Tag Archives: jazz guitar chords

From Basic Jazz Chords To Beautiful Comping

You probably already know how beautiful Jazz chords can sound and how great Jazz players just seem to flow through the progression getting it to sound amazing.

But when you learn Jazz chords then you are stuck looking at chord progressions and trying to read diagrams, and it has very little to do with actually making music!

In this video, I am going to help you past that, starting with simple chords, and then show you how you can turn them into beautiful harmony with fills, rhythms, and interesting sounds. so you sound a lot better.

Level 1 – Basic Chords With Extensions

Let’s start with this set of chords for a II V I. You probably already know these:

Notice that I am playing chords with extensions, so there’s a 9th on the Dm7 which becomes a 13th on the G7. Extensions are a big part of the sound of Jazz chords, but there are some other things that you also need to get right so we need to change the chords a little!

Level 2 – Something To Work With: Rootless Voicings

As you saw in the intro then I am not playing the complete voicing all the time, and you want to learn to use voicings that leave out the root:

When you are playing Jazz chords on the guitar then there are two important reasons to not play the root:

  1. Get out of the way of the bass player so he or she is happy
  2. Free up a finger and can start to create great variations and fills

Playing the Dm7 voicing like this:

Means that you can figure out how to add or change notes and really just play something like this:

This is a very important part of learning Jazz chords, that you don’t get stuck with static grips, you want to see a voicing as something you can change, move the melody, add and leave out notes.

Also because that is a lot easier to remember than 1 million different chord grips.

Quick side note: As you will see, I am not using substitutions in this video because that is not nearly as powerful a tool or skill as the other things that I will cover, and it is much more important to learn to be creative with the chord progression that is already there.

Level 3 – Get The Rhythm Right

You already know that rhythm is one of the most important parts of Jazz, but when it comes to getting comping to sound good then something else is much more overlooked: The length of the chord!

What really makes the difference with the rhythms is how long you play notes, and so many rhythms sound so much better if you use short notes.

You want to use rhythms like these:

There are two things you want to learn to do:

#1 – Anticipation

Anticipating the 1: Try to get learn to play the chord on the 4& and anticipate the harmony in the next bar as I am doing on the G7.

Maybe:

You can do that by just playing through the progression and playing on the off beats an exercise like this:

#2 Length of the Chords

You also want to be aware of whether you are playing long or short notes in your comping. There is a big difference between

And:

Nothing is as important in Jazz as rhythm! Let me know if you agree in the comments, or if you think something else is more important, then tell me what that is!

Level 4 – Making It Into Music

Now you have the chords and you can play better rhythms with both long and short notes. The next thing you want to focus on is to not just play separate and isolated chords, but really turn the whole thing into music, and give it a flow.

Level 4 example

What you want to work on is trying to play the chords, but also have something in there that makes it sound like each bar is a part of a larger story, not just isolated things next to each other.

In this case, you can hear how the melody on the G7 is a variation of the motif on the Dm7 chord. Ant that is one way to connect them. I made a video on Patreon with examples of different ways to do this, maybe that is something I should also make a YT video about? Let me know in the comments.

Next, Let’s look at a secret weapon that you can use that sounds amazing and really levels up your comping in a very subtle way.

Level 5 – The Inside Job

This is a hidden gem when it comes to playing chords, but it is such a great thing to also add in there every now and again.

Here you can see how there are things happening inside the chords, so moving the inner-voices. Here it is going from Dm7 to G7 and also moving the 7th down to the 6th of Cmaj7.

The way you start exploring this is by finding melodies and ways to move voices on the chords:

On guitar, this is about being practical and finding the places where it is possible and still playable. In this example, you see inner-voice movement on the G7 and a variation on the Cmaj7.

But it does sound great and is worth exploring to add a bit more polyphony to the music.

 

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Jazz Beginner – 5 Myths That Waste Your Time

There are a lot of things that you need to learn as a beginner with jazz guitar, but sometimes you come across a myth that promises to be a magic solution for all your problems, and I think we should talk about a few of those because they can make you waste a lot of time and you end up working on wrong things while ignoring important skills.

In fact, a lot of these are about trying to avoid learning something that is actually very useful.

I Don’t Need To Learn Songs If I Can Hear Everything

One of the worst things to use instead of a rehearsal is this sentence: “don’t worry, you’ll hear it” And it was also this sentence that began what was probably one of the most stressful moments in my life.

I was subbing for my teacher in a band that was playing a jazz festival, it was a quartet with horn, guitar, bass, and drums. We didn’t rehearse, and just before starting Body and Soul, the band-leader told me that he wanted to do the verse in a duo with me before the theme. I told him that I didn’t know the verse so that would be a terrible idea, and his answer was “don’t worry, you’ll hear it”

What followed felt like the longest 2-3 hours of my life while I was completely clueless and trying to harmonize what he was playing in front of a hall full of people. Of course, In reality, It was probably less than a minute. There are times where you can get away with winging something like this, but with this melody, that is practically impossible. You can really hear the changes and modulations from just hearing that melody. Needless to say, I felt extremely bad messing this up in a band with people I did not know.

But, sometimes you don’t have a chance and not even the greatest ear would be able to tell what is going on. I took comfort in a story pianist Jim McNeely told us when he was a guest conductor in the conservatory big band. He was touring with Sonny Stitt and they had agreed that Stitt could not just begin songs without asking the band if they knew it, for obvious reasons. But one night Stitt just started a song, and McNeely didn’t know it, so he looked at the bass player, who also didn’t know it. And after playing for a while the only thing he knew was that the first chord was Eb and the last chord was Eb. This happens to everybody, and you can’t do everything by ear.

Sometimes I hear students saying:

“I want to practice ear training so that I can instantly hear all songs”.

I guess this seems easier, you just do ear training and play everything by ear.

Now, Don’t get me wrong here, you should train your ears as much as possible, but that comment is really just coming from ignorance or at least inexperience, because what is one of the best ways to train your ears? Learn a lot of songs by ear, and use the songs you know to teach you the songs you are learning, by ear. So really, combing this with theory is only going to help you even more. If you know that the song is in C major then you can probably hear that the chord before that C major is a G7. It helps to have an idea about what you might expect and also whether it sounds like what you expect.

And what will you do if you have to play a song that you don’t know and you have to play the chords? Imagine that with One Note Samba. If you don’t know it then the first 8 bars could be all tonic or a ton of other things.

Of course, sometimes you will have to do some songs by ear that you don’t know, not in the horror scenario that I described and it is useful to be able to do that, but it isn’t something you need to do very often, and your solos are a lot better if you already know that song, so that option is just always what you want to go for.

Theory Well Ruin Your Creativity

“Wes Montgomery didn’t know theory so why should I”

It is probably true that a lot of, especially early great artists, didn’t know a lot of theory, but that doesn’t mean that the best and most efficient way to learn to play Jazz is to not understand what is going on. In fact, a lot of things get a lot easier if you know a little theory.

Let me give you an example:

If you transcribe a great lick like this

Example 1a then that works great on a tonic chord, but if you can see the blocks that it contains then you can also make a G7 version of it

and you can even make a version with a dominant triad for a Gm7 like this:

I am sure you can see how that is useful, and this is just a single example of using very basic theory. The theory will help you learn and understand a lot of things a lot faster, and while it does not help you with everything then there is no real reason to avoid it.

I Want To REALLY Improvise, Not Play Licks Or Arpeggios

“I Want To REALLY Improvise, Not Play Licks Or Arpeggios Like Everybody Else!”

I come across comments like this at least once every week. Usually, the thought behind it is that You don’t want to sound like other people, so you won’t play or practice things that they play.

I sort of get the idea, but a few things to keep in mind here. First, how restricted are you by studying arpeggios?

You can get a D7 arpeggio to sound like this: Mozart Eine Kleine Nacht Musik

and you can also get it to sound like this:

So learning a D7 arpeggio is not really going to limit your style or how much you sound like you.

And secondly, the same goes for studying solos and licks, if you want to write a great book then it might be a good idea to read some books to figure out how. Just learning the alphabet is not going to cut it.

You Need To Know All Scales And Arpeggios To Play Jazz

“I Am Going To Spend Two Years Learning All The Scales And All The Arpeggios And THEN I Am Going To Learn To Play Jazz”

This is another comment that I see quite often, some even go even further and say that you first need to learn music theory and voice-leading before you even try to play Jazz.

Again there is nothing wrong with learning scales, arpeggios, harmony, and theory. It is useful for playing Jazz, but it is not where it starts, they are just skills and not really the music.

When I sat down to learn solos by ear or struggled for weeks to learn the first few standards then I was not first learning to play all diatonic arpeggios of melodic minor in all keys. That came a lot later. And the same goes for all the students I have ever taught, there is no reason to first spend years learning abstract exercises before you start playing music. It is like suggesting that you need a PH.D in grammar before you try to write a story.

I Just Need To Play What I Hear

“If I Just Learn To Play What I Hear, Then I Can Play Great Solos And I Don’t Need To Practice Licks Or Check Out Solos”

While you do want to learn to hear Jazz melodies that you can play, and you want to work on having a connection from your ear to your instrument, then don’t think that this skill is a shortcut that means that you don’t need to learn to actually hear those melodies. That is a part of it as well and it takes some work to get them in there. Usually, statements like this are because you probably don’t know what it means to hear something and then play it.

Hal Galper talks about it in one of his masterclasses:

And you need to teach yourself to hear the things you play.

