How To Learn Jazz Guitar – Suggestions To Begin Studying

This is a question I get very often. And that is in no way strange. Starting to learn Jazz guitar is the beginning of a long journey with a lot of interesting stops along the way.

In this video and post, I will try to give you some places where you can look for the things you feel you need to check out and of course also what you think is interesting.


Learning Jazz, or any other style of music is not a set path the fits everybody. We all take different routes and need to work on different things longer or shorter. That is also the reason that there is no set way to go through this and why I am calling it suggestions. You need to figure out for yourself where to go next. If I have a student learning Jazz it is common that I take a few lessons to figure out what to work on and how to work on it, so expect that when you start working as well.

That said, I will try to make this a little less complicated and stop the information overload a little because I don’t think that is really necessary.

To keep it a bit short I am going to focus on three main topics:

  • Technique and Scales
  • Chords
  • Improvisation and Songs

Technique and Scales

Keep it simple. Start with the Major scale. Don’t overdo technique practice.

Start with one position and one key. You can add positions and keys along the way, with basic exercises.

Start with these exercises:

  1. The Scale
  2. The Scale in 3rds
  3. The Diatonic 7th chords (Maybe Triads first, but many don’t have to)

For more information on what to do work on and how to use it:

The Most Important Scale Exercise In Jazz – Basic Scale exercise and Scale in Diatonic 7th arpeggios

Practice Major Scales like this and You will get more out of it! – More thoughts on scale practice.

How to practice your scales and why – Positions – A bit of a deeper look into options with scale practice and suggestions for exercises

Jazz Chords – A solid set and learn some songs

It is practical to learn some jazz chords so that you can play chords on songs. As jazz guitarists, we spend more time comping than soloing. It is also a huge help to be able to hear the harmony that you are soloing over.

I have a study guide for Jazz Chords where the first two or three lessons will give you more than enough. How to Learn to Play Jazz Chords – Study Guide

Especially I would start with a set of diatonic chords for the major scale which is exercise one or two of this lesson: How to play Jazz Chords on Guitar

From that material you can gradually expand chord vocabulary, learn songs and progress into rootless voicings and more complex comping and harmonization ideas.

Improvisation and Songs

This is the most important part of how to learn jazz guitar because this is where we talk about playing music. So it is about using the material that is practiced in the scales.

If you want to play jazz you need to spend time playing the songs and improvising and you should start doing this from the very beginning. Even if you can’t really play solos that sounds like jazz, just by trying you are building repertoire and skills to use later.

A few things about improvising over changes:

How To Solo Over Chord Changes The Right Way

A practical example of improvising with arpeggios:

How to start soloing over a II V I with arpeggios

For more examples of songs, easy chord melody arrangements and similar then you should browse through this playlist of easy YouTube lessons:
How To Begin Jazz Guitar – Easy lessons to gain an overview

If you start making your own Jazz Licks and develop your improvisation by working on coming up with your own lines then maybe check out this lesson:

How to write Jazz Licks – What You Want to Know

Jazz Standards to start with and how to learn them

When it comes to which songs to start with then I would suggest you start with one of these 10 songs:

The First 10 Jazz Standards You Need To Know

And some of the exercises and things to focus on when learning them are covered here:

Learning Jazz Standards – Important Exercises

Next level for Jazz Guitar

Maybe you already feel comfortable with the things I covered here, and you are looking for more challenges and explore the music further. Of course, you can browse the YouTube channel and my Website.

Check out the other study guides here: Study Guides For Jazz Guitar

Another option is to join the 6000+ members of the Jazz Guitar Insiders Facebook group and ask there, get inspired by the posts and comments of others:

Jazz Guitar Insiders

The Jazz Guitar Roadmap

My online course is a series of lessons set up so that you start at the beginning and work towards playing solos and making lines.

✅ An organized approach for practicing and learning Jazz Guitar

✅ How to get you started playing solos that sound like Jazz

✅ What you need and how you start coming up with Jazz lines

But don’t take my word for it:

“This is by far the best  Course out there for anyone wanting to get into Jazz Guitar and overwhelmed by the amount of study material available. Jens Larsen has a way of providing you with what you need at the level you are at and you will be amazed at how much improvement you will see both in your playing and understanding of Jazz Guitar and associated Jazz vocabulary.

Thanks, Jens and I look forward to a follow up course if possible!”
– Ger Leahy

Get an invitation to check it out here:

Or join me on Patreon where you can support and help shape the content on the channel in the future. Patreon is really what has made all these lessons and the channel possible.
Check it out here: Jens Larsen YouTube Lessons on Patreon

12 thoughts on “How To Learn Jazz Guitar – Suggestions To Begin Studying

  1. Gary Celima

    I enjoyed the video, because even if you are not a beginner, it is much easier to follow some suggestions, to give one a direction. I have so much material from so many sources, that i am always afraid I am not getting as much as I should out of the material. This gives me a kind of organization of the material. I would look forward to a course outline as you mentioned. you are very prolific and sometimes one gets a little lost with all the material. I am fortunate that I can practice several hours a day, and still I jump around too much and don’t complete assignments that I give myself. By setting an outline, that makes it easier to move forward. It would also give your students the opportunity to complete specific assignments from you, ( as a course would have certain steps involved in a general way) so progress could be measured, and if they are in the 20$ a week level of support a fast and easy way to exchange videos with you. I think this video was a good idea, particularly because you added links to lessons.
    Thank you.

    1. jens Post author

      Thanks, Gary!
      I am not talking about trying to arrange the lessons in a course. Trying to come up with an order of the lessons won’t be effective teaching compared to content that is made to follow each other and stepwise build skills. What I was talking about in the video was making an actual online course with sequenced lessons working step-wise towards a larger lesson goal.

  2. KevinG

    This video presents a fantastic framework in which to organise self-study. I do not have access to private tuition so your advice on where to focus and the suggestions for follow-up videos and tutorials on your site is invaluable. It provides a “way in”. There is so much material online it is very easy for a beginner to take the wrong path and start to try to master knowledge and techniques that they’re just not ready for. You end up abandoning that tutorial and finding another one, only to repeat the same mistakes!

    Really looking forward to next year’s step-wise tutorials: many thanks again.

  3. Mike0831

    I have long been frustrated learning jazz guitar. I am unable to bring into music whatever I do know. The problem as I see it is without some one looking over my shoulder I get distracted by arpeggios one day and then trying to make sense out of Drop 2 chords then inversions etc etc. I am delighted to hear that you thinking of putting together a series of books or lessons who focus on the concepts you mention in the video. I played classical guitar for many years so
    I can read what’s written by others but trying to create and play my own ideas is frustrating. I would be more than willing to take part in these lessons (maybe group Skype?…. just a thought

  4. mjdhughes

    Hi Jens,

    You advised me to look at this in a reply to an email to you. This is a perfect introduction, thank you. It has steered me in the right direction. Thanks again.

  5. Gilles Bigras

    Thank You Jens,
    These are very helpful suggestions!
    I am soo happy with the JAZZ GUITAR ROADMAP lesson,
    It narrows everything down and give us all we need to work on into only one program!

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