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Jazz Chord Survival Kit

In this lesson I want to give you a few exercises that should make it possible for you to go through a jazz standard without too much trouble. We often spend too much time working on details and forget to apply it to songs and hear how it works in contexts so this is a tutorial about how to play a standard and a few suggestions for songs to check out when you know the exercises.

Diatonic Chords

Not surprisingly when playing jazz standards it makes sense to start with some diatonic chords. I have made to exercises with the diatonic chords of Bb and F major. Having those in your fingers and knowing what chords they are is a good starting point and will make it possible for you to play through songs without the rest of this lesson. Since most people relate the chord to the root and most of the time this is place on the 5th and 6th string I have the Bb voicings with the root on the 5th string and the F major voicings with the root on the 6th string.Jazz Chord Survival Kit - ex 1

You might recognize the type of voicing I am using here as a Drop2 voicings

Jazz Chord Survival Kit - ex 2

If you are familiar with different kind of voicings you might recognize these voicings as Drop3 voicings.

The voicings that we now have both have the chord part on the B, G and D strings and the root on the 5th and 6th strings. This allows the voicings to have ok voiceleading most of the time without us having to worry too much about it since that requires more knowledge of the notes in the chord and how they move in harmony.

II V progressions

If you see a lead sheet for a jazz standard for the first time it is quite likely that you will be overwhelmed by the amount of chords that are in there. For that reason it is very practical if not essential to learn to view groups of chords as one thing rather than each chord by itself, since that makes it a lot easier to remember the song by heart, and in the end also analyze or understanding the song while playing it. That is the reason why I have made the next 4 exercises. One of the most common two chord progressions in jazz is a II V.

A II V is a minor 7th chord moving up a 4th or down a 5th to dominant 7th chord like this:

Dm7 G7

The reason why I am not including the I chord, ie II V I is that very often the II V is resolving differently so it is handy to just pair those two for now.

The II V voicings that I can build with the voicings in the first two exercises are pretty ok,  but by adding a bit of extensions I can make them easier to play and transition better from one to the other so here’s an exercise where I let the II V resolve to another II V etc.Jazz Chord Survival Kit - ex 3

And here is a similar version starting on the 5th string:Jazz Chord Survival Kit - ex 4

Minor II V cadences

Since we are already busy with recognizing II V cadences in major it seems logical to add the minor variation of this too. Same idea as the major counterpart. We add some extensions, and in this case alterations to the dominant to make it easier to play and make the II V move more smooth from II to V.Jazz Chord Survival Kit - ex 5

The m7b5 chord is probably one of the most hated voicings by beginning students and it is a bit difficult and takes some practice, but there is really no way around them..

Here’s the set with the root of the II chord on the 5th string:Jazz Chord Survival Kit - ex 6

 Diminished Chords

The only chord that we miss now is a diminished chord, since they are not present in the II V or in the diatonic chord sequence or in the II V’s

 

So now you have most basic chords covered and should be able to get through most standards without too much trouble.

The examples in the this lesson are also available as a downloadable PDF here: Jazz Chord Survival Kit

I hope that you liked the lesson. If you have any questions or comments then feel free to leave them here or on the video. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Instagram, Twitter Google+ or Facebook to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases

Dominant 7th Chord Scales – part 1

I’ve had a few questions about what options there were for scales and sounds on dominant 7th chords so I decided to make a lesson demonstrating a few of the common ones and talking a bit about what I think characterizes them and how I approach improvising with them.

I set out to just make a few short examples, but in the end I talk a bit about how I use the scales and about the lines so the video became a bit long. In the end I thought the information was useful so I left it in there.

As I mention in the video I often uses the chords when learning scales so if I want to learn to improvize with a certain scale at some point in a progression or song then I find a chord that really sounds like that scale and play that in the context of the song to hear how it sounds.

