Voicings & Melodies (Guitar Lesson)

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Matt Brown

Voicings & Melodies

Time to take the basic voicings you learned before & add on to them. The ability to modify chords will give you great resources when jamming to some jazz.

Taught by Matt Brown in Jazz Guitar with Matt seriesLength: 19:13Difficulty: 3.0 of 5
Chapter 1: (5:21) The Charleston Rhythm This lesson continues on with the rhythmic side of jazz guitar playing. You will learn some more challenging chord voicings as well as some basic accompanying rhythms also known as “comping.”

The Charleston is a sparse, syncopated rhythm. Due to its sparse rhythmic nature, it is best used as a comping rhythm when a more active rhythm, such as a walking bassline, is already present.

The two most basic variations of the Charleston are presented in this lesson. However, the comping musician most typically improvises the Charleston at will. Its main purpose is to fill space on an as needed basis.

Let’s imagine that you are playing in a band with a bass player, and the other guitarist is taking a solo. If the soloist is playing a very active line, the comping should be sparser. Otherwise, the overall sound may become too cluttered. On the other hand, if the soloist is playing sparse phrases or is letting a note sustain for a long duration, the comping can be become more active to fill space. Listen to your favorite jazz guitarists or pianists to see how they apply the Charleston to their comping rhythms.

Note: Click the “Supplemental Content” tab for two primary variations of the Charleston rhythm.

Before you begin to improvise your own comping rhythms, master playing the Charleston within the context of a ii V I progression first. As always, practice it in all twelve keys. If your time is limited, stick to the most popular jazz keys: F,Bb, Eb, and C. Be sure to use all of the chord voicings learned up to this point.
Chapter 2: (5:04) Rootless Set I Voicings If you are playing with a bass player, it isn’t necessary to play the root/bass note of a given chord while comping. It isn’t wrong to do so. The root note will simply be doubled an octave higher. Since the root is already covered by the bass, the guitarist is free to play more colorful voicings. Since you are not using a finger to play the low root, that finger is free to play higher extensions in the chord. Extensions are the notes that “extend” beyond the 7th scale degree of a chord. Typical extensions are the 9,11,and 13.

Rootless Set I voicings are very effective, because they only contain the two most important chord tones. Depending on the chord, the most important chord tones are both the 3rd and 7th or the 3rd and 6th.

Once you have memorized all of these rootless voicings, begin practicing them in the context of a ii V I using the Charleston.

Keep in mind that rootless voicings should only be used when a bassline is present! They should be applied to the Charleston rhythm, not the Freddie Green rhythm.
Chapter 3: (8:45) Set II Chord Voicings These chords expand upon the Set I voicings learned in Jazz Lesson 1. Adding a note to the 2nd (B) string creates these new voicings. Before you begin practicing these chords, make sure you are comfortable with all of your Set I and rootless Set I voicings.

The same scale degree will not always be added to each new chord. The 5 or 9 is typically added to major and minor chords. The 9 or 13 is added to dominant chords. Examine each chord voicing in detail to determine which chord tones the voicing contains. The way in which these chord tones interact with one another gives the voicing its overall sound or tonal “color.”

Important: When a dominant chord (C7) is written on a lead sheet, it is seldom played as a simple dominant 7 chord. When a dominant 7 chord is indicated, it should be played as a dominant 9 or dominant 13. For example C7, should be played as C9,C13, C7(#11), etc. Some of these voicings will be discussed in later lessons.

Note: Click the “Supplemental Content” tab for diagrams of the most basic Set II voicings.

Memorize these new chord voicings and start incorporating them into your daily practice of ii V I progressions. These are just the most basic Set II voicings. There are more to come in later lessons! Start by practicing these chords with the Freddie Green Rhythm. Then practice Rootless Set II chords using the Charleston.

Video Subtitles / Captions

Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.

Mhayoung1012Mhayoung1012 replied on May 9th, 2014

Hey thanks for the lessons. Would you recommend using your thumb instead of other fingers to press down on the bass note of some chords? or is that a bad habit?

mattbrownmattbrown replied on December 29th, 2014

I would recommend that you play the voicings in the way that I finger them in the video. For a few of the chords taught in this series though, there are some alternate fingerings that might also be practical depending on the context of the chords in the progression. In the long run, nobody cares about the way you finger a chord as long as you play it well and it sounds good.

gdelotto91gdelotto91 replied on August 21st, 2013

Hey Matt, where would i use the diminished chords in the ii-V-I progression?

mattbrownmattbrown replied on August 27th, 2013

Well, a dominant seventh chord contains a diminished chord. For instance, G7 (G, B, D, F) contains a B diminished chord (B, D, F). So, you over a G7 chord, you can generate licks based on B diminished arpeggios. You can also play B diminished chord shapes when you're playing rhythm guitar.

lsmdsllsmdsl replied on June 1st, 2013

Matt I thought the lesson where you demonstrated a walking bass with the rythm played on the high tone strings was great. Thanks because the more guitar we here the better we learn. I would be delighted if we could get the tab for that technique in one of the supplimentals. It would certainly inspire us to practice and learn and play more. Thank You Leonard

mattbrownmattbrown replied on June 10th, 2013

Hey! I didn't transcribe the example you were talking about, but I did put a sample bass line with chords into the supplemental content for this lesson. It's a blues in F. If you want to learn more about the 'how' and 'why' regarding walking bass lines, I recommend you check out Jane Miller's jazz lessons and Brendan Burns' rhythm guitar lessons on bass lines.

mattbrownmattbrown replied on June 3rd, 2013

Hi! Thanks for the comment! I'll try to find the walking bass / chord example that you're talking about. Is there a specific lesson or scene that you can point me too? I filmed these lessons about six years ago, so I'm having a hard time remembering where certain examples are. At any rate, I'll definitely transcribe the example you're talking about once I can track it down.

tinlizzeytinlizzey replied on May 19th, 2013

Get this man a glass of water between sentences!

mattbrownmattbrown replied on June 3rd, 2013

Haha! Yeah...We filmed these old lessons in the summer in a building with loud air conditioning. We had to turn the air conditioning off so the mics didn't pick it up. As you can imagine, filming for 6 or so straight hours in that kind of heat gets pretty tough. ;) Oh well, it's a labor of love.

satchctassatchctas replied on December 18th, 2012

Excellent stuff by the way!!

satchctassatchctas replied on December 18th, 2012

hi there, quick question, why the C13 on the 6th string has a Bb in the 4th string?? it don't get it, the E in the third string is the 5th or the 10th and the A in the second string would be the 13, but i have no clue about the Bb...or am i totally lost in this one?

mattbrownmattbrown replied on December 19th, 2012

Glad you liked the lesson! In the voicing you are talking about, the C note on the 6th string is the root. The Bb is the b7th. E is the third and A is the 13. "13" (C13) and "9" chords (C9) are two types of dominant chords just like "7" chords (C7). They all function the same way, but contain different extensions or different colors. Here are the formulas for these chords: C13 = 1, 3, 5, b7, 9 (the nine may be included or it may not be), 13. So, C13 contains C, E, G, Bb, (D), A. C9 = 1, 3, 5, b7, 9. C9 contains C, E, G, Bb, D. C7= 1, 3, 5, b7. C7 contains C, E, G, Bb. As you can see, all of these dominant chords contain the b7 - Bb...I should also mention that when coming up with voicings for these chords, especially when playing jazz, the root note or the fifth may be omitted from the voicing. That's something I'm sure you'll notice in these lessons.

blinky1717blinky1717 replied on November 11th, 2012

Good lesson...plenty of stuff to work on! Just curious if you cover the walking bassline with II-V-I in any future lessons? That was awesome and exactly the style of jazz I'd like to get comfortable with. (Read, single guitar style). Thanks!

