Music Theory

Music theory

  • The Circle of Fifths - Music Theory

    The circle of fifths is the way the 12 musical notes of the chromatic scale are arranged following a sequence of perfect fifths (7 semitones). It helps visualizing relationships between notes and better understanding diatonic harmony.

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  • The Phrygian Mode - Theory, Licks, Charts and Shapes

    You'll find in this blog post several cheat sheets for guitarists about the Phrygian mode, third mode of the major scale. These infographics are related to the YouTube video below. They show how this minor scale is built, how to play it on guitar, what are the related chords, how to use it over common chord progressions, etc.

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  • Dorian Mode Tutorial - Theory, Shapes, Chords, Scales, Arpeggios & Licks

    This blog post contains free cheat sheets (infographics) for guitar players about the Dorian mode. You will find useful information on how to play chords, arpeggios and minor licks directly related to this minor scale.

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  • Major Scale Aka Ionian Mode - YouTube Video - Cheat Sheets For Guitar - Scales, Chords, Patterns and Licks

    Here are some free cheat sheets for guitar teachers and students about the Ionian mode aka The Major Scale. Here, you'll find chord and scale shapes with easy patterns and licks related to the Ionian mode.

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  • 14 Types of Minor Scales & Modes For Guitar - Shapes and Theory

    This guitar lesson sheds light on the different types of minor modes and scales that can be used in jazz music. They are built with different combinations of intervals starting on different steps of several scales as the major scale, the melodic minor, the harmonic minor, the harmonic major, the pentatonic scale and the bebop scale. 

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  • Best Jazz Guitar Books - Buyer's Guide

    The world of jazz guitar books can be a daunting and overwhelming experience for the beginning guitarist. There are literally thousands of books on jazz guitar, many with similar content and information.

    Some books are better suited to learning chords, while others are designed to enhance reading skills, still others are meant to teach improvisation concepts. Some books attempt to cover all of these bases. Some of the most useful are collections of transcribed solos and etudes.

    Fortunately for you, I have been studying jazz guitar for 15 years and have practiced and taught from many of the best jazz guitar books available on the market.

    Whether your focus is developing a strong sense of rhythm, building your improvisational skills, mastering a wide range of chord voicings, progressions, and substitutions, or understanding the theory that ties all of it together, you can use this list of the best jazz guitar books to help guide your path!

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  • 28 Ways of Playing a Dominant 7 Chord On Guitar

    Dominant 7 chords are surely the most important to know when you want to try your hand at jazz guitar. These chords are very present in jazz and blues tunes, that's why it is crucial to know them at your fingertips.This quick lesson show 28 dominant 7 guitar shapes based on drop 2, drop 3 and drop 2-4 voicings. 

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  • Cluster Chords On Guitar - Theory And Exercises With Tabs

    This guitar lesson with tabs and theory is about cluster chord voicings. These are chords in which at least two notes are grouped together in order to create a sort of dissonance.

    Cluster chords are sometimes quite difficult to play on guitar but they have a very interesting sound widely used in comtemporary jazz and neo-soul music.

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  • "THE LICK" - Guitar Lesson With Exercises

    "The Lick" is considered as the most famous phrase in jazz music (and also in other styles). It has been played so many times, by so many players, in so many tunes that it has become a cliche.

    Although there are a significant number of common jazz lines, this one is surely the most popular, an essential part of the Bebop language. 

    This guitar lesson with tabs, charts and theory explains what is "The Lick", how it is built and how to apply it in different harmonic contexts.

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  • I VI II V Turnaround Variations - Lesson With Guitar Tabs & Theory

    Turnarounds are a section of two or four bars at the end of a tune. Their role is to create a harmonic transition going back to the beginning. They are present in many jazz tunes and are an important part of "rhythm changes" progressions. They are also used to create effective jazz intros and endings.

    This lesson with guitar tabs contains 17 exercises to gain a better understanding of the I VI II V variations.

