Jazz improvisation for guitar often becomes more complicated than it really needs to be.
For some students, even learning how to improvise along with a blues progression can be a difficult thing to do.
Both students and teachers dive deep into the theory aspect of soloing, and get stuck thinking about what they are going to play instead of using their ears and creating interesting melodies.
One reason for this is that traditional theory doesn’t apply to the blues in a literal way, so students have to learn the theory in traditional terms, and then learn all of the exceptions that apply to the blues.
This way, you end up having to learn, unlearn, and relearn your theory - just to play a blues solo on the blues. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be this complicated.
Getting A Good Sound
Getting a good sound for jazz on guitar is a combination of your equipment, settings on your electronics, and you as the player.
If you want to sound good playing jazz, you need to listen to great jazz guitar players.
Spend some time figuring out what you can do to match the sound of guitarists like Barney Kessel, Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, and Jim Hall for starters.
Your equipment also plays a part in the sound you create with it.
Having the right strings and picks, the guitar and amplifier you use, and knowing how to adjust your tone and volume settings can all make a big difference.
Basic 2 5 1 Chords For Jazz Guitar
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.
Basic Comping Rhythms For Jazz Guitar
When I started learning jazz guitar, I pretty much only worked on learning chords.
I had a great teacher who had a pretty “old school” approach.
Lots of exercises with different chords, finding them all over the neck so you always had an option for your next chord.
I got really good at sight reading chords - and the kind of charts you would get in a jazz band.
Traditional Comping Approach
He was also very traditional in his approach to accompaniment, which is the guitar players main job in a jazz band - “4 to a bar” playing where you strum once on each beat.
This worked great for me for a long time. I mostly played guitar in jazz band, so that style worked perfectly in most of the situations I encountered.
I started getting hired for groups around town, playing for weddings, events, and pit orchestras for musical productions as a high school kid.
Eventually I Needed Something Different
Once I got to college though, I started encountering situations where this 4 to a bar style accompaniment wasn’t working as well.
And as I listened to a wider variety of jazz music, I noticed that the guitar was sometimes doing all kinds of different rhythm patterns behind melodies and soloists.
I Learned A Lot About Different Comping Styles
Over time, I worked with several different jazz guitar teachers. I would book a lesson with anyone I could as they came through town, or sometimes I would travel across the state to meet with a great teacher for an hour.
Through these teachers and my university professors, I was able to identify some general rules about accompaniment that helped me improve my playing, and help me sound better in a wider range of jazz styles.
Now I was getting hired by jazz groups in my new local area, which was much more competitive than where I grew up.
I even won a couple of guitar jobs over older, more experienced guitar players - partially because of my comping ability.
Over Time, I Figured Out What Really Works
As a guitar teacher, I’ve worked with students of a wide range of ability levels - from kids starting out in jazz band to serious high school and college age students to adults who want to learn jazz guitar for fun.
Over the years I’ve found 3 basic comping rhythms that work well as an entry point for most players.
By mastering these three patterns and learning how to switch between them, you’ll have a good foundation for becoming the kind of jazz guitar player that people want to play with and listen to.
Note - A lot goes in to good accompaniment skills, and just learning one or two patterns isn’t necessarily going to cut it.
But that doesn’t mean you have to learn thousands of rhythm patterns either.
What You'll Learn
In this lesson you’ll learn 3 important comping rhythms - Freddie Green, The Charleston, and the Reverse Charleston.
More importantly, you’ll learn how to piece these rhythms together in a way that will sound good and support a melody or soloist.
Comping is an essential jazz guitar skill, and it’s one of the most important parts of playing jazz guitar with other people.
It is also a very overlooked area of many guitarists playing.
If you take the time to develop your comping skills, it can set you apart as a jazz guitarist, and help you get more opportunities to play with better groups.
Imagine being able to play a great sounding solo next time you’re jamming with another guitar player, or playing along with a backing track.
Believe it or not, you don’t need to study advanced improvisation techniques to get going.
You just need to learn one or two simple scales, and you’re ready to get started!
For a guitar player, pentatonic scales are an important tool you need to have at your disposal.
In almost any style of music you want to play, major and minor pentatonic scales are going to be your go-to scale pattern for improvisation and playing guitar solos.
Learning your major and minor pentatonic scales will give you the tools necessary to improvise in both major and minor keys with confidence - whether you are jamming with your friends or taking a solo in jazz band.
A solid foundation with your major and minor pentatonic scales will also make it easier for you to learn other scale forms later on - like major and natural minor scales.
In this lesson you will learn how to play the major and minor pentatonic scales starting on the 6th string. We will look at suggested finger patterns and learn the scale tone numbers for both of these scales.
You will also start to see how you can move these scale patterns around the neck, so you can improvise in any major or minor key with confidence.
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.
My recent relocation to Portland, OR has brought with it some changes, and some new opportunities.
While it has been fun exploring our new town over the last month, there is a new teaching opportunity I am particularly excited about.
I am happy to say that I will be joining the faculty of Mt Hood Community College this fall as a guitar instructor. I will be giving private guitar lessons to some of the MHCC guitar students on campus in Gresham, OR.
I am really looking forward to working with community college students again.
My first professional teaching job was at Spokane Falls Community College in Spokane, WA - where I was hired after earning my masters degree in jazz pedagogy.
One of the great things about living in Portland, OR is the ability to see live music.
Sometimes these shows are things that you plan for, buy tickets, and make an event of it.
Other times, you just get lucky and stumble upon something great that’s happening.
This last weekend, I was lucky enough to stumble onto a performance with finger style blues guitarist Dorian Michael.
Learn to play with jazz guitar lessons in Portland Oregon or online jazz guitar lessons with one-on-one video chat.
In your jazz guitar lessons, you could learn how to build your own jazz guitar chords, improvise solos, play chord melody, and more!
Here are some of the things you could learn in your jazz guitar lessons:
Learn to play jazz guitar with a friendly, patient teacher who can help you learn at your own pace.
All instructional materials are included, and I'll help you every step of the way as you learn to play jazz guitar
Click here to start learning jazz guitar today!