Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting/Guitar Passing Chords


Hello Professor Dowdell,
I'm a 51 y/o guitarist & songwriter. I'd like to expand my chordal songwriting repertoire and hae become interested in learning more about passing chords. I've been writing songs, singing and playing guitar, bass & drums for about 35 years now and am mostly musically illiterate. I don't know how to read or write notation or tab and have never desired to do so but I have 'picked up' a few things lately like finaly understanding the 'CAGED' system.

I have bee unable to find anything on the net - at least anything that makes sense to me - as to a/the 'rule' for determining or finding passing chords other than using a diminished 7th. An example i found on the net: C Am F G - then insert an Abdim7 between the C & Am... to me it sounds horrible! Is there a chord chart showing all the possible passing chords based on the chord your moving from? I hope that made sense!
Thanks for any help!

Hello Jim and thank you for contacting me through

Try using just a normal 7th chord a half step above or below the next chord to be played. This can be played as 16th notes, or slower as quarter notes.

Use your ear to make adjustments to your playing. Sometimes the side-step chord (passing chord) sounds better as a minor, or even a diminished, but most often it sounds best as a normal 7th.

Thanks for the interest,

D C DowDell
Professor of Music
A Passion for Jazz!
studio: (619) 855-2069

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D C DowDell


D C DowDell will answer questions about Jazz improvisation, composition, chord voicing, scales and modes, practice techniques and ear training. Professor DowDell also enjoys discussions on Jazz musicology and the evolution of style.

D C DowDell is a professional Jazz pianist/composer who currently teaches online Jazz studies at A Passion for Jazz!. Professor DowDell has been teaching music for over 30 years at 2 major universities, several community colleges as well as accepting students for private study.


American Federation of Musicians
National Music Teachers Association
International Association of Jazz Educators

Bachelors of Music Education from UCLA
Masters of Music Composition from UNT

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