Learn to play the 1920s and ’30s chord melody and rhythm guitar styles of Eddie Lang, Nick Lucas, Freddie Green, Carl Kress, and other early jazz greats. With chord melody solos to popular swing melodies, advanced rhythm guitar techniques, and acoustic jazz picking techniques.
Matt Munisteri is a guitarist, singer, and songwriter based in New York City. A freewheeling and virtuosic guitarist on both acoustic and electric guitar—in music both modern and old-fashioned—he credits the early jazz plectrists of the 1920s and ’30s with providing the foundation for his technique and musical direction. As one of a relatively small number of authoritative acoustic jazz guitarists playing swing and early jazz, Matt has recorded extensively and is a first-call guitarist when a “period” sound is sought for CDs, film scores, and commercials. He has performed on A Prairie Home Companion, Jazz Night in America: Jazz at Lincoln Center, E-Town, Mountain Stage, and Michael Feinstein’s Song Travels.
Learn some of the essential chord voicings you’ll need to know to start playing 1920s-style chord melody, including the three major and minor triad voicings on the top three strings. With Notation/Tab
Roots of Jazz Guitar Lessons
A Roots of Jazz Guitar subscription includes:
More than 38 extensive early jazz guitar video lessons
In-depth rhythm guitar lessons based on the styles of Eddie Lang, Freddie Green, Carl Kress, and more
More than 21 complete songs and/or solos, including classic jazz guitar showpieces from Nick Lucas and Eddie Lang
Detailed notation and tablature for every lesson
Extensive chord melody lessons, with examples from the playing of Eddie Lang, Dick McDonough, Bucky Pizzarelli, and more
High-quality video with multiple camera angles so you can see closeups of both hands in action
New lessons added every month
Get started now!Use promo code MattLand at checkout and get your first month free or $20 off an annual subscription. Subscribe to the Roots of Jazz Guitar course today for access to all of these guitar lessons and new material every month!
The Roots of Jazz Guitar Matt Munisteri talks about the acoustic jazz guitar styles of the 1920s and ’30s that he’ll be teaching in this course, as exemplified by players like Eddie Lang, Nick Lucas, Dick McDonough, Carl Kress, Lonnie Johnson, and others.
Matt Munisteri’s 1930 Gibson L-5 Guitar Matt talks about one of his 1930 Gibson L-5 guitars in this video. He discusses the history of the L-5 a bit and how he acquired this particular instrument.
CHORD MELODY BASICS
Chord Melody Basics, Part 1: Triad Inversions Learn the essential chord voicings you’ll need to know to start playing 1920s-style chord melody. Matt starts by showing you the three major triad voicings on the top three strings, explaining the difference between root position, first inversion, and third inversion. He also shows you how to turn major triads into minor triads and gives you ideas about fingering the shapes so that you can change chords voicings with the most efficiency.
Chord Melody Basics, Part 2: Harmonized Major Scales Learn how to play the harmonized major scale using all three inversions of the triads on the top three strings. Matt shows you how to make the most efficient fingering choices based on what voicing you’re going to.
ROOTS OF JAZZ RHYTHM GUITAR
Roots of Jazz Rhythm Guitar, Part 1: Freddie Green–Style Chord Voicings Matt talks about how the style of swing rhythm guitar evolved from Eddie Lang’s style, which alternated bass notes and treble strums, to what is commonly known as Freddie Green style, using three note voicings and a steady stroke. You’ll learn basic Freddie Green voicings in this lesson.
Roots of Jazz Rhythm Guitar, Part 2: Blues Progressions and Picking-Hand Technique Using the chord voicings you learned in the previous lesson, you’ll learn to play a 12-bar blues progression. Matt also talks about picking-hand technique as it relates to the feel of swing guitar, including the benefits of arching the wrist to get a relaxed sound.
