EZ Street(2)

We’ve seen—and heard—how moving a melodic line through an otherwise static chord voicing yields a magical sound (“Moving Lines within Chords,” June ’05). In this lesson, we’ll delve deeper into the technique, using it to create jazzy progressions. But don’t worry, while these chords have an uptown flavor, they’re not discouragingly hard to play.

The main action in Ex. 1 occurs on the fourth, third, and second strings. Squint at the tab, and you’ll see that the moving line descends in half-steps on the fourth string—easy. The trick is to harmonize the line with higher notes. For the first five beats, the harmony remains static, played as a partial barre on strings three and two. Use the tip of your 1st finger to fret these strings for Am, Am/maj7, and Am7. When you reach beat four, switch to your 3rd finger, letting it hold the partial barre for Am6 and Fmaj7. Offering more than a hint of the Beatles’ “Michelle” and Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” these changes will make you sound like a pro.

Ex. 2 illustrates the power of syncopation. You’ve already learned the basic moves in the previous example, but here they sound livelier, thanks to the jivey rhythm. This time the line descends and ascends, creating tension and release in the process. If listeners make admiring noises when they hear you play this phrase, don’t tell them your secret: Music that sounds complicated is often constructed from simple ingredients.