visual hack for chromatic passing chords and get into some chord soloing!

Chromatic Chords – Melodic And Visual

With this approach then you can see how the chords are turned into a core set of notes and then a lot of notes that you are free to improvise with, and what you play is more about hearing a melody than thinking a lot of complicated chord formulas.

But Jazz melodies have chromatic notes as well,  and you can incorporate that very easily into your comping like this:

The simple way to look at chromatic passing notes in Jazz lines is that they are there as an outside tension that is resolved by moving up or down a half-step. Like this Ab between A and G:

If you have this melody over a C7 then the first chord is clearly a C7(13), and the last one will be a C7, and you can use the last one as a way to come up with a chord for the Ab because you just play the same chord and move the entire thing down a half step:

And in the same way, you could get another passing chord moving up from C to D with a C# leading note, here you have a B7 moving up to C7:

This is both easy to figure out and easy to play, since you just think of the resolution and use that, there is no need to think about the passing chord.

And that means that you can play something like this:

It Is Already A Chord Solo!

And improvising while you are comping in fact means that you are learning to play chord solos. You are already working on making phrases and melodies with the material so you just need to start using it as a solo and not as a way of comping.

Let’s say that instead of the II V I in F then it is a Blues in C. For the first 4 bars, you only need an F7 to play a solo statement, so  with a basic F7 like this

then you reduce it to these two notes

and a practical set of notes could be:

And with that, you can play something like this, and notice how I am repeating riffs on the C7 and also using call-response to tie together the melodies:

This very practical way of approaching Chord Solos is something you will also find great examples of in the playing of Joe Pass. If you check out this video you can see my breakdown of chord solo phrases and some amazing Jazz Blues from a true master!

This Jazz Blues Solo is Perfect And Nobody Is Talking About It

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How Joe Pass Makes Jazz Chords Simple & Easy

Joe Pass: “First of all, I’ll tell you, If I have a II V, Forget the II.”

So this isn’t exactly how I think chord progressions but I sort of agree with him, and as you will see, the way he breaks down a Jazz standard really is practical and makes it a lot easier to learn the song. I am sure you recognize how difficult it is when you are looking at a song and get completely lost in all the different chords and extensions and alterations which maybe isn’t really how you should think about it anyway.

As you probably already know then Joe Pass is one of my favorite Jazz guitarists. He was a walking library of Jazz standards, he knew all the songs, and I have been told that most of the virtuoso sessions were just the producer, Noman Granz, asking Joe Pass to play a song and then they just recorded that with no rehearsal, which is pretty mind-blowing. That is also why I thought it was exciting to come across this video where he describes how he thinks about chord progressions in songs.

II V is just V

Let’s first look at this II V thing in isolation and then branch out to how this all fits together in songs and how it works with some other chords.

The basic concept is if you have a II V then you can just use the V chord. Joe Pass explains it like this:

“Why are you playing the II what is it? like”

“If you play the V, that got the II!”

“here’s a scale for the V, It’s a G7”


“here’s a scale for the II
it’s the same scale different notes”

The idea of ignoring the II chord and just seeing the whole thing as a V chord is certainly not unique to Joe Pass, I would mostly associate it with how Barry Harris teaches and it is a part of Bebop since it is also fairly easy to spot in Charlie Parker solos. here’s an example from Blues For Alice where he is playing the C# on beat 1 of the Em7 A7 bar, which means that he is not thinking Em7 there at all, just A7.

Pros and Cons of Reducing Chord Progressions

There are, of course, advantages and disadvantages to this approach.  The obvious advantage is that there are less chords, for example if you look at Confirmation:

where there are suddenly a lot less chords to remember.

Becomes:

Another advantage with reducing II V’s is that the strongest movement in a II V I is the resolution from V to I, and that is still there, so you keep the essence of what is going on, which means that the reduced progression will often still make sense as a chord progression.

Joe Pass demonstrates that they are the same by pointing out that the notes in the scales are the same,  one explanation that I got from a teacher a long time ago was that the II chord is really just a suspension of the V chord, so Dm7 is just a G7sus4 that got out of hand and turned into a m7 chord.

Bebop: More Chords! (but also less chords)

Ironically, Bebop is probably the period in Jazz where it became normal to turn V chords and (a lot of other chords) into II V progressions when harmonizing standards, but that probably also has to do with how Bebop is very much about moving harmony, and if you have a II V I then there is more movement than just the V I.

At the same, they probably thought about a lot of those “extra chords” as embellishments and extra sounds and not than really a description of the actual harmony of the song. An good example of this could be the first two bars of  “Have You Met Miss Jones”:

Fmaj7 Bb7 Am7 D7 Gm7 – Fmaj7 F#dim Gm7

Where the 1st example has a nice flow and a lot of movement and the 2nd one is what is really happening in the harmony of the song, so to speak.

