Jazz Comping 4 – More Revelations on Extensions

In this column, we will get into compound voicings – a term that I use for chord shapes featuring more than one extension – as well as applications on the I-chord and connections/positions of one last cadence that we haven’t mentioned yet: II-V-I in minor.

Chord on I Major Key

When embellishing the one chord in major, which in the simple form is a major seventh, we have the option of using a natural ninth (9) or the major sixth (6). Let’s start with voicing examples that use a major ninth:

Major ninth

All but the third voicing should be played with the second finger on the root.

With the next examples we are actually preempting the next section on compound voicings; but more on that further down. Here are the I-chord versions with ninth and sixth:

Ninth and sixth

By once again inserting these new voicings into the cadence connections, one of the I-VI-II-V (turnaround) progressions could then look like this:


Figure out the other possibilities for this cadence, as well as the basic II-V-I’s! Since extension can be added in various combinations and on all of these steps, you have plenty of possible outcomes here. So, take time exploring.

Compound Voicings

We cannot have more than six voices in a chord due to the physical make-up of our instrument, the guitar. Often times we want to keep the number of tones in a chord voicing to four anyway, sometimes even only three. So when for example adding a thirteenth on a dominant seventh chord, it most likely will replace the fundamental fifth (5) of the chord. Especially on the guitar, this is a good thing to do. In addition, the use of two or three extensions together forces us to make do with most the fundamentals of a chord (root, third, five and seventh). One thing to keep in mind is that the third of the chord is the most important element, since it indicates the gender of it – major of minor. The seventh is the second most important.

Here are some well-used compound voicings for non-altered dominant seventh chords; fill these in for the V-chords of the typical cadence connections elaborated on in the previous three chapters:

Compund voicings

Use the second finger for the first two voicings and for the bottom row the first for the first and the third finger for the last.The name G13 is differentiated from a G7(13) in that the former includes the seven and nine automatically. Analyze the voicings that apply to find out what exactly is in those chords.

Now, let’s go to the altered dominants; fill these in for the VI-chord of a turnaround, or the V-chord in minor (more on this in the next segment of this chapter):

Altered dominants

Use the second finger for the root on each one of the voicings in the first two rows; use the first finger for the two of the last row!

At this point, we will introduce the last cadence type in this series on comping. In major we had the II-V-I as well as the turnaround (I-VI-II-V) progressions. Let’s have a look at how the II-V-I cadence looks like in a minor key, C-minor in the example below, and you’ll notice that you already have the tools to play most of the following combinations:

C minor

Combinations with basic chord voicings:

Basic chord voicings

The shapes of the II-Chords (min 7 b5) should be familiar from the chord system layouts from the first two chapters in this series. These are generally not modified with extensions, so we will only have to worry about varying the V- and the I-chords. For this, use any one of the altered dominant shapes from above and insert them in as many variations you can come up with. Play these connections slowly then, listening to the sound of each chord and change, so you can discover possible favorites in permutations. Below, you can see one possible connection:

Possible connection

The I-chord can also be enhanced with extensions illustrated in the previous chapters which include major 9’s and perfect 11’s. Experiment here as well, and start with the position below:

I chord

One last, really cool variation on the I-chord will be mentioned here; and that is to add a major seventh instead of the minor seventh. This can be done, because this minor chord is considered the tonic chord of the key and is therefor treated differently than if it were a II-chord. Especially as ending chords on minor key tunes, this minor-major-seventh chord is very effective and popular and is very beautiful in combination with ninths. Here are some voicings of this type to be inserted in the minor cadence:

Minor major seventh chord

Make sure to transfer all the examples to different keys!

The following, What Is This Thing Called Love, is a song that uses several minor based cadences. Voicings indicated should be an inspiration to try different positions and extensions.

Download “What Is This Thing Called Love”