mattbrownmattbrown replied on November 26th, 2012

No problem! Glad I could help!

blinky1717blinky1717 replied on November 14th, 2012

Good tip Matt...thanks. Looking forward to the future lessons. Although I would admit that the first two lessons are giving me plenty to do for a few weeks! Cheers!

mattbrownmattbrown replied on November 12th, 2012

Thanks! I haven't discussed bass lines in this series yet. I might in the future though. Jane Miller does a great job of explaining how to play walking bass lines in her jazz set though. A few of her most recent lessons cover that topic in detail.

blinky1717blinky1717 replied on November 14th, 2012

One other question Matt. Can you tell me what type of gear set up in these lessons? Obviously I can see the strat...but what types of pickups and amp? Amp settings (or a rough guess) would be great as well. I'm trying to dial in a nice jazz tone on my G&L ASAT and I"m getting close...but thought you may have some tips. (Currently running flatwounds through a Mesa Mini Recitifier. Certainly not a true jazz set up but it sounds pretty good.

mattbrownmattbrown replied on November 16th, 2012

Well, when we filmed these lessons about 5 or 6 years ago, the gear / recording setup we had was far from ideal. We only had a single condenser mic in the middle of the room that picked up everything. Typically, when I play jazz, I use either my Les Paul or a G+L Legacy with Lace Sensors in it (red-bridge, silver-middle, and blue for the neck pickup). I play through a Fender Deluxe for jazzier tones. For rock stuff, I use a dual rectifier, which surprisingly gets some great jazzy tones. I think the key is to play with the three eq controls and the presence knob in conjunction with the tone control on your ASAT to get the ideal tone. I would keep the presence control relatively low and go with a pretty flat eq...mids at about 11 o'clock. bass at about 1 o'clock. highs at about 12 o'clock. Then, maybe roll off the tone control slightly to further decrease the highs that the pickups are putting out. For most jazz stuff, you'll want to go with the neck pickup.

blinky1717blinky1717 replied on November 25th, 2012

Good tips Matt thanks. Your amp settings were slightly different than what I was using and I like the tone even more. Appreciate the guidance!

feb52feb52 replied on April 26th, 2012

Mtt I am following your reading and rythmcourse along with this course. I can play the charleston rythm by ear watching you but am having a hard time counting it. I don't know why, in your reading lessons i can count out kind of the same beat.

mattbrownmattbrown replied on April 30th, 2012

well...In the supplemental content, you have notes on "1" and the "and of 2". In the following measure, you have notes on the "and of 1" and the "and of 2". I set the metronome so that it clicks on beats two and 4. Then, in my head, I keep a "1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and" feel going with a swing rhythm....Then, you just have to strum at the appropriate times.

feb52feb52 replied on April 26th, 2012

Mtt I am following your reading and rythmcourse along with this course. I can play the charleston rythm by ear watching you but am having a hard time counting it. I don't know why, in your reading lessons i can count out kind of the same beat.

feb52feb52 replied on April 9th, 2012

Matt thanks, I know what you mean. I found a very good autumn leaves tutorial on you tube by www.play-jazz de. that has really helped to understand what your doing.

feb52feb52 replied on April 6th, 2012

Matt did you give thoses song as ajust a example of the charleston rythm or can we play to them with the chords we have learned so far, I have been playing for a while and haven't a clue what to do. I don't read music. Imostly play by ear.

mattbrownmattbrown replied on April 6th, 2012

Well, the Charleston Rhythm is a comping style that can be applied to any tune that is played with a swing rhythm feel. As a guitarist, you're either going to "comp" with the Freddie Green rhythm, the Charleston, a walking bass line, or some sort of combination of the three when playing swing. If you're playing with a bass player or a piano player that is covering the bass, there's no need for you as a guitarist to provide bass. If you're playing with a bass player and a drummer, Freddie Green is too busy for many situations....So, that's when you want to comp more sparsely with the Charleston. Listen to a variety of different ensemble types playing some jazz standards (guitar duets, big band, small jazz combo, etc.)...you'll see what I mean.