Here you might often solo on the 2nd progression while the comping plays the first.

But you are free to do what ever you want, and it is also nice to sometimes just nail all those changes, even if the comping doesn’t.

Shoot a version without “even if the comping doesn’t”?

Joe Pass: Just 3 Chords!

Joe Pass reduces the progression to essentially 3 chord types:

“I mean a major minor or dominant you must
look at chord changes
really in the simplest form way you can”

And that works really well for reducing the amount of chords in a progression and often will also make it easier to understand how the harmony is flowing, but not always, and maybe tying your understanding to specific chords is not explaining how to improvise or even comp over the song. Making things very simple also sometimes means leaving out useful information, and while your ears and the melody of the song often will help with that,  it can get a bit confusing. And while you think of the simple chords then you still play all the chords when you are comping, so you do need to know what they are.

But it does really resonate with me that you want to keep the chords simple, also in terms of extensions and interpretations of them, which is also why I very often don’t write extensions on the chords at all even though I might be playing that in chord voicing. There is a lot of freedom in how you interpret a chord, and it doesn’t make sense to force a certain sound on it. Instead you want to understand the chord in the context of the song (and the context or band you are playing in) and use that to decide what colors should be added. Extensions can become a distraction from what is actually happening in the song.

Stella is a good example here, and Joe Pass actually reduces this in that video, where the way he interprets the last way back to Bb is what really resonated with me. Here are the most common set of changes:

“You know like if I play Stella By Starlight in the key of Bb the first chord is A7
the second chord is F7
the third chord is B flat seventh
next chord is Eb next chord is Eb minor, Bb”

I’ll get to how Ab7 is Ebm in a bit, but let’s first look at the different dominants.

F7 is clearly the dominant in the key, which is Bb major, and you just hear that sound with a 9th and 13th in the song, even if the original arrangement has a b13 if I remember correctly.

This makes a ton of sense and reducing Cm7 F7 to F7 also works really well, but if you look at the A7 at the beginning of the song then that is not A7 as you would find it in D major. There are a few things that give that away: The II chord in this case is an Eø, and there is a Bb in the melody over the A7. So that chord is more like an A7 in Dm with a b9 and a b13. You should probably not treat the F7 and the A7 the same if you start soloing, and you in general you will quickly come across different types of dominant chords that you want to be able to handle.

In fact, the A7 or Eø A7 is a reharmonization and the chord is originally a diminished chord, what I usually describe as a #IV diminished,

but as you may or may not know I tend to reduce chord progressions to functions rather than chords because that also tells me how I have to play the chords or solo over the progression, the one thing that is clearly not included when you just throw away the II chord.

Barry Harris Approach

WIth that type of dominant sound, Barry Harris has another explanation with the exercise that tells you to play down the “C7 scale to the 3rd of A”

Essentially that scale is D harmonic minor which is the scale that gives you an A7 with a b9 and a b13.

It is a very neat way to introduce the sound of the progression and also get the right extensions in there without having to start talking about harmonic minor and making things complicated.

I guess the downside to thinking in functions is that you need to add other names or another level to how you think about the chord progression and that may be difficult to learn compared to just throwing away a chord. Joe Pass clearly came at this in a very practical way where I also learned from theory lessons when I was studying.

Reviewing Other Peoples Teaching

Just a side-note on this video, I actually get quite a lot of requests to talk about other peoples teaching,  and usually I say no to making a video explaining a video that Rick Beato,  or somebody else made, simply because it seems a bit weird to explain other peoples teaching. In this case, I decided to still do a video because I think it is really interesting to hear how Joe Pass thinks about chords and you can actually find a lot in this 1 to 2-minute segment of a very long video.

IVm and Backdoor Dominants

The other thing that really resonated with me , and actually is the reason I decided to make this video, is how Joe Pass described this section:

“3rd chord is Bb7 next chord
is Eb next chord is Eb minor Bb”

So he clearly hears the Ab7 as a minor subdominant since that dominant is then turned into a IV minor chord, rather than keeping it as a dominant, which to me also suggests that his ears probably think in functions as well.

A lot of the most beautiful harmony in Jazz standards is about minor subdominant chords in major. That small group of chords can do magical things, and it is very useful to realize that they belong together and that you can often mess around with changing one out for the other.

In this case, the song is in Bb major, so the IV chord is Eb and the IVm chord will be Ebm, as Joe plays in the video.

The different chords you then have available as common minor subdominant options would be:

Ebm6, EbmMaj7, Ebm7, Ab7, Gbmaj7, Bmaj7 and Cø.

