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3 Reharmonization Techniques Every

Guitarist Should Know
Learning jazz reharmonization techniques is not only a great way to develop jazz comping
skills but it also expands application of jazz substitutions and superimpositions.
Reharmonization techniques are often required for solo jazz guitar arrangements to create
interest, interpretation and originality. That is not to say that every tune should have 20
chords in the first measure.
But if a tune only has 3 chords, there is nothing wrong with adding some harmonic twists.
This article contains 3 reharmonization technique examples used in a solo jazz guitar
situation. Each example contains a before and after sample.
Reharmonization Technique #1 – Change Tonality

An effective reharmonization technique to experiment with is changing the tonality of a
tune. This technique works best on melodies that do not contain thirds because the original
theme can be kept as it is.
The Happy Birthday theme is usually played in a major key. The first line in the example
below shows how the melody can be harmonized using major chords. In the second line the
major 7
th
chords have been changed to minor 6ths.
Almost all of the dominant 7
th
chords are now flat 9 chords producing a minor V – I
cadence.
The entire theme now has a much darker feel it than it did with major chords. Try and find
some other traditional or folk melodies that do not contain thirds in the melody and apply
the changing tonality reharmonization technique to them.


Reharmonization Technique #2 – Harmonize Bass Notes

The next reharmonization technique of adding more bass notes is applied to the jazz
standard Polka Dots and Moonbeams.
This particular standard contains endless possibilities for reharmonization techniques and is
well worth learning as a solo jazz guitar piece.
The original chord progression in the first two bars of this tune is a I VI II V.
The new chord progression is essentially doing the same harmonic job, but with a
descending bass line in the first bar.
Adding more bass notes is effective to use on melodies that have ascending or descending
scale based passages, like in Polka Dots and Moonbeams.
There is a chord to support each new bass note. The E7 could also be E-7 to diatonically fit
the key of F, but an E7 provided more effective voice leading.
The great Ted Greene also applied the harmonized bass note technique to his arrangement
of Polka Dots and Moonbeams.


Reharmonization Technique #3 – Add More Cadences

The final reharmonization technique explored in this article is adding more cadences.
Besides demonstrating how to addd more cadences this example incorporates the
chromatically moving bass techniques from the last example.
The song used in this example is the bridge to Somewhere Over The Rainbow.
The first bar usually only contains a major 7
th
chord for the entire duration.
In this example I have adding another chord (C#dim7) while retaining the original melody.
The C#dim7 is essentially acting as an A7b9 which provides a V – I cadence to the D-7 in
the next bar.
A C#dim7 was used instead of an A7b9 to create a chromatically rising bass note.
Tritone substitution is used in the second bar to continue the chromatic bass movement as
the G7 is now a Db7#11.
The common I VI II V substitution of replacing the I chord with a III is used in the
penultimate bar to create cyclic bass movement and a full minor ii V I.



I hope that you enjoy playing through each of the examples and that they provide you with
some fresh ideas to spice up your solo jazz guitar playing.
What are some of your favorite reharmonization techniques? Share your thoughts in the
comment section below.