rustysterlingrustysterling replied on August 25th, 2010

As a bass player, I can hear what you are saying about the rootless voicings. This actually may be the easiest section for me since I do play bass. It's nice to know the root voicing and actually do like you showed in the beginning with the walking bass line and the rootless chords. This is something I'd be more interested in doing since I play mostly solo. So I've not only learned the rootless voicing but how I can combine my bass playing with them to really fill things out for me as a soloist. Thanks.

bpocobpoco replied on March 13th, 2010

Matt - can you give us a couple of examples of Jazz standards that we could practice the Charleston rhythm against? Thanks.

mattbrownmattbrown replied on March 18th, 2010

Most definitely! I'll be filming some new jazz lessons in the middle of June. I'll definitely do some lessons on some standards. These lessons will be taught in three parts - one part on the melody, one on comping, and one on playing solos. In the meantime, check out the rest of the lessons in this series. I believe I did one that has some instruction on how to comp with the Charleston over the 12 bar blues. I also cover rootless set 1, rootless set 2, and set 3 voicings. All of these voicings are used with the Charleston. As you learn these new voicings, apply them to some simple standards like "Take the A Train," "Autumn Leaves," "All of Me," etc. I recommend you get a copy of the Real Book and go to town. Good luck!!!

nate_thegreatnate_thegreat replied on January 21st, 2010

hey, just thought I'd point out that one of the Cdim7 chords is diagrammed incorrectly. it says that the root is at the 6th string, 3rd fret. I believe it should be at the 8th fret. thx Matt

mattbrownmattbrown replied on January 25th, 2010

You're totally right. What's written in that diagram is a Go7 chord. Thanks for the heads up!!

dash rendardash rendar replied on August 9th, 2009

Thanks Matt. A lot of chords covered up to this point. I was wondering if it might be possible to slot in a lesson that helps us consolodate these chords, maybe by using them in a Jazz standard, rather than just ploughing on with more variations?

mattbrownmattbrown replied on August 20th, 2009

Yep! That's what is coming next for this series. We're going to take a look at a bunch of standards that follow the 12 bar blues form. Then we'll start getting into minor keys and some tunes in minor keys.

dash rendardash rendar replied on August 23rd, 2009

Excellent, thanks. :)

tmdanzatmdanza replied on January 11th, 2009

Your lessons are very good, I joined after seeing your 'free' lessons. But I cannot find supplement content that has the Charleston syncopated rhythm. I almost have it and want to confirm I have it right. Are there any practice tracks in later lessons?

Jazz Guitar with Matt

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

In this lesson set, Matt will teach you everything you need to know to fluently play jazz guitar.

Lesson 1

Intro to Jazz

Check out this lesson to learn some basic jazz theory & chord voicings.

Length: 31:36 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 2

Voicings & Melodies

Learn some more advanced chord voicings as well as the Charleston rhythm.

Length: 19:13 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 3

Set II Voicings

Learn a handful of Set II voicings & round out your knowledge of the basic jazz chords.

Length: 27:08 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 4

Applying Chords / Solo Ideas

Apply the chords you've learned & experiment with some solo ideas.

Length: 32:47 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 5

Scales and Chords Together

Learn which scales work with which jazz chord voicings.

Length: 43:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 6

Circle of Fifths

Matt sheds some light on the circle of fifths.

Length: 28:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 7

Proper Practicing

Learn how to get the most out of your time when practicing.

Length: 31:00 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 8

Proper Practicing Part 2

Here's the second installment of Matt's proper practicing lesson.

Length: 32:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 9

Physicalities of Playing

Learn how to avoid carpal tunnel and other hand injuries by using proper technique.

