Chord melody is not only a requisite skill for jazz guitarists, it’s also some of the most gratifying and enjoyable music that you can make all by yourself with your favorite instrument. Taking full advantage of the polyphonic qualities of guitar by playing both rhythm and melody simultaneously, and keeping it all in the groove, is certainly challenging but the learning curve flattens dramatically once you develop the foundational skills.
Frank Vignola’s Essentials: Chord Melody Etudes will get you up and running quickly, with a series of etudes designed to impart the essential skill set. “In this edition of Essentials: Chord Melody Etudes, my goal is to give you a foundation to build on with eight chord melody etudes covering a range of keys and approaches.
I’ll demonstrate and break down each etude three ways; first we’ll work through the etude very simply so you can get a grip on the chords and melody. Then I’ll alter the etude rhythmically to jazz it up a bit. Finally, I’ll perform the etude as I would perform it myself on stage using improvisation, rhythmic alteration, a touch of the blues, chromaticism, neighboring tones and other tools of the jazz guitar trade.”
Frank cuts right to the chase in the edition of Essentials: Chord Melody Etudes. No boring exercises or tedious theory to struggle through - you’ll play your way through eight chord melody etudes, all of which include performance demonstrations and detailed move-by-move breakdowns supplemented with tab, notation and Guitar Pro files.
Here’s Frank’s descriptions of the 8 Performance Studies:
Tranquility: “This etude is in the key of C and concentrates on the I chord, the ii chord and the V chord. 99% of jazz standards have the I - ii - V -I progression and this is why this is a essential chord melody etude. We also concentrate on the use of anticipations in order to let the etude swing a bit.”
Autumn's Last Leaf: “This etude and is based on the first 8 measures of the essential jazz standard, Autumn Leaves. It has ii-V-I to major then to minor. We’ll concentrate on cleanliness of sound, good tone and single notes. Rhythm alteration, chromatics and neighboring tones are also discussed and demonstrated in this etude.”
I've Got A Bridge: “This chord progression is a very common bridge section of many jazz standards including the classic I Got Rhythm. In the key of Bb, the bridge starts on D7 and goes around the cycle of 4ths (D7, G7, C7, F7) for two bars each. Chord style soloing is also discussed and demonstrated using neighboring tones with chords.”
Satin Suspension: “Loosely based on the chords to Satin Doll, we’ll feature the suspended chord resolving to the Dominant 7th chord. This serves the purpose of playing a ii - V7. I’ll demonstrate how to use this suspended progression all over the fingerboard. I’ll also discuss and demonstrate arpeggiating chords as well as neighboring tones and bass pedal tones.”
Sharp Nine: “Here we have a 1-6-2-5 progression in the key of G. It’s a common progression and we’ll concentrate on the #9 sound and turnarounds. The key discussion and demonstration is the importance of bringing out the melody in chord melody playing — the melody should be louder than the harmony. Also discussed is staccato and the importance of ‘silence’ and space in music.”
A Look At Minor: “This is an 8-measure progression in the key of D minor (Dm and A7, the V chord). We’ll look at the flat 9 and how to create diminished runs over the dominant sound in a minor key. We discuss and demonstrate staccato and anticipations to make sure you understand these valuable concepts. You can bring these techniques to all of the songs you play. We’ll also examine how the Blues Pentatonic sound works so well over Minor chords and keys.”
Iroquois: “This etude is based on the A section chord progression to Cherokee, which is one of the most popular standards played today. It’s in the key of Bb. The progression is 1 - 1(7) - 4 - 4(minor) - 1 - 6 - 2 - 5 - 1. You’ll start to appreciate how many of these common progressions are used in so many jazz standards. Chromatics are discussed and how to connect chords using Chromatics. Anticipations are included again.”
Chromatic Blues: “Here we have a 12 bar blues progression in the key of c. The melody is based on the chromatic scale and how to use the chromatic scale to move through the different chords of the blues. We will use all the techniques that we’ve gone over and include them in this cool bluesy etude.”
All in all, Frank Vignola’s Essentials: Chord Melody Etudes is your quickest, most engaging way to get in the game of jazz guitar chord melody. Click it to jazz up your chord melody now!
About the Series
Designed for intermediate and advanced students, TrueFire’s Essentials courses feature Performance Studies focused on the ‘essential’ harmonic and technical characteristics of a particular style of playing. Educators first perform the study for demonstration purposes and then break it all down section-by-section, technique-by-technique. Performance Studies include tab, notation and practice rhythm tracks when applicable.