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Chords
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Chords

Generally a chord is build with piled up 3rds. This can be both, minor and major 3rds. The first (on the root) determines wether it is a minor or a major chord. With the second 3rd you'll reach the 5th above the root note:

 

Minor Chord

 

Interval

 

Major chord

 

Interval

5th

 

 

 

5th

 

 

 

}

major 3rd

 

 

}

Minor 3rd

Minor 3rd

 

 

 

3rd

 

 

 

}

Minor 3rd

 

 

}

Major 3rd

Root

 

 

 

Root

 

 

Play a C minor chord:

Play a C major chord:

 

In jazz a 7th or maj7th is added to most chords. The three basic type of chords are:

 

Minor 7th
Chord

 

Intervals

 

Dominant 7th Chord

 

Intervals

 

Major 7th Chord

 

Intervals

7th

 

 

 

7th

 

 

 

Maj7th

 

 

 

}

Min3rd

 

 

}

Min3rd

 

 

}

Maj3rd

5th

 

 

 

5th

 

 

 

5th

 

 

 

}

Maj3rd

 

 

}

Min3rd

 

 

}

Min3rd

Min3rd

 

 

 

3rd

 

 

 

3rd

 

 

 

}

Min3rd

 

 

}

Maj3rd

 

 

}

Maj3rd

Root

 

 

 

Root

 

 

 

Root

 

 

Play a C minor 7th chord:

Play a C7 chord:

Play a C major 7th chord:

 

Finally there are 8 different chord types you can build like this, but the ones above are the most common.

Jazz musicians are well know to be rather excentric, therefor they are not satisfied with just the 7th. They pile up even more 3rds.That leads to the 9th, the 11th and the 13th – putting another 3rd on top of the 13th would result in a tone which is 2 octaves higher than the root, thus is makes no sense anymore.

The 9th, 11th and 13th are called options. Certainly there are b9th, #9th, #11th etc too.

There are some rules, how to name a chord:

Examples:

right

 

wrong

corrected

#A-

 

A+5/7

A7+

G7

 

C9/maj7

Cmaj9

B-7/b5

 

G7/11/9

G11

Cmaj7

 

 

 

Bb7/#9

 

 

 

In many notations the option "9" includes the 7th, the option "11" includes the 7th and 9th and "13" includes 7th , 9th and 11th. If the 7th is not included it is noted as "add9" (e.g. Cadd9 is C-E-G-D, the 7th is missing).

Now we are in trouble! We only have 6 strings and a 13th chord (actually 8 notes) would require 8 strings. So we have to leave out some notes. We should always play the 7th, that's forsure. In most cases we have to leave out the 9th and/or the 11th, which are less important options compaired to the 7th and 13th.

 

E.g. a Y13th chord is can be played like this:

Y7/13

X-|---|---|---|---|---|--
--|---|---|---|-4-|---|-- 13
--|---|---|-3-|---|---|-- 3
--|---|-2-|---|---|---|-- 7
X-|---|---|---|---|---|--
--|---|-1-|---|---|---|-- root

Like you can see, the 9th and the 11th are left out.
(Note: Y stands for athe key, it can be a C, a Bb or whatever)

Further on we should know some "special" chords. That are diminished chords, the Y6 and Ysus4 chords.

The diminished chords contain a diminished (flat) 5th.One is the Y-7/b5 (which explaines itself). The short is YÆ .

Minor7/b5
Chord

 

Intervals

7th

 

 

 

}

3rd

Dim5th

 

 

 

}

Min 3rd

Min3rd

 

 

 

}

Min 3rd

Root

 

 

Play a Cm7/b5 chord:

 

The other is the Yo (aka Ydim or Yo7). This chord is build of piled up minor 3rds and looks like this:

Diminished
Chord

 

Intervals

6th

 

 

 

}

Min 3rd

Dim5th

 

 

 

}

Min 3rd

Min3rd

 

 

 

}

Min 3rd

Root

 

 

Play a Cdim chord:

If you add another minor 3rd (on top of the 6th), you will reach the octave (= root), so this chord has a kind of cyclic structure.

BTW: As you can see, this chord doesn't contain a 7th (just a 6th), so the name Yo7 is kinda misleading.

In a Y6 chord, a 6th is added.

In a Ysus4 chord the 4th replaced/substitutes the 3rd (the 3rd is not contained).

Most of you have already seen a chord like Am7/G and may wonder what that means. This is fairly simple. Am7/G means it is an ordinary A minor7 chord with a G as bass note.

--|---|---|---|-3-|---|--
--|---|---|---|-3-|---|--
--|---|---|---|-3-|---|--
--|---|---|---|-3-|---|--
X-|---|---|---|---|---|--
--|---|---|---|-2-|---|-- (=A)
________________^
5th fret

Am7

--|---|---|---|-3-|---|--
--|---|---|---|-3-|---|--
--|---|---|---|-3-|---|--
--|---|---|---|-3-|---|--
X-|---|---|---|---|---|--
--|---|-1-|---|---|---|-- = G
_______________^

5th fret

Am7/G

The original bass note (an A) just moved down a whole-tone (2 frets) and thus became a G. Easy, isn't it?

But what might that be good for?
You can achieve a better bass voicing this way.

And what the heck means "voicing"?

