Jazz Guitar Lessons

Looking for jazz guitar lessons? You’re in the right place. Let’s dive straight in!

jazz-guitar-lessons

In this 5-step jazz programme you will learn:

  • 8 essential jazz chords that every guitarist must know
  • 2 classic jazz chord progressions which will make you sound amazing
  • The no#1 secret to learning jazz scales and arpeggios quickly
  • 3 must-know jazz guitar standards

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jazz guitar lessons

Jazz is a fun genre, but it can be a dense topic if you’re approaching it for the first time.

There is a lot here in this epic jazz guide, so you may want to bookmark the page and return to it again in the future. Trying to learn all this in one sitting will be like trying to drink from a fire hose. You have been warned! 🙂

Jazz Guitar Lessons – Step 1: Learn Jazz Guitar Chords

To become an amazing jazz guitarist, you must know how to play jazz guitar chords.

The three most common jazz chord types are:

  • Major 7
  • Minor 7
  • Dominant 7.

These chords can be seen in EVERY jazz chord progression.

To begin, let’s learn each chord in an open position:

Open Major 7 Chords

We’re going to learn the following open major 7 chords.

  • C major 7
  • D major 7
  • G major 7
  • A major 7

C Major 7

jazz guitar lessons A Major 7

 

amaj7_

G Major 7

jazz guitar lessons

D Major 7

dmaj7

Notice how each of the major 7 chords have a lovely warm jazzy sound.

Minor 7 Open Chords

Now we’re going to learning the following open minor 7 chords:

  • E Minor 7
  • A Minor 7
  • D Minor 7

E Minor 7

jazz guitar lessons

D Minor 7

jazz guitar lessons

A Minor 7

jazz guitar lessons

Dominant 7 Open Chords

The last group of chords we’re going to learn are open dominant 7 chords.

  • E7
  • A7
  • B7
  • G7
  • C7
  • D7

Dominant 7 chords also sound fantastic in blues progressions.

E7

jazz guitar lessons

A7

jazz guitar lessons

B7

jazz guitar lessons

G7 jazz guitar lessons

C7
jazz guitar lessons

D7

jazz guitar lessons

‘Closed’ Jazz Guitar Chords

We’ve learned how to play jazz guitar chords in the open position. Now let’s explore some more advanced jazz guitar chords across the fret board.

Here are the shapes for each common jazz chord. (For this example we’re going to be in the key of C.)

Major 7 Chords (Root is always on the E String)

For this example, we’re going to learn the major 7 chord shape with the root on the low E string.

Remember this is a moveable shape. You can play it anywhere on the fretboard and it will always be a Major 7 chord. The root note will dictate the tonality. (Play it on the 5th fret and it will be A Major 7. Play it on the 7th fret and it will B Major 7 etc.)

Cmaj7
jazz guitar lessons

This is turbo-powered jazz chord! So cool.

Major 7 Chords Root On The A String

For this example, let’s learn the major 7 chord with the root on the A string. (So this is just another voicing of the chord we looked at above.)

Cmaj7

jazz guitar lessons

Minor 7 Chords Root On The E String

Here’s a minor 7 chord with the root on the low E string.

Cm7

jazz guitar lessons

Minor 7 Chords Root On The A String

Here’s a minor 7 chord with the root on the A string.

Cm7

cm7

Dominant 7 Chords Root On The E String

Here’s a dominant 7 chord with the root on the E string.

C7

C7

Dominant 7 Chords Root On The A String

Here’s a dominant 7 chord with the root on the A string.

C7

c7

How do I play these chords in all keys?

Easy! To play these chords in all keys, you just have to change the root note of the chord. Just slide it up and down the neck.

The shapes stay the same (they’re moveable, remember?) but where you play the shape will determine the chord’s key.

It doesn’t matter whether your root note is on the E or A string, to change the key of a chord, you must move that shape to a different fret.

Here’s a list of all of the root notes on the low E string.

jazz guitar lessons

Here’s a list of all of the root notes on the A string.

jazz guitar lessons

Let’s look at some examples…

To play a major 7 chord in the key of D (ie, to play a Dmaj7 chord) with the root on the low E string, you would have to move your moveable shape up to the 10th fret.

This is because D is the note on the 10th fret of the 6th string. This note dictates the tonality of the chord.

Did you follow this ok? Do you understand this crucial point? Re-read the 2 paragraphs above as many times as you need. This is VITAL knowledge for a guitarist.

To play a minor 7 chord in the key of F (ie, to play Fm7) with the root on the A string, you must move that chord shape to the 8th fret on the A string.

To play a dominant 7 chord in the key of G with the root on the low E string, you must move that chord shape to the 3rd fret on the low E string.

A quick test!

