Jazz Guitar Chords: 3 Easy Basics

guitarