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Voice Leading: Jazz Chord Movement

February 11, 2010

from Chord-Melody Guitar
The voice leading principles that are most common are:
1. common tone and/or closest tone,
2. contrary motion,
3. chromatic movement.

The examples that follow will illustrate, but you must observe the movement of the voices and try to create your own examples to truly understand and hear these principles. Please practice and memorize any that are new to you. Inversions, extensions, and alterations are also used. It is recommended that you write the notes of each voicing on the staff in order to fully observe the voice-leading principles and to improve your reading and note/string location abilities on the guitar. Take your time in learning these examples in order to retain them. Practice them frequently and be sure to play in all the keys that seem practical on the instrument given each particular voicing.

After learning the fingering for an example look at the melody line written below. Make sure that you understand how each note is a chord tone/scale tone, and that the melody is first half notes or quarter notes. Then give the melody its own rhythm by hitting the top note an eighth note earlier or later than the rest of the chord. Also try rhythmically anticipating or delaying the entire chord, with the melody note on top, by an eighth note or more. On the tracks, each chord is played with a quarter-note pulse.

Common Tone and Closest Tone Examples

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Contrary Motion Examples
Contrary motion happens when the lowest and highest notes of the chord are moving in opposite directions. This effect is always a good one. It gives the sense of expanding and contracting in the melody and bass line, which provides the listener something interesting to track with the ear. Note the use of extensions and alterations in these examples.

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Chromatic Movement Examples
Chromatic movement involves the use of alterations in the dominant V chord. The tension created by alteration is resolved when the chromatic tone moves by half step to the I chord. Review the possible extensions and their alterations.

Extensions: 9 11 13
Altered Extensions: b9 #9 #11 (or b5) b13 (or #5)

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