Jazz Chord Progressions: Information For Beginners

jazz chord progressionsHave you just started to play jazz guitar, and want to learn about jazz chord progressions? Learning to play a new instrument is an exciting challenge. Having a thorough understanding of jazz chord progressions will help you accomplish your musical goals.

Once you have picked out what kind of instrument you want, you can dive right into learning how to play. It’s important to learn how to read music, and understand music theory, in order to become a great jazz player. Learning how to play jazz chord progressions will help make jazz guitar quick and easy to understand.

One of the best ways to learn how to play guitar is with jazz chord progressions. Because they are so common in many songs it will be easier for you to learn them. They could be part of a song or the whole thing. Even though many different selections of chords can sound good together, there is usually a numeric arrangement that is followed. These arrangements should help you learn to play a lot faster. It is also a good practicing tool to help with your finger placement. 

What Are jazz Chord Progressions?

During a specified time a succession of cords are played one after another; called a chord progression. A chord progression is a certain numeric arrangement of chords that sounds good together. Roman numerals are used when talking about a specific chord in a progression. Some people will use uppercase for major chords and lower for minor chords. Typically a chord change happens on an accented beat in order to contribute to the rhythm or musical for of the piece.

Chord Progression Types

Upwards and downwards chord scales tend to be recognized the best by our ears. Chord progressions that follow the steps of a scale create a bass line for a song. Descending bass lines are commonly found in classical music. Major and minor scales work well when constructing common chords because they contain a number of perfect fifths. These are dominating scales in areas where harmony is an important part of the music.

  • Simple Progressions – One of the most basic chord progressions is alternating between two cords. Many songs are built with just the repetition of two chords. Some melodies in classical music consist mostly of alternating between the tonis (I) and dominant (V). Other styles such ass folk songs and popular songs are built on a repetition of two chords like I – IV.
  • Three-chord Progressions – Three-chord songs are more common because you can hold any note of the scale. The chord progression may fit in with a melody or it may create a melody. This is another common chord progression in classical music as well.
  • Jazz Chord Progression – ii V I Major – Without question one of the most popular jazz chord progressions is the II V I. This progression is found in many songs, in all 12 keys, both rhythmically and harmonically. It is considered a good place to start when trying to expand your jazz guitar repertoire.

Improve Your Chord Progressions

It takes a lot of practice to play chord progressions quickly. Many beginners want to learn the secret to playing chord progressions faster. It is very important to be efficient with your movements. The more direct you become with your movements will allow you to play faster and more fluidly. Practice these tips in order to think less about the movements and just do them.

  • Place your fingers from the bottom up to the top of the strings. Placing your fingers starting at the top will take you longer than if you start at the bottom. Your pick hits the bottom strings first allowing you to have your figures place in the right spots as it is striking. It gives you a second longer to get the rest of your fingers placed. You should almost be doing both movements at the same time.
  • Your finger with the longest to go should lead your movements. Moving the finger that has the furthest to go from chord to chord will allow your other fingers to follow along naturally. It is important to know the feel of your fret board.
  • Your fingers should be as close to the strings as you can get them. Practice a simple song to see how far your fingers are coming up off the fret. Try to pull them in closer if they are getting more than a half in away from the strings.
  • Your right hand should be moving all the time. If you have to stop to change chords your brain will tell your left hand to slow down. You want to constantly think about keeping that right hand moving. Because your brain wants your hands moving at the same time it will speed up your left hand to match your right. In order to be effective at this you may have to use a metronome or carefully count the beats.
  • Repetition. This is very important to progress your jazz guitar talents to the next level. The more you practice jazz chord progressions the sooner you will be able to play them correctly.
  • Relax and have fun!When starting to play jazz guitar it is hard for many students to stop thinking. It is important to feel the music, and the instrument, to be a better musician. Beginers can overthink things and have trouble relaxing and letting the movements flow. Sometimes less thinking is better. It’s ok if you hit a wrong note. Just keep going and give it a try when you get back around to that section of the song.

Give these tips a try the next time you are practicing your jazz chord progressions. Don’t worry about playing the wrong note while practicing. Everyone hits the wrong note now and then. Even seasoned professionals! These chords are very important to master and are a major part of jazz music. You also want to memorize some of these chords so you can learn how to improvise off of them. The more chords you know the easier it will be to improvise in the middle of a song. Again don’t worry about what others are thinking if you are able to practice with a group and they throw you and improvisational spot. Just relax and have fun!

Now you should have a selection of jazz chord progressions in your repertoire to impress all your friends with. They will probably be impressed at how fast you are learning to play guitar. They may even start asking you for some tips on how to play. You can always refer them to a great course on Mastering the Art of Guitar Chords to get them started. Sometimes it can be a bit of a challenge to teach someone else how to play while you are still learning new things. On the other hand, you could have someone to play and learn with. If you are feeling pretty confident in your skills you could always try learning jazz piano so that you and your friend could start your own jazz band jam sessions.