(don't delete this post, this question phrased like this hasn't been asked before) I know about music theory, chord functions and chord substitutions. But more in general terms. When I ask different guitarist to play simple songs, like silent night or other Christmas/kids songs/nursery rhymes etc. They all have different chord progressions. Are they simply just re harmonising the songs playing with tonic, subdominant and dominant at free will? I mean they all sound good and different, does it just boil down to taste and artistic expression? Unlike jazz which is my main category, which uses the real book as sort of a standard.

  • If out of all genres in the world, jazz is the one where people do NOT invent their own chords and reharmonizations, it means that jazz is now officially dead. Good riddance! Now we can reinvent the whole thing by starting from pop melodies, and not some standards book. Just like jazz used to be before it was killed by standardization and real books and "education" systems. I'll call the new genre Real Jazz. Nov 1, 2023 at 21:42
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    @piiperiReinstateMonica If that's all you think jazz is, then you really need to be better informed.
    – Aaron
    Nov 1, 2023 at 22:10
  • @Aaron Maybe you didn't notice, I was referring to the OP's description of jazz as something where tunes come from a standardized book and players don't - can't? or aren't allowed to? - play chords by ear and according to taste. As a characteristic feature of the genre. Even so much so that pop tunes are presented for contrast as something where chords CAN be made up by players. Nov 1, 2023 at 23:17

1 Answer 1


You’re saying that they don’t mess with the melody of a Christmas song, they don’t mess with the chords of a jazz one? Yes, there’s some truth in that. As a vast generalisation, jazzers don’t want to play the tune, they want to do their own thing over the chords. The chord sequence, rather than the original melody is the essence of the song.

Whereas, if you’re playing ‘Silent night’ there’s not much room for manoeuvre with the melody. Some players will be content to play the expected chords, others will feel they can only express themselves by playing anything EXCEPT those :-) There’s a place for both approaches. But probably don’t book a jazz guitarist to accompany your infant school’s Nativity play!

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