Try this challenge…

  • Play the major 7 chord in all 12 keys with the root on the low E string.
  • Play a minor 7 chord in all 12 keys with the root on the low E string.
  • Play a dominant 7 chord in all 12 keys with the root on the low E string.

Once you’ve mastered this, do the exact same, but with the root note on the A string!

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Jazz Guitar Lessons – Step 2: Learn The Common Jazz Chord Progressions

Two of the most common jazz guitar chord progressions are:

  • II – V – I
  • I – VI – II – V

To learn more about chord symbols and guitar theory go here:

These are the chord progressions heard in 99% of ALL jazz music, so they’re essential to know.

II – V – I chord progression

To play a II – V – I chord progression in the key of C, you must play the following chords.

  • II = D Minor 7
  • V = G7
  • I = C Major 7.

Here’s the tab:

ii-v-i

I – vi – ii – V chord progression

To play a I – vi – ii – V in the key of C, you must play the following chords.

  • I – C Major 7.
  • vi – A minor 7.
  • ii – D minor 7.
  • V – G7

Here’s the tab:

i-vi-ii-v

Spend some time kicking around these super-cool progressions. These are standard jazz progression. Most jazz is based around this.

Jazz Guitar Lessons – Step 3: Learn Jazz Guitar Scales

The two most commonly used jazz guitar scales are:

  • The Major Scale
  • The Minor Scale

One of the most useful jazz guitar lessons you can get under your belt is to learn these two scales.

The Major Scale

For this example, the major scale is in the key of C.

jazz guitar lessons

The Minor Scale

For this example, the minor scale is in the key of A minor.

jazz guitar lessons

Download our lead guitar cheat-sheet to make things easier

It can be disorientating for guitarists to understand which scales work with which keys.

With this in mind, we created a cheat-sheet; a key and scale-finder that you can use again and again. Click here to download your copy.

How do I play these scales in different keys?

Each of these scales both have root notes which start on the low E string.

So to change the key of the scale, all you have to do is change the starting note.

Here a list of all the root notes on the low E string:

jazz guitar lessons

If you want to play a minor scale in the key of C.

  • Start this scale on the 8th fret of the low E string.

If you want to play a major scale in the key of G.

  • Start this scale on the 3rd fret of the low E string.

How do I use these guitar scales?

Scales form the foundation of lead guitar playing, so if you want to become the next Wes Montgomery you must know how to play jazz guitar scales.

To understand how to use these scales, we must understand how to work out the musical key of a song.

How do I work out the musical key of a song?

In most popular music, 99% of the time you can work out the key of a song by:

  • Checking the first and last chord of a song.

Let’s try it out:

Here’s a common jazz chord progression:

C major 7 | D Minor 7 | G7    | C Major 7

What key is this chord progression in?

  • The first and last chord is C major 7.
  • Therefore, it’s in the key of C major.

What scale could I use over this progression?

The C major scale would work perfectly over this chord progression.

C major + C major = Harmony!

As a basic rule, if something is in a major key, you can use the major scale from that key.

And if something is in a minor key, you can use the minor scale from that key!

For example:

  • If something is in the key of D major, you can use a D major scale.
  • If something is in the key of A minor, you can use a A minor scale.

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To learn more jazz scales read these lessons of ours:

jazz guitar lessons

Jazz Guitar Lessons – Step 4: Arpeggios

If you want to become a more advanced guitarist, you must learn how to play jazz guitar arpeggios.

Arpeggios are more advanced than jazz guitar scales and are powerful tools to have in your locker.

What are arpeggios?

This is really easy to understand:

Arpeggios use exactly the same notes as are in a guitar chord. However, when you play an arpeggio you simply play the notes of a given chord individually. That’s it!

Why do I need to know arpeggios?

Arpeggios help you navigate chord changes. By playing specific arpeggios over the related chord, you will sound like a jazz great in no time.

This is jazz ninja stuff, right here.

What are the most common jazz guitar arpeggios?

The most common jazz guitar arpeggios are:

  • The Major 7 Arpeggio.
  • The Minor 7 Arpeggio.
  • The Dominant 7 Arpeggio.

The Major 7 Arpeggio

Here’s the major 7 arpeggio in the key of C:

c-major-7-arp

You can use this over it’s respective major chord.

So in if you’re playing a C major 7 chord, you can use a C major 7 arpeggio over the top of this.

Any of these notes will work.

The Minor 7 Arpeggio

Here’s a minor 7 arpeggio in the key of C minor.

cm7-arp

This works over a C minor 7 chord.

jazz guitar lessons

The Dominant 7 Arpeggio

Here’s a dominant 7 arpeggio in the key of C.

c7-arp

You can use this arpeggio over a C7 chord.

How do I play this arpeggio in a different key?

As with a scale, to play your arpeggio in a different key, you simply change the root note.

