In this first video we examine our old friend the Jazz Turnaround (also called a 1-6-2-5), with examples for chord accompaniment (‘comping’) using 4-part voicings.
In order to better understand and prepare for the lesson, first study the basic original ‘Turnaround’ progression:
|| Cma7 | A7 | Dmi7 | G7 ||
For this lesson we must slightly alter the two Dominant chords (A7 which precedes the iim7 chord or Dmi7, and G7 which precedes the Ima chord or Cma7) by adding in a flattened ninth to each chord.
The progression is now:
|| Cma7 | A7(b9) | Dmi7 | G7(b9) ||
Then we halve the beat count for each chord – instead of four beats or one bar per chord, we now have two beats or a half bar per chord – also referred to as ‘2-beat changes’ whereby the harmony ‘changes’ every two beats. (see CL35 on 2-beat jazz changes for more info).
Now the progression looks like this:
|| Cma7 A7(b9) | Dmi7 G7(b9) ||
4 Part Harmony:
As the next 4 videos deals with 4-part harmony, I thought it would be a good idea to quickly delve into what this actually is in a broad sense and how it equates to the guitar.
A chord that supports a melody (written or improvised) in jazz is usually made up of 4 different notes or more – these notes when sounded together form a chord. A melody when played against a chord gives us a reference point for harmonizing a ‘voicing’; usually we start with the melody if arranging a new section (knowledge of the bass movement and chords is paramount here!), and harmonise downwards from this.
In 4 part harmony the top (highest) note is called the lead note and will be treated as the melody note, mainly because it is the easiest to clearly hear when sitting atop other notes in a chord. This is also called the ‘Soprano’ note in some arranging classes, particularly 4-part for section writing (horns / big band etc) and voice (choral) arrangements. The notes are then numbered from 1 to 4, 1 being this melody or highest note.
Note 2 (one note lower than the Soprano or highest) is the second note, also called the ‘Alto’ voice. The next note below this is numbered note 3, and is called the Tenor part – these two parts (2 and 3) are referred to also as the ‘inside’ parts as they make up the inside of the chord. The lowest note is note 4 and is referred to as the Bass note. It is important to observe that in this lesson and throughout 4 part arranging that the Bass note may not exclusively be the tonic or root note of the chord. That is true for most of the exercises in this video – so please use the backing tracks (brought to you by iReal Pro http://irealpro.com/) which have a basic bass line and drum sequence to play along to, if you are having trouble hearing the bass line movement.
When the 3 notes below the melody are written in descending order (without omission), it is called CLOSE VOICING.
On the guitar, these 4 voices are usually (but not exclusively) voiced on the top 4 strings of the guitar – DGBE in ascending order, and therefore the voices are numbered 4321 from lowest (Bass) to highest (Soprano).
‘Drop 2’ Voicings
On the guitar (due to fingering requirements and the way a guitar is tuned in standard tuning) we most commonly use ‘Drop-2’ voicings of 4-part chords in standard jazz. This is where you harmonise vertically down a chord (see below example) as you would in a simple 4-part Close voicing, then take the 2nd note and drop it down exactly one octave. In the first bar of our example we have a 4 note voicing of a Cma7 chord with a B natural on top as voiced ‘CLOSE’ because the notes descend in order without omitting any. In the next bar this voicing has been turned into a ‘Drop-2’ by taking the note G or the 2nd voice, down exactly one octave. Notice how much easier this is to finger on the guitar!
In this video we use a sequence of 4-part voicings (in Drop-2) to navigate the turnaround. While the description above may be confusing, spend time with it as this is a powerful tool for arranging – for voice leading and chord melody on the guitar of course, but also for writing sectional harmonies (backing vocals in a pop band) or for jazz orchestral writing or multi-part horn soli’s etc.
For a comprehensive description of the chords watch the video till around the 2:45 mark, using a printed copy of the lesson to help you if needed. After this we look at the inner movements of the chords (around the 3 minute mark), then finish with a jam out where I embellish and expand upon the written chords in an example of how I might actually play at a gig and use these chord forms.