credit: Ashley Rehnblom

I. Myths about the Relationship between Jazz and Rock

This is the first in a series of articles for rock guitarists who want to be able to use concepts from jazz guitar playing in their own music. First, let’s clear up some misconceptions. When I was a kid, I would hear the saying “if you can play jazz, you can play anything.” I believed that so I took jazz guitar courses even though no one I knew played jazz and I never listened to it on my own. Fast forward nearly 30 years and I can say 2 things that other teachers may disagree with, but they came from my own experience:

1. If you learn to play jazz, it doesn’t mean you can play anything (like a heavy metal guitar solo, for example); it just means you can play everything in a jazzier way.

2. You don’t necessarily have to learn jazz standards in order to jazz up your rock playing.

When students come to me and want to jazz up their rock playing, I (and other teachers, I have found out) give those students jazz standards to play. They can really help things like melodic construction, chord vocabulary and voice leading, etc. But if the student is not listening to music like “How High the Moon” then it may not be as motivating to them in the long run.

So if you are a guitarist who wants to learn elements of jazz guitar without having to learn “Satin Doll,” this series is for you. In this first part we are going to discuss harmony. It will assume you know how to harmonize a scale, so if you don’t please refer to my article Harmonising a Scale.


II. Utilizing the Power of Modal Playing

Jazz guitarists can sometimes cringe at the word “mode” when it comes to soloing because key changes happen much more often in jazz than in rock and each chord is typically addressed in a progression when soloing, so modal thinking to a jazzer usually means a tune that has long sections over 1 chord or several chords that are closely related. But that’s exactly what happens in rock: there are many sections where the harmony is relatively static and there are usually few if any key changes in the solo section.

But what many rock players miss out on when it comes to chordal playing is that when you see 1 chord for a long period of time, you may safely access all the other chords in the harmonized scale for that mode. Let me illustrate.

Suppose we take the very common mode of Dorian and the key is Cm. Dorian is the 2nd mode of Bb so the harmonized scale will look the same as Bb Ionian, just starting on Cm:

Cm Dorian

Cm7 Dm7 Ebmaj7 F7 Gm7 Am7b5 Bbmaj7

This means that when you have an extended vamp over Cm, you may use all of the chords above at any time!

As a rock guitarist you'll probably be more at home in the key of E - here is the harmonized scale in Em Dorian.

Em7 F#m7 Gmaj7 A7 Bm7 C#m7b5 Dmaj7

A word of caution though: if you use “drop 2” voicings or barre chords that have roots on the 6th and 5th strings, you may clash with the bass player, who won’t be very happy. It would generally be much better to have separation between the bass and the chords as demonstrated in the video below.

I recommend learning all your major 7th, dominant 7th, minor 7th, half-diminished, and diminished 7th chords on the upper 4 strings, like these:

There are 3 more inversions on these upper set of strings besides the voicings above that you can use as well, so if you are unfamiliar with those, it will be well worth your time to explore them. In the meantime, suppose you two have a groove that goes Cm for 8 bars and then something completely different like Abm. Then you can comp with chords like in example 2:

C pedal

Ebmaj7 Bbmaj7 Gm7 F7 Bbmaj7 Am7b5 Gm7 Dm7

Ab pedal

Abm7 Fm7b5 Bbm7 Gbmaj7 Cbmaj7 Db7 Fm7b5 Ebm7 Fm7b5

I could have written out these voicings exactly as I played them, but the danger there is that you could spend more time working out the voicings than you would simply digesting the fact that you can use any of the chords in the mode of that particular harmonized scale, and the fact that voicings on the upper set of strings don’t clash with bass notes. You may, however, notice that in example 2 on the video, I paid attention to the top note of the voicing so that it was relatively smooth and melodic, not jumping all over the place (i.e. I used “voice leading.”)

For one final example let’s take another very common mode: mixolydian. This vamp is simply over a G7 chord and you can use any of the following chords to comp over it:

G Mixolydian

G7 Am7 Bm7b5 Cmaj7 Dm7 Em7 Fmaj7

Example 3 is an improvised accompaniment that only uses only voicings for the chords above. Note again that I made highest note sound smooth, and also that I typically resolved from chords with the note “c” in it (i.e. Am7, Dm7, Fmaj7) to chords with the note “b” in it (G7, Em7, Bm7b5). This is the equivalent of doing a G7sus to a G7 which is commonly found in all types of music.

III. Summary and Tips for Practicing

1. Learn your harmonized scales well if you haven’t already done so

2. Learn all the voicings on the upper set of strings

3. Pay attention to your voice leading, especially with the highest note

4. Pick two or more random keys and modes and create an extended vamp against which to experiment with the voicings in that particular mode (as illustrated in example 2)

5. Experiment with extensions of the chords (9ths, 11ths, 13ths) which this article did not discuss.

Have fun and let me hear what cool grooves you came up with! :)



About the author: Dennis Winge is a professional guitarist living in New York with a passion for vegan food and bhakti yoga. If you are interested in taking Guitar Lessons in Ithaca, NY, then be sure to contact Dennis!

