Jazz Lessons. Part 1 - The Beginning

The first of a series of articles devoted to guitarists that are new to and feel overwhelmed by jazz.

Jazz Lessons. Part 1 - The Beginning
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Jazz in its entirety is humanly impossible to grasp, but with many years of practice and study, an fluent knowledge of it can be formed. This is a lesson that will provide with the reader a method of getting near that point. However, you're going to have to dedicate yourself and not dismiss any knowledge that comes your way.

What you will need to know in advance:
1. Basic scales (Major, Minor, Pentatonic)
2. Chord Formation

Lesson 1

You're a guitarist. You've got the basics down, you know your common scales, you know a little bit about making chords, you know a few decent voicings for them, but what the hell do you do with all of this, at least for jazz? What we're going to concentrate on first is comping - that is, playing chords. Comping stands for 'accompaniment' but it can ALSO stand for 'complement' because that's what you're doing-- you're complementing the sound as a whole. As a side note, always remember that as a studio musician, you're 10 times more wanted as a great jazz comper and moderate soloist then the reverse. So, let me put you in a small situation. A piano player offers you a chord sheet, with chords that you're fairly familiar with. He does the same to a drummer and bassist - however, he doesn't really talk to you about it - the style, the mood - you aren't aware how the song sounds, only the information provided on the sheet music. Now, what exactly can you do in this situation?

Well, you can do a number of things. However, you want to play it as safely as possible. You want to remain neutral while doing your part as the guitarist. So, what measures can we take to do this? Well, one of the first things that you can do is play straightforward comping - this means that (let's say it's in 4/4) you need to keep the strumming itself simple, so as to not throw off the song. Also, you want to keep the notes simple, too many notes played will clutter the sound, and won't exactly keep you neutral. So you know what a C minor 7th chord is? Well, it has these notes: C(1), Eb(b3), G(5), and Bb(b7). Those numbers in parantheses are the harmonic functions of each notes - see chord formation. So, with this Cm7 chord, you want to stay neutral, remember. So, let's try to take out a tone - the most common tone to remove is the 5th, which is the G in this case. So here's what you'd be playing safely for the first measure of this 4/4 song:

Cm7
|-------------|
|-------------|
|8--x8--x8--x8|
|8--x8--x8--x8|
|x--xx--xx--xx|
|8--x8--x8--x8|

You have retained the more important notes of the chord without taking too much from it, and you have remained relevant to the song. A tip on that note: The bigger the band, the smaller the role that you have. OK, with that said, let's have you give a self-diagnostic test. How well do you know the notes on the fretboard? Most guitarists will dismiss this, believing that they know their notes and that it's not that much of an issue for them - I wouldn't be surprised if you did, too. So try this little exercise. Do you know the 'Cycle Of 4ths'? It's basically just a cycle of notes that are each a 4th interval away from eachother. Here's the order of the notes:

C - F - Bb - Eb - Ab - Db - Gb - B - E - A - D - G

So, with that pattern, do this: Play a 'C' on EACH string, from 6 to 1. Then an F on each string, from 6 to 1, then a Bb, on strings 6 through 1. then an Eb, and continue through the cycle of 4ths. Not so easy, eh? If you nailed it the first time, good for you, not many guitarists know the fretboard so well. Try to play it at 100 bpm.

Your first assignment:
Play each note on each string through the cycle of fourths. Are you familiar with the Roman Numeral system of notating chords? If not, go learn it, there are plenty of UG lessons. Welcome. Now that you have a basic understanding of that, let's talk about the blues. If you have a high school jazz band instructor or something, he probably will have everyone play a blues tune once in a while. This is good, because blues is at the heart of jazz, and dates back with jazz. I'm sure that anyone with any knowledge of the blues has heard of the '12 bar blues' chord progression. You should, too. It's called that because it's so common in blues music, and has 12 measures (bars). Here it is (the 12-bar blues chord progression), in a good jazz key, Bb (Bb's a good jazz key because it's so easy to transpose it to other instruments used in jazz in Concert Bb).

Bb7 Eb7
|/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |

Bb7 F7 Eb7 Bb7
|/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |

*(if you are unaware of the voicings for these chords, learn about chord formation and make voicings for them or see the index at the end of this lesson). OK. So after having looked at that, maybe played it, you can definitely hear the blues tone of that. If you can record and play over it, then you'll notice how well your basic Bb pentatonic works over it, no matter what note you play. Now that you have tried that, let's move more into jazz.

Jazz-blues is highly similar - the IV chord (I assume that you understand what I mean when I say that) comes second after the I chord, for example. Try this common Jazz-Blues chord progression:

Bb7 Eb7 Bb7 Eb7 Edim7
|/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |

Bb7 G7 Cm7 F7 Bb7 Gm7 Cm7 F7
|/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |

There are a few things employed here used frequently in jazz - the Eb7 to the Edim7 merely involves a change in the root note, which is used often by jazz compers. the use of a G dominant seven and a G minor seven, lots of things that we can talk about. Next, we're going to talk about the harmonized major scale. Basically, this is just a set of chords that are all in the same key. Just like when you say that you're in the key of C, you know your notes automatically, you use the harmonized major scale to know what chords are in that key automatically. Here is the harmonized scale that I want you to know:

CMaj7
Dm7
Em7
FMaj7
Gdom7
Am7
Bm7b5

Notice: the roots of the chords are the same as those of the major scale, but you're playing full chords instead. For voicings for these chords, consolidate a chords formations lesson. You can learn more about the harmonized scale in a lesson about what chords are in which key.

