Tag Archives: jazz harmony

The Diminished Chords – Why They Are Great!

There are 3 types of diminished chords that I use all the time. They are great for a lot of things and sound beautiful in chord progressions.

Two of them are in all the Jazz standards and really just a part of tonal harmony but the last one, which I learned from Barry Harris, even if it is not a part of his diminished scale system, is maybe not even really a diminished chord. Maybe it isn’t even a chord, but I play it all the time and it is a great trick even if it doesn’t have a theoretical explanation.

Easy Diminished Chord

The first one you want to know is the easy diminished chord, the one that is easy to hear and easy to explain: The Dominant diminished chord.

A funny side-note is that I always get comments from people insisting that ALL diminished chords are dominant, which, as you will see, I don’t agree with but you should think about it in any way that works for you.

The dominant diminished chord is really from the minor key, but we can use it in major as well.

If you look at the diatonic chords in C harmonic minor: CmMaj7 Dø Ebmaj7(#5) Fm7 G7 Abmaj7 Bdim CmMaj7

And you can also see that it is in fact the arpeggio from the 3rd of a G7(b9): G B D F Ab

 

so the connection to G7 is pretty clear and it resolves like this:

And you can resolve it to major as well:

A few Dominant Diminished Trick

There are two chord progressions with this chord that you see fairly often and both sound great, one of them is used as a sort of plot twist in the harmony, which is very nice.

What might surprise you is that most of the time the dominant diminished chord is used for secondary dominants like this where it is really a great transition to the II Chord

So here it is working as an A7, the dominant of Dm7, and creates a nice chromatic bass line moving up to Dm7.

Bassline melody is really what diminished chords are all about!

A great way to use the dominant diminished is to pretend that it is just a boring old II V and then it suddenly goes somewhere else:

I need to talk about the extension on the dim chord here, but first, just check out how this is a II V in C that then suddenly takes a detour and resolves to Am7 via the dim chord. That is a great plot twist.

 

On the dim chord, I am using a b6 as an extension and this is an important note to know for dim chords.

In both examples, the diminished chord is a secondary dominant and they simply just take the  scale that you would use for the dominant, so if you resolve to Am then you would use A harmonic minor over the dim chord because it works as an E7:

 

And from that scale, the E is a great sounding extension and also the root of the dominant it is associated with: E7

The reason why I say that is important is mainly that the b6 is very common as a melody note on a diminished chord as you can see here

But let’s move on to the subdominant diminished which are actually the most common ones.

Subdominant Dim – It Is a Thing!

The dominant diminished is easy to understand because it is a diatonic chord in harmonic minor and closely related to the V chord, but then you have these chords that move in a different way:

This one moves down!

And this one doesn’t resolve like a dominant

Let’s start with the F6 to F#dim example. I’ll first go over the chords and then get into scale choices

Here you can see how the F#dim appears from altering two notes in the F6. You can also see that it still contains a C and not a B which is why it isn’t dominant in the key C, they don’t sound anything like a G7.

The oversimplified way of arriving at that it is a subdominant chord is just to ask 2 things:

1 Does it move to Cmaj7 as if it is resolving? Yes – so it isn’t tonic

2 Does it sound and resolve like a G7, which it doesn’t so it isn’t dominant

If it isn’t tonic and also not dominant then it is subdominant. This is a bit crude, but it it does fit.

Since it is subdominant then it makes sense to notate it as derived from the IV chord, so I usually write them as #IVdim chords. There are actually other #IV subdominant chords, but that is for another video.

But it also resolves down to a subdominant chord.

Groups of Subdominant Chords

Sometimes I just write #IVdim instead of subdominant diminished, it is a looong word and I am from Denmark which is a small country, we don’t have room for that stuff. In fact, I will often just write IV when I mean subdominant, so a backdoor dominant which is also a minor subdominant is referred to as a IVm chord. I usually make it clear in the videos, but it sometimes slips. I find it useful to have these groups of subdominant chords that are #IV, IV and IVm, but it is probably short hand and not too precise

Descending Subdominant Dim

Before the last type of dim chord then there is also the other variation of the subdominant diminished.

This is really just an inversion of the #IVdim,

it is Ebdim and the subdominant diminished but it is resolving to the Dm7,

so it is a subdominant resolving to a subdominant. In a way similar to how you have IV IVm I.

 

And this works great to have a chord that can transition to a II chord which is of course also how you see it used the most.

