Maiden Voyage Chords – Modal Comping Study

The Easy Guide to Chord Melody and Chord Solos


Maiden Voyage is is a classic modal jazz tune written and made famous by pianist Herbie Hancock. With a cool groove, hip slash chords, and a memorable melody, this tune has become a jazz jam session essential since first being released.

While Maiden Voyage is a commonly called tune, it can often handcuff guitarists who try and superimpose traditional chords over these modern chord changes. Because of this, many guitarists sound out of place when comping and chord soloing over this Hancock classic.

To help you avoid this type of situation, this lesson teaches you how to use cool-sounding, modern chords that are easy to play and perfectly outline the Dorian sound.

You’ll also learn how to add chromatic concepts to these three-note chords, taking these shapes even further in your comping phrases.

Check these concepts out in the practice room, then when you’re ready, tackle the chord study presented at the end of the lesson. This material will guarantee that you’ll be able to comp over this, and other, modern jazz tunes at your next session with confidence.

Dorian Chords

To begin your study of Maiden Voyage chords, you’ll learn how to build chords out of the Dorian scale, the scale used to outline every chord in this tune.

Rather than use traditional chords such as drop 2 or drop 3 chord voicings, you’ll learn how to build three-note chords out of the Dorian scale. This approach allows you to outline the chords changes, and bring a modern, modal sound to your chord work at the same time.

To begin, you’ll review a common Dorian scale fingering on guitar.

If this scale shape is new to you, take a few minutes to learn it and memorize this scale as it’s the foundation for everything else in this lesson.


Listen & Play



Now that you have this scale under your fingers, you’ll look at two notes on each string in particular, those on the 5th and 7th frets. You’ll notice that no matter what string you’re on, you’ll always play the 5th and 7th fret on those strings.

Here are those notes highlighted in blue so that you can play through them outside of the scale as a whole.


Listen & Play



With those two notes on each string isolated, you can now use those notes to build three-note chords.

When doing so, you will play 4th chords (654 and 543 strings), major triads (432 strings), and minor triads (321 stings).

This mixture of sounds is the key to this chordal approach, as you outline the Dorian sound, but you aren’t just playing one sound, such as triads or 4th chords. The mix of chords allows these shapes to sound fresh and hip as you climb up the fretboard.

Give them a try before moving on to the chromatic concepts below. They’re easy to play, using only one finger, and sound great on the guitar.


Listen & Play



Dorian Approach Chords

Now that you’ve worked on the Dorian chord shapes on their own, you can look at a few ways to spice these shapes up in your playing.

The first concept, approach chords, involves you playing a shape one fret higher or lower than your diatonic chord, before resolving into that diatonic chord.

This creates a sense of tension and release in your playing which can be very helpful when comping over a modal tune like Maiden Voyage.

Here are a few examples to get you started before you take them into your practice routine, and study them in the chord etude below.


Listen & Play



Dorian Passing Chords

You can now connect each of the Dorian chords in your comping by adding a passing chord between these two shapes.

Because you’re playing 555-777 on A Dorian, for example, you can add in the 666 chord between them.

This passing chord can connect those two diatonic shapes going up or going down. As long as you play a diatonic chord, then the passing chord, and resolve to the next diatonic chord you’ll be fine.

Here are a few examples to get you started:


Listen & Play



Dorian Enclosures

The final chordal approach you’ll use in this lesson is the enclosure concept.

This is when you play a chord one fret higher, then one fret lower than your target chord, before landing on your target chord on the fretboard.

Here is an example of that technique applied to two different A Dorian chords.

You can play with the rhythms using this technique, as with any chord concept in this lesson, as long as you resolve the enclosure before too long. Experiment with enclosed chords in your practice routine and see where you ear guides you when applying them to comping over tunes.


Listen & Play



Maiden Voyage Chords – Comping Study

Now that you’ve looked at the chord concepts in this study, you can learn the study as a whole on the guitar.

Start by working each 8-bar section on their own, and then mix them all together when you’re ready. Each section uses a particular concept from the lesson, normal chords, approach chords, passing chords, and enclosures.

You wouldn’t separate these concepts that much in a real-life situation, but for the sake of a comping study it’s a good way to organize your thoughts.

After you’ve worked the study with the audio example, you can put the backing track on and play along with the band. You can either play the comping study exactly as is, or you can use the concepts in this lesson to make up your own chord phrases.

Either way, have fun with this study and enjoy digging into these comping concepts in a musical situation.


Backing Track

Listen & Play





The Easy Guide to Jazz Guitar Arpeggios


Do you use quartal voicings in your comping? Let us know in the comments below…

  1. Steven MartinOct 13, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    Aww man!!! This is such a great, gate-way drug … uh … I mean ‘lesson’ … into one of my favorite tunes in one of my favorite styles. A fantastic intro for those terminal beginners like myself who are intimidated by music theory — just a lot of easy, index finger barres, and a hip sense of timing. This is going to give me hours of fun, and hopefully lead me to explore other fingerings, approaches, and maybe even (gasp) theory. You’ve provided a comfortable launching pad that I can always return to if I get lost. Much thanks!

  2. Eugene WardOct 13, 2016 at 4:07 pm

    I’m working right now but can’t wait to get to work on this tonight – I really appreciate this lesson. hope there are more like this.

  3. maxoumaxOct 13, 2016 at 5:19 pm

    Cette leçon aborde ce thème très compliqué de manière très simple
    c’est donc indispensable pour aller plus loin dans l’improvisation jazz moderne

  4. RicOct 13, 2016 at 6:47 pm

    Your lessons are – although in english (I’m german:( – always a big hit! I’m meanwhile a lazy but sometimes still curious old (Amateur) guitarist but your lessons always give me a kick to practice again and especially they show me what to do in my next live 😉 Thanks so much!

  5. JonathanOct 14, 2016 at 2:00 pm

    I always loved _Maiden Voyage_ but never quite understood the theory behind it; now you’ve explained it in a way that is directly applicable to the fretboard – and it no longer seems mysterious and complex. Still sounds great, though!

  6. KarenOct 14, 2016 at 3:00 pm

    Great Lesson, can’t wait for the weekend to really have fun with this. Thanks!

  7. LaurenceOct 15, 2016 at 8:37 am

    Hey, thanks so much – yet another reason to keep on learning. I’ve always loved that stack of 4ths sound.
    Cheers & thx for your gems of knowledge

  8. nuzzoOct 16, 2016 at 9:48 am

    Great. Well explain and made simple. This lesson give a clear understanding of modern sounds that often I have heard without understanding How to play them. Tank you

  9. Vito Di GiorgiOct 21, 2016 at 8:45 am

    Thanks so much,it open my mind in new and interesting solutio about Magic Dorian.

  10. Les CopelandNov 28, 2016 at 12:57 am

    Every lesson is so well done and so enjoyable! Thank you and keep em coming!

  11. JuanjoDec 27, 2016 at 7:27 pm

    Hello…..Thank you, as always a great help to start with a new standard.

    I have recorded a version of this tune using some of your advice in this article.
    If anyone wants to listen to it please visit: http://www.soundcloud.todobueno, I posted it around a month a go, there are also a few more standards I have recorded at home, most of them well know and based most of the times on standards explained by Dirk, Matt and Andre….. great teachers ,big influence and helpfull always.

    Regards from Spain, Tenerif….. MERY CHRISTMAS TO ALL….. HAPPY 2017!.

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