Jazz Comping 3 – Chord Extensions

By adding extensions to the basic guitar voicings covered in the previous two columns on this subject you automatically increase your flexibility when interpreting songs and when comping for co-musicians. We will accomplish this by progressively layering these extensions over the already acquired cadence foundations.

Making the Connections with Ninths

Let’s start with this on minor chords. When we add a ninth to the II-chord, the typical major II-V-I connections look like this:

major ii-v-i

Once Again, there are more possibilities in combining voicings from the three systems. Explore!

When playing through these connections, compare and analyze how and where the basic voicings have changed. The ninth is equivalent to the second step of the minor chord scale; it is located a half-step below the minor third.

Turnarounds (I-VI-II-V): Let’s add a ninth on both the II- and the VI-chords. Below you will find only one of the connections illustrated; go back and figure out the other possible positions for this change yourself!

Turnarounds i-vi-ii-v

Don’t forget the other positions!

As in the previous unit on comping, let’s also show one connection with the VI-chord as a dominant seventh chord. In this turnaround situation, the VI-chord needs to have altered extensions to best work with the raised third; this means that most possible extensions added here need to be raised or lowered by a half step. Let’s clarify this a bit: altered thirteens on the VI-chord (G7) in the key of Bb represent typical steps in the diatonic material of the key; the major thirteen of G7 would be E. That, however, is not contained in the Bb-major scale where we have an Eb. Since G7 functions as the VI-chord of Bb in this situation, an added 13 would have to be a b13. This works similarly for other extension, with some exception in certain situations.

Examples with VI 7(b9):

VI 7(b9)

Example with VI 7(+9):

VI 7(+9)

Notice how the +9 is attained by raising the b9 by a whole step! Figure out the other possible positions/connections.

Making the Connections with Elevens

By Adding 11s to the minor II-chord shapes, it becomes easy to once again vary the comping sound on the now quite familiar II-V-I and turnaround connections. Learn the individual minor 11 shapes below and insert them in all the possible connections/positions of those two cadence types.

II-V-I turnaround

Check out how the first Cm7(11) chord fits with its position on the II-V-I:


It is merely a variation of the same cadence that features the ninth on the II-chord from earlier:

Same cadence as earlier

Experiment with all possible positions you can think of.

Here’s an example for one turnaround connection:


As you can see, adding more and more extensions on different chords/steps of these typical cadence connections is actually quite easy, if the foundation is in place. We will continue with the other possible steps but mostly by listing their possible extensions in the different positions. It is up to you to place the individual chord voicings in the positions/connections learned before.

I would recommend to take this in strides and to apply a new combination in the song examples Autumn Leaves and Oleo learned in the previous two columns. This ensures a deeper processing in your motor-memory.

Extensions for Specific Chords/Steps

Dominant Seventh Chords

There are two versions of extended dominant seventh chords: 1) non-altered dominants, and 2) altered dominants. The non-altered dominant seventh chord is used most often as a V-chord in major. Viewing the two cadence connections so far, major II-V-I and turnarounds, both examples would yield F7 in the key of Bb-major as a non-altered dominant chord.

Here are a few F7(9) voicings to be inserted in the cadence connections:


Use the middle finger for the root on each of these three chord voicings. Also, compare these extended versions to the basic voicings of this type: The ninth (9) is situated a whole step below the third, and at the same time a whole step above the root/octave.

Eleven’s on this step in the key are treated in a special way. It would be too much background information to get into in this column, so for now just accept that eleven’s in this context are played as +11’s by jazz musicians:


The last extension introduced in this column will be the thirteen. It is located a half step below the dominant seven of this chord example. Here are some suggestions:

The thirteen

To round out this foundation in comping skills in the next issue, we will look at some really hip voicings by combining several extensions on single chords (notice the differing terminology on the last set of voicings, more on this next time) and will also introduce one more vital cadence.

So hang in there, because, if you haven’t had any fun with this stuff yet, the pay off for all your hard work is right around the corner.