This two-part lesson plan covers the harmony and theory involved with performing and composing music in the Smooth Jazz style. The examples include common chord patterns and a sample piece that will highlight the sounds which are popular when it comes to playing in the style of Smooth Jazz…
Q: Can you do a video that looks at the really cool sounding chords played by guys like Larry Carlton and Lee Ritienour? I always hear them in the smooth jazz tunes, and it sounds like you play them in your music too. By the way, how can I buy your album? I looked on your website and on iTunes, but there are no digital downloads for your stuff?
– Reno, NYC
A: I do have my CD available here on the website as a digital download. Follow the link below if you’re interested in buying a copy:
As for the chord types that are used in this style of music, they are mostly of the, “triad with a bass note” style. These chords produce a silky sound since they create a mild suspended harmony across the compositions where they are applied.
PART 1: In Part One of the lesson, I cover a number of the most popular triad over bass-note chord types that are used consistently throughout the music style of smooth jazz.
PART 2: Part Two of this lesson is available for sale here on the web-site in the shop, the product name is, Smooth Jazz Chords – Part 2
THE CHORDS OF SMOOTH JAZZ GUITAR
Part 1: Triad Over Bass Note
Smooth Jazz is one of the most popular forms of adult contemporary music. The composition approach that is used throughout this style of music is loosely based upon melodic pop music principles that use jazz harmony within a mix of; jazz, funk, Latin as well as, blues and rock.
To perform this style of music on guitar, players will need to work on developing a good understanding of jazz harmony, (especially for how the dominant 7th suspended, extended and inverted chords operate to create songs within this style of music).
In the video lessons for Parts 1 and 2, I cover the most popular chords that are consistently applied throughout the Smooth Jazz style.
NOTE: There are many chord types that are widely used across the music of smooth jazz. The chord group discussed in this lesson are not by any means to be considered as a “complete list” of the chord types that are used throughout smooth jazz.
Aside from practicing popular songs (composed by some of the more famous smooth jazz musicians), guitarists should also spend time working on writing original smooth jazz pieces.
Through the writing and arranging process, guitar players will develop a keen sense for how these chords are applied musically.
When it comes down to composing music in the Smooth Jazz style, be sure to begin in a very simple way. Select a few of the easier chord types and practice going between them with a focus on an easy flowing rhythmic style.
Smooth Jazz artists always seem to find the perfect ebb and flow to their rhythms, their use of harmony and their melodic contour. The musicians who are well known in the world of smooth jazz have an ability to make their compositions come together and sound steady, fluid and easy going.
Part 2: Theory, Application and Practice
The second part of this lesson will contain a video lesson along with a PDF handout with all of the chord diagrams from the Part One lesson.
Along with the chord diagrams, there will also be a detailed TAB /Music Notation chart detailing how to play a smooth jazz example jam that I composed.
Plus, “Part 2” also explores the theory behind how to apply the chord shapes that we’ve practiced within this smooth jazz lesson. Examples will be provided detailing how these unique chords can function within the smooth jazz style.