Jazz chords

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Jazz chords

Postby Alex_Jazz » Mar 05, 2019 3:17 am

Hi all,

I just bought Jazz-Workshop for iPad and tried the first lesson called 'chord recognition'.

Question 1: Let me first ask the question: Why would someone want to recognize chords by ear ?
Answer 1: Unless she or he wants to write an article about music theory, one wants to learn this in order to transcribe a song. That means, you hear a song and you want to write down the harmony of the song.

Question 2: How are chords played in jazz ?
Answer 2: Most often, for jazz standards, you will have 3 or 4-part voicings which are played with both hands. In 3-part voicing, the left hand plays the root and the right hand most often plays the 3rd and the 7th of the chord, seldom the 5th togerther with the 3rd or the 7th. In 4-part voicing, in most cases the right hand adds the 9th, 11th or 13th to the 3rd and the 7th.

Question 3: What does EarMaster make you recognize ?
Answer 3: EarMaster plays 4-part voicings in either the left or the right hand. This is the 1st (root), 3rd, 5th, 7th played with one hand. This is exactly what a jazz musician avoids at all means because it does not sound good! It sounds like someone trying to play jazz for the first time while looking at the chords as they are given in text books.

Question 4: What chords should be recognized in order to be able to transcribe a song?
Answer 4: The first thing you need to recognize would be the root note in the left hand (bass) together with either 2-part or 3-part voicing in the right hand. Moreover, the 3rd played below the 7th sounds different from the 7th played below the 3rd. Likewise, it is also a difference where you put in the alternatives (9th, 11th and 13th), which go along with the 3rd and the 7th. This is all you need to recognize for the basic chords (7, maj7, m7, dim, m7b5, mM7) in order to transcribe jazz standards in 99% of all cases.
On the other hand, there are 4-part voicings in the left hand whenever you improvise with the right hand. In this case, the 1st (the root) is dropped and usually replaced by the 9th. Like above, the 5th can also be omitted. This is called ROOTLESS VOICINGS. These exist also in two inversions, which all sound different, although it's the same chord. For rootless voicings, see e.g. this tutorial:


Bottom line: Jazz is not just a few chords that can be built mathematically. What you learn in EarMaster's chord recognition is exactly what you almost never hear in songs or jazz tunes, and therefore a waste of time, or even worse: you train yourself to something wrong. Why? Let's take an example: Imagine the chord Eb G Bb D. EarMaster would identify this as a 'Eb maj 7'. While this is not exactly wrong, it's just never played that way. In jazz, that would be the rootless voicing of a C9.

You should program to make people recognize

the low bass voice, played along with the 3rd below the 7th
the low bass voice, played along with the 3rd above the 7th
the low bass voice, played along with the 9th below the 3rd below the 7th
the low bass voice, played along with the 3rd below the 7th, below the 9th
and so on

By the way, all apps that I know like Tenuto and others make this same mistake. Because of the higher price, I hoped that EarMaster does better.


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Re: Jazz chords

Postby Quentin » Mar 12, 2019 4:28 am

Hi Alex,

Thank you for your feedback. EarMaster is not a piano-centric app. The chord voicings must be universal so that the exercises can be used by all musicians. All instruments have different interpretations of the mathematical/universal voicings that adapt to the physical particularities of each instrument. Those are not covered by EarMaster at the moment, but it's not excluded that we produce instrument-specific courses at a later stage :)
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