By: Joseph Alexander
Whilst it is good to see possible altered chord extensions as a simple substitution, as shown in previous lessons in my 10-part series on Drop 2 Chords, there is a very easy way to add tension and colour to your chord playing without having to play substitutions at all.
Sometimes it’s just simpler to adjust notes of the chords we already have, a valuable skill when learning how to play jazz guitar.
Often in music, the harmony calls for extensions of the dominant chord, for example A7#5 or A7b9#5.
If you understand where these extensions lie in terms of the original unaltered chord, then it’s easy to adjust your fingering to include these notes.
As I’ve mentioned in previous lessons, the most important notes in any chord are the 3rd and 7th, we definitely want to leave these in.
The other notes, the root and 5th are expendable. So it’s these notes that you will normally adjust to alter the chord.
For example, look at the following voicing of A7:
In the voicing in the above example, the root of the chord, A is played on the top string, and the 5th, E is played on the second string.
So, for example, to make an A7b9 chord, you can simply remove the root and replace it with the b9 note, Bb which is a semitone above.
To make an A7#9 chord, you remove the root and replace it with the #9 scale tone which is a minor 3rd above:
You can also adjust the 5th of the A7 chord in a similar way.
To play A7#5(or b13) you raise the 5th by a semitone, and to play A7b5, you lower it by a semitone as such:
It’s also perfectly fine to combine the above examples as you can see here:
Practice altering the other 3 positions of the A7 Drop 2 Chords in this same fashion.
Not all of the positions are feasible, but it should give you a good understanding of this process and help you recognise where each chord tone lies in each voicing.
You can take a similar approach when extending maj7 and min7 chords.
To make a Maj7 chord into a Maj66, flatten the 7th by a tone or raise the 5th by a tone.
To make a Maj7 chord into a Maj7#11, flatten the 5th by a semitone.
Now try transferring these ideas to other voicings.
With minor 7 chords you can flatten the 5th by a tone to play a m11 and Flatten the 7th by a semitone or raise the 5th by a tone to play a m6.
Again, transfer these ideas to other voicings as you take these ideas further in the woodshed.
About the Author
A professional guitar teacher for over 12 years, Joseph Alexander graduated from The Guitar Institute in London with a Diploma in Popular Music Performance. He continued his education at the prestigious Leeds College of Music achieving a BA (Hons) in Jazz Studies in 2002. He currently lives in Poynton, England and is busy teaching a new wave of upcoming guitarists and is the author of the eBook Fundamental Changes in Jazz.
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