Tag Archives: Jazz (Musical Genre)

Rhythm Changes Chords – Hidden in the Easy Chords

Rhythm Changes Chords are essential to check out. If you want to explore jazz and bebob guitar then the rhythm changes progression is a must. The progression is often used and parts of it are common in countless other songs.

In this lesson I will first go over a basic set of chord voicings to play the progression. I will then expand on these voicings by first turning them into rootless voicings. Then I will show you how you can start making variations of the top notes to create more interesting comping ideas like that. Finally I will go over how you can even add notes and create another set of 4-note voicings.

The Basic Rhythm Changes chord set

We don’t need a lot of different voicings to play a Rhythm Changes A part. In fact it is mostly the same turnaround: I [V] II V and then a short trip to the IV and back.

The chords are shown here below:

If you want to read them using chord diagrams or chord boxes you can do so here:

In the above progression I use a #IVdim (Edim) chord to go from Eb back to Bb in bar 6. Another common way to do this is to play a IV minor chord. In most cases this is a backdoor dominant. In Bb major that would be Ab7. This variation of those bars is shown here below:

Introduction to Jazz Chords

The way I play these chords is coming out of some the lessons in this study guide:

How to Play Jazz Chords

Making the voicings rootless and adding melody

An easy way to create some more flexible 3-note voicings is to just leave out the root.

This is shown here below in example 3:These are more flexible and it is fairly easy to change the top note so that we can play several  melodies using these voicings. 

One way of adding these options is shown in example 4:

Creating 4-note voicings (and recognizing them)

Another way to vary the melody is to add an extra note on top of the voicing. This can be done quite easily since we are only playing 3 notes.

An example of how this works is shown in example 5:

As you can probably see these voicings are mostly drop2 voicings.

The most important Lesson of this Process

This way of coming up with different chord voicings is of course a way of giving yourself options, but is is also a way of associating different voicings together so that we don’t have to remember unconnected sets of notes. 

This is a very practical way to think about chords and a great way to help you learn a lot of chords by just really remembering one.

What do you think?

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Rhythm Changes Chords

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Blue Bossa – Soloing with Arppeggios

Blue Bossa is a great way to start improvising following the harmony because it’s a well known tune that is not too difficult. In this lesson I’ll present a set of arpeggios, some exercises, target notes and strategies for making solos where you can hear the harmony in the improvisation.

The Song: melodies and chords

When you want to learn to solo over a tune you are often better off first learning the melody as well as possible. Most people have an easier time hearing the melody in the back of your mind as a way of keeping track of where you are in the form. I’d suggest you learn the melody by heart and in as many positions as possible. I’d also suggest you memorize the chords because you need that once you want to go through the exercises in this lesson.

Let’s first have a look at the chord progression:

Blue Bossa - Soloing with Arpeggios Ex 1

The form is fairly easy. The song is in the key of C minor. Two bars of tonic (Cm) then two bars of IVm (Fm) followed by a cadence to Cm (Dm7b5 G7 Cm7) and a cadence to Db: (Ebm7 Ab7 Dbmaj7) and then a cadence to Cm again.  The Db you need to treat as a modulation though it could also be seen as a neapolitan subdominant chord (You can read more about these here: IV minor chords)

If you count the chords you’ll see that we have 7 different chords. Since the goal of this lesson is to improvise fluently with well connected melodies using the arpeggios, I have written out all the arpeggios around the 8th position. Shifting up and down the neck is going to make it much more difficult to play logical melodies and almost impossible to do some of the exercises.

Blue Bossa - Soloing with Arpeggios Ex 2

Practicing the arpeggios

First you should probably try to become familiar with the arpeggios in example 2 and then as fast as possible try to start using them on the song.

Besides just practicing each arpeggio it is a very good idea to work on playing the arpeggios in different patterns. I show a few in the video, but playing them in groups of 3 or 4 notes, skipping notes etc are good ways to get more flexible with the arpeggio. You need the flexibilty when you start improvising, and keep in mind that it is about flexibility and overview not about speed when working on this.

The first exercise is to just play through the song with the arpeggios from example 2 in a one octave version. This will not only help practicing the arppegios but also build your sense of the form of the song and help you hear the chords moving and when they change.

Blue Bossa - Soloing with Arpeggios Ex 3

If you are very new to arpeggios you could do this playing the arps in 4th notes and not 8th notes so that the tempo is a bit lower in the beginning.

The next thing that I’d suggest that you start working on is connecting the arpeggios. Practicing the arpeggios in this way over the progression is a way to get closer to how you improvise, something that you should also strive after when making exercises.

The idea is to start playing the arpeggios over the progression and then when ever the chord changes to continue the movement with the note that is the closest in the next arpeggio. It’s quite tricky to get started with but very rewarding when you start getting the freedom while improvising.

