Playing Chord Melody Jazz Guitar

Because the guitar has six strings, it enables us to play more than one note at a time. So the idea of playing chord melody will at some point hit every budding jazz guitarist. And it does seems a little daunting. But I want to simplify it for you.

Learn How to Play Chord Melody Jazz Guitar

Joe Pass once said that there are only three chords we need to worry about. What he was actually saying is that he liked to reduce everything so that every chord belonged to one of three parent chords:

  • The minor chord
  • The dominant chord
  • The major chord

Simplifying Jazz Harmony

Joe was definitely on to something and we can adopt this principle here.

The minor parental form can include minor 6th, minor 7th, minor 9th and minor 11 chords.
The dominant parental form can include dominant 7th, 9th, 11th, sus4, 13, all alterations including b9, #9, b5 and #5. It can also include augmented and diminished chords too.
The major parental form can include major 6th, major7, major9 and major7(#11) chords.

And of course we know that the most important chord progression in jazz is the TWO-FIVE-ONE progression, which includes the three parental chord forms. TWO is minor, FIVE is dominant and ONE is major. So if we reduce everything harmonically to just these three chords, we have instantly made everything easier and more focused.

The next step is to simply see on the fretboard where these parental forms lie and learn where their surrounding embellishments are. Embellishments in this case are the notes that define the chord name. For example, if the chord is Am6, our parent chord is A minor and the sixth of that chord is F#, so our embellishment is the note F#. So we need to know where that note lies in relation to its parent chord. And of course we don’t have to learn six billion chord shapes to do this. We simplyform and use that as our moveable shape.

Playing melody and chords at the same time happens as a result of moving these chords around. But instead of simply playing one chord after another as if we were accompanying a singer in a country band, we ARE the singer and acompanist at the same time, so whatever the chord is we are playing, we can focus on the top notes (top two strings as a general rule) and hear those notes as our melody notes.

So what we need to do is get into the idea that we have:

  • a bass line (the 5th and 6th strings), which can simply be the root of the chord we are playing
  • melody notes (top 2 strings)
  • the middle (D string and G string) can be thought of as chord padding.

This is just a general rule as there are many situations where things will be different, but once we get our heads around the idea that we have a little orchestra, where each set has it’s own function, we can understand chord movement much easier.

In my Jazz Guitar Video Masterclass Volume 2 (which is focused 100% on chord melody) I will show you where all the chord forms are and their surrounding embellishments. I will show you a ton of ideas you can playon each of these three parental chords too, and of course I will also show you how to link each idea together.

To get your feet wet, let’s look at three TWO-FIVE-ONE chord melody ideas we can use utilizing some of the information I will show you in my program. In these examples we are going to think of our FIVE chord with a b9 embellishment on top. This produces a diminished sound.

Here are my examples:








Don’t forget, in my program Jazz Guitar Video Masterclass Volume 2, I break down each chord so you see exactly where this information comes from. You will become a jazz guitar chord melody master in no time!

  1. Rob KopfMar 24, 2014 at 6:21 pm

    When I think of constructing an Am6, i seem to think that the 6th is F. Am is the relative minor key of CM, no sharps including F. So what is your logic for sighting Am6 as having an F#? Waiting for your explanation. Thank you.

    • Dirk LaukensMar 24, 2014 at 7:27 pm

      The scale over a ii of a 251 is not the Aeolian mode (natural minor), but the Dorian mode, which has 6, not a b6.

    • Denis LacanMar 25, 2014 at 8:41 am

      Hi Rob Kopf. you are correct if you are considering the 6th in the scale on A natural minor. The use of the F# is partly down to semantics and common use, it is of course belonging to A mi Harmonic AND Melodic. It could have been F natural ( belongs to natural minor) but it is a bit of a clash or ‘avoid’ note. The custom pertaining to some of the chords belong to the shorthand forms mainly pertaining to the guitar.

    • samirMar 25, 2014 at 9:31 am

      Ami7 chord we add G as seventh note as in Am scale G stands seventh note.

      Ami6 we add F# as 6th note not F, if we add F note instead of F# then it becomes F major chord only not Ami6. This is what I understand, if I am wrong please correct me.



