Jamie Holroyd Guitar

Jamie Holroyd Guitar

Chord Melody Guitar Guide

Chord Melody Guitar Guide

Creating chord melodies and playing solo arrangements is one of the most fun things about playing jazz guitar, so this this lesson will focus on how to play chord melody guitar by looking into 5 ways you can harmonize and embelish a melody with chords.

Although the series has already featured an article about how to take jazz guitar solos’ no series in jazz guitar comping would be complete without a dedicated chord melody article.

Creating a chord melody is simply just adding harmony to single line melodies, but a good solo guitar arrangement include techniques such walking bass lines, keeping good time, combing single lines with chords and taking chord solos.

Guitarists such as George Van Eps, Joe Pass and Martin Taylor have made names for themselves for this style of playing alone. In this lesson I will be teaching you how to create and arrange chord melodies for guitar.

Harmonizing notes has already being discussed in the jazz guitar chord solo article from the series so today’s lesson will be concentrating on some practical tips and exercises to bring these arrangements to life.




Adding Chords to a Melody Exercise


One exercise to ensure a thorough chord vocabulary for chord solos and chord melody arranging is to open the real book and then pick out any standard at random to see if you work out the chords with the melody note on top right away.

Although you usually wouldn’t play every note with a chord in a performance situation, being aware of chords around the melody is useful so that you can pick and choose which chords to add and leave out.

When you can pick out any standards and instantly see the chord with the melody on top of the voicing instantly you will have the basics of solo jazz guitar arranging down.

To demonstrate this in practice I have written out one of the chord licks from an earlier chapter with the harmony or chord added to every single note.



A Balanced Approach


Once you can see what chords fit over melody notes you can then start to mix things up by replacing chords with single notes, and diads.

Using chords for every melody note can create unnecessary hard work as well as potentially sound clunky, so mixing single lines and chord keeps the arrangements free flowing and interesting.

Play through this example of the same lick and notice that only some notes have been harmonized making it easier and smoother to play the lick



Create Motion at Static Points


Solo jazz guitar arrangements can sound a little dry when they’re played exactly like they are written out in fake books. One way this can be fixed is by adding motion at static points within a piece.

This technique is particularly effective at points where there is a long held over one or two chord within a piece.

One way that motion can be added to the example V-I lick, is to create some movement over the last C major 7th chord.

Motion is created here by ascending up the harmonized C major scale in chords.


Add Passing Chords


A great little trick that can add interest to chord melodies and comping in general is sliding into chords from either a half step above or below.

For example if you wanted to slide into a C7 chord you could either slide from a B7 which is a half step below or a Db7, a half step above.

This is a common technique used by jazz guitarists and I’ve included it at the very beginning before the D-7 chord in the V-I example.



Experiment with Reharmonization


Although most of us play the great jazz standards that have been covered by countless musicians over the years there are still ways that can make the tunes our own.

Some ways that you can give a progression a new sound are reharmonization, countrary motion, and substitutions.

When you consider how many inversions there are for one chord and all the different ways that you can harmonize them there are endless possibilites for this guitar style.


If you haven’t already begun learning tunes and making them solo jazz guitar arrangements you should have a go.

Remember this style of guitar can still be improvised Not only will making solo guitar pieces give you complete  tunes to play in front of people it is great fun will also help you see and understand the guitar more.

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What are some of your favorite tricks and tips to do when creating solo jazz guitar arrangements? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.




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Jazz Guitar Soloing

Amazing lesson...yes it's important to know how to harmonize melodies. Then it's up to us finding the right balance between voicings and single notes...

Jamie Holroyd

For sure, thanks for the kind words. Glad you liked the lesson!

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This is a great lesson because you give specific techniques and ideas to not only improve but get started with solo jazz guitar. Thank you.

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Marcello Cotugno

Congratulations on the new site, it is very beautiful and clear.

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