Tag Archives: basic jazz guitar chords

Jazz Beginner – 5 Myths That Waste Your Time

There are a lot of things that you need to learn as a beginner with jazz guitar, but sometimes you come across a myth that promises to be a magic solution for all your problems, and I think we should talk about a few of those because they can make you waste a lot of time and you end up working on wrong things while ignoring important skills.

In fact, a lot of these are about trying to avoid learning something that is actually very useful.

I Don’t Need To Learn Songs If I Can Hear Everything

One of the worst things to use instead of a rehearsal is this sentence: “don’t worry, you’ll hear it” And it was also this sentence that began what was probably one of the most stressful moments in my life.

I was subbing for my teacher in a band that was playing a jazz festival, it was a quartet with horn, guitar, bass, and drums. We didn’t rehearse, and just before starting Body and Soul, the band-leader told me that he wanted to do the verse in a duo with me before the theme. I told him that I didn’t know the verse so that would be a terrible idea, and his answer was “don’t worry, you’ll hear it”

What followed felt like the longest 2-3 hours of my life while I was completely clueless and trying to harmonize what he was playing in front of a hall full of people. Of course, In reality, It was probably less than a minute. There are times where you can get away with winging something like this, but with this melody, that is practically impossible. You can really hear the changes and modulations from just hearing that melody. Needless to say, I felt extremely bad messing this up in a band with people I did not know.

But, sometimes you don’t have a chance and not even the greatest ear would be able to tell what is going on. I took comfort in a story pianist Jim McNeely told us when he was a guest conductor in the conservatory big band. He was touring with Sonny Stitt and they had agreed that Stitt could not just begin songs without asking the band if they knew it, for obvious reasons. But one night Stitt just started a song, and McNeely didn’t know it, so he looked at the bass player, who also didn’t know it. And after playing for a while the only thing he knew was that the first chord was Eb and the last chord was Eb. This happens to everybody, and you can’t do everything by ear.

Sometimes I hear students saying:

“I want to practice ear training so that I can instantly hear all songs”.

I guess this seems easier, you just do ear training and play everything by ear.

Now, Don’t get me wrong here, you should train your ears as much as possible, but that comment is really just coming from ignorance or at least inexperience, because what is one of the best ways to train your ears? Learn a lot of songs by ear, and use the songs you know to teach you the songs you are learning, by ear. So really, combing this with theory is only going to help you even more. If you know that the song is in C major then you can probably hear that the chord before that C major is a G7. It helps to have an idea about what you might expect and also whether it sounds like what you expect.

And what will you do if you have to play a song that you don’t know and you have to play the chords? Imagine that with One Note Samba. If you don’t know it then the first 8 bars could be all tonic or a ton of other things.

Of course, sometimes you will have to do some songs by ear that you don’t know, not in the horror scenario that I described and it is useful to be able to do that, but it isn’t something you need to do very often, and your solos are a lot better if you already know that song, so that option is just always what you want to go for.

Theory Well Ruin Your Creativity

“Wes Montgomery didn’t know theory so why should I”

It is probably true that a lot of, especially early great artists, didn’t know a lot of theory, but that doesn’t mean that the best and most efficient way to learn to play Jazz is to not understand what is going on. In fact, a lot of things get a lot easier if you know a little theory.

Let me give you an example:

If you transcribe a great lick like this

Example 1a then that works great on a tonic chord, but if you can see the blocks that it contains then you can also make a G7 version of it

and you can even make a version with a dominant triad for a Gm7 like this:

I am sure you can see how that is useful, and this is just a single example of using very basic theory. The theory will help you learn and understand a lot of things a lot faster, and while it does not help you with everything then there is no real reason to avoid it.

I Want To REALLY Improvise, Not Play Licks Or Arpeggios

“I Want To REALLY Improvise, Not Play Licks Or Arpeggios Like Everybody Else!”

I come across comments like this at least once every week. Usually, the thought behind it is that You don’t want to sound like other people, so you won’t play or practice things that they play.

I sort of get the idea, but a few things to keep in mind here. First, how restricted are you by studying arpeggios?

You can get a D7 arpeggio to sound like this: Mozart Eine Kleine Nacht Musik

and you can also get it to sound like this:

So learning a D7 arpeggio is not really going to limit your style or how much you sound like you.

And secondly, the same goes for studying solos and licks, if you want to write a great book then it might be a good idea to read some books to figure out how. Just learning the alphabet is not going to cut it.