    • Scott PerryAug 28, 2014 at 2:39 am

      I wouldn’t think of the CHORD AM6 in terms of the A minor SCALE. Since the root is A, I would think of it in terms of the A MAJOR SCALE, with the F# as the 6th note. Yes, the A minor SCALE, is the natural minor scale relative to the C Ionian Major scale, but that’s not how I would approach thinking about AM6 as a CHORD. I think the best way to think about how chords are constructed and named, are to approach them from the parent IONAN Major scale and with a little understanding of what makes a chord “major”, “minor”, “dominant”,it becomes easier to construct chords in many positions, as like the article was trying to get at, without having to memorize shapes all over the board. Example: AM6 – well, you have the root A, a flat 3rd (Minor), which would be a C instead of C#, a fifth, which would be the E, and then that 6th, which in the parent Ionian/Major scale would be that F#, not F.

      • simon.bMar 13, 2015 at 4:07 pm

        Absolutely correct ! Very well explained .

      • griphoniiFeb 28, 2016 at 10:41 pm

        I would never think Am6 in Amaj. Please explain. It’s not logical. It doesn’t exist in functional harmony.

      • Danny Guitar TokyoSep 18, 2016 at 1:48 am

        Excellent explanation! For any pragmatic guitarists who want to know simply and quickly what the right notes are in a chord; start with the root (in the chord name) – let’s use Cm6. The root is C, the add the note which is a minor 3rd above root (=Eb) and add the note a major 5th above root (=G) and the note a major 6th above root (=A). So the notes in Cm6 are C – Eb – G – A

        This may be helpful for anyone who just quickly wants to look at a chord symbol and know what the notes in the chord are. When comping, for example, if you saw Am6 and went into a deep thought process about why it contains F# and not F nat., the song (if not the set) would be finished before you managed to play the chord!

    • griphoniiAug 29, 2014 at 6:18 pm

      Am6 appears in one key, but rewritten. D7, Am6 or F#m7b5. That would be G and modal. Am6 is and extended dominate. A D7 from the 5th. Understanding this variation will help, but that doesn’t control what is played.

      • griphoniiAug 29, 2014 at 6:33 pm

        There are many exercises to understand this logic. What ever is played, tends to bleed. Since most guitar folks, again, are pents, it’s more important to look at the pents and see what is really happening. Major or minor. Understand that pents and their variations are really a big deal as to how to connect musically to a change or chord. The CYCLE of 4ths and 5ths is so major to this logic. Play per chord or tonal. That is ii II v V or I or i to the next. Play a view of the cycle of dominants. It will not end, but will give a notion.

        • EricOct 12, 2014 at 7:04 pm

          Everyone is worried about the 6th and whether it should be based off of the Natural Minor or Dorian…. Meanwhile, I use the F# as the root and turned it into a dominant 13th as a substitute. Now I can use that chord somewhere on the neck, with all its embellishments in a pinch for cool outside sounds

          • EricOct 12, 2014 at 7:13 pm

            Also, that F# is the #4 for the 1 chord

          • griphoniiOct 16, 2014 at 10:02 pm

            Again, how chords and changes are written. Am6 is an implication. As a i type change… Am, Am#7, Am7, Am6 is an implied, most of the time, a i, but, the Am6 is,really, a V, dominant. It’s the leading change or tone to something. Downward movement to something. The tritone forces something to be done. Always look at function or what Am6 implies, and/or it’s possibility.

        • EricOct 16, 2014 at 10:12 pm

          I completely understand your point, my comment was not directed towards you.

          • griphoniiOct 16, 2014 at 10:53 pm

            Let’s look at this different. Gmaj7 G6, and G7 G13? What is the difference? One note… Essentially, the same change but, different function.

      • JamesZNov 29, 2016 at 6:58 pm

        Hi Griphoni,
        one thing I can’t get my head around is this:
        Am6 contains: A, C, E and F#
        D7 contains: D, F#, A and C

        so, the difference really is the D note, right?
        I get that Am6 is an “extended” dominant, because of it’s E (that will be the 9 in D9, hence extendend), but I don’t get that the D note can be “forgotten”, or… well, please explain, what am I missing here? 🙂

    • anthonyFeb 25, 2016 at 8:30 am

      Chords are constructed from the key signature . Am6 is taken from the key signature of A major which includes the Fsharp as a major sixth diminished 7 interval the minor 7th is the G the major 7th is G sharp and the octave is A

      • griphoniiFeb 25, 2016 at 11:35 pm

        Anthony, actually, Am6 does not appear in A major. (there isn’t a C natural in A Major.) I think you meant, A melodic minor. Please see my previous posts. I tend to look at harmony, within key and without as simply/easily as possible. Jazz is always on the dime. Understand how harmony works and it’s very specific functions is really completed faster by ear. Dirk’s, drop changes and many tricks in just hearing the sound, always in terms of function is important. Melodic minor, essentially, has 4 dominant chords within it. That’s why melodic minor is so popular or prevalent. My view, most changes in most of the charts I’ve read or played are not labelled correctly. Laziness or very hurried. I hope this helps.

