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  1. #1
    I am an amateur.
    Let’s assume a friend finds Misty in my Real Book. She says: “Will you play Misty? I want to sing it.”
    I am “advanced” enough where I can play each of the chords in several ways.
    I can also spell the chords. And I can play the melody.
    But I have no strategy as to WHICH voicings I should use.
    For example: I can play Dm7, and CMaj7 in several positions.
    I seek a strategy (even just the start of a strategy) to address this too-many-choices dilemma.
    I accept that this question might be too difficult to explain in posts.
    I’ll add this:
    I recently learned Shell Voicings because of this “too many choices” frustration.
    Sorry if this is way-dumb and thank you.


    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
  3. #2

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    Lots of things... voice leading, forming and placing chords to emphasize the melody line, or emphasize progression shifts, or emphasize a particular motif, or style, or support a particular rhythm - swing, bop, ballad, bossa, blues... but in your own mind you must have a single idea of what you want as the end result.

    Your central strategy is to decide to produce a particular sound, then let the various things you know contend among each other in your mind to be selected for expression - if you first have a clear sense of what you want the song to sound like, then it just becomes a matter of selecting what most sounds like the way you want to sound, easy, natural, authentic.

    Recognizing the right sound is so much easier than trying to evaluate and eliminate many sounds - let the different sounds compete for your attention and go with the one that makes the strongest musical argument... easy to do if your desired sound is clear in your head.

  4. #3

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    One or two songs at a time. There's no point in being overwhelmed. Some songs are better chosen for beginner, intermediate, or advanced, IMO. Choose few, and wisely! After you learn one real good, then move to another, rinse- repeat.

  5. #4

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    Pick a song. It's one song at a time, like another poster said.

    Pick a voicing for the first chord of the song.

    When it's time to change to another chord find a voicing that only requires a minimal amount of movement from the first chord.

    Suppose the first chord is Dm7 and the second chord is G7. All you need to do is move one note, C to B.

    If the first chord was Cmaj7 and the second chord was Dm7, you'd move C to D, E to F, G to A, B to C.

    If the first chord was Cmaj7 and the second chord was E7, you'd be starting with C E G B and moving to E G# B D. Easiest way to do that is to move the G to G# and the C to D.

    Now, for the third chord, do basically the same thing. Minimal movement.

    Some tips:

    It's one tune at a time and you can't rush it. But, soon enough, you'll find that the chord changes you identified for one situation will apply to others.

    This is only one way to do it. It's a good way, but the ultimate test is whether you like the overall sound. So, you could do bigger movements if you like the sound. The issue is still finding one chord change at a time, always within the context of playing a song.

  6. #5

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    If you are playing as a duo with a vocalist I’d suggest focusing first on the bass voice. Try to make the bass voice line compelling enough that the vocalist could sing just to that.

    Then use your knowledge of inversions and shell voicings to add a couple of more voices between the bass and melody. Try to make each of the three voices you are playing sing like a choir. I find it easier to play this way in fingerstyle than with a plectrum.

  7. #6
    Thank you, KirkP.
    I find this very helpful and somewhat in line with what I was hoping for / expecting.
    I generally use my fingers (not a plectrum).
    Obviously, I’ll need to “arrange” tunes somewhat.
    I can’t “sight-arrange” - so my process might work something like this:
    - I look at the arrangement.
    - I see the bass movement. Perhaps that seeing will suggest a “good” set (or a couple choices) of voicings.
    - Next, I’ll study the melody.
    - Finally, I’ll harmonize my Voicings.
    What I’ve written here begins to explain how I got into Shell Voicings. Without Shell Voicings I may have quit.
    everything was too confusing. Too many notes in the voicings I chose.
    Shell Voicings allowed my to strip things down (There was too much going on in those chords I was choosing).
    For example, sight-reading chords, I would grab a 5-tone Dm7 on the 5th fret - or a 5-tone CMaj7 on the 3rd fret.
    The chart called for Dm7 and CMaj7 AND I PROVIDED THEM but I knew it was nonsense.
    So I took up Shell Voicings and Freddie Green type coucings which calmed me down because they were simple/bare tones (3 note chords).
    now I see the next hard steps.
    xase in point: A flat5 suggests a 4th note besides the shell of 1 3 7.

  8. #7

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    Two possibilities to address a 7b5 chord with 3 notes

    Omit the 3rd:

    C Gb Bb

    Omit the root:

    F# A# E

  9. #8

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    The b5 can be played in the bass voice. I do this often with min7b5 chords. For example in

    | Emin7b5 | A7 | Dm |

    the b5 of E is Bb, half step above the root of the next chord so can sound nice in the bass.

    Of course, if the melody includes a b5 the accompanist doesn’t need to play that note at all.

    And don’t feel compelled to keep three voices going with every chord change or to limit your accompaniment to chord tones. I try to think of the chord tones as stepping stones, but I try to feel free to approach or enclose them with scale or chromatic notes, as you might hear the middle voices doing in a choir arrangement. (I sang in a choir about 25 years ago, and I’ve always thought it gave me a little better sense of what to do with those middle voices in guitar arrangements.)
    Last edited by KirkP; 05-13-2019 at 01:29 AM.

