Jazz Chord Construction: the first step

"JAZZ CHORDS"

When we speak of the transition necessary to go from playing popular oriented music to Jazz, in essence, we're talking about the ability to play rootless major, minor and dominant chords, and be proficient and incorporating upper structure tones. To do this, it is necessary to first master your basic triads. Fortunately, this is no more difficult than memorizing two shapes in all 12 keys.

MAJOR CHORD SHAPE

The basic major chord shape is C E G. You can learn it in all keys by taking the tones and raising them by half steps using the same fingering. (Try 1 3 5 in your RH for starters.) For example: C E G --> Db F Ab --> D F# A, etc. etc. To proceed to the next step, you must master this basic shape in all 12 keys in and out of order.

MINOR CHORD SHAPE

The second chord shape is C Eb G. Similarly, you can learn it in all keys by taking the tones and raising them by half steps using the same fingering. For example C Eb G --> C# E G# --> D F A, etc. etc. To proceed to the next step, you must master the shape in all 12 keys in and out of order.

Once you've mastered these two shapes, you are ready to apply the basic rules to turn them into Jazz (or in that case gospel) chords. First, for major chords, lower the ROOT a half step. Hence, C E G becomes B E G. Take this shape and learn it in all 12 keys in and out of order. For example B E G, C F Ab, C# F# A etc. This is a Major Seventh Chord. (The root has been eliminated, and the 7th is on the bottom. *You can take the root and play it in the bass with your left hand.)

For minor chords, the process is similar. Take the basic minor chord shape and lower the root by two half steps. Ex. C Eb G becomes Bb Eb G. Take that shape and learn it in all keys in and out of order. The shape consists of the minor 7th on the bottom, plus the third and fifth. The root has been eliminated. Of course, you can play the root in your left hand.

Finally, for dominant chords, simply take the basic major chord shape you learned, and lower the root by two half steps. So C E G becomes Bb E G. Then, of course, learn the shape in all keys in and out of order. (As above, the root can be played down in the bass in your left hand.)

If you've worked through each step above, you are now able to play three basic types of rootless voicings in all keys: Major 7th, Minor 7th and Dominant 7th. There is one more thing you need to know to get started: You can take the minor voicing you learned, and lower the bottom note again by a half step. For example take Bb Eb G then play A Eb G. This is a ii V progression. You will learn more about this progression in the next lesson, but in the meantime take the voicing A Eb G and learn it in all keys in and out of order:

You have now learned 4 basic chord shapes and 48 different chords to add to your musical repertoire. Isn't that amazing? However, as you'll learn, in Jazz knowledge is useless unless you can apply it, so be sure to practice all of these voicings in all keys until you have mastered them. Everything that you learn from here will build on these basic voicings.

Let's Review

To turn a major triad into a rootless major 7th chord, lower the root by a half a step.

To turn a minor triad into a rootless minor 7th chord, lower the root by two half steps.

To turn a major triad into a dominant chord, lower the root by two half steps.

To easily resolve a ii chord to the V lower the seventh by a half step.

(c) 2017 Eddie Landsberg (www.eddielandsberg.com) eddielandsberg@mac.com

Created By
Eddie Landsberg
Appreciate

Made with Adobe Slate

Make your words and images move.

Get Slate

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.