        • anthonyFeb 27, 2016 at 2:55 am

          Hey, any chord what so ever is always taken from the key signature. Maybe I failed to look at the score all they way through. In any true sense, the Am6 consists of A C E F sharp. all I’m trying to say is that F sharp is the major sixth in the key of A major. That is written In Stone. Or maybe I should get stoned. It doesn’t matter what scale you’re playing in ,the chord is still Taken from the key which it is taken from. you can alternately play Am6 as a F sharp minor 7 flat five F sharp A , E, C. Or possible a D9 ,D, Fsharp, A, C, E.

          • griphoniiFeb 28, 2016 at 6:56 pm

            Am6 does NOT come from A major. Am6 does not appear in any key as/in the classically taught sense of harmony. It’s simply not possible. In classically taught theory, it’s a 6/4 change. This can get very complicated in todays world. Am6 is mostly used as a function of the Dominant, classical theory. There is not a way to refute the logic. Simply Am6 doesn’t exists anywhere in your notion.

            I’ve had a running gag since the late 70s, especially in college, that the guitar is as proficient and efficient as piano. (I did my practicum (how definitions change) on both instruments to prove the point.) I’d like that to go forward. It’s very difficult to do chord melodies with incorrect information. I’d like to solve that with proper information.

            My view is do the paper. You’ll find something. Sit in front of the TV or radio and play! Develop, aural. There are many known greats and not so known. It works. See, if you can play what exists, now. All instruments are physical. The greatest problem with guitar vs. piano is physical, (fingering) and logic (POV). Learning to read, first, is illogical to me. Learn to listen.

            Guitar is pretty fascinating to understanding Modal Harmony. There are tricks! and how to find them quickly. Chord progressions! Most music, especially, Pop or most others, use this logic. You’ll find from, before Bach, there are natural progressions in music. They’re being milked to the hilt, now. The 4/5 cycle.

            The one revelation I had in college in the late 70s, is, in music there has to be a beginning, a means to get to the pen(t)ultimate, to the end. That’s the control. It’s quicker aurally than by reading. It really winds up to physical and brain… It’s horribly difficult to read if you can’t play.

        • anthonyFeb 27, 2016 at 2:56 am

          Maybe I failed to look at the score all they way through. In any true sense, the Am6 consists of A C E F sharp. all I’m trying to say is that F sharp is the major sixth in the key of A major. That is written In Stone. Or maybe I should get stoned. It doesn’t matter what scale you’re playing in ,the chord is still Taken from the key which it is taken from. you can alternately play Am6 as a F sharp minor 7 flat five F sharp A , E, C. Or possible a D9 ,D, Fsharp, A, C, E.

        • anthonyFeb 27, 2016 at 3:00 am

          Maybe I failed to look at the score all they way through. maybe an Fsharp m7 flat five would do better. They contain the same notes. If that is not ap pro po try a D9 they’re all relative to one another.

        • RobertSep 30, 2016 at 9:01 am

          Hallo GriphonII or 2,
          Maybe you could start a blog or website. Because i would like to learn more from you. You’re comments i understand and the deeper i get into it, i learn something else from it. Learning auraly i like very much and your explanations connect jazz to blues or classical for that matter, not as being different. So thanks a lot.
          Robert van Leeuwen

    • griphoniiFeb 28, 2016 at 9:00 pm

      Understand intervals in the traditional sense. It’s very important on guitar. If one understands the very strict notion of intervals, one will understand harmony. It can be done on paper, without notes but, quicker aurally, by ear. The traditional relationship is actually backwards… it’s always in terms of the change you’re playing, not key. Major 6 and minor 6. Aural is the quickest way to understand. One doesn’t need to be taught that. It, really, fascinates me, how folks are being taught to read, first! I’ve learned, poignantly, to play/hear, first. It’s very quick to understand what is written if you can hear. The rest is gibberish. Who wants to rape your knowledge or what you’ve acquired? Many…

      • griphoniiMar 1, 2016 at 6:36 pm

        Here’s a different thought. Let’s eliminate the complication. Most music works two ways, by progression internally or externally, or by 4th/5ths, the cycle, naturally. The major scale is the standard. Understanding the standard is implicit, what everyone thinks they hear, learned or no/not. The manipulation of that standard is what most don’t understand!

