Shell Voicings for Guitar - Part 3

In the previous two lessons, we learned and practiced two versions of the major II-V-I progression using shell voicings. In this lesson, we will combine the two chord patterns and apply them to the 1953 Duke Ellington hit “Satin Doll,” which is a wonderful tune to use for practicing shell voicings. 

It is important to note that the progressions in the A section of Satin Doll are primarily only II-V as opposed to the full II-V-I. This is very common, and in these cases, you’ll only use the first two chords of whichever pattern you choose. 

There are several ways to play through these chord progressions and you should decide which pattern works best for you and your ear. You can try starting with pattern #1 for the first chord chart below, and pattern #2 for the second chord chart. Doing so yields hand positions that sit nicely in the middle of the fretboard. 

Start by playing through the chords on your own to make sure you know what to expect. Once you feel comfortable, try playing along with the youtube video. To begin, play each chord once, on the beat where the chord occurs/changes. 

You can use the settings on youtube to slow down the song to .75 speed if the chords are moving too fast at first. Playing along with recordings is one of the best ways to begin practicing time keeping and listening skills, plus you get to play with a legendary band.

If you are feeling ready to add some rhythm and start grooving, feel free to move on to lessons on comping patterns and/or melody. You can always come back to this lesson to apply what is covered in other lessons. 

Our first example uses chords which are very close to this classic recording of Satin Doll performed by the Duke Ellington Orchestra with eight measures of introduction before the chord progression begins.

The next example is similar to this recording featuring Ella Fitzgerald Satin Doll - Ella Fitzgerald and features a nice guitar intro. This guitar intro and performance is not making use of shell voicings. Because of this, you can play along with the recording without clashing too much with the existing guitar. 

It can be very helpful to have a real book, or another source of chord changes to keep yourself regularly practicing these patterns across the guitar fretboard. Once these basic shell shapes are memorized, adding the high B and E strings becomes a much smoother process. Melodic ideas can also be formulated from the basic shell voicings, as we will see in future lessons. 

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