  10. #9
    Thanks to all who have offered strategies for approaching RB tunes.
    Strategies offered seem to include;

    By the way: This exploration of mine suggests a term: “Sight-chording”, alongside “Sight-Reading”. I open Real Book. I see a tune like I Remember Clifford. I know at least one voicing (or “grip”) for each chord in the tune (so what!). But I still need to (routinely) choose a set of “logical) voicings. “Sight-chording” = a strategy for choosing chord Voicings on a new tune.

    Strategies so far:
    - Begin with bass movement. KirkP offered: “Make bass movement “compelling” enough to allow singer to sing over just that bass playing.” (This tip seems a very helpful strategy)
    - Default to Minimal Movement (MM). MM seems like a good study avenue because MM patterns will likely be highly re-usable. I’ve seen several minimal-movement ii-V-I methods were n books (especially “Rhythm Guitar” by Roger Edison).
    - Be realistic to avoid getting overwhelmed. Each tune will need study to sound good
    - Can omit root. Can even omit the 3 on chords like b5, #9, etc.
    - Allow Shell Voicings seem to be my saving-grace, use other voicings “where applicable”.

    FYI: I mostly play a steel string acoustic guitar without a plectrum andcwithout amplification. I have a “hollow-body” Ibanez with a Peavey 30 Classic tube amp, but I still haven’t used it much. I know I probably “should” if I want to play

    Finalky, when I need volume and lack amplification, I’ll use a plectrum and choose off-the-shelf, “common” (minimum 4-tone) “common” voicings (grips).

    I am grateful to Wonderful community. Thank you

  11. #10

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    Surprising nobody seems to have mentioned, this is where the Mickey Baker book can help, there are lessons where it says if the chords are these play this, and there is a page where he says now go get some sheet music and apply this stuff.

  12. #11
    1) Thank you for pointing out the MickeyBaker "book". I have book 2. I don't have Book 1 yet.

    2) I heard somebody play "The Summer Wind" a few days ago. I used to "play" it. In other words, I used any voicing for each chord, sang and therefore "played" it. Them days is gone for me.
    So ... I found some ... PIANO ... music!
    Two things are going on....
    a) I'm reading the (pretty easy) bass line, which is mostly on strings 4 and 5 and a few notes on string 6 (Ab). This chart is in Db.
    b) For each bass note change (when it changes slowly) I add my 3 and 7 tones.
    I stumbled on this and am finding it enjoyable (I love the tune) and instructional - I can't say exactly what I'm learning but it sure feels edifying (i.e. helpful).
    I gues if I were to generalize this experience, I might write something like this:
    "GuitarStudent was exploring strategies for approaching Jazz Standards - what he called Sight-Chording (vs. sight-reading) and he stumbled upon the technique of using piano charts and adding 3-7 to the bass notes. Of course it won't be a one-to-one thing: Something there will be 2 or 4 bass notes for each chord - but this, as I wrote, seems somehow helpful and (forgive me) FUN. I guess it's a vehicle for applying my lessons and study.
    Thanks Jazzguitar.BE - what a great resource even for a relative beginner.

  13. #12

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    If your piano arrangement is good, you’ll internalize the sound of a good bass line that way. As you’re going through your process, at some point really focus on the bass line and think about how the notes relate to the chord and key. A good bass line will use melodic devices, not just roots and fifths. Eventually you can learn to create your own bass lines from chord charts.

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by GuitarStudent
    I’ll add this:
    I recently learned Shell Voicings because of this “too many choices” frustration.
    Sorry if this is way-dumb and thank you.
    Not too dumb at all, David. We all have to start somewhere.

    Lots of great advice here already.

    I'll add this... it sounds like you sort of just answered your own question with this comment. You already know shell voicings. You can never go wrong with these. Especially if you're accompanying a singer and there's no bass player. Great option. Just try and think about setting up a solid, swinging groove (the Charleston rhythm is a great starting point) and keep those chords falling perfectly where they're supposed to change.

    As you get better, you'll naturally want to start branching out. But honestly, shells can take you FAR! I used to study with Peter Bernstein who's an absolute master of our instrument, and when we'd play duo, he be doing A TON of stuff ONLY using shell voicings. At least... MOSTLY using shell voicings.

    In fact come to think of it... I recorded a duo session with him and transcribed his comping. I'll post it below. It's INSANE! He creates so much movement. But if you slow the video down and read along, you'll see that a huge percentage of what he's playing is actually just shell voicings. Doesn't mean it's simple. It's NOT. But the elements he's using are from the fundamentals.

    I'm a big fan of learning to make music with the fundamentals and then growing from there...

  15. #14

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    What about the "who parked the car?" rhythm?:

    eighth--quarter--eighth--half note

    Jeb Patton taught me that one--it sounds really hip.

    Actually, someone made a song with that rhythm:

  16. #15

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    Hahaha I love that. Gonna have to add that one to my bag of funny named tricks!

  17. #16

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    Not sure who got there first, or came up with the better name...

  18. #17

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    Here's my vid on shells if it helps:

  19. #18

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    Augment the real book with audio recordings that you like, the voicings will become apparent.