Your second assignment: Review all 12 harmonized scales through the cycle.

Lesson 2

OK, at this point you've learned your harmonized scale and you're pretty fluent at playing each note on each string through the cycle of fourths. Keep in mind, I'd like you to know how to play the harmonized scale with the roots of the chords on the 4th string, 5th string, AND 6th string. This is crucial when referring to melody voicings. I'll start off by adding another exercise to do, and that is to have you play each note on each string through this cycle instead:

C - G - D - A - E - B - F# - C# - G# - D# - A# - F

So, you would play:

|-----------8-|
|---------1---|
|-------5-----|
|----10-------|
|--3----------|
|8------------|

Changing the note that you play with each note.

This may seem a little redundant, but it will surprise you, after having practiced through the cycle of fourths, the differences when going through the cycle of 5ths (or 'circle' of 5ths, if you're picky). Now, let's get into the aspect of jazz guitar that everyone is dying to skip to (a mistake, mind you): Soloing.

OK, I guess I should start off by saying that jazz is only semi-improvised. With blues players such as B. B. King or E. C. you get what most players do when first starting-- you utilize each note of the scale that you are playing in (in more than one case, pentatonic or blues)--which works. There is no note in the pentatonic or blues scale that you can get wrong when playing over a chord progression. You play whatever note you'd like when you feel like it.

Jazz is a whole different story. Jazz players will, what they call, "move with the changes." This means that they look at each note of the chord, and approach it as a mini-scale. They pick out each note of the chord and play those. When you play each note of the chord melodically (one at a time) it's called arepeggiating. That's why I said earlier that jazz is only semi-improvised. Players look at and follow the chords. They would see an E diminished 7th chord, and see that is has these notes: E, G, Bb, and Db, and they'd play those notes. This technique helps to deliver more variation in jazz. Why? Because you travel BEYOND the pentatonic and major scale and into whatever whacky territory the chord that you play over goes into.

Now, you have even more responsibilities in jazz. When arpeggiating, you need to KNOW the harmonic function of each note you're playing. You have a C7 chord: C, E, G, Bb. If you play a G, you need to know that G is the 5th of that chord. If you play a Bb, you need to know that Bb is the b7 of that chord. Do not choose to neglect this. So, remember that chord progression that I gave you in Lesson 1? Well, I'll bring it here for you:

Bb7 Eb7 Bb7 Eb7 Edim7
|/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |

Bb7 G7 Cm7 F7 Bb7 Gm7 Cm7 F7
|/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |

So, you have three different types of chords here-- dominant 7th chords, minor 7th chords, and a diminished 7th chord. Well, what do you do? Do you just play the shapes for those chords and play one note at a time? No. You will sound boring and monotonous. Hence, my providing you shapes for arpeggiating. Movable shapes, like mini-scales. So, if you come across a dominant 7th chord, you can play this arpeggio:

Notes in "[]" are root notes.

|---|-[o]-|---|-----|---|-o-|
|---|--o--|---|-----|-o-|---|
|---|-----|-o-|-----|---|---|
|---|--o--|---|-[o]-|---|---|
|-o-|-----|---|--o--|---|---|
|---|-[o]-|---|-----|---|---|

See how that works? You restrict your range to four notes, and you find a good sound to play over the chord. Here are more arpeggios for you to play:

Dominant 7th (root on 5th string):
|---|--o--|--|-----|-o-|
|---|-----|--|--o--|---|
|---|--o--|--|-[o]-|---|
|-o-|-----|--|--o--|---|
|---|-[o]-|--|-----|---|
|---|-----|--|-----|---|

Minor 7th (root on 6th string):
|-[o]-|--|-----|-o-|
|--o--|--|-----|-o-|
|--o--|--|-----|---|
|--o--|--|-[o]-|---|
|-----|--|--o--|---|
|-[o]-|--|-----|-o-|

Minor 7th (root on 5th):
--o--|---|-----|-o-|
-----|-o-|-----|---|
--o--|---|-[o]-|---|
-----|---|--o--|---|
-[o]-|---|-----|-o-|
-----|---|-----|---|

Diminished 7th (root on 5th):
|---|-o-|-----|---|--o--|
|---|---|-----|-o-|-----|
|---|-o-|-----|---|-[o]-|
|-o-|---|-----|-o-|-----|
|---|---|-[o]-|---|-----|
|---|---|-----|---|-----|

