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Introduction to Jazz Guitar Chords

"That sound! Those chords! How can I play guitar like that?"

If you enjoy hearing great jazz guitar players like George Benson, Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass - you may have wondered what exactly are they doing to get that sound? No matter what your experiene is with playing guitar, you probably know that mastering jazz guitar will take some time and effort. So how do you get started? One way to begin is learning the basic jazz guitar chords.

Jazz Guitar Chord Theory

Playing jazz guitar uses more complicated chords than pop, country or rock. Most of the chords in other music genres are made of just 3 notes, the 1st, 3rd, and 5th. For example, in the key of A, the chords are A, C#, and E. Jazz guitar adds a 7th so that you have a Major 7th, dominant 7th, minor 7th.

This can become complicated on the guitar, and so we created a number system which teaches you to create triads of chords. In our online Jazz Guitar lessons, you can learn how to adjust your playing to take advantage of going across the neck rather than down to get the note. 

Expert Teaching Makes Jazz Chords Easier

You can always learn jazz by trial and error, but that can take a long time and there's no guarantees you'll get anywhere. Is there a way to learn more quickly? Of course, and it helps to get good instruction by experts who give can you personal feedback on how you can improve. The teachers at ArtistWorks are all professional musicians who have developed methods to teach students at any stage of playing to reach the next level. Each online school contains hundreds of lessons, as well as a community of other learners and individual video responses from instructors - all the support you need to thrive at your own pace.

Listen to Martin Taylor and Bryan Sutton playing "Napa Swing" for an example of the talent ArtistWorks teachers bring to their lessons.

Good Teaching Lets You Enjoy Learning

Luckily, there are jazz guitarists like Chuck Loeb and Martin Taylor who are not only good at playing, they are also good at analyzing what how you play and how you can improve. Martin Taylor specializes in fingerstyle guitar and his lessons focus on building on what you already know. In his sample lesson on "Improvising Over Jazz Chords", he uses Dm7, Gm7, and C to demonstrate some basic principals for soloing over three jazz chords:

Using Rhythm with Jazz Guitar Chords

Jazz guitar playing is not just about using particular chords.  As ArtistWorks guitar teacher Andreas Oberg explains in his video Guitar Lesson on Jazz Comping, you need to understand syncopation if you want to really sound interesting when playing chords. Andreas demonstrates in the video by showing how just playing these chords on the standard beats can be boring and predictable:

Learning to play with syncopation takes practice with a good teacher, and a willingness to experiment. Andreas is a master of adding excitement to chords, so it is always helpful to watch him play. He is also an expert at playing Gypsy jazz and shows in How to Play a Gypsy Backbeat that you can use just a few chords to create some vibrant background beats.

Summing Up

Maybe learning jazz guitar chords still sounds complicated to some of you reading this. It doesn't have to be though. It just takes time and practice. The good news is that there are endless opportunities for creativity and improvisation for jazz guitar. So can you learn? Of course you can, you just need someone to show you the ropes! In jazz, experimenting, listening, and trying new things are all encouraged. After playing the jazz stardard "Some Day My Prince Will Come" with Martin Taylor during this exclusive ArtistWorks session, Julian Lage describes how he began to play. He says his father just encouraged him to improvise on what he knew.  Martin responds with something that he often tells his students: 

"In jazz, there is no such thing as mistakes, only opportunities."

Playing guitar is a journey that will last a lifetime, but as with all journeys - it all starts with a single step. Learning jazz chords is a great way to start your adventure.  

Ready to become a jazz guitar master? Click here for free sample jazz guitar lessons




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