Jazz for Rock Guitarists - Kernel Chords

Submitted by jon on Sun, 04/01/2018 - 10:27




This is Jon Griffin, and I am here today to talk about a concept that most rock guitars probably won't know about.  If you've studied a lot of jazz you may be familiar.  But they're called kernel chords.  At least that's the way I was taught.  They're very simple.  They're just chords with the root, the third, and the seventh of minor, major, or dominant.

Since they have no fifth they’re very versatile.  They can be used in place of dominant sharp fives.  They can be used as a minor seven flat five, because there's no five in it.  It makes it very easy to use for comping.

I use them a lot when I'm just kicking back, trying out some chord ideas, some harmony stuff.  They are great for backing up vocalists.  By using only the mid and low range, you have a lot more ability to just play as you want, because the soloist is going to be usually in the higher register above you, the singers especially.  They like it.

Another thing that's good, if you've got a really fast chord progression and you haven't rehearsed your chords in a while, or you don't know all the chords, you can just play these kernel chords and you're harmonically going to be correct, without having to, you know, reach for a sharp nine with a flat thirteenth on it if you don't know where it is.  Things like that.  So we're going to start off with the six basic forms, and then I'm going to show you a little progression, and that will be that.

Basic forms

We'll start with the very basics.  There's only six chord forms you need to know, and they're all almost exactly the same with one or two fingers moving.  That's it.  There's only three fingers used, although you'll notice on the sheet that there are some extra optional notes on some of the chords.  That's just doubling either the third or the seventh.

Root on the sixth string

Let's start with an easy one.  We'll just use a six string as a root, so we got our A right here, and we'll make a minor seventh.  So instead of, you know, most guitar players will play this bar chord, or maybe they'll, you know, do some other kind of funky chord down here, depending on where they're playing.  But we're just going to do our A here, our G, which is the flat seventh, and our C, which is the flat 3, if we're in the key of C.  So this is an A minor two-chord in the key of G.  If we're talking about jazz progressions.  But you can hear how nice that sounds.  You can play with a pick if you want, but when I'm doing this kind of comping, I like the finger sound.

All right, so to make it a seventh, it's pretty obvious.  We'll just raise up the third to make it a C sharp, so it's now the natural third.  So we've got a 1, a flat 7, and the 3, so we've got a dominant seventh chord.  So 1.  And to do a major, the same thing.  We just move up our flat seventh into a regular seventh.  So now we're playing a G sharp, a C sharp, and an A.  Really good for playing bossa nova Latin type of stuff, too, by the way.  So now we have our complete 2-5-1 structure.

Root on the fifth string

So that leaves our next set, which would be on the fifth string root.  So we'll do a D in this case.  So to do a D minor seventh, we've got our D, we've got our F, and we have our C, which is the seventh.  Flat seventh I should say.  Let's correct that.  So there's your D minor.  So since we know that we've got our minor here, all we have to do is convert our third into a regular third instead of a flat third.  So we move our F to an F sharp.  So we've got our D, F sharp, and C, and now we've got our dominant seventh.  And now, to make that a major seventh, we have to just move up here to a C sharp.

So you can see everything in these chords, you can just move one finger, and you know you'll change from a dominant to a major or a minor.  So once you get the fingerings down, it's very quick.

2 —5— 1  progression

So how would we use that?  Let's say we're going to stay in our key of G major.  Typical 2-5-1 would just be, you know, you're starting with an A minor, comping a little, to D seventh, to G major seventh.  Of course it would go on from there.  You might become a G dominant seventh, to a C major seventh, to an F sharp minor seventh, and we run out of fret, but we can still get that B flat seventh.  Then years old got to figure out where you're going to come back in.  But if you're playing [music], especially bossa nova Latin stuff, you can really get some cool progressions.

Conclusion and practice

So that's about it for this lesson.  I hope you enjoy it.  I hope you get some good information out of it, something to practice.  Do that for a week or so, and you'll just have these down.

On the instruction sheet there's a link to under this video or on the website, you will be able to get a PDF that also has some exercises and the optional notes that's on there.  Those are optional, of course, and some other suggestions for how to play these.

You can also get on this PDF the diatonic scale that you can practice this both forward and backwards.  It'll help you learn some stuff.  But the best thing to do is just find some material and play with it.

Get a fake book.  Get a bossa nova progression sheet, or a jazz progression sheet and just figure out how to play along with them at slow speed, high speed.  Once you get your fingers in the groove with that stuff, it's very, very easy to just fall into that if you really have to, or if you need to, if the situation calls for it.  So get practicing.  Have a nice week.

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