Swing Guitar

Dedicated to pre-bebop jazz guitar.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Expanding Basic Chords - All of Me example

In my previous article about swing-era harmony, I demonstrated the ways to simplify the chords to the song "All of Me". But remember that simple doesn't have to be boring.

So today we're going to cover a technique I learned from Charleton Johnston's rhythm guitar book, something he calls "expansion." Here's the thing - although the song may have simple chords, we need not simply chunk a root-position chord for 2 bars at a time. Using inversions, basic substitutions, and some passing chords you can fill out the song. What's important about each of these techniques is that they do not change the fundamental harmony of the tune.

Again we'll use the tune "All of Me"

1. The Basic Rhythm Chords - Click here for a pdf.
Here the chords are chunked each for 2 bars, very simple. Bear in mind there is nothing wrong about these - and at fast tempos this may be challenge enough. But chunking the same chord for two whole bars can be a bit plain.

2. Exapanded Rhythm Chords - Click here for a pdf.
Okay - there's a lot of stuff going on here. We'll take it in two measure chunks:
Measure 1, 2 - Starting with a C6 is pretty standard. To create some motion, jump up to a C/E chord (E, C, G), and then back down.
Measure 3, 4 - Here's a standard E7/B voicing (which also works as a Bdim chord). Jumping up to Ddim (D, B, F), back to Bdim (B, G#, D), and then to G#dim (G#, F, B). Since Bdim, Ddim, Fdim, and G#dim are all the same chord and are interchangeable, we can jump from one to the other.
Measure 5, 6 - This A7 walk-up is a classic rhythm guitar trick that I learned from John Reynolds at my first Swing guitar lesson. Starting with the A7, walking up to A/C#, using diminished passing chords. A7, Bdim, Cdim, C#dim (which is A/C# with the Bb replacing the A on the D string). That C#dim leads right into the Dm in the next measure.
Measure 7, 8, 9, 10 - Here this is just a Dm6 that walks down to the E7. The other alteration is the E7 to Bb78 move is a classic tritone substitution (E, G#, B, D vs. Bb, D, F, Ab(G#)).
Measure 11, 12 - Here is an Am6 with a jump up and back to Am/C (notice it's the same voicing as C6).
Measure 13, 14 - When moving from Am6 to D7 (which would often be the exact same voicing), you can't really hear a difference, so I've added a little bit of bas movement just to clearly hear the change from measure 12 into 13. Using that kind of root-fifth bass motion is standard for the era.
Measure 15, 16 - Here's a Dm7->G7 change with an added tritone sub (Ab7 into G7). Also, here is the same walk up trick from measures 5 and 6, this time with one chord per beat. Again, this is a classic trick.

And that was just the first half of the song! Each of these tricks - Diminished passing chords, the 7th chord walkup, the tritone subs, the inversion movements - are all standard rhythm guitar tricks and moreover, are classic orchestration techniques used in swing era arrangements. In fact, you'll see them all of time written out on rhythm guitar parts on old stocks.


  • At 10:56 AM, Blogger Blue Morris said…

    I noticed you've kept all your voicings on the bottom four strings of the guitar. Almost all have the bottom note on the 6th string. Is that intentional? If so, what's the reason? To keep it from sounding too treble-y? To mix better with the bass and drums?


  • At 3:39 PM, Blogger Jonathan Stout said…

    Those are the quintessential rhythm guitar voicings. Ideally, you are out of the way of the bass player and out of the piano player's way - although once you get into the top two strings your starting to get into the horns' range. There are some reasons why this works so well and I'll get into them a post soon.

  • At 4:02 PM, Blogger Bill Williams said…

    Great resource - thanks Jonathan.

  • At 9:50 AM, Blogger newtom said…

    Mister Jonathan, that is a great explanation! I am looking for more like that, could you help me in this way?

    Thank you so much!

  • At 1:05 PM, Blogger Bruno said…

    Hello Jonathan,

    very interesting post! The links to the pdf files don't seem to work though. Are they still around somewhere?

  • At 6:11 AM, Blogger Tom Medhurst said…

    Your pdf links are broken :(
    Plz fix!!


Post a Comment

<< Home