Roots of Jazz Rhythm Guitar, Part 3: Passing Chords Learn how to vary a 12-bar blues progression with passing chords, including some diminished chords and different inversions and voicings of chords. Matt walks you through voicings for major, minor, seventh, and minor seventh chords in three inversions, demonstrating that some voicings or “grips” can be used for multiple chords.
Roots of Jazz Rhythm Guitar, Part 4: Fretting-Hand Technique Matt talks about general fretting-hand technique for swing rhythm guitar, including the damping (or “release”) of the chord, so you can feel the end of the notes as well as the beginning.
Roots of Jazz Rhythm Guitar, Part 5: Blues in Bb Matt plays three choruses of a blues in Bb at an easy tempo, so you can play along with him.
Eddie Lang’s Rhythm Style Eddie Lang’s style of rhythm guitar predates the swing rhythm sound of Freddie Green and others. His style used bigger chords as well as alternated bass notes and treble strums. In this lesson you’ll learn some of Eddie’s favorite voicings and how he played them, alternating the bass and treble and adding some chromatic slides and upstrokes.
“Singin’ the Blues” Accompaniment Matt plays and sings the early jazz standard “Singin’ the Blues” as a demonstration of ways you can introduce some early jazz elements into a song’s performance. Matt’s version employs bass runs, single-note lines, and chordal fills, all of which are hallmarks of the accompaniment styles of early jazz guitarists such as Eddie Lang and Nick Lucas.
Roots of Jazz Rhythm Guitar, Part 6: Diminished Chords Learn how to use diminished chords to get between different inversions of a major chord. Matt shows you how to use passing diminished chords on the bridge of “Honeysuckle Rose” and gives you examples of using diminished chords on three choruses of a blues in Bb.
Roots of Jazz Rhythm Guitar, Part 7: Picking-Hand Feel Matt gives you more advice about the different ways of playing the basic swing rhythm: for example, the difference between putting emphasis on the first and third beats or the second and fourth, keeping your wrist loose, etc.
MORE CHORD MELODY VOICINGS
More Chord Melody Voicings, Part 1: Triads on the Middle Strings You’ve already learned the closed-voice triad voicings on the top three strings. In this lesson you’ll learn them on the second, third, and fourth strings, starting with root-position voicings in the key of F. Matt also shows you how to take a major triad voicing and make it minor, diminished, seventh, major seventh, etc.
More Chord Melody Voicings, Part 2: I–V7–I Licks Learn some cool ways to move between the I chord and the V chord using some of the triad voicings you’ve learned on the top three strings.
More Chord Melody Voicings, Part 3: Whole-Tone Voicings Matt shows you one of his favorite voicings, which can be used in different ways. First he shows it to you as the third, seventh, and ninth of a C9 chord, and then shows you how you can use it in other contexts, including as a “whole tone” voicing. It has a very 1920s sound and was often used by Eddie Lang, Nick Lucas, and other guitarists of the period.
Bye Bye Blues Learn a chord melody arrangement of “Bye Bye Blues,” a staple of traditional jazz and early 1920s music. Matt starts by going through the voicings you’ll use to play the arrangement, showing you specific fingerings that will help you move from chord to chord smoothly. He also shows you some different rhythmic ideas you can try with the picking hand when you’re playing melody notes that last for a full measure or two.
Whispering The jazz standard “Whispering,” first published (and recorded by Paul Whiteman) in 1920 has a very 1920s sound, with some characteristic harmonic movement. You’ll learn a chord melody version of “Whispering” in the key of C in this lesson. You’ll also learn some cool 1930s-style chord-melody variations that feature contrapuntal voice movement and chord substitution.
Picking the Guitar Nick Lucas’s instrumental tour de force “Picking the Guitar,” recorded in 1922, is one of the most important songs in the early jazz guitar canon. “Picking the Guitar,” along with another tune recorded by Lucas at the same time, “Teasing the Frets,” set a template for guitar playing that carried on through the music of Eddie Lang and even the Hot Club of France. Lang and Django Reinhardt shared a similar stylistic quality with Lucas in their use of picking-hand downstrokes, and “Picking the Guitar,” in addition to being a great tune to play, is a study in using downstrokes.