Mixolydian or F7 from Bbmajor

In this example I am “just” using the Bb Major scale. It seems logical as a starting point and as a reference. I did try to make a melody on the F7 that was at least not cliché. I do that by using Drop2 or Open voiced triads, something that might be a subject for a later lesson too as they are a very good way to incorporate larger intervals in lines without sounding too fragmented.

Dominant 7th Scales - Part 1 - ex 1

Mixolydian b9b13, F7 from Bb Harmonic Minor

In this example we borrowed the dominant of Bb minor in the cadence. It works well with a lot of different chord types to borrow an equivalent from the minor scale. Mixolydian b9b13 is also more or less the first choice for a scale on an F7 that resolves to a minor chord, so for that it is important to know it. I chose the F7(b9) chord as an example because it has a 5th and a b9 which in context gives paints the F7 from Bb harmonic minor sound (to me anyway).  Part of the line on the F7 is based on the A diminished arpeggio which is also diatonic to Bb Harm min. and is a good arpeggio to check out when using that scale.

Dominant 7th Scales - Part 1 - ex 2
The Altered Scale

Playing F# melodic minor is on an F7 chord is mostly described as the F7 altered scale. The melodic minor scale has a strong augmented sound in it and the scale also sounds a bit like the whole tone scale as I demonstrate in the video. Making lines on F7altered I find it a good starting point to use the fact that F# melodic minor also contains the B7 which is the tri-tone substitute of F7. As an example I use the  B7 and F#m triad arpeggios in the line. If it is difficult to hear the F7 altered then it can be good to really just play/think B7#11 and resolve that to Bbmaj7 to get used to the sound.
Dominant 7th Scales - Part 1 - ex 3

The Diminished scale

The diminished scale is another good scale to apply to dominants. It is to me charactereized by the fact that it has alterations on the 9(which to me sounds minor), but has a natural 13 (which sounds like major), which is why it has some things sounding like minor and some like major. This mix of minor and major extensions makes it a bit difficult to use in some situations.

One important aspect of the diminished scale is that it is symmetrical, so everything can be transposed in minor 3rds and still be in the same scale. This is handy in terms of guitar technique because it is easy to move a phrase like that on the guitar, but often the phrases you get when you make melodies like that are very predictable and (to me) not very beautiful.

The way I mostly approach making melodies with the dimninished scale is to mix up the triads that it contains, for the F7(13b9) chord there are 4 major triads contained in the scale: F Ab B and D, so I mix those up to make lines, of course there are many other ways to make lines, this just happens to be what I mostly do (right now anyway).
Dominant 7th Scales - Part 1 - ex 4

The Whole tone scale

The Whole tone scale was until now a bit of a special effects scale to me. But as has happened before, when I make a lesson on something I get to rediscover shings. In a way the Whole tone scale is the opposite of the diminished scale because it has a natural 9 and altered 5th or 13. Since it is a scale consisiting only of Whole steps there are not that many options for chords, everything is augmennted triads and dominants, so that is what you have to work with when making lines.

As I also mention in the video I sometimes use the wholetone scale as an effect in situations where the chord contains an augemented triad, in a way letting the triad decide what Whole tone scale to use even if that does not fit with the rest of the chord. As an example a AmMaj7 where the chord contains the Triad C E G# so you could play C D E F# G# Bb on it, a similar trick could Work on a D7(9#11)).

Here’s a downloadable pdf of the examples: Dominant 7th Scales – Part 1

I hope that you liked the lesson. If you have any questions or comments then feel free to leave them here or on the video. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Facebook, Google+ or Twitter to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.

Jazz Chord Essentials: Open Triads

After making the triad lesson I thought I might as well make a lesson on open triads because I use them sometimes as chords and sometimes as arpeggios. I think they can sound great and it is a subject that is not covered that often so it deserved a bit of attention. I guess I’ll do a lesson on how to use them as arpeggios in solos at a later time.

I never really checked them out in any systematical way so making this lesson I found quite a few new voicings to experiment with.

