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Chuck Anderson presents The Harmonic Foundation of Jazz

Chuck Anderson

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Learn more about how harmonics support a melody with Chuck Anderson’s Jazz Guitar Improvisation Lesson Series.

Let’s look at chord progressions. Chord progressions are the harmonic support for a melody. When we improvise, it is the chord progression that supports what we play. 

In Jazz, there are 3 types of songs. 1) Key Based 2) Mode Based 3) Blues Based

We will first look into key based songs. 

I have included  2 Full Diatonic Charts – one for major keys and one for minor keys. 

Full Diatonic refers to chords that belong to a major or minor key. These chords are shown in 3 parts and 4 parts. Each row on your FD charts shows the chords that are inside a major or minor key.

The term Active is applied to the V, II, IV and VII chords. The term Passive is applied to the I, VI and III chords of each major and minor key. An Active chord is restless and pushes ahead. A Passive chord is at rest. Resolution is the effect of having any Active chord move to any Passive chord. 

The Active chords can be grouped according to strength. The Active chords in strongest to weakest order are: V, IV, II and VII. The Passive chords in strongest to weakest order are: I, VI and III.

All key based songs have a Full Diatonic core. The remaining principles are introduced to create variety and interest in a chord progression.

Take a song from a fake book and identify its key. Then, locate all the Full Diatonic chords in this song. These can be found in the Full Diatonic Charts. This is the first step for unraveling chord progressions. 

In subsequent lessons, we’ll identify other principles that control chord progressions and then move into improvising on these progressions.

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