Lesson 3

Next assignmet: practice all arpeggios through the cycles. Here is the third lesson of a series for beginning jazz guitaists. OK, to recapitulate what we have already discussed, yuou can console the last two lessons. We left off in Lesson 2 with "arepggiating." I provided some shapes for you to work with, I told you how to approach arpeggios, considering the harmonic function of each tone as you play it, etc. Now, arpeggiating is about as safe as you can possibly go when playing a melody. The tones you play correspond with the chord tones, and you never can truly abandon the other instruments with it. I'll refresh your memory - here is a dominant seventh arpeggio:

|---|-[o]-|---|-----|---|-o-|
|---|--o--|---|-----|-o-|---|
|---|-----|-o-|-----|---|---|
|---|--o--|---|-[o]-|---|---|
|-o-|-----|---|--o--|---|---|
|---|-[o]-|---|-----|---|---|

It contains the same notes as the chord that you play over does. OK, this arpeggiating is safe and all, but can't it grow a wee bit monotonous? The answer is, "Yes. It can." So, what could you do to overcome this? The obvious answer is to play other notes - but what other notes? Most people would quickly opt for the notes that are in that key. Well, despite that passing tones may work well when played over chords in that key-- we're not going to talk about that, because it is not a full-proof plan.

Instead, we're going to keep on moving with the changes (see lesson 2) except we shall be simply adding more notes to the arpeggio. What other notes, you say? Notes that are in that key? Well, no. Today we shall discuss accidentals. Accidentals are most commonly reffered to as notes that are played out of key. This may break a few rules in most by-the-book heads. After all, wasn't the major scale designed to sort of, 'sound good'? True, but jazz is about coloration, and flavor in melodies. So, what exactly are these out-of-key notes that seem to inexplicably work? Well, let's refer to that dom. 7th arpeggio. The most commonly used accidental in jazz is the 'b3. ' What is the b3? It's the third of the root of the chord--flatted! Let's take our trusty jazz key, Bb. The third of Bb (aka the 3rd note of the Bb major scale) is-- anyone, anyone? 'D, ' right? SO, if we were to flat this note, we'd get a Db! So, take your Bb dom 7th arpeggio:

|----------------6-10-|
|------------6-9------|
|----------7----------|
|------6-8------------|
|--5-8----------------|
|6--------------------|

Notice the 3rd in that? D? Well, let's take that note, and see what we get if we flat it (of course, while leaving the original D):

Bb7
|--------------------6-9-10-|
|----------------6-9--------|
|------------6-7------------|
|--------6-8----------------|
|--4-5-8--------------------|
|6--------------------------|

See what that does for you? Try playing those few notes over a Bb7 chord, and see what you can come up with. Although most people are reluctant to do this, you can use that b3 in the lower octaves as well - it will not interfere with the chord played. Let us continue. So, we've established what you can put over MAJOR chord arpeggios to enhance them-- but what about our friends the minor chords arpeggios? Take a gander at this:

Minor 7th (root on 6th string)
|-[o]-|--|-----|-o-|
|--o--|--|-----|-o-|
|--o--|--|-----|---|
|--o--|--|-[o]-|---|
|-----|--|--o--|---|
|-[o]-|--|-----|-o-|

That's a minor 7th arpeggio - shown to you in the last lesson. Well, what accidentals can we add to this little beute? In this case, the best non-diatonic (out of key) tone to add would be the b5. Like the b3, all that you have to do to find this b5th is to take the 5th degree of the root (the 5th note of the root's major scale) and flat it. In the key of Bb, the 5th degree is F. So, if we flat that, we get an E! The flat fifth! With your original minor 7th arpeggio in you mind, consider this one (min 7th arpeggio w/b5th):

|--------------------3-6-|
|----------------3-6-----|
|------------3-6---------|
|--------3-5-------------|
|----4-5-----------------|
|3-6---------------------|

Nice, eh? Similar to the blues scale, as well. To switch gears: let's talk about learning some actual jazz. This may be contended with, but I believe that one of the best ways to learn jazz is to develop a basic understanding of the way notes work, and then to - play some jazz! Here is a nice standard by the name of "All of Me."

Cmaj7 `/. E7 `/.
|----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|
|1---------------|--------1--3--1-|0---------------|----------------|
|----0-----------|----------------|----0-----------|----------------|
|------2-2-------|2---------------|------2-2-------|2---------------|
|----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|
|----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|
12 [ three ]3 4


A7 `/. Dm `/.
|----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|
|----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|
|2---0-----------|-----------3--2-|0---------------|----------------|
|--------2-------|2---1---2-------|--------3-------|3---------------|
|----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|
|----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|
56 [ three ]78

E7 `/. Am `/.
|----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|
|----------------|--------------0-|3-------1-------|1---------------|
|----------------|-----------1----|----------------|----------------|
|2---1---0-------|0-------2-------|----------------|----------------|
|----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|
|----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|
9 10 [ three ]11 12

D7 `/. Dm7 G7
|----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|
|0---------------|-----------3--0-|----------------|0---------------|
|----3---2-------|2-------2-------|2---------------|----------------|
|----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|
|----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|
|----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|
13 14 [ three ]1516

