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Learning how to play dominant 7th chords can seem like a tough task for

any guitarist tackling these essential jazz guitar chords. Compared to other
chord shapes, dominant 7th chords have many different variations that you
can explore in your playing.

While these variations add color to your comping, chord soloing, and
chord melody playing, they also make it difficult to memorize all these
chord shapes.

In this lesson, you’ll learn how to use two shapes, the m7b5 chord and
maj7#11 chord, to create 9th, 13th, and two variations of 7alt chords in your
playing.

By using chords you already know to create new dominant 7th chords, you’ll
keep your practice time to a minimum as you expand your 7th chord
palette.

If you’re new to these concepts, and to applying one chord over another in
general, take your time with each section of this lesson.
There’s no rush to work all four of these harmonic concepts in your
studies.

Go slow, become comfortable with each concept one at a time, and before
you know it you’ll be playing cool sounding, dominant 7th chords over
your favorite tunes.

9th Chord Shapes


The first dominant 7th chord variation that you’ll explore is the 9th chord.
This common chord sounds great when playing in a blues context, or over
the V7 chord in a ii V I, and is an essential sound for any jazz guitarist to
learn.

While it’s essential, the five notes needed to sound this chord can become
bulky and hard to master when applied to the fretboard.
To make things easier, you’ll use the m7b5 chord shape to create
9th chords in your playing.

To do so, you’ll play a m7b5 chord from the 3rd of any 7th chord to create a
rootless 9thchord sound on the guitar.

Here’s how that works on paper to see the relationship between those
two chords.

 G9 = G B D F A
 Bm7b5 = B D F A
As you can see, if you remove the root of a G9 chord, you’re left with a
Bm7b5 chord.

Here’s how that looks on the fretboard so you can see and hear this
concept in action.

Here are those same two chords, but now with the root of the Bm7b5
labeled so you can see that they’re the same shape, but produce different
sounds with a new root.
With the above chord shapes under your fingers, and in your ears, you’re
ready to take these shapes to musical situations in your studies.
Here are three comping phrases that you can learn, work on in 12
keys, and apply to your playing over tunes.

There are also backing tracks included that you can use to practice these
phrases, as well as work on applying your own shapes to these changes in
the woodshed.

In this first example, you’ll use the Bm7b5 chord shape to sound a G9
chord over a short turnaround progression in C major.

Backing Track ii V I C Short Backing Track


Click to hear Dominant Chord Licks 1

Moving on, you’ll use two different Bm7b5 chord shapes to create
movement and a G9 sound over the V7 chord in this longer, ii V I in C
major.

Backing Track ii V I C Long Backing Track


Click to hear Dominant Chord Licks 2
The final example in this section uses both Bm7b5 and Em7b5 so create
G9 and C9 sound over the first four bars of a G blues chord progression.

Backing Track G Blues Backing


Click to hear Dominant Chord Licks 3

7(b9,b13) Chord Shapes

You’re now going to learn one of the best shortcuts to comping over
dominant 7th chords that you can easily apply to your playing.
As you learned in the previous section, you were able to play a m7b5
chord from the 3rd of any 7th chord to create a rootless 9th sound.
Now, you’ll use the same chord type, m7b5, but this time from the 7th of
the dominant chord to create a 7(b9,b13) sound.

Here’s why that works so you can see the relationship between the two
chords.

 G7(b9,b13) = G B D F Ab Eb
 Fm7b5 = F Ab B Eb
Here’s that theory on the guitar so you can hear and see how it
sounds over a G root note in your playing.

As well, you can see the Fm7b5 bass note labeled next to the G7alt sound
in order to compare the two on the guitar.

Click to hear G7b9b13 Chord Shapes 2


As you can see, Fm7b5 contains the 3rd, b7th, b9th, and b13th of the G7
chord.

This means that if you play a m7b5 chord from the 3rd of a dominant
7th chord you create an “inside” sound, the 9th, and from the b7th you create
and “outside” sound.

Same shape, two different chords depending on where you apply that
shape over the underlying chord.

You can now practice applying these jazz guitar chord shapes to
practical, musical progressions.

In the following three examples, you’ll study ways that you can use the
m7b5 chord to create a 7alt sound over dominant chords in your comping.
There are also backing tracks included with each sample phrase so that
you can work on using your own chord shapes over these progressions.
The first sample phrase uses a Dm7b5 chord to create an E7(b9,b13)
sound over the V7alt chord in a short ii V I in A minor.

Backing Track ii V I Am Short Backing Track


Click to hear Dominant Chord Licks 4

In the next progression, you’ll use a common variation of the Dm7b5


chord, the Dm11b5 chord shape, to outline the E7alt chord in the phrase.
You’ll see this Dm11b5 chord shape in the first half of the second bar,
where the 11th, G, is the #9 of the E7alt chord.

This note, the #9, adds yet another color to your harmonic palette when
comping over dominant chords, and one you should explore further in your
studies.

Backing Track ii V I Am Long Backing Track


Click to hear Dominant Chord Licks 5
In this final phrase, you’ll use an Fm7b5 chord to create a G7alt sound
over the V7 chord in a major ii V I progression in C.

When comping in a major key, you can use a V7alt sound to create
tension over that section of the progression.

