Tag Archives: jazz guitar chords

Satin Doll – Easy Jazz Chords (and a little beyond)

The Ellington/Strayhorn tune Satin Doll is a standard that you need to have in your repertoire. It is also a great standard if you want to work on some easy jazz chords and playing II V progressions, since the progression is mostly made up of one bar II Vs.

In this lesson I am going to go over two sets of easy jazz chords that you can use to comp Satin Doll, namely two versions of shell-voicings. They work really well for Freddie Green rhythm guitar, but are also a great place to start and something that you can build a lot on. This is what I demonstrate with an example at the end of the video adding a lot more color and melodic material to the way I comp it.

The Song and the Form

When learning a song like Satin Doll it is extremely useful to also take the form into consideration. In this case Satin Doll is a 32 bar AABA form.

If you realize that it is an AABA then you also realize that you only need to know the A and the B parts by heart to know the entire progression.

A II V is one unit

Another thing that is very practical is to think of the II V progressions as one thing. Most of the progressions in Satin Doll are one bar II V progressions and by thinking of those as one progression you make it a lot easier to both play and remember.

Shell Voicings for Satin Doll

A Shell voicing is a chord voicing containing the root, 3rd and 7th of the chord.

In Jazz harmony this is enough to spell out the color and the function of the chord most of the time and is a great way to play the basic progression.

Shell voicings are also very useful as a starting point where you can add more melodic material on top in terms of other chord tones or extensions.

In example 1 I have written out the first A part played with shell voicings around fret 10:

First A – Shell Voicings

Notice that there are two different sets of II V voicings used: One with the m7 root on the 6th string and the other with the m7 root on the 5th string.

The Bridge in the same position

Now that we have an A-part covered then the next thing to sort out is the bridge:

The 2nd set of voicings

A good way to expand the options is to take a look at what the A-part might be with the other II V set. 

This is shown in example 3:

For practical reasons I have the same chords in use in the turnaround. After all music is not an exact science…

Adding Variation and Melody chords

The next step is to start expanding the voicings. The way I am going to do that is by taking a shell-voicing and add extensions on top of it.

For the Dm7 and G7 voicings in the 10th fret this would be:

For the other II V set we have these options

Putting the variations to use

To get used to improvising with this material it can be a good idea to first just improvise some melodies using a single II V as I do in the video.

After this you can also start making exercises such as this:

Here I am playing the chords on 1 and 3 and then adding an extra melody note in between. The goal is to add a strong melody on top of the chords.

Shell-voicings for Chord Melody

If you want to use this material in chord melody arrangements then you can check out this WebStore lesson on Chord Melody arranging:

Chord Melody Survival Kit

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The Missing Triad in your Jazz Blues Chords – Simple and Easy

Flexible voicings like triads are very practical to add to your jazz blues chords. We can do a lot with Triads and they are fairly easy to play and move around. This video is taking a look at how we construct 3 note voicings for a jazz blues and then adding a triad voicing that fills a gap on the fretboard.

From there I show how you can take that thorugh a chorus and develop it into another similar type of chord which also gives us a complete set of voicings on the blues.

3-Note Jazz Blues Chords

Most of us use triad chords coming out of the chords that we already use but without a root, so for F7 we end up with these two voicings: F7 + F9 as seen in example 1 here below:

They work really well, but there is a long gap from rootless F9 to F7.

Constructing another voicing to close the gap

If we look at the F7 chord then a basic F7 is an F root and an A diminished triad and we can use that triad as a voicing as well.

A C Eb and that sort of bridges the gap between the two.

If I use a bit of voice- leading I can comp through a blues using this type of voicing as shown in the example 2:

The F7 is here the A dim triad: A C Eb. On the Bb7 this is voicelead into Ab C D which works as a Bb7(9). Then back to F7 and going to a F7(b13) : A Db Eb.

In bar 5 the chord is again the Bb7(9): Ab C D. The B dim is easy to create changing the C in to a B, so Bdim: Ab B D.  This moves up chromatically to the F7: A C Eb. The D7(b9) is achieved by moving up the entire voicing so that the top note is an F#: C Eb F#. 

The Gm7 is the upper-structure: Bb major triad: Bb D F.  This is turned into a C7(9) by lowering the F: C7(9) Bb D E. The F7 is the original voicing and the last C7 is the C7(b9) version of the other voicings: Bb Db E. 

Another voicing to check out!

There is one more voicing that we can check out from the previous example.

The 2nd chord on Bb7 is this Bb7(9): Ab C D. If this is transposed to F7(9): Eb G A

This can be turned into a complete other chorus:

In example 3 I have a shift from the D7(b13) down to a Gm7 chord that is a 1st inversion Bb major triad. This is one way of doing this, but another way would be to really aim for getting smooth voice-leading:

This is a bigger stretch but also a very smooth moving chord progression.

Harmonizing the F7 scale based on the 3 voicings

A cornerstone in my vision on comping is that the top note melody has to make sense. To make this possible it is very important to also be able to play the entire scale with a chord sound.

This lesson started with two 3 note voicings that I then added a 3rd voicing to, and using these 3 chord voicings you can harmonize the F7 scale as shown here below:

3-note flexibility and voice-leading

The flexibility and the fact that you can easily be quite free when working with 3-note chords is probably a huge part of why I use these voicings so much. I hope you can use this material to get more out of your comping and make it easier to play some solid ideas in your comp and in your solos.

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Jazz Blues – The Forgotten Triad Chords – Great, Simple and Easy

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How to Learn to Play Jazz Chords – Study Guide

You want to learn how to play Jazz Chords. An important part of playing Jazz is to be able to interpret and play the rich chord language of the genre. This list of lessons is an ordered way to work your way through this from getting to know a basic vocabulary to having more freedom in comping with different types of chord voicings.

Your Feedback is very valuable

Remember that the guides are here to help you so if you have suggestions for this or other guides then let me know! I might have missed something or you have another idea for something that is important to check out! Feel free to send me an e-mail or message via social media.

I have also collected the videos in a Playlist on Youtube if you prefer that:

Playlist: How to Learn to Play Jazz Chords – Study Guide

The Jazz Chord Survival Kit and vocabulary

The first three lessons deal with a basic chord vocabulary and how to use it when playing important chord progressions and jazz standards

Leaving out the root and getting used to upper-structures

Once you know some chords and can play a few songs you can start to expand your vocabulary.

There are two main topics you should add first: Triads as Jazz chord voicings and Drop2 voicings. These two are the foundation for most other voicings and you can build on this knowledge to really build an extensive chord vocabulary.

The Essential Drop2 Voicings

Drop2 chords form a huge chunk of all the voicings that are used in jazz. These lessons will take you through a lot of material using drop2 voicings. If you want to hear Drop2 chords in action then just put on a Wes Montgomery album, he used them extensively in his chord solos and comping.

Developing Comping skills beyond the chords

Playing Chords does require more than just knowing what chord to play where. Some of the other skills that are equally important are discussed in these lessons:

More Modern sounds

If we look beyond the triads and Drop2 voicings it is of course possible to start checking out more modern sounds that may not immediately be covered in the lessons I already included. These voicings are both more extreme with having large intervals or much more cluster like with second intervals:

Allan Holdsworth Chord Series

One of my favorite players when it comes to modern jazz chords is Allan Holdsworth. Since I have made several lessons inspired by his chordal language I though it only right to include some of these lessons. 
I am obviously a huge fan, but there is a lot to be learned from him and the chords are very beautiful and worthwhile checking out. Even if they are not all easy to play.

Chord Solos

One way of getting good at comping is to get good at playing chord solos. Being able to improvise solos with chords really helps develop your freedom and ability to play solid comping behind others. 

For that reason I have included a few of the lessons I have on chord soloing that you can dig into if you want to take this approach.

 

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How to use Drop 2 Chords on a Jazz Blues – Bebop Skill

Drop 2 chords are one of the most important types of chord voicings in Jazz, and especially when it comes to the bebop or hardbop styles. This lesson is focusing on the Drop 2 voicings on the middle string set. I played and transcribed an example on a medium jazz blues. The example illustrates how great these are for groove oriented medium swing comping.

What are Drop 2 Voicings

If you are not familiar with drop2 voicings the name may seem confusing. It isn’t necessary to know how they are constructed, but it can also be nice to understand the principle. 

Below in example 2 I have first written out a root position F7.

The notes in this chord are low to high: F, A, C, Eb. The main voicing is playable but as you can see in the video the inversions of this voicing are not practical for comping (or in fact playing on the guitar).

If we number the notes in the voicing in order of pitch high to low:

F A C Eb

4 3 2  1

The creating the drop2 voicing is then done by moving the second highest note (in this case C) down an octave.

This is shown in the 2nd  bar of example 2. The first version of the drop2 voicing is not a lot easier to play but in the 2nd half of the bar I have a more useful fingering for  the same notes. 

Constructing Drop 2 voicings

Inversions and adding chord extensions to the drop2 chords

With the voicing from example 2 it is now possible to make some inversions.

The first bar of example 3 are the inversions of the F7 voicing.

When making inversions on the same string set of a chord you need to order the notes in pitch, which for this chord could be: F A C Eb.

For each string in the first voicing you can then move the voice on each string up.

The first voicing is C F A Eb and this means that the 2nd one will be Eb A C F.

Rules for adding extensions to a chord

For adding extensions to the F7 chord there are two rules we can use:

  • The 9th replaces the root
  • The 13th replaces the 5th

This means that if we want to turn our 1st voicing (C F A Eb) into an F7(9) then we can replace the root(F) with the 9th(G). This yields the voicing on beat 1 of bar 2: C G A Eb.

The rest  of the bar are then the inversions of this voicing.

In the same way we can replace the 5th(C) with the 13th(D) to and get the voicings in bar 3. 

Bar 4 is combining these two approaches so that we have a dom7th voicing with both a 9th and 13th.

From these two rules we now have 4 different types of F7 voicings. The same thing is possible with Bb7 and C7 in the F blues.

Drop 2 chords inversions with extensions

Drop 2 chords inversions with extensions

Groovy Jazz Blues comping

 The slightly darker sounding middle string set works really well for hard bop comping focused on groove while still conveying the harmony.

The example starts with an F7(13) voicing. The top note melody moves from F to G. This idea is repeated on the Bb7 where it is played with first a Bb7(9) and then a Bb(9,13). THe F7 in bar 3 repeats the F and the G. 

Bar 4 is turned into a II V to Bb to help the progression move to the IV in bar 5. The F7alt voicing can be seen as a B7(9,13) voicing. This way of using the tritone substitute to generate altered dominant voicings is very useful for drop 2 chords.

On the Bb7 the melody is also alternating between the root and the 9th. This also a good example of why it is useful to consider the drop 2 voicings variations of each other.

IN Bar 6 the Bdim is using the symmetrical aspect of dim chords moving the same chord voicing around.

The II V cadence to Gm in bar 8 is also using voicing symmetry. The first chord is a basic Aø drop2 (which is of course the same as our F7(9) voicings) and this is moved up a minor 3rd for the D7. This becomes a D7(b9,b13) voicing: F#, C, Eb and Bb.

The cadence back to F is first a Gm7 and Gm7(9). The C7alt is a C7 with a #9 and b13.

On the turnaround the drop2 chords are using the same ones used previously except for the D7(b9) which is an Ebdim chord.

Jazz Blues using Drop 2 chords

Using the drop 2 chords

Of course you can get a lot out of practicing the inversions and learning the example that I played and included here. At the same time  you are probably getting more out of the voicings if you also begin to comp through a blues with them on your own. I show some simple ways of doing this at the end of the video, which might be useful to check out.

Check out more examples of Drop 2 comping!

If you want to go a bit further with the drop 2 chordsyou can check out some of the lessons in my webstore on this topic. Below is a 3 chorus example on the standard There Will Never Be Another You. I have one on All The Things You Are as well.

Drop2 voicings on There will never be another you

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Drop 2 Voicings on a Jazz Blues

 

Drop 2 Voicings on a Jazz Blues – Chord Diagrams

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Look Mom No Root! Jazz Chord Survival Kit Part 2

You are probably familiar with reading basic jazz chord shapes and you can work your way through a tune without too much trouble. The next logical step is to take that knowledge and then turn the basic jazz chords into rootless voicings and start adding more melodic variation and interesting rhythms.

In this video I am going to go over how you can take a set of jazz chords for the song Lady Bird and then reduce them to rootless 3 note voicings. Then I will try to cover a way you can add more options for top note melodies and play an example of how you can use this.

A basic set of Jazz Chords for Lady Bird

The chords we start with are a set of voicings that you would get if you went over this progression using the material from my lesson How to play jazz chords

You can check out that lesson if you are not familiar with any of the chord voicings.

Look mom no root!

Taking away the root is a fairly simple task since it is just removing the lowest note.

This transforms the voicings in example 1 to the jazz chords shown here below:

Notice how most of them are in fact triads. The mighty triad is there in every aspect of music…

More Melody and more rhythm!

Now that we are using one finger less it is going to get easier to come up with some melodic variations by changing the top note of the chord.

Once we have more than one melody note available for each chord it also starts to make a lot more sense to playing small riffs and explore more rhythms while comping.

In example 3 here below you see the different options. I ket it quite simple so that everything is fairly easy to use and relate back to the original chord shape. For each of the chords there are 2 or three choices for top note.

You can of course work on the different chords isolated to get started with making small riffs and then later try to combine them in the progression. I actually expect that once you have tried to make a few riffs with each of the chords you should quickly be able to do so.

In the video I also show a chorus where I comp through the progression with this material improvising a melody through the changes.

Taking a more sytematic approach.

Besides the advantage of putting the ideas directly to use on a song it can also be very useful to take the concept through some of the exercises you may or may not already know for the standard chords.

This will help you keep the overview of the chords even if you don’t play the root and also just open up for more options when playing the chords in terms of passing chords etc.

In Example 4 I have one of the exercises from the How To Play Jazz lesson, the rootless version i shown in example 5

 

Putting it all together

Playing the more compact rootless voicings is a much more efficient way to play chords in an ensemble. The chords you play will sit much more in a register where they don’t interfere with the bass player and that also makes it much easier to get complicated rhythms to sound good.

You should try work on this both on tunes and once in a while take voicings through a scale or inversions and work with the rootless versions.

The place you could go if you want to continue from here would be to start working on Drop2 voicings: Drop2 playlist

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Look Mom No Root! Jazz Chord Survival Kit Part 2

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics or how I can make the lessons better 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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Drop2 – Tactics to Create Cutting-Edge Jazz Guitar Harmony

Drop2 voicings is probably one of the most important chord types that we use in jazz guitar. This video is going to demonstrate how you can embellish the melody you play with inner-voice movement and sometimes an extra layer of harmony. 

Exploring ideas like this are great for really understanding how the harmony moves and how each voice is moving. This will give you a great overview of the notes in the chord and also a lot of useful insight in what is possible with a chord voicing.

The Cadence

For this video I will demonstrate the ideas on a II V I in A minor. The basic A minor cadence would be:

Bm7(b5) E7(b9) Am6

Since we use melodic minor on tonic minor chords the A minor chord is an Am6.

The II and V chords are coming out of A harmonic minor.

