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  1. #1

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    I'm not a jazz guitar player but I'm trying to learn melodic voice leading and it is very difficult. Say your going from A chord to D chord and you want to voice lead melodically....do you memorize A C# E and D F# A and in your mind you see A is common to both chords and that the C# can be moved up half step to a D and become the root of D and the E moves up whole step to be the 5th of D....or do you memorize a formula, the root is the 5th of 4 chord, the 3rd moves half step to become root of 4 chord, etc.? Please help.

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  3. #2

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    Traditionally speaking, and setting the guitar aside for a minute, when moving from chord to chord, smooth voice leading practice is as follows:

    1. Common tones remain in the same voice,
    2. Other voices move to the nearest chord tone of the next chord.


    This works well for vocal ensembles, strings, horns etc.

    But:
    • That can be very difficult or impossible to achieve on the guitar, depending on the voicings (close/closed, and number of voices, that is)
    • In jazz, "parallel motion" is also used.

  4. #3

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    No formulas for me. I take the lazy approach and look for the closest chord tone of the target harmony. Sometimes this leads me to unexpected harmonies when, using your example of A to D, I might leave that C# in place and permit the Dmaj7 sound. It depends on context of the target harmony: major, minor or dominant. If, for example, the D had a dominant function (next chord is G or some sub of G), I'd be too lazy to move the E an entire whole step to F# and instead slide it down to Eb and the C# down to C and call it a Db9. But, truthfully, I don't call them anything - if I like what I hear that's enough for me. Sometimes it happens too fast to think about names anyway!

  5. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by mysticguitar
    I'm not a jazz guitar player but I'm trying to learn melodic voice leading and it is very difficult. Say your going from A chord to D chord and you want to voice lead melodically....do you memorize A C# E and D F# A and in your mind you see A is common to both chords and that the C# can be moved up half step to a D and become the root of D and the E moves up whole step to be the 5th of D....or do you memorize a formula, the root is the 5th of 4 chord, the 3rd moves half step to become root of 4 chord, etc.? Please help.
    There are different approaches.

    Mine is a minority view.

    I do it by knowing the notes in all the chords I use, in every key, as automatically as possible. So, when I'm going from an A to a D, I know that the A exists in both chords. I also know I can move the C# up a half step. I know that I can move the E up or down a step, or leave it there and get the sound of a 9th against the D. I also know enough grips that I can visualize the same things geometrically.

    It's a lot of work to learn chords this way, but I think it's useful knowledge to have for comping, soloing and generally understanding what's going on in a performance of a song.

  6. #5
    Well that's not encouraging.

  7. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by GTRMan
    Traditionally speaking, and setting the guitar aside for a minute, when moving from chord to chord, smooth voice leading practice is as follows:

    1. Common tones remain in the same voice,
    2. Other voices move to the nearest chord tone of the next chord.


    This works well for vocal ensembles, strings, horns etc.

    But:
    • That can be very difficult or impossible to achieve on the guitar, depending on the voicings (close/closed, and number of voices, that is)
    • In jazz, "parallel motion" is also used.
    That's not encouraging.

  8. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Neverisky
    No formulas for me. I take the lazy approach and look for the closest chord tone of the target harmony. Sometimes this leads me to unexpected harmonies when, using your example of A to D, I might leave that C# in place and permit the Dmaj7 sound. It depends on context of the target harmony: major, minor or dominant. If, for example, the D had a dominant function (next chord is G or some sub of G), I'd be too lazy to move the E an entire whole step to F# and instead slide it down to Eb and the C# down to C and call it a Db9. But, truthfully, I don't call them anything - if I like what I hear that's enough for me. Sometimes it happens too fast to think about names anyway!
    So you know the note names of each chord and in your mind you can see the common tones and see where you would like to move the notes by seeing the half step or whole step relation ships....this is really hard for me....moving from A to D, seeing the chord tones of each chord and seeing where the closest move is.

  9. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar
    There are different approaches.

    Mine is a minority view.

    I do it by knowing the notes in all the chords I use, in every key, as automatically as possible. So, when I'm going from an A to a D, I know that the A exists in both chords. I also know I can move the C# up a half step. I know that I can move the E up or down a step, or leave it there and get the sound of a 9th against the D. I also know enough grips that I can visualize the same things geometrically.

    It's a lot of work to learn chords this way, but I think it's useful knowledge to have for comping, soloing and generally understanding what's going on in a performance of a song.
    Wow. I need to be where you are, knowing the notes of each chord and seeing where they can move.

  10. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar
    There are different approaches.

    Mine is a minority view.

    I do it by knowing the notes in all the chords I use, in every key, as automatically as possible. So, when I'm going from an A to a D, I know that the A exists in both chords. I also know I can move the C# up a half step. I know that I can move the E up or down a step, or leave it there and get the sound of a 9th against the D. I also know enough grips that I can visualize the same things geometrically.

    It's a lot of work to learn chords this way, but I think it's useful knowledge to have for comping, soloing and generally understanding what's going on in a performance of a song.
    Do you have any suggestions on how, what, to practice in order to obtain this level of mastery?

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by mysticguitar
    Say your going from A chord to D chord and you want to voice lead melodically....do you memorize A C# E and D F# A and in your mind you see A is common to both chords and that the C# can be moved up half step to a D and become the root of D and the E moves up whole step to be the 5th of D.....
    Almost. The E moves up a whole step to F#, which is the 3rd of the D major chord.

    Anyway, you already figured it out! If you want to really dig in then try the rules that I wrote earlier. Write out the chords on the staff at first then play them, you'll get the hang of it soon.

    For triads, drop 2 and drop 3 seventh chords, Mick Goodrick's books (Mr. Goodchord) are great, if still in print. For larger structures with tensions and altered tensions try JohnThomas' Voice Leading for Guitar book.

    Let me see if I can find more examples for voice leading on the guitar. Brett Whilmott perhaps??? I'll see...

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by mysticguitar
    ....this is really hard for me....moving from A to D, seeing the chord tones of each chord and seeing where the closest move is.
    I'll bet you can do it. It might take you a while and there may be others who can do it faster, but speed comes with repetition. And on the guitar if you learn some moves for one key using closed position chords your can move them around to other positions and other keys.

    For example, here's a D major moving to an A dominant, in this example either an A7 or A9. Move the shapes up a fret and you've got Eb major to Bb dominant. So when you find yourself called to play a major harmony followed by it's dominant you've got a familiar move.


    Melodic Voice Leading-d-1-pngMelodic Voice Leading-a7-pngMelodic Voice Leading-a9-png

  13. #12

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    Experiential exercise suggestion based on sound and personal reaction:

    Record a chord sequence 4-8 bars for starters.
    On each pass test out a one single note against each chord in a middle to upper register. Evaluate the level of consonance/dissonance. Take note of the chord/s that this note is most dissonant against and most consonant. On the next pass move the dissonant note up or down to a more consonant neighbor note. Then do the same for notes sounding not quite dissonant but less resolved than say the fundamental chord tones.
    Try this with all 12 notes. This is an inventory taking exercise to become aware of the contextual sonic coloration of each note. While theory can be useful to help catalogue observations, much can be learned by simply listening and having an opinion.

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by mysticguitar
    Do you have any suggestions on how, what, to practice in order to obtain this level of mastery?
    First, you have to decide whether you want to commit to it versus some other approach. I could write a long post on that choice, but I'll skip all of that for now.

    Assuming that you want to approach the guitar in this way, I'd suggest the following.

    1. Know every note on the fingerboard automatically. No thought. Instantaneous. Best way to do that is by learning to read standard notation all the way up the neck. And, that knowledge will be endlessly useful later.

    2. Learn how chords are constructed, which is a little bit of theory.

    3. Start with C7. Memorize the notes in it. Then, memorize all the ways to change a note or two and make it a different chord. So, Cm, Cm7, Cminmaj, C7#11, C7b13, C6, C69, Cmaj7, Cmaj7#11, Cmaj9 etc. At some point, you recognize that you're basically altering the third (to minor or sus), the fifth, the seventh and the ninth. All different combinations.

    4. Then, do G7, F7, D7 Bb7 etc (you're adding sharps and flats to the key signature of the root). So it's one sharp, one flat, two sharps, two flats, etc. You go up to F#/Gb and you're almost done. There are only 12 keys, but you have to know enharmonics without thought, so Db and C# both have to be memorized. You drill yourself.

    5. Time for tunes. Buy Irealpro. Pick an easy tune, say All of Me. Program in 13 repeats with a key change by a 4th every chorus. Play the melody in the first key. Solo by playing chord tones for all keys. If you get hung up on a chord change, drill it, slow the tempo and try it again. You'll get 7ths, m7s and a couple of variants of major chords this way. Progress towards tunes with different chords, focusing, for example, on m7b5, 7b13, alt etc.

