Chord Voicings- Which Chords with Which Notes?

Cover of "Now He Sings Now He Sobs"Cover of Now He Sings Now He Sobs

* What Is A Slash Chord?

A slash chord is any triad played above a bass note:
D/C, Bb/C, F/C, and Ab/C are all examples of slash chords

* Improvisation:

Most young improvisers are taught that every chord has a scale to which it is married.
Try playing melodic lines over:

Slash Chord - Substitution For

E/C Cmaj#5
G/C Cmaj7(9)
A/C C7(13,b9)
Eb/C C7#9
D/C C7sus(9) (Dom or Maj7)
Bb/C C7sus(9)

* Arranging:

As composers and arrangers, we can easily fall prey to utilizing the same chord voicings over and over. Get yourself out of the funk by thinking in slash chords. Each time you invert the triad above the bass note, you'll get a different melody note in the lead voice.

* Add to Your Bag of Tricks

Hopefully this post has been an intro to using slash chords to your improvisation. Remember to experiment. I haven't covered all possible triad and bass note combinations... not by a long shot. Try developing a few of your own voicings to add to your bag of tricks. Then let me know what you come up with!

Two of my favorites are:
Gmaj7/C, which gives you a C Lydian sound and E7/C which gives you a C Lydian Augmented sound.

* GREAT Article by Gary Ewer (love this)

1. Every song needs a basic harmonic rhythm. It’s the frequency of the chord changes. For many songs, chords will change every four to eight beats. Determine what it will be for your own song. This usually means identifying the time signature for your song. If your song exhibits a continuous STRONG-weak-STRONG-weak pattern, you’re probably in 4/4 time.
2. Identify the key of your melody. Often the first and (especially) last notes of your melody will be the key note (tonic) of your song. Once you know the key, you’ll be able to identify the three chords that you’ll uyse the most: I, IV and V of that key (for example, in A major, you’ll find that A, D and E will be the chords that work best.
3. Chords will usually change on strong beats. This means that beats one and three of every bar of your song will be good spots for you to change chords.
4. Identify the melody note on the strong beat. Usually the note or two after it will also offer a good clue as to what the chord should be. Let’s say your melody has the notes A and C# at the beginning. These are two notes from the A chord, and it’s a safe bet to use that chord. But you’ll also find that the notes A and C# also exist in F#m, so consider that chord as well.
5. In general, your chord progressions will start on the tonic chord, then go to the IV-chord, moving on to the V-chord, then return to the I-chord. There are other chords you can use, of course, but that I – IV – V pattern will be a workhorse that will work well for you.
6. The faster your song, the less frequent your chord changes should be. Changing chords frequently in a fast song makes the song sound frantic, and so unless you’re looking for that effect, make chord changes less frequent in faster tempos.

* Suggested Playlist:

Kind of Blue- Miles Davis
Now He Sings, Now He Sobs- Chick Corea... listen to him on acoustic piano.
My Favorite Things- John Coltrane

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