So for example, if you want to play a major 7 arpeggio in the key of Bb, with the root note on the low E string.

  • Start it on the 6th fret.

You can use this method for all types of arpeggios. All you have to do is change the root note.

How do I use arpeggios in a musical context?

There’s a really simple method you can use that will help you nail arpeggios over any jazz chord progression.

Here it is:

For any chord that is being played, play its respective arpeggio over it.

So for example, if the chord progression was:

|D minor 7   | G7   | C major 7 |A minor 7

You would play:

  • D Minor 7 arpeggio over the D minor chord.
  • G7 arpeggio over the G7 chord.
  • C major 7 arpeggio over the C major 7 chord.
  • A minor 7 arpeggio over the A minor chord.

Jazz Guitar Lessons – Step 5: Learn Jazz Standards

If you want to become an amazing jazz guitarist, you must learn some jazz standards.

By learning jazz standards, you instantly become more familiar with jazz language and vocabulary.

In this jazz guitar lessons, we’re going to show you how to play 3 of the easiest jazz guitar songs for beginners.

1) Summertime

Summertime is one of the most popular jazz standards and has been performed by jazz greats such as Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and Miles Davis.

When learning jazz guitar standards, there are 3 elements you must know.

These are:

  • Melody
  • Chords
  • How to solo over it

If you can nail these 3 elements, you’ll be well on your way to becoming an accomplished jazz player.

Learning The Melody

When learning the melody its best if you can try and work it out by ear. If you can do this successfully, you’ll be developing your jazz language and ear training.

(These are two vital tools that you’ll need if you want to become an advanced guitarist.)

Try and learn the melody from this version of Summertime by Frank Sinatra.

Learning The Chords

Here are the chords for Summertime:

summertime

Soloing Over Summertime

If you want to solo over summertime, try using the E minor scale over the whole progression.

Alternatively, if you wanted to highlight the chords, try and play each arpeggio over it’s respective chord.

2) ‘So What’ by Miles Davis

‘So What’ is a standard which every jazz guitarist should know.

Here are a few reasons why it’s perfect for beginner guitarists:

  • The melody is lots of fun to play
  • It only uses two chords
  • You only have to use two arpeggios or scales over the whole progression

Learning The Melody

If you want to know how to play the melody, try and work out the melody by ear from Miles’s recording.

Again, this will help your musicality and jazz language. Try and work out the melody by ear from this classic jazz standard.

Learning The Chords

‘So What’ has two chords, they are Dm7 and Ebm7.

Here’s the chord sheet for ‘So What’.

so-what

How do I solo over ‘So What’?

As you can’t play one whole scale over the whole progression, we have to target specific chords.

For the Dm7 chord you can play:

  • A D minor scale or D minor 7 arpeggio.

For the Ebm7 chord you can play:

  • A Eb minor scale or Eb minor 7 arpeggio over it.

Follow these steps and you’ll be rippin’ over those changes in no time.

3) ‘Bag’s Groove’ by Milt Jackson

This progression is perfect for beginner jazz guitarists because:

  • It’s a more sophisticated way to play a standard blues.
  • You can use the minor pentatonic scale over the whole progression.
  • The melody is fun and catchy to play!

Learning The Melody

If you want to learn the melody, try and work it out by ear from this recording.

Learning The Chords

‘Bags groove’ is a more sophisticated 12 bar blues.

In this progression you will notice that there are more chords here than a standard blues progression.

Here’s the chord sheet:

bags-groove

Soloing Over ‘Bags Groove’

If you want to solo over bags groove, you can use:

  • F minor pentatonic or blues scale over the whole progression.

Or if you fancy an added challenge:

  • Try playing the arpeggio of each chord.

This can be tricky, so take your time. Make sure you have fun and go slow 🙂

Find Out What You Should Learn Next With Our Guitar Map

If you want to understand where you’re up to in your guitar journey you should take a look at our Guitar Map. It will show you what you ‘should’ know by now (and also what you need to learn next to move forward as a guitarist).

Most people find that the Guitar Map shows them how everything fits together and best of all, it will help you identify gaps in your knowledge that are holding you back.

(There is often just one piece of information that holds people back, 1 key insight that they need to know so they can continue moving forward and improving in their guitar journey.)

We made the Guitar Map so people like you can quickly identify what you don’t know, that you need to know next. We hope that makes sense!?

NOTE: The Guitar Map is now included in our free special report: 'The 7 Steps To Guitar Mastery'.

Want free guitar tips and video lessons delivered to your inbox?

Join over 30,000 other guitar learners and subscribe to our guitar-tips-by-email service. (It's free.)

We'll send you a series of lessons that will move you to the next level of your guitar journey.

Learn how everything fits together quickly, easily and effectively. We share ninja tips (for instant fun!) but also timeless fundamentals that will deepen your understanding.

NGAEM

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