Likes Likes:  0
Reply to Thread Bookmark Thread
Posts 1 to 19 of 19
  1. #1

    User Info Menu

    Dear Friends,

    I have this question since a long time - do some of the advanced players can really construct chord voicings on the fly, say while doing improvisations?

    My teacher says it is not possible. He suggests on memorizing some minimum 800 shapes.



    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
  3. #2

    User Info Menu

    I'm sure they do from time to time.

    I'm far from being a talented jazz player, but tinkering around with voices for a while I can come up with some pretty weird chords that I didn't plan. Sometimes they sound good. Anyone can do that.

    As to someone playing a whole chord solo with no previously known shapes at all, I would doubt that happens much.

  4. #3

    User Info Menu

    when I solo and i want to chuck a couple of chords in I dont think about a predetermined shape really. I look at the notes in the key and one might just crop up in there somewhere. I might think afterwards 'oh i threw in a little m7 chord there. i dont know where that came from'. i wouldnt really like to get caught up in thinking 'this s what im going to do because that might change once im in the solo.'
    if that makes sense.

  5. #4

    User Info Menu

    I was in a master class with Steve Erquiaga recently. I asked a very similar question of him. As far as he's concerned, he plays few grips any more, and is selecting what individual notes he wants to play.

    Think of this from a piano player's perspective: do you think that they just know "forms", or do you think they compose the chords as they go? They do it as they go (even I can do that with my intermediate-level chops).

    I gotta wonder, what's easier: learning 800 grips, or learning the dang note names on the fretboard, and being able to build voicings on the fly?

    Get your fretboard down cold. This is something I'm working on myself. If you've got that cold, you can move beyond grip-oriented thinking.

  6. #5

    User Info Menu

    Yes it is possible. You must focus on a destination or "target chord" and think of each chord tone as a separate voice.

    Practice this:

    Pick a chord tone from where you are in a progression say a ii chord. (e.g. a ii V I). Destination I chord. Key of C. Start by playing the single tone C on the ii chord. Split the tone in both directions (counter motion) by playing on two strings. Keep the motion and add another string. Do it again and add a fourth voice and resolve to the target. Use any phrasing you like. (try it again from a different chord tone).

    Pick a new target and do it backwards. After a while you will hear all kinds of new possibilities to build chord phrases.

    (or you can memorize 800 chords )


    ----------3----- 4----5---- 6----4--------3-
    ---5----- 4-----4----6---- 5----4--------2----

    Hope the tab works out...progression is as follows.

    Last edited by Jazzaluk; 08-28-2009 at 07:53 PM.

  7. #6

    User Info Menu

    Constructing chords on the fly - I think Ted Greene did it. - Video Section
    Last edited by fep; 08-28-2009 at 07:57 PM.

  8. #7
    Thanks a lot guys, so far..

    Russel : I was also thinking from piano perspective. My instructor also teaches piano (though he is a guitarist) , he said in piano also they remember the shapes. According to him world's best guitarists can do fast shape changes rather than make them on fly.
    BTW, not believing him, i m also working in getting down fretboard cold. But still wanted to confirm if I am pursuing something impossible.

    Jazzaluk : I find ur excercise interesting and sort of get the gist of it, but not quite understand it well. When you make those contrary voice movements are you randomly taking the notes or is there some rules behind what notes to select that I am missing (eg. take notes from the major scale only.. not exactly this.. but you get the idea..).


  9. #8

    User Info Menu

    It is quite possible. But you have to work at it. This takes years of practice.

    If you follow and practice concepts of chords and harmony this is what happens. You become able to come up with stuff on the spot

    You have to learn them in a system. just memorizing 800 chords won't get you there.

  10. #9

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by Ashwin Jain View Post
    Thanks a lot guys, so far..

    Jazzaluk : I find ur excercise interesting and sort of get the gist of it, but not quite understand it well. When you make those contrary voice movements are you randomly taking the notes or is there some rules behind what notes to select that I am missing (eg. take notes from the major scale only.. not exactly this.. but you get the idea..).

    In this case I am viewing the ii V as just a V7 chord and basically employing the altered tones of G7. Eb7b9 / D7#9 / Db9 are all G7 to me in this progression .... it is really a movement to CMaj. (focus on the high and low voice and fill in the middle. Trust your ear). After you create the progression it will look like a series of block chords but by creating it, you will see the movement more clearly and then you can use 2 or 3 note fragments of the chords and create new movements... even single note lines as well.

    If you play with this concept, it will help you see interesting voice leading options. To me, counter motion seems to be the most fertile ground for creating new chord movements and they contrast nicely with progressions that use chord inversions approach or chord scales. The possibilities are endless depending on where you start and where you are going.

    As with all things music, once I find a phrase I like i try to apply it in many different contexts and add it to the vocabulary... something like chord licks.

    Hope this helps... I'm not really a theorist...more of a craftsman I suppose.

