September 13, 2012

Passing chords

As you might guess from the three previously published "Two chords per voicing" posts, I am quite simply captivated by these. From Kurts tremendous musical clarity always comes beautiful chords, melodies and voice leading.

If you've played through any of the previously mentioned "Two chords per voicing" studies, you will know that Kurt doesn't just play two voicings of the same chord in these studies. Below is a transcription from a masterclass where Kurt talks about the passing chords he plays when practicing this "Two chords per voicing" exercise.
...If you put two chords on every beat, there might be two beats of the same chord. So you have to figure out some kind of voice-leading so that it doesn’t sound like you’re repeating the same chord – that’s where you find the passing chords. If it’s written like:

|    Ebmaj7    |       C7       |       F7        |      Bb       |

You know that it’s going to C so you can have that second beat to improvise a passing chord to C.
That’s putting a passing chord in-between each of them. The bass-line sounds kind of normal, but with the melody you can make that a little more interesting.
- Download the 'passing chord' example above as MP3

So if we analyse this, we'll find that the first two passing chords are not that interesting - Db9 and F#7 are merely chromatic passing chords that are one half step above the approached chord. A7/b is again a chromatic passing chords, but this chord approaches both from below and above. A choice I personally never would have come up with. Bb7b9(#11)/d is so simple and is a very beautiful sounding voicing. It has notes that either stay or leads chromaticly up to Eb69.

Here's another example (the chords with green are the new voicings):

Kurt then goes on to talk about lines. He says:
When you're playing your melodies, if you're thinking harmonically then you can use these types of passing chords in your lines. And so it doesn't have to be so traditional sounding - that can be what leads to a more modern sound - so instead of that, you might have:

- Download the 'line' example above as MP3

I must be honest and say that I didn't write any chord symbols above this line, because I can't understand it. If you get it, please post a comment below or even better send me the image with the chords added!

Passing chords is definitely something I need to practice myself! I really think it helps connect the chords. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

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