Cmaj7 `/. E7 `/.
|----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|
|1---------------|--------1--3--1-|0---------------|----------------|
|----0-----------|----------------|----0-----------|----------------|
|------2-2-------|2---------------|------2-2-------|2---------------|
|----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|
|----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|
17 18 [ three ]1920

A7 `/. Dm `/.
|----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|
|----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|
|2---0-----------|-----------3--2-|0---------------|----------------|
|--------2-------|2---1---2-------|--------3-------|3---------------|
|----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|
|----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|
21 22 [ three ]23 24

F Fm Cmaj7 Em7 A7
|----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|
|3-------1---0---|3-----------1---|0---------------|1---------------|
|----------------|----------------|------------0---|------------2---|
|----------------|----------------|--------2-------|----------------|
|----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|
|----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|
2526 2728

Dm7 G7 C6 (Ebdim7 Dm7 G7 )
|----------------|0-------0-------|----------------|----------------|
|1-----------1---|----------------|1---------------|1---------------|
|--------2-------|----------------|----------------|----------------|
|----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|
|----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|
|----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|
29303132

This is an appropriate song because of its relevance to today's lesson - consider the following. This is a fairly simple song, and not just for a jazz song. However, there are some points that I would like to make. Look at bar 3 of this song. Remember when we discussed playing the b3 over major or dominant chords? This b3 is used well here-- the b3 of 'E' is G, and it's played over a dominant 7th chord. In bar 6, the b5 of A is played (D#) which we also discussed today (I suppose I should mention that the b5 can be utilized well over dominant 7th chords, as well). Notice: the tritone between F and B in bar 25 (a tritone is the intervallic distance of a b5, or 6 semitones, or 3 whole tones).

The other parts of this song are almost all arpeggiated notes! In spite of the fact that they usually remain in the basic triad, this still supports the truth to what we have been discussing. The chord progression is note-worthy as well, but will be saved for another lesson...

Recapitulation: Thus far, we've explored a good deal of chromatics, arpeggiating, and comping. I encourage you to refer to previous lessons and the lessons of UG if anything here confuses you or if there are any concepts that you just can't seem to grasp. I encourage and challenge you to make a regular habit of playing through both the Cycle of 4ths AND the Cycle of 5ths - remember, you do this by playing a C on each string, then an F on each string, then a Bb, etc. through the Cycle (that is the cycle of fourths). To practice through the Cycle of fifths you play a C on each string, then a G, then a D, then an A, etc. Most people think that they know the fretboard oh so well (and chances are, you're one of them so was I) but before you conclude that, I encourage you to try these to test your knowledge. Now, if you haven't already, I urge you to read the previous lessons in order to grasp a more thorough knowledge of these concepts. Before we get into the main focus of today's lesson, I'm going to give you an EXTRA note to work with when playing minor 7, dominant 7, and diminished 7 arpeggios.

Take your dominant 7th arpeggio (in Bb, remember):
Bb
|----------------6-10-|
|------------6-9------|
|----------7----------|
|------6-8------------|
|--5-8----------------|
|6--------------------|

I'm sure that you recall that. Now, so far, I've talked about two different chromatics, the b3 and the b5. Today, I'll introduce the 7. By the '7' I refer to the 7th note of any major scale. In the case of Bb, this would be (anyone?) 'A'. This note can also be though of as a half-step below the root. The '7' can be used for any kind of chord, including minor chords (it does, in fact, give a far more minor sound, as we'll soon discuss). So, take a peek at your Bbdom7 arpeggio, and let's see what happens with an A added to it:

Bb7
|------------------5-6-10|
|--------------6-9-------|
|------------7-----------|
|------6-7-8-------------|
|--5-8-------------------|
|6-----------------------|

See the wonders that you can work with that 7? The interaction of the root, 7, and b7 is a classic example of how great and easy it is to create interesting chromatic approaches in your soloing. So, with all of the chromatics that we've discussed, let's see a Bbdom7 arpeggio with all chromatics and harmonic tones included:

Bb7
|--------------------------5-6-9-10-|
|----------------------6-9----------|
|----------------6-7-9--------------|
|----------6-7-8--------------------|
|--4-5-7-8--------------------------|
|6----------------------------------|

All of that from one chord. Amazing, eh? This arpeggio contains ALL of the chord tones of Bb7, and the b3, b5, and 7th of Bb, which are all not found in the Bbdom7 chord but complement it rather well. Now, off to the main focus of today's lesson. Do you recall the song, 'All of Me'? I hope so, because I asked you to learn it and compare te melody with the chord changes in the last lesson. Well, here's the chrod progression for this song:

Cmaj7 E7 A7 Dm
/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

E7 Am D7 Dm7 G7
/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |
9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Cmaj7 E7 A7 Dm
/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |
17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24


F Fm Cmaj7 Em7 A7 Dm7 G7 C6
/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |
25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32

So, you recevie this from me, what's the first thing that you do with it? If you're like me as a beginner, then you do what it tells you to do - play the chords? That answer is partially right. After all, those chords are the written song, and to change them would make the song different which is way out of our league anyways, right? wrong. Let's work right from the first measure. Measure one. Cmaj7. This is a good, safe chord to use for the first 2 bars of a song in the key of C. But who the hell doesn't get bored with it? I mean, the possibilities are so vast, that to limit yourself to Cmaj7 is just ludicrous. And for two whole bars? One, basic chord? I wouldn't do it. So, we need to ask ourselves a few things.