I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire” was written in 1938 and was a big hit for the Ink Spots. It’s a great tune for practicing sliding inversions when playing chord melody. Matt starts by singing it through so you get a sense of the melody and basic chords. Then he starts breaking down his chord melody version of the tune, which is in the key of F and includes some phrases with cool internal movement, a couple of dissonant Dick McDonough-style licks, and a chromatic descending line under the bridge melody.
April Kisses Eddie Lang recorded his guitar showpiece “April Kisses” on April 1, 1927. Although he’s credited as the writer, nobody really knows where it came. Matt shows you how Lang played it and gives you ideas about playing variations and making this “rhapsodic meditation” your own.
Honeysuckle Rose Matt uses the jazz standard “Honeysuckle Rose” to talk about song form. He tells you how to quickly communicate a song’s form to fellow musicians and then walks you through the basic form of “Honeysuckle Rose,” playing rhythm and singing the melody. Then you’ll learn a chord melody version of “Honeysuckle Rose” inspired by Dick McDonough and Bucky Pizzarelli.
Somebody Loves Me The 1920s jazz classic “Somebody Loves Me” was written by George Gershwin, Ballard MacDonald, and Buddy DeSilva and was a hit for the Paul Whiteman Orchestra and Ukulele Ike. It has an unusual chord structure, so Matt starts by singing and playing rhythm once through the song to give you a sense of the melody and basic chord progression. Then you’ll learn a chord melody arrangement of “Somebody Loves Me” that uses the Alan Reuss lick you learned in “Honeysuckle Rose” and has as some cool contrary motion on the bridge.
Fussy Mabel In this lesson, you’ll learn a single-note solo played by guitarist Bernard Addison, who was born in 1905 and played with a lot of the greats of early jazz, including Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, Fletcher Henderson, Coleman Hawkins, and Jelly Roll Morton, whose 1930 recording of “Fussy Mabel” this solo comes from. Addison was primarily a rhythm player, but his 1930s recordings with Morton included a lot of solos. He had a huge sound, and an incredible rhythmic facility that allowed him to match the kind of phrasing Armstrong was doing.
I’ll See You In My Dreams The jazz classic “I’ll See You In My Dreams” was written in 1924 by Isham Jones and Gus Kahn. Rather than an AABA format it has two 16-bar halves, the second of which has a harmonic twist that introduces a bit of pathos to the song. Matt starts by playing and singing it through so you get a sense of the overall harmonic content and melody. Then he shows you a chord melody version “I’ll See You In My Dreams” that includes some cool substitutions and contrary motion.
Teasing the Frets The early jazz guitar instrumental classic “Teasing the Frets” was written by Ralph Colicchio and first recorded by Nick Lucas in 1922. It’s a guitar rag played with the plectrum and is the first blues ever recorded on the guitar as well as the first minor blues ever recorded. Lucas recorded it a number of times and always played it differently, so the version you’ll learn here includes Matt’s favorite passages from Lucas as well as some of his own ideas. Matt walks you through all three parts phrase by phrase, giving you fingering and picking suggestions and a few variations to try.
Pennies from Heaven One of the most widely performed standards in the great American songbook, “Pennies from Heaven” is also the basis for numerous bebop tunes and instrumentals. After playing and singing the song through, Matt shows you how to construct a chord-melody version of “Pennies from Heaven” in the key of C. He includes some chord passages with internal movement and a few harmonic variations.
DYAD RHYTHM There are times when you’re playing with a band, especially if you’re playing an amplified archtop guitar, that the sound of full chords is too much. In this lesson Matt shows you a style of rhythm he’s developed that involves playing two-note chords, or dyads. He uses “Pennies from Heaven” as an example of dyad rhythm, explaining which notes of the chord are essential to include in the dyad, and walking you through the dyad voicings he uses to play “Pennies from Heaven.”
