Most of the time what makes Jazz chords great is that you don’t just play chord grips, you can add things around a chord and also use that to connect the chords making the music flow.
You probably already know how the first few times you learn a new chord then you play that and it sounds great, but even chords with a lot of extensions becomes boring after a while, and what you really want to learn is what you can do with the chord, give it some movement and change the color, so that you go from
To something that looks complicated but is actually surprisingly simple and easy to get started with like using pentatonic chords:
And this is actually not as complicated as it looks or sounds, I’ll show you…
I am going to focus on the maj7th chord because that is very often the place where the progression stops, and where you need to work a little to keep it interesting.
#1 7th to 6th
This is sort of in two steps, If you are not completely new to Jazz chords then you probably know that if you play a Cmaj7 then you can replace that with a C6 chord if Cmaj7 fits then so does C6
So when you play: Cmaj7, then you can also play: C6, or this Cmaj7 and this C6.
This is already giving you some options, but having two chords is not enough, because the 7th and the 6th are a whole-step apart so you can also add a chromatic note in between them,
and the basic version of that already gives you something like this:
But you can also use it with really simple shell-voicings and create small melodies, and that will teach you something else that is very useful:
For this to work then you need to find the 7th in the maj7 chord, but checking out the voicings you use so that you know the notes in there is also what will later open up for a lot of options. Playing these chromatic phrases can be tricky, but they are worth the effort, and focus on finding the practical ones that easy to play.
Most of the things in this video are not something I picked up from Barry Harris, I am not even sure he would like them, to be honest, but this one and the next one are both something I picked up from him as this drop2 exercise
Because here you also have the 7th going to the 6th but there is something else happening as well.
#2 9th to root
Highlight 7th to 6th and 9th to root as a part of the
The other thing that you see in that drop2 exercise is the 9th moving down to the root, but you don’t always need to use them together, they both sound great by themselves, check out this example where I am using the 9th to the root with a maj6/9 chord.
And again this is about going over your chords and finding the 9th and figure out how to start add this movement. Before I start combining the chords with pentatonic scales then check out this other version that combines it with the maj7 moving down to the 6th, similar to the Barry Harris exercise, but it also has a beautiful maj7(9) chord that you want to add to your voicing vocabulary:
#3 Pentatonic Scale From The 3rd
Pentatonic scales are amazing for Jazz chords! In Jazz solos, it is very common to super-impose pentatonic scales over chords when you soloing and use those to get some great sounds and lines that really sound different.
But you can also do this with chords and that sounds amazing!
For Cmaj7 then Em pentatonic is a great sound because it gives you a mix of the notes to get the chord sound across (Slight pause) and some great sounding extensions.
And for this Cmaj7:
You can think of this pentatonic scale position
and a practical way to get some chords for that could be playing 3 notes at a time:
Putting these to use and then adding an extra trick will give you something like this:
I love adding the extra chord at the end to create this huge voicing, but you can, of course, also do a lot simpler things that sound great.
I’ll get to the harmonics I used as well later in the video, but first there is another great pentatonic option you want to explore:
#4 Pentatonic Scale from the 7th
The other pentatonic scale that you want to check out is the pentatonic scale from the 7th of the chord.
For Cmaj7 that is Bm pentatonic, and again you have the important notes for the chord, E and B
and then 3 great extensions: 9, #11 and 13, so you are turning the chord into a Cmaj7(#11), a Lydian sound.
And you can put that to use with 3-note chords just like the Em pentatonic scale, but you can also change how you play those 3-note chords. Check out how there is a lot more space to this sound:
The last concept is to add artificial harmonics, which is also a really nice trick, especially for ballads!
#5 Artificial Harmonics
This is a technique:, first check out the example then I will explain how it works. Notice that I am playing a super common maj7 chord!
What I am doing here is playing artifical harmonics on the notes of the chord. I have this Cmaj7 and then with my right hand I just touch the string with my index finger above the fret wire, 12 frets above the fretted note, so one octave, and plug that with my ring or middle finger.
It takes a bit of practice, but it isn’t super difficult and definitely worth the effort, since it adds a completely different sound to what you are playing while you are just using a common maj7 voicing.
You can do much more complicated things with this, but already the simple version is a great sound to add in there. An easy variation is that you can actually strum a simple bar chord like this as well. It is the same principle but you are just moving your hand across several strings to get the harmonics
For that I’ll use a Gmaj7 since that is a more friendly key for that voicing.
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