Tag Archives: jazz guitar chords

Chord Fills and a Great Pentatonic Trick on the Guitar

If you want to really open up the way you play chords and be a lot more free with how you comp or make fills in a chord melody arrangement, then you have to start working on different ways to make harmonized melodies that you can fit into a chord progression.

In this lesson, I am going to show you how I make chord runs or chord fills like I was using in the intro and break down a few examples.

One thing that is really useful for this is a way to use the pentatonic scale as chords and in that way make some really great sounding fills.

Let’s first take a look at a few examples and then talk about developing the pentatonic ideas later in the lesson.

3 Chord Runs Mixing Scales and Chord Voicings

The above example has a different run for each chord. Let’s have a look at how they are constructed.

Mixing Am pentatonic and Dm7

The Dm7 run below is the most complicated of the 3. Here I am harmonizing a melody that is from the Am pentatonic scale. The Am pentatonic scale is a “neutral” sound over a Dm7. All notes sound good but the scale lacks a little color because there is no F.

In the run, I start with a Dm triad and I also end with a Dm7(9) or Fmaj voicing. These two ensure that the sound of the chord is clear. In between, I am using C major and Am voicings. They sound neutral but are not too clear.

Harmonized G altered scale

The G altered run is mixing voicings and the scale. You can see how the 3 voicings shown in diagrams below work as a way of harmonizing the melody on each string. The red note marks where the melody is moving to in the line.

The entire voicing in the scale is shown in the lowest diagram, with the voicing in Blue.

Em pentatonic scale as a Jazz Chords for Cmaj7

In the example above I am generating voicings by stacking notes in the Em pentatonic scale. Since the entire Em pentatonic scale works as a Cmaj7 sound then this produces some great sounding voicings and I can move around and have a scale to play melodies with,

In this case, it is an ascending melody harmonizing every other note.

Two-layer Chord Runs

This example is using quarter note triplets to create a floating effect over the meter. It is also separating the melody from the chords to give the run a call response or solo-comp character.

On the Dm7 the technique used is similar to what I did on Cmaj7 in the previous example. The only difference is that here the chord is split into two so that the highest note in the chord is played separately.

Dm Pentatonic Run

Turning this into an exercise down the neck would give you this run:

The Cmaj7 bar is using the exact same thing but with an Em pentatonic scale instead of a Dm pentatonic.

G7 altered Exercise

You can also turn the G7 altered lick into a longer exercise moving in the scale. SInce the G altered scale is a 7 note scale I had to adapt the melody a little to get it to work.

A way to practice for more flexibility

The exercise below is using the Em pentatonic scale. This is really just a way to practice playing several pentatonic voicings but builds your ability to make melodies and create variations.

Using Pentatonic Positions

The pentatonic chords that I have used until now were all along the neck. This is a great way to work with voicings, but the open sound of the chords you get makes it possible to also do this in position.

These 3 exercises help you explore that:

Pentatonics and Arpeggios on a Jazz Standard

If you want to explore how you can get some great solo lines mixing pentatonics and arpeggios on Lady Bird then check out this lesson, or get it at a reduced price as a part of the Easy Standards Bundle:

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Chord Solo – How To Make Melodies and find chords

How Do you play chord solos? It is something we hear people do all the time on our favorite records by Wes, Joe Pass or George Benson. But it does seem really complicated to do.

In this video, I am going to give you an example of an Easy Chord solo and then I am going to talk about how you can practice making your own solos. Another thing that you don’t want to miss is how working on this type of playing is something that can really boost your single-note solos.

  • Easy Chord Solo on Lady Bird
  • Exercises to Practice the chords in a melodic way
  • Some ideas on how to come up with melodies with them

The Chord Solo Transcription

First let’s check out the chord solo:

An important part of any solo is to play strong melodic ideas. If you listen to or play the chord solo you can hear several strong concepts being used in it.

Exercises for Chord Solos and Melody

When you improvise with chords then you can’t think about the voicings you play. You need to practice playing melodies and have the voicings ready. The way you learn to play melodies is by practicing doing that, but also by working on harmonized scales.