     

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  • Basic Jazz Guitar Chords - Guide For Beginners

    Jazz guitar chord voicings present a real challenge for beginners. Many guitarists think they need to know a lot of complicated chords with unpronounceable names to play jazz. But, the truth is that jazz guitar chords are based on easy shapes that you can move anywhere on the guitar neck.

    These basic chords are divided into several distinct qualities (minor 7 , major 7 , dimininished 7 , half-diminished, dominant 7). They can be altered or enriched with extra tones as explains in this tutorial.

    By studying the basic chord voicing shapes in this lesson you will understand how jazz chords are built, how to play them on guitar and how to apply them to any jazz standard or chord progression.

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  • Triad Pairs For Jazz Guitar - Theory, Tabs, Exercises

    The triad pair system is a technique used by many jazz improviser to build modern improvised lines. It consists of playing two adjacent triads from a scale. The most used are from the major diatonic system, however it is possible to use triad pairs from other scales as melodic minor, harmonic minor and harmonic major. This guitar lesson with tabs, shapes and theory is focused on triad pairs from the major scale only.

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  • Jazz Guitar Chords - Theory And Basic Shapes - Essential Guide

    This lesson explains how jazz chords are built and how to play them on guitar using common positions. This will help you understand, identify, build and play one of the most important types of chords.

    All the shapes proposed in this tutorial are movable and playable anywhere on the fretboard. So, try to play them in all twelve keys.

    To simplify learning, the voicings used in this course ensure that the root is always the lowest note, either on the sixth, fifth or fourth string. In other words, there are no chords with third, fifth, seventh or any other note in the bass.

    Don't hesitate to create your own chord positions. In the meantime, take a look at the following essential chord shapes proposed below, classified into four distinct categories :

    • TRIADS
      • (major, minor, augmented, diminished, sus4 and sus2). 
    • SEVENTH CHORDS (aka tetrads)
      •  (maj7, min7, dom7, m7b5, dim7, minMaj7, maj7#5, 7b5, 7#5).
    • SIXTH CHORDS
      • (maj6, min6).
    • EXTENDED CHORDS
      •   (min9, maj9, 9, 6/9, 7#9, 7b9, m11, maj11, 11, m13, maj13, 13, 7b13)

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  • Intervals on Guitar - Shapes and Theory

    Whether simple or compound intervals are a very important part of  music theory. Knowing them allow understand how scales, arpeggios and chords are built. Intervals are useful tools to visualize the notes and understand their relationships on the guitar fretboard. This lesson with downloadable pdf, guitar shapes and theory will help you better figure them out and play them on guitar.

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  • Harmonization of the Harmonic Minor Scale - Guitar Shapes & Theory

    This lesson dedicated to the harmonic minor scale explains how to build drop 2 and drop 3 seventh chords from it. This action which consists in stacking notes in interval of thirds starting on each tone of a scale is commonly called "harmonization".

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  • Blues Progressions For Jazz Musicians - 11 Forms With Analysis & Audio Files

    Jazz blues chord forms

    Jazz blues progressions are very common in jazz music however, there is a lot of twelve-bar blues variations based on the typical form.You will see in this lesson how to incorporate major and minor II V I sequences and turnarounds in order to make evolve a basic blues progression. Each chord changes chart contains roman numeral analysis to facilitate transposing them in any key.

     

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  • Diatonic Guitar Dyads - Lesson With Shapes - Music Theory

    What is a Dyad?

    A dyad is a two-note chord, a pair of notes played at the same time. These two notes are separated by an interval. Considering there are different types of intervals, there are therefore different types of dyads.

    What's an Interval in Music?

    An interval is the distance between two notes. It can be melodic or harmonic.

    Is a Dyad can be considered a Chord?

    A chord must contain, at a minimum, 3 notes. As its name implies a dyad is made of only two pitches. So, a dyad is considered as being an interval, not a chord.

    What's a Diatonic Scale?

