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Basic Chord Forms and Voice Leading

Christopher Sung (9641) · [archive]
Style: Jazz · Level: Intermediate · Tempo: 120
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

The main purpose of this lesson is to equip you with a few different ways to play major 6/7th chords, minor 7 chords, and dominant chords, and how to put them together to play over ii-V-I progressions and other progressions that commonly occur in jazz. I think the easiest way to learn basic jazz chords is to learn the voicings where the root of the chord is in the bass (i.e. the lowest note). More specifically, if you can know a couple of different voicings for a chord when the root is on the 6th string (i.e. a "root 6 chord"), and also when the root is on the 5th string (i.e. a "root 5 chord"), you'll be able to play comfortably through just about anything. The main thing is to learn these voicings until they become second-nature, and then forget about them. Ideally, you'd like to play a particular progression (say, Am7-D7-Gmaj7) differently every time. So instead of learning one specific way to play that progression, you should try to know a few different voicings for each chord in the progression, and mix and match them according to how you feel.

The example shows the results of this type of approach. We're using all root 5 and root 6 chords, and we change the key from G to C halfway through the progression at measure 5. There's very little movement between chords because we're using some voice leading, and not jumping around all over the neck. Note that the example is basically split into 2 bar chunks. In mms 1-2, we play a ii-V-I-VI in G and we keep a common tone in the top note of our voicings. In mms 3-4, our top note ascends chromatically. We repeat the same thing in mms 5-8, but we play it in C major instead of G.
Basic Chord Forms and Voice Leading