        Let’s try to do this simply even though, it isn’t. Derive all logic from the major scales since, that is what is normally taught. it’s the standard we have, unfortunately… The harmonic minor is a major scale with a #5, the Melodic Minor is a/the Major scale with a flat (b) 3rd, NOT TAUGHT! It doesn’t mean the, supposed rules are steadfast or etched in stone. The key to this is understand how harmony works. How chords and bass work. One has to have a starting point! One has to have a means to an ending point! (The most important lesson I’ve ever learned.) Understanding the basics, can get anyone to a view, hopefully, a new view. History will dictate the notion.

  2. william renfrowMar 24, 2014 at 8:05 pm

    hi Dirk…you mentioned Dorian mode in reference to the Am6 chord in the last question. but that makes me wonder. if you’re calling this the parent chord, Am. then it’s not the 2 chord of G, already a Dorian. so what is the Dorian for a 2 of a minor chord? this isn’t a melodic minor, right?

    • Matt WarnockMar 24, 2014 at 9:16 pm

      Hey William,

      In jazz you can use either the Dorian or Melodic Minor over a m7 chord, whether it’s a im7 or iim7 in the progression. Think of those scales as two shades of the minor color, so the MM is a bit brighter as it has the major 7th interval, while the Dorian is a bit darker as it has a b7, but both have a natural 6th in them as well.

      • BrianMar 25, 2014 at 3:46 am

        Hey Matt glad to see you on here. I am a guitarist, sax player and teacher, and I really enjoyed your lessons. Especially on triads and Brecker. Cheers!

    • griphoniiAug 29, 2014 at 6:39 pm

      Am IS ii in G… iii in F and vi in C. Now many results in what is played, less the minor scale logic, for me not important, really. Scales add notes. Define the notes to the change.

      • griphoniiAug 29, 2014 at 6:47 pm

        Am7b5… look for where they are and make a decision. The cycle will save a lot of time as to what to really, do… Look at the ultimate pent scale… with added notions. You’ll find a conglomerated theory. It works simply, modally and logically. Major or minor doesn’t matter. It’s you and real modal, sort’a…

    • griphoniiFeb 28, 2016 at 10:14 pm

      Am6 does not, actually, exist in any key in traditional logic. It’s all POV. It’s all printed, teaching, logic. Am exists in a actual key. Am6 does not, no/any matter how you do it. It’s people notion. Back to my logic, a guitar is equivalent to a piano. It’s knowledge or tricks in this world, now. Please understand, what has already existed! You’ll be shocked as to what is and now, appears. Interval wise, Am6 can be only be a one notion. Logically, mathematically, this notion cannot be changed or will change. History has tried. Something, actually, correct in terms of fact or theory. It is what it is. Electronics, still, hasn’t changed the logic of Bach’s logic. It still holds true or, rather, fact. It can be manipulated… Aurally,… or POV… The basics are very sound. I’ve tried to change the logic. I can’t or haven’t. I’ve always come to modified, normal.

      It always comes down to a/or thought. Do not ignore what has passed!

    • griphoniiFeb 28, 2016 at 11:32 pm

      Am, whatever, actually, is in 3 keys. No one, really cares about the technical but, a nice to know. We’re making this too complicated. Write it down without the notes. Understand the logic! It’s been proven for hundreds of years. Learn how to play, sort of, with the logic of tradition. It’s much easier to know how to play and then, read. Nothing or anything in music is written in STONE but, the normal or what came before, can not be refuted, or only manipulated. That’s a mockery of what, is. Learn and hear or listen and learn, what is.

  3. steveMar 24, 2014 at 9:59 pm

    Tell him to write the scale for a, the 6th is f#, that is his ?

    • griphoniiOct 16, 2014 at 10:14 pm

      Am6 is a G major scale. It is an unaltered Dorian mode! Am is ii in the key of G. Play a G starting on A or any note of the change. Am6 = Am6, D7, F#m7b5. This is within the harmony of G.