The important notes for the sound are probably that the chord contains the Gb which is the minor 3rd of Ebm and that it does not contain an A, because that would make it a dominant chord.

Learning some Cole Porter songs will help you get acquainted with most of them, he also uses them really a lot.

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Fake Counterpoint And Jazz Chords: Both Beautiful and Practical

This way of playing chords is incredibly fun, and I love how it sounds, at the same time I am not sure exactly where I got it from.

The idea is to be more free and creative with the chords you play, and I’ll take a slow song to show you how I think about the chords and make it into a sort of counterpoint, but it isn’t real counterpoint. Mainly because studying counterpoint was a massive failure when I was a student, but I’ll get back to that.

I guess it is my take on everything I listened to from Bill Frisell and John Scofield, maybe even some Jimi Hendrix, and a bit of folk music as well. I am not really sure, but maybe explaining what goes on might even help figure that out, I am not really following a set of rules as you will see.

Check out how it sounds:

Arpeggios and Voice-leading

I am using Someday My Prince Will Come as a song in this almost ballad waltz tempo, mainly because it is a great tempo and progression to show how “fake counterpoint” works.

The main thing to notice, in the beginning, is that even though I am pretty active then I am not playing a lot of different chords. Instead, I am relying on arpeggiating the chords and getting them to flow into each other in a smooth way, just changing a note here and there like going from the D7 to the Ebmaj7 or Ebmaj7 to G7.

(Add slow examples playing those bars)

I am also very much relying on letting the notes ring so that during the bar the entire chord gets clear.

The chords are simple: Shell-voicing on Bbmaj7, Triads on D7 and Ebmaj7 and an AbMmaj7 as an incomplete G7(b9).

Something that I use a lot is that I am trying to voice-lead the chords, so they flow into each other, and you can actually see that as a visual thing on the first two chords where the top note moves down and the lower voices move up.

That is also what is happening going from Ebmaj7 to the G7(b9)

Playing like this is a good way to REALLY get to know you chords.

The next part uses arpeggios but also more fills around the chords

Fills and Chromatic notes

The first part is mostly about using fills rather than chords and not so much about using several layers:

A basic Eb major triad for Cm7 connecting to G7 which is just a tritone interval.

altered fill:

On the G7 the rest is just a fill to get to the Cm7 in bar 3 where I am using a drop2 voicing.

4th Intervals And Harmonized Licks

This returns to using several layers, adding 4th intervals under the melody, and it also becomes clear why this works better with 2 and 3-note voicings

I am using this Cm7(11) voicing to make it possible to play that little fill with 4th intervals that then ends on the F7(13).

The 4th intervals under the melody then continues on the next Bb chord.

At the end of the first half then it is probably worth noticing that it is really just an embellished version of this:

Is It Counterpoint?

When I think about counterpoint, then I usually think about baroque music with a lot of layers moving, like an organ player working hard to keep it all happening at the same time.

My other association with counterpoint is the course that I had to take when I was studying at the conservatory. All Jazz guitarists had to take this, and I found myself in a class with for the rest only people studying baroque music.

The teacher was a very friendly classical composer, and this was one of the few topics at the conservatory where we actually worked from a book.

This was not a success! I had no real idea what I was supposed to learn, and in the class nothing was related to the music I played. You can probably imagine how showing up and writing baroque music from a set of rules was everything but inspiring. In hindsight, it could have been an interesting topic to explore in terms of learning how melodies work, but because it was not in any way related to the music I played, then it just seemed theoretical and irrelevant.

What You Should Learn From Counterpoint

Another theory teacher later told me that it was not worth it to study counterpoint and really everything you needed to know was these two things:

#1 Step-wise melodies are strong

#2 A leap in one direction is resolved by a stepwise motion in the opposite direction.

I learned a lot from her, and this certainly fitted with my experience as well, so that of course, resonated with me. To immediately relate this to Jazz: these two rules explain how Parker’s octave displacement works:

Where you have the skip from F# up to Eb that then resolves moving down the scale.

It is actually a great demonstration of melodic tension and release. If you think that it is essential for Jazz musicians to learn counterpoint then let me know in the comments, but maybe add a real example of the benefits like this one.

As you can probably tell then, I don’t really remember anything I  learned in the counterpoint class, and I am really just using it to describe that I am improvising several layers in the comping examples.

Arpeggiation and Jimi Hendrix

Now whether I learned to play chords like this from Bach, Jimi Hendrix or Bill Frisell, it is probably a mix. I think you can hear some of this coming from Bill Frisell’s way of working with chords, and if you think about it then the idea of playing chords and spreading them out similar to what I picked up from Hendrix on Wind Cries Mary or Little Wing.