As long as you resolve that tension, as you are in this example, then that
7alt sound will be appropriate.

If you don’t resolve the tension, that same chord can sound like a mistake.
Make sure that you work as much on resolving any tension you create as
the tension chord itself in order to avoid any issues on the bandstand.

Backing Track ii V I C Long Backing Track


Click to hear Dominant Chord Licks 6

13th Chord Shapes

In the next two section of this lesson you’ll apply a maj7#11 chord shape
to two notes of any 7th chord to create an inside and outside chord sound.
To create the inside sound, you’ll play a maj7#11 chord from the b7 of any
dominant 7thchord you’re comping over.
Here’s how that works from a theory perspective.

 G13 = G B D F A C E
 Fmaj7#11 = F A B E

And here are those two shapes on the fretboard so you can compare
them over the bass note.

Here are those same two chords with the Fmaj7#11 bass note labeled so
you can see how it’s used to create this new sound over a G bass note.
As you can see, the Fmaj7#11 chord outlines the b7, 9, 3, and
13th intervals of the G7 chord.

With these 13th shapes under your fingers, you can now take these chords
to practical progressions as you expand upon them in the woodshed.
Here are three examples of 13th chords in musical situations that you can
learn and practice in different keys.

There are also backing tracks with each example so you can practice
comping over these chord progressions with your own chord shapes.
The first example uses an Fmaj7#11 to create a G13 sound over the V7
chord in a quick turnaround progression in the key of C major.

Backing Track ii V I C Short Backing Track


Click to hear Dominant Chord Licks 7
In the next phrase, you’ll play an Fmaj7#11 chord over G7 to create a V13
sound in a longer ii V I in C major.

Backing Track ii V I C Long Backing Track


Click to hear Dominant Chord Licks 8

The final phrase lays down a simple rhythm, quarter notes, as you use
the Fmaj7#11 shape to sound a G13 chord in the first four bars of a G
blues progression.
Sometimes playing a simple rhythm like quarter notes is just what your
comping needs to lay the perfect foundation for the soloist.
Don’t be afraid to keep things simple rhythmically in your comping from
time to time, then become more adventurous when the time is right.

Backing Track G Blues Backing


Click to hear Dominant Chord Licks 9

7(#9,#5) Chord Shapes

You’ll now take that same shape, maj7#11, and use it from the 3rd of any
dominant 7thchord to create a 7alt sound.
In this case you’ll be creating a 7(#9,#5) sound to be very specific.
Here’s how the theory works out for this concept.

 G7(#9,#5) = G B D# F A# C# E
 Bmaj7#11 = B D# F A#

As you can see, the Bmaj7#11 chord outlines the 3rd, #5, b7, and #9
sounds of the underlying G7 chord.
Here’s how this concept looks like on the fretboard.

And here are the same two shapes but with the B root note labeled to
make that shape very clear on the guitar.
You now have two sounds built from one shape over dominant 7th chords.
If you play a maj7#11 chord from the 3rd of a 7th chord you get an outside
sound.

Then, if you play a maj7#11 chord from the b7 of a 7th chord you get an
inside sound.

Now that you have these 7(#9,#5) shapes under your fingers, you can
work on applying them to chord progressions.

Here are three sample phrases that you can learn, work in different keys,
and apply to your comping over jazz standards.

There is also a backing track included for each example that you can use
to practice these three phrases, as well as comp over with your own
chord shapes.

This first phrase uses a G#maj7#11 shape to create an E7(#9,#5) sound


over the V7alt chord in a short ii V I in A minor.

Backing Track ii V I Am Short Backing Track


Click to hear Dominant Chord Licks 10
In this next example, you’ll play a maj7#11 from the 3rd of E7alt to bring
a 7(#9,#5) color to a long ii C I in A minor.
Because you have a longer time period to work with on this chord, you’ll
use two different G#maj7#11 shapes in the second bar.
This adds movement to the phrase, while keeping the underlying sound of
the 7alt chord intact.

Backing Track ii V I Am Long Backing Track


Click to hear Dominant Chord Licks 11

The final phrase in this section uses a Bmaj7#11 chord to create tension
over the V7 chord in a C major ii V I.
As you saw earlier in this lesson, you can use 7alt sounds to create
tension in major key ii V I progressions.
As long as you resolve that tension into the Imaj7 chord, you’ll be able to
apply and deal with these V7 tension in the proper way.

Backing Track ii V I C Long Backing Track


Click to hear Dominant Chord Licks 12
Out of Nowhere Chords – Comping Study
Now that you’ve checked out these chords on their own, and in short
phrases, you can bring them together to comp over a full tune.
In this chord study, you’ll use the chord shapes from this lesson to comp
over the jazz standard Out of Nowhere.

The chords aren’t marked in the music, so feel free to print this page out
and find them with a pen or pencil.

This way, you’ll work on recognizing these new chord shapes as well
as learning to playthem on the fretboard.

This tune is 32 bars long, so feel free to break it down into two or four-bar
phrases at first, and then glue those phrases together to form the study as
a whole.

Lastly, there’s a backing track included, drums and bass, that you can use
to practice this study, as well as practice comping over the tune with your
own chords.

Backing Track Out of Nowhere Backing Track


Click to hear Dominant Chord Licks 13