Jazz Chords

author: coffeeguy9 date: 09/22/2006 category: chords
rating: 9 / votes: 81 
This lesson will be about common jazz chords, how they are written, and common ways to play them. And common practices to sightread them. I highly recommend reading my other lesson, "Identifying Intervals", I use a lot of that information in this lesson. The Dominant Seventh. The dominant 7th chord is the most used chord in jazz. A dominant seven is a flatted 7th. A dominant 7th chord consists of the Root note, the Major 3rd, an optional 5th, and the dominant 7th. A Dominant (or minor 7th). 7th can be identified when you have a note on the same fret, two strings above. It is sometimes called a "Major Minor" chord.
The Major Seventh Chord. This can be a really nice sounding chord if played and used correctly. The Major 7 chord consists of the root note, the major 3rd, an optional 5th (makes the chord sound fuller in this case), and the Major Seventh. The major seventh is a step below the octave. The major 7th chord is usually notated in jazz as a maj7, because if it just said 7, it would imply Dominant. This chord is sometimes referred to as a "Major Major" chord, or a Delta chord.
The Minor Seventh Chord. This chord is also extremely common in a lot of forms in music. The -7 Chord consists of the root, the minor 3rd, optional 5th, and the minor/flat seven. A common way to notate this in jazz sheet music is either like -7, m7, or min7.
9th Chords. A 9th chord comes in a few different ways. The 9th is a compound Second interval. It can be an added voice to either a minor or dominant 7th chord. The 9 ALWAYS implies the 7th in the chord unless it is written ass an add9 chord. When simply stated as a C9, it consists of the 1, M3, P5, m7, M9. The -9, m9, or min9 chords are the same thing, but with a minor 3rd.

b5 or Half Diminished Chords. Flat 5 chords are all too common in jazz. Almost in every jazz song in a minor key. The ii chord in a ii v i progression is half diminished. The b5 chord is played like a Minor 7 chord, but the 5th is flat. When playing in a combo or ensemble, it almost 100% necessary to add the b5 in this chord. It can also be notated as a circle with a slash through it, meaning half diminished.
Diminished Chords. Fully Diminished chords are used a lot in fast paced jazz. It's the same thing as the Half Diminished chord, only the 7th is boubly flat. bb7, if you will. It's very complicated to play, I'll admit. In the third example, the root is in the high voice. This chord is not the most beautiful thing ever. Sometimes notated as just a small circle.
13th Chords. 13th chords have a little debate going on with guitarists. In classical music and technical theory, a true 13 chord consists of the 1, 3, 5, m7, 9, 11, and 13. But in classical writing, You only need the 1, 3, 5, m7, and 13, because there aren't enough parts, or fingers to have the 9 and 11. So, for what were learning here, you should only voice the 1, 3, 5, m7, and 13. And maybe omit the 5, it's sorta redundant at this point. The 13 is a compound 6th.
6th Chords. Simply put, the 1, 3, 5, and 6. A happy little chord.
Minor Delta Chords. Okay, in the key of Harmonic minor, which is natural minor with a raised 7th, means your tonic chord would be this awkward, relatively bad sounding chord. So, basically its a minor chord, but with a Major 7th, it's a relatively uncommon chord, but hey, it's out there. Sometimes called a Minor Delta, or a Minor Major chord. It can be notated like I have it, or a minor chord, with a triangle, which stands for Delta.
Altered Chords. Altered chords are pretty much self explanatory. They pretty much alter the chord slightly to give different feels, or to create chromatic voicings from other chords. Like if a chord says Cm7(b9), You'd play the 1, m3, 5, m7, and b9. Not too much to cover on this, you just have to figure out the voicings for yourself on the spot, there are way to many to Cover. Altered Bass Chords. Altered bass chords are also self explanatory. Most of the time, guitarists do not have to worry about them because it usually means the bass is hitting the note. Basically, in an altered bass chord, it is signified with a slash, with another note next to it which should be in the bass. Same thing with these go with altered chords, you have to figure out the voicings yourself because there are just to many to cover in a lesson.

How To Use These Shapes

Okay, so you got all this down, but you still can't keep up in your jazz band with the chords because you don't have them all "memorized". Well, all you really need to know is how to form most of these shapes, and move them around on the neck. All of these chords are movable. They are all different forms of C chords, of you move them all up a whole step, they will become different forms of D chords. That should be simple. So, all you really need to do is find your fifth and sixth string roots of the chords, and place the root note on the correct note. My words of advice: you don't need to memorize the entire fretboard for this, I'd just get extremely familiar with the 6th and 5th strings, where most of these chords should be played. It's bad to play a 6th string root F chord, because it's so close to the nut and not all the notes are clear as you'd like them to be. It's also not the best idea to play a 5th string root G, because that's really high up there and the guitar will stick out a lot more than you'd like it too in a combo. A comfortable spot to play these chords is from a 6th string G and the 5th string G. (in standard tuning, of course). When looking at a piece of sheet music with chords on it. The most common strumming pattern would be to follow a "2 and 4" type pattern, accent the second, and fourth beats, and hit the bass note on 1 and 3. Hitting the bass note on 1 will give you an extra beat to get your fingers ready for the rest of the chord. It takes a long time to get used to sightreading chords like this, I still have trouble myself. When I first started in a high school jazz band, I was completely lost, nobody to help me. I learned that the easiest way I could sightread was to play powerchords on the root of the chord being played. This got me familiar with the 5th and 6th string notes and how jazz patterns usually move. Although this sounded really really really bad in the music, it was start and helped me down the line with fluency. Then I played the basic bar chords after I could comprehend dominant, major, and minor 7 chords. This is fine if you can play it like this. It is a really good thing to leave out the 5 of the chords, because it only makes chords more filled out, which isn't really jazzy in my opinion, which is the only part of bar chords I don't like. Once you get used to the voicings that do not require the fifth, you will notice the difference. It takes a lot of time, practice, experience, and the will to learn in order to become a fluent chord reader. Do not expect to get these as you read them. Print them out, look over a page in "The Real Book" or any other sheet of music, look through it, practice sightreading over it, and go to the next one, and repeat. That's it for now, I hope somebody learned something from this.
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