Uncommon Uses of Common Jazz Guitar Chords

hands-on jazz guitar jazz comping Mar 12, 2018

Know Your Cowboy Grips

The goal of this series is to actually put a lick or a chord under your fingers. Here, there’s no more searching for ideas in the sea of jazz theory information.

We’ll give you what you need to play and be creative. In this lesson, we will be discussing uncommon uses of common jazz chords. We will take shapes that you already know and move them around to create fresh sounds. 

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Original Example

Today’s idea comes from the “The Shadow of Your Smile”. We’re going to look at a particular chord and how we can rework it to explore even more options! Here, we have an example of a very common chord, one you probably know, being used in a way that makes the chord more exotic. 

How It Works

The chord is a D chord using a good old “cowboy” grip. However, there’s an added note that makes a huge difference. There is a G added on the low E string! Adding this G changes the whole meaning of the common D chord. Because the G is so low in pitch, it becomes a de facto “bass” note, and changes the sound of the common D chord into something more jazzy -- a Gmaj7 (no 3rd).

More Approaches

Now I’d like to show you a few more uncommon uses for these otherwise common chords.

Example A

Here is Example A. It’s an F chord, with a G bass added. The result? An Gsus9 chord!

Example B

Here is Example B. It’s an A chord with G in the bass again. The result this time is another kind of Gmaj7 chord, this time it’s Gmaj13(#11)!

Example C

Here is Example C. It’s a B chord, and once again the G bass is added. The result this time is another kind of Gmaj7 chord. This time, it’s Gmaj7(#5).

Jump In

Ok, here’s the fun part. Let’s play! Here, I’m going to use these four chords to improvise some comping. My goal is to simply try these different shapes. You can try it too!

Download your "Hands-On 6: Uncommon Uses of Common Chords"
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For intermediate guitarists ready to "crack the code" in jazz


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