When listening to a chord, you may hear, wether it is a major, a minor

or what ever chord, but the note that attract attention most are the lowest and the highest note in the chord. They are called voicings. It is very easy to follow movement of these notes.

What voicings will sound good?

A constant voicing will work fine. That means the chord may change, but the voincing notes remain the same.

Another good wait of progessing voicings are steps of 1, 2 or 3 semi-tones (up or down) and large steps (if you don’t do use it too often).

A good example for a constant high voicing is "One Note Samba" (A.C.Jobim). The first 4 bars look like this:

|: D-7 | Db7 | C-7/11 | B7/#11 :| (4/4 beat)

 

Fingering patterns:

D-7

X-|---|---|---|---|-
--|---|---|---|-4-|-
--|---|---|-3-|---|-
--|-1-|---|---|---|-
--|---|---|-2-|---|-
X-|---|---|---|---|-
____________^
5th fret

Db7

X-|---|---|---|---|-
--|---|---|---|-4-|-
--|---|-3-|---|---|-
--|-1-|---|---|---|-
--|---|-2-|---|---|-
X-|---|---|---|---|-
________^
4th fret

C-7/11

X-|---|---|---|---|-
--|-1-|---|---|---|-
--|---|---|-4-|---|-
--|---|---|-3-|---|-
X-|---|---|---|---|-
--|---|---|-2-|---|-
____________^
8th fret

B7#11

X-|---|---|---|---|-
--|-1-|---|---|---|-
--|---|---|-4-|---|-
--|---|-3-|---|---|-
X-|---|---|---|---|-
--|---|-2-|---|---|-
________^
7th fret

As you can see, the highes tone of all that chords is located to the 6th fret of the B-string.

One example for a good bass voicing is...hm, I know the piece, but I don't remember it's name... I guess, it’s "Whisper not" (by B.Golson)

 

/ /

/ /

 

/ /

/ /

 

/ /

/ /

 

|:

C-7

C-7/Bb

|

A-7/b5

D7/b9

|

G-7

G-7/F

| ....

 

C-7

X-|---|---|---|---|-
--|---|---|-3-|---|-
--|---|---|-3-|---|-
--|---|---|-3-|---|-
X-|---|---|---|---|-
--|---|---|-2-|---|-
____________^
8th fret

C-7/Bb

X-|---|---|---|---|-
--|---|---|-3-|---|-
--|---|---|-3-|---|-
--|---|---|-3-|---|-
X-|---|---|---|---|-
--|-1-|---|---|---|-
____^
6th fret

A-7/b5

X-|---|---|---|---|-
--|---|-1-|---|---|-
--|---|---|-4-|---|-
--|---|---|-3-|---|-
X-|---|---|---|---|-
--|---|---|-2-|---|-
____________^
5th fret

D7/b9/Ab

X-|---|---|---|---|-
--|---|-1-|---|---|-
--|---|---|-3-|---|-
--|---|-1-|---|---|-
--|---|---|-2-|---|-
X-|---|-1-|---|---|-
________^
4th fret

G-7

X-|---|---|---|---|-
--|---|---|-3-|---|-
--|---|---|-3-|---|-
--|---|---|-3-|---|-
X-|---|---|---|---|-
--|---|---|-2-|---|-
____________^
3rd fret

G-7/F

X-|---|---|---|---|-
--|---|---|-3-|---|-
--|---|---|-3-|---|-
--|---|---|-3-|---|-
X-|---|---|---|---|-
--|-1-|---|---|---|-
____^

1st fret

The numbers in the brackets should mean the bars. Ab means an alternative bass voicing, catch this tone with the index finger "1". As you can see, the bass voicing moves down in the steps, I mentioned before.

2 st

 

1 st

 

oops

 

oops

 

2 st

 

C-7

---->

C-7/Bb

---->

A-7/b5

---->

D7/b9

---->

G-7

---->

G-7/F

You can prevent the "oops" (if you want, not necessary), if you play D7/b9/Ab instead of D7/b9. Then it would look like this:

2 st

 

1 st

 

1 st

 

1 st

 

2 st

 

C-7

---->

C-7/Bb

---->

A-7/b5

---->

D7/b9/Ab

---->

G-7

---->

G-7/F

Another example most of you will know is taken from "Stairways To Heaven"
Well, that' isn`t jazz, but it is a good example and was one of the first pieces I could play on the guitar....

 

/ /

/ /

 

/ /

...

|:

A-

A-add9/Ab

|

A-7/G

...

The bass voicing is moving down in semi-tone steps, while the high voicing moves up. Such a movement of the both voicings in different directions sounds always brilliant!

Finally you can play the melody of a piece in the high voicing, and a bass line in the bass voicing and all that together with the chords of the piece. I try to do this way, but that requires some practicing... I broke my fingers several times.

When you take a look at the chord charts, you will see that it doesn‘t contain chords like Y-7/b9 or Ymaj7/#9. Of course you can play that kind of chords, but they contain extreme tension and are not very suitable as rythm chords. Anyway, it always depends on the context, what sounds good and what doesn`t sound good.

Chord

Suitable options

Minor (7th)

9 11

Major (7th)

9 #11 13

Dominant 7th

b9 9 #9 #11 b13 13

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Last modified on Friday, 2. January 2009