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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