Blue Bossa - Soloing with Arpeggios ex 4

With an exercise like this you get a completely new exercise if you start on a different note, and if you keep on going it should keep mutating into new exercises, also a very healthy way to keep your ears and mind busy while practicing something as simple as arpeggios.

Target notes

As I demonstrate in the video the thinking behind making harmony clear in a solo line is to target certain notes of the strong beats (in this case the 1). The idea is that a strong and logical sounding line will be a line that has the direction towards a clear target note. I also discuss this way of making melodies in another lesson that you can check: Target Notes You will notice in the solso I improvise in the video that I am not too concerned with target notes unless the chord is changing.

In the video I demonstrate how I use this principle while playing a simple solo over the progression. The best place to start is to just use the 3rd of each chord as a target you can quickly expand this to other notes but the 3rd is fairly safe and easy to hear.

Here is an overview of the target notes:

Blue Bossa - Soloing with Arpeggios Ex 5

I hope you can use the arpeggios and exercises I went over here to get started making some melodically strong solos that really dig into the harmony.

You can also check out the 3 chorus solo lesson in my WebStore:

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Drop 2 voicings – Part 1 – Jazz Chord Essentials

In this lesson on Drop2 chords I want to demonstrate a set of voicings that are fairly easy to play on the guitar and very useful for playing chords with extensions. I also want to talk a bit about how you approach playing chords in terms of interpretation of chord extensions, substitutes, connecting or voice-leading the chords. Hopefully it can help you learn and construct some new chords, and I hope it also helps you find new ways to play songs you already know and expand your ability to play chords freely.

What is a drop2 voicing

You might have heard the term Drop2 voicings before, and it is more or less considered basic voicing knowledge for mainstream jazz guitar. Lot’s of Wes Montgomery solos use drop2 voicings and it is also a huge part of bebop piano and bigband arranging.

To explain why drop2 voicings are very handy on guitar try to play the first half of example 1.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Drop 2 voicings part 1 - ex 1

You should quickly notice that these basic inversions of an Am7 chord are very difficult to play and almost impossible to change a note in. Mainly because they are very stretchy to play.

The term Drop2 comes from taking the 2nd higest note in each one and drop it down an octave. This makes it possible to get the notes together in one position and yields the 4 voicings in the 2nd bar of example 1. As you can tell these voicings are much easier to play and much more flexible so that we can change notes in them (that will prove essential in later lessons..)

Basic Exercises

I chose to keep it simple and only work with the top set of strings. In the long run it can be very useful to also check out the middle set of strings and possibly the lowest set. A complete overview of the drop2 voicings can be found here: Scale charts and chord voicings

If you have checked out my lesson:  Jazz Chord Survival Kit  You know that in a major scale we have four basic types of 7th chords: m7, dom7, maj7 and m7b5. Here are the voicings for those 4 types of chords on the top string set:

Jazz Chord Essentials - Drop 2 voicings part 1 - ex 2

To get used to the sound of these chords and to get the voicings in to your fingers you should of course practice example 2 in all keys, but it can also be very useful to check out all cadences like I’ve written out in example 3:

Jazz Chord Essentials - Drop 2 voicings part 1 - ex 3

This way of grouping the chords together in the order you are very likely to use them is of course also very handy. And important part of the cadences is also that I chose vocings that have correct voiceleading which in this case means that you just stay in the neighbourhood whenever changing to the next chord. You could consider doing the minor cadences too.

Another very useful exercise is to take the different drop2 inversions through a major scale as I have done in example 4. I only did two of the inversions, maybe try to figure out the last 2 by yourself. It should help getting to know major scales on the strings besides training the voicings themselves.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Drop 2 voicings part 1 - ex 4

Putting it to use

As soon as you have a basic understanding and ability to play these voicings it is just as important to start working towards using them in real music. Below I’ve written out how I play the first 16 bars of Autumn Leaves with drop2 voicings. You should try to do this with a few songs as well. Autumn Leaves, Fly Me To The Moon and All The Things You Are could be good tunes to try because they cover a lot of chords from the same key(and some in more keys as well..)

Jazz Chord Essentials - Drop 2 voicings part 1 - ex 5

You could with this exercise of course try starting with each of the Cm7 voicings and then work out how to play the whole song, it will present you with choices because the guitar (like all instruments) have certain limitations for how low or high you want to go and then you should just try to find a practical and musical solution, that is how it works in a playing situation so that is what you should practice too.

In the next part of the drop2 lessons I’ll start working on how to add extensions and alterations to the voicings. I’ll also give some more practical advice on how to use the voicings.

I hope you can use the exercises to get started working on Drop2 voicings and that you can get it into you playing.

Check out how I use Drop2 voicings in this 3 chorus transcription/lesson:

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Jazz Chord Essentials – Drop 2 voicings part 1

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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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