The next part is almost a chord melody as a way of comping with a clear melody that is being supported by the chords under it

Except for one place, you have a simple melody that is in fact mostly moving in steps, and then there are chords.

If I just add the melody on top you can hear it:

In the Cm7 F7 bar it becomes counterpoint again with the sustained G note and then walking down to spell out the change to F7 and that is really just a melodic way to play these simple chords:

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Jazz Comping – A Difficult Conversation With Aimee Nolte

Comping is one of the most fun parts of playing Jazz, but comping with both a piano and a guitar is incredibly difficult and the source of many frustrations!

In this video, I visit Aimee Nolte and we have a long and difficult conversion about comping, and we also play some music but most of that is on Aimee’s channel.

Check out Aimee’s video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wvWkP1_C68

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The Best Way To Start With Jazz Chords: 2 Positions

For most of us, certainly for me, then what was first interesting about Jazz chords was how they sounded different and had a lot of beautiful colors that are very different from what you are most likely already playing.

The Right System for Learning Chords

So instead of learning the chords as these isolated grips, then it is probably better to have some sort of system that can help you put them together in songs, but here you have to be very careful that you don’t fall into another trap instead of the isolated grips. As soon as people talk about systems with chords it usually becomes a great mass of inversions, variations, and string sets, and while those are good to know that is NOT where you want to start because you should not only be playing technical exercises, you need to focus on some chords that you can play music with, and as you will see: something you can use to improvise with because Improvisation is a huge part of Jazz, also when you are playing chords.

Instead, you should start with some chords that are probably closely connected to how you already think about chords and also a great way to connect different types of chords because nobody plays chords thinking in specific types of voicings and you need to get it all to fit together.

Two Positions – Just Like Power Chords

Most of the time when you think about chords on guitar then you think of them as grips and you navigate the neck from the 6th and the 5th string. So you have two main versions of each chord one with the root on the 6th and another with the root on the 5th string.

When you are starting with Jazz chords then you can build on that, even if you later stop relying on this or even playing that note, but we’ll get to that.

Let’s take this into Jazz. There is more to Jazz music than just the type of chords, we also have some very common progressions that you want to know. The most important one is probably the II V I.

A II V I in C major is Dm7 G7 Cmaj7, if you play that starting with a Dm7 chord with the root on the 6th string you get:

And starting with the root on the 5th string:

These chords are pretty easy to play and are a way to play 7th chords where you have the root on the 5th or 6th string so that you can use how you already think about chords, and on the middle string set you have the most important chord tones, 3rd and 7th.

We call this type of voicing a Shell-voicing because it is the important shell that gives you the basic sound of the chord. But since it is just a shell, you can hear that it is possible to add something, and you are not using the top strings yet!

Putting It To Use On A Song

With these 3-note chords, you can already play songs, check out how this sounds, there is more going on than just playing the chords, mainly that I am splitting the shells in a bass note and a chord:

As you can see then I am working with the chords as having two parts, the bass, and the chord.

This also works great if you want to use them for playing a bossa nova groove like this famous song:

But of course, you can also add more color to these chords, so let’s try that:

#1 More Color

The first step was to split the chord in bass-note and a chord, there are a lot of other things that you can do, the first one is to use the two top strings to add color and melody.

If we start with a basic II V I

and just add some extra notes, like this nice chromatic melody:

I’ll talk about finding those extra notes in a bit, but first, check out how you can add two more notes and have these which also give you a melody on top:

Hopefully, you can still see the original shell voicing in these chords:

I’ll get to the melody, but first, let’s talk about exploring what notes you can play.

Really this is about figuring out what notes fit the chord and usually also what notes are in the key.

A good one to start with is this Dm7 chord: Example Diagram, Since it is in a C major progression, then that is the scale you want to use to see what works, and here there are quite a lot of options:

The root, 9th, 3rd, 11th and the 5th.

And it is really still just coming out of that basic shell-voicing, and it is much more flexible to think of them as variations of that instead of having to learn 6 different grips. This is the kind of thing that it is great to sit down and explore a bit for a chord with a cup of coffee and figure out

  • 1 What Sounds Good
  • 2 What Is Playable
  • 3 Can I use it in a chord progression (or song)

and you want to tak all  of those things in consideration so you have a practical vocabulary of chords that fit together. With all these notes available then you can probably hear that we have room for some melody, let’s explore that a bit.

#2 More Melody

 

Here you have some of the chords from the previous example on the Dm7 chord and a few variations on the G7 plus a Cmaj7 with a 9th.

Notice that sometimes I just play the chord and move the melody without a chord.

And you can create some beautiful things with that, check out how this uses both melody and bass notes not just chords all the time.