First off, what can we do to make this more interesting? Well, there's a number of things that we should keep, and those are the defining harmonic functions of this chord. To change those is to take a little bit too much liberty--we don't want to rewrite the song entirely, do we? Of course not. So, the defining characteristics of a major chord are? Well, I'll tell you. The root (C) and the third (E). So, we should resolve to keep those tones active in this chord. We can also keep the major 7th - it doesn't hurt us to have it, but it gets boring to have one chord throughout two bars. So, we should change up the 7th every now and then, while keeping the basic triad in tact. Playing these first two bars note for note, we might get this:

Cmaj7
x|----------------|----------------|
x|8--x8--x8--x8--x|8--x8--x8--x8--x|
x|9--x9--x9--x9--x|9--x9--x9--x9--x|
x|9--x9--x9--x9--x|9--x9--x9--x9--x|
x|x--xx--xx--xx--x|x--xx--xx--xx--x|
x|8--x8--x8--x8--x|8--x8--x8--x8--x|

See how boring that gets, for both you and the listener? Well, it may not help much, but it's a start, to add - any ideas? I myself am thinking the major 6th, but go with what's good for YOU. In adding the 6th, we get this:

Cmaj7
x|----------------|----------------|
x|8--x8--x8--x8--x|8--x8--x8--x8--x|
x|9--x9--x9--x9--x|9--x9--x9--x9--x|
x|9--x7--x9--x7--x|9--x7--x9--x7--x|
x|x--xx--xx--xx--x|x--xx--xx--xx--x|
x|8--x8--x8--x8--x|8--x8--x8--x8--x|

Not drastically different, I admit, but compare the two, and see which one you'd like better driving the song.

The next chord. Edom7. OK, so I'm slightly hesitant in saying this, but a jazz comper should NOT limit himself/herself to 7th chords given the option. In fact, I can't think of ONE situation in which he or she would choose the 7th chord over an alteration of some kind, diatonic (in key) or non-diatonic (out of key) to excess. Here are measures three and four of this tune:

E7
x|----------------|----------------|
x|9--x9--x9--x9--x|9--x9--x9--x9--x|
x|7--x7--x7--x7--x|7--x7--x7--x7--x|
x|9--x9--x9--x9--x|9--x9--x9--x9--x|
x|7--x7--x7--x7--x|7--x7--x7--x7--x|
x|----------------|----------------|

OK. Now, as a jazz comper, you should ask yourself: "What can I do to make this better? How can I distinguish this chord sheet from any old chord sheet, and how can I make it my own?" Well, after 7th chords, the next most common dominant chords are 9th chords, which contain the 1 - 3 - 5 - b7 - 9 notes of the major scale of the root. So, we would squish an E9 in this guy's place, right? Sure.

E9
x|----------------|----------------|
x|7--x7--x7--x7--x|7--x7--x7--x7--x|
x|7--x7--x7--x7--x|7--x7--x7--x7--x|
x|6--x6--x6--x6--x|6--x6--x6--x6--x|
x|7--x7--x7--x7--x|7--x7--x7--x7--x|
x|----------------|----------------|

(NOTE: I prefer this voicing of the 9th chord, not because it's easier to play (it really isn't) but because it retains a dominant quality without cluttering up the sound, and wth a forgiveable omission of the 5th, that 5th, in my humble opinion, I think tackies up the sound, but go for however you feel). OK. We have that working in the right direction, but didn't I just say to avoid all that is monotone? Ah, now you're learning. So what can we do to give this some variation? Well, the most common alterations of a 9th chord are the #9th chord and the b9th chord-- why not try both at the same time-- you can almost always do this. Trust me for the next minute or so, until I'll deliver an explanation.

E9 w/ alts
x|----------------|----------------|
x|8--x6--x8--x6--x|8--x6--x8--x6--x|
x|7--x7--x7--x7--x|7--x7--x7--x7--x|
x|6--x6--x6--x6--x|6--x6--x6--x6--x|
x|7--x7--x7--x7--x|7--x7--x7--x7--x|
x|----------------|----------------|

Pretty good? I'd say so.