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How To Explore Jazz Chords – A Better Approach

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

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

Inversions And What You Might Be Missing

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

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

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

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

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

Finding The Music in the Chords

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

How To Remember All The Chord Shapes

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

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

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

Let me show you what I mean.

Voice over example 6

If you look at the Dm7 voicing I am using:

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

Example 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

Practicing and Exploring Towards Making Music

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

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

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

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

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

If you look at the first voicing in this example:

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

3rd – 7th – root – 5th

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

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

Give Your Comping A Melody

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Jazz Chords – A Simple But Amazing Solution You Want To Know

One of the great things about Jazz Chords is that if you learn even just a few basic jazz chords then you can open them up and add things to them in ways that sound really great. This video will show you two simple but important chord exercises and some of the ways that you can turn that into beautiful sounding chords, and I am going to use some real songs to demonstrate it because you need those as well.

Diatonic Chords and Shell-Voicings

I am going to build this on Shell-voicings which is a very solid set of chords to learn because you can turn them into a lot of other things along the way, which you will also see in this video.

Instead of just practicing chords separately then it makes a lot more sense to practice them together in the groups where you need them, for example as all the diatonic chords of a scale.

Here are the diatonic shell voicings of C major with the root on the 5th string:

Diatonic C major Shells

And you want to know the shell-voicings for the 6th string as well, and for F major that gives you these chords:

Diatonic F major Shells

Practicing stuff like this in all keys will teach you a lot about the keys and help you develop your fretboard knowledge.

Basic chords and a little beyond

Already with these chords, you can play most songs, so let’s try that on the standard Ladybird. This will also show you some of the rhythms that are, of course, also important to comping Jazz. I’ll start with the basic chords and then change things up by adding more melody notes in the 2nd half.

Ladybird Chorus

So as you can tell the rhythms are what holds this together, and I am adding a little extra by using different top notes over the chords, just grabbing what is easy to play and then make melodies with it.

so for Cmaj7 you have this shell voicing and then you can add the 5th, G, as a melody note or the 13th or 6th , the A

Walking Bass on the Blues

Instead of changing the rhythms and the melodies you can also focus on bass lines, and with the shell-voicings that are only 3 notes, you can easily get into adding a complete walking bass under the chords which is a great sound on guitar:

Walking Bass Chorus

You might not think about it, but this sounds a lot better on a guitar than on a piano and later in the video, I will cover another thing is a lot easier on guitar.

Two Layers = More Rhythm

I love the sound of chords and walking bass, and it is great for comping in a duo setting. because you are laying down a complete groove, But sometimes it is also nice to not have to play a steady stream of quarter notes. Luckily Shell voicings are naturally split in two so that you have a root and a chord, and you can use these two layers to improvise with, similar to how a Jazz drummer improvises with snare and bass drum.

Example All Of Me

Samba and Bossanova

Another great way to use the 2-layer nature of the shell-voicings is to play Sambas and Bossanova’s. An example of this could be Blue Bossa that you can play as a samba like this:

Example Blue Bossa

If you want to check out some more bossa nova and samba patterns then I have a video on that which you can check out here: Bossa Nova Guitar Patterns – 5 Levels You Need To Know

Easy on Guitar – Annoying on Piano

When it comes to chords then most things are easier on piano than on guitar, and you can also get away with playing a lot more notes if you want to, but there is one thing that is really practical about guitar chords: We can shift them up and down in half-steps really easily, and that is an amazing sound for playing jazz chords.

You can put that to use on a song like “There is no greater Love” like this:

Example #5 There is no greater love

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What Really Makes It Sound Like Jazz?

You already know that just playing the pentatonic scale doesn’t really make it sound like a great blues lick. There are other important things like bends and vibrato that make it sound great.

Of course, this is true for Jazz as well: It is not enough to just run up and down the arpeggio to make it sound like a great Jazz line. You want to play things that sound like this:

In this lesson, I am going to show you some of the techniques you can use to add some jazz phrasing or flavor to your playing, and you don’t need a million scales and arpeggios for this, and this is more important and much more effective

It is Not a Rule Book, It Is A Sound

I am going to use Blues as a reference in this video because most people already have some experience with that and a clear idea about when something sounds like blues or not.

I don’t know if you ever thought about it, but you probably did not learn to play or recognize Blues by reading a list of rules, at least I certainly did not read a Blues rule book.

You just heard it so much that you can recognize the general sound. I think it is important to keep that in mind, and in this video, I am going to give you some examples and then in those examples point out what gives it a Jazz sound.

That way you learn to recognize it and also have a way of using it in your own playing.

Sliding Into It

Here I am making the line work by sliding into the B and then continuing down an Am7(9) arpeggio. This way of changing how some of the notes sound really makes the line a lot more interesting.

And you can use this with any type of material, it also sounds right if you are just sliding into notes in the pentatonic scale:

One of the things you really want to avoid is that all the notes sound the same, this is just one trick, let’s look at some more that you can add to your playing.