Scale Dilemmas

With the Dominant diminished then you have a scale that is found in and that is part of how we understand it which makes it a lot easier.

The subdominant diminished is a lot more vague, but if you look at it from a different perspective then you can construct a scale that fits the context of key and then realize that you already know that scale.

If you look at the F#dim and the C major scale then there are two ways to create a scale that works:

 

They both work and there is one note difference so it is really up to you. I tend to recommend the harmonic minor scale mostly because you need that anyway and you probably know it already.

No Diminished Scale

So why am I not using the diminished scale, since it is called a diminished chord? It is the same name!

In the end, you can use any scale you want it is more about how you do it than which scale it is. The chord progressions that I talk about in this video are all tonal, so they are in a key and that tells you something about how they sound, and which notes want to go where. And you don’t hear each chord as an isolated thing, you hear the whole progression or the whole song.

The diminished scale is atonal because it is symmetrical, it can resolve to lots of places and nothing sounds like the root. That is why it doesn’t really fit and is more of a special effect in the music.

The Mysterious Diminished Chord

As I already hinted at then the final diminished chord is maybe not really a chord, but that doesn’t mean that you can learn something important from it.

When I was in the piano class with Barry Harris that first year I went to the Hague then he told the piano players to play this exercise that I then transferred to guitar. And it is all over my comping and chord solos:

The exercise is moving the maj7th and the 9th down to the maj6th and the root in half steps,

and as you can probably see, then every time the middle chord is in fact a Bb diminished chord. (highlight dim chord – Paly example and stop on the dim chord!)

But maybe this is a place where looking at what is happening vertically and giving it a name as a chord, is actually not the best way to understand it. Instead, it makes a lot more sense to think of it as voices moving, because the diminished chord only appears as a side effect of some chromatic voice-leading. Probably also why it is not something you will find notated as a chord in a song, at least I can’t think of one that has that. Sometimes focusing too much on vertical harmony rather than how the notes flow is not good for making music and hearing what is going on.

That of course doesn’t mean that this isn’t a great sound, and the exercise sounds great in minor as well, which doesn’t give you a dim chord.

 

 

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Jazz Reharmonization – How To Make Great Variations of a II V I

There are some really beautiful variations and reharmonizations of a basic II V I progression that you can check out and start adding to your own repertoire. You don’t always want to play the chords exactly as written, especially if you are trying to make a chord melody arrangement or an intro sound better.

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Content:

00:00 Intro

00:33 The Basic II V I

00:45 #1 Walking up

01:46 #2 Walking down

02:13 #3 Wandering to minor

02:58 #4 Strolling back from minor

03:46 #5 Coltrane’s Detour

04:27 #6 The Walk Down to Another Key

05:11 #7 The “Wrong Chromatic” approach II V

05:59 Make your chord progressions more interesting

06:13 Like the video? Check out my Patreon page!

 

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Diminished Chords – Beautiful Progressions and How To Use Them

The Diminished Chords are often causing a lot of people trouble, and that is a shame because there are so many amazing sounding progressions that use diminished chords and you can make beautiful chord progressions with them as well.

In this video, I am going to show you the two main categories of dim chords and how you can use diminished chords in some great sounding progressions.

It isn’t that difficult there are just a lot of people telling you to think stuff on dim chords that don’t fit with what you hear, and that is probably getting in your way.

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Content:

00:00 Intro

00:27 The Two Types of dim chords

01:41 Dominant Diminished

02:16 Common Dominant Diminished Progressions

04:28 Subdominant Diminished

05:20 Resolving Diminished Problems

05:53 Common #IV dim progressions

07:32 Soloing over Diminished Chords

07:40 Like the video? Check out my Patreon page!

 

 

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Why You Want To Think in Functional Harmony

Functional Harmony is a great tool if you want to understand how chord progressions flow and use that information to help you improvise better solos and spell out the harmony.

To me, Music theory is something that I can use to tell me how chords sound and how they move in the jazz standards and tonal songs that I play.

This video discusses why this approach to understanding music is very useful for playing Jazz.

If you have seen any of my videos or maybe also some my Instagram posts were on analyzing chord progressions and small melodic fragments then you’ve seen me reduce the progression for the melodies down to Simple functions so a row with several chords I will often reduce to one or two maybe three functions. It is a way to understand how the progression works.