Now, about this E9 chord - what? An E9 in the key of C? Isn't E supposed to be a MINOR chord in the key of C? Yes, but this is another example of an altered note employed for jazziness, and it does a damn good job. OK, you might think, that's a bit of an explanation, but don't you go too far in adding those alterations (E#9 and Eb9)? Well, consider the notes! That #9 and that b9 are anybody? F and G, and therefore they are diatonic with respect to anyone? The key of C. Pretty tricky, huh? Not really, but still effective and delivering of variance and coloration. We then reach the next chord - another dominant 7th chord, A7. Well, we've already used 9th chords to substitue 7th chords - why not move up a bit? Here's the two bars as written:

A7
x|----------------|----------------|
x|5--x5--x5--x5--x|5--x5--x5--x5--x|
x|6--x6--x6--x6--x|6--x6--x6--x6--x|
x|5--x5--x5--x5--x|5--x5--x5--x5--x|
x|x--xx--xx--xx--x|x--xx--xx--xx--x|
x|5--x5--x5--x5--x|5--x5--x5--x5--x|

I suppose I should tell you that you can often trust where your fingers go - the 13th of A for example, which is F#. If you're thumbing that E string, then your finger can climb right up to that 7th fret B, which would create an A dominant 13th chord, which is a great and interesting substitue for the A dominant 7th. Moving around your fingers on the higher strngs can lead to great things - particularly if you go unaccompanied when playing.

A7 (w/ alts)
x|----------------|----------------|
x|5--x5--x7--x7--x|6--x6--x5--x5--x|
x|6--x6--x6--x6--x|6--x6--x6--x6--x|
x|5--x5--x5--x5--x|5--x5--x5--x5--x|
x|x--xx--xx--xx--x|x--xx--xx--xx--x|
x|5--x5--x5--x5--x|5--x5--x5--x5--x|

How nice is that? In adding that F in the first two beats of the second measure, we've even made an entirely new kind of chord, the augmented chord. The cool part is, that note fits diatonically speaking, while delivering great sound. Now, movin' right along, we reach the Dm7 chord of this chord progression. Here's the bear raw form of these two measures:

Dm7
x|----------------|----------------|
x|6--x6--x6--x6--x|6--x6--x6--x6--x|
x|5--x5--x5--x5--x|5--x5--x5--x5--x|
x|3--x3--x3--x3--x|3--x3--x3--x3--x|
x|5--x5--x5--x5--x|5--x5--x5--x5--x|
x|----------------|----------------|

(that happens to be my favorite voicing for minor 7th chords hen played with root on the A string). Well, what has seemed to work previously in this song? Note bene, we should remain fairly consistant in our playing for each song - changing the whole structure and formula every two measures is definitely NOT a good thing to do. So, what can we do with minor 7th chords? Well, by detachment, you may have suggested... minor 9th chords? Sure! It retains the two necessary functions (D and F) and only adds to this chord.

Dm7/Dm9
x|----------------|----------------|
x|6--x5--x6--x5--x|6--x5--x6--x5--x|
x|5--x5--x5--x5--x|5--x5--x5--x5--x|
x|3--x3--x3--x3--x|3--x3--x3--x3--x|
x|5--x5--x5--x5--x|5--x5--x5--x5--x|
x|----------------|----------------|

Do you get a general idea of what we do given a chord sheet? Here's a few more tips for a minor chord. When we reach that A minor, we at the least play:

Am
x|5--x5--x5--x5--x|5--x5--x5--x5--x|
x|5--x5--x5--x5--x|5--x5--x5--x5--x|
x|5--x5--x5--x5--x|5--x5--x5--x5--x|
x|7--x7--x7--x7--x|7--x7--x7--x7--x|
x|7--x7--x7--x7--x|7--x7--x7--x7--x|
x|5--x5--x5--x5---|5--x5--x5--x5--x|

And we as self-respecting jazz musicians are supposed to play that for two whole measures? Methinks not. Well, what do our fingers allow us to do in this situation? Well, all that we have to do is keep adding notes that work (which are highly inclusive) with the basic triad! Easy as that. Well, what can we add to a basic minor chord? Hmmm... 7th? Yeah. b7th? Of course. 6th? Sure. Let's try all of those, right now:

Am/Am(maj7)/Am7/Am6
x|5--x5--x5--x5--x|5--x5-----------|
x|5--x5--x5--x5--x|5--x5--x5--x5--x|
x|5--x5--x5--x5--x|5--x5--x5--x5--x|
x|7--x7--x6--x6--x|5--x5--x4--x4--x|
x|7--x7--x7--x7--x|7--x7--xx--xx--x|
x|5--x5--x5--x5---|5--x5--x5--x5--x|

Pretty nifty? Even The Beatles frequented things like this, it doesn't matter what notes that you use, just the context you use them in. All that we've been talking about today is highly basic chord leading. I'll define this and go into it at the next lesson in the next lesson. As for right now, here are some skills to refine thus far:

1. The cycle of 4ths and 5ths (yes, both of them, just 5-10 minutes a day)
2. Your basic arpeggiations, with all three chromatics that we've dsicussed (b3, b5, and 7th) over the jazz-blues chord progression (see first lesson)
3. Harmonized scale through the cycles (aka the chords of each key)
4. Chord coloring and changing
5. Reading. I haven't discussed it, but I can't stress enough it's importance.

One of the best books around for learning to read was published by the Berklee Press, 'A Modern Method For Guitar' by William Leavitt.