If you want to play this :

When you make exercises like this then keep in mind that you should use the voicings that fit for you. There are a lot of options available. A few alternative solutions are shown below:

Harmonizing a scale with Fm7 and Bb7 chords

To give you some more insight into the process here are the harmonizations of the Eb major scale using the Fm7 and Bb7 chords.

The Fm7 is pretty similar to the Cmaj7 example:

Above the Fm13 is a little tricky, but in this case, it is possible to harmonize that with an Fm chord.

On the Bb7 I am harmonizing the chords with the melody notes on the B string.

I do this with 3 note voicings because that makes it easier to combine these with 4-note voicings and make melodies that move across two strings.

A few thoughts on Melodic Structure

The solo is played thinking mostly of the melody I play. That is the best way to approach this way of playing in my experience.

If you listen to the first two bars you can hear a motif that is repeated and developed in bars 3 and 4.

The original motif is repeated in bars 5 and 6 and given a conclusion in bars 6 and 7.

Notice how the melodies are simple and step-wise. They also rely much more on rhythm than complex interval movements etc. This is, of course, a practical thing, but also an important part of why you want to play melodies like this and what you want to aim for.

Listen to Wes Montgomery for this type of melodic approach. Both with chords and single-note lines.

Repetition is also an important way to generate melodies. The Abmaj7 melody below demonstrates that quite clearly.

Learn more about Block Chards and Solos

Best Exercise for Chord Solos

Block Harmony and Block Chords

Take the solos up a level

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Jazz Chords – Here Is Why You Want To Make Inversions

We mostly think about jazz chord inversions when it comes to types of chords like Drop2 and triads, but there is a lot more to discover when it comes to using inversion to create beautiful jazz chords.

In this lesson, I am going to start with a Dm7(9) voicing that you are probably already familiar with and then use that and a little voice-leading to create some great voicings and make inversions of entire chord progressions.

Later in the lesson, I will also show you a few great “guitaristic” tricks that are easy to play but sound incredible.

A great Dm7(9) voicing

You probably know this great Dm7(9) voicing and maybe you also use the rootless version.

But from this rootless 3-note chord you can make beautiful voicings like this with inversions:

Putting inversions to use on a progression, not just a chord

If I took the first one and played a II V I in C then that could be this: II V I in C

Since it is only 3 notes you can easily look at how the voices move: F, F, E,   E, Eb, D and C, B, B
Working through a few progressions like this is incredible for your fretboard knowledge and understanding of chords and voice-leading, even if you don’t use these voicings that in itself is a great exercise.

If you do this in the other postions you get this:

Inversions of Shell-voicings

If you try the same with a Shell-voicing like for example Cmaj7. Below is first the shell-voicing and then the two inversions.

Creating and inverting a II V I for the shell-voicing

Now we can construct a II V I with the shell-voicing and make inversions of these chord sets.

First the basic II V I:

And the inversions we can create from this set of chords:

A great trick with Shell-Voicings

A great way to create some moving voices when you use shell voicings is to move the outer voices in opposite directions.

In this case, that means moving the C, on the D string, up to a D and the B, on the B string, down to an A.

This is a pretty easy thing to play that also sounds great. The basic idea is shown below:

This works great with a lot of voicings. You could use that like this:

Or make a simpler variation like this one:


Another thing that these voicings can do really well is inner-voice movement that could be something like this.


And it also works in this place:

In the last one, it would be the melody which also sounds really good.

If you want to check out some more ideas then check out this video and learn some beautiful chord voicings and inner-voice ideas with 15 rootless II V I voicings.

How to use Great Flexible 3-note Jazz Voicings

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If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics then please let me know. Leave a comment on the video or send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make them fit what you are searching for.

