Lesson One • Respelling Chords/Scales

One way to keep the amount of material that has to be memorized manageable is to learn to use the same thing in different ways. Consider the following chord voicing:

Maj7+4 Voicing

This voicing is one of the most versatile sounds in modern jazz. If you’re not familiar with it, listen to the compositions of Joe Henderson, Wayne Shorter, and Chick Corea, for example. They all use this sound extensively.
This voicing sounds best on the middle four strings or the top four (in other keys). In addition to its use as a Major7+4, this voicing can be used as any of the following chords: F#mi7b5; Ami6/9; D13; Bmi (phrygian).
Since most playing situations involve a bass player, you don’t have to (and frankly, shouldn’t) play the roots of these chords.Let the bass player take care of that function.
All of these chords use the same scale: G Ionian (Major Scale, it just sounds erudite to use the Greek name). Right about now, you could easily be thinking: “If I can use the same voicing for all of these different chord types, when I improvise I could use my C Lydian ideas over F#mi7b5! Or maybe Ami6/9 ideas. Or even…”

This concept is explored in greater detail in my book Jazz Guitar Comping, available from Mel Bay.

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