65 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    HendrixClaptonP
    jazzkicksrock wrote: your article is crap!! your obviously a rock guitarist trying to sound all smart. you dont know nor to u appreciate jazz. example Jazz is a semi-improvised music jazz is the most improvised music youll ever hear. as opposed to rock when all the music is written, even the solos. youll get 12 measures of music and play for 10 mins. not to mention the fact that its different everytime as opposed to popular music in which the solos are the same every time. another thing you cant just change the 7th at will. if u change a major 7th to a dominant 7th its not gonna be pretty especially if your playing with real jazz musicians unlike yourself. thirdly, the fifth isnt really that important the 3rd and the 7th are the most important notes in any chord. the bass covers the tonic. maybe u should actually listen to some jazz or play with actual jazz musicians before u go and educate others on it
    Hmm, well thats a rather damning thing. Semi iomprovised is probably in that you use a lot of arpeggiation in jazz, and can get away with simply arpeggios and passing tones, hence it is constructed from the chord prrogssion ratjer than being a randopm melody made from scratch. I don;t think there are many rock or blues solos that are written, you sound like you need to go listen to some rock or play with some rock musos before you comment lol. Rock and blues is largely improvised, even the recorded solos are improvised, or possibly two or three improved solos that are then combined. Perhaps you would care to enlighten us all by taking the time to actually write an in-depth article on jazz, instead of trashing someone ele's effort? Jazz elitists like yourself are what has killed jazz from the mainstream conciousness, very sad because it is a great genre of music, as is rock, classica, folk, blues etc. Open mind and ears, closed mouth, always a good policy in my experience.
    albino strat!
    Copy to WORD and then put the tab parts in "Courier New" as a font. IT takes time but its worth it
    flying jello
    Where is part II?? I WANNA KNOW MORE! hahahaaa Such a great wealth of jazz information, especially for me because I'm planning on joining my highschool's jazz band.
    leadlix4emblem
    one more thing.. No one hate on this article. It's one of the most well-thought out lessons on this site. I'll have to read it again, and look up that numeral chording you were using. Mainly, I just played the tabs, but even those are enough for a good start.
    leadlix4emblem
    jeez this is great! I'm auditioning for jazz band at school next Tuesday, and this is gonna get me in for sure. Just imagine if I decided to play blues for my audition. O_o
    el conrado
    brilliant just what i needed, jazzkidsrock ok mayb u disagreed with but first of all u didnt need to be a cock about it and second of all you write a better lesson! cos at least wind jammer did it and put some effort in
    guitarmentor
    WindJammer - Nice lesson, with the exception of the formatting issue Any possibility that you can send or post a plain text (or chord pro) copy of the lesson without the formatting problem? It looks like the chord progression / bar numbering got reformatted-compressed when you posted the lesson. For example, the following progression excerpt is not aligned properly, E7 Am D7 Dm7 G7 / / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / |/ / / / | 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 Thanks - Guitar Mentor
    Slaytanic1993
    Dang, man, I'm starting out my jazz - fusion training and this is really freaking helpful. Thanks a tuns!
    les_paul_01
    a great article! i'm trying to increase my knowledge of jazz guitar and this is really helpful. 10/10
    Nike-Man
    Matt_W wrote: Althought its long, and well made, played... It's not the basic understanding of chord formations, nor playing Jazz guitar or even guitar. You don't explain any of the Root, 3, 5, 7, and how to use them. THATS THE FIRST STEP OF UNDERSTANDING! A real Jazz Lesson would take days to right for there is alot for normal guitar begginers and/or experts, to understand. It took me over 1 month to learn Jazz guitar, and that was orally, with a private instructor.
    I hate to be the negative posting guy but you are a douche
    Ruas
    Please tell me the name of the lesson of Roman Numeral nptation chords
    rockin2way
    awesome, man. This helps a lot and i can tell you put a lot of effort into it. great job
    Slash181
    HendrixClaptonP wrote: jazzkicksrock wrote: your article is crap!! your obviously a rock guitarist trying to sound all smart. you dont know nor to u appreciate jazz. example Jazz is a semi-improvised music jazz is the most improvised music youll ever hear. as opposed to rock when all the music is written, even the solos. youll get 12 measures of music and play for 10 mins. not to mention the fact that its different everytime as opposed to popular music in which the solos are the same every time. another thing you cant just change the 7th at will. if u change a major 7th to a dominant 7th its not gonna be pretty especially if your playing with real jazz musicians unlike yourself. thirdly, the fifth isnt really that important the 3rd and the 7th are the most important notes in any chord. the bass covers the tonic. maybe u should actually listen to some jazz or play with actual jazz musicians before u go and educate others on it Hmm, well thats a rather damning thing. Semi iomprovised is probably in that you use a lot of arpeggiation in jazz, and can get away with simply arpeggios and passing tones, hence it is constructed from the chord prrogssion ratjer than being a randopm melody made from scratch. I don;t think there are many rock or blues solos that are written, you sound like you need to go listen to some rock or play with some rock musos before you comment lol. Rock and blues is largely improvised, even the recorded solos are improvised, or possibly two or three improved solos that are then combined. Perhaps you would care to enlighten us all by taking the time to actually write an in-depth article on jazz, instead of trashing someone ele's effort? Jazz elitists like yourself are what has killed jazz from the mainstream conciousness, very sad because it is a great genre of music, as is rock, classica, folk, blues etc. Open mind and ears, closed mouth, always a good policy in my experience.
