Jazzing up simple chords

When you are playing along to a record, you may often find your self getting bored with the same old sequence of 3, 4 or 5 chords going  round and round. Have you wonder how to spice things up a little bit or make things a little jazzy but staying in the same key so you do not put the other musicians or band member off.

Here are some basic suggestions for you.

  • Inversions – instead of starting on the root note and playing the 3rd and 5th, try stating on the 5th below the root you’re playing, then the root and 3rd above that. There are several octaves’ worth of notes to choose from.
  • Arpeggiation – Basically walking up and down the scale depending on the time signature.
  • Rolls – Try and imageine a classic boogie-woogie piano part, where the left hand does the root-to-fifth-below bass part, and the right hand plays choppy chords in various inversions on the off-beats. Similar to a jazz technique, same chords a key but different rhythm .
  • Connecting notes – Play an intermediate chord e.g. Ab Maj – Fmaj. Why not play Ab Maj then Gmin then Fmaj. It doesn’t matter if the intermediate chord is out of key, the finishing phrase it what matters.

In addition, some songs are driven by their chord progression, so you can get away with block chords without it sounding boring.

Some songs have very little or no chord changes, and interest is provided by the riff.


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