      • griphoniiOct 16, 2014 at 10:23 pm

        D9, every dominant screams, to me, some altered in actual writing. D7 is my can for dominant. Any nonesuch with a tritone is dominant. Lydian is placement and very complex. To make a real Imaj7 a Lydian I or IV is tricky. Lydian has a tritone or a/the way one might look at it.

    • griphoniiFeb 28, 2016 at 10:30 pm

      “Tell him to write the scale.” Write it and then listen and/or play and do your utmost a “new” logic. Whatever your thought existed does not or does, your POV, fascinating. You’ll acquire a new one in time. Be you.

  4. Bill CollieMar 24, 2014 at 10:24 pm

    I am not as technically skilled or minded as some of the commenters and never will be. I simply want to say thank you for the free lessons as I am a pensioner and can’t really afford any luxuries. I just love the mellow tone and chord progressions

    • griphoniiAug 29, 2014 at 7:36 pm

      Play a notion. Am exists in 3 keys. G,C, F and Bb altered… add the various differences. Look at major, modal or pentatonics. It works regardless of theory. It’s fingering, hear and where to go really fast. You’ll notice you’ll add and never take away.

  5. Ken NiehoffMar 24, 2014 at 10:40 pm

    This is a great lesson and would like to get your course on cord melody. The video is a nice touch but I don’t seem to need it. Do you have this in book form with just the staff music and tab?

  6. maskimoMar 25, 2014 at 3:27 am

    thanks dirk over sharing of knowledge that you share a very helpful and pleasant

  7. shallyMar 25, 2014 at 5:08 am

    what a great idea it is to show the video with hands being shown.. some of us learn better by watching first and then looking at the tab.. just a great idea.. like having a private lesson

  8. angelineMar 25, 2014 at 7:45 am

    Could you play ” Sunny Gets Blue”, That’s my favourite song.

    • Steve MelvilleApr 21, 2014 at 2:35 am

      Hi Angeline, I play guitar background jazz at the Cellar Restaurant in Georgetown most Sat nights. Be glad to send you my When Sunny gets blue. Will also send you the accompaniment without me playing so you can do your own thing. I love it too. Cheers.Steve.

      • griphoniiFeb 28, 2016 at 11:44 pm

        Oddly, this was my first tune in jazz, that I learned in the mid 70s. On a L5. I was utterly enamoured with the guitar. “When Sonny, Gets Blue”… I, ultimately, went Fender…

  9. PierreMar 25, 2014 at 11:40 am

    Hello Dirk,

    Does the e-book works on IPAD ?



    • Matt WarnockMar 25, 2014 at 12:36 pm

      Hi Pierre, do you mean the chord melody video course at the top of this lesson?

  10. PierreMar 25, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    Hi Matt, I meant the Chord Melody program from Chris Standring



    • Matt WarnockMar 25, 2014 at 3:04 pm

      Hey, cool. It says available for all Windows and MAC formats, but that might be desktop/laptop only. If you don’t want to risk it just send him a note on his contact page to double check.

  11. griphoniiMar 25, 2014 at 5:55 pm

    Am6 is a D9. m6 and 9ths are also m7b5s. Function is the most important. It’s simply a matter of inversions and bass line. The very most big deal that Joe Pass taught, including many others. The music must flow through a bass line. Keeps the tune together. The real main key to this logic is the cycle of 4ths and 5ths. A place to start, then to the means to end or not. The real problem are how the actual changes are notated. The cycle will give you the real change.

  12. AiltonMar 25, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    Awesome, but very very expansive for me !

  13. AlbertMar 25, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    Excellent and practical – well done and thank you for the expert guidance


  14. StevenRaiVaughanMar 25, 2014 at 9:09 pm

    key and chord names would have been usefull for a novice like me

  15. PoupakMar 25, 2014 at 9:34 pm

    Thanks for your nice lessons here I like them all ! I have a theorical question about this first lesson here , in the second bar there is a chord I would like to know the chord name please? it has the 3 notes Bb+Db+E ( v Form 4 )

    • Dirk LaukensMar 25, 2014 at 9:58 pm

      That’s a C7b9, played without the bass note.

      • griphoniiAug 29, 2014 at 7:03 pm

        C7b9… what to play? Play what you want if it goes somewhere you want. Go modal. To cheat really fast is to play Db with a natural E. Really, this notion can get weird, but works. Logically will go to F of some sort. 1/2 step above the root. But, can go somewhere else. Dominant and any diminished can go where they wish. Understand bass and what can be allowed, Your ear and music will make it occur. The circle is a really big deal!!! I can’t say it enough.