    +1
    Slash181
    Do you know the 'Cycle Of 4ths'? It's basically just a cycle of notes that are each a 4th interval away from eachother. Here's the order of the notes: C - F - Bb - Eb - Ab - Db - Gb - B - E - A - D - G So, with that pattern, do this: Play a 'C' on EACH string, from 6 to 1. Then an F on each string, from 6 to 1, then a Bb, on strings 6 through 1. then an Eb, and continue through the cycle of 4ths. Not so easy, eh? If you nailed it the first time, good for you, not many guitarists know the fretboard so well. Try to play it at 100 bpm.
    Are these not 5ths? C-F is a 5th And the octave positioning are also a 5th away from each other:S If i'm wrong can you explain for me your understanding?
    handsanitizer
    No. 1.) C 2.) D 3.) E 4.) F F is the 4th from C. Fantastic article btw. Its funny too.. I see tutorials where guys tell you to do the exact opposite, and stick to the scale for solos. The scale riffing to me makes the solo stand out less, less "arty," or jazzy.
    Dregen
    Oh, jesus christ, brain overload... I guess I'm gonna need some knowledge of music theory before I even attempt this... Tommorrow, I'll crank up the jazz tunes, and get studying. Then I'll take a gander over here again and see if this makes more sense.
    seedmole
    So, where's part II? This lesson is pretty damn awesome and I'm looking forward to see more. Though I doubt he will post anything else, as he said part II would be up in a few weeks... from two years ago.
    rock_and_blues
    Matt_W wrote: Althought its long, and well made, played... It's not the basic understanding of chord formations, nor playing Jazz guitar or even guitar. You don't explain any of the Root, 3, 5, 7, and how to use them. THATS THE FIRST STEP OF UNDERSTANDING! A real Jazz Lesson would take days to right for there is alot for normal guitar begginers and/or experts, to understand. It took me over 1 month to learn Jazz guitar, and that was orally, with a private instructor.
    He explained that an understanding of chords was neccesary before even beginning the lesson. I call bull shit on your "one month jazz guitarist" claim as well. Jazzkicksrock...go listen to some bluegrass and then tell me jazz is "the most improvised music you'll ever hear". Anyway, windjammer I have to thank you on this lesson, I can tell it will really help me out as I'm beginning to branch out into Jazz guitar.
    libertines4ever
    woohoo the jazz soloing and arpeggiating that's mainly why I gave it a ten don't think it's taght that well in any other jazz lesson
    lupacante
    WindJammer wrote: Part II should be up in a few weeks, thank you for the comments.
    A few weeks? Man, 3 years have passed...
    paulwellerrocks
    jazzkicksrock : your article is crap!! your obviously a rock guitarist trying to sound all smart. you dont know nor to u appreciate jazz. example Jazz is a semi-improvised music jazz is the most improvised music youll ever hear. as opposed to rock when all the music is written, even the solos. youll get 12 measures of music and play for 10 mins. not to mention the fact that its different everytime as opposed to popular music in which the solos are the same every time. another thing you cant just change the 7th at will. if u change a major 7th to a dominant 7th its not gonna be pretty especially if your playing with real jazz musicians unlike yourself. thirdly, the fifth isnt really that important the 3rd and the 7th are the most important notes in any chord. the bass covers the tonic. maybe u should actually listen to some jazz or play with actual jazz musicians before u go and educate others on it wtf? who the **** writes guitar solos?
    me_myself_and_i
    great lesson, i enjoyed it very much, i look forward to what you have in part two, this is one of the best lessons that i have seen on the internet
    blackthorn
    Great lesson, jazz really is hard, glad to have learned a thing or two. definitely cool.
    rjc_15
    Man, you REALLY went to town, you know? One of the lessons I really appreciate, thank you for taking the time to write it.
    «ÃFireÏnside»
    Really nice job, I've been wanting to get into the Jazz/Blues styles of playing, this will be a massive help to me.
    Dyuha
    Yeah, learn this lesson -- and you're a skillful jazz man! Btw, this is only first part, this is just the beginning.
    WindJammer
    Ah! Some tabs didn't line up. No matter, came across better than I expected, thank you to anyone who may have helped align the tabs. Part II should be up in a few weeks, thank you for the comments.
    nightwind
    Ahh, wonderful! This is the first lesson on hear that has provided me with enough material to go out and actually apply, and not just stick in my brain. Very good work, JindWammer
    Matt_W
    Althought its long, and well made, played... It's not the basic understanding of chord formations, nor playing Jazz guitar or even guitar. You don't explain any of the Root, 3, 5, 7, and how to use them. THATS THE FIRST STEP OF UNDERSTANDING! A real Jazz Lesson would take days to right for there is alot for normal guitar begginers and/or experts, to understand. It took me over 1 month to learn Jazz guitar, and that was orally, with a private instructor.
    fendermalmsteen
    ^This lesson was wrote assuming the people reading either A) knew how to form chords already, or B) had the ability to go out and learn.