Let’s open this up a bit more by throwing away the root and playing rootless voicings, where you can also see how this is starting to connect to drop2 and triad voicings.

Rootless Chords

The first way to use Rootless voicings is about making some things easier to play, and just being more flexible, so if you have the shell voicing and then start adding notes but make it easier you get something like this:

And not having to play the root makes it easier to play some of the other variations so that you can play like this:

Maybe this is a bit on the busy side for comping? But then it certainly shows you how much you can do with this, and also how it is really getting you into chord solo territory. Again I am still really thinking of these chords as variations of the basic chords that I played in the beginning not a lot of different grips (example 1), which makes this a lot easier to get to make sense. It is like having a harmonized scale for each chord, and It is the melody and how the original chords fit together that makes it work.

And like this then you don’t ever need to play the bass, especially not if you are playing in a band with a bass-player. Then you only use the bass note as a reference which is giving you an overview without playing it.

And this opens up for even more interesting voice-leading tricks like these chromatic inner-voices

Put Shell-voicings to use in Chord Melody

How Chord Melody Will Help You Master Important Skills

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5 Simple Tricks That Make Jazz Chords Even More Beautiful

Most of the time what makes Jazz chords great is that you don’t just play chord grips,  you can add things around a chord and also use that to connect the chords making the music flow.

You probably already know how the first few times you learn a new chord then you play that and it sounds great, but even chords with a lot of extensions becomes boring after a while, and what you really want to learn is what you can do with the chord, give it some movement and change the color, so that you go from

To something that looks complicated but is actually surprisingly simple and easy to get started with like using pentatonic chords:

And this is actually not as complicated as it looks or sounds, I’ll show you…

I am going to focus on the maj7th chord because that is very often the place where the progression stops, and where you need to work a little to keep it interesting.

#1 7th to 6th

This is sort of in two steps, If you are not completely new to Jazz chords then you probably know that if you play a Cmaj7 then you can replace that with a C6 chord if Cmaj7 fits then so does C6

So when you play: Cmaj7, then you can also play: C6, or this Cmaj7 and this C6.

This is already giving you some options, but having two chords is not enough, because the 7th and the 6th are a whole-step apart so you can also add a chromatic note in between them,

and the basic version of that already gives you something like this:

But you can also use it with really simple shell-voicings and create small melodies, and that will teach you something else that is very useful:

For this to work then you need to find the 7th in the maj7 chord, but checking out the voicings you use so that you know the notes in there is also what will later open up for a lot of options. Playing these chromatic phrases can be tricky, but they are worth the effort, and focus on finding the practical ones that easy to play.

Most of the things in this video are not something I picked up from Barry Harris, I am not even sure he would like them, to be honest, but this one and the next one are both something I picked up from him as this drop2 exercise

Because here you also have the 7th going to the 6th but there is something else happening as well.

#2 9th to root

Highlight 7th to 6th and 9th to root as a part of the

`

The other thing that you see in that drop2 exercise is the 9th moving down to the root, but you don’t always need to use them together, they both sound great by themselves, check out this example where I am using the 9th to the root with a maj6/9 chord.

 

And again this is about going over your chords and finding the 9th and figure out how to start add this movement. Before I start combining the chords with pentatonic scales then check out this other version that combines it with the maj7 moving down to the 6th, similar to the Barry Harris exercise, but it also has a beautiful maj7(9) chord that you want to add to your voicing vocabulary:

#3 Pentatonic Scale From The 3rd

Pentatonic scales are amazing for Jazz chords! In Jazz solos, it is very common to super-impose pentatonic scales over chords when you soloing and use those to get some great sounds and lines that really sound different.

But you can also do this with chords and that sounds amazing!

For Cmaj7 then Em pentatonic is a great sound because it gives you a mix of the notes to get the chord sound across (Slight pause) and some great sounding extensions.

And for this Cmaj7:

You can think of this pentatonic scale position

and a practical way to get some chords for that could be playing 3 notes at a time:

Putting these to use and then adding an extra trick will give you something like this:

I love adding the extra chord at the end to create this huge voicing, but you can, of course, also do a lot simpler things that sound great.

I’ll get to the harmonics I used as well later in the video, but first there is another great pentatonic option you want to explore:

#4 Pentatonic Scale from the 7th

The other pentatonic scale that you want to check out is the pentatonic scale from the 7th of the chord.

For Cmaj7 that is Bm pentatonic, and again you have the important notes for the chord, E and B

and then 3 great extensions: 9, #11  and 13, so you are turning the chord into a Cmaj7(#11), a Lydian sound.

