In this post we will take a look at the tune 'At Last' and learn how to play though it using small chords. 'At Last', written by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren is one of the more popular jazz standards from the 40’s. It became pop hit in the 60’s and was made most famous by vocalist Etta James who added a terrific bluesy feel to the melodic line and phrasing.
Adding Extensions and Alterations
If you look at a copy of the original chart of this tune you will see that the chords are fairly standard with only a few of them having extensions that fill out the harmony. However, in the pdf exercise you will see that I have added a lot more extensions and alterations to many of the chords to make them more compatible with the jazz genre.
You will also notice that most small chord shapes I have used don’t contain the actual root of the chord. The reason is that one of our main objectives is to fill out each chord by adding to the basic harmony. A second consideration is to use shapes that move logically around the fret board in a way that creates a sort of melodic movement in the top voice of the chord.
At Last played with Small Chords:
The Top Voice is the Melody
This exercise also provides the opportunity to start thinking about the importance of the top or highest note (or voice) of each chord. When playing each chord try to emphasise the top note as much as possible getting it to ‘pop out’ above the rest of the chord. In the future when you come to play chord melodies, and on the spot harmonisation of single note ideas, the ability to get the top note to ‘sing out’ above the chord as the melody becomes critical.
And now... Practice
Practice each chord slowly getting to learn the name of each chord and how it feels under your fingers. Notice whether the chord contains the root and what other extensions have been added to it. Practice moving smoothly backwards and forwards between each chord repeating the change until it becomes effortless. Practice getting top note/voice of the chord to sing out above the rest of the chord. And finally play the whole chart.