You are on page 1of 43

Jazz Guitar Chord

Melody Basics

by Greg ORourke
fretdojo.com

Greg ORourke 2016. All rights reserved.

AboutTheAuthor
AwardwinningAustralianguitaristGregORourkereceivedhis
BachelorOfMusicHonoursdegreein2006,andwasascholarship
holderattheAustralianNationalUniversitySchoolOfMusic.Gregs
mainspecialityisinfingerstylejazzguitar,whichheteachesabout
onhiswebsitewww.FretDojo.com.

Gregsversatileabilityontheguitariscredittoseveralteachershe
hasstudiedwithovertheyears,includingTimKain,oneof
Australiasleadingclassicalguitarperformersandteachers,aswell
asMikePriceandthelateDonAndrews,wellknownperformersand
teachersintheAustralianjazzguitarscene.Gregiscurrently
studyingadvancedjazzimprovisationandarrangingwithCanadian
jazzguitaristMattWarnock.

GreghasgivenprizewinningperformancesattheAustralianNationalUniversityChamberMusic
Competition,andwasawarded1stprizeintheChamberMusicdivisionofthe2004Australian
InternationalGuitarCompetition.

Gregcurrentlyenjoysabusycareer,comprisingofteachingonlineand
offline,performingandcollaboratingwithotherAustralianartists.

LearnWithGreg:ExclusiveReaderBonus!

TableofContents
Preface

SowhatisChordMelodyGuitaranyway?

Step1:Pickasuitabletuneandlearnitinsideandout

Step2:Transposetoanappropriatekeyifnecessary

10

Step3:Learnthemelodyonthetop2strings

14

Step4:Choosechordvoicings

17

ArrangingforJazzGuitarSolo

36

Step5:Practiseandtweakyourarrangement

38

FurtherResources

41

Preface
InthiseBookyouaregoingtogetastepbystepbreakdownonhowtoget
startedplaying
chordmelodystyleonjazzguitar
inbothasolojazz
guitarcontext,aswellasinaband.

Thisisahugetopicofcourse,andjustoneshorteBookcouldntpossibly
coverallthetechniquesandconceptsofchordmelodyguitar.So,inthe
followingpagesyouwilllearnthecoreessentialsyouneedtoquicklyget
youupandrunningplayingjazzguitar,chordmelodystyle.Letsget
started!

Withbestwishes,

GregORourke

www.fretdojo.com

SowhatisChordMelodyGuitar
anyway?
Generally,chordmelodyguitarreferstoplayingjazzguitarwithsingleline
melodiesorsolosandcombiningoraccompanyingwithchords.Thisis
opposedtojustsinglelinesoloingormelodyplaying,orontheflipsideonly
compinginabandwithchords.Youactually
combinethetwoatthe
sametime,
ononeguitar.

Gettingintothenittygritty,thetermchordmelodycanactuallyreferto
two
similar,butnonethelessdistinctstyles
ofjazzguitarplaying.
Ononehand,chordmelodycanrefertoplayinginabandsetting,e.ga
jazztrioofguitar,bassanddrums.

Inthissetting,youneedtotakecareinwhatchordvoicingsyouapplyto
themelodyandyoursolos.Ifyouplaytoomanylownotesonthe5thand
6thstringsitcaninterferewiththebassplayer.

Ontheotherhand,chordmelodyguitarplayingcanalsorefertoplaying
jazztunesarrangedorimprovisedonsologuitar.Thisiskindoflikeplaying
asaonemanband:soloist,compingandbassallinone.

Toavoidconfusion,letsrefertothesettinginatrioorotherlineupasa
bandchordmelody,
andplayingchordmelodyonyourownas
jazzguitar
solochordmelody.

Now,letsworkthroughthe5stepsforanawesomechordmelodyguitar
arrangement.Asitisabiteasieronthelefthand,letsstartwitha
band
chordmelody
.Then,Imgoingtoshowyouhowtoadaptthisversionjust
alittletomakeaneffective
jazzguitarsolochordmelody.