  11. #10

    User Info Menu

    If you really want an organized approach to this subject, I recommend this class from Steve Herberman, directly on this point. I took it, and I recommend it very highly. Yes, it is possible to do what you are thinking of.

  12. #11

    User Info Menu

    What I learned about this, I got from Jody Fisher. His method is to break the fretboard down into regions. Open to 5th fret, 5th to 9th, then to octave. Then the first 4 string set, middle 4, bottom 4. Gives you 6 regions.

    Taking a song, catalog each possible voicing you know for every change in the song. This is done for every position. For instance, I found I could come up with approximately 25 different voicings for every chord in every position. This created a very extensive catalog of possible changes for this one tune.

    I practiced thru these for each position. After a couple of months of this, I am able to play ATTYA in every position, and not use the same changes. A ton of work, but this gives you the ability to play tunes without a set arrangement, but at no point was I making them up. However, after doing this work, there really isn't any need for me to, as I have enough voicings in each position.

    I have yet to do this with another tune, but my understanding from Jody is, that each time it gets easier/faster.
    Last edited by derek; 08-29-2009 at 10:20 AM.

  13. #12

    User Info Menu

    I think playing chord melodies on the fly is a natural growth from a lot of playing and playing by ear. It is very possible and many of the old pro's (Howard Roberts, Joe Pass, Barney Kessel, etc...) were able to play this way. I can picture a guitarist who spends many years playing changes and has developed a good ear could very naturally progress to this type of playing. I believe both Howard Alden and Ron Eschete are capable of playing chord melodies by ear on the fly.


  14. #13

    User Info Menu

    it's most absolutely possible.

    anybody with a decent ear and some practice can do it--the key is to view chords by function, not by absolute name--

    for example, i'm comping, and i hear a little line in my comping via voice leading that wants to reach a G on the upcoming Bb7 chord.

    obviously, the resultant sound is going to be a Bb13 type sound, but my brain isn't thinking "okay, jeff, Bb13 now"--it's thinking "dominant sound, G on top."

    for this to happen, you need to spend some hours ear training, and you most definitely need to know the names of the notes on the fretboard.

    or you can memorize 800 chords.

  15. #14
    Jazzaluk : its clearer now. Thank you.

    And thanks all for your thoughts...

    so "800 shapes" really made a hook

  16. #15

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by Ashwin Jain View Post
    Jazzaluk : its clearer now. Thank you.

    And thanks all for your thoughts...

    so "800 shapes" really made a hook
    Yeah, but there are short cuts. Chord synonyms and subs. For instance, once you get all your root position 7th chords down, and thier inversions, then by subbing with the 3rd, you just doubled your vocabulary, as these give you rootless 9th chords.

    So while 800 chords is a dauntiing number, it isn't quite as large as one might think. There other short cuts to build up a chord shape vocab.
    Last edited by derek; 08-31-2009 at 02:10 PM.

  17. #16

    User Info Menu

    I don't know about constructing chords on the spot, but you can harmonize a melody. Like, you can harmonize a melody with a fourth underneath, or two fourths underneath, or a fifth and a third underneath, etc...

    Granted, it is important to practice harmonizing melodies in the practice room before getting up on the bandstand, but you can certainly incorporate them freely into improvisation once you've groq'd the idea.

    The flipside of this, though, is that once you've gotten used to harmonizing one harmonic constructe, you'll memorize it just by virtue of the fact that you've played it a few times. The guitar is a geometrical instrument, it's impossible not to memorize patterns on it eventually.
    Last edited by gravitas; 08-31-2009 at 11:53 AM.

  18. #17

    User Info Menu

    I memorized 800 + chords; and I'm sticking to that.

  19. #18

    User Info Menu

    I once took a chord soloing course at Berklee which was almost entirely about this kind of thing. The instructor was absolutely brilliant at it, but I did not learn a damned thing. He basically just showed us the most common inversions and then said this is how I would do "All of Me" or something. The he would say "Go ahead". I just played some memorized stuff, as I think most in the class. That was it.

  20. #19

    User Info Menu

    There are several musicians doing it (Ted Greene is one, check the video), and there are several approaches to achieve it.
    Surely you have tried to add a single note to a chord, for instance a melody note. That is a new chord, built on the fly!
    Another way is to practice all inversions, for all chord colours (maj, min, dom, dim) on all sets of 3 adjacent strings: there are 3 possibilities (A D G, D G B, G B E). This yields to 27 finger shapes.

    Then there is the counterpoint approach. Most of the times 2 lines is quite enough: build an improvised melody and at the same time develop a bass line. 2-note chords are many times more than enough, if you choose those 2 notes carefully.

    This said, the answer is Yes, it is possible, but it is nothing that you can learn from night to day, and there are several techinques to get there.
    At least that's what I think

    Joao Pedro

    "Music is my vitamine" (Toots Thielemans in a recent concert)