Open Triads

What is an open triad? Probably some of the most famous examples of open triads on the guitar would be Eric Johnson intro to Cliffs of Dover, Steve Morse string skipping etudes, and a lot of the guitar parts of the Californication-era Red Hot Chili Peppers. They all apply them as triads, but I am going to use them in the same way I approached the triads in my lesson on that.

Here’s an example on how to construct open triads from triad inversions. As you can see the idea is to take the 2nd note of the triad and drop it an octave. This is also sometimes referred to as a drop2 voicing, which I already covered with 7th chords in a few other lessons.

Here are the 3 of the basic sort of triads, the ones found in the major scale. I leave out the augmented triad because it is less useful as an upper structure except when playing minorMajor7 chords and since it is symmetrical it is fairly easy to figure out (This is where you go “Challenge accepted!”)

Basic triads in inversions:

Jazz Chord Essentials - Open Triads Ex 1

As I mention in the video, there are a few possible choices when choosing where to place the notes on the neck, to me it varies what I prefer and I try to use whatever fits the situation best. That might be influenced by voice-leading, technique and timbre of the strings.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Open Triads Ex 2

Here are some basic Cadences constructed with the triad found on the 3rd of each chord: II V I in C using F, Bdim, Em. Of course it is possible to use all string sets, but I find myself using the middle and the top set the most for these voicings so here’s the middle one. You should try to do the top one your self, that’s a good exercise.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Open Triads Ex 3

And if you want to play altered dom7th chords then you can use the diminished triad on the 7th degree of the chord so for G7 that would be F dim: F Ab B which gives you these notes over G7: 7, b9 and 3, so the equivalent of a G7b9.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Open Triads Ex 4

 

Altering notes in the triad

In order to cover more chords we can start moving away from only viewing the triad as a triad but more as a set of notes over another chord so we can start altering that chord. To me it is handy to have a simple way to construct basic 3 note voicings I can use for any chord type and then it is easier to alter one of the notes while playing becuase there are only three and I know what notes they are in relation to the chord. The way I approach this is the same as what I did in this lesson on drop2 voicings of 7th chords: Drop2 voicins part 2

Here are a few examples:

G7#5 is in this case constructed by taking a Bdim triad and exchanging the D with a D#. Thinking of this in terms of notes over a G7 this is pretty trivial, but thinking of it as a Bmajorb5 triad is complicated.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Open Triads Ex 5

In the next example I am taking the F dim construction and exchange the b9 with a #9 to play G7#9.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Open Triads Ex 7

Here’s the same approach using an F major triad where I substitute the fifth(A) with the 11th(G) to have a Dm7(11) chord voicing.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Open Triads Ex 8

In the same way we can construct a Cmaj7(#11) voicing by changing the G in the Em triad with an F#. so we are playing the notes E F# and B over the C, in a way you could look at that as a Bsus4 triad too.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Open Triads Ex 9

In this next example I am substituting the 7th(B) of the Cmaj7 with the 6th(A), still using the E minor triad as a starting point.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Open Triads Ex 10

Of course there more options and things to figure out using these open triads. Actually I got some new info from writing this lesson since I never approached this in a systematical way, so maybe I can make another one later.

Here’s a downloadable pdf of the examples:Jazz Chord Essentials – Open Triads

I hope that you liked the lesson. If you have any questions or comments then feel free to leave them here or on the video. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Facebook, Google+ or Twitter to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.

Jazz Chord Essentials: Triads

In this lesson I’d like to demonstrate how you can play jazz harmony only using triad voicings. It’s a very practical and guitaristic approach but also one that I on guitar is often very practical and beautiful in a lot of musical settings.


Take a look at these chords: Cmaj7, Am7, Bm75 they are all a triad with an extra note, which is fairly easy to see in these voicings:

Jazz Chord Essentials - Triads - ex 1

So if we take the Cmaj7: We get these notes: C E G B so that’s a C and an E minor triad, and we can use it like that when we are comping or soloing.