Step1:Pickasuitabletuneand
learnitinsideandout
Althoughyoucanturnnearlyanytuneasachordmelodyguitar
arrangement,itishelpfultofindachartwithamelodythatisnttoofast
moving.Beboptunesinstraighteighthnoteswillbedifficult(thoughnot
impossible)toarrange.Forbeginners,balladsorswing/broadway
standardsshoulddothetrick.

Hereisalistoftunesthatworkwellaschordmelodyguitararrangements
forsolojazzguitaraswellasinaband:
AlltheThingsYouAre
OnGreenDolphinStreet
HaveYouMetMissJones
AloneTogether
AutumnLeaves
DontGetAroundMuchAnymore
FlyMeTotheMoon
GeorgiaonMyMind
MoonRiver
MyFunnyValentine
NightandDay

Evennonjazztunescanworkwellbysubstitutingstandardchordsfor
jazzieralternativese.g.
checkoutthispostbyMattWarnock
onchord
melodyguitararrangementsofwellknownChristmastunes.

Forthispost,Illbeusingajazztunecalled
Rochelle
Iwroterecentlyformy
darlingwife(awwww).Overthepageistheleadsheettouseasastarting
point:

Nowthatwehavefoundasuitabletune,itstimetolearnitjustlikeyou
would
learnanyotherjazzstandard:
Learnthemelodybothonyourguitarandsinging
Trycompingoverthechanges
Improviseoverthechanges
Memorizethemelodyandthechords
Also,listentorecordingsandwatchyoutubevideosofothersplayingthe
tune.Thisisagreatwaytogetanideasforyourownarrangement.


10

Step2:Transposetoanappropriate
keyifnecessary
Changingthekeymaybenecessarytosuitthesettingyouareplayingthe
arrangementin(i.e.asasoloorinaband),andalsocangivethe
arrangementaparticularflavour.Somekeysworkbetterthanothersand
itshelpfultoconsideropenstringsinthechordvoicingsifpossibleas
usingthemcangivesomegreateffects.

AsIwasplayingaroundwiththistuneintheoriginalkeyofBbMajor,I
noticedthatthemelodyisgettingalittlebitlowinplaces:


11

Thiscausesissuesforachordmelodyarrangementonguitar,asyoumay
beunabletofitgoodsoundingchordvoicingsunderneaththemelody.
Voicingsthatlowcouldstarttosoundmuddyandwillgetinthewayofthe
bandsbassplayer.

Awaytosolvethismightbetotakethemelodyupanoctave,howeverin
thiscasethetunewillbetoohighontheguitarneckforittosoundgood:

AftertransposingtheleadsheettoFMajor,itseemstositinamuchmore
suitablerangeforachordmelodyguitararrangement,soletsworkonthe
tuneinthiskey:


12


13

Sometimestransposingthetunecanalsogivethearrangementa
distinct
soundorcolour
,soevenifatunealreadyseemstositwellontheguitarit
isstillworthwhileplayingaroundandexperimentingwithdifferentkeys.


14

Step3:LearnthemelodyontheTop
TwoStrings
Nowthatyouhavechosenthekeyforyourarrangement,thenextstepisto
learnthemelodyonthetop2strings
.Thiswillgiveyouanideaofwhat
chordvoicingstoapplytothemelodythatwellcoverinthenextstep.

OnthefollowingpageisanexampleofhowyoucouldplayRochelleon
mainlythetop2strings.Notethatitsoktooccasionallygotothe3rdstring
forapassingmelodynotehowevermakesureyoudontdothistoooften,
asitwillstarttobecomedifficulttofindworkablechordvoicings.


15


16


17

Step4:Choosechordvoicings
Youhavecometothemostimportantstepintheprocessapplyingchord
voicingstothemelodylinethatwehavepracticedonthetop2strings,to
createyourveryownchordmelodyguitararrangement.

