5 Basic Jazz Chord Exercises That You Want To Know

There is something special about how we play chords in Jazz. A part of that is the jazz chords themselves but another part that is just as important is how you play those chords. This video is going over 5 basic jazz guitar exercises that you can play and get started developing your Jazz chord skills. Some of them you probably know and some of them you can add to your playing.

I am using parts of songs to demonstrate this, so going through these exercises will also help you get started learning Jazz Standards which is another important part of learning Jazz.

#1 Shell-voicings – 6 chords in 30 seconds

First, we need some chords to play. To keep it simple I am going to quickly cover some voicings and then give you an example of how you can practice them on a song. To keep it simple I am going to start with easy 3-note voicings called shell voicings. A shell voicing is a simple chord that covers the basic sound of the chord and is very playable. They consist of a root, 3rd, and 7th (or 6th) Later I will start adding some notes to these to add a little color, but it is great to start playing music with these already. If you put these to use on a song like “Afternoon in Paris”, then you get something this: You can use this exercise to get the chords into your fingers, but you won’t really get them into your playing before you start playing other songs with them, so don’t forget to try that.

#2 Great basic rhythm – Charleston

Rhythm is more important than notes in Jazz, so the rest of these exercises are going to be more on rhythm and how to rhythms that sound like Jazz. The most basic and most important rhythm to know is probably the Charleston rhythm. You can practice that with Shell-voicings through 8-bars of Satin Doll like this: In this exercise, I play two chords per bar to make it a little more difficult, but it also helps you learn to anticipate a chord which is also important for Jazz phrasing.

#3 Two layers and a little more groove

Before we start adding notes to the voicings then you want to try to get the most out of them and actually, you can split up the shell-voicing in the bass note and the chord, and then you can play some rhythms with two layers. This is especially useful for giving it a little more groove and to keep things moving when you have more than one bar of one chord like this in Take The A Train:

#4 Bossa Nova

Another great groove to play is a Bossanova groove. In this example, I am using the first 8 bars of Girl From Ipanema. To change things up and make it a little more challenging I also add a note to each voicing for a little more color. The chords I use are: And then if we add this basic Bossanova pattern then you can play Girl From Ipanema like this: Like the other exercises in this video, this is just a basic example and you can do a lot more with both extensions and rhythms. You can check out links in the video description if you want to dig deeper into this.

#5 Simple Walking Bass

Another way to become more flexible and really lay down a swing groove is to play chords and walking bass. This works really well with Shell-voicings and could be something like this:

Playing Jazz Chords – What’s next?

If you want to explore more things with Jazz Chords and how to play them then check out this collection of lessons:

Comping – Putting It All Together

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