How to Play Jazz Guitar

Tips to help guitar players better understand jazz guitar melody ideas and common jazz guitar techniques...

Ultimate Guitar
This week's "GuitarBlog" covers how to play jazz guitar melody and playing techniques.

Jazz guitar is one of those styles that requires a traditional approach to be able to learn it properly. Much like classical guitar, the only way to truly understand jazz is to purchase a "Real Book" of jazz standards and begin learning all the traditional pieces. This will force you to learn a whole host of new chord shapes, melodic ideas, and the common harmonic movements we find in jazz pieces. The main thing to start to understand is that jazz uses a lot of the same chord moves. And, they are often predictable.

Once these movements are familiarized, the jazz student will better anticipate each situation. This is similar to how a guitarist who is learning how to improvise on a 12-bar blues learns to hear those chord movements. Once a jazz student learns to hear/recognize common jazz II-V-I movements and III-VI-II-V movements, their ability to react to them leads to higher and higher competence within the style.

Learn the melodies, learn the chord changes, and learn the theory for all of the harmonic devices (and, don't expect much from this until you've studied at least 40 songs).

I'd also highly recommend getting a good jazz guitar teacher as well. Forming a relationship with a knowledgeable teacher will help you a lot. Especially in the first two years of learning this style.

In the video lesson, I introduce a few of the basic ideas that will help to get a guitarist started down the road of jazz melody.

Watch the video lesson below to learn more. Every example has on-screen tab for you to follow along. Enjoy!

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About the Author:
Andrew Wasson is a 1992 Graduate of Hollywood California's Guitar Institute of Technology (G.I.T.). He has operated his Canadian Music School, Creative Guitar Studio, for the last 20+ years teaching thousands of guitarists. You can learn more at his official website.

3 comments sorted by best / new / date

    In order to play jazz music, one must first listen to jazz music and then play jazz music. Thanks for the lesson!