YoumayhavebeeninspiredbythegeniusofJoePassorWes
Montgomeryandthecreativeandvirtuosictwistsandturnsoftheirchord
melodyarrangements,butletsnotgetcarriedawayhere.

Fornow,
keepitsimple!

Thisstepisastraightforwardprocessof
applyingachordtothefirst
melodynoteofeachbarand/oreachchordchange
intheleadsheet.

Letsplaythemelodyagainnowonthetop2strings,buttrytoimage
whereyouwouldlikethechordsplaced.Generally,placingthemonthe
startofeachbaroratchordchangeusuallyworkswell.Markoutthese
pointsonyourleadsheet:


18

Howdoyouknowwhichchordvoicingtouse?Well,
Hereisthesimpletrick

foreasychordmelodyarranging:

Choosechordvoicingsthathavethesameintervalofthemelodynote
asthehighestnoteinthechordshape,
OR
avoicingthatcanbeslightlyadaptedtohavethemelodynoteasthe
highestnoteandstillsoundgood.

Thatsoundsgreatandmakessense,youmightbethinking,butdowe
therelevantchordshapes.Doweknowwhatvariationsofthechord
know
touse?Howdowe
remember
allthedifferentshapesforthevoicings?
Theansweristo
build

your

ownchorddictionary.


19

Creatingachorddictionary
Ajazzchordmelodyguitarplayerisa
collectorofchords
.Wheneveryou
learnanexistingchordmelodyarrangement,ortranscribeachordmelody
orchordsolo,addanyvoicingsyoufindinadictionarygroupedinmain
chordtypes.Igroupmydictionaryaccordingtomajor,minor,dominant,
altereddominant,halfdiminished(i.e.minor7b5),anddiminished.
Ifyouarenewtojazzchordtheoryorunsurehowtoconstructchords,
checkoutthisgreatguidefromJazzGuitarOnline
(gototheJazzGuitar
ChordTheoryheading).

LetsstartyourchorddictionarywithsomeofmyfavouritevoicingsIusefor
chordmelodyarranging.Hereisasampleofchordsfrommyown
dictionary:


20

Majore.g.Amaj7


21

Minore.g.Amin7


22

Dominante.g.A7


23

AlteredDominantegA7b9


24

Heresafewimportantrulestokeepinmind:
Inmostcases,youcansubstituteanychordforanotheraslongas
theybelongtothesamechordtype.Eg,ifyouseeAm7onalead
sheet,youcouldplayanAm7,Am6,Am9,Am11anditwouldstill
soundfine.
Becarefulwithdominantsandaltereddominantsanaltered
dominantincludesalteredtensions(eg#9,b13,b9,etc),whilsta
dominantexcludesanyalteredtensionsandhasonlynatural
tensions(eg9,13,11,etc).
Whenyouseeanaltereddominantchordonaleadsheet(eg.A7b9)
youshouldonlyplayanaltereddominantchordtype.
Howeverthisiswhereitgetsabitconfusingwhenyouseea
dominantchord(e.g.A7)onaleadsheet,oftenyoucanplayeithera
dominantchordtypeORanaltereddominantchordtype,depending
onthesituation.


25

Youmightask:Howmanychordvoicingsdoyouneedtoknowtomakea
chordmelodyguitararrangement?

Alotofpeoplegetstuckatthispoint,forexample,hereisarecent
commentfromoneofmyemailsubscribers:

Imtryingtolearnandrememberallthechordvariationsforuseinchord
melodies.Inrockyouhad6to8chordsina12barset.Nowinjazzthere
are30to40.Imfreakingouttryingtorememberthemall!

Dontfret!Thetruthisyoudontneedtoknoweverypossiblechordshape
tomakeagreatsoundingchordmelody.Aswegothroughtheprocess
below,youllseewhy.