    A diatonic scale is built with of half and whole steps. The term diatonic comes from the ancient Greece. In western music a diatonic scale is based on five whole steps and two half-steps that can be ordered in many specific ways. The best known is the diatonic major scale based on the formula W - W - H - W - W - W - H which means Whole-Step | Whole-Step | Half-step |  WholeStep | Whole-Step |  Whole-Step | Half-Step.

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  • 36 Ways of Playing a Dominant 7 Chord on Guitar

    Drop 2 dominant 7 chordsDominant 7 chords are one of the most important chords to know, they can be found in many styles of music as blues, funk, pop and of course in jazz music. In this lesson we will see how dominant 7 chords are built and how to play them on guitar using 36 different voicing shapes.

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  • Harmonization of the Melodic Minor Scale - Chord Shapes and Theory

    How to harmonize the melodic minor scale

    In this lesson we will see how to harmonize the melodic minor scale in thirds with seventh chords. In other words we will see how to build seventh chords by stacking thirds from each degree of the melodic minor scale.

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  • What Scale to Play Over 7b9 Chord

    Phrygian dominant scale guitar shapesDominant 7 flat ninth chords (7b9) are generally related to the fifth mode of the harmonic minor scale known as Phrygian dominant scale, which makes it the most obvious choice for improvising over 7b9 chords. However, we will see in this article that there are many other options.

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  • 12 Types of Major Scales - Guitar Lesson With Diagrams

    12 types of major scales

    What's a Major Scale?

    A major scale is a scale containing a major third (3) and a major seventh (7). There must be four half-steps between the root and the major third and one half-step between the major seventh and the root. The most known is the major scale spelled 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7.

    What Are the Twelve Types of Major Scales?

    When we think about major scales, the first that comes to mind is the Ionian mode, best know as THE major scale. However, there are several other types of major scales (Ionian #5, Lydian augmented #2, Ionian b6) which deserve a little more attention. Here they are listed with guitar shapes and formulas. 

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  • II V7 Bebop Patterns - David Baker - Analysis and Scale Diagrams

    Bebop patterns for guitar david baker 10This blog article is related to the video tutorial published on JGL YouTube channel. It contains 10 II V7 jazz bebop guitar patterns with analysis and scale shapes.

    These lines come from the first chapter of David Baker's book "How To Play Bebop Vol.2 - Learning the bebop language". They correspond to the first ten exercises of the section named "The Use of The II V7 Progression in Bebop".

    You 'll find in this lesson a quick analysis of each pattern with scale diagrams (Dorian, Dorian bebop, Mixolydian, dominant bebop, Mixolydian b13, altered, mixo-blues and half-whole diminished).

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  • Solar - Miles Davis - Guitar Chord Melody Lesson and Analysis With Tabs

    "Solar" is a jazz standard written by Miles Davis in the key of C minor with four tonal centers that are  : C minor, F major, Eb major and Db major. Solar contains essential chord progressions as major and minor II V I. This lesson provides a short harmonic analysis and a chord melody arrangement for guitar with tabs, standard notation, chord shapes and audio file.

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  • How to Use a Tritone Substitution - 6 Guitar Licks

    6 tritone substitution guitar licksWhat's a Tritone Substitution?

    The tritone substitution is one of the most common substitution found in jazz. The basic application of a tritone chord substitution is to take any 7th chord and play another 7th chord that has its root a tritone away from the original. This guitar lesson demonstrates how you can play scales and arpeggios starting from the b5 (a tritone away) of the V7 chord in a II V I chord progression. This way you will highlight altered tones as the b9 and the #11. 

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  • Extended Diatonic Arpeggios For Guitar - Upper-Structure of Chords and Superimposition

    When learning how to play jazz guitar, one of the most important device to master is to play each tone of a chord in order to outline a specific progression.

    This is what we call arpeggios. They are great melodic tools when you want to highlight the chords you are soloing over.

    This lesson is focused on diatonic seventh arpeggios and their extensions. In a first time, before applying these extensions, it is recommended to have a very strong knowledge of the triads, both the chords and the arpeggios.