And you can put that to use with 3-note chords just like the Em pentatonic scale, but you can also change how you play those 3-note chords. Check out how there is a lot more space to this sound:

The last concept is to add artificial harmonics, which is also a really nice trick, especially for ballads!

#5 Artificial Harmonics

This is a technique:, first check out the example then I will explain how it works. Notice that I am playing a super common maj7 chord!

What I am doing here is playing artifical harmonics on the notes of the chord. I have this Cmaj7 and then with my right hand I just touch the string with my index finger  above the fret wire, 12 frets above the fretted note, so one octave, and plug that with my ring or middle finger.

It takes a bit of practice, but it isn’t super difficult and definitely worth the effort, since it adds a completely different sound to what you are playing while you are just using a common maj7 voicing.

You can do much more complicated things with this, but already the simple version is a great sound to add in there. An easy variation is that you can actually strum a simple bar chord like this as well. It is the same principle but you are just moving your hand across several strings to get the harmonics

For that I’ll use a Gmaj7 since that is a more friendly key for that voicing.

 

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This is Missing In Your Comping and Nobody Is Teaching It

When it comes to comping then you have lots of books and online lessons on learning chord voicings, and voice-leading, but when it comes to turning that into something that really works then there is really not a lot of advice available.

But there is actually a place to get some inspiration and strategies for developing your comping, which is what I want to show you here.

Probably a lot of you are now thinking that this is about rhythms, and that is sort of true but it is actually more than that, and I am 99% sure that  your solos will also benefit from looking at things from this perspective, because there are things in this that can really open up your playing in other ways as well.

A Blues with some Basic Ingredients

For this lesson, I am going to use a simple C blues as an example, and since this is not about using incredibly fancy chord voicings, the most chromatic voice-leading tricks or the hippest extensions then I am going to just use two different melody notes for each chord. Extensions and voicings are nice too, but that is not the focus right now and they will just become distractions that take away from what you should focus on, and I think you will see why.

The chords are kept pretty minimal but it is still more than enough to make some good music.

I will show you 3 types of exercises so that you can actually get your chords to sound like comping, and maybe open up how you think about phrasing and rhythm in general.

#1 Longer Phrases

When you focus on voicings and voice-leading then it is about either what notes you put together or how you get to the next chord in the song.

Of course, both of these things are important, but you can also see that when you focus on that then you are zoomed in and at most looking one bar ahead, and you are almost never playing a song with two bars, there is a whole form.

I don’t know about you, but the people in the rhythm section that I usually admire the most are actually the drummers. That is where the groove and the interaction are both clearly present and where the dynamics of the song are being created. A part of that is probably also that the musician that I really have to connect with when I am comping is the drummer, and for a drummer it is not about voice-leading or extensions, so how do they practice?

Rhythm is melody!

Where most guitar examples are one or two bar rhythms then drummers tend to do exercises that are over longer parts of the song, and working on something that is a combination of different patterns. An exercise might look like this:

Very often then the entire groove is not written out so it is assumed that the ride cymbal is being played, here the highhat is included, but what you want to focus on here is the snare drum rhythm, the rest is not important, you essentially want to read it as if it looks like this:

And this rhythm you can use as a comping pattern on guitar.

If you apply it to the first 4 bars of the Blues then you get:

The big advantage here is that you are starting to hear the rhythm as a melody, and phrases that are not just on a single chord but are a part of a longer sentence with a repeated part and a conclusion.

So phrases that contain smaller parts which fit together. That sounds like something that could be useful for other things than comping?

Thinking in 4 and 8-bar phrases

A side-note to this is that it makes a lot of sense to work on thinking of bar 4 as a conclusion, as the end of the sentence. That is also how our sense of form works, we feel things in groups of 4 or 8 bars and the more you play like that the better you feel that which will later eventually make you a lot stronger and more free.

There is an interview with Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter where they talk about how they feel the 12-bar blues as groups of bars together so that a Blues chorus is essentially a 3/4 bar. If you start feeling the form like that then you get a lot of freedom to do stuff in between which of course also describes how they often played.

Of course you want to take a 4-bar pattern like this and go through the whole blues form as well, but let’s move on to how you level this up to get some great comping rhythms going!

The method and exercises that I am showing you here was not how I learned to comp, but I sort of wish it was, because it would have made it a lot easier, and I have seen this work really well for my students. The way I learned was by being around great drummers and having the good fortune to be told about how comping worked as an interaction between drums and guitar, or drums and piano. What I am showing you here will help you listen to yourself to play something that makes sense and tells a story but it will also help you play natural phrases that a drummer can work with so that if you listen to each other then you can also connect and make music together.