Content:

0:00 Intro – How I use Music Theory

0:38 Music Theory describes how music sounds and works

0:54 #1 Chords Grouped By Sound

1:15 Diatonic Major Chords and Their Function

2:04 Chords with the same function – Tonic and Subdominant

2:41 Minor Subdominant Chords – A shortlist

3:34 Exchanging Subdominant Chords

4:11 12tone and a good breakdown of Tonal Harmony

4:30 #2 It Helps You Think Ahead and Play More Logical Melodies

5:21 #3 Which Chords Are Important and Which To Ignore

5:54 Reducing a Turnaround

6:34 The II V trap (watch out 😉 )

7:35 #4 Easier To Solo

8:28 IV IVm I examples

9:40 Same Lick – Different IV IVm Chord Progressions

10:13 #5 More Options over each Chord

10:50 Embellishing and interchanging progressions

11:44 Line using embellished progression

11:57 #6 Hearing Functions instead of Chords

12:35 How Do You Think About Chords and Harmony?

12:54 Like the video? Check out my Patreon Page

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Reharmonization – Are you getting it wrong?

Chord Substitution and Reharmonization are Jazz topics that are very often discussed together but are actually not really the same thing. This video is going to go over how I think while creating new chord progressions and how I use my reharmonization jazz skills to create several chord progressions for the same song.

The emphasis is on how to come up with chords and 5 examples of how to reharmonize a Blues in F. I also talk about how I improvise over the progressions, what to play and why.

If you only think of music as one chord at the time then you are really missing out! Reharmonization is a great example of how that which is another thing I am trying to illustrate in this video.

Content:

0:00 Intro

0:20 Improvising WITH the chords not just over them

0:39 A Better approach than just thinking substitution

1:40 The Chord is always in a context not just a Chord Symbol

2:08 Standard F Blues

2:29 Parker Blues

3:19 Reharmonization #1

4:06 Analysis of the harmony

4:45 Some Solo Tips for this progression

5:05 Example #1

5:20 Reharmonization #2

6:02 Example #2

6:18 Reharmonization #3

7:00 A Strange A7

7:32 Example #3

8:11 Reharmonization #4 – Re-interpreting Bb7

8:54 Example #4

9:08 Using Pentatonics to play Reharmonization #4

9:33 Don’t Tell The Rhythm Section!

10:01 Reharmonization #5 – Another Chromatic idea

10:35 Example #5

10:50 Method to changing the chords

11:23 This as a Chord Melody?

11:37 Like The Video? Check out My Patreon Page?

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Voice Leading – Breaking a Few Rules

Voice leading is the method you use to create smooth transitions between chords. Often it is described with voice-leading rules that determine how we move specific notes in a chord move to specific note in the next jazz chord. In this video I will explain voice-leading quickly and then give some examples of how you can actually be very creative and create some interesting sounds and new chord voicings by using voice-leading.

The lesson also illustrates how you can create some great progressions by breaking some of the rules. There is no reason to be tied down and not be creative

Jazz Harmony quickly becomes a science and research, but it is better to be a little free and also just try out the opposite of what is expected once in a while. In the end it is not about music theory but about what sounds good. 

Basic Voice Leading 

The most basic voice-leading rules in jazz are probably the movement of the core chord tones. In general voice-leading is about taking the closest route to a note in the next chord.

Below in the example I have Shell voicings for a II V I in C major.

Notice how the 7th(C) of Dm moves to the 3rd(B) of G7 and stays there as the 7th of Cmaj7.

The same goes for the 3rd(F) of Dm, stays to become the 7th of G7 and then resolves to the 3rd(E) of Cmaj7.

In this case the chords are moving in a smooth way from one to the next and in all changes one note stays while the other descends.

Opposite Voice-leading from II to V

In the example below I am voice-leading the 7th of Dm7 in the opposite direction, namely up to Db.

This means that the Dm7(11) chord is moving to a G7(b9b5) with no 3rd. The 5th of Dm7 naturally moves to the b9 (Ab) of G7. The G7 resolves to the C6/9 quartal voicing.

Against the rules on V I

In example 3 I have written out a II V I that resolves the 7th(F) of G upwards to a #11(F#) on Cmaj7.

The transition from Dm7 to G7 is pretty straight forward with G(11) moving to Ab(b9), E(3rd) and C(7th) lead to Eb(b13) and B(3rd). The F remains.

When the G7(b9b13) resolves to Cmaj7 it is moving the F up to F#, B stays and Eb resolves to the 3rd(E). The b9 is also surprisingly resolving up to an A that in this case is a 13th on the Cmaj7.

