Trying to replicate what you hear on an Oscar Peterson or Bill Evans album can be a daunting task for any guitarist.

Chops: Intermediate
Theory: Intermediate
Lesson Overview: 
• Emulate pianists by using dyads to accompany single-note lines
• Imply the sound of dominant, major and minor 7th chords
• Create a smoother musical flow by inserting chords into your phrases.
Click here to download a printable PDF of this lesson's notation and all 12 audio examples.
Jazz guitarists can sometimes become jealous of pianists. Trying to replicate what you hear on an Oscar Peterson or Bill Evans album can be a daunting task for any guitarist. In this lesson, we are going to take a look at how to invoke a little bit of Oscar and Bill’s musical mojo by using chords and dyads to accompany our single-note lines.

We will start with a simple IIm–V7–IIIm–VI7 progression in the key of F (Gm7–C7–Am7–D7). In Fig. 1 we will alternate a single-note line with some chord stabs. This can add excitement to the solo as well as create some space between your melodic lines. In Fig. 2 the idea is expanded with four-note chords and a repeating rhythmic motif.


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A dyad is simply a two-note chord that we will let sustain while we play some simple lines above it. One of the masters of this technique was the late, great Lenny Breau. If you really want to see what is possible when it comes to solo jazz guitar, take a listen to his album of duets with Brad Terry, entitled The Living Room Tapes. Of course, many other guitarists have used and expanded this technique over the years.

When creating our dyads, we want to use the most essential notes–since we aren’t able to hit those huge, lush piano chords. If we have a IIm–V7–I progression in the key of F, the notes are as follows:

Chord Root 3rd 5th 7th
Gm7 G
Bb D F
C7 C E G Bb
Fmaj7 F A C E

The essential notes in any chord are the 3rds and the 7ths because those are the tones that define a chord’s quality as major, minor, or dominant. This might seem confusing at first, but here are three rules to remember:

• All major chords contain a natural 3rd and a natural 7th.
• All dominant chords contain natural 3rd and a flatted 7th.
• All minor chords contain a flatted 3rd and a flatted 7th.

What this all means is that by playing the 3rds and 7ths of these chords, we imply the sound of the entire chord. The good news is that we can easily play the dyads with two fingers–or sometimes even one! This leaves our other two fingers to play melodic lines while the chord is being sustained underneath.

Let’s try this idea out in Fig. 3 over a Gm7 chord. If you hold down the F (b7 of Gm7) with your second finger, and the Bb (b3 of Gm7) with your third finger, we capture the essential notes in a Gm7. This leaves your first and fourth fingers available to play notes from the F major (or G Dorian) scale.


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If we move our second finger to the E and keep our third finger on Bb, we can imply the sound of a C7 chord as shown in Fig. 4. Once again we can use the remaining fingers to grab notes in the F major scale ( or C Mixolydian).


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Of course, we’ll want to use spicier sounds over the C7 (V7) chord. Continue to hold down the E and the Bb notes and play the C half-whole diminished scale in Fig. 5.


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This scale is created by alternating half and whole steps to create a tension-filled altered sound over dominant chords.

Another choice for this type of sound is in Fig. 6. Here, we are playing the super locrian scale (R–b2–b3–b4–b5–b6–b7) over the C7 chord. This scale covers the b5/#11, #5/b13, b9 and #9 alterations.


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Finally, we move to the Fmaj7 chord by holding our E and moving the Bb to A in Fig. 7.


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In Fig. 8–Fig. 12, you can see how these ideas can be placed in musical contexts in the key of F. Start slow and really try to connect the chords and notes–remember we are trying to emulate the musical flow of a pianist. In order to get the most out of these fingerings, make sure to transpose them to all keys. It is also possible to play these dyads on other string sets, which will open up the entire fingerboard for you.


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A look at one type of reharmonization -- changing the fundamental harmony of a tune


From Jazz Guitar Harmony by Jody Fisher
To reharmonize a tune is to change its fundamental harmony. This is not the same thing as chord substitution, where the nature of the harmony remains the same—no matter how disguised the chords may become. For example, extending and altering dominant chords changes the flavor of the harmony, but there is always a way to justify these devices as being just enhancements.

Reharmonization throws some or all of the original changes out the window. This, however, is not simply a matter of “just playing whatever you want.” To create an artful and creative reharmonization, one must follow a general set of guidelines based on which system of reharmonization you choose.

Following is one method of reharmonization. This is a huge topic and many more reharmonization techniques exist, but the material shown here should get you started.

Symmetrical Bass Line Approach
With this technique, you start with just the melody and then add the accompaniment of an interesting bass line. Below is a melody (let’s assume its from a standard tune you already know) with an added bass line. The key to this technique is that the bass line should be symmetrical— the pattern of intervals between the notes is unchanging. (Feel free to jump octaves when necessary.) In this example, the bass line moves in minor 3rds (or augmented 2nds, which is the same distance) throughout the song.

Jazz’n Java With A Symmetrical Bass Line Listen

You need to be able to play the melody and bass together to make sure it sounds good. Once you can do this, add chord tones between the bass line and the melody. Here is where the work begins.

You can literally use any chords you find that sound good to you. Many chords won’t sound good (or may even sound downright bad). Finding the good ones gets easier with experience and once you have done this with a few tunes, you’ll come to learn what works and what doesn’t. You can try any kind of chord at all and you don’t have to stay in any particular key or tonality. This is why you must use a symmetrical bass line. It produces order in what could be an otherwise chaotic chord progression. The symmetry makes it all come together.

Other ideas for symmetrical bass lines could include all whole steps, all half steps, minor 3rd up and a half step back repeated over and over, 4ths, alternating whole and half steps and anything else you can dream up. Here is a completed reharmonization of Jazz n’ Java.

Jazz’n Java With Reharmonization Listen

Quartal Harmony

A look at quartal harmony, comprised of chords constructed by stacking fourths


from Jody Fisher's Mastering Jazz Guitar Chord/Melody
In conventional harmony, we use chords that are constructed primarily from stacking 3rds. In quartal harmony, chords are constructed by stacking 4ths.



Chords built with 4ths have a sort of rootless character, making them rather ambiguous in regard to key centers. They have no standardized names so we will name them with the lowest note of the chord. If the bass is F, and there are a total of three notes a 4th apart, we will call the chord “F quartal 3.” If there are four notes in the stack, we will call it “F quartal 4,” and so on. Quartal chords can be used to harmonize melodies which would ordinarily be harmonized with a minor chord.




Listen

Listen

Quartal chords can also be used to create tension in a progression.

Listen

The previous examples used pure (perfect) 4ths. It is possible to employ what we call diatonic 4ths as well. When harmonizing a major scale in 4ths we need to make adjustments to the chords to stay within the bounds of the diatonic key. In the example below we are building quartal 3 chords in C. Notice that when we come to the seventh degree of the scale we use a Bb to make an augmented 4th instead of a Bb, which would make a “pure” perfect 4th. We make this adjustment to stay in key since there is no Bb in the C scale. At times you might find it preferable to use chords built from “diatonic” 4ths. It’s really a matter of taste, so experiment.

The following chart shows the chord shapes for the quartal chords in C, and what happens when we invert these shapes.


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