You want to learn how to play Jazz Chords. An important part of playing Jazz is to be able to interpret and play the rich chord language of the genre. This list of lessons is an ordered way to work your way through this from getting to know a basic vocabulary to have more freedom in comping with different types of chord voicings.
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I have also collected the videos in a Playlist on Youtube if you prefer that:
Playlist: How to Learn to Play Jazz Chords – Study Guide
Check out the other study guides here: Study Guides For Jazz Guitar
The Jazz Chord Survival Kit and vocabulary
The first three lessons deal with a basic chord vocabulary and how to use it when playing important chord progressions and jazz standards
- First II V I chord voicing sets
- How to play Jazz Chords on Guitar
- F Jazz Blues Comping – Jazz Chords and Concepts
Leaving out the root and getting used to upper-structures
Once you know some chords and can play a few songs you can start to expand your vocabulary.
There are two main topics you should add first: Triads as Jazz chord voicings and Drop2 voicings. These two are the foundation for most other voicings and you can build on this knowledge to really build an extensive chord vocabulary.
- Look Mom No Root! Jazz Chord Survival Kit Part 2 – Introduction to rootless voicings
- Triads – Easy 3 note Jazz Chords – How to get started using triads as chord voicings
- C Jazz Blues with triad voicings – Applying Triad voicings to a Blues in C
The Essential Drop2 Voicings
Drop2 chords form a huge chunk of all the voicings that are used in jazz. These lessons will take you through a lot of material using drop2 voicings. If you want to hear Drop2 chords in action then just put on a Wes Montgomery album, he used them extensively in his chord solos and comping.
- Drop 2 voicings – Part 1 – Basic Chords and how to use them
- Drop2 voicings – Part 2 – Adding Extensions to Cadences
- Drop 2 voicings part 3 – Alterations, Altered Dominants and more
- Download Drop 2 Voicing Diagrams
- How to use Drop 2 Chords on a Jazz Blues
Developing Comping skills beyond the chords
Playing Chords does require more than just knowing what chord to play where. Some of the other skills that are equally important are discussed in these lessons:
- Developing Basic Comping Rhythms
- Melodic Comping – Stronger than voice-leading
- You Don’t Need That Many Chord Voicings, It’s How You Use Them
- Learning Jazz Standards – What you need to Know and Be Able to Do With It
More Modern sounds
If we look beyond the triads and Drop2 voicings it is of course possible to start checking out more modern sounds that may not immediately be covered in the lessons I already included. These voicings are both more extreme with having large intervals or much more cluster like with second intervals:
- Modern 3 note voicings and voice leading – compact flexible voicings for modern jazz
- The Minor Chord You Never Use – A discussion of the m7(13) chord and how it is used
- Drop2&4 voicings – Part 1
- Jazz Chord Essentials – 3 note 7th chords part 1
- Jazz Chord Essentials – 3 note 7th chords part 2
Allan Holdsworth Chord Series
One of my favorite players when it comes to modern jazz chords is Allan Holdsworth. Since I have made several lessons inspired by his chordal language I though it only right to include some of these lessons.
I am obviously a huge fan, but there is a lot to be learned from him and the chords are very beautiful and worthwhile checking out. Even if they are not all easy to play.
- Chords – In the Style of Allan Holdsworth – Voicings and Inversions
- Modal chords – Using Holdsworth Voicings – You can add new textures to your comping
- Allan Holdsworth Chords on a Jazz Standard – Advanced Modern Chord Voicings applied to Days of Wine and Roses
One way of getting good at comping is to get good at playing chord solos. Being able to improvise solos with chords really helps develop your freedom and ability to play solid comping behind others.
For that reason I have included a few of the lessons I have on chord soloing that you can dig into if you want to take this approach.
- Best exercise for jazz guitar chord solos! The way to develop a chord solo vocabulary
Comping skills on real songs
If you want to really get better at comping and work on improving how you make it all sound like music and beautiful progressions then check out this collection of lessons:
Comping – Putting It All Together
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