In this third instalment of our video series, we look at how we might comp chord voicings that ‘move’ between the tonic major chord (Cma6 in this case) and the Dom7 V chord, as represented by a G7(b9).
In order to prepare for the lesson, first study and be able to comp this simple, tonic based (vamp) progression:
|| Cma6 / / / | Cma6 / / / ||
Next we superimpose a dominant 7th V chord on the next bar (or for two beat changes, beats 3 and 4 of each bar) and remember that the WRITTEN chord (i.e. whatever is on the page in front of you) does not necessarily need to include this chord change, you are merely imposing it over the written chord, a technique widely applied to accompanying lead instruments to create a feeling of light and dark / tension+release etc.
So now we have the progression below. Think of the bracketed chords as being superimposed over the original chord sequence:
|| Cma6 / / / | [G7(b9) / / /] ||
|| Cma6 / [G7(b9) /] | Cma6 / [G7(b9) /] ||
Notice that the second progression above uses an implied 2-beat change, i.e. harmony that changes every 2 beats, alternating between the I-min chord (Cm6) and the V7 chord (G7[b9]). Depending on the length of the Cmaj chord you are comping on, you may wish to use either version.
4 Part Harmony:
As this 4 video series deals specifically 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 analyse the root-5 shapes (where the lowest voicing is on the A or 5th string – around the 0:33 mark of the video), look at chord inversions of the tonic major-sixth (ma6) chord as it travels upwards in pitch and inversion on the guitar fret-board. We also discuss how the dim7th on each alternate chord change is acting as the G7(b9), look at the use of these 4-part voicings in replacing ‘diatonic’ comping over a major chord vamp and examine how these chords are derived from big band music (4-part horn section arrangements) towards the end of the video.
2 Beat Changes
4 Beat Changes