Tag Archives: jazz guitar chords

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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Chord Solos – You Can Make It Easy Like This

Playing a chord solo seems if not impossible then very difficult but, actually, there are quite a few things you can do to make it a lot easier and still sound great. In this video, I am going to cover 5 hacks that will help you get started and add chord solos to your jazz guitar playing and once you get started it is going to be a lot easier to expand it.

The Chord Solo Licks That Scare You

Usually when we think about a chord solo then the phrases are like this:

And that is difficult and moving around the entire guitar with a ton of voicings for each chord.

But most of the time the phrases are not that complicated and you can really do a lot with some fairly simple things.

That is what I want to show you in this video!

#1 Keep it simple – Part 1

You can play great harmonized melodies with a lot less than this. First, let’s make it super simple and then I’ll expand it a little bit and then you can already do a lot.

Here are 3 voicings:

And just using these 3 chords and changing the melody you can make a lick like this:

Here I am just using the basic voicings from example 2 and then changing the melody and adding some rhythm.

Since we play fewer notes and simpler melodies with chord solos then rhythm becomes much more important, but that is great for developing the rhythm in your single-note solos as well, everybody wins.

Let’s take this up a level by playing fewer notes and then start to add some other cool tricks!

#2 Keep it simple – Part 2 – A little less simple

You have a few melody notes for each chord, but can also turn them into 3-note voicings that still work:

Film with arrows from one diagram to the next? Split-screen (film playing chords with lots of space

And then you have some more options for top note melodies and can play something like this:

Now you can start with a single position and improvise some chord solo lines, the next thing to do is to make it a bit more flashy and add some more movement.

#3 Arpeggio to Targets In Chord Solos

Playing arpeggios as block chords in a chord solo is tricky, you need a lot of voicings, and it is heavy to play.

Cut in: We also often like to play arpeggios fast which don’t help. (shot after #5)

(extra b-roll arpeggio playing is recorded) – The last two are good

But a clever way, that I stole from piano players, is that you can also choose to play the arpeggio and just harmonize the target note.

That sounds like this

Shot twice different zoom

Here I am playing a Dm7 arpeggio that takes me to the G7(#9) chord and I only harmonize the Bb. As you can hear this works really well.

#4 Super Easy Chromatic Chords That Sound Amazing!

If you want to play Jazz then you also want to use chromatic passing notes, and luckily there is an extremely easy way to use them in chord solos.

That sounds like this:

Here I am using chromatic passing notes on both Dm7 and G7alt. The way it works is really simple.

I have a chromatic note, a D#, before the E melody on Dm7, and I use the same voicing as I do on the E to harmonize the D# and the chord just slides into place.

On the G7alt the example is exactly the same, but here it is descending not ascending.

The next hack is a great way to harmonize more difficult melodies like arpeggios.

#5 Two-Note Block Chords for Arpeggios

As I already showed you earlier in the video, you can add arpeggios to a chord solo by harmonizing the target note of the phrase. There is another way to work with arpeggios that also works very well and is both easier to play and less heavy sounding, compared to harmonizing each note.

This is something you will hear Joe Pass do from time to time. Harmonizing an arpeggio with intervals, and usually 3rds because that sits very well in an arpeggio and makes it easier to play.

That sounds like this:

Here I am using an Fø arpeggio on the G7alt and putting a full chord under the high note the Eb. Of course, you can also choose to just use 3rds the entire way.

 

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10 Chord Melody Intros You Need To Know

It doesn’t really matter if you are playing chord melody arrangements by yourself or if you are in a band. Being able to play a great sounding intro to a song and really set up the listener for a piece of music is very practical.

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Content: 

00:00 Intro

00:55 The Turnaround – The Perfect Intro

02:43 #IV – All of Tonal Harmony (almost..)

04:42 Modal Interchange and Beautiful Colors

06:49 Pedal point – Creating Tension

08:23 II V chain – Minor Cadence movement

10:25 Melodic Pedal Point

12:04 Start On A Tritone Substitution

14:00 Sus4 Pedal point

14:58 Lady Bird Turnaround – Modal Interchange

16:26 Phrygian Intro – Pretend to be another key

18:38 Complete Chord Melody Arrangement to Check out

18:45 Like the video? Check out my Patreon page!

 

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Make Your Chord Progressions More Interesting

There are many ways you can reharmonize chord progressions. In this video, I am going over a method that is simple and easy to use. I am using basic functional harmony to show you how you can create amazing jazz chord progressions yourself and really change the color of the songs you play.

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Content:

00:00 Intro

00:52 Basic II V I and The Power of Chord Functions

01:23 The Advantage of Functional Harmony

02:14 Chord Progressions Have To Make Sense Too

02:39 Subdominant chords and lots of options

02:45 3 Basic major subdominants

03:10 Is VI a subdominant?

03:41 7 useful minor subdominants

05:00 4 exotic #IV subdominants

06:15 Progressions Using Other Subdominants

07:07 Dominant Chords

08:02 Progressions Using Other Dominants

08:53 Tonic Chords and Suspensions

10:20 Changing functions – From II V I to Neo-soul

12:00 Functional Harmony – A Powerful Tool

12:16 Like the video? Check out my Patreon page!

 

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Minor II V I – 3 Levels You Want To Know

When you learn chords, and especially jazz chords where there are so many variations and options, it is important that you check them out in the right order and use a strong foundation to explore all the great sounds in there. In this video, I am going to take a basic minor II V, that you probably already know, I and show you how you, step by step, can open that up and turn it into a flexible set of chords that you can use for comping and even chord soloing.

This video is going to get you beyond just playing grips, it is time that we end that once and for all, the campfire era is over.

Level 1 – The Basic Chords

If you know your basic Jazz chords then you probably know this way of playing a minor II V I with it’s somewhat awkward II chord:

The great thing about playing chords like this is that you get to hear what the harmony sounds like and that is very useful for learning a song and getting it into your ear.

This is of course very important if you want to improvise over the progression, so using these chords to become familiar with the sound, the movement of the harmony and the bass line is really useful.

If you are getting into these then make sure to also checking out how to treat them as 2 layers in comping, a bass note, and a chord. This is great for duo playing.

You can think of how you play as accents played on the drums with bass and snare which is mostly how drummers comp in a swing groove, and also what you want to lock in with when you play.

Level 2 – Rootless Chords

The basic chords are great for getting the harmony into your ears, but if you are playing in a band then it is better to leave the bass notes alone and not be exposed to angry bass players

Dave Holland 16:04 + text – Stupid Guitar Voicings with bass notes (busy two-layer comping)

Dave Holland 17:34 + text – Finally some rootless voicings!

While I may be using Dave Holland to joke around, this is an amazing band and one of my all-time favorites you can check out this concert with the link in the description: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uvG8B39_Alc

This is really easy because you can just think about the voicings from example 1 but only play the top part like this:

When you play the chords like this then you have quite a few more options to change the notes and create some more interesting melodies and voice-movements. You are not stuck with a fairly static chord that is “just a grip”

An example of how you can add melody would be something like this:

And of course, when you really use this it will be with a bit more rhythm, something like this:

Where there is a lot more happening than “Example 2”

and we can take this even further by adding more color to the chords

Level 3 – Bigger Chords and More Color

Since we started with 4-note chords and turned them into 3-note chords then it is worth exploring what happens if we add notes on top of these. To me, this was always about being practical so looking at what is there but only use what is easy to play and then be creative with that.

This is btw something I think is very efficient in most aspects of practicing and playing, but that is another discussion

If we take a look at what is available for the Bø you get something like this:

And for E7

and finally Am6

The way I use this is that I check out what is there and I try to get an overview of what is easy to play and then that is what I will use. You can try to expand options, but watch out that you don’t get lost in trying to check out too many chord voicings, which  is often taking up a lot of time without helping you play better.

Using these voicings to comp the minor II V I could be something like this

 

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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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