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  • Three Types Of Minor Blues Scales

    Minor blues scalesThe minor blues scale is mostly referred to as the minor pentatonic scale with a b5 thus giving the interval pattern 1 - b3 - 4 - b5 - 5 - b7. However, few musicians know that there are three types of minor blues scales depending on wether you incorporate the flat fifth (b5), the major third (3) or the major seventh (7) to the minor pentatonic scale. In this lesson you will learn how to build, play and recognize each of these three minor blues scales.

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  • How To Play Triad Chords On Guitar - Lesson With Tabs & Shapes

    How to use triads lessonTriads are one of the first harmonic tools to study. They are very useful for comping and chordal enrichment. Learning close and open triad voicings increase your harmonic knowledge and at the same time help you discover your fretboard.

    In this lesson you will see the main triad chord shapes including root positions and inversions. You will also find some ideas on how to use triads over a II V I sequence, in order to create interesting melodic movement in your comping.

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  • What are Dominant Seventh Chords ?

    What s a dominant 7 chord

    Dominant seventh chords are the most important features in music, you can find them in many styles of music, especially in blues and, of course, in jazz. In this lesson, you will see how to construct drop 2, drop 3 and drop 2 & 4 dominant seventh chords, what is their harmonic function and how to play them on guitar.

     

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  • Drop 2 & 4 Chords - Advanced Guitar Voicings

    Drop 2 and 4 voicingsWhat Are Drop 2-4 Chords?

    Drop 2 and 4 chords are created by dropping down an octave the second and fourth note of a seventh chord in close position. They can be very important tools for composition and arrangement. This lesson with diagrams provides useful explanations on how to build and play drop 2 & 4 chords on guitar.

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  • Tetrad Chords / Seventh Chords - Music Theory with Guitar Shapes

    What are tetrad chordsWhat's a Tetrad ?

    A basic chord is built with three notes this is what we call "triad chords" or "triads". Tetrad chords aka "four note-chords" are simply chords containing four notes, “tetra“ is a Greek root meaning four.

    This means that tetrads are triads with an additional note, a major seventh or a minor seventh. 

    This article will enlighten you on how these tetrad chords are built and how they can be classified.

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  • List and Comparison of Music Scales - Formula Charts

    List of music scalesHere is a list of the main musical scales and modes.

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  • Drop 3 Chords - Guitar Diagrams And Music Theory

    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.

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  • 25 Altered Dominant Guitar Chords

    Altered dominant chords

    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.

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  • What Is a Backdoor Progression And How To Play Over It

    The backdoor progression jazz lessonIn 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.

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  • The 14 Most Important Jazz Chord Progressions

    Minor ii valt i chord progression 1 1

    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.

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  • How to Play Major Triads on Guitar - Close and Open Voicings

    Drop 2 major chord bass on string 5 3A 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). 

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  • 8 Ways to Play The Minor Pentatonic Scale Over a Dominant Chord

    minor pentatonic scales over dominant chordsThe minor pentatonic scale is by far the most used scale in the world all styles taken together (jazz, blues, rock, reggae, pop, country).

    One of the explanation is given by the structure. Indeed, there are no semi-tones in it. It is easy to play on the guitar and it can be used in a whole lot of very different contexts.

    This lesson will show you eight ways to use the minor pentatonic scale over a dominant seventh chord. The principle is easy to understand, this consists in playing the minor pentatonic scale starting on each tone of the Mixolydian scale (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, b7).

     This method helps to highlight certain notes and brings interesting colors to your jazz guitar lines depending on you want to play outside or inside.

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  • Triad Arpeggios - Guitar Lesson For Beginners

    Triad arpeggios - Guitar lessonArpeggios are surely the most important devices to master when you want to start improvising. Every jazz players use arpeggios in their improvisations. Great guitarists, all kinds of styles use arpeggios : John Scofield, Kurt Rosewinkel, Birelli Lagrene, Django Reinhardt, and many more.