The basic Drop2 voicings

To begin with it is probably useful to just go over the basic cadences on the top string set. This is shown in all inversions here below:

I have kept the voicings very basic but did opt for using a dim chord for the E7 to have the b9 in the chord.

Adding Extensions and alterations

One possible next step could be to add some more extensions to the chords. This can be done following the ideas that I went over in this lesson: https://jenslarsen.nl/jazz-chord-essentials-drop2-voicings-part-2/

To quickly demonstrate this you can look at the example below:

Here  the Bm7(b5) has an 11 which replaces the 3rd and the E7b9 has an b13 that replaces the 5th. The Am6 has an added 9 where the 9th(B) is replacing the root.

Inner-voices in a Minor Cadence

The first example has a half note top melody moving from A to C and finally B on the Am6(9).

The second highest voice is moving from D up to F on the E7(b9) and on the E7 it makes a small melodic movement with F, G and D. The is voice then resolves to E on the Am6.

On the Am6 the lowest voice travels from 6(F#) chromatically up to the Maj7(G#).

Melodic movement in more parts of the harmony.

In this second example the top note melody is moving on the Bm7(b5) and then the 2nd voice takes over on the E7. The E7 voicing on beat 3 has a #9 and also a #11 suspending the 3rd. The inner voice moves from A# to C and on the C the top note melody takes over and moves from F to G to resolve to the 5th(E) on Am.

On the Am the first voicing is an Am6(Maj7) and there is an inner voice melody travelling from G# to B on the final chord.

Counter Harmony – Counterpoint 2.0

The beginning of the 3rd example has the top note melody moving, similar to what was happening in the 2nd example. 

On the E7 the melody is a high C and under this I move all three voices adding a different layer of harmony. The first voicing is an E7(#9b13) and the idea is to move the #9 down to the b9 via the 9th. The way I do this is by adding B7 on the F# so that there’s a quick B7 passing chord under the sustained C note melody.

From there the E7 is resolved via a dim chord voicing to an Am6. On the Am6 the 2nd voice is moving from the 6th(F#) via the root to the Maj7(G#).

 

A practical way to learn this

The examples that I went over in this lesson are of course quite dense with innner-voice movement. I made them like this to demonstrate what is possible and to give you some ideas to make your own chord progressions.

When you want to work on this you should probably try either take one of the ideas I use (so one of the chords in the example) and then insert that into your playing. This will make it easier to work on getting used to thinking like this.

 

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Drop2 – Inner-voice movement and Melody – Minor II V I

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6 Triads for a Cmaj7 Chord (well 10 actually..)

Using triads to play jazz chords is a great way to get the sound of the chord and have a flexible three note voicing that you can change the extensions and melody on. This video is going over 6 triads that I use for my Cmaj7 voicings and will also demonstrate how you can use them in a II V I cadence in C major. At the end of the video I go over 4 more triads that are a bit tricky to use but also yield more interesting sounds!

Finding the triads

The most important note in a Cmaj7 voicing is probably the major 3rd: E.

If we want to find the triads that can be used it is probably a good idea to just look at what options are available with the diatonic triads that contain an E.

As you can see here below I have written out the triads where E is the 3rd, the root and the 5th. Which gives us C, Em and Am triads. But we can also use the sus4 triads. The second half of the example below are the sus4 triads where E is the root, 5th and 4th.

The Bsus4 is not really diatonic to C major, but is a great sound to use for a Cmaj7(#11) or Lydian sound.

The Tonic triads

The C major triad is of course a good candidate to convey a Cmaj7 sound. The example below shows how that might be used:

The C major is of course lacking a bit of color, but it can still be used. I chose to use it with the E in the melody because if it has  the root in the melody it immediately sounds like the ending of the song.

Em triads – Triad from the 3rd of the chord

A lot of very common Cmaj7 voicings are in fact just Em triads with a C bass note (as I demonstrate in the video) This of course means that yet again the structure from the 3rd of the chord is incredibly useful as a voicing for the chord.