        • griphoniiAug 29, 2014 at 7:07 pm

          Play the cycle in every variation. Triads, ma7, m7, dom7, m7b5 and diminished. Especially, in a context that you understand or hear. Hear is really important.

  16. PeterMar 26, 2014 at 12:13 am

    I enjoyed these exercises. The only additional comment I would have is that the score implies that the harmonies can be held either for a breve or a minim, but in fact this is not always possible no matter the fingering used (as the audio examples show). It’s probably my anal classical tradition, but I’d love to see these written to reflect reality. Otherwise these are really useful examples and thank you very much Chris.

    • griphoniiOct 16, 2014 at 10:33 pm

      Most composers write what they see as opposed to what they hear and/or erudite. It’s the being proper, time, fast and getting paid.

  17. billyMar 26, 2014 at 4:03 am

    Thank you soo much for the lessons and theory. I have no money and can’t afford to have private lessons. Keep them coming!

  18. stanley westerborgMar 26, 2014 at 10:11 am

    thank you, as always, for your kind support in helping other people to make the guitar become something that bring happiness in their life. you’re very nice, dear friend.

  19. BillMar 27, 2014 at 2:44 am

    This is a wonderful little piece of sweet man! Thanks for sharing!!

  20. griphoniiMar 28, 2014 at 2:41 am

    Just a notion. Since most guitar players start out with pents, there is really something to think about. Mix maj and min and then the blue to each. Then what do you have? Add b9, pretty much covers everything. Understanding how the system works, conquers the theory questions. Stare at the cycle and really think about it. It is within and without key or a key. It’s a place to start and a place to go or not. The real quality of the change, matters naught, using the cycle. Start, penultimate and end or not.

  21. LarryApr 11, 2014 at 11:51 pm

    I’d like some feedback from anyone who has used Chris Standring’s chord melody course. Thinking of purchasing it. I think I’m a fairly solid intermediate acoustic fingerstyle player with a fairly good understanding of drop 2 voicings and can create some nice arrangements. But my improvising skills are not good and really need help with them. Opinions of his course?

  22. LarryApr 11, 2014 at 11:52 pm

    Sorry. Back to my comment above. I’m comparing Chris Standring’s chord melody course with Martin Taylor’s. Would love feedback on both.

    • Dutch CourageJun 22, 2014 at 3:14 pm

      @ Larry,

      “I’m comparing Chris Standring’s chord melody course with Martin Taylor’s. Would love feedback on both.”

      Hi Larry,

      I’ve bought Chris Sandrings Choord Melody lesson and I’m also a student at Martin Taylors Artist Works Campus since 2011.
      Comparing the two would be comparing apples to pears. Chris’ method is rather simple and straightforward and has short lessons. It’s more like an introduction than a comprehensive study into chord melody. I like the way he breaks up the fingerboard though and the way he plays litte melodies around chords.

      Martin Taylor has a lot more to say on playing chord melody and especially fingerstyle and shows a lot more possibilities and advanced stuff. Martin Taylor stimulates you a lot to improvise on the melody, or as he calls it ‘make your own variations and us your ears as a guidance’. I’ve really learnt more in the past 3 years than in the 35 years that I’ve played guitar. Highly recommended!!

      • griphoniiAug 29, 2014 at 7:17 pm

        Martin Taylor starts with bass and melody. Do it simple first! It’s amazing how it works. Mary had a little lamb and then funk it. Actually, becomes a pretty great tune.

  23. Lee RamirezApr 20, 2014 at 11:51 pm

    I really enjoy your sharing knowledge of Jazz theory for guitar. I am a perennial student of the guitar, particularly chord melody. I am also a teacher of the guitar. Whenever I cannot answer a student’s theory question, I refer to your site. It is a blessing. Tony Mottola is one of my favorite chord melody guitarists. Please include some of Tony Mottola’s works in your teachings! Thank you. Lee Ramirez

  24. AlandAug 7, 2014 at 10:51 pm

    just about the coment of the minor chord in this case the Am, there’s no need to complicate us a lot, what Dirk says about the embellishment of a minor chord in a II-V-I situation wich is of course a Dorian mode on the II grade, then the sixth would be F# in the case of Am.