TURNAROUNDS In this lesson, you’ll learn some cycles of chords that can be used as intros, endings, and turnarounds between sections of a song. Matt starts with the common iii–Vi–ii–V progression, explaining the basic progression and giving you a few examples of iii–Vi–ii–V turnarounds in the keys of F and Eb. Next he shows you the common I–I7–IV–iv turnaround often used as an ending by people like Eddie Lang and Nick Lucas. Then he goes on to cover turnarounds with a diminished chord substituted for the VI, both a diminished chord built on the root and one a half step above the root. Finally, he shows you how, once you’ve learned a number of turnarounds, you can use them to play solos on “rhythm changes” (the chords to “I Got a Rhythm”), which is used for many songs.
MORE JAZZ SONGS
Ain’t Misbehavin’ Fats Waller and Andy Razaf’s “Ain’t Misbehavin’” is a jazz classic and is essential to know if you play any style of jazz. You’ll learn it in the key of Eb, where it’s often played, which means that you’ll use a lot of voicings with the melody on the second string instead of the first string. Matt starts by singing it through so you can hear the melody and the basic chord progression. Then he shows you a chord melody arrangement of the whole song.
Savoy Blues In 1927, Louis Armstrong featured guitarist Lonnie Johnson on his Hot Five recording of “Savoy Blues.” The recording includes a section where the rest of the band drops out, leaving Johnson and Johnny St. Cyr to play a 12-bar blues guitar duet. In this lesson, you’ll learn St. Cyr’s rhythm part and Johnson’s solo.
Exactly Like You “Exactly Like You” is a well-known tune from the swing and Gypsy jazz repertoire. It’s in the key of C and has a distinctive melody, featuring a phrase of descending parallel fourths over the I chord and then the II7. Matt starts by singing it through so you can hear the melody and the basic chord progression. Then he shows you a chord melody arrangement of “Exactly Like You,” a basic version as well as some variations with internal movement.
Tiptoe Through the Tulips Nick Lucas’s biggest hit was undoubtedly his 1929 recording of “Tiptoe Through the Tulips.” Matt starts by singing and playing the song, showing you the chords he uses to back up the melody. Lucas’s solos on “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” combine the melody with arpeggios and some of his odd distinctive flourishes. The solo you’ll learn here is a combination of some of Matt’s favorite Lucas licks and a few of his own. The bridge is more of a chord melody solo and includes a couple of strange harmonic choices typical of Lucas’s playing.
Blue Guitar Stomp “Blue Guitar Stomp” is an early jazz/blues guitar tune recorded by Clifford Hayes’s Louisville Stompers in 1927 with Cal Smith on guitar. Smith played it on tenor guitar, but it works just as well on standard guitar, although there are some tricky fingerings. Matt walks you through the first two choruses Smith played, showing you the fingerings he uses to match Smith’s phrasing.
Chinatown The jazz standard “Chinatown” is popular among traditional jazz, Gypsy jazz, early swing, and Western swing musicians. “Chinatown, My Chinatown” was written in 1906 and became a jazz classic when Louis Armstrong recorded it in the early 1930s. It’s usually played at a very fast tempo, and the chord melody arrangement you’ll learn here includes some subtle things that you can still play when the tempo heats up.
Lang Licks and “Got Everything But You”You’ve learned about some aspects of Eddie Lang’s rhythm style, but there are some key things that Eddie Lang does in his single-note lines that make his playing distinctive. Matt shows one of his signature runs, along with some variations, all of which lead into the third of the chord, often in the key of D or Eb. You can hear this very clearly on his recording with singer Alma Rotter of “Got Everything But You,”which includes a solo where Lang plays a wild version of the lick. Matt plays and sings “Got Everything But You” and then shows you Lang’s solo.
Memories of You The beautiful ballad “Memories of You” was written in 1930 by pianist Eubie Blake and lyricist Andy Razaf. In his arrangement, Matt plays the melody of the A part primarily on the third string, with voicings on the lower strings of the guitar, as opposed to most of the other chord melody arrangements you’ve learned so far, which have put the melody on the first string. The bridge moves up into the upper octave with voicings that will be more familiar from previous lessons.
Guitar Blues Eddie Lang and Lonnie Johnson’s 1929 recording of “Guitar Blues” is one of the pivotal early jazz guitar tunes. Lonnie Johnson is the primarily soloist, with Lang playing some beautiful backup and a couple of simple choruses. It’s a blues in the key of D, and Johnson takes numerous choruses. You’ll learn his intro and four of his first five choruses.
Happy Feet “Happy Feet” is a favorite of 1920s hot-jazz aficionados, and was originally recorded by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra with Bing Crosby. It’s in the key of Eb, but starts on the relative minor of Eb: C minor. Matt’s chord melody arrangement of “Happy Feet” requires more pick control than some arrangements, with chord voicings that don’t move around as much, but you’ll need to be careful which strings you’re hitting with your pick in order to bring out the melody.
A Little Love, A Little Kiss Eddie Lang’s solo guitar piece “A Little Love, A Little Kiss” was written in the first decade of the 20th century by the Italian composer Lao Silesu. Matt’s version is based on Lang’s but has evolved somewhat since he first learned it 20 years ago or so. The piece is played rubato, and is a reflection of Lang’s European background more than the blues tradition. Matt talks about playing rubato, using the intro to the tune to demonstrate and then walks you through his arrangement of “A Little Love, A Little Kiss.”
I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter The 1930s jazz standard “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter” was popularized by Fats Waller. It’s often played at a fast tempo, but Fats recorded it at a medium tempo, which is reflected in Matt’s chord-melody arrangement of the song. In addition to a basic chord-melody arrangement, Matt shows you some idiomatic 1920s and ’30s chord-melody style variations with a lot of internal movement.
Chicken à la Swing: Melody Guitar A and B PartsThis is the first installment in a three-part lesson on the classic guitar duet “Chicken à la Swing,” written by Dick McDonough and recorded in 1937 by McDonough and Carl Kress. You’ll learn both guitar parts to all five sections (and intro) of the tune, starting with the melody part, which was played by Dick McDonough. In this installment of the lesson, Matt shows you the intro, A part, and B part.
Chicken à la Swing: Melody Guitar C and D Parts The C section of “Chicken à la Swing” is in the key of F, and Dick McDonough’s melody part consists of single-note lines. It’s a short eight-bar part that is repeated with minor variations. After the C part, there’s a two-bar interlude where the tempo abruptly comes down to about half time, and the fourth part continues at the slower tempo, with a series of ascending thirds and some string bends up the neck. After the D section, there’s a repeat of the A section, followed by the intro, with a two-bar ending.
Chicken à la Swing: Carl Kress’s Part In this lesson, you’ll learn Carl Kress’s guitar part to “Chicken à la Swing,” an accompaniment to Dick McDonough’s melody part, but not exactly a rhythm guitar part, as Kress plays bass lines and counter melodies as well as chords.
Fascinating Rhythm “Fascinating Rhythm” is a Gershwin song from the 1924 musical “Lady Be Good” and was made famous by Cliff Edwards and Fred Astaire. It’s rhythmically challenging, harmonically complex, and is often played at a fast tempo. Matt starts by whistling the melody while playing rhythm so you can hear the basic chord progression with the melody. Then he walks you through his arrangement of the tune, which features some banjo-style passages. He finishes by giving you advice on picking technique.
Wabash Blues The song “Wabash Blues” was popular with country and early jazz musicians, with recordings by the Delmore Brothers and Bob Wills as well as Duke Ellington and Sidney Bechet, among others. Matt’s chord melody arrangement “Wabash Blues” is centered in 1930s-style jazz, with some cool contrary motion lines and different ways to fill in the melody when a note is held for a bar or more.
Roots of Jazz Source Material
Check out these songs and guitarists featured in the Roots of Jazz Guitar course.