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  • Writer's pictureJay EuDaly

2-Note Jazz Chords

In a previous post, 2-Note Blues Chords, I introduced the concept of reducing a 7th chord down to two notes; the 3rd and the 7th.

Why would you want to do that?

In a band situation, you’ve already got the bass player playing the root; you’ve already got a keyboard player playing chords. Playing a 7th chord that has all the notes in it muddies up the works. At best it's a redundancy with respect to everything else that’s going on. At worst it actually clashes with what else is going on.

When comping behind a vocalist or a soloist, playing these 2-note chords leaves space for the bass player and the keyboardist to do their thing. Trust me, they'll appreciate you for it!

I'm now going to apply the concept of 2-note 7th chords to Jazz standards, which is easy to do since the basic harmony of that style is 7th chords.

The catch is that, whereas with the Blues we dealt with one type of 7th chord - the Dominant 7 - with Jazz we need to deal with 5 types of 7th chords;

  1. Major

  2. Dominant

  3. Minor

  4. Half-Diminished

  5. Full-Diminished

For a quick explanation of these different types you can look at, Quick & Dirty 7th Chords.

I’m going to give you enough information in this lesson to get by, but if you want a more exhaustive treatment consider downloading Unit 4: 7th Chords from Master Guitar School in order to really understand the 5 types of 7th chords.

Additionally, I'm going to be talking about Open and Close-Voiced 7th chords. Again, I'll give you enough information in this lesson to get by, but if you want a more exhaustive treatment consider downloading Unit 6: 7th Voicing.

Open and Close-Voiced 7ths eliminate the 5th. So the essential voices are the root, 3rd and 7th. One of the results of that is that it reduces the number of types from five to four. The difference between Minor 7 and Half-Diminished is that the Half-Diminished has a flatted 5th. Since these voicings omit the 5th, the difference between Minor and Half-Diminished is eliminated. The Half-Diminished becomes a functional Minor.

For our Quick & Dirty purpose here, I will give you one position for the Open Voice - root on the 6th string, and one position - root on the 5th string, for Close Voice.

Open Voicing - Root on 6th String

Close Voicing - Root on 5th String

Each of the four types should be drilled around the Key Circle (the Cycle of 4ths), alternating between 6th and 5th-string roots.

If you don't know what I mean by, "Key Circle” or "Cycle of 4ths," stop right here and download the 5-Lesson Foundational Series.


The 5-Lesson Foundational Series teaches the Circle of Keys as an organizational mechanism by which you ensure that whatever you learn is drilled in every key in all possible positions.

It also gives you a method to find any note, anywhere, without memorizing note names on every string. That is a beautiful thing!

Since cycles are one of the main ways chords move in music, you really should get a handle on it!

You can download the 5-Lesson Foundational Series right here for free with no further obligation or commitment:



The next step is to eliminate the root:

Open Voicing - Root on 6th String

Close Voicing - Root on 5th String

  • Note: Finger the above however you want.

Wouldn't be a bad idea to drill these 2-note 7th chords around the Circle just like you did the Open and Close voicings. Try to "hear" the root, even though you're not playing it.

So...we're going to apply these Open and Close voicings to the song, Autumn Leaves. We're dealing with chords only; this is a concept we're applying to accompaniment, not melody playing.

Then we’ll omit the roots and play through the tune using 3rds and 7ths only.

Here’s the chart for Autumn Leaves.

  • Note: Default to 7th chords. For instance, in the 2nd bar of the 2nd ending it says, “Em” - play Em7.

Demonstration Video:


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