#2 Making Your Own Phrases

You can of course start checking out Jazz Drumming lessons on comping to find more patterns like this, that is a great thing to do, and please leave a comment if you have some good resources like books or online lessons, but you can also start creating your own by taking the rhythms you already know, or listening to drummers that are great at this like Philly Joe Jones or Jimmy Cobb and take phrases from them and combine that with what you already know.

The important thing is that you take a step back and worry less about what extensions moving from the 9th to the b13, and instead try to play some strong melodic rhythms, some phrases that last 4 or 8 bars and make sense like that. Often listening to big band can be very useful for this, because you have the right types of simple melodies and strong rhythms in there.

If you start with the previous example but then change it up then you can get something like this for the next 4 bars of the blues, with the same format of a repeating figure and a phrase to end it all:

 

But you can also introduce more variation, for example going back to the original motif like now also changing or developing one of the repeats:

And really what you are doing making these is developing your ability to hear rhythms that make sense, and also listen to whether the rhythms you put together make sense as a melody for you.

How Wes Uses This In Solos

Another thing is that this can really open up is your soloing: Maybe take a listen to your solos and ask yourself how often they have phrases that last 4 bars with a beginning, a middle and an end? Maybe taking some time to think like this and incorporating that into your solos could be useful as well, there could be a video in that, et me know! The king of this is Wes! If you listen to how Wes improvises then you can certainly hear repeating patterns and motivic development.

Green = Call – Red = Response

You Can’t Practice Comping

Very often when I do a video on comping then I get a comment that tells me that comping is about interaction and therefore you can’t practice it. In my experience, that is not true, and the next exercise is actually about interacting but you are playing alone. Besides that, then there are so many skills involved with comping that you have plenty to work on even without interacting with a soloist and a rhythm section. Simply because you need to Play the chords, keep time, make sure that what you end up with makes sense and has the right colors, and the easier that is and the more freedom you have and it will be the easier to listen to what is going on around you. You also don’t only practice soling with a band, but there you have to interact as well, I hope you do at least…

#3 Call-response

Until now it has been about written exercises and composing, but you can also start to incorporate  improvisation so that you can work on hearing the rhythms in real time and get it to fit together while creating phrases, and this exercise can also be incredibly powerful for solos, but I will show you that in a bit.

An easy way to do that is to start with the layout from the written exercise, and in fact this is also about interacting because you play the written part and then treat that as a call which you then respond to with the next phrase which is your response. A chart using the first one-bar rhythm would look like this:

and with that you can pick a comfortable tempo and then start to fill in the empty bars and see what you come up with. You listen and then you play what fits with that.

If you get stuck then you can also stop and try to explore it out of time

As I said then this is also a very useful exercise if you are working on getting your solo phrases to go from licks next to each other and become more of a coherent story.

A simple version of that could be something like this where I repeat a first phrase and then develop material that is a response:

And your solos can also really improve from working on this:

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3 Ways To Fix Your Chord Progressions To Be More Interesting & Beautiful

I always loved that Jazz Harmony is full of amazing chord progressions that have a natural flow but still contain some surprising sounds that make them interesting to listen to.

But how do you write chord progressions like that? Because most likely you’ll see 100s of lessons on II V I’s and while that is an important progression, you also want to be able to play other things.

I  was always messing around with writing music and putting chords together also before I was playing Jazz, probably because I couldn’t really play a lot of stuff so I experimented and improvised together things.

The problem I kept having there was that I didn’t really know what chords would fit together, not beyond the  I IV and V chords in the key, and even that I didn’t really get, so it would be more about luck and a lot of messing around before I created chord progressions that I liked.

Most of that is about having a better foundation and it is pretty amazing how far that will take you in terms of finding a lot more chords, and a lot more interesting sounds, that work together.  I could probably also have used some sort of strategy to help me put stuff together, but I was just trying things out at random.

Let’s look at finding some interesting chords and then  talk about how to fit them together!

The Basic Chords

I am going to start with a few basic things and then expand that REALLY a lot.

The basic process works for ANY scale and knowing this is useful in so many ways!  If you start with the a major key, like C major then you have one chord for each note in the scale:

You build the chords by stacking 3rds so for C major

Adding an other 3rd gives you the triads:

 

and then add another note a 3rd above to get the 7th chords:

This is pretty basic and it is going to get a lot more colorful, but you can already do great things with this! If you have a basic progression going from Cmaj7

to G7 then you can use the other chords to walk there in steps down the scale:

Or you can walk up; Cmaj7 Dm7 Em7 Fmaj7 G7

Or if you are moving from Cmaj7 to Fmaj7 then maybe add an Em7 as a step up to the Fmaj7

 

Let’s use this to make it a bit more interesting!