So if you want to play the chord but not the root, you can use the triad from the 3rd. Using this concept we have these triads to play in C major:

  • Cmaj7: E minor triad
  • Dm7: F major triad
  • Em7: G major triad
  • Fmaj7: A minor triad
  • G7: Bdim triad
  • Am7: C major triad
  • Bm7b5: D minor triad.

So if you know how a chord is constructed it is easy to figure out what triad you can use to play that chord. There’s another concept that is closely related to this which is called upper-structure triads. The idea behind this is that you use a triad as the extension part of a chord to have a strong sounding voicing or melody, but that’s a little more complicated theoretically and for another lesson.

The advantage to this approach it is an easy way to play rootless chords and fever notes makes it more flexible for adding notes and making melodies within the chords.

Triad exercises

The basic exercise you need for this is to learn the triads in inversions on every set of three strings. When using them as chords I play them 90% of the time on the two top sets, but since triads are such a basic resource that you need for soloing as well as chords I’ve chosen to demonstrate all three types of triads that are found in the major scale on all string sets:

Jazz Chord Essentials - Triads - ex 2

Of course you can make a lot more exercises with the triads, playing them in scales and different voiceleading or melodic ideas but for now I just cover the basics. You should check it out in diatonic situations, and work it through songs since triads are one of the fundamental building blocks in most kinds of music.

George van Eps has written a lot of exercises with triads in his books everything with fingerings and in all keys, worthwhile checking out and practicing from.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Triads - ex 3

Let’s continue by playing a few cadences in C, so Dm7, G7, Cmaj7:

A few useful ideas

To make this approach work we also need to have a way to deal with altered dominants. For that I use the approach that I also talked about in my lesson on diatonic arpeggios: Altered chords and superimposing Namely taking the upper part of the tritone substitute and used that on an altered dominant.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Triads - ex 4

Another way to say that is: Altered dominants: use the dim chord from the 7th degree: G7alt: F dim: F Ab B which is 7,b6,3rd

You can use some of the same substitution rules as I explained in on of the drop2 lessons, so
13 instead of 5 (example: G7/Bdim), b5 instead of 5 and to make a sus4 chord you can suspend the 3rd with the 4th.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Triads - ex 5

For minor chords: 11th instead of 5th or #11 instead of 5 on major 7th chords (you could also see that as a sus4 triad in inversion being used over a C bass note, but since I did not talk about sus4 triads and inversions I won’t go furter into that. The last example is how to replace the 7th with the 6th.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Triads - ex 6

 Putting it to use

Just so you get an idea about how I incorporate it, here’s an example over a trusted old I IV II V with altered dominants: Dm7 G7alt Cmaj7 A7alt

You might notice that I am trying to play with the different voices within the chords because the triad approach lends itself to this very well.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Triads - ex 7

Here’s the recording of my playing this from the video:

Here’s another video where I play an improvised arrangement of “Body and Soul” using this approach (for the most part anyway..)

I hope that you liked the lesson. If you have any questions or comments then feel free to leave them here or on the video. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Facebook, Google+ or Twitter to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.

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Here’s a downloadable version of the examples: Jazz Chord Essentials – Triads

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Target Notes

A target note is a note that you play in your improvisation when the chord is changing so that the change in the harmony is clear in the melody that you’re improvising. So it’s a way to link your solo to the harmony under it, because you play harmonically clear notes on strong beats of the bar.

Another important aspect of this approach is that It will help having a natural flow in your solo because you are thinking ahead of the harmony and playing towards something instead of trying to keep up with it after it has changed, which is a more important part of playing over changes than a lot of people think.

I already talked a bit about target notes in my lesson on playing over changes with arpeggios. But I thought it deserved a lesson by itself.

Selelcting Target notes

I’ll demonstrate this on a turnaround with altered dominants, because it is easy to make it clear, but it will of course work on all progressions.

Here’s the turnaround:

Target Notes - example 1

I’ll just quickly demonstrate the scales I’ll use:

Target Notes - example 2Target Notes - example 3Target Notes - example 4

 

Important priorities:

  • It has to be an important note in the chord, but try to avoid the root. Color of the chord is important so 3rd, 5th and on an altered dominant for example the b5 will be clear.
  • Pick a note that was not in the previous chord and maybe not even in the previous scale, that simply makes it very clear.

