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Giuseppe Continenza’s Chord Melody Secrets Revealed, Part 1

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When you listen to guitarists like Joe Pass, Wes Montgomery, Joe Diorio, Barney Kessel, Kenny Burrell, Johnny Smith (just to name a few), you are sure to notice there are some parts of the solo that are played using chords. In this lesson, I would like to start by explaining “Chord Scale Playing”. We’ll learn how to play chords mainly in the first four strings using the first string as a leading tone.

Using these chords in solos really helps you to get a better knowledge of harmony and changes. Many guitarists limit themselves because they just think to solo over the change or over a vamp just using single notes. Sure it is really important to have this down but it’s also really important to get a knowledge of chordal playing.

Let’s start with the basic sounds extracted from the Harmonized Major Scale. Once you get used to them you’ll find out how they fit great into improvisation and comping.

Major 7 – Chord Scale/Ionian Mode

Here is C Major Scale Harmonized using Chord Scale. The C Major Scale is played on the first string of the guitar starting from the G note (G-A-B-C-D-E-F-G). All the chords I put on it are all from the Ionian Mode. As many of you surely know, the Ionian Mode has the 4th or 11th that are pretty dissonant – so be careful.


Major 7 – Chord Scale/Lydian Mode

This sound is from the Lydian Mode, the IV Mode of the Major Scale. So in this second chord scale, we have C Lydian Scale (G Major Scale because CMa7 is the IV chords in G Major Scale Harmony) played on the first string of the guitar and Harmonized on the bottom.

This sound is really great and gives you a new note for the Major7 chord: F#, the #4, or #11, a beautiful and sophisticated note.

Believe me, it takes time to get it into your playing and to learn in all 12 keys but it will change the way you play a solo or comping.

So just start practicing one chord scale in 12 keys and made it comfortable and under your fingers. Once you do this you can start improvising and comping using this great tool. Try to play it over a backing track with just bass and drums.


Minor 7 – Chord Scale/ Dorian Mode

Now for the Minor 7 chord – in this case, we’ll use the Dorian Mode, II Mode in Bb Major Scale (so the scale is Bb Major on the first string of the guitar), this gives you the Dorian Sound and it’s a great sound for the minor 7 chord, and it gives the A note, that’s the 6 or 13.


I hope you enjoy the lesson and I hope it will help your playing as well. Ciao and good luck!

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