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I'm practicing block chord style using drop 2 voicing. I'm following the scale patterns in Mark Levine Jazz Piano Book, figure 19-8.

I'm using the tune All of Me for practical application.

In a passage like below where the non-chord tones are all un-accented passing tones it seems clear how to use block chords and use a diminished seventh chord on each non-chord tone...

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...this is what I'm trying for block chord harmony.

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But when the passage has accented appoggiaturas - especially on the first beat of the bar - I'm not sure if I should harmonize that with a diminished seventh chord...

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...the basic description of block chord harmonization says use a diminished seventh on melodic non-chord tones, so I'm trying this...

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It sounds OK to me. My only gripe is the part where major F goes to minor Fm. When you take the diminished seventh on non-chord tones literally there is no modal change on the harmony between the two chords. There is no change at all, the chords are the same. I suppose this is a judgement call where I can just say the first chord is F6 and treat the melodic D as a chord tone...

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Is this how block chord harmony is supposed to work?

Would this be a good treatment of All of Me?

  • I tend to agree with you it doesn't work over the F - Fm part. Does Levine require that it be a true dim chord that includes the non-chord tone? For example, could you accompany the initial D with an F#dim (so, really D7)? – Aaron Dec 2 '20 at 23:58
  • That F (maj or 6) can't be diminished - it stops being major, and sounds like minor, with the b3. Sometimes, a chord need to be left as is. I tend to play it as F6, then Fm6 or Fo in the following bar. Having been very disappointed with Levine's Jazz Theory - so many contradictions - his Piano book lies unopened 5 yrs on, so I'm not about to check what he's doing! Good luck with it ! – Tim Dec 3 '20 at 9:05
  • @Tim I too don't like Levine's book that much, his enharmonic spellings bother me. I prefer Jerry Coker's Jazz Keyboard. – Michael Curtis Dec 3 '20 at 13:22
  • @Aaron, after re-reading Levine, he only writes "to use this technique when voicing tunes, look for melodies that move stepwise." His examples from actual jazz performances are on passing and changing tones. I was misunderstanding where to use these dim7 chords. – Michael Curtis Dec 3 '20 at 15:25
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I agree with @Max that both these D’s should be treated as chord tones over F6 and Fm6 and not appoggiaturas. The durations of these notes are too long to be appoggiaturas in my book. I also think the B over the A7 in your 3rd example should be treated as an A9 with the 9th in the melody for that matter. The Real Book could have been a little more detailed in their chord selection on this tune.

The first two chords in your fifth example work well. The Fo7 chord on beat 4 doesn’t work going to the next downbeat because they’re both Fo7, you have the same chord where there should be a harmonic change. It also won’t work going to an Fm6 because of the A-Ab major to minor changing prematurely on beat 4. Also, because this note is a quarter duration and is followed by both a leap and a harmonic change it is better to harmonize it as some type of F major chord. Here is an idea I think works nicely:

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The only difference on beat 4 is staying on the A natural instead of going to an Ab. Hope this is to your liking.

  • The whole bar on Fmaj, is the only way with this song. Any hint of an Ab just won't work. +1. And I always play the A chord as A9, 'cos effectively, that's what it is! – Tim Dec 3 '20 at 13:33
  • Your point about beat 4 and the change over the bar makes complete sense. – Michael Curtis Dec 3 '20 at 13:58
  • After re-reading Levine I see he didn't say much about when to use a dim7. From his examples it's only on passing and changing tones. I made the mistake of extending that to any nct. "...too long to be appoggiaturas..." I don't think it's duration. With 7th, 9th, and 6/13th all being considered chord tones almost nothing distinguishes an appoggiatura. I guess that term just doesn't make much sense in jazz. – Michael Curtis Dec 3 '20 at 15:01
  • @MichaelCurtis There are other ways to harmonize non-chord or passing tones. You can use neighboring diatonic, dominant or chromatic chords too. They all have their flavor and work well. Regarding the appoggiaturas, you’re right about length, I guess they just didn’t seem like that to me. Since jazz uses such extended chords any note longer than a quarter is more often than not harmonized as a chord tone. – John Belzaguy Dec 3 '20 at 16:10
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    @MichaelCurtis So you’re one of those ambidextrous jazz piano players? Good for you, all great stuff to work on. On a related note to your question, look around online for Barry Harris 6th diminished scale if you haven’t seen it before or check this out, you’ll really like it: cochranemusic.com/barry-harris-6th-dim-scale-diminished – John Belzaguy Dec 3 '20 at 19:24
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With such a prominent D in the melody, I would consider the "real" chords to be F6 and Fm6, in which case D is not an appoggiatura but a chord tone. Then applying the principles of block voicings yields something like your last example:

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Having said that, those diminished chords on the downbeat sound intense in a way that may be desirable in the context of a larger interpretation. However, if I were going to choose the diminished voicings, then I would also write diminished chords in the rhythm section parts to match. In other words, I would consider this a slight reharm.

Having said that, the faster you go, the more the harmonic rhythm tends to flatten out. If your arrangement is up tempo (say, faster than about 190 bpm), then you might treat the D as an appoggiatura after all. As with so much in music, the optimal chord voicings will depend on the context.

  • I agree Max, 6th chords, not appogiaturas. I would even take it a step further and consider the A7 in the 4th bar as an A9 with the 9th in the Melody. – John Belzaguy Dec 3 '20 at 3:49
  • @JohnBelzaguy - yes, I was scratching to find an appoggiatura. – Tim Dec 3 '20 at 13:30

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