Suspensions and Surprises

An advantage of starting to explore thinking of the individual voices is that it can free up how we think of chords as vertical blocks that can’t be changed.

This example is showing how you can use voice-leading to create some interesting suspensions in your playing and blur the lines between the chords.

The basic II V in this example is pretty straight forward with a bit of contrary movement in the top-voices. The G7(b9b13) is resolved to Cmaj7(9) also in the way you would expect, but the b9 is left hanging. This creates a suspension of the b9 and gives us a #5 sound on the Cmaj7 that is then resolved down to the 5 on the 3rd beat. 

Not Getting Stuck in Drop2 

Often when you think in voice-leading it keeps you in one type of voicing, so “strict” voice-leading will take a triad to another triad or a drop2 voicing to a drop2 voicing. 

But once you start going in other directions you open for getting other results. In the example here below I am voice-leading the Drop2 Dm7(9) into a G7(b5b13) and then back to a Cmaj7.

Voice-Leading for new Voicings

Thinking in moving voices is also a great way to come up with completely new voicings. In the example below I am creating a G7(b9b5) voicing that I actually didn’t know before preparing this lesson. 

The voicing is a little tricky to play but really sounds great and resolves perfectly to the C6/9.

More Drop 2 voicings in Action!

Of course if you want to dig a little deeper into using Drop2 Chords in comping then check out this lesson on using Drop2 voicings and adding Chromatic Passing Chords:

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10 II V I Chord Embellishments – The Ultimate Guide

The most important chord progression in Jazz is probably the II V I. It is every where and we play it all the time. But if we play it all the time then it is also important to have a lot of different ways to play these jazz chords.

In this video I am going to take a look at 10 different ways you can embellish and add some variation to your II V I comping and chord melody playing.

The Examples on the II V I Chord Progression are different ways to use line-clichés, passing chords and secondary dominants.

#1 Stairway To Heaven

The first example is using the descending line-cliche associated with Stairway to Heaven or My Funne Valentine. This way of adding some extra movement and color to a II V I is a great addition to your chord melody or comping vocabulary.

#2 James Bond 

A similar and equally famous idea is this use of the line-cliché on the 5th of the minor chord.

In this example it is working great as a way to add a chromatic approach that lands on the V chord. Usually it is all on Dm and the movement A A# B is related to Dm. Here the B is used as a target and marks the transition to G7.

#3 Diatonic Passing Chords

Adding Diatonic Passing chords is a fantastic way to add movement to a chord progression. Notice that this way of comping the II V I would still work if the bass player is still playing a regular II V I bass line.

The Passing chords are really just adding two chords so that the progression walks up from Dm7 to G7. Looking for step-wise or 4th intervals in the bassline are both strong and common ways to add passing chords like this.

#4 Tritone Substitution

The Tritone substitution is a very powerful way to add some extra tension and color to a II V I cadence. In this example I am substituting a Db7 for the G7 and creating a top-note melody that helps move the progression along.

#5 Tritone II V Progression

Taking the tri-tone idea a step further is to substitute the G7 with a complete II V, so in this case an Abm7 Db7.

The idea is roughly speaking the same as #4 but instead of just using the Db7 it is now a complete II V: Abm7 Db7. 

This example is played as a continuous stream of chords and a great little chromatic inner-voice movement on the Cmaj7

#6 Secondary Dominants

A variation of the Tritone substitution is also to use it as a secondary dominant. In the example below I am using Ab7 to pull towards the G7. So here Ab7 is a tritone substitute of D7, the secondary dominant of G7.

#7 Borrowing Minor Cadence

Modal Interchange is a great way to add color to a cadence. When ever we use a G7(b9) in a II V I in C major it is actually a dominant that is borrowed from C minor.

In this example I am borrowing an entire cadence, so first a bar of Dm7 and then followed by the minor cadence Dø G7 before resolving to Cmaj7

#8 Chromatic Passing Chord

Chromatic Passing Chords are a really useful addition to your comping and chord melody vocabulary.

This example is approaching the G7 from a half-step below. The idea is to have an F#7 at the end of the Dm7 bar that then resolves to G7 in the second bar.

#9 Neapolitan Subdominant

The Neapolitan Subdominant is an overlooked way to color cadences. In this example I am using the Dbmaj7 as a way to add a different color and pull to the Cmaj7.

The Neapolitan Subdominant is a IVm chord with a bII in the bass, so it is Fm/Db. Which is also why it is a (minor) subdominant chord.

