How To Play Minor Blues Chord Changes On Guitar
When learning how to play jazz guitar, one of the most common chord progressions that you will encounter are Minor Blues Chord Changes.
A close relative to the Major Blues Progression that many of us are familiar with, the Minor Blues is a darker, more modal sounding version of the 12-bar form that has been a favorite improvisational vehicle for great jazzers such as John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie and Bill Evans.
In today’s lesson, we’ll be exploring three chord etudes over the Minor Blues chord progression that will help get the sound of these changes in your ears, while putting some fun and important chord shapes into your fingers at the same time.
Practicing Minor Blues Chord Changes
Besides learning how to play these three etudes, and applying some or all of these chords and chord concepts to your own playing, there are a number of ways that you can practice these exercises in the woodshed to ensure that you get the most out of each chord, harmonic concept and substitution.
Here are some of my favorite ways to practice Minor Blues Chord Etudes.
- Learn each etude in C minor at a number of different tempos
- Alter the rhythm of each etude to focus on building rhythmic vocabulary and diversity
- Sing the root of each chord as you play through the progression
- Transpose any or all etudes into different keys around the neck
- Put on a backing track and comp along using only voicings taken from these etudes
Minor Blues Chord Changes Etude 1 – 3-Note Chords
In this first chord etude over the Minor Blues progression, I focused on using 3-note chords to comp over the entire tune.
Over the first three bars, I focused on using fourth chords, chords that are built by stacking intervals of a 4th.
Then when I arrived at the Gm7b5-C7alt chords in bar four, I switched to rootless voicings, using common chord fingerings with the roots removed to keep them to the 3-note system.
Both fourth chords and rootless voicings are commonly used chord shapes in the jazz guitar idiom, and therefore they are worth exploring further in the practice room.
Over the middle-four bars of the tune, I started by moving between an Ab and Bb triad over the Fm7 chord, imply Fm13 without using root-position chords.
Playing major triads from the b3 and 4 of any m7 chord is a great way to use 3-note chords to properly outline the sound of that chord, while allowing you to quickly move between shapes as you move around the neck.
In the second half of the middle-four bars I switched back to fourth chords over Cm7, only this time ones that started on the root and 9th of the underlying chord.
To finish the etude off, I dug into more rootless chords in bars 9, 10 and 12, and returned to my old favorites fourth-chords in bar 11.
Using 3-note chords will not only sound good over a minor blues progression, but it will allow you to quickly and easily move between chord shapes as you navigate the changes, especially at faster tempos.
Minor Blues Chord Changes Etude 2 – Duo Guitar Chords
The second etude focuses on Drop 2 chords, with two Drop 2 and 4 chords thrown into the mix in bar 12.
Drop 2 Chords are essential learning for any jazz guitarist, and so when I am working on new tunes I always make sure to cover my bases by spending time on these commonly used voicings.
One of the items in this etude that is worth studying further is the chord movement that happens in bars 1, 2, 5 and 6. Here, where there is normally a static m7 chord, I have inserted some movement in the middle and lower voices of those chords.
Moving between m, mMaj7, m7 and m6 over a static m7 chord is a great way to add movement to your chords, and it is a commonly used part of the jazz guitar chord vocabulary.
So, it is definitely worth looking at further in your own practicing.
Minor Blues Chord Changes Etude 3 – 3 to 9 Chords
The last minor blues chord etude uses one of my favorite chordal concepts, 3 to 9 chords.
Here, you will be playing chords that use the 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th of each underlying change in the Minor Blues progression.
Doing so will allow you to use chords you may already know, such as Ebmaj over Cm7 to produce Cm9, in order to expand your harmonic vocabulary without having to learn any new shapes.
Check this concept out, as well as the iiim7-Vi7 iim7-V7 of Ab subs in bars 7 and 8, as both will expand your harmonic concept as well as put some fun changes under your fingers at the same time.
Do you have a question about these Minor Blues Chord Changes studies for jazz guitar? Post your thoughts in the comments section below.