If we compare the scale on the Fmaj7 to the D altered scale we’ll find that three notes are in D7alt and NOT in F Major: Eb F# Ab, so they would be good candidates for clear target notes.

In a similar way we can come up with this set of target notes for the turnaround:

Target Notes - example 5

You’ll notice that since the root for several reasons does not work to well as a target note we are free to have D as a target note on the Gm7.

Playing towards a target note

The way to improvise or compose lines within this approach is to always compose a line that moves to the next target note. So here are a few examples of moving from one note to the next. The strongest melody across the barline is a step wise movement so a whole or half step.

Target Notes - example 6

And here is a more realistic example where I play twice through the turnaround with the target notes I chose in the beginning.

Target Notes - example 7

 

Download a pdf of the examples: Target Notes

I hope that you liked the lesson. If you have any questions or comments then feel free to leave them here or on the video. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Facebook, Google+ or Twitter to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.

Melodic Minor – An Introduction

I’ve had quite a few requests for a lesson on melodic minor so here’s a lesson giving you, what I consider, a good place to start to learn melodic minor: Melodic minor on a tonic minor chord. I’ve tried to give an introduction to some of the sounds of the melodic minor scale here, but also to demonstrate the approach to finding material to play that I described in my lessons on diatonic arpeggios and superimposing arpeggios.

Construction of a melodic minor scale

A melodic minor scale is a minor scale with a major 6th and a major 7th. In my video I’ve chosen to use E minor as an example so E minor is E F# G A B C D E and E melodic minor is then E F# G A B C# D# E.

To understand what chords and sounds are contained in the scale we can look at the diatonic 7th chords in it. See my lesson: Diatonic arpeggios for a bit more insight in how these are constructed.

Here are two ways to play through the diatonic chords in an E minor melodic scale:

Melodic Minor - an introduction - ex 1
Melodic Minor - an introduction - ex 2

Learning the scale

For practical reasons I am using this position of the E melodic minor scale, but in the end you will need to learn the scale all over the neck. Don’t forget that each time you need to learn a new position of a scale you already know in other positions it gets easier so don’t get too discouraged by how much hard work it is in the beginning.

Here’s the scale position written out:

Melodic Minor - an introduction - ex 3
Once you know this position by heart make sure to run through the following exercises in this position (or whatever position you are working on).
Diatonic 3rds:
Melodic Minor - an introduction - ex 4
Diatonic Triads:
Melodic Minor - an introduction - ex 5
Melodic Minor - an introduction - ex 5 2
Diatonic 7th chords:
Melodic Minor - an introduction - ex 6
Melodic Minor - an introduction - ex 6 2

 Examples of lines

If we approach improvising over an EmMaj7 or Em6 chord with the melodic minor scale in the way that I have described in my two lessons on diatonic chords, we can easily come up with these 3 arpeggios that will work well as a starting point for composing good lines: EmMaj7, Gmaj7#5 and C#mb5.

In the video I make small rubato improvisations with each one, and then I give these examples:

Melodic Minor - an introduction - ex 7

Melodic Minor - an introduction - ex 8

Melodic Minor - an introduction - ex 9

Download a pdf of the examples here: Melodic Minor – an introduction

I hope that you liked the lesson. If you have any questions or comments then feel free to leave them here or on the video. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Facebook, Google+ or Twitter to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.

Diatonic Arpeggios – Superimposing and altered chords

In this lesson I’ll discuss a standard approach to get more arpeggios you can use over a chord, using the diatonic 7th arpeggios. I’ll also go over how I use diatonic arppegios over altered dominants.

I guess I can assume you already read this lesson: Diatonic arpeggios: how to use and practice them, so you should at least know you what a diatonic arpeggio is and how it is constructed and be able to play them in a few positions and a few keys.

