Chords are an essential skill for jazz guitar, and they can be a lot of fun to work on.
If you’re playing in any kind of group (jazz band, combos, with another guitar player, etc) your main job will probably be playing chords, so it's a good idea to get familiar with them early on.
To get the most out of this lesson, you’ll need to know the note names on the 6th and 5th strings.
If you’re not familiar with the note names up and down each string, click here to get started.
Don’t worry - I’ll include fretboard maps in this lesson with the notes on the 6th and 5th strings if you’re in a hurry to get going.
Instead of trying to memorize a bunch of different chord shapes for every situation, I’m going to show you 2 fundamental chord shapes that you can modify to create the basic chords you need for almost any situation in jazz guitar.
Like anything worth doing, learning to play guitar takes time.
Whether you’re in guitar lessons or learning on your own, there is no such thing as a shortcut.
But this should be seen as good news!
Playing guitar is a lot of fun even at the beginning stages. If you enjoy the process, there is no need to try to speed things up.
That being said, it can be tempting to look around and decide that you are somehow behind.
Whether you’re looking at friends who have been playing longer than you, or watching the 9 year old shredding the blues on youtube, there is always something out there to make us want to take our playing further.
One mistake I see is when people try to “catch up” by working on several things at once and trying to multitask in their guitar practice.
The idea that you can just do more and speed up your progress is tempting to buy into - but unless you have several hours a day to practice (and the attention span/stamina to match), it just doesn’t work out that way.
The best way for you to make progress in your guitar playing is to be patient, and work on one thing at a time.
Consistent practice (picking up the guitar most days) is your fastest path to improving your guitar playing.
While this may sound like a no-brainer, many guitar players and students I come across don’t follow this simple idea.
It’s easy to let life get in the way, especially when you have a busy schedule and don’t feel like you have time to practice.
When you let too many days go by between practice sessions, you’ll start to get rusty - even if you practice for long sessions on days that you do play your guitar.
This is typical even with more serious students at the college level.
They will tend to practice a lot just before an impending deadline - whether it’s a lesson day, or a performance - and then put the guitar down for a couple of days until the next deadline pops up.
With a little effort you can build a habit of playing your guitar on more days than you don’t - and keep your guitar skills moving in the right direction.
The more often you pick up your guitar to practice, the faster you’ll improve (and it will be much less stressful to get ready for your big performances)!
The whole reason we learn scales and patterns is that they are used in songs and riffs that we hear every day.
By learning your scales and being able to use them musically, you can make it easier for you to learn riffs or melodies that you want to learn.
Let’s look at the riff from Born Of A Broken Man by Rage Against The Machine:
This is a helpful jazz guitar voicing for a G7#11 chord. This is a movable voicing with the root on the 6th string, meaning that you can change the letter name of this chord by moving it up or down the neck.
Note: The #11 can also be called a b5. You might see G7#11 or G7b5 on a chord chart, but this chord shape covers either name.
On the left is the G7#11 chord shown with the chord tones/intervals used, and on the right is the recommended finger pattern.
This chord can be used for any dominant 7th (G7, C7, etc) type chord you come across.
Whether it calls for G7, G9, or anything else with a 7 or higher in the chord symbol, this chord will work.
This is an important scale pattern for improvising and playing melodies to jazz standards.
Many melodies use the major scale in some way shape or form as a foundation.
While melodies will likely have notes that don’t fit this pattern exactly, it can serve as a template to keep yourself organized when you play.
This is a helpful jazz guitar voicing for a Major 9th chord. This is a movable voicing with the root on the 5th string, meaning that you can change the letter name of this chord by moving it up or down the neck.
On the left is the Cmaj9 chord shown with the chord tones/intervals used, and on the right is the recommended finger pattern.
This chord can be used for any major 7th type chord you come across. Whether it calls for Cmaj7, Cmaj9, or anything else with a “maj” in the chord symbol, this chord will work.
Listening to great guitarists is an essential part of learning to play guitar. Hearing great players will give you ideas, inspiration, and help you develop your own unique sound.
Below you'll find a list of some of my favorite guitar players in a variety of styles, with links to recordings of their playing. This list will get updated regularly, so check back often.
If there's a guitarist that isn't on this list that you think should be or any of the links don't work for you, contact me and let me know!
When it comes to playing guitar, you are what you listen to. So keep listening to great guitar players of any style you like.
Keep checking back to see what's new on the list, and feel free to contact me to let me know what you're listening to!
Learning the notes on the guitar neck is an important part of learning guitar, but is often overlooked in guitar lessons.
This lesson is the second part in a series about learning the notes on the guitar neck.
If you haven’t gone through the lesson on natural notes, click here.
Learning the natural and sharp notes on the fretboard will help prepare you for more advanced guitar playing skills like movable chord and fill in some of the gaps in your fretboard knowledge.
There is a simple process you can use that will help you learn all of the natural and sharp note names on every string, and it only takes a few minutes a day to master.
In this lesson you will learn:
Pentatonic scales are an essential skill for any guitar player.
They are almost always a good first bet when playing a guitar solo, and are an essential building block for becoming a complete guitar player.
This is the second part in a series of lessons on the major and minor pentatonic scales for guitar.
If you haven’t caught the lesson on 6th string pentatonic scales yet, click here.
Once you’re comfortable using your major and minor Pentatonic scales starting on the 6th string, it’s a good idea to learn a new scale pattern.
Learning the pentatonic scales on the 5th string will give you new options for playing in different keys, and because the finger pattern is different these new scale shapes will help you develop new musical ideas.
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