Ted Greene was a true master of the jazz guitar and jazz voicings in particular,which is why it’s always a good idea to work on Ted Greene Guitar Chords in the woodshed.
His books are considered bibles of jazz guitar voicings, single lines and harmony, and his dedication to practicing and furthering the instrument made him a legend in his own time.
There are many things that we can learn from Ted as far as comping, chord soloing and chord melody playing, but one of the techniques that Ted used and taught which has helped my playing immensely is chord synonyms.
Have a question or comment about this lesson? Visit the Ted Greene Chords thread at the MWG Forum.
Chord synonyms are when you take one chord and you apply it to a different tonic to create a new sound, without learning a totally new voicing.
A great example of this is the relationship between Cmaj7, Am7 and Em7.
If you see a Cmaj7 chord in a tune you’re comping on, you can choose to play any of those above chords. Here is how those intervals look over a C root for each of these chordal options.
Cmaj7 = Root, 3, 5 7 (Cmaj7)
Am7 = 6th, Root, 3 5 (C6)
Em7 = 3, 5, 7 9 (Cmaj9)
So, each of these different chords sounds good over a C root and you didn’t have to learn a chord called C6 or Cmaj9 to produce those sounds, you just had to take chords you already knew, Am7 and Em7, and play them over a C root, then voila, you now have three ways to comp Cmaj7 without having to learn any new chord voicings.
While this knowledge is a good start, and can often be enough to spur new inspiration in your practice routine and jamming, let’s take a look at how we can use this idea in your comping, chord melody and chord soloing ideas.
First, let’s look at how you can apply Ted Greene’s Chord Synonyms to a major ii-V-I chord progression.
For the purposes of this exercise you will learn how to use this approach in the key of C, and with Drop 2 chords on the top four string.
So, make sure that you not only practice this approach in all 12 keys, but with as many chord voicings as you know such as:
This first example lays out four different ways to comp a ii-V-I in C major, one starting on each inversion of the iim7, Dm7, chord.
Each chord group uses solid voice leading, since Ted was also a big fan of Bach and voice leading in general, which means that each chord moves to the closest next chord in the progression.
Basically, each group of three chords is played with the minimal amount of hand movement on the fretboard.
Practice and memorize these four groups before moving on to the next exercise.
You don’t have to expand it beyond C major or use other voicings at this point to learn the rest of the exercises in this lesson, but it will make the other exercises easier for you if you can really nail down these first four groups of chords.
Now, you will use our first group of chord synonyms to double your vocabulary without learning a single new chord besides the basic Maj7, m7 and m7b5 chords you already know.
In this case, you are going to comp through four different groups of ii-V-I’s in C major, the same as the last exercise, but instead of starting on the root of each chord, you will build each chord from the 3rd of the chord that’s written on the page.
OK, let’s look at this on paper to simplify it a little bit, just in case that last sentence was a bit confusing.
Take Dm7, the iim7 chord, and instead of playing Dm7, you play Fmaj7, which is the chord that is built from the 3rd note of Dm7, F.
Take G7, the V7 chord, and instead of playing G7, you play Bm7b5, which is the chord that is built from the 3rd note of G7, B.
Take Cmaj7, the Imaj7 chord, and instead of playing Cmaj7, you play Em7, which is the chord that is built from the 3rd note of Cmaj7, E.
Or in a handy chart form:
See how this works out? You are basically playing a 3 to 9 chord, so a 9th for each chord without the root in the voicing, spicing up your chords without going beyond basic knowledge of m7, m7b5 and Maj7 chords.
To learn more about this approach, check out my detailed article called “Bebop Vocabulary: 3 to 9 Arpeggios.”
Again, practice the following exercise in C major at first, and with Drop 2 chords on the top four strings, then take it to the other 11 keys as well as to other chord voicings such as Closed Position and Drop 3 chords.
So, you’ve now doubled your chord vocabulary without learning anything new, so let’s take it one more step and increase your chord vocabulary by 300% using the same approach with a slight twist.
You are going to do the same thing, play a chord starting on a different note than the tonic for each voicing in the progression, but instead of starting on the third, this time you will start on the 6th of the iim7 and Imaj7 chords, and the b7 of the V7 chord.
That means for Dm7 you will play Bm7b5, for G7 you will play Fmaj7(#11) and for Cmaj7 you will play Am7. Or in chart form that would be:
In this case you are keeping the root in the iim7 and Imaj7 chords, but playing a “rootless” voicing for the V7 chord as you did with each voicing in the previous example.
Here is how you would apply this new set of chord synonyms to a ii-V-I in C major, again with Drop 2 chords on the top four strings.
Now that you have all three of these progressions under your fingers you can mix things up to expand your ii-V-I vocabulary even further.
Try playing a tonic chord for iim7, then the chord from the 3rd for V7 and finally the chord from the 6th for Imaj7.
Try and come up with as many variations on this approach as you can, just stick to the voice-leading concept of keeping your hand within a few fret span and always moving to the closest inversion of the next chord in the progression.
Try the above exercises with any/all chord voicings that you are learning or already have under your fingers.
You will instantly expand your jazz chord vocabulary by 300% without learning anything new, just taking chords you already know and applying them to a new situation.
This will allow you to maximize your time in the practice room, while getting new chordal sounds under your fingers and in your ears at the same time.
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