Superimposing – a way of adding extensions to your lines

Hopefully you have some idea on how to make a line using the arpeggio and the scale, so this next idea should help you develop a lot of new lines.

Let’s look at a Fmajor7(9): F A C E G, if you take away the F you have the notes of an Am7 so if you apply that so f.ex a II V I in F major: You have the chords: Gm7, C7, Fmaj7 and you can use the arppegios Bbmaj7, Em7b5 and Am7 over them  in you lines.

Obviously this works because the notes that make the color of the chord (3 and 7) are still being played so the overall sound of the chord is still there.

DA - superimposing and alt ex 1

Using other arpeggios that have a lot of chords in common with the chord you play them over will often work to so you could look at the one that is from the 5th and the one that is from the 6th which is the same as a third under the root. In some cases they are not working too well, f.ex a C7 arpeggio is very strongly sounding like something that is not a Fmaj7 sound, and something similar could be said about using Em7b5 over Gm7.

Here are two examples using the diatonic arpeggio from the 3rd of the chord:

DA - superimposing and alt ex 2

 

DA - superimposing and alt ex 3

I am not going to write too much about the examples I’ll explain a bit in the video. What you can learn from them is analyzing what arpeggios I play and how I use them melodically.

Altered dominants and diatonic arpeggios

In jazz you often come across altered dominant 7th chords, which are not a stack of diatonic 3rds in so you need to approach them differently. Let’s take a C7altered Usually we play the altered scale on a chord like that, so the same notes as C# melodic minor. But in C# melodic minor the diatonic chord on the C is a Cm7b5, not a C7altered chord so we don’t have a built in diatonic arpeggio for that chord and the system of taking the arpeggio from the 3rd of the chord is not as strong.

Let’s first play an altered scale, ie Melodic minor. In this case C# melodic minor:DA - superimposing and alt ex 4

So here’s a practical solution to that problem: If you look at a C7altered chord voicing like one of these: DA - superimposing and alt ex 5

You can see that they are identical to F#7 voicings so if we think of the C7altered chord as a F#7(#11) with a C in the bass, we can use the arpeggio from the 3rd of that one: A#m7b5. That arpeggio contains the 3rd and 7th of C7, the b9 and the b13 so it gives you a pretty good set of notes for C7 altered lines.

The C7alt/F#7 relationship is what is called a tritone substitution, but I won’t go into the theory on that here, it is explained in various places on the net so you can easily look it up, and is for the rest not that relevant in this context, since we are just looking for an arpeggio to play over an altered dominant.

You get these arpeggios:

DA - superimposing and alt ex 6

 

Here are a few examples where I use an A#m7b5 arpeggio over C7alt.

DA - superimposing and alt ex 7

 

DA - superimposing and alt ex 8

 

You can download a pdf of the examples here:

Diatonic Arpeggios – Superimposing and altered chords

As an experiment I have recorded a backing track of me playing 0:30 seconds of II V I in F major. If you follow me on soundcloud you can download it to practice the lines you make. If you post a recording or video of you playing lines using the material in this over the backing track and let me know I’ll try to leave you a comment on what you’ve come up with and maybe give you some advice.

I hope that you liked the lesson. If you have any questions or comments then feel free to leave them here or on the video. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Facebook, Google+ or Twitter to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.

Jazz Chord Essentials – Shell voicings

I thought I’d make this 3rd lesson on Jazz voicings about a simple reduced way of playing chords that then also lends it self very well to situations where you need to play the bass. Being simple and compact also makes it very easy to extend so a lot of things can be build from them. As I demonstrate in the video: full chords with extensions, bass lines. They are also useful for playing bossa novas and sambas as well as typical Freddie Green style 4 to the bar stuff.