The Am triad – C6 chords

When using the Am triad we don’t actually get a Cmaj7 sound but instead a C6 sound. As you probably already know, the two are interchangeable so this is also a useful triad to have in your vocabulary

Esus4 The super triad

A very rich Tonic sound is the Cmaj7(13) and this is what you get if you use an Esus4 triad to spell out the Cmaj7 as shown here below:

Asus4 The 6/9 upper structure

Using an Asus4 as a Cmaj7 voicing gives you an C6 chord with an added 9. This sound is very common in Bossa Nova and other Brazilian styles but is in general of course also a beautiful sound on a tonic chord and a great alternative to the more common Cmaj7 sounds.

Lydian with a Bsus4

The last sus4 triad is the Bsus4 which is in fact diatonic to G major not C major. Bsus4/C gives us a maj7, 3rd and b5 (or #11) which is a lydian sound.

Combining the triad sounds

Now that we have 6 different ways to play the Cmaj7 chord we can combine them to get a varying set of colors on the tonic chord.

This is shown in the example below where I am first resolving to Asus4 then Am and further on to Esus4. This small move on Cmaj could also be a riff for a song with a period of static Cmaj7.

The second example is starting with a very basic II V voicing set. From there it resolves to C using Asus4, then an inversion of Asus4 that moves up to a Bsus4 and on to Esus4 before it resolves to a Gsus4.

The Gsus4 is a great choice for a Cmaj7 but it is a little more context sensitive as it does not contain an E.

The secret triads

There are four more triads that I often use for voicing a Cmaj7, but these last ones are a litte more difficult to work with because they are more incomplete or very specific in the sound that they convey.

The four triads are shown here below:

The first three are difficult because they don’t contain an E, and the last one is tricky because it has the #5 of C in the voicing.

The beautiful incomplete voicing – Gsus4

In the example here below I am using the Gsus4 triad. The Gsus4 mostly works as a C voicing because the fact that is missing the E is somehow compensated by the C in the voicing.

G/C Upper-structure triads

This voicing is fairly open sounding and not too specific as a Cmaj7 sound. This comes from it only containing the upper part of the chord. One way that it still sounds great as a Cmaj7 voicing is to have it preceded by a G7alt, because the strong pull from the G7 will then automatically make it sound like a resolution.

The Lydian Upper-structure

Another example of only using an upper structure is the D major triad. This triad spells out the 9th, #11 and 13th over the chord. Since we are missing both 3rd and 7th it is not really giving us the sound of the chord, at the same time the Lydian sound is so  heavily represented that it is still fairly clear what is going on.

The Augemented Maj7 – E/C

In this last example the chord sound is actually altered, but since it is by now a very common sound I chose to include it anyway. The E major triad is in fact a Cmaj7#5 without a C, so it is in that respect a very clear sound. That said you should probably be a bit careful with what is going on in the music before you start using this sound.

How to use these 10 triads

This exercise is mostly and overview of what triads you have available as voicings but it should give you some idea on what you can try to use. 

You probably want to spend some time with each one that you want to get into your vocabulary and work on them one at a time to get used to how they work in different contexts.

This can ofcourse also be applied to solos, so maybe that is something to do a video on at some point.

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6 Triad Voicings for Cmaj7

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics or how I can make the lessons better 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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Vlog: Re-harmonizing Standards – Modern Jazz Progressions and Jazz Chord Sounds

A few days ago I uploaded a Chord Melody Reharmonization of Night and Day. In this video I will go over the arrangement and some of the more unusual jazz guitar chords that I have used. Re-harmonizing jazz standards is fun and also a great way to add a personal touch to your interpretation of the song.

In my reharmonization I am using some more rich versions of the original chords and also in other places completely changing the harmony, using new less functional jazz progressions and colors.

If you want to check out the Chord Melody you can do so here: