I'm working on a jazz arrangement and i was thinking of a walking bass, brushes on the drums, some chord stabs and fills for the piano, but as for the guitar it's a bit difficult. I want to write in the style of Freddie Green. But I have one major problem, which is the chord voicings. I tried writing some but they were clashing with the bass, and I'm not sure if going higher in the fret board would give me the sound i might want. So I need advice on how to improve the voicings and if there is any other comping rhythm similar to Freddie Green I can use.

Here is an example of the arrangement similar to what i want to do:


A quick note if it helps you to answer: the song I'm arranging uses the circle of fifths chord progression.

  • 2
    The guitar player will know how to voice the chords.
    – PiedPiper
    Commented Nov 19, 2021 at 20:04
  • 2
    You'll probably get a good answer here, but you'll also find some good resources by searching "Freddie Green voicings" on Google. There shouldn't be any clashing with the bass--it shouldn't be playing that high normally. These resources may help: 1, 2, 3
    – jdjazz
    Commented Nov 20, 2021 at 2:39
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    I was going to comment that Freddie was more rhythm than harmony, but the second link from @jdjazz really makes that point better than I could. Commented Nov 20, 2021 at 6:13
  • @DaveJacoby, is that true? I know people usually think of Freddie Green = 4-to-the-floor, but I think that's an oversimplification. I know he had a distinct approach to harmony. Doesn't the second link describes specific fingerings/ voicings? I don't play guitar and can't read tab--I'm asking in earnest.
    – jdjazz
    Commented Nov 20, 2021 at 17:50
  • @jdjazz Yes, as I understand it. Roughly, a whole lot of thunk with a bit of chord tone. If both the bass and guitar are playing notes from the same chord, I don't see why they should be clashing. Commented Nov 21, 2021 at 1:27

1 Answer 1


Freddie Green had fairly unique style. He would fret complete chord voicings but mute most of the strings and only have one string ringing (mostly the D string). With the right hand he would mostly play straight quarters.

This makes his contribution a mixture of rhythm instrument keeping the beat while at the same time playing single line.

I'm guessing that this was partly motivated by basic physics: He played only acoustic guitar which is a fairly soft instrument. You really need to optimize "audibility" to be heard at all inside a large big band. Complicated chords are rhythms would just be drowned out. Staying on the D-string helps to stay below most horn parts but above the bass, so it's relatively "sparsely" populated frequency range.

The most tricky part is what "line" to play. You want something that augments the melody without clashing with the other supporting voices or the bass and also "hints" at what the full chord would be. And then the whole thing needs to fit into the fairly limited usable range of the acoustic D-string (which is maybe an octave).

Playing guitar in a big band is an interesting experience: While pretty much every instrument's part is written out in excruciating detail, the guitar player just gets a chord sheet with some vague suggestions of what might work here or not. Most important info: "play something" vs "shut up" :-)


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