Let’s first have a look at how shell voicings are constructed. A shell voicing is the bare necessities version of a jazz chord, so the chord is reduced to three notes. The most defining notes of a chord would be:

  • The Root (what chord is it)
  • The Third (is it major or minor)
  • The Seventh (major/minor/6th)

For voice-leading purposes I’ll make two different sorts of shell voicings. Both have the chord (3rd and 7th) on the 3rd and 4th string and the root is in one variation on the 5th string, in the other one it is on the 6th string. There are rules for voice-leading, but the essence is that if you don’t have to go to the closest note in the next chord when going from one chord to the next. Setting the chords up like this makes it easy to stay in one place with the chord and move the root a 4th or a 5th (which are the most common changes). You will also notice that I am calling the 7th chord m7(b5) even if it does not contain the flatted 5th, so I am naming them according to the key. I do that in the video too.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Shell voicings graphics  - ex 1
Jazz Chord Essentials - Shell voicings graphics  - ex 2

As usual the best way to learn it is to put it through a song as I do in the video, but here are a few examples on a turnaround in C.

Jazz Chord Essentials - Shell voicings graphics  - ex 3
Jazz Chord Essentials - Shell voicings graphics  - ex 4

One of the ways I use shell voicings is to use them as a basis and then add extensions or melody notes on top like this:

You might notice that especially the sets with the root on the 6th string tend to become drop3 voicings when you add extensions.  And if you watch the video you’ll see several applications of these kinds of chords in different styles.

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Jazz Chord Essentials – Drop 2 voicings – Part 2

So now you have an overview of the basic drop2 voicings from the previous lesson: Jazz Chord Essential Part 1.

Here’s a short video on how I might use chords in a solo on a blues in C.

As you can probably hear I am not only using the chords in their basic form, but I am using different versions of the same type of chord to make simple melodies that then make up the solo. In order to expand the drop2 voicings from the last lesson and build other skills to play something like this we need to work on a few things:

Adding extensions to chords

Let’s look at how we can add more colors to the voicings we already have and a few tricks that will help you use and expand what you already know.

So far we’ve been concerned with the basic chords so Am7 was simply root, third, fifth and seventh, but as I explained in the first lesson you can use Am9 or Am11 instead of Am7. Instead of making 5 or more note voicings we can use these rules to exapand the sounds:

  • 9th (or b9 or #9) can replace the root
  • 13th, b13th, b5, #5 can replace the 5th
  • 6th can replace the 7th
  • 4th or 2nd can replace the 3rd

This means that if we want to make an Am9 voicing you take the Am7 voicing and change A to B. You might notice that this means that you’ll be playing the notes B C E G which is a Cmaj7, so you can use Maj7 voicings to play minor 9 voicings. If you use the same approach to D7, you have D F# A C and that becomes E F# A C which is F#m7(b5). On Gmajor7 you have G B D F# and get  A B D F# which is Bm7.

You’ll notice that I prefer just using the “category” Chord symbols Am7 even though I am playing the 9th. Think of it as part of the process of not having a one to one combination from chord symbol to voicing, something you probably already had to abandon with several ways to play a C or a G chord.Drop 2 voicings part 2 - ex 1

Altered Dominants

One way to vary the sound of cadences is to use an altered dominant. This almost only works when the dominant is in fact resolving to a I chord, but that is for another lesson on theory.

One observation that is handy is that if you play a D7(b9,b13) having substituted the root with b9 and the fifth with the b13 you have these notes: Eb F# Bb C which are exactly the same notes as Cm7(b5) (or Ebm6) . So that gives us this set of II V I Cadences: Drop 2 voicings part 2 - ex 2

Of course these are just examples on how you can change the voicings to get other extensions.

Melodies in the voicings

When I play chords behind a soloist I am often playing melodies with the top voice of the chords to make the harmony more logical to the listener. I also sometimes play parts of a solo in chords. One way to develop the skills needed for this is to use chords to play a melody. The simplest possible melody is probably a scale on, so let’s do a few exercises with that: Drop 2 voicings part 2 - ex 3

As you can see there are a few notes in the G major scale that are tricky to harmonize, and there are several options on how to deal with them. The note C is never going to sound like a Gmaj7 chord so I chose to play an Am7 there. I could have substituted it with a C# and used a Gmaj7(#11).

Let’s make a similar exercise using a turnaround: Am7 D7alt Gmaj7 E7alt. With this exercise I am just forcing myself to move up the neck in small steps, not really any system, even if it’s almost chromatic. I guess for all of these “melodic” voicing exercises the goal is to be able to make your own more than actually play mine!

Drop 2 voicings part 2 - ex 4

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Jazz Chord Essentials – Drop 2 voicings – Part 1

In this lesson series I want to demonstrate a set of voicings that are fairly easy to play on the guitar, but will cover most sort of chords. 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.

Interpreting Chord Symbols and Improvising

In most jazz styles you are free to improvise with the chords when you are comping. This means that you can (tastefully, I hope) choose the chords (and extensions) you play and the way you play them. One aspect of this freedom means that some chords are so similar that you can group them together. Here’s a list of groups:

  • Major7: Cmaj7, C, C6, Cmaj7(9), Cmaj7(#11), Cmaj7(13) etc
  • Minor7: Cm7, Cm9, Cm11 etc
  • Dom7: C7, C9, C7(#11) C7(13) etc.
  • Half Diminished: Cm7(b5) Cm7b5(9), Cm7b5(11) etc
  • Altered Dominant: C7(b9), C7(b5), C7(b9,b13), C7(b13#9) etc.
  • MinorMaj: CmMaj7, Cm6, Cm6/9, CmMaj7(9) etc

I guess for now the list is more of a reference, but what this means is that when you see one of the chords above you can substitute it with one of the other ones if you want to.

With practice you’ll be able to do this without thinking because you get used to thinking of several voicings as part of the same sound.

Enough talk! Let’s play an example. Here’s a recording of a simple tonal vamp in G:

GMaj7 E7 Am7 D7, I’ll play it a few times with different voicings. The voicings are all Drop2 voicings, I also recorded a simple two beat bassline to make the chords a bit clearer. Jazz Chord Essentials - Drop2 part 1- ex 1

It could be that some of these voicings does not come across to you as drop 2 voicings, but they can be derived from them as I well demonstrate in this series. The secondary goal in this is also that you start to think of new ways to get voicings from the ones you already know, by using some of the principles I use here.

A few basic exercises

In general I won’t really spent too much time on the music theory involved, just mention it and you are free to ask or look it up elsewhere if you want to know more. You probably already noticed that I don’t play the root in the bass on all chords. This is because I’d suggest using these type of chords in a context where there is a bass player so leave him to play the bass notes and you can focus on the chord and how that sounds.

Let’s first cover some basic chords on the top 4 strings in drop 2 voicings. In a major scale you have 4 types of diatonic chords: m7, dom7. Maj7 and m7(b5). Here are each of these from the key of G:Jazz Chord Essentials - Drop2 part 1- ex 2

I only show this for the 4 top strings since that is what you probably need the most, but you can play these voicings on the middle and bottom sets of 4 strings too. Here’s an overview of those fingerings: Overview of Drop 2 voicings on guitar You can probably leave it for later and just start with the top 4 string sets. The method is the same for all sets of strings…

You need to know these quite wel as they will be the base of everything else you need to do. Try to play them through a scale so that you practice your knowledge of diatonic chords too, that will soon be something you need to know and understand.

Here’s an exercise combining thJazz Chord Essentials - Drop2 part 1- ex 3em in a basic II V I cadence.

And here’s how to take it through the 1st 16 bars of Autumn Leaves, which is a handy tune because it has most of the chords in the key:Jazz Chord Essentials - Drop2 part 1- ex 4

I’d recommend that you try this out with several jazz standards to become familiar with finding the right chords and get used to the fingerings and the sounds. That will make it much easier to go to the subject of the next lesson where we’ll start adding more extensions, look at how one voicing can be used over another chord and add some alterations to the dominants.

I hope you like the lesson. Feel free to connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, G+, YouTube etc. if you have any questions or if you want to stay up to date with lessons, cd releases and concerts.