Learn To Play Freddie Green Jazz Guitar Chords

Freddie Green was one of the greatest rhythm guitar players that ever worked in the jazz genre.

Though Freddie Green Jazz Guitar Chords are somewhat basic chord forms, compared to other players such as Jim Hall, Ted Greene and Ed Bickert, his approach to building chord voicings has endured to this day.

Known as Freddie Green chords, these three-note voicings are a worthwhile addition to the chord vocabulary of any jazz guitarist.

As well, his sense of rhythm, which was often rooted in a steady, quarter-note pulse, helped to define the sound of the Count Basie Big Band, and set the bar for future generations of rhythm guitarists as far as consistency, groove and swing were concerned.

In this article, we will explore three different chord etudes written out over an F Blues chord progression, using voicings found in the playing of Freddie Green.

These voicings will contain three notes, the root, 3rd and 7th of each chord in the blues, and will be written out in a steady, quarter-note pulse reminiscent of Freddie Green’s style.

Each etude in the article will get progressively harder, so if you are just starting out with these chords or with jazz guitar, feel free to begin with etude one and work your way down from there.

For the more experienced players, it’s worth reviewing these chords in the first etude and then dig into the more challenging chord studies that follow.

Got a question or comment about this lesson? Visit the Freddie Green Jazz Guitar Chords Thread in the MWG Forum.

 

Click to download the PDF examples of all three Freddie Green Jazz Guitar Chords etudes from this lesson.

 

Freddie Green Jazz Guitar Chords Practice Tips

 

Memorize all of the chords in each level of the progressions as you work through them.

Work these etudes at a wide variety of tempos with and without a backing track and/or metronome.

Transpose these etudes to different keys.

Practice strumming each chord, plucking with pick and fingers as well as plucking with just your fingers. Or, strumming with your thumb to add more tonal variety to each exercise.

Write out your own Freddie Green chord etude over this, or any other, key of the blues.

Put on a backing track and mix and match items from each etude to create one of your own on the spot.

 

 

Freddie Green Jazz Guitar Chords – Beginner

 

The first etude on the PDF is an introduction to the Freddie Green chord concept written out over a blues in F chord progression.

Here, the goal is to focus on shifting from the three chord shapes, F7-Bb7-C7, as well as really nailing down the quarter-note rhythm as you move through the blues form.

If you want to take the rhythmic aspect a step further, you can add slight accents to beats 2 and 4 of each bar, to line up with the hi-hat in a swing feel and help give the chords a sense of forward motion in your phrasing.

 

Freddie Green Jazz Guitar Chords Beginner

 

Freddie Green Jazz Guitar Chords – Intermediate

 

In this etude, you will begin to explore the full jazz-blues chord progression, as well as add in a chord sub in bar 4 that is commonly used in this style.

You are still sticking to root-position Freddie Green style chords, but you will be moving around the neck a lot more than you did in the first etude.

Watch the chords in bars 11 and 12. Here, each chord is only 2 beats long, so there are two chords in each bar.

This might be tricky to get under your fingers smoothly at first, so take your time and feel free to work it at a very slow tempo until you are more comfortable with this turnaround.

 

Freddie Green Jazz Guitar Chords Intermediate

 

Freddie Green Jazz Guitar Chords – Advanced

 

In the final etude, you will be adding in inversions of Freddie Green chords as well as a number of half-step chromatic approach chords that fill in most of the beats in the 12-bar blues form.

Since there are so many chords in this etude, take it slow and work it phrase by phrase if you need to. The goal is to get each chord moving smoothly from one to the next, not working on getting it to fast tempos right away.

Remember, focusing on the rhythm and really nailing the time and groove will make these chords sound that much better, so going slow and playing this etude with solid time is much more preferred than rushing through it.

 

Freddie Green Jazz Guitar Chords Advanced

 

 

Freddie Green chords are a great addition to any jazz guitarists’ chord arsenal, and having a strong understanding of how to apply these chords to a jazz blues progression is also an essential tool for any guitarist that is learning how to play jazz guitar.

Explore these three etudes in your practice room. Take it slow and work through each one at your own pace. Though it may take some time to get all three under your fingers, it is well worth putting the time in to get them down and inject a bit of Freddie Green into your comping and chord soloing.

 

Do you have a favorite way of practicing Freddie Green jazz guitar chords? If so, please share it in the comments section below.



7 Comments

  1. Tom McComb, May 18, 2012:

    Hi, Matt, Great article on Freddie Green comping. I find myself playing un-amplified these days if it’s an old Basie chart, and I usually trade any 5th string root for the next-door 6th string 5th. That way I can hit my 17-inch archtop hard and get that Freddie sound. As Wynton Marsalis told our guitarist in the UWSP Jazz Ensemble a few years back when he visited: “You got to chop some wood!”

  2. Matthew Warnock, May 18, 2012:

    Very cool Tom, these chords sound great on an acoustic, big-body archtop. I agree with what Wynton says for these chords, it’s all about that “chunka-chunka” rhythm. Really gets that percussive feel going on them.

  3. Sam, May 18, 2012:

    Great lesson Matt! A big time resource for all guitarists starting in this style. The jim hall approach adds a bunch here-using side slipping and different bass notes. I also love the sound of keeping the fifth in the bass when playing this style. Great work as always!

  4. Matthew Warnock, May 19, 2012:

    Thanks Sam, yeah when you get deeper into inversions and really dig in on the rhythm you can get that steady, Jim Hall sound that really drives the groove forward, great example of taking these chords into a more modern context.

  5. Jasper, June 1, 2012:

    Hi Matt. A great resource for Freddie Green exists on http://www.FreddieGreen.org. This is a site dedicated to the analysis and style of Freddie Green’s playing.
    According to the contributors, Freddie muted out or the lower strings (or heavily emphasised the higher strings) so only 1 or 2 notes would often sound of the chord.

  6. Bruce, July 22, 2012:

    Freddie Green did not play with his fingers, he had a very percussive style and since he played without an amplifier he had to rely on the plectrum for volume.

  7. jay, September 11, 2012:

    Very nice for big band even today. I studied with Dave Koonse (played with Harry James & George Shearing) and he showed me the 3 note Green style. It’s driving for a rhythm section. The only thing I felt different on your advanced portion was F# on 2nd fret low E unless you want to slide up to end where you started-ha….nice analytical thinking. Joe Pass used that when walking bass but he didn’t teach like you do. He’d just ask if the tape machine was on & playyyyyyyyyy!

Add comments about this page