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.
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 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.
Once you’re comfortable with the basic 3 note jazz guitar chord shapes, it’s time to start applying them to chord progressions.
Chord progressions are sequences of chords that fit together in a key song.
If you don't know the basic 3 note jazz guitar shapes yet, click here.
From a practical standpoint, playing a chord progression means smoothly moving from one chord to another. While you could jump straight into learning songs, there is a simple chord progression that you should probably learn first.
The 2 5 1 (or ii V I) progression is an extremely common progression to come across in jazz music, and it is a great place for you to start when you are comfortable with your basic jazz guitar chords.
Because it is so common, this progression should be internalized and it’s a good idea to practice it in every key.
In this lesson you will learn 2 different patterns for the 2 5 1 progression that you can use at any point of the guitar to play in different keys.
One of these patterns starts and ends on the 6th string, so we’ll call it the 6th string pattern. The other pattern starts and ends on the 5th string, so we’ll call it the 5th string pattern.
Once you’ve learned the chords on the 6th string, your next goal will be to learn the chords on the 5th string.
While the jazz guitar chords on the 6th string are a great starting point, you’ve probably noticed by now that you have to jump all over the place to play a song.
In this lesson, you start to add in the jazz guitar chords on the 5th string, and you’ll start to be able to find your next chord without having to move more than a couple of frets most of the time.
Once you add these chords into your vocabulary, playing through jazz songs will be a much easier process.
In this lesson you’re going to learn the basic 3 note jazz guitar chord shape starting on the 5th string. You’ll also learn how to change this shape to create any chord you need using basic music theory rules.
When you’re just getting started in jazz guitar, learning the right kinds of chords is probably going to be your top priority.
Whether you’re playing in a school jazz band or you’re interested in jazz guitar to pick up a new style for yourself, knowing the right types of chords is an essential element of your jazz guitar playing.
That’s where the chords in this lesson come in. With these simple 3 note chords starting on the 6th string, you’ll be able to create the basic structure for any jazz guitar chord you need.
These chords are a great starting point for learning jazz guitar - they are easy to learn, easy to play, and they sound good.
In this lesson you’re going to learn the basic 3 note jazz guitar chord shape starting on the 6th string. You’ll also learn how to change this shape to create any chord you need using basic music theory rules.
Playing chords is an essential part of playing guitar. No matter what kind of music you want to play - if you’re a guitar player, you’re going to spend a lot of time playing chords.
It can be really helpful to focus on learning just a handful of chords at a time.
You’ll learn the chords relatively quickly, avoid getting your chords mixed up, and be able to actually use your new chords to play songs as soon as you get comfortable with the shapes.
The real trick is to learn chords that fit together in actual music, and are usually found together in songs. This way you can cut down the time between you learning your first chords, and you playing your first song.
The truth is that many popular songs use just 3 or 4 related chords - so if you play your cards right, you can get away with learning just 3 or 4 chords to get started playing real songs.
Make learning chords easier by learning to see the big picture.
When you’re learning to play guitar, learning the chords is one of the most important things you have to do. It is one of our fundamental skills, and you typically learn at least a few chords when you are getting started with your guitar lessons.
The problem that a lot of people have is that a lot of brainpower is devoted to memorizing where to put your fingers to make each chord. While this is important (if your fingers are in the wrong places, you’ll play the wrong chord - or no chord at all), there is an approach you can use to make it easier on yourself.
By learning how to "connect the dots” and visualize your chords as shapes, you can help yourself learn your chords faster in the first place, and have an easier time remembering them as you play through chord progressions or songs.
The ukulele is a great instrument. It’s portable, it’s fun to play, and it’s a relatively easy instrument to get started on.
By learning a few well chosen chords, you can start playing songs on your ukulele today!
Instead of memorizing a huge library of chords, and trying to use them in songs later, I’m going to take you straight to the 4 ukulele chords that will let you start playing real music right away.
You don't need to know thousands of chords to start playing jazz guitar.
When you’re just getting started with jazz guitar, it can seem pretty daunting.
At first glance, there appear to be hundreds or thousands of possibilities when it comes to the chords you will need to learn.
In reality, things aren’t that complicated. There are really just 5 different types of chords you need to learn in order to get started playing jazz guitar.
By learning these chords, you will be able to start working your way through playing jazz standards or jazz ensemble music.
Once you are comfortable with the 5 basic jazz guitar chord types, you will have a good foundation that you can use to learn more complicated variations of these chords later on.
In this lesson you will learn: