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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!