Walking Dominant 7th Chords With Diatonic and Chromatic Passing Chords

Move Between Chords by “Walking”

Walking chords are to jazz guitar comping what walking bass is to a bass line. The focus of the lesson will be to play chords in a “walking” fashion on the fretboard. I’m not talking about walking bass lines with added chords here. I really want to approach something jazz pianists commonly do (hear how Monk does it).

Its (basically) the art of moving a voicing from root position to first its inversion using different devices such as passing chords, and diminished chords. The result is a series of jazz guitar chords played with quarter-notes in a “walking fashion,” using smooth voice leading between each voicing.

Well see how this applies to dominant chords (you could apply this on the blues, wink wink!). Then in the next installment, we’ll look at how to apply this concept in a more general fashion, regarding diatonic chords in a major key.

Get all exercises in this lesson in one convenient PDF here:

Walking Jazz Guitar Chords


Getting to First Inversion

The idea behind the “walking chord” concept is simple; you want to get from root position to first inversion by using only three-note voicings, and still using the same string set. You’re not familiar with those pesky three-note chords? Go ahead and see this post about shell voicings here …

For instance, on a C7 chord, you want to go from the first chord to the second chord, such as in the example below.


Connecting: Between Root and First Inversion

Heres how to connect these two C7 inversions using walking chords:


See? Now you don’t have to “sit” on the same voicing for four beats!

The chords being used to connect the two inversions come from both the diatonic scale and a passing diminished chord. The second chord in the bar, D-Bb-F, comes from the diatonic key, and the next chord, Eb-C-F#, is a passing diminished chord, which is labelled #IIdim7 going up, or as bIIIdim7 if you were using it to pass back down the inversions.

Same Chords: Different String Set

Now you can take these same voicings and play them with a 5th string root.


Cycle of Fourths

As an exercise, you can use the cycle of fourths to connect these dominant 7th chords. Go very slow at first, and make sure you play steady, groovy quarter-notes when connecting these chords on the fretboard. At first, stick to the same fingerings and same string-set before expanding the exercise from there.

Its good to start these voicings low on the fingerboard and then move up the neck until you run out of frets. Start with an F7 on the 6th string such as the example below:


You can also start with Bb7 on the 5th string as in this example:


Cycle of Fourths – Walking Chords – ALL KEYS!

Here are all 12 keys of the dominant cycle written out across the neck.

This one is trickier because you have to switch string sets every bar, so go slow. This may look tricky, but it is an extremely rewarding exercise for guitarists to work out in the woodshed.

walking jazz guitar chords - all keys - dominant chords

Notice that you can decide to switch string sets whenever you wish to build variation into the exercise. Try it out and see how it sits under your fingers. This exercise will show how much you really know the voicings and the chord sequence on the guitar.

The fun fact about sticking to the same string-set in going from say C7 to F7, is the fact that C7s first inversion leads directly “into” F7, since the E in is the bass of the first inversion of C7. The problem with sticking to the same set of strings is that soon enough, you run out of frets!

Get all exercises in this lesson in one convenient PDF here:

Walking Jazz Guitar Chords

More To Do

Finally, I encourage you to check out the arrangement of the tune Blue Monk

Blue Monk - Chord Melody - Jazz Guitar

You can also try to use this on your own blues comping, or on the bridge chords to “Rhythm Changes.” Also, you can use all the above exercises for walking chords to add meat around the bones for your walking bass lines with chords for guitar.

Related: Walking Bass Lines for Jazz Guitar

An oldie, but a goodie! Enjoy. 🙂

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Marc-Andre Seguin is the webmaster, “brains behind” and teacher on JazzGuitarLessons.net, the #1 online resource for learning how to play jazz guitar. He draws from his experience both as a professional jazz guitarist and professional jazz teacher to help thousands of people from all around the world learn the craft of jazz guitar.


12 thoughts on “Walking Dominant 7th Chords With Diatonic and Chromatic Passing Chords

  1. Thanks for this! Can you provide a link to the PDF for the older Walking Bass exercises? I couldn’t find it on the site.

  2. ? Why ?

    It sound good !

    simple way to vary the textures/sounds you’re making whilst staying with the basic harmony..

    • As with the dom7 chord, it depends on where you’re going. If you’re going to a chord a fourth above, you can take a similar approach to the dom7 chord with the maj7 chord, by targeting the 1st inversion of the chord. Same thing with the m7 chord, but the 1st inversion of the chord will happen one beat earlier, followed by the °7 chord.

      Again though, it depends on destination. One you thing you might want to try doing is to move each voice of the chord individually by step in the key, or chromatically (depending on how far the destination is). It helps to write it out at first, but you’ll get more used to the sound of it and the patterns over time.

      I’d also highly suggest practicing over actual standard progressions, not just imaginary ones. The more practical experience you get, the easier it will be to find the patterns and the faster you’ll be able to access them.

      • Thanks Nathan, that’s helpful.

        I think the hard part for me is figuring out the second chord, which, as explained in the blog article, is diatonic to the key. For example, in the case of C7, that chord is D-Bb-F. What chord is that, in relation to C7?

        I’m actually trying to apply this to Autumn Leaves in Em, and I came up with this:


        It sorta sounds ok to me, except for the F#m7b5 bar. Do you have any suggestions?

        • Hi Patrick, D-Bb-F is just a Bb major chord in first inversion. If C7 is the V chord (of the key of F major), then Bb is the IV chord).

          As for the F#m7(b5) (that’s the ii chord in a minor ii-V progression), I think your example works theoretically fine, but it’s missing that inexorable chromatic bass motion TOWARD the next chord. You might want your 2nd chord to have a bass of G#, so that the last three beats of the bar are G#, A, A# resolving to B in the next bar. That said, that’s essentially treating the F#m7(b5) chord as just an F#m7 chord, which is totally valid. Try it out!

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