#10 Chromatic Resolution

Of course it is also possible to use Chromatic passing chords in the resolution to the I chord. 

This example uses the 2nd half of the G7 bar to introduce a Bmaj7 chord that is then used to create a chromatic approach to Cmaj7.

How To Use This Lesson

The way I think you can benefit from this material is probably to think about how I am playing the examples and try to insert that into your own comping or chord melody using your own voicings and songs.

In the end the best way to learn something new is to insert it into what you already play and use it when you are playing real music

Check out more Comping Ideas

If you want to check out how I comp and many of the ideas I use then check out this lesson on a 5 chorus example on Autumn Leaves:

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Download the PDF

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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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Music Theory – The 3 things you want to Know

A thing that is never mentioned when it comes to Music Theory is that there is a basic knowledge you want to obtain and then the rest gets easier. There are things that you need to know and work on that will make the rest very simple when combining Music Theory, Jazz Guitar and Practice.

In this video I am going to talk about three things you can learn or train for your music theory that will help you build a foundation to have an easier time understanding chord progressions, extensions and voice-leading. I am also going to relate this to what you need if you are improvising over chords, since that is what I am using the theory for.

Instead of looking at voice-leading upper-structure triad pairs in Utopian b7 minor then you can easily build the basic knowledge to make all the other stuff easy to understand.

Table of Contents

0:05 Intro

0:45 #1 – Learn Your Scales

1:09 Why we use scales in improvisation

2:11 Learning the Scales – What to learn

2:58 How To Practice

3:31 #2 – Diatonic Chords and Harmony

4:04 Building Chords in a Major Scale

4:52 Diatonic chords makes it easier to Learn Songs

5:33 What You Want to Learn

6:10 Practice Tips

6:22 How To Play Changes (in 30 seconds)

7:10 #3 Relating Notes To The Root

7:42 Adding Extensions to an Ebmaj7

8:36 Why You Want to know the Extensions in the Scale

9:06 Extensions for another Chord – How it Sounds

9:56 Putting the 3 Things together in one overview

10:30 Like the Video? Check out my Patreon Page

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3 Music Theory Mistakes You Want To Avoid (Jazz Rant)

Besides my rant on how people get things wrong with Music Theory this video is also on some of the things that you are missing if you don’t use music theory right or forget to check out important parts. When you study Jazz or Jazz Guitar then music theory is a part of what you need and what you want to learn, but you want to go about it the right way.

Most of the things I talk about in here are mistakes or problems that you run into if your approach to music theory is very superficial. Hopefully I also manage to give some pointers to a better approach to learn and use music theory so that it is actually useful for you.

Do you make these mistakes? Do you know other things that mistakes that are common?

Reharmonization Techniques – the best way to make them more musical

Why it can be tricky to get reharmonizations to sound musical in a solo

Using reharmonizations in your solos can be tricky since you need to find the right place and the right type of reharm if you want it to sound natural and still surprising. This video will go over some Reharmonization techniques and how you place them in the form of a song. The place where you use stuff like this has a huge impact on how it works, and I will discuss this in the video.
 
How do you apply reharmonizations to your solo?

Content of the video:

0:00 Intro – Musical approach to Reharmonization

0:13 Applying Reharmonizations to a musical context – A Song

0:41 The Form and the Song

1:19 A surprising way to use Tri-Tone substitution

1:41 Take The A-Train – The form, key and harmony

2:04 The pull towards the tonic and reharmonizing that 2:28 The Tri-tone reharmonization

2:47 A progression that makes sense

3:04 Soloing on A-train with the reharmonization

3:15 How Jim Hall uses Tri-Tone substitution on Autumn Leaves

3:48 Making a m7(b5) is m7(9) to get a brighter sound

4:22 Blue Bossa Chord Progression

5:05 Comping through it with the reharmonization

5:17 Soloing using the reharmonization

5:30 Same idea in Stella on the beginning

5:52 This idea applied to a #IVm7(b5) like Days of Wine and Roses

6:35 Parallel harmony reharmonization turning a dim chord into a m7(9)

6:42 Someday My Prince Will come – harmony

7:13 Using this as a melodic idea as well

7:42 It’s Parallel so the sounds are the same

8:12 Example of a solo using the parallel minor chords

8:30 Other songs where this might work and people who does this

9:04 Relating this to the Parker Blues

9:28 A Musical way to use reharmonization

10:07 Do you have favourite reharmonizations?

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