  25. PaulOct 10, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    Never understand a word of these discussions, but you see and hear it played and you think, ‘Oh, that!’ I bought Bert Ligon’s Comprehensive Technique for Jazz Musicians (Hal Leonard)and showed it to my (classically trained) singing/piano teacher. She didn’t understand a word of it either. Then as I always say, the only music is jazz – the rest is just performance.

    • griphoniiOct 16, 2014 at 9:29 pm

      But, there has to be a place to start. Know how to play major scales. “Know major/minor pentatonics with the b5 or #4, depending on context and “combine!!!”. Combining maj and min pents with the b5 gives one all or most of the erudite gibberish (Classical logic) and a major league discovery. It’s the ear that negotiates the performance and that will take a few. I stand by my view. I was first street trained and classically trained. The business is a bummer. There’s too many sailor jokes with that logic. No matter how good you think you are, you still have to eat. And most likely, never be heard by the money. Smile…

      • griphoniiOct 16, 2014 at 11:04 pm

        When you mix maj and min pents with b5 you get a conundrum. When you add a major scale to the logic, one note, you’ll find a choice. It’s really the key to this.

  26. ThugsOct 24, 2014 at 4:11 am

    Griffonii. Please get yourself to a hospital immediately…

    • griphoniiOct 30, 2014 at 11:05 pm

      Funny… and interesting(ly) will get to Martin and most chord melody playing. It’s listening and hearing. Just knowing, listening and “hearing” the mechanics being taught; a cursory understanding of harmony is helpful. The hearing part through all of the mechanics is the really hard part of this!

      Play or record G, C, D, I IV V progression with a simple bass. (1, 2, 3 interval per chord.) Play Gmaj pent through the entire progression. (there are thousands of tunes that do “just this”. “Saving Grace” for one, just the black keys on the piano.) Play a Maj pent “per chord” through the entire progression. Play the exact same progression playing a Gm pent through the entire progression. Then, play min pents per chord through the progression. Most important is sound! The hearing the content and context of what you are mechanically doing should be quite remarkable. This must be in your head. Interestingly, you can play a Gmaj scale through the G, C, D; sounds dorky but, you can’t play Gm scale through the progression(?)… sounds weird. Again, sound and mechanics versus ear. (I don’t use Harmonic minors or Melodic Minors, because for me, they’re too cumbersome. Too much nothing to do what needs to be done aurally.)

      How do you solve this problem? Modal… It’s how I solved traditional logic to real playing! Guitar is and is not visual. It’s the problem of the guitar, too many choices.

      You’ll be surprise how much wrong is musically right and everyone stammers to explain, including me. We do our best. Smile…

  27. griphon2Oct 30, 2014 at 11:55 pm

    Here’s the fun part. When you add maj and min pents, together, you have a G dorian (Fmaj scale this case,) with a B natural, or how I look at it; add 1. It works on a dime. I don’t have to think “theory”. I work on sound… blues… I can use this logic through the entire progression. Do this, modally, you’ve the theory on the dime. Know the harmony and function of what you’re playing.

    This may be over simplified but, it’s the way I do music. E.G., G G#7b9(Ab7b9), Am7, D7b9. (another writing; G, G#dim, Am7, D7,or G, E7, Am7/A7, D7… and many variations.) What is it really?… I, vi, ii, V. Most music are standard progressions, some altered in some way. (I#7, VI#7 and more… traditional analysis. To make something simple, complicated.) Hear what is and then play…

    • martin mochaDec 6, 2015 at 5:01 pm

      I know theory is a big deal to some, but remember when Miles said “learn it then forget it and just play” or words to that effect? The point being, all of this theoretical esoterica you guys quote is just far too cumbersome to think about while just sitting back, absorbing the sound and simply playing with your gut.
      Of course, a jazz player has to learn the basic Rosetta stone of harmonic structure etc.. but after that, all that other bull excrement gets IN the way! Sorry, but a guitarist is human not a digital processor. Playing music is not differential equations but these comments give the impression that a guitarist is standing there trying cogitate modes and diatonic extensions and IF that were true, and you were jamming with pros, you would be left at the station watching the train speed 10 miles ahead with your Johnson hanging out:-)

  28. griphon2Oct 31, 2014 at 12:04 am

    To write a very good chord melody, is bass and melody, first. Nothing happens until the bass and melody agree or sound correct. If this can’t be done, the tune will fail. Bach and many others proved this.