    6. By the time you can do this, you'll know a lot of the most useful scales. Put C6 togther with Cmaj9 and you've got C ionian. Make the mental connections. You'll also be able to read thru any set of chord changes and know the notes you need to comp or solo.

    And, if you're playing sparsely, you can pick just a couple of notes. That's enormously helpful when reading a difficult chart.

    If you're soloing, you know the chord tones and you already know the extensions. Say the chord is C7#11. You know the notes C E F# Bb. You realize that you can add the 9 without changing the tonality. That's 5 notes. Add some passing tones or some other extensions (or the awareness that the chord may come from Gmelmin) and you've got plenty of grist for the solo mill.

    Now, this is a lot of work. But, what approach is better? (others may answer that question effectively). If you do it by geometric patterns (the way Arne Berle used to write about it in GP columns) you have to learn a great many patterns and you have to practice them in enough ways that you can start any pattern on any note. My approach just gives you the names of the notes. You don't need a pattern to find them because you already memorized where they are. And, you don't care which note you start on.

    I'd call it a couple of years of work.

    Or, you can just listen to a lot of music, copy the stuff you like and figure out how to sound good without knowing any of this stuff.

  15. #14

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  16. #15

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    In practice I concentrate on the top and maybe bottom note. The stuff in the middle often takes care of itself. Don’t move around to much. Learn plenty of voicings and thread them together. practicing going up because on the guitar things normally go downwards.

  17. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by GTRMan
    Almost. The E moves up a whole step to F#, which is the 3rd of the D major chord.

    Anyway, you already figured it out! If you want to really dig in then try the rules that I wrote earlier. Write out the chords on the staff at first then play them, you'll get the hang of it soon.

    For triads, drop 2 and drop 3 seventh chords, Mick Goodrick's books (Mr. Goodchord) are great, if still in print. For larger structures with tensions and altered tensions try JohnThomas' Voice Leading for Guitar book.

    Let me see if I can find more examples for voice leading on the guitar. Brett Whilmott perhaps??? I'll see...
    Ok, thanks for the help.

  18. #17
    I thanks, I'll check it out.

  19. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by GTRMan
    Well it's the thought that counts but that book is $45.00 and doesn't ship to where I live, thanks though.

  20. #19

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    That IS a bummer.


    What about this?

    Sorry! Something went wrong!

  21. #20

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    You don't even need an instrument to learn this stuff. Take a 2-5-1 progression in C, recite the notes of the chords in your head. Voice lead your way through the progression reciting the notes. Work your way round the cycle. Before too long all the notes in the chords will pop into your head when needed without having to think about it.

  22. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by rahsaan
    You don't even need an instrument to learn this stuff. Take a 2-5-1 progression in C, recite the notes of the chords in your head. Voice lead your way through the progression reciting the notes. Work your way round the cycle. Before too long all the notes in the chords will pop into your head when needed without having to think about it.
    That's difficult but I guess that's what it takes.

  23. #22

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    as others have said..no matter what "system" you work with..learning the chords..note names and fretboard locations will take time and alot of practice..

    my suggestion:

    start with basic close voiced triads and learn them on all string sets

    example: D major

    Notes .....Strings.....Frets
    D F# A....G B E......7 7 5
    F# A D....G B E.....11 10 10
    A D F#....G B E......2 3 2

    ok this is the D chord and its two inversions on one string set G B E

    try and find the same notes and chord forms on the next string set of B G D

    then the next string set of G D A and finally the string set of D A E

    this is a systematic way to learn triads voice movement..that is

    The 1 3 5 tones of the triad on a given string set to find the next inversions (chord form)

    the 1 will move to the 3 and the 3 will move to the 5

    D F# A / 1 3 5 moves to F# A D 3 5 1 then A D F# 5 1 3

    and try to find and play the D major scale in each of these positions ..starting on any note that is part of the scale in that position

    D E F# G A B C#

    in do this type of study.. with practice you will find the G and A Chords very near by in one of their inversions and their own major scale notes
    and eventually learn all the chords that are formed from the D major scale in all positions and know each note of the chord as well

    and if you continue and do this exercise in all keys there will a be a great sense of confidence and freedom as you will not feel lost in any part of the fretboard

    Yes ...this is alot of work and will take time to ingest and digest..but once done you will begin to see the fretboard and ONE thing and not many
    unknown puzzles to decode..

