Jazz Chords: What Are They?


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Jazz Chords: What Are They?

Good morning, this is Duane.  Have you ever wondered what a jazz chord is?  Some people ask me that.  What is a jazz chord?  I want to learn jazz chords.  Well, I have some news for you, there’s no such thing as jazz chords.  Jazz pianists use the very same notes that we all use.  They just use them in a more complex way, sometimes.   Often they do that, but sometimes, they use them simply too.

For example, I can think of one piece called, “Peace Piece” by Bill Evans, and it was this simple.  Bill Evans was one of the most premier jazz pianists who ever lived actually.

Duane is demonstrating on the piano.

That’s simply a C chord, with a major seventh in it, so if you want to call that a jazz chord, I guess you could.  Then he moves up to an F chord with a second in it, over C.

The secret to jazz chords is in the voicing, not so much the notes but in the voicing of the notes.  In other words, I could play the C chord that way, or I could put a seventh in it.

Duane is demonstrating on the piano.

I could put a dominant seventh in, I could put a sixth in it.  I could put a ninth in it.  I could put an eleventh in it.  I could put a thirteenth in it.  I could flat the ninth.  There’s all kinds of things that I could do with chords, so the moral of the story is the more you know about chords, the better.  Okay?  Jazz chords are just more complex.  Now, typically in jazz too, you have a bluesy kind of sound like this.

Duane is demonstrating on the piano.

That kind of sound, and that’s based on a seventh.  In the blues, you almost always put a seventh in the chords, so it’s like I’m playing a B flat seventh, but I’m playing it with a seventh on the bottom, and then the ninth as well, and sometimes the sixth.  Okay?

With the right hand, I’m just playing an octave.  Sometimes, I slide off.  I know  jazz pianists often slide off notes to give that kind of bluesy sound.

Duane is demonstrating on the piano.

That kind of thing, okay?  Often, they’re just more complex, like this.

Duane is demonstrating on the piano.

That’s a C seventh chord, with a sixth and a ninth in it.  On the right hand, I’m playing an octave.  Then I move up to the E flat seventh chord and just come down by half steps, D seventh, D flat seventh and back on C.  Okay?

Duane is demonstrating on the piano.

You’ve got the same kind of thing there, so I just wanted to cover with you what jazz chords are or what they really aren’t.  They’re just complex voicing of regular notes.  Okay?

That’s it for today.  Thanks.  See you again soon.  Bye bye for now.

Here is the video on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=65l1Cz107d8

If you would like to hear Bill Evans play “Peace Piece” click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nv2GgV34qIg

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