#1 Beautiful Borrowed Chords

The upside to not knowing anything and improvising is that you have not idea what won’t fit and you probably don’t mind so everything is worth a try, the downside is that most of the chords don’t sound that great. The key of the music you creating or playing is a very powerful tool when it comes to creating chord progressions. In this case, the best place to start is to add the chords from the minor key, so C minor, then I can show you a secret subdominant trick and a fun way to create some wrong chords to make everything weird.

For C minor, you have these chords:

These are much more fun to add to our C major chord progression because they fit in there but they clearly also sound different.

Especially the chords you can use as minor subdominants in major are great, in this case: Dø, Fm7, Abmaj7, Bb7:

So if I am going from Cmaj7 to Fmaj7, I can add the Em7 to get to Fmaj7 and use the Abmaj7 to go back:

And this works with pretty much all the minor subdominants, for example  Bb7:

And I am using the minor subdominant chord as a surprising sound that isn’t really dissonant but still resolves back to the tonic chord.

But you can also use them to get to the dominant like this:

Making Chord Progressions

Now that you have a few more chords to use then we can talk a bit more about how to put chords together. And this is useful if you are making your own songs, but it is also important if you are making your own chord melody arrangements and want to add a more personal color to them, or make your own intros or outros.

There are 2 ways that you can put chords together easiily, but keep in mind that they are not rules, if you play something else and it sounds good then that is fine as well, in fact I will show you some examples of that as well later.

#1 Circle of 5ths

Chords like to move in 4ths and 5ths, take a song like Autumn Leaves.

Cm7 F7 Bbmaj7 Ebmaj7 Aø D7 Gm6, everything is moving in 5ths or 4ths depending on if you see it as moving up or down.

That is also how I started with the basic chords going from Cmaj7 to G7 or Cmaj7 to Fmaj7.

#2 Step-wise

The other approach is to move the chords in steps. You already saw examples of this, but here is another one which is really a stepwise variation of a II V I:

And the other option is to use stepwise motion as a sort of leading note. so just a single step before the next chord:

And like this you can create some great progressions putting chords together that will flow!

The next type of chord, before I start breaking the rules, is really a bit overlooked, which is useful because then we can sound different from everybody else.

#2 The Secret Subdominant

You already know about the diatonic chords, and some of the minor subdominants, but you also have the #IV subdominants, where the most common ones are the #IVdim and the #IVm7(b5)

And these are amazing ways to get some other sounds into the progression, just more variation together with the subdominant and minor subdominant chords.

The classic example is this one:

But can also work with it in a progression from Am7 to Cmaj7 like this

You can see that here I am turning the Em7 into an inversion to get step-wise movement, this is another thing you can also do to get your chord progression to flow better, explore making some of them inversions so the bass becomes stepwise movement.

The other one is a diminished chord that you probably know from a chord progression like this:

But it is also amazing as a suspension like this:

#3 Disguised Chords That Sound Amazing!

It can also be great to sometimes be less obvious. Check out this progression, and see if you can recognize the chords:

So it is starting on  Cmaj7 and ending there as well. The 2nd chord is a G triad with a B in the bass, so an inversion to make a stepwise bass melody, and the Am7 is also fairly easy to recognize.

The chord with Ab in the bass is a little less clear, but in fact that is an Fm6 with Ab in the bass, which makes a lot more sense than trying to call it an Ab6(b5) the fact that it is an Fm chord also makes it clear why it resolves so nicely to Cmaj7, and it is a beautful variation instead going to an Fm chord or using Abmaj7, because you sometimes want to search for a less common sound.

Working with stepwise movement and inversions is a very powerful tool that you also will come across in Jazz Standards, maybe check out the beginning of” Like Someone In Love” as an example.

But a much more exciting and less typical idea is to make the chord progression more vague by changing the bass note, so that you don’t have a too obvious connection, check out how this sounds:

What is happening here is that I am taking a G7alt (play) and then using a b9 so the Ab as a bass note which creates this Abm6. The voice-leading still makes sense but the bass movement isn’t as obvious, which might be exactly what you want.

You can make a turnaround much more interesting by turning a G7altered into an Fm7(b5) which will eliminate most of the 1 6 2 5 sound. But you do need to couple it with an Em7 to justify the bass being F:

The Best Strategy for Creating Chord Progressions

As you saw already from the beginning of this video then I tend to start with a few chords and then find a way from chord to chord adding more harmony. This is an incredibly strong principle, but you need to be able to reduce chord progressions to the basic chords to tap inot that freedom. Using functional harmony like that is an incredibly powerful tool, and you can check out how to use it and also some approaches from Barry Harrys and Pat Martino in this video:

How The Pros Think About Chord Progressions (and you probably don’t)

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