    I hope this helps a bit

  24. #23

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    Leavitt’s and Van Eps’ books can help a lot, to be a bit obvious

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by mysticguitar
    I'm not a jazz guitar player but I'm trying to learn melodic voice leading and it is very difficult. Say your going from A chord to D chord and you want to voice lead melodically....do you memorize A C# E and D F# A and in your mind you see A is common to both chords and that the C# can be moved up half step to a D and become the root of D and the E moves up whole step to be the 5th of D....or do you memorize a formula, the root is the 5th of 4 chord, the 3rd moves half step to become root of 4 chord, etc.? Please help.
    I will make a real simple suggestion:

    Take the two chords, A and D. For the A, we use the basic bar chord at the fifth fret. The D can be chord shaped like a power chord at the fifth fret. Play the entire A chord. Then with single notes all on the A chord:
    - play the note where your middle finger is resting on the G string
    - the note where your ringer finger rests in the D string
    - Then back up to the middle finger G string
    - Then on the B string, with your index finger, play the E note at the fifth fret.

    Now you are moving to the D chord:
    - on the B string, move up to F#
    - Strum the D chord in the power chord'esque position

    Play around doing that. Slide your fingers in and out of the notes a bit. You just played a line based off of chords. Congrats!

  26. #25
    So how did you go about learning and identifying the chord tones of each chord and also seeing the chord tones of each chord almost simultaneously and recognizing what to move where?

  27. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by mysticguitar
    So how did you go about learning and identifying the chord tones of each chord and also seeing the chord tones of each chord almost simultaneously and recognizing what to move where?
    Here's how I do it. It's a lot of work, not a shortcut.

    I learned to read, all over the neck. From that, I knew every note on the fingerboard without thinking.

    Much later, I realized that I knew the notes in a Cmaj7 (and some other chords) and I could instantly find all those notes. That is, every C E G and B on the fingerboard. I knew the notes in a Cmaj scale just as quickly. Of course, I knew other scales and chord tones too, but there were plenty that I had to think about.

    So, I started drilling myself on the ones I didn't know. I did it partly with backing tracks. I use IrealPro now. Pick a simple enough tune and a slow tempo. Say it's All of Me. It starts with Cmaj7. So, play those notes in a simple improvisation. Next chord is E7 -- same thing.

    You can set IrealPro to change keys every chorus. Set it for 13 repeats and change by a 4th each chorus. Make sure you know all the chord tones, all over the neck. Slow it down, loop parts, or whatever you have to do to get it working.

    Now, for the voice leading. Consider All of Me. You'll see that it starts with C E G B and then moves to E G# B D. Two of the notes are the same and two change. The smoothest movement is G to G#. The tonal center is Cmaj (that's another post if you don't know what it is). So, you can play Cmaj (C Ionian) except it's going to sound better if you raise the G to G#. To my ear, that's the most important movement.

    Then it goes to A7. A C# E G. You might notice that the A is a half step above the G# you just played -- and that G# was a half step above the G that came before it. That is, you played G in the first chord, G# in the second chord and now A in the third chord. That's a guide tone line. You could analyze it differently -- maybe it goes back down to G against the A7. You also have the C# to account for. It's common to think about the G# and D dropping a half step to G and C#.

    That already might have been too thick to be a good explanation. The idea is, you look for the smooth (usually meaning half steps or whole steps) movement. Sometimes it will be a minor third. Sometimes you'll like other intervals.

  28. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by mysticguitar
    I'm not a jazz guitar player but I'm trying to learn melodic voice leading and it is very difficult. Say your going from A chord to D chord and you want to voice lead melodically....do you memorize A C# E and D F# A and in your mind you see A is common to both chords and that the C# can be moved up half step to a D and become the root of D and the E moves up whole step to be the 5th of D....or do you memorize a formula, the root is the 5th of 4 chord, the 3rd moves half step to become root of 4 chord, etc.? Please help.
    no reason to memorize a formula youve already got the idea. play three octave triads up and down(horizontally) the neck while saying the notes out loud if you're having trouble knowing notes on the fretboard. another exercise is play a c on every string (no open strings and no frets past 12) while saying C out loud, then F, then Bb, then Eb etc. you'll know youre fretboard after a little while if you spend 10 mins a day on this and what you're trying to do will be a lot easier.

