Tag Archives: jazz guitar chords lesson

3 Ways To Make Simple Jazz Chords Sound Amazing

Few things in the world sound as great as Jazz Chords, but learning a few grips doesn’t mean that you get them to sound right, so in this video, I will show you some very simple Jazz chords, and then show you how you make them sound great in actual songs because I have a few easy tricks to do that which are effective when it comes to the important things: rhythm, phrasing and sound.

The First Jazz Chords To Learn

With this simple Jazz chord type, you can do everything that you need to do with Jazz chords when it comes to spelling out the harmony, rhythm voice-leading, bass movement, and chromaticism.

I am of course talking about Shell-voicings. These 3- note chords:

A shell-voicing has a root which is usually on the 5th or 6th string

and then the 3rd and 7th of the chord on 3rd and 4th string.

You have a version with the root on the 5th string and one with the root on the 6th string.

So for each of these, you can play a basic II V I in two positions.

and higher on the neck:


As you probably noticed, this way of playing chords leaves out the 5th but that is something you can use, you’ll see that later.

Split Up The Chord!

What we as Jazz guitarists often forget is that you don’t have to play chords with all the notes at the same time.

Instead, you can use that shell-voicings naturally have two layers: Bass and chords.

You can play like this with a pick, but it is easier to get it to sound right if you play with your fingers.

This opens up for a lot of options in terms of rhythm, and later I’ll show you a great variation of this that goes even further, but first check out how great it sounds on Autumn Leaves:

More Bass Notes?

As I mentioned at the beginning of the video the shell-voicings leave out the 5th, but it is also an option to play the 5th instead of the root, and that can sound great, so for Dm7 you go from the basic version

And all that you do is just move a finger to another string.

This works great, especially for II Vs, even when I am only using one variation of them. Check out how it sounds on There Will Never Be Another You:

Playing the chords like this is a great way to start working towards walking bass lines, but I will get to that later. You probably noticed that I am only using this for the 5th string version, but you can do that for the 6th string bass note chords as well, it is just a bit more work so maybe you want to add those later:

Like this, you have a way to add rhythm to the chords, and voice-leading, and some bass movement is taken care of, and I’ll level that up the bass part in a bit. You can also add some great movement and surprising sounds with chromatic chords, which is surprisingly simple!

No-Theory Passing Chords

The chromatic part of Jazz is often hidden in a lot of music theory and with all sorts of explanations like secondary tritone substitutions, harmonized basslines, reharmonized dim chords, and stuff like that, but you don’t need to make it that complicated!

The point of the chromatic chords is just to create some tension that then resolves on the next chord,

and that just means that you can create a chromatic chord by moving a chord a half step up or down,

so for the first four bars of Sonny Rollins’ Pent Up House I could use this G#m7 to lead to Am7

and maybe Eb7 to resolve down to D7.

Of course, I am not really thinking about what chord it is as much as just shifting up or down a fret. Check out how great that sounds, also adding a bit of bass movement:

Let’s add a bit of walking bass as well.

Take A Walk!

You can build this coming from what I already covered using the 5th of the chord as an alternative bass note, so if we start with something like this using Autumn Leaves: 

Then you have two of the 4 notes you need per bar simply by using the root and the 5th. Now adding notes is just a matter of adding chord tones, scale notes, or leading notes, and here the emphasis is mostly on making it playable.

 A bonus is that often the chromatic leading notes in the bass also automatically  become great chromatic passing chords:

Adding Color and Extensions

As you can hear a lot is going on, but it is all pretty logical and follows the stuff I already covered. The type of things that I covered in this video, but I am not talking about how you also can add extensions and colors to the chords, turning them into melodies and even chord melody and chord solos. That is what I cover in this video following some solid advice from Joe Pass, so that is the next thing you want to check out.

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

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How To Learn Drop 2 Jazz Chords The Right Way

Drop 2 voicings are often made into this mysterious thing that is hard to practice and learn. Something that you have to spend months practicing to get into your playing and be able to use.

That is of course not true and in this video, I am going to show you some of the simple things you can practice, how to remember the chords and how you start using it in your playing.

It is about staying practical!

3 Types of Drop2 voicings

For this lesson I am using the song, Solar known as a Miles Davis Tune but it is actually written by Chuck Wayne.

First I am going to go over some voicings that we need to play the song. It really is just 2 sets of 4 voicings on the top strings and then a dim chord.

Then I am going to use those voicings to play through Solar and embellish the basic comping and show you how you can add to it yourself.

I will talk about why we use some voicings and explain it from a music theory point of view, but also a more visual description that really helps understanding and remembering the voicings.

Basic Set of Drop 2 Voicings

The m6 is a very useful voicing for three types of chords:

First we need a m6 voicing, that will also work as a m7b5 and a dom7 chord:

The m7 chord can be used for m7 but also maj7 chords:

The Voicings would be these:

Putting it to use on a Song

This first example of how to use the drop 2 voicings is using one voicing per chord. Everything is kept simple and I am using the same voicing sets for the II V I’s in F and Eb major.

The II V I in Db is a little different because I want to move closer to where I will play the Dø.

This is about reusing as much as possible and playing music with only a few voicings. That way we have something to build from.

Progessions as building blocks, not chords

It is extremely important to start thinking in progressions more than single chords. If you do that then you can sum up a song in a few blocks where it might be twice or three times as many chords.

That is also what is clear in how I think in II V I progressions and treat them as one thing, more than separate chords.

Adding Melody – Making Music

The next step is to use the same chord voicings but now I am also using different top-note melodies to have some melody and variation in the comping.

From Chords to Musical Statements

The important part of adding more melodies and thinking more like a melody is that it is easier to comp in a way that responds and supports whoever you are playing chords for. Developing this skill is so essential, and it is important to remember that comping should be a piece of music, not just some chords on a groove.

Expanding What You can Play

Now that there are some melodic options and you probably have one voicing in your system then you can start adding voicings by using the surrounding inversions. An example of how that might work is shown below:

Putting Drop2 chords to use

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