The Real Magic of Jazz Chords – Easy & Amazing

What is really great about Jazz chords or comping in Jazz is that you are allowed to improvise with the chords and choose what sounds you play, especially in terms of extensions but it can go a lot further as you will see in this jazz chords guitar lesson.

In this video, I am going to show you some really simple but also really great ways to add some chromatic notes and even entire chords to your playing. This works great if you are playing Jazz of course but it is also really useful in other genres that use extended chords.

In chord progressions and static chords

I am going to go over some different examples of how to mess around with a chord. I am going to show you how it works on a single chord but also how you can use it on a chord progression.

The first few are examples only moving one note in the chord and then it is going to get a little more extensive and you will learn how to start to add chromatic chords as well.

When it says Cmaj7 in the chart you can play a Cmaj7, but you can also play a C6. The difference between these two is a B and A :

We can play what we want as long as it sounds like the right chord in the context and as long as it does not clash with the melody or the soloist. For the different chords in this video, I will give you some examples of extensions you can use.

Why I Don’t Add Extensions to Chord Symbols

This way of improvising with the chords is also why I often don’t write extensions on the chords of a song: We are allowed to chose. (b-roll? comping You Stepped out of a dream with chord symbols)

You can also move from one to the other, and you can even add a chromatic leading note in between like this:

If you use this on a II V I then it becomes:

It does not have to be in the top note melody, it sounds great in the middle of the chord too:

The 9th – Another great extension

Another extension you can add to a Maj7 chord is the 9th. That can move down to the root:

The example is also moving the b13 to the b5 on the altered dominant. Whenever I chose a note to move to in the scale that works with the chord.

In example 5 I am moving the 7th and the 9th, but one of them alone

Stealing from Stairway to Heaven

So now we start moving several notes and before I go into chromatic chords, let’s have a look at how you can also move them in opposite directions (ala Stairway to Heaven)

Here are two ways of doing that on a Dm7. On a Dm7 you can use other extensions from the scale, the 9th and the 11th are pretty safe most of the time if Dm7 is the II or the VI chord in the scale.

Notice that the chord in between is actually an Fm7, but that is actually a coincidence which is why I did not write the chord symbol.

Chromatic Passing Chords on a G7

Now let’s add some chromatic chords. For a G7 you can play the G7 but also choose to add either a 9th or a 13th.

A 3-note version of adding some chromatic chords as leading chords could be something like this:

The idea is really just to move the chord a fret up or down when it resolves as you can see I do both in the first bar going down and the second moving up.
This is pretty easy to play on guitar so you should really explore that for more chords than just the dominants.

Another way to use this is to let the melody move one way and the chord another. This is what I am doing in this example:

Here the melody is the same in bars 1 +2 and bars 3 + 4.

The first example is using an Ab7 to harmonize the Ab in the melody, and the 2nd example is using a Gb7. The difference is that in the second example the melody is moving down while the chord is moving up (Gb7 up to G7).

If you want to explore more sounds and chords that you can use when you comp then check out this video where I am covering different inversions of chords you probably already know plus some great voice-leading tricks you can add to your playing.

Add some Chromatic chords to your comping

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