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Watch the Part 1 The Principles and The Blues online guitar lesson by TrueFire from Play Jazz Guitar 4: Rhythm Approaches

Part 1 The Principles and The Blues - (A) Guide Tones is a video guitar lesson presented by Fareed Haque and is sourced from Jazz Comping Survival Guide.

In this first part of the course we will examine playing the blues using only guide tones, and we will also introduce four principles of chord substitution that will become the basis for all of the jazz comping we do from here on out. So please study these carefully and completely, they will have far reaching applications and will be with you for the rest of this course, and probably for the rest of your life as a jazz musician.The ‘guide tones' only approach is a new way of describing what jazz guitarists have been doing for years.

Let's explore it a bit more in depth here.

What are guide tones?

Simple! They are the most important notes in a jazz chord - the 3rd and 7th. Sometimes called ‘color tones', we will call them guide tones, as they outline the important notes in a chord and ‘guide' the player (and listener) through a jazz chord progression.

One of the things I always hated about jazz guitar chord and scale books is how long they were, and how much memorization they expected you to do, page after page of chord symbols, block diagrams, little riffs and licks.

Piano players had nice little formulas for building chords - no memorization! - so did jazz arrangers, why not guitar players too?

Well, as I explored it more I found that building chords on the guitar was simple too. Especially when I started with guide tones. First off, 90% of the time the bass player will be playing the root, or whatever bass note is needed. And the 5th is usually just a clumsy note, often left out of nice chords anyway, so let's start with guide tones for G7. That's the 3rd and 7th of G dominant 7, right? G7 is spelled G, B, D, F - that's 1, 3, 5, b7 of the G major scale, So:

F nat and, B nat are guide tones of G7

move it down one fret and you got the IV chord – C7

move up 1/2 step and you got the V chord – D7

All of the basic building blocks of harmony I,IV and V in a three fret span!

OK, Let's build some chords:


-Now flat the third - what dya got? Gm7!

-Now flat 7th 1 ½ step - what dya got? Gm6! (This chord is same as G dim or G ½ dim since there is no fifth at all)

-Now flat the 6th ½ step - what dya got? Gmb6!

-Now raise the B6 ½ step - what dya got? You are back to Gm6!

-Now raise the 6 ½ step - what dya got? You are back to Gm7!

Now raise the B7 ½ step - what dya got? You are up to to Gm(maj 7)!

-Now raise the 3rd ½ step to B natural - what dya got? GMaj7!

-Now flat the major 7th ½ step - what dya got? You are back to G7!

-Now flat 7th ½ step - what dya got? Gmaj6!

-Now flat 6th ½ step - what dya got? Gmajb6!

-Now flat 3rd ½ step and raise the B6 1/2 step- what dya got? Back to Gmb6,

( G dim or G ½ dim!)

Are you ready? That's all of the chords there are. Everything else is just adding extensions, or reorganizing the notes in fun ways, or adding in some more notes, but that's all the chords. In about 4 inches of text. Who said size matters?

Adding extensions:

Now let's have some fun and make big scary chords.

Go back to G7, GT only.

ADD one extension:

Let's start by adding the 13th, E on the ‘b' string. That's ‘G dominant 13', or just ‘G13' for short.

Now how would you create G7b13?

Yes, that's right! Just lower the 13th ½ step.

Now slide that b13 down another step to create G7 w/ the 5th on top.

Slide that puppy on the ‘B' string down one more ½ step and you have got G7b5 (same as G7#11, since the 11th is basically the same as the 4th, #4 is same as b5).

Add two extensions:

Start with G13 guitar tone plus one extension.

Now add the 9th on the ‘E' string, that's G13/9.

Now raise the 9th ½ step, yes that's G13#9. Gnarly.

Now go back to G13/9 and b the 9th for G13b9. Very Gnarly.

Now lower that b9 ½ step more to G, and you have G13 w/ the root on top. Not so gnarly, but very useful.

Now lower the G ½ step to F# and oops, that's G7 w/a major 7th, which just sounds gross. Too Gnarly.

Now see if you can build these chords:

G7#9b13, G7#9nat5, G7#9b5,

G9b13, G9nat5,G9b5

G7b9/13, G7b9b13, G7b9nat5, G7b9b5, G7b9#11

And these:





Gm7b5 (same as G ½ diminished)

G1/2 dim nat. 9

Practice building chords in G til it's easy.

Then start building chords in C. Notice that in C (that's the IV chord in the key of G), or in D (the V chord in G) the color tones are flipped: the third will sit on the D string and 7th on the G string:








C 6/9

C maj9 #11

Make sure to avoid DOUBLING the 3rd or 7th.

It sounds thin and is generally avoided, though if you are playing a nice melody line and the melody note really, really wants to be the 3rd or 7th then go ahead.

Usually if there is a Guide Tone in the melody, try to replace the Guide Tone underneath with another note (6 or 9 instead of 7 and 3) and it'll sound fatter. More gnarly.


Gmaj7 w/7th in melody, icky. G 6/9 w/7th in melody, delicious!

OK that's your Guide Tone primer. Now let's play some blues!"