26

Howtoapplythechordshapesonthe
melody
NotethatthechordsIveprovidedabovearemainlyonstringsets4321
and5432hencewhyweonlywantedtokeepthemelodyonthetoptwo
stringsasthe
melodynotewillnowbecomethetopnoteofeach
chord.
Thenumbersonthedotsindicatewhatintervalofthechordeach
noteis.

Nowthatwehaveourchordshapes,letslookatthefirst2barsandsee
howwecouldharmonizethemelodywiththechords.

Wellstartbyanalysingthemelody,relatingeachmelodynotetothe
intervalofthechordwrittenaboveitontheleadsheet:

(Bytheway,ifyouarelostatthispointandareunsurewhatthenumbers
Iveusedmean,checkoutthis
greatseriesofarticlesonchordsand


27

intervals
especially
lessontwo
whichexplainswhatnumberslike9
mean)

ThefirstnoteofthemelodyisaC,whichisa5thofthechordFmaj7.As
wecoveredabove,theMaj7chordtypebelongstothe
Major
chordfamily,
so

Weneedtofinda
major
chordshapewitha
5thasthehighestnotein
thechord.

Ifwelookatourchorddictionary,youllseethatthischordshapehasa5th
intervalasthehighestnote:


28

Perfect!Letsusethatchord,butremembertomovetheshapetothe8th
fret,tomakeitanFmaj7(insteadofEmaj7likewhatsinthediagram):


29

Inthesecondbar,wehaveanA7b9writtenontheleadsheet.Thischord
belongstothe
altereddominant
chordtype,anditlooksliketheintervalis
a#9ontop.
Herewego,thispatternhasa#9asthehighestinterval,soletsusethat
one:


30


31

Ifweaddchordstothewholearrangementinthisway,usingthechord
shapesfrommydictionary,wellgetsomethinglikethis
(notethatsomeof
thechordshapeshavebeenslightlyadaptedorhavehadnotesomittedso
thatithasthemelodynoteasthetopnote):


32


33


34

Dontbefooledbyhowcomplicatedthemusicnotationlooks.Ifyoulookat
theTABandthechordcharts,itseasytoseeallIvedoneisaddedchord
voicingsfromourchorddictionarytothemelodyline.

Asyoucansee,
itsnotnecessary
tolearnverymanychordshapesto
makeagreatsoundingchordmelodyarrangement.

Severalofthevoicingshavesimplybeenslidupordowntodifferentplaces
onthefretboard:

Ifyouarejustgettingstartedwithchordmelody,Iwouldrecommendthat
youstartwithjust
stockstandardchordvoicings
.Donttrytobetoo
cleverwiththeharmonyjustyet.


35

Onceyoulearnthearrangementwithstandardvoicingsyoucanthenbreak
outofthatanddomoreinterestingchordformsandsubstitutions.

Havingsaidthatthough,thestandardvoicingscanstillsoundgreatJoe
Passwasamasterofusingstandardvoicingsinverycreativeways.To
quotemartialartistBruceLee:

Ifearnotthemanwhohaspracticed10,000kicksonce,butIfeartheman
whohaspracticedonekick10,000times.BruceLee

Anynewchordvoicingsyoulearnfromtranscriptionsorother
arrangements,remembertotakethetimetorecordtheminyourownchord
dictionarysoyouwontforgetthem.


36

ArrangingforJazzGuitarSolo
Inajazzguitarsolosettingwenolongerhavethebandbehindus.Well
needtoworkalittlemoreontheaccompanimentasitsoundsabittoo
sparseforasoloversion.

Onewaywecandothisisbyusingvoicingsthat
includesmorestrings.
Letstryextendingsomeofourchordvoicingsbyaddinglowernotes:


37

Ifyounowusethickerversionsofthechords,andputinabitoffiller
compingintotheemptybars,youllnowhaveasologuitarversion!

