One of My Favorite Jazz Piano Chord And Reharmonization Tricks Revealed

jazz piano lessons onlineAre you sick and tired of the same old boring chords and stock arrangements you find in your average fakebook or chord chart?

Well, in today’s free piano lesson we’re going to learn one of my favorite techniques for reharmonizing the chords to any of your favorite jazz standards.

You can use this technique to add lots more sophistication, interesting jazz chords, and harmonic motion to pretty much any song you play.

So, it’s very powerful if used the right way! (video demonstration below)

(I use it often! :) )

Solo Jazz Piano Arrangement Lesson

To quickly get you up to speed if you are new here … A few days ago I posted a solo piano arrangement I made of the great jazz standard Don’t Explain.

(If you haven’t seen it yet you can check it out here Don’t Explain solo jazz piano performance)

I promised I would teach you some of my reharmonization concepts.

This is a follow up lesson to that performance. :)

I am now going to teach you guys how I add all those interesting chords in the first 4 bars of the tune.

It should open a lot of doors for you in your study of jazz.

Since jazz is an aural art form listening is critical.

So, the first thing you want to do is watch and listen to the video below. Then scroll down for extra tips and notation of the chords in this lesson.

Don’t Explain Chord Chart

Don't Explain Jazz Chords Billie Holiday

(click to expand)

Don’t Explain Reharmonized Chord Chart

Don't Explain Jazz Piano Reharmonization

(click to expand)

3 Tips To Help You Create Your Own Chord Reharmonizations Like I Played Above

1. Dominant Chords Are The Keys To Your Substitution Highway

One of the fundamental techniques I’m using is reharmonizing all the dominant chords.

So, every time I see a dominant chord in the chart I play a minor chord a perfect 5th higher in it’s place for 1 or 2 beats.

  • For example, if I see Bb7…I’ll play an F minor chord instead.
  • If I see an A7 I got up a fifth from there and play an E minor chord

Essentially, every time I see a dominant chord I’m turning it into a II-V-chord progression.

You don’t have to think that deeply though if you don’t want to. Just find a minor chord a 5th higher and substitute it for your dominant chord….and bam!….new chords :)

(If you need more help with understanding the II-V-I chord progression or need some good chords to play there you can check out this mega II-V-I-VI chord lesson.)

2. Minor Chords Can Be Super Flexible

As we discussed in a previous minor chord lesson, minor chords can be very versatile. This is very important when melody notes don’t always fit into your normal stock chords.

So, you can add on several different types of 6th’s and 7th’s on to minor chords.

  • If you’ll notice that I play an Fminor(maj7) in measure 2 beat 1 because the melody note is E.
  • Most musicians tend to just play a normal minor 7th voicing and forget that a minor major 7th chord is a pretty awesome option too!
  • In this instance since the melody note is an E I have no other option. I have to use Fminor(maj7) in order for the chord to fit the melody.

I’m cool with that though because I love the sound of a minor major 7th chord ! :)

3.  Improve Your Jazz Improvisation

You’ll find this same “V is II and II is V concept” in tons of great jazz licks.

It’s one of the most fundamental building blocks behind playing great bebop and soloing successfully in a jazz style through chord changes.

This concept is featured and explored in depth throughout many of the cool licks in my jazz improvisation DVD The Jazz Masters Method

This is especially true in the Bill Evans, The Bud Powell, and the Chick Corea licks inside the DVD.

For more info you can check it out here The Jazz Masters Method

Final Thoughts

To get started learning any of the techniques I teach in this lesson do these steps:

  • Choose 1 tune you like that has a dominant chord in there (this will be just about every single jazz standard).
  • Practice throwing the “related II chord” substitution in there.
  • Once you get used to this sound you’ll want to use it all the time. It’s a huge part of the jazz style!

If you need some help choosing a good song you can take a look at this article on recommended jazz songs to learn.

Did you enjoy this jazz chord reharmonization lesson? Please leave a comment and/or share on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. :)

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Steve Nixon is the proud owner of Freejazzlessons.com. He is a world touring jazz and blues keyboard player and educator.

Steve is the author of Premium Jazz Lessons Elite Membership (A comprehensive all-in-one online jazz piano course.)

He is also the author of the The Jazz Masters Method DVD (A study of 9 legendary jazz piano players).

If you are a blues piano fan you can also check out his popular Learn Blues Piano DVD Course.

His brand new course \”The Christmas Jazz Piano Super System\” will be released on Monday November 3rd, 2014.


  • Gordon

    Nice one ! thanks for posting this – a great and instantly useable trick.

  • Briansmith1961

    Thanks again for great tips Steve – really look forward to your lessons.

    • http://www.freejazzlessons.com/ Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons)

      It’s truly my pleasure Brian and happy you’ve found it useful.

  • MGA

    I have learned so much from your simple and intelligent lessons.
    Maybe I am just getting older but in seems to be sinking in this time.
     

    • http://www.freejazzlessons.com/ Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons)

      Great to hear and thank you!

  • Natta

    Great lesson, Steve! Thanks :)

  • Azande “Drummin” Cummings

    Great lesson!!! I am a vibes player, what are the best 3 note voices to use.

  • Rico

    A very good lesson, being creative with dominant 7 chords, an excellent way to improvise without thinking too much. Cant wait to try this out!

    • http://www.freejazzlessons.com/ Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons)

      Thanks Rico!

  • simon

    thanks, Steve, great lesson on reharmonization the dominant chord..Do you think its ok do do this when you are playing with a bass player, as a passing chord?

    • http://www.freejazzlessons.com/ Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons)

      Thanks Simon, Yes, much of the time this will work. You’re going to want to always keep your ears open though and listen to the musical ideas your fellow musicians are playing with.