Chords / Voicings
Welcome to the blog section dedicated to jazz guitar chord voicings. You will find here relevant sources of information (Tabs, shapes, charts, diagrams) for a better understanding of the main types of chords (minor, major, dominant, diminished, half-diminished, augmented, altered, extended) found in jazz standards and common progressions.
These free guitar lessons provide chord shapes, Tabs, theory, YouTube videos, audio files and formula charts. They are intended for the beginners as well as the more advanced players who want to learn how to build chords (triads, tetrads) or how to play chord-melody arrangements using drop 2, drop 3 and drop 2-4 voicings.
What is Voice Leading in Music?
"Voice leading" is a term that refers to the smooth progression of each voice of a chord. This technique consist to move individually one or several voices up or down by a step from one chord to the next.
Voice leading is very used by composers and improvisers in order to connect chords instead of bouncing them around.
The aim of this lesson is to connect or voice-lead basic four-note chords of the same types by moving only one voice. This technique is very fun and should help you learn some of the most important chords used in jazz guitar.
Focusing on jazz standards is surely the best way to accelerate the learning process of jazz guitar, making sure to choose easy songs with a few numbers of chords and melodies that can be easy to hear, play and memorize. When learning jazz guitar, it's very important to spend time learning famous jazz songs, it is an essential part of being a jazz musician. Many guitar students are able to play a ton of chords, arpeggios and scales but they can't play a jazz tune mixing both the melody and the chords.
Here are 5 easy chord-melody arrangements of popular jazz songs for beginning jazz guitarists. Each lesson is available for free as a YouTube video with guitar chord diagrams overlayed in real time.
Beautiful love (Wayne King, Victor Young and Egbert Van Alstyne)
Misty (Errol Garner)
Moon river (Henry Mancini)
Stella by startlight (Victor Young)
Autumn Leaves (Joseph Kosma)
What Are Drop Voicings?
Drop voicings are chords which span more than an octave. They are very useful tools in music composition and arrangement and are greatly appreciated by guitarists for comping and soloing.
There are several types of drop voicings as drop 2, drop 3, drop 3-4, drop 2 and 4 voicings and drop 2-3-4 voicings. This lesson focuses on drop 3 voicings only. You will see how they are built and how to play them on guitar by using the chord shapes and tablatures provided on this page.
How to Play Autumn Leaves With Guitar Chords?
Autumn leaves is one of the most popular non-American jazz standards on pick-up gigs and records. It is a must-know tune for any jazz guitarist and a great choice when you want to play both chords and melody on guitar. Indeed, the chord progression is not difficult to learn and easy to play. This blog article provides an easy chord melody arrangement to play the famous jazz tune on guitar. This lesson runs in three steps :
- Listening to instrumental and vocal versions.
- Playing basic chords (drop 2 and drop 3 voicings).
- Learning to play the melody.
- Playing the chord-melody arrangement.
Autumn leaves is a 1945 song composed by French musician Joseph Kosma. The original lyrics are in French, written by Kosma but in 1947 Johnny Mercer wrote the English ones. Since that time it has become a very popular song and surely one of the most played jazz standards.
This song is in a AABC form (32 bars), very much appreciated by beginners because the harmonic progression is pretty simple to play and easy to understand. It covers a very important chord sequence found in jazz, the ii-V-I both in minor and major.
What's An Altered Dominant Chord?
Altered dominant chords are used to bring tension and an outside flavor to jazz chord progressions. They generally resolved to an inside chord as the I or a substitute as iii or vi.
Altered chords have one or more notes lowered or raised by a half-step, in other words they contain one or more alterations. These alterations can be b9,#9, b5 (#11) and b13 (#5).
They are generally used by jazz musicians, composers and arrangers as substitutions for diatonic chords for adding dissonance and spicing up the harmony.
Everyone knows the importance of drop 2 chords in jazz music. They are very useful for comping, chord soloing, harmonizing and building chord melodies.
Drop 2 voicings are very important for jazz guitarists because they are easy to play and do no require the root on the low sixth or fifth strings, indeed they are played on 4 adjacent strings.
The first chapter of this lesson provides all the drop 2 voicing shapes, major seventh (M7), minor seventh (m7), dominant seventh (7), half-diminished (m7b5) and diminished seventh (dim7) to play on the guitar neck.
The second part of this post will explain how to connect drop 2 voicings following the notes of the major scale.
In jazz, there are many types of turnarounds and progressions that eventually we all must encounter. A key part of how you practice should be in preparing yourself for these progressions and turnarounds. Whether that is by learning a shed-full of Parker’s II V I licks, by practicing exercises over progressions or even by learning a new standard. The end result is that you are better equipped to deal with what is in front of you in the moment on the bandstand.
To this end, I’m going to talk to you today about a progression known as the backdoor progression.
A chord progression is a succession of musical chords (with at least two notes) played one after another. Chord progression can be named harmonic progression and represent the foundation of western and traditional music.
Many jazz standards use similar chord progressions, in different keys it is very important to recognize them by ear and visually. Working and practicing basic chord sequences will make you feel more comfortable when you will need to learn jazz standards, it will more evident and easy to comp and solo.
In this lesson you will learn to recognize the 14 most important jazz chord progressions as minor and major II-V-I, the turnarounds and their variations, how to use passing diminished chords. You will find charts with roman numerals to easily transpose these harmonic progressions in different keys and some examples of comping with audio files, tabs and standard notation.
A new video has been uploaded on the YouTube channel. It is a Barry Galbraith comping study named "Like someone". This is the last study from the Barry Galbraith book "Jazz guitar comping series, vol #3" published by Jamey Aebersold. Most of the accompaniments studies (comps) in this book are designed to accompany a melody or an improvised solo with bass lines like a pianist would do. It is a very great book to practice jazz guitar comping.
A major chord is built with three notes namely root (1), major third (3) and fifth (5). These three tones represent the structure of the major chord. The same holds true for minor, diminished and augmented chords. In this guitar lesson you will learn how to play a major chord in closed and open triad voicings (also known as spread voicings).
Arpeggios are very helpful devices to easily outline the chord changes especially in tunes with fast tempos as bebop tunes for examples.
The basic use of arpeggios is to play them over their related chord, for example play a Gm7 arpeggio (G-Bb-D-F) over a G minor 7 chord or a C7 arpeggio (C-E-G-Bb) over a C dominant 7 chord.
Over a classic II-V-I progression in C major (Dm7-G7-Cmaj7) you will play Dm7 arp, G7 arp and Cmaj7 arp. This way you take no risks and you are sure to underline and hear correctly the harmony.
Unfortunately, this can be boring in the long run, that's why, in this article, we will see how to superimposed diatonic arpeggios to open new paths and create original and interesting jazz lines.
You will find in this page 5 exercises to learn to play different jazz guitar chord voicings over the most used chord progression in jazz, the famous II-V-I sequence.
Generally, when a beginner start to learn to play guitar, he tackles open chords (up the guitar neck), those found in many popular songs.
Then, come the bar chords (major, minor, dominant 7) a little hard to master. But all these chords do not have a very interesting sound and are not mostly used in jazz music.
That's why in this lesson for jazz beginners we will take the main basic guitar bar chords to transform and enrich them so that their sonority is richer, exciting and better suited to jazz concept.
One of the most popular jazz chord substitution is the tritone substitution sometimes referred to as dominant chord substitution.
It consists in replacing a dom7 chord by another dominant 7th chord whose root is a tritone away from this initial chord. Example with G7 (V), which can be replaced by Db7 which is a tritone (three whole-steps) away from G7
Thus giving two chords that have two notes in common. The 7th of G7 (F) is the third of Db7 and the third of G7 (B) is the seventh of Db7. The inversion of the 3rds and the 7ths between the original dominant chord (V) and the substituted dominant chord (bII7) is the main feature of the tritone substitution.