Your chord melodies are too complicated for beginners

by Robert Nisonoff
(Bayside, New York)

Hi Marc:

I am a long time subscriber and really appreciate your talent, passion, and dedication to playing and teaching jazz music and specifically jazz guitar.

I don’t have a questions so much as a critique : The chord melodies you use as teaching tools are simply not practical for most beginning jazz players.

There are far too many stretches and use of chords to that beginning and intermediate jazz players, such as myself, have too much difficulty doing with the limited practice time available to us.

I realize that that to get good at chord melody playing is not easy and requires patience and practice, but I think that you might consider creating some very simple chord melodies to begin with and then demonstrate how to use these to master the more difficult pieces.

Your version of Stella is a good example of this. There are far too many finger stretches and use of 1st fret F-chords that really don’t do justice to the song. I know you can play this arrangement beautifully. However for those of us starting out something a little more basic would give us a sense of accomplishment and then we could move onto more sophisticated arrangements.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on this matter. Please understand that I love all that you contribute to jazz guitar. I only add my thought as a way of improving an already wonderful website.

Happy New Year



Hello Robert,

Thank you for the comments, I always appreciate honest feedback like yours.

It is true that there’s probably just a few people in the world that can actually play (or use ideas from) the chord melodies on … I realize that know more than ever!

There are a few reasons behind this, and I’d like to share some of my thoughts with you (and other visitor likely to read this) :

Some reason…

I couldn’t quite “get it” when first building the website… I didn’t know the tunes could be too hard/easy for some players. I was too busy building the website and the pages, doing the research on several topics, planning the development, learning about search engines, etc..

The technical aspects may have taken over in the process… but hey, at least I got a way to reach a lot of people like this! The website has good traffic and I’m constantly working on re-adapting content (see below).

There is also the fact the the first 50 pages on where pretty much “created” around the same time (that includes all the tunes). The chord melodies obviously reflect my playing level and tastes, rather than a teaching effort… (sadly)

Finally, I must admit I’ve never been real good at teaching actual chord melody stuff to others (as I believe chord melodies comes mainly from personal study) … so I said to myself : “Well, might as well give them examples of what I would play in real life action!”

In short, I think is a reflection of my own jazz guitar learning process of the past 10 years. I honestly think I might have suffered a long time of a lack of understanding and chops in the chord melody department…

…and solutions!

I general, I know has to be more organized in the “chords” section. It’s already in the works and everyone will benefit from it.

Coming up :

-Chord sheets will be provided for every existing tune in the “Standards” section. They contain basic chord shapes to learn and comp the tune a little before digging into the arrangement.

-Videos will follow shortly for all of the tunes. Chord melody played slowly, some improv and comping.

-And finally, I will be posting reviews of Ted Greene books (as it has a big influence on my chordal and chord melody approaches). The books are beneficial to jazz guitarists of all levels and can certainly help in mastering my own arrangements… I also count on giving numerous examples “Ted Greene Style” stuff in the chords sections.


Meanwhile, I’m sure you can get something that’s close to your playing level to dig into somewhere on the website. (or at least, you could simplify the chord melody to Stella if you wish!)

Practice Well,



Comments for Your chord melodies are too complicated for beginners

Jan 11, 2011
Chord Melody by: Dustin

I’m a jazz pianist that has been woodshedding guitar for a couple of years now. One thing that helps me is to play the melody note with just the bass note starting out, determine what note of the chord the melody is and add the middle chord tones from there. This requires a working understanding of the fretboard, intervals, chord tones, etc. so it may be too advanced for some people who don’t have that background. It’s a root bound approach, but a good starting place. A book that helped me a lot is Fretboard Logic. I already had a understanding of chords before that from piano though.It’s a tough subject. Knowing what note is the root, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, etc. really is essential to becoming proficient at chord melody in my experience.Eh…