You Need To Know All Scales And Arpeggios To Play Jazz

“I Am Going To Spend Two Years Learning All The Scales And All The Arpeggios And THEN I Am Going To Learn To Play Jazz”

This is another comment that I see quite often, some even go even further and say that you first need to learn music theory and voice-leading before you even try to play Jazz.

Again there is nothing wrong with learning scales, arpeggios, harmony, and theory. It is useful for playing Jazz, but it is not where it starts, they are just skills and not really the music.

When I sat down to learn solos by ear or struggled for weeks to learn the first few standards then I was not first learning to play all diatonic arpeggios of melodic minor in all keys. That came a lot later. And the same goes for all the students I have ever taught, there is no reason to first spend years learning abstract exercises before you start playing music. It is like suggesting that you need a PH.D in grammar before you try to write a story.

I Just Need To Play What I Hear

“If I Just Learn To Play What I Hear, Then I Can Play Great Solos And I Don’t Need To Practice Licks Or Check Out Solos”

While you do want to learn to hear Jazz melodies that you can play, and you want to work on having a connection from your ear to your instrument, then don’t think that this skill is a shortcut that means that you don’t need to learn to actually hear those melodies. That is a part of it as well and it takes some work to get them in there. Usually, statements like this are because you probably don’t know what it means to hear something and then play it.

Hal Galper talks about it in one of his masterclasses:

And you need to teach yourself to hear the things you play.

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Jazz Chords – A Simple But Amazing Solution You Want To Know

One of the great things about Jazz Chords is that if you learn even just a few basic jazz chords then you can open them up and add things to them in ways that sound really great. This video will show you two simple but important chord exercises and some of the ways that you can turn that into beautiful sounding chords, and I am going to use some real songs to demonstrate it because you need those as well.

Diatonic Chords and Shell-Voicings

I am going to build this on Shell-voicings which is a very solid set of chords to learn because you can turn them into a lot of other things along the way, which you will also see in this video.

Instead of just practicing chords separately then it makes a lot more sense to practice them together in the groups where you need them, for example as all the diatonic chords of a scale.

Here are the diatonic shell voicings of C major with the root on the 5th string:

Diatonic C major Shells

And you want to know the shell-voicings for the 6th string as well, and for F major that gives you these chords:

Diatonic F major Shells

Practicing stuff like this in all keys will teach you a lot about the keys and help you develop your fretboard knowledge.

Basic chords and a little beyond

Already with these chords, you can play most songs, so let’s try that on the standard Ladybird. This will also show you some of the rhythms that are, of course, also important to comping Jazz. I’ll start with the basic chords and then change things up by adding more melody notes in the 2nd half.

Ladybird Chorus

So as you can tell the rhythms are what holds this together, and I am adding a little extra by using different top notes over the chords, just grabbing what is easy to play and then make melodies with it.

so for Cmaj7 you have this shell voicing and then you can add the 5th, G, as a melody note or the 13th or 6th , the A

Walking Bass on the Blues

Instead of changing the rhythms and the melodies you can also focus on bass lines, and with the shell-voicings that are only 3 notes, you can easily get into adding a complete walking bass under the chords which is a great sound on guitar:

Walking Bass Chorus

You might not think about it, but this sounds a lot better on a guitar than on a piano and later in the video, I will cover another thing is a lot easier on guitar.

Two Layers = More Rhythm

I love the sound of chords and walking bass, and it is great for comping in a duo setting. because you are laying down a complete groove, But sometimes it is also nice to not have to play a steady stream of quarter notes. Luckily Shell voicings are naturally split in two so that you have a root and a chord, and you can use these two layers to improvise with, similar to how a Jazz drummer improvises with snare and bass drum.

Example All Of Me

Samba and Bossanova

Another great way to use the 2-layer nature of the shell-voicings is to play Sambas and Bossanova’s. An example of this could be Blue Bossa that you can play as a samba like this:

Example Blue Bossa

If you want to check out some more bossa nova and samba patterns then I have a video on that which you can check out here: Bossa Nova Guitar Patterns – 5 Levels You Need To Know

Easy on Guitar – Annoying on Piano

When it comes to chords then most things are easier on piano than on guitar, and you can also get away with playing a lot more notes if you want to, but there is one thing that is really practical about guitar chords: We can shift them up and down in half-steps really easily, and that is an amazing sound for playing jazz chords.

You can put that to use on a song like “There is no greater Love” like this:

Example #5 There is no greater love

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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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If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics then please let me know. Leave a comment on the video or send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make them fit what you are searching for. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via InstagramTwitter Google+ or Facebook to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts, and releases.