Jazz Reharmonization Lesson

Jazz Reharmonization Lesson


In this lesson I show you a great reharmonization technique to beef up a simple or bare chord progression. It’s simple but sounds good all of the time.

Often you’ll open a chord sheet and see very few chord changes in the piece. This is the perfect scenario to use some reharmonization and add in some of your own passing chords in-between the chords written.

Precede each chord in the chord sheet with a dominant 7 chord a 5th above. So if there’s a C major 7 chord, precede it with a G7 chord (G B D F). The same would work if the chord was a C minor 7 chord – precede it with the same G7 chord.

Dominant 7 chords are designed to resolve down a 5th. So play a C7 chord (C E G Bb) and it just wants to resolve down a 5th to an F chord – either F major or F minor.

So a good first step is to preceded each chord in the chord sheet with a dominant 7 chord a 5th above.

But what if that’s not enough, and you still want to beef up the chord sheet with more changes. Well you could go one step further and precede that dominant 7 chord you added in, with another chord a 5th above that. So say you’ve got a C major chord coming up – precede that chord with a G7 chord, then precede the G7 chord with some sort of D chord. You’re basically creating a cycle of 5ths chord progression leading up to each of the chords written in the music (a cycle of 5ths progression is when each chord resolves down a 5th over several chords – see my cycle of 5ths lesson).

Now, the D chord before the G7 could be a D dominant 7 chord (D7) -this is called a ‘secondary dominant’, because it’s the dominant of the dominant. In fact you could create a long chain of dominant 7 chords, by preceding each dominant 7 chord with a dominant 7 chord a 5th above:

B7 – E7 – A7 – D7 – G7     –     C maj 7

This is an interesting sound for you to be aware of. But usually I prefer to vary the chord types – so I’ll vary between minor 7, major 7, dom 7, and half-diminished chords, which sounds more natural and less of an effect.

And if you’re not sure which chord types to use, a good rule of thumb is simply to alternate between minor 7 and dominant 7 chords, like this:

F#m7 – B7 – Em7 – A7 – Dm7 – G7   –   C maj 7

This works because you’re playing a series of ii-V progressions (a ii-V-I but without the final I chord). Instead of resolving to the I chord, the music lands on a another ii chord (because it’s a minor 7 chord, not a major 7 chord which the I chord of a ii-V-I should be):