I've recently been practicing voice leading chord scales, trying to keep the bass note within a range of 2-3 frets, playing through all the diatonic 7th chords in a scale. So ill start off in say, root position I chord, then go to the ii chord by playing the b7 in the bass, the smoothest voice leading possible is what I'm going for. The problem im having is the time it takes me to go through a chord scale, it takes me around five minutes to go through a chord scale (unless I've got the sequence of shapes memorised but that's not the aim of what i'm going for).

My question pertains to how i can visualise the chords leading into one another faster/more efficiently, i currently look at the bass note and figure out how it relates to the next chord, so in the case of being on say, a root position I chord, i would use the bass note to determine where the next chord can fit, in that case my brain's thinking, 'okay this bass note is also the b7 of the 2 chord so i just need to play the 3rd inversion/b7 in the bass'. For the guitarists out there that are able to voice lead on the fly, do you visualise like this also or do you follow the root of the chord, wherever it is and use that? Or is there some other way to visualise?

Maybe i just need to keep practicing but im worried that ill never be able to reach my goal of playing inversions on the fly if i keep using the same method, i haven't seem much improvement in speed over the last month, it's still a big mental process.

  • is a "chord scale" a broken chord/arppeggio? Feb 28, 2020 at 18:02
  • By chord scale i mean a harmonised scale, so for example to play a chord scale in C Major, you'd play C, Dmin, Emin, F, G, Am, Bdim. If you want to learn about it type something like "triad chord scales" into youtube. Feb 28, 2020 at 22:59

1 Answer 1


Visualization only helps in some cases. You seem to be a visual person (I guess because you are asking about this). As far as I know the only way to play on the fly is to have it in your muscle memory. If it really takes 5min to go through a chord scale then I think you need to write out the chords in SMN or TAB and commit them to memory. I do chord scales just like this as a regular part of my routine and go through the entire circle progression in 5 positions, then followed by the same with key change cycle extensions before each new chord, then inversions etc.

I typically do these at 120 bpm one chord per beat and that's sort of slow. That's 4 sec for 8 chords. Are you playing more than that number of chords? There are not that many voicings that sound good and are worth learning so I'd say don't stress about not reaching your goal. Again, write down what you are doing and commit it to muscle memory. Then play with a metronome giving your self a 4 count per chord, a lot of time to think and find new chords. Over time you will find that the chords are in muscle memory and you can breeze through it.

  • Thank you for your answer, I think you are right about not stressing about all of them, i may just practice comping jazz standards and let them sink in overtime. I actually wrote out a closed voicing for every inversion of every diatonic 7th chord on each string set, and while i do know them i can't harmonise with them on the fly. So i may just go to a more muscle memory approach like you say, because i dont see how converting all those intervals in my head is ever going to be a lightning fast process. Could you explain how you go over your chord scales in more detail please? Again, thank you! Feb 27, 2020 at 23:45
  • 1
    Harmonizing on the fly is hard but not impossible. Have you worked through Levitt's method? He doesn't emphasize it but there are some 3 voice chord melodies in many of his exercises. That st least gets it in you ear.
    – user50691
    Feb 28, 2020 at 0:01
  • I haven't worked with Levitts method at all but i'll look into right now. Really appreciate you taking the time to answer my question, thank you. Feb 28, 2020 at 0:24
  • I will add some exercises to it later...
    – user50691
    Feb 28, 2020 at 0:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.