Youcouldalsodothisprocessin
reverse
.Ifyouaremorefamiliarwiththe
thickervoicings,trycuttingout1ortwonotesinthebottomofthechordto
maketheinversionsthinnerforabandsettingsoyoudontgetintheway
ofthatpeskybassplayer


38

Step5:Practiseandtweakyour
arrangement
Takingthetimetopractiseyourarrangementwillinternalisethemusicin
yourmindandbody,andservesasagoodfoundationforspontaneously
varyingyourarrangementinaperformance.

Asyoupractise,lookatwaysyoucantweakyourarrangementtomakeit
easiertoplay.Thisisanimportantstepasyourarrangementcansound
clunkyifyouaretryingtodotoomuchwithchords.Rememberlessis
more.

Throughsmallchangestovoicings,omittingunnecessarynotesoreven
completevoicings,youcantakeanearlyunplayablechordmelodyguitar
arrangementtoonethatflowsandsingsreallywell.

Youshouldarrangeforyourowntechnicallimitationsinmind.Ifsomething
iseasiertoplay,itwillbeeasierfortheaudiencetolistentoaswell.You
wantachord
melody
,notachord
malady
!

Herearesomewaysthatyoucanmakeachordmelodyeasieronyour
hands:
Trydifferentvoicings
LennyBreauschordmelodiessoundthick
andfullintheaccompaniment,butifyoulistencloselyheuses


39

mostlyonlya3rdanda7thoutofeachchord.Eliminateunessential
notesfromthechord,sometimesnotonlydoesthismakeiteasier
butcanalsosoundmuchmoreeffective,especiallyinabandsetting.
Omitdifficultnotes
eveniftheyaretheessentialnotes.
Sometimesevenifyoudropa3rdor7thoutofachord,ifitsinafast
movingchordprogressiontheaudiencewillunderstandtheintentof
thechord
Avoidoverharmonizingthemelody,
unlessyouaregoingfora
chordscaletypeeffectinaphrase.Sometimesjustsomebassnotes
underthemelodysoundseffective.Trytoplayjustthemelody
occasionallyasitnotonlyiseasierbutalsoprovidescontrast.


40

Yourealldone!Nowshareyourchord
melodyarrangementwiththeworld
Nowthatyouhaveyourarrangementunderyourfingers,youneedsome
waytoperformit!

Iinviteyouto
joinmyFacebookgroup
andpostavideoofyour
arrangement,andgetsometipsandfeedbackfrommyselfaswellasother
communitymembers.

RequesttojointheFacebookgroupbyclickinghere>>


41

FurtherResources
ObviouslyifIwasincludeeveryaspectofchordmelodyplayinginthispost
itwouldgoformanymorepagesthanthis,howeverformoreresources
checkoutthesegreatwebsitesandbooks:
MattWarnocksCompleteGuidetoChordMelody
agreatarticle
thatgoesintomoreadvancedchordmelodyarrangingtechniques.
ChordChemistry
afantasticgotoresourceonchordmelodyguitar
playingbythelategreatguitaristTedGreene
SpeakingofTedGreene,
checkoutthistributesite
featuringmany
chordmanyarrangementsyoucandownloadinPDFformat.

Chordmelodyguitarplayingisanexcellentwaytoplayjazzonguitar,
eitherinajazzguitarsolocontextorinaband,andcanopenupawhole
worldofpossibilitiesforyouasaguitarist.


42

LearnWithGreg:ExclusiveReaderBonus!

ThanksForReading!
Thanksforreading!Illbepostingmorearticlesandlessonsonthistopicin
thefutureonmywebsiteat
www.fretdojo.com
,howeverfornowthisshould
beenoughtogetyourteethstuckinto.

Ifyouhaventalready,requesttojointhe
FretDojoFacebookGrouphere
or
followmeonTwitter
andsayhello,Iwouldlovetohearfromyou.Illalso
letyouknowwhenmylatestpostsandvideoscomeoutsokeepyoureye
outforthose.

IllseeyouintheDojo!

Greg:)