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Lets assume we have this german church song:

Irisch Blessing Song

Which chords could be changed that it sounds more jazzy. Please also let me know the systematic behind your suggestions.

Here is also the muse score file if you want to change it: https://tmp.jung.ms/Irisches_Segenslied.mscz

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/ Fmaj7 E♭o Gm7 C7♭9 / Dm7 G9 Am7 D9 /

B♭ - F - / G Gm7 C7 C+ /

Fmaj7 E♭o Gm7 C7♭9 / Dm7 G9 Am7 D9 /

B♭ -C7 - / Fsus4 - F A7 /

Dm - A7 - / Dm - B♭6 - / Fmaj7 - G9 - / Gm7 Gm7♭5 C7 C+ /

The rest is up to you!

Ideas behind it are melody notes that are included in the chords, with some ii-V-I sequences. Use of chord extensions. Modulate to relative minor for the bridge. The feel will obviously make it more jazzy - or not. Pushed notes/chords, swing will change feel too. Just hope this isn't doing someone's homework.

Here is the arrangement, written out: enter image description here

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  • Eb dim7 would be F# dim 7 (vii dim 7/ ii) . I agree this harmonization will make it jazzier. The main weight will be depending on the style of a cool performance. Btw. I don’t think this is a homework. I’m rather thinking of a youth group or church choir. – Albrecht Hügli Feb 16 at 12:39
  • @AlbrechtHügli - I prefer Ebo as it provides a chromatic bassline in that 1st bar of E, Eb, D, Db. No great reason to actually start on root F ! This is jazz... – Tim Feb 16 at 13:03
  • @Tim: No it is not my homework, I have to play the song in some days and I needed just some inspiration. Many thanks for this idea. I will now study it in order to understand your approach. – myzinsky Feb 16 at 15:40
  • After the weekend others may have better answers. Too early to prefer this one yet. – Tim Feb 16 at 15:43
  • Can't really comment on the harmonic ideas here, but something that bothers me about both your arrangement and the one posted by @jdjazz is that they are way too busy in my opinion. More than 2 chords in a measure might be appropriate maybe 1-2x per song, but it seems to me that this is overused in both arrangements. – microtherion Feb 18 at 19:54
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Here are a few general tips:

  1. Expand the bassline (e.g., descending whole steps, moving around the circle of fourths, etc.), then harmonize the added bass notes with chords that fit the melody. For example, in m. 1 of Möge, the bass moves from an F to a C. So let's add stepwise chordal movement: F-Eb-Db-C. Now we have to find chords that work with the melody. The Db chord occurs with G in the bass, so let's consider DbΔ7(#11).
  2. Add a tritone substitution. In m. 2 and 6, the song stays on Dmin for a while before moving to Amin. That's not the best opportunity for a tritone sub, but it will still work, because the tritone sub of D is Ab, which will resolve up a half step to A. (More ideal would be to resolve the tritone sub down a half step.) Next we pick a chord quality. The melody there contains F-A, so let's use an Ab7 shell voicing with an F major triad on top. In other words, the chord will be Ab13(#11).
  3. Add a chromatic/half-step passing chord. This will work at places where the chords move up/down a whole-step. In m. 7, the song moves from Bb to C7. That's an opportunity to add a chromatic passing chord, Bo.
  4. Delay resolution. One good example of this is to change a dominant 7th chord to a sus7 chord. We can do this in m. 1, 4, 7, 12, etc. of your piece.
  5. Substitute/add chords based on similar function. For example, in m. 2, the Am would have the same function as a CMaj chord, so let's add in the CMaj chord. To sound better, let's make it CMaj/E.
  6. Include upper extensions in the chords (7ths, 9ths, etc.)

Some other techniques you might consider:

  1. Add parallel chord movement. For example, in m. 7 (where the melody is A-G-F-E-F), harmonize each note as a #11, so that the chords are: EbΔ7(#11)-DbΔ7(#11)-BΔ7(#11)-BbΔ7(#11)-C7sus C7 FMaj. The final note (in m. 8) is where the C7sus-C7-FMaj occurs, as resolution.
  2. Sequence ii-V progressions. Your song doesn't have any ii-V progressions, but we could add some and then sequence them down half-steps. For example, in m. 6, we could use these chords (occuring every quarter note): Dmin-G7-Ebmin-Ab7(#11)-Em-A7-D7-G7. This could lead to a Gmin in the first half of m. 7 followed by C7.
  3. Syncopate and/or move the placement of chords to different beats.

Putting this into action with your piece, there are lots of final products you could come up with. But one might sound something like this:

enter image description here

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  • @myzinsky, as a separate matter, if you really want to push the jazz feel, I love putting church and gospel songs into 7/8 or 5/8. I think the simple and beautiful melodies work great with those odd meters. – jdjazz Feb 18 at 20:39
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This is a standard chord progression you’ll find in hundreds of pop- and folk songs. (Pachelbel Canon).

There is not much to change here. F Dm Bb will remain the same, the chords between could be replaced by A7 but this won’t make it more jazzy. It is the rhythm and the style of singing (groove) that will give another touch to this song. (Swing, or syncopation and accentuating the off- beat.)

Not even some accidentals?

I would say this won’t even be a variation or embellishment, just a kind of interpretation by adding a chromatic approach or a change note. If you mean this: yes, you can do this with every melody. E.g. a glissando of a semitone at the beginning of each measure or a swinging change note of a semitone lower on each 4th note.

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  • Not even some accidentals? – myzinsky Feb 16 at 11:40
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    I think there are lots of things that can be changed. I've posted an answer with some ideas. Maybe we have different interpretations of what 'jazzy' means? – jdjazz Feb 18 at 19:33

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