fans often find beginning jazz guitar daunting, not
necessarily because of the actual playing
techniques or theory required, rather they don't know where
If you want a
more interactive video experience for learning jazz guitar, check out JamPlay's
It's important not
overwhelm you with music theory at this stage, but instead, get you
playing something that you can use practically to build on
and train your ear to the common voicings used in jazz.
So follow the lesson, diagrams
and audio below for a practical guide to beginning jazz guitar!
the main jazz chord voicings
are two main types of
chord shapes used with jazz guitar:
barre chord shapes that
play the full (or fullest possible) voicing of a chord, including all
the chord's tones and...
chords that use
only the most important notes
to make up the chord (comprising of only 3 or 4 strings/notes). They
generally allow for quicker chord changes as the fingerings are more
economical. They also allow for more specific chord voicings as you're
only using 3 or 4 strings rather than full voicing 5 or 6.
In a moment, we'll look at how
these regular barre
chords are cut down to make shell chords...
jazz guitar with basic chords
Below are some typical jazz
chord voicings in their barre chord forms.
the chords are shown at
the first 4 frets for example, but remember that
they are all movable shapes so you can position
up and down the fretboard.
diagrams have fingering suggestions,
so label your fingers 1-4, 1 being your index, 4 being your
on the diagrams to hear
how the chord should sound...
7th chord on
String (e.g. Gm7)
chord on the A String (e.g. Cm7)
chord on the E String (e.g. Gmaj7)
chord on the A String (e.g. Cmaj7)
the E String (e.g. G7add6)
chord on the A String (e.g. C7add6)
can also barre with your pinky over 3 and 4 if you prefer.
jazz guitar shell chord voicings
here are the cut-down shell
versions of the chords
above (in the same order). Try and figure out which important notes
have been used from the original barre chords above to make the shell
to avoid playing the X'd
out strings inbetween strings, you need to use your
fretted fingers to touch those X'd strings so they
will be dampened and won't ring out. This can take time when beginning
each chord and make
sure the X'd out strings aren't being played or sounded.
7th shell chord
E String (e.g. Gm7)
shell chord on the A String (e.g. Dm7)
shell chord on the E String (e.g. Gmaj7)
shell chord on the A String (e.g. Cmaj7)
shell chord on the E String (e.g. G7add6)
shell chord on the A String (e.g. Cadd6) Note:
in this, so it's just "add6" because this shell shape commonly leaves
out th 7th (the G string that would usually play the "7th" is already
used up to play the 6th!).
important facts about the chords above...
string in the chord is the root note. This note
determines what letter the chord is abbreviated with (e.g. Cmaj7,
These chord forms are movable
up and down the fretboard (both E string shapes and A string shapes).
Use the fingerings you
feel comfortable with, the finger numbers above are only suggestions.
With the shell
chords, to block out those X'd strings, use your fret fingers and
rest them so they just barely touch the X'd string.
This will effectively mute them.
ready to put these into
practical use? Let's work on a typical jazz guitar progression...
a typical jazz guitar progression
jazz guitar in a
practical way, we're going to use the chord shapes
from above to play some progressions below. These are known as
ii V I
(2 5 1) progressions.
- full barre chords starting on an E string shape
the tab, and click on
it to hear an example with a metronome.
progression - full barre
starting on an A string shape (Dm7)
progression - shell chords
on an E string shape (Am7)
progression - shell chords starting
on an A string shape (Dm7)
hopefully given you a practical
intro to jazz guitar. We've learned the two main chord types
(barre and shell), the most common jazz chords and a typical jazz
to do now
the chords we've
learned, both shell and
barre, try and come up with your own progressions moving those shapes
around the fretboard, mixing them up and experimenting.
course, there are many more
chords to learn as you progress beyond beginner jazz
guitar, but one step at a time - we'll come to those in your own time.