    Arpeggios are played extensively because they use only the notes found in a single chord. Therefore,  they create a more harmonized sound when played with their corresponding chord. Arpeggios are very helpful to easily outline the chord changes.

    This guitar lesson is focused on the most basic forms of arpeggios made out of three notes called "triad arpeggios". 

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  • The Tritone Substitution - Guitar Lesson With Theory and Tabs

    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.

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  • What's a Half-Diminished Chord (m7b5)

    This guitar lesson explains what is m7b5 chord, how to play it on guitar and how to apply it in common harmonic contexts as major and minor II-V-I progressions.

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  • List of Musical Intervals - Music Theory

    What is an Interval ?

    An interval is the distance between two notes, each one is represented by a number (1,2,3,4,5,6,7...) and a prefix related to its quality ("M" for major, m for minor, "P" for perfect, "d" for diminished and "A" for augmented). There are five different qualities.

    An interval can be melodic, when the tones are successive (played one after the other) and harmonic, if the notes are stacked (played simultaneously). Knowing the name of each interval on guitar and on any other instrument is very important.

    Intervals are essential elements of music theory. Intervals are very useful to understand how chords and scales are built. This article shows you how to make the difference between them.

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  • Chords in Fourths - Quartal Harmony

    Quartal harmony - Chords in fourthsWhat is Quartal Harmony?

    To enrich and modernize the harmonization of a piece it is common to use fourth chords. They can replace some original chords to bring more melodic freedom into improvisation and more tension in harmony.

    Since the late 1950s, harmony in fourths has played a very important role in the development of modern jazz. Musicians and composers have used a lot the quartal harmony.

    Among them, the great American pianist McCoy Tyner, who, is a master in the art of playing quartal chords. Mike Stern, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Bill Evans and Kurt Rosewinkel have also used this technique. 

    In this lesson with tabs and shapes, we will see how to build chords in fourths, how to harmonize the major scale with and how to use them in comping. 

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  • What's the Major II-V-I Chord Progression - Guitar Lesson with Shapes , Tabs and Licks

    What's a II-V-I chord progression

    The major II-V-I sequence is the most common chord progression used in jazz music but also in a whole number of styles of music as pop, rock, blues, country. This theoretical element is a must know for any guitarist who wants to learn the jazz language. 

    The 2-5-1 progression is present in many jazz standards (Summertime, Autumn leaves, Blue bossa, All the things you are and many more), this is why it is very important to master it.

     

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  • Harmonized Major Scale - Guitar Lesson With Shapes and Charts

    One of the fundamental theoretical elements to understand music is the harmonization of the major scale. Harmonizing scale is building chords with notes. This lesson explains how to create triads and seventh chords from each note of the major scale.

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  • What Are Guide Tones and How to Use Them

    What are guide tonesWhat Are Guide Tones?

    Guide tones are the notes in a chord which leads or gives harmonic pull toward the next chord, these are an excellent way to study and absorb the sound of any chord progression. 

    Guide tones are used to outline chord progressions in an improvisation. They are most of the time the 3rd and the 7th because this is what determines whether a chord is major, minor, or dominant. 

    This jazz guitar lesson explains how to solo over common jazz progressions using and connecting the guide tones.

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  • What Are Drop 2 Voicings - How To Play Them On Guitar

    How to play drop 2 chords on guitarDrop 2 chords are very used and appreciated by guitarists of all styles, they are formed by dropping the second highest note of a four-note chord in close position down an octave. The main feature is that they don't require string skipping making them quite easy to play on guitar.

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  • The Seven Modes of The Major Scale

    Modes of the major scale guitar lessonWhat Are Ecclesiastical Modes?

    Ecclesiastical modes, also named "Greek modes"or "church modes" or "Gregorian modes" formed in the Middle Ages a set of scales whose use has weakened because of the appearance of the major / minor tonal system. 

    Several centuries later these modes have reappeared. They are very used in jazz improvisation as scale of chords and modal playing.

    This lesson explains how are built modes and how to play them on guitar.

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