  29. ron cardozaOct 31, 2014 at 6:18 pm

    it would be a lot easier if you would use chord symbols and grid to illustrate. its easier to relate

    • griphoniiNov 8, 2014 at 11:51 pm

      I’m a bit Internet challenged, a wonderful U.S. version of using the Internet. Milk every penny and BS.

      There are only five full chords on the guitar, visually!!!… Simply, open strings, G, C, D in a minute, A and E. These chords, big…ally, new word, is the guitar visually, by bass. Big FAT chords or changes. The fingered D chord is the weird one. To move the D chord form easily, (visually) is to move the high string (the third) to the bass, a weak note bass wise, later logic.). There is much on the Internet to find this notion in terms of grid(s). Oddly or succinctly, the Pents work the same way… Working street to actual aural/hearing/modal in terms of the real taught theory… Only with 2 scales, really… Understanding man/min Pents are the same thing… Adding the maj scale just gives you one more note. (Pents are great arps, moving…)

      I think in terms of sound, sorta’ not theory… and then manipulate the theory, so called…

      I look at harmony… where things are in the spectrum. Typical harmony, I/vi, here on after as I,
      and V or V7… Start, then, to penultimate and finish. Normally done with the cycle of 4/5ths, whether, within key or without. Learn physically and listen… A real big deal by ear/aurally!!! Most tunes move by 4/5ths. Learn the progressions and how to alter, within a key and without a key. This keeps one from playing specific practised licks. Everything is original…

      • griphoniiNov 9, 2014 at 12:08 am

        man/min is maj/min… brain and eye fart…

        Another way to look at this, is to do the basics and then add. For example play Gmaj pent to a G, C, D progression… then play a Gm pent through the same progression… Hearing is worth 10k of paintings.

  30. JWoodFeb 18, 2015 at 5:37 am

    I have both of the Master Class courses, 1 and 2, does it matter if I start on Masterclass 2 first? — Thanks, JWood

  31. howardSep 13, 2015 at 4:33 pm


    Can I still use a pick if I purchase your chord melody Master Class or is the class taught only using finger picking?


    • Matt WarnockSep 13, 2015 at 4:52 pm

      Hi Howard. Yes you can use whatever is most comfortable to you.

  32. martin mochaDec 6, 2015 at 5:07 pm

    I can’t believe the obsession you players have with extreme theoretical applications instead of just playing with a scintilla of feeling, or going for the visceral moment where at times, diatonic theory and modal variations have to be left in on the garage workbench with Physics Today.

    Joe Pass himself stated it was a bad idea to get bogged down with theory or obsessive. By the time a player figures out where he or she is on the fretboard thinking of these permutations of harmonic theory, the band has left you at the dock holding an empty suitcase. Some of the great jazz players could to even read, George Benson among them. Take that to bed.

    • martin mochaDec 6, 2015 at 5:09 pm

      meant to say players like Benson “could NOT even read”.

      Suffice to say, reading is certainly a help to those who can stand the tedium of it but talent is what really counts in the end, just look at Lennon/McCartney, they couldn’t read a lick.

  33. JazzyardbirdDec 8, 2015 at 2:10 am

    Hey Martin, I do agree with you, look at blind musicians like Art Tatum. Proof that reading is not necessary, however I do believe that knowledge is power, and the more you know, probably the better off you are. As far as theory, I have studied it like crazy, but I tell my students that imho the best advice I can give you as far as soloing, is to really listen to yourself and play stuff that sounds good to you. As long as I could execute what I was going for this has never failed me. I feel like the best thing to do is just listen and figure out things for yourself, and that things like transcriptions can be a “convenient tool” to speed up the process a little, but I don’t think I would have come up with these conclusions without taking the “long way,” and learning the hard way by studying theory, amongst other things

  34. BorisMar 12, 2016 at 10:26 pm

    the very good jazz melodies (a speciale THE FIRST)

  35. Robert PJun 10, 2016 at 8:44 am

    I am very grateful for the lessons, however, most of it goes over my head, mainly because I am a late starter on the instrument (age 76) I am trying to get a handle on basic guitar, but I love the jazz sound more than I am capable of playing. I won’t let it get to me, so my hitching a ride on your great website, gives me an idea of what I am facing. I am not daunted by it, but if I never become accomplished, at lest I tried. Thanks again, Robert

    • Kevin T.Jan 15, 2017 at 8:36 pm

      Robert. It’s not the destination, it’s the journey. As long as you’re enjoying it, that’s all that matters.

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