As people who study jazz guitar know, learning how to play various chord substitutions is an important part of understanding and applying the jazz language to your comping and soloing ideas. In order to learn how to bring some common subs into your playing this week, in today’s lesson we’ll be exploring five important and often-used ii V I chord subs that come from various famous tunes, and the playing of many great jazz guitarists over the years.
Many of us know it is important to use arpeggios to outline chords in our licks, phrases, melody lines and solos. While we know learning arpeggios is important, we can become bored with our playing if we stick to using root-position, R-3-5-7 arpeggios to build our licks and melodies.
Learning how to play jazz guitar means learning a number of ways to play maj7 chords and the related extensions, maj6, maj9 and maj7#11, associated with these chords. While these extended chords contain four, five and sometimes six notes, that doesn’t mean you have to learn big, hard-to-play fingerings that are difficult to grab and hard to insert into a playing situation.
One of the most beneficial ways to learn scales on the guitar is to break them down and work them out using the common “box patterns” for each scale. This system is a solid way to organize the neck and get any scale under your fingers when first exploring these melodic devices on the fretboard.
As a guitar teacher, two of the most common questions I get from students are, “How do I break out of box patterns?” and “How can I learn the notes on the neck without just memorizing each fret?” Over the years, and after working with hundreds of students on these topics, I’ve come up with a few exercises that have proved to be very beneficial to players who find themselves asking these questions.
In today’s lesson, we’ll be looking at one fingering for the dim7 chord, arpeggio and related scale on the top-four strings of the guitar that you can use to move around the neck, creating four different positions for each of these harmonic and melodic devices in the process.
One of the most common alterations you will come across as a beginning and intermediate jazz guitarist is the 7#11 chord. Built by taking a normal dominant 7 chord, R 3 5 b7, and lowering the 5th by a 1/2 step, R 3 #11(b5) b7, these chord symbols come up time and again in big band charts and standard tunes.
When learning how to play jazz guitar chords, one of the first voicings many of us explore are three- and four-note 4th chords. Built by stacking 4th intervals, these chords have a modern, “open” sound that has been a favorite of players such as Lenny Breau, Mike Stern and Kurt Rosenwinkel, helping to define their chordal approach to jazz comping and chord soloing.
While learning to play George Benson’s licks can be a great way to dig into his sound and bring some of his lines into your solos, it can be much more beneficial to dissect his licks to see what concepts he was using to build these great-sound lines.