At some point in your jazz guitar playing career, someone is going to ask you to use something called "rootless voicings" for your chords.
This is especially true if you're playing in a jazz ensemble or small group at the high school or college level.
(If you're playing professionally, you probably already know what rootless voicings are, how to use them, and when to use them in your playing.)
The theory here is that if you're playing the root as a part of your chord, it's an unnecessary note because the bass player is playing the root as a part of their bass line.
While I don't 100% agree with this idea as a fundamental rule, it's still important for you to learn how to play these rootless chords.
You want to be able to do what your director/bandleader/etc asks you to do - it's your job as the guitar player, and they are likely hearing things out front that you are not hearing from your seat by the amplifier.
By dropping off the root from your basic jazz guitar chords you open up new possibilities for color, and free up your hands for simpler "grips" on your chords.
Even when you're not asked to, experiment with using these chords to see what they sound like in a playing situation.
Eventually, you want to be able to decide whether or not to include the root at the bottom of your chord based on the situation (song, style, band, soloist preferences).
Major 7th arpeggios are an important skill for any jazz guitar player to have.
Practicing these arpeggio patterns will help you improve your technique in both hands, develop ideas for improvisation, and learn the notes on the guitar neck.
You are also training your ears and fingers to find notes that are a part of the major 7th chord - so when you see one written on the page (or recognize the sound when you hear it), your fingers know what to do already.
Whether you're playing blues, rock, country, hip hop, or jazz - the minor pentatonic scale is going to be a helpful tool for you to have at your disposal.
This is a foundational pattern that appears in many styles of music from around the world, and opens the door for learning new techniques and improving your guitar playing skills.
In minor keys, the minor pentatonic scale is going to be your best bet for improvisation most of the time - at least as a starting point.
For many styles of music, these patterns make up 80-90% of the material you need for playing solos.
Once you have your pentatonic shapes down cold, they will also give you a framework you can use to easily learn your other minor scales on top of.
Adding an extra note on the 2nd string is a good way to add some color to your fundamental jazz guitar chords.
For our purposes, we are going to call these notes color tones
While the fundamental chords give you a really clean representation of the jazz chord, adding color tones gives you more control over the sound, more ability to play specific chords that pop up in your music, and make playing chords a lot more fun.
The major pentatonic scales are an important building block for playing melodies and improvising solos on the guitar.
These patterns are important for all styles of music, and especially helpful when you’re learning to play jazz guitar.
These scales can be a helpful go-to source for material when you are improvising on a major blues progression, or with other progressions that stick mostly to a major key.
To get the most out of this lesson, you’ll want to know the notes along each of the guitar strings. If you’re not comfortable with that yet, click here to get started.
If you’re in a hurry to get these scales under your fingers and playable, don’t worry! I’ll include a fretboard map here to show you what you need to know.
The pentatonic scales are helpful for a couple of reasons:
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 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!