Passing chords are a great Jazz trick to add some surprising but also beautiful sounds to chords. In this video I will show you 4 types of passing chords and examples of how they sound and how to use them. You can use the examples to get them into your own playing and add amazing new colors to how you play chords.
I am going to go over examples using, diatonic, chromatic, diminished and dominant passing chords and show you how you can make some beautiful embellishments of a simple II V I turnaround in C.
I am going to cover the 4 types of passing chords by giving you some examples of how they sound. For this lesson I am not going to discuss the music theory involved with the chords. I think it is more important that you have some options and that you explore what they sound like.
Ironically the last one is the easiest to play, the one that adds the most color and movement and it would be the hardest to explain.
I am using a simple turnaround to show you where you can add extra chords, and the basic progression is this one:
The first version is using complete chords with the bass note, but the 2nd one is using drop2 voicings which are a little more flexible. Most of the chords I am using in the lesson will be drop2 chords.
Diatonic Passing Chords
The first type of Passing chord is a diatonic passing chord. You mainly use diatonic passing chords in a step-wise manner where you are walking from one chord in the scale to the next.
The first example shows a descending approach from Fmaj7 to Dm7.
This 2nd Diatonic example is using a single Em7 as a passing chords going up to Em7 and then back down to Dm7(9)
Diminished Passing Chords
The Diminished chord is often a bit mysterious but it is a great very flexible chord to add to a progression. In this example I am using different types of diminished chords, but mainly there is a C#dim pulling us to Dm7 and a Gdim resolving to the G7.
For more information on the theory behind the diminished chords and the different functions they can have you can check out this article: Secret to play over Diminished Chords
This example is using a diminished chord as a type of suspension of the Cmaj7.
Dominant Passing Chords
The way a passing chord works is by having a natural resolution to the chord it is targeting. Using the dominant of that chord is of course a great approach.
Below you can see how the A7 on beat 4 works as a passing chord towards the Dm7.
This is repeated in the next bar with the A7(b13) resolving to the Dm7(9)
Side note: Em7 voicing for Cmaj7
I very often get asked why I write Cmaj7 and then the chord voicing looks like an Em7 (for example beat one of example 6)
The explanation is fairly simple. If you look at bar 1 below then it is clear that it is an Em7 chord.
Em7 is E G B D, but if the bass plays a C then the notes sound like a Cmaj7(9): E(3rd of C), G(5th), B(7th), D(9th)
Another way to look at it is shown in bars 2 and 3 below.
You probably know the Cmaj7(9) in bar2. The rootless version of that is, of course, still a Cmaj7(9), and you could add a high G to that which would give you the voicing in bar 1.
Chromatic Passing Chords
A huge part of the sound of a Jazz solo is the use of chromatic passing notes and enclosures. The chromatic passing chords is a way to harmonize this type of melody, maybe even the harmonic counterpart to this.
The first example has a C#m7 to pull toward the Dm7. You should notice that to get this to work you have to think in melodies, and the top-note melody should be pretty strong. Here is D, D# to E.
the 2nd bar has an Ab7 approaching the G7 with a similar descending melody.
You can also use the chromatic passing chords as suspensions similar to how I used the diminished chord in example 5.
Here there are also chromatic approach chords for the Dm7 and Cmaj7.
Take your comping skills up a level
This collection of lessons will teach you a lot of material with passing chords, top-note melodies and riff comping. Focus is on using this on songs so that you can get it into your own playing.
Comping – Putting It All Together
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