Jazz Chords

Chords with extended chords, such as C Major 7 or G 13 are often called "jazz chords" because of the richness and beauty of their harmony. While it is true that jazz composers rely on such chords, they are not only found in jazz. Chords with rich and beautiful harmonies, (extended harmonies) are found in virtually every style of music. From The Beatles (Something) to the Red Hot Chili Peppers (Under The Bridge) from Claude Debussey (Impressionist composer) to rhythm and blues and all points in between. There are dozens of rich and beautiful chords for you to study on The Ultimate Guitar Poster, and a few new and different ideas appearing here.

Ear Training

Start your studies of "jazz chords" with the listening (ear training) exercise to follow. Learn to identify not only the sound of basic chords, (major, minor and dominant 7), which you probably can already do, but the sound of the extended harmonies called tensions.

 

Interactive Music Theory - Major Chords

Before you play "jazz chords" it is an excellent idea to know the basic theory behind what you are playing. Using the interactive animation the right will get the sound of what you are reading and learning in your ear.

Major chords are made up of the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes of the major scale. In the case of the key of C that would be the C - E & G notes.

Tensions are notes in the scale that are higher in pitch than the notes of the basic triads. In the case of a major chord the available tensions are 6 - 7 - 9- #11 & 13. In the case of the key of C those tensions would be A - B - D - F#.

Compound Intervals are notes in the scale that are at least one octave higher in pitch than the root note of the key. In the case of the A note, it may be labeled as a 6th or 13th depending on how high the A note is in pitch.

 

Interactive Music Theory - Minor Chords

Once again, using our interactive animations will get the sound of what you are reading and learning in your ear.

Minor chords are made up of the 1st, flatted 3rd and 5th notes of the major scale. In the case of the key of C that would be the C - E flat & G notes.

Tensions are notes in the scale that are higher in pitch than the notes of the basic triads. In the case of a minor chord the available tensions are 6 - 7 - 9 & 11. In the case of the key of C those tensions would be A - B flat - D - F.

Flat 3, 6 & 7 are the notes that make the difference between a major scale and a minor scale. One common approach to learning music theory is to relate everything back to the major scale. Therefore a minor scale is a major scale with a flatted 3rd, 6th and 7th. Interestingly, a minor 6 chord uses a natural (from the major scale) and not a flatted 6th.

Standard Jazz Chord Progressions

Cadences & Jazz Standards

Playing jazz songs, or any more advanced and rich sounding material ultimately comes down to playing a series of cadences, or resolving chords. These cadences are the inner game of composing and form a sort of song within a song. (for more on this visit the HARMONY section of this web site) Songs, or parts of songs (cadences) are analyzed chord by chord, assigning a roman numeral to each chord based on its position in a harmonized major scale. This is called roman numeral analysis. Study and listen to the animation to the right.

The interactive graphic has 4 different play options, 2 in the key of C and 2 in the key of G. The overall musical effect and sound of each of the 4 musical tracks is virtually the same, except for the highness or lowness of the pitches when changing from the key of C to the key of G. The theoretical (roman numeral) analysis for each of the 4 examples is exactly the same. Play, study and listen to the musical examples below to gain more insight into the use, sound and applications of jazz chords.

II - V - I Cadences

Without the good old II - V - I cadence the world of jazz and popular music would not be the same. There are countless examples of the II - V - I cadence appearing in virtually every style of music. Our interactive example to right concentrates on a jazz sound.

As with previous examples, the theoretical (roman numeral) analysis for each of these 2 examples is exactly the same. Play, study and listen to the musical examples below to gain more insight into the use, sound and applications of the beautiful II - V - I cadence.

There are nice sounding jazz solos on these tracks as well. The solos are strictly major scales with one or two passing notes thrown in. They are not meant to be examples of great jazz, rather ear training examples to learn the sound the basic sound of inside playing (playing inside the key). In other words, major scale runs being sounded against a standard cadence.

 

I - VI - II - V Cadences

Equally as useful is a I - VI - II - V cadence. Once again, there are countless examples of the I - VI - II - V cadence appearing in rock, pop and rhythm and blues as well as jazz. As this lesson is all about studying the sound and feel of jazz music we'll stay with a jazz sound.

Once again the tracks contain solos serving as ear training examples to learn the sound the basic sound of major scale runs being sounded against a standard cadence. Learning to be comfortable with hearing and playing major scale melodies and passages in the first step towards becoming a skilled jazz soloist.

There a good many jazz chords appearing on your copy of THE ULTIMATE GUITAR POSTER, most jazz guitarists use the individual notes of these chords as ideas for solos or original melodies.

Harmonizing Melodies Using Jazz Chords

Good Old Fashioned Diatonic Harmony

To the right you see an application of a I - V cadence in the key of F: harmonizing the common knowledge melody London Bridge. Not to restate the obvious but the initial F major chord establishes the key and introduces the major tonality. The C7 five chord does a nice job of providing tension and the reintroduction of the F major chord resolves the tension and completes the cadence. The melody leans heavily on chord tones and serves to reinforce the major tonality. In a nutshell, London Bridge beautifully plays the basic game of music.

Reharmonizing A Melody With Jazz Chords.

Below the common knowledge melody London Bridge has been given a jazz treatment. The new chords create different cadences and point of cadence than found in the basic version. Also the richness and beauty of these new chords are interesting, entertaining and give the listener the sense of amusement and well being often associated with that nice jazz sound.

 

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