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The Magic Chord – 10 ways to Use this Amazing Jazz Chord

The Magic Chord is a great name for this Maj7(b5) voicing. This is because it can work for a lot of different jazz chords sounds and sounds really great as a lot of useful chords. The Magic Chord can be seen as an advanced chord concept, but really is a very practical way of playing a lot of chords.

In this video, I am going over 10 examples of how you can use this voicing as dominants, tonic minor, half-diminished, Phrygian chords and altered dominants. It really hits some great extensions and chord sounds in harmony from both Major and Melodic minor scales.

Content:

0:00 The Magic Chord (just ask Herbie Hancock)

0:43 II V I in C major

1:17 II V I in D minor

1:52 Phrygian Chord to Tonic – C Major

2:26 II V I in D major

2:58 IIø Valt I in A major

3:31 II bVII I in C major

4:02 II Valt I in Bb major

4:37 II bII I in C major

5:09 II V I in Eb major

5:42 II bVII I in G Major

6:15 Like The Video? Check out my Patreon Page!

How To Learn Jazz Guitar – Suggestions To Begin Studying

This is a question I get very often. And that is in no way strange. Starting to learn Jazz guitar is the beginning of a long journey with a lot of interesting stops along the way.

In this video and post, I will try to give you some places where you can look for the things you feel you need to check out and of course also what you think is interesting.

Learning Jazz, or any other style of music is not a set path the fits everybody. We all take different routes and need to work on different things longer or shorter. That is also the reason that there is no set way to go through this and why I am calling it suggestions. You need to figure out for yourself where to go next. If I have a student learning Jazz it is common that I take a few lessons to figure out what to work on and how to work on it, so expect that when you start working as well.

That said, I will try to make this a little less complicated and stop the information overload a little because I don’t think that is really necessary.

To keep it a bit short I am going to focus on three main topics:

  • Technique and Scales
  • Chords
  • Improvisation and Songs

Technique and Scales

Keep it simple. Start with the Major scale. Don’t overdo technique practice.

Start with one position and one key. You can add positions and keys along the way, with basic exercises.

Start with these exercises:

  1. The Scale
  2. The Scale in 3rds
  3. The Diatonic 7th chords (Maybe Triads first, but many don’t have to)

For more information on what to do work on and how to use it:

The Most Important Scale Exercise In Jazz – Basic Scale exercise and Scale in Diatonic 7th arpeggios

Practice Major Scales like this and You will get more out of it! – More thoughts on scale practice.

How to practice your scales and why – Positions – A bit of a deeper look into options with scale practice and suggestions for exercises

Jazz Chords – A solid set and learn some songs

It is practical to learn some jazz chords so that you can play chords on songs. As jazz guitarists, we spend more time comping than soloing. It is also a huge help to be able to hear the harmony that you are soloing over.

I have a study guide for Jazz Chords where the first two or three lessons will give you more than enough. How to Learn to Play Jazz Chords – Study Guide

Especially I would start with a set of diatonic chords for the major scale which is exercise one or two of this lesson: How to play Jazz Chords on Guitar

From that material you can gradually expand chord vocabulary, learn songs and progress into rootless voicings and more complex comping and harmonization ideas.

Improvisation and Songs

This is the most important part of how to learn jazz guitar because this is where we talk about playing music. So it is about using the material that is practiced in the scales.

If you want to play jazz you need to spend time playing the songs and improvising and you should start doing this from the very beginning. Even if you can’t really play solos that sounds like jazz, just by trying you are building repertoire and skills to use later.

A few things about improvising over changes:

How To Solo Over Chord Changes The Right Way

A practical example of improvising with arpeggios:

How to start soloing over a II V I with arpeggios

For more examples of songs, easy chord melody arrangements and similar then you should browse through this playlist of easy YouTube lessons:
How To Begin Jazz Guitar – Easy lessons to gain an overview

If you start making your own Jazz Licks and develop your improvisation by working on coming up with your own lines then maybe check out this lesson:

How to write Jazz Licks – What You Want to Know

Jazz Standards to start with and how to learn them

When it comes to which songs to start with then I would suggest you start with one of these 10 songs:

The First 10 Jazz Standards You Need To Know

And some of the exercises and things to focus on when learning them are covered here:

Learning Jazz Standards – Important Exercises

Next level for Jazz Guitar

Maybe you already feel comfortable with the things I covered here, and you are looking for more challenges and explore the music further. Of course, you can browse the YouTube channel and my Website.

Another option is to join the 3000+ members of the Jazz Guitar Insiders Facebook group and ask there, get inspired by the posts and comments of others:

Jazz Guitar Insiders

Or join me on Patreon where you can support and help shape the content on the channel in the future. Patreon is really what has made all these lessons and the channel possible.
Check it out here: Jens Larsen YouTube Lessons on Patreon

Rootless Jazz Chords – 15 Beautiful Examples You Need To Know

If you want to play really interesting comping then you need to work with rootless jazz guitar chords so that you have the freedom to play more interesting and interactive things behind a soloist.

A good starting point to explore some useful II V I voicings. Focus on connecting the chords with some great melodies, rhythms, and inner-voice movement.

Traditional and more modern sounds working with some reharmonizations of the II V I as well.

Content:

0:00 Intro

0:23 Why You Use Rootless voicings

00:45 The Basic Position and II V I chord set

—- 3-note chords —-

0:54 #1 – A Strong Top-not melody is essential. You can always move from 7 to 6 on the I chord.

1:25 #2 – Let the Melody carry and drive the progression

1:53 #3 – You can have chromatic passing notes in the inner-voices as well. 6 to 5 on the I chord is another cool inner-voice

2:27 #4 – Incomplete altered dominant chords often work well (because the altered notes are clear enough)

2:58 #5 – busy chromatic melody  (but it is possible)

—- 4-note chords —-

3:27 #6 – You can also repeat a melody note

3:53 #7 – Make more layers by splitting the chord

4:20 #8 – A little more rhythm and a So-What voicing for the II Chord

4:49 #9 – Rich sounding 13b9 and Maj7(13) chords!

5:16 #10 – A little more rhythm and counter-movement on the II chord

—- Changing the Chord Sounds —-

5:45 #11 – Line cliche with Dm, DmMaj7, Dm7

6:17 #12 – C# dim chord to lead to G7

6:46 #13 – Ab7 to lead to G

7:15 #14 – Building the chord with the melody

7:42 #15 – Quartal Voicins and Clusters

8:09 Check out the 15 minor II V I video!

8:16 Like the Video? Check out My Patreon Page!

Check out how to use Rootless chords on Autumn Leaves

How To Embellish Jazz Chords With Beautiful Chromaticism

A great way to add some surprising sounds to your Jazz Chords and comping is to add chromatic passing notes in the different voices but also as complete chromatic chords.

Using Chromatic passing notes is a part of jazz and we all know how the greats like Charlie Parker and George Benson use chromaticism in their solos. But you can also use this in your comping in several different ways to get some great sounds.

In this video I am going to go over some example of how you can add chromatic passages to your chords in a few different ways: in the melody, as inner-voice movement, and as complete chromatic passing chords.

When you start using chromatic notes in the melody and in voice-leading then sometimes you are going to come across chords that may seem out really of place but make perfect sense in the context. This is where we can let the melody over-rule all the rules we know about chords.

Expand your voicing Vocabulary

If you want to check out some more voicings that you can use and add these types of voice-leading and chromatic ideas then check out this video where I go over 9 types of very useful voicings that are common in Jazz.

Jazz Chord Voicings – The 9 Different types you should know

Content:

0:00 Intro – Chromaticisim in Chords

0:34 Passing Notes, Inner-voices, and Chromatic Chords

0:43 Melody is more important than Harmony!

1:08 #1 Top Note-Melody

2:06 Example 1 Slow  

2:14 #2 Inner-voices Polyphonic Chromatic Ideas

2:58 Common ideas on a Maj7

3:18 Example 2 Slow

3:28 #3 In-complete chords and Line-Clichés

4:05 Example 3 Slow

4:12 #4 Close voicings with chromatic passing notes

4:51 Example 4 Slow

4:59 #5 Chromatic Passing Chords

5:44 Example #5 Slow

5:51 #6 A Tritone Dominant as a Chromatic Chord

7:22 Example #6 Slow

7:33 Like The Video? Check out my Patreon Page

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If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics then please let me know. Leave a comment on the video or send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make them fit what you are searching for.

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15 Minor II V I – Beautiful Jazz Chords You Need To Know

Having good Jazz Chords for a minor II V I can be difficult. This progression is much more complicated than it’s Major counterpart. At the same time, it is a really beautiful progression. Especially because of the rich tonic minor chords and altered dominants.

15 Jazz Chord Sets

In this video, I am going to go over 15 sets of jazz chords for a minor II V I in D minor. They will give you some solid ideas with extensions, the melodies and also some inner-voice movement.

What makes this progression difficult is probably in part the IIø chord that is a little hard to get used to and also the mix of harmonic minor and melodic minor used on the V and the I chord. Very rich colors but also a bit hard to handle.

I am of course very curious about what you think about the video format, so if you have ideas for other topics that would work in a video like this then let me know!

Content:

0:00 Intro -15 Minor II V I chord sets

0:30 Do you have suggestions for another topic?

0:42 #1 – Upper-structures for Eø

1:01 #2 – Cluster-like Altered Dominant and Rich Tonic Minor 

1:31 #3 – Inner-voice movement in Melodic Minor

1:56 #4 – Expanding Melody

2:20 #5 – ø11 Cluster-like voicings – maj6 and maj7 on a I chord

2:44 #6 – Melodic Skips in the Top-note melody

3:08 #7 – Maj7(b5) voicings and Altered Voicings for the Tonic Chord

3:32 #8 – The Minor 3rd Trick and the Maj7(#5) voicing

3:54 #9 – Diminished Voicings for Dominants

4:18 #10 – Melodic Pedal Point

4:42 #11 – Arpeggiating is a forgotten art!

5:06 #12 – Counter-movement in the lower voices

5:31 #13 – b5 Upper-structure triad on the V

5:56 #14 – Tune Up in Minor

6:21 #15 – Tritone voicings and a great way to resolve them

6:45 Like the video? Check out my Patreon Page!

More lessons like this

If you want to check out similar lessons then maybe one of these are useful:

25 Jazz Guitar Exercises – How To Improve Skills In A Musical Way

10 Arpeggios over a Maj7 chord

10 arpeggios over a m7 chord

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If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics then please let me know. Leave a comment on the video or send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make them fit what you are searching for.

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Jazz Chords – The 3 Levels You Need To Know

In this video I am to cover some different types of Jazz Chords and talk about the order you should learn them. I’ll show you the basic idea with the chords and how you can use this order to gradually build a chord vocabulary that you can also make music with.

I don’t focus on the types of voicings, like drop2 drop3, etc. because they are just names, it is more important to chords you can play music with.

Level 1 – A Set For Playing Music and Songs

To play songs and easily find the chords we need one set with the root on the 5th and one set with the root on the 6th string. This is shown in the example here below:

If you are used to finding chords in other genres this is probably how you think about it.
These chords are basic chord sounds, not too many extensions. 

  • They are Easy to play.
  • Similar to the bar chords you already know
  • Include the root – full picture of the harmony
  • A Complete set of chords

Why start with these:

  • You can play the song alone and hear the harmony. 
  • Works well in a duo
  • Easy to add extensions and develop
  • Easy to turn into very flexible rootless voicings

Level 2 – Rootless voicings for Bands and Flexibility

Now you can play the chords and to get some more options then the best place to go is to just take the chords from Level 1 and then remove the lowest note: The Root.
The essential exercise is this:

We can now start making the chords more flexible and add melody by changing the top note and even adding an extra higher note as shown below in example 3 for a C7.

Why:

  • Works better in a band
  • Is much more flexible
  • You can play melodic ideas with the chords

Level 3 – Inversions and more melodic options

Now we can start working on inversions, and a good place to start is to take these voicings that we come across while adding notes to the 3-note chords.

The idea of a chord inversion is really just to find the same notes in another order on the neck. The chords we have are called drop2 voicings, and I go over how to make the inversions in the Drop2 lessons in this guide: How To Learn Jazz Chords

If I take the four basic chords and play those inversions then I have this:

How To Learn Using These Chords

Whenever you practice something like this it is very important that you also practice using it in songs. Learning a lot of stuff that you don’t use in music is usually a waste of time and you just forget it again.

Check out some more in ideas with Drop 2 voicings

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Block Chords – The Ultimate Jazz Guitar Challenge

In this lesson, I am showing you how to use Block Chords on the guitar by breaking down an arrangement of the melody to Solar.

Playing Block Chords is quite demanding on guitar but at the same time Chord Solos, and Block Chord Harmony is a big part of the Jazz Guitar Tradition. There are countless great Block chord solos by Wes Montgomery, George Benson, and Joe Pass. It is in some ways the highest level of putting chords to a melody.

I made The Chord Melody arrangement using some of the core principles in harmonizing melodies with block chords. This also links a bit to the Barry Harris 6th diminished scale system, though that system has a lot of other aspects as well.

Harmonizing the melody – Simple Rules

It is really quite simple:

The core principle that I am using for this harmonizing is that I am splitting the melody up in notes that are chord tones and notes that are leading notes.

You harmonize The Chord tones with voicings that are for the chord itself. The leading or passing notes you can harmonize with a chord that can resolve to the chord itself.

Block Chords for the first line

For the first chord The melody notes are C, B, D and G.

You can harmonize C and G with Cm6 voicings. B and D are harmonized with G7 or in this case rootless G7(b9) chords, also known as B dim chords.

The final note in the 2nd Cm bar is an A leading up to Gm7. I harmonized that as a leading note to a Gm7 chord using F#dim.

The Gm7 and C7 melodies are harmonized in the same way. Alternating between Gm7 and F#dim voicings. The first note on C7 is played as a C7sus4, which is really a Gm7/C. This is because that works really well with having a preceding F#dim voicing. Later in the bar, I resolve the sus4 to C7(b9).

Making Exercises for the different chords

You can create exercises for each chord alternating the chord with a diminished chord belonging to the dominant of the chord. I wrote This out here below for Cm6:

You can also check out some of the similar exercise I use in this lesson:

Best exercise for jazz guitar chord solos!

Taking the Passing note strategy a little further

I am using the same approach to harmonize the Fmaj7 line. Here the melody notes are A, G#(or Ab), Bb and C.

The A and C I harmonize with Fmaj7 voicings. For the low C, I am using an Am triad because a four-note Drop2 is a bit heavy.

The Bb is again the dim chord associated with C7(b9: E dim. The Ab is harmonized with a C7alt voicing. The Ab is a chromatic leading note and there are many ways that you can harmonize it, but in this case I find that the C7alt sounds better than for example an Emaj7.

The Fm7 Bb7 bars are harmonized exactly like the Gm7 C7 so I am not going to break that down.

Faster melodies and other strategies

For the last four bars of the melody I am using another more practical strategy.

When the melody starts moving in 8th notes it becomes very difficult to change chord for each note. This is not impossible, but not easy and also tends to sound a little too busy.

Instead I am using a static chord and move the melody on top of that.

In this case, the entire chord is 3 notes, so the static part is just two notes. If you listen to Bill Evans you will hear him do this quite often as well. On Piano that is playing a melody with the right hand and a chord in the left hand. His recording of Beautiful Love has a long section of the solo like this.

For the Ebmaj the underlying chord is the 5th and 3rd of the chord. That is also what I use on the Dø. The Ebm7 Ab7 bar has the 7th and 3rd as the static part of the chord.

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Up Your Chord Melody with some solo improvisation skills!

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