Length: 46:19 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 10

All of Me

Matt Brown teaches the jazz standard "All of Me."

Length: 31:12 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 11

Lead and Scales

Matt Brown explains how to improvise over the changes to "All of Me."

Length: 7:54 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 12

Estudio No. 1.

Matt Brown begins talking about solo arrangements in this lesson. He teaches Carcassi's "Estudio No. 1" as an introduction to this concept.

Length: 18:10 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 13

Reviewing the ii V I Progression

Matt Brown returns to his Jazz series with a review lesson. He applies the standard ii V I progression to the circle of fifths.

Length: 18:10 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 14

Turnback Progression

In lesson 14, Matt discusses the turnback progression in the jazz style.

Length: 22:20 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 15

Set Three Voicings

Matt brown discusses and demonstrates the set three voicings used in jazz guitar.

Length: 25:42 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 16

Jazz Solo Arrangement

In this lesson, Matt demonstrates how to practice jazz solo arrangements by taking a look at "Here's That Rainy Day."

Length: 35:10 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 17

Expanding on the 12 Bar Blues

In lesson 17, Matt reviews and expands on the jazz version of the 12 bar blues form.

Length: 23:20 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 18

Adding Voices

In this lesson, Matt adds to your voicing repertoire while playing the Charleston rhythm.

Length: 14:22 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 19

Key of B Flat Major

Matt Brown talks about lead options when playing a blues in B flat major.

Length: 23:35 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 20

Key of F

Matt Brown provides instruction and examples of playing jazz heads in the key of F. Once again, all examples follow the 12 bar blues form.

Length: 18:22 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 21

Jazz Heads in B Flat

Matt Brown takes another look at blues heads in the key of B flat. In this lesson, he covers a head by Thelonious Monk.

Length: 10:03 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 22

Tools for Solo Arrangements

Matt Brown takes a look at a solo arrangement and provides thoughts and tools necessary to complete this type of guitar playing.

Length: 23:13 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 23

Introduction to Bossa Nova

Matt Brown starts breaking down the rhythmic tendencies and patterns to the Brazilian Bossa Nova style of playing.

Length: 17:56 Difficulty: 0.0 Members Only
Lesson 24

Blue Bossa #1

In lesson 24 of his Jazz series, Matt takes a look at the melody to Blue Bossa.

Length: 9:12 Difficulty: 0.0 Members Only
Lesson 25

Blue Bossa #2

Matt Brown takes a look at the available chord voicings for Blue Bossa.

Length: 10:39 Difficulty: 0.0 Members Only

About Matt Brown View Full Biography Matt Brown began playing the guitar at the age of 11. "It was a rule in my family to learn and play an instrument for at least two years. I had been introduced to a lot of great music at the time by friends and their older siblings. I was really into bands like Nirvana, Alice In Chains, and Smashing Pumpkins, so the decision to pick up the guitar came pretty easily."

Matt's musical training has always followed a very structured path. He began studying the guitar with Dayton, Ohio guitar great Danny Voris. I began learning scales, chords, and basic songs like any other guitarist. After breaking his left wrist after playing for only a year, Matt began to study music theory in great detail. I wanted to keep going with my lessons, but I obviously couldn't play at all. Danny basically gave me the equivalent of a freshman year music theory course in the span of two months. These months proved to have a huge impact on Brown's approach to the instrument.

Brown continued his music education at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. He completed a degree in Classical Guitar Performance in 2002. While at Capital, he also studied jazz guitar and recording techniques in great detail. "I've never had any desire to perform jazz music. Its lack of relevance to modern culture has always turned me off. However, nothing will improve your chops more than studying this music."

Matt Brown currently resides in Dayton, Ohio. He teaches lessons locally as well as at Capital University's Community Music School. Matt's recent projects include writing and recording with his new, as of yet nameless band as well as the formation of a cover band called The Dirty Cunnies.

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