There are 0 comments on this article so far

Comment on this article

Name
Email address
solve the following equation: 4 - 2 =


2006 Gibson Master Museum L-7 Ren Ferguson Archtop Acoustic Guitar L-5 Super 400

OREM, UTAH, 84058, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

$39999

Here we have a very cool Gibson Master Museum L-7 archtop guitar built by the man Ren Ferguson himself! As you know, the archtop Gibson models are built in the Memphis and Nashville Gibson factories. Well, not this one. During his time at Gibson, Ren talked Gibson Corporate into allowing him to built some archtops. Ren's goal, as I understand it, was to convince corporate to allow them to build all of the archtop models at the Bozeman factory. Ren ended up building only a few archtops, and this ... more

Tom Ribbecke 2002 Monterey 17 Archtop Acoustic Guitar - Quilted Maple Back

BROOKFIELD, CONNECTICUT, 06804, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

$22000

Tom Ribbecke: A Modern Master LuthierSince the early 1970's, Tom Ribbecke has gained worldwide attention for building flawless archtop guitars that sit perfectly at the intersection of instrument and art. Ribbecke's woodworking is second to none. Building fine instruments in the tradition of the famed luthiers at D'Aquisto and D'Angelico, Ribbecke now enjoys a place in the pantheon of modern archtop builders including Linda Manzer and John Monteleone. Using the finest techniques and the rarest ... more

D'Angelico G3, gorgeous Vintage Archtop 1958 Natural

MIAMI, FLORIDA, 33186, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

$21999

10-1076 D'Angelico G3. This model usually was called "G3" by Dangelico. He didn't write those in his ledger, as he didn't build those himself. Therefore there is no Serial Number. The bodies were bought from outside suppliers like the United / Code company of New Jersey. And only the necks were fitted by Dangelico or one if his apprentices. That way he could offer a more affordable guitar to his customers who couldn't afford a fully carved Dangelico. Jimmy D'aquisto also made a few like that in ... more

Benedetto Manhattan Archtop Plumburst 2015

ROSLYN, NEW YORK, 11576, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

$17999

Add us to your Favorite Sellers! ♥ Questions? We can help! Contact us today! 30-Day Money Back Guarantee Item Description This Benedetto Manhattan archtop is simply jaw dropping! Bob Benedetto is arguably the world's best jazz guitar luthier, and this beautiful Plumburst Manhattan model built by his team is a prime example. The 17" hand carved archtop immediately catches your eye with the unique plumb / espresso finish. The body is crafted from highly figured European maple with a European ... more

2016 Gibson Super 400 Thinline Hollowbody M2M Archtop Natural Classic 57's *592

PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY, 08540, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

$13650

This 18" Gibson archtop is brand new, NOS, made in July 2016, at the Gibson Custom Shop. It is a member of the Crimson Collection making it a limited production number. The adjectives get more and more complicated as the years go by: this is a Gibson Crimson Custom Shop Super 400-CES Thinline Hollowbody M2M (Made to measure) Natural Jazz Electric Guitar. It is 2 5 inches deep, and 18' at its widest. It has no block, and is a hollow body. Spruce quartersawn premium spruce top, with carved back ... more

Gibson Custom Shop RARE Super 400 Archtop Hollow Body Natural Ebony Fretboard

NEW YORK, NEW YORK, 10019, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

$13550

GIBSON CUSTOM SHOP SUPER 400 NATURAL TOP ARCHTOP HOLLOW BODY THE KING OF THE HOLLOW BODIES !!!!!!! NATURAL SPRUCE TOP HIGHLY FLAMED NATURAL MAPLE BACK AND SIDES PRODUCED IN 2013 PART OF THE EXCLUSIVE "CRIMSON" HAND BUILT GIBSON PROGRAM EBONY FRETBOARD VENETIAN CUTAWAY 5 PIECE MAPLE / WALNUT NECK BLACK "STINGER" ON NECK GOLD HARDWARE WEIGHT IS 8 POUNDS 10 OUNCES SPLIT DIAMOND HEADSTOCK NEVER PLAYED !!! JUST TAKEN OUT FOR PHOTOS !! BOUGHT TO COLLECT UNPLAYED OUTSTANDING UNPLAYED, BRAND NEW ... more

Find more jazz guitars for sale at jazzguitarsforsale.com


Jazz Books


Hal Leonard Guitar Method - Jazz Guitar: Hal Leonard Guitar Method Stylistic Supplement Bk/online audio. Featuring in-depth lessons and 40 great jazz classics, the Hal Leonard Jazz Guitar Method is your complete guide to learning jazz guitar. Songs include: 'Satin Doll', 'Take the A Train', 'Billie's Bounce', 'Impressions', 'Bluesette' and more.

Jazz Guitar Lessons


Jazz Bebop Blues Guitar helps you to create the authentic sound of jazz guitar, without having to learn numerous scales and modes. Based around the familiar blues progression, this book uses simple chord / scale substitution ideas to create beautiful jazz-blues lines in the style of the great jazz guitarists