  29. #28

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    You could start with the C Major scale that has no sharps or flats. CDEFGABC. Start going thru the circle of 5ths which will bring you to G Major scale that has one sharp (F#). A fifth up from G gets you to the D Major scale (two sharps F#, C#). By the time you get to B all notes are sharp except B and E.

    Do the same thing in the opposite direction: F Major has one Flat, Bb Major has two flats etc.

    Skip down to scales and key signatures at this website and go to intervals, chords etc. when you're ready. You have to learn where all of this is on the fretboard and hear how each of the intervals sound. Yes, it takes work but once you learn it (and hear it) it will be with you for the rest of your life. You'll find notes and scales diagrams on the fretboard with a google search.

    musictheory.net - Lessons

  30. #29

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    When I reread this I’m not certain if this was about chords or the improvised line???

  31. #30
    Firstly, I see voice leading and a solo guitar line as different things. Voice leading usually implies several melodic lines or voices moving at the same time, whereas melodic soloing is usually single notes from one instrument.
    I will assume that you want to be able to play over chord changes, but make these changes flow smoothly. I would personally rethink each chord as a triad, and use the scale degree rather than the names of notes e.g. 1-3-5 rather than A-C#-E for A major and 1-3-5 for D major. Having the scale degree is more useful to me as each note number has a certain function in a solo, plus the use of numbers allows you to play in any key AND it maps to notes on the fretboard (I visualize the scale shapes first then mentally add the scale degree - but you can also mentally add the musical notes, or even the sound of each note, but this takes a few years to develop).
    Good voice leading can be learnt by teaching yourself counterpoint and even though most guitarists would feel this to be a waste of time, it really does give each melodic line a decent sound.

    OK now for connecting the chords. Don't overload your brain thinking of this C# needs to move upwards to a D or else the voice lead police will arrest me. Instead, have a simple chord progression playing (record it, use looper pedal, use software, YouTube, etc) and play the 1st (root) 3rd and 5th note of each chord...just play one of these notes per chord, and really listen to that note against the chord.
    After doing this a few times, you'll notice that the root note is stable, it's solid, grounded, and doesn't really want to change
    The 5th is stable, but could change, it's a bit more interesting than the root.
    Now the 3rd...if you play this in a low register (E or A string on lowest frets) it'll sound muddy, or plain wrong. But play it around the 12th fret and it's a lot better. You'll also notice that it sounds right but is also ready to move if needed.
    So that's the most basic or easiest way to play a solo but it sucks as it's lame.
    You want to emphasise the changing notes when going from an A major to a D? Yes, voice leading study of counterpoint will help but it's easier to look at the fretboard and see the A major triad notes 1-3-5 (A C# E) and D major 1-3-5 (D F# A)...and your best friend here is the semitone, it is THE most melodic trick a soloist can use. The semitone in melody including counterpoint and voice leading has such a strong attraction to the next note.
    In the chord change above, the semitone change C# to D is the strongest (the C# is the leading tone of D major and its job is to rise to the D note). So taking the most basic solo, you could play A to C# over the A then whack the D note on the change (or bend it up, hammer it, slide, etc, but accent that change, use volume).
    To spice things up, you could borrow from melodic cells and add a few passing tones, or upper/lower neighbour tones
    E.g.
    A (1, chord tone), B (2, passing tone), C# (3, chord tone) into...
    D! (1, chord tone), F# (3, chord tone), A (common tone, sustain it as it works over both chords).
    Once you see the triad notes, the semitone change, and other spicy notes, you'll get the idea and hopefully can then build note combinations which can flow seamlessly from one chord to the next.
    I'd advise looking up chord tone soloing as this approach will really turbocharge your ears. Basically you have the triad notes as a skeleton framework but can add richer tones such as 2 (or 9th), 6 (or 13th) and 7th (this is the Jazz note in harmony and turns the basic triad into a richer sounding seventh chord). These 3 colourful notes are sometimes called the upper extensions. You can also use the #4 to give a spacey sound but I'd steer clear of the 4th / 11th over major - but use it over minor chords or dominant chords.
    Finally, practice playing notes over backing tracks. Do NOT practice scales ever ever ever. There is no melody on the planet that sounds like an ascending or descending scale. I don't know which evil teacher said practice scales as this is just nasty. Instead, practice Triads first, and then add passing tones plus change the rhythm of notes. Just don't practice scales up and down, as you'll really hit a soloing brick wall many years later. Enjoy!