 

Fast and Easy Embellishment

One problem that you can run into as a beginner jazz guitarist is that you play long winding 8th note lines, and they have all the right notes and arpeggios, but it still doesn’t really work.

But one of the things that can make a line like this a lot more interesting is to add some embellishments like this:

And you can practice playing these small legato embellishments and insert them into your playing. Some common ones to know would be these:

Notice how they are all small clusters of fast notes targeting a chord tone in Am

You already heard how the first two sound. The last one could be put to use on an Am7 like this:

Here I am targeting the 5th of the chord using a variation of the last embellishment in example 7

Changing The Rhythm

Of course, there are many other ways you can change the rhythm besides embellishments, but one that I think deserves a mention here is 8th note triplets, and especially playing arpeggios as 8th note triplets. This is pure Bebop or instant Bebop, and a great way to make an 8th note line more varied.

Here I am using it on the Am7 arpeggio. You can also use it on descending arpeggios as I did in the beginning of the video or like this:

I have a few other videos where I talk about practicing arpeggios and I am not going to go over it in too much detail here, you can check those out through the link in the description. Let’s look at maybe the most important part of how you get a line to sound like Jazz: Dynamics

The Notes Are Not The Same

Not every note is the same, and they should also not be played the same. I have mentioned before how Bop lines are all about the rhythms that are hidden in the accents and also how that is a big part of why Jazz is rarely played with overdrive or distortion because we want to have the ability to make the notes have very different dynamics.

What this is really about is making lines where you can add accents in the right places. Something where we, frustratingly enough, don’t have a rule book.

But!

You should work on adding accents to your lines and also work on writing lines that allow for interesting accents.

A lick that doesn’t really work would be this:

But if you try to create melodies where the high notes are on off beats then you can end up with something a lot more interesting like this:

Here the melody has a high note on 3& in the first bar and on 2& in the second bar that I can give an accent, and this makes it a lot less heavy and much more groovy.

Starting to hear the phrases as these flowing notes with some notes popping out is a huge part of Jazz phrasing and if you start to get that into your system then you can make almost anything sound like Jazz.

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Beautiful Jazz Chords That Make You Less Boring

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

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

Make Chords Your Own

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

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

On the Am7 we have the 11 instead of the 5

On the D7, #9 instead of b9

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

Why You Use 3-Note Jazz Chords

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

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

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

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

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

Color is more important than Rules!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It Is Fantastic Not To Be Tuned In 4ths

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

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Make Your Minor Chord Progressions More Interesting

The minor key has a lot of interesting options, and also quite a few that you don’t have in Major. This video goes over some of the beautiful progressions that you can create in minor when reharmonizing a basic II V I, and you can go pretty far.

This video will give you a lot of examples and concepts to add to your repertoire!

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Content:

00:00 Intro

00:47 The Tritone substitute That We All Know

02:07 Minor Ladybird Turnaround

02:50 Making it all II Vs like Wes

03:48 Making it all II Vs But Then A Little Weird

04:17 The Amazing Amount Of Diatonic Chords In Minor

05:27 The Most Beautiful Altered Dominant Is A Minor Chord

06:20 Pretending To Be Go To Another Degree0

06:59 The Neapolitan Subdominant

07:53 A Little Like Coltrane But In Minor

09:37 Another Great Sounding Substitution for the V

09:46 Why You Want To Think in Functional Harmony

09:54 Like the video? Check out my Patreon page

 

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

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

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

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

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Content:

00:00 Intro

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

01:18 Maj7 & Maj6 chords

01:59 Samba comping with Shell-voicings

02:24 Level 2 – Shell with extension & Drop3

03:25 Comping with The Bigger Chords

03:43 Level 3 – Triads & Rootless Jazz Chords

05:17 Jazz Standard with Triad Voicings

05:36 Level 4 – Drop2 and Inversions

07:24 Level 5 -Inverting Shells with extensions

08:36 Adding more colors to a Standard

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

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

 

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Easy Way To Make Your Jazz Chords Sound More Interesting

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

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

A Basic G7 Voicing

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

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

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

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

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

Chromatic Passing Chords on a II V I

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

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

Another Great Trick With Chromatic Chords

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

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

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

Exploring More Melodies And Options

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

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

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

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

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

Putting this to use on a Jazz Standard

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

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5 Jazz Chords You Need To Use More

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

Those voicings are what this video is about!

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

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

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

Upper-structure Triads

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

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

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

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

Any Easy Way To Be Creative With These Chords

Arpeggiating chords

Turning it into a Maj7 chord

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

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

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

#2 – Close-voiced Maj7(9,13)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#4 – The Magic Chord – The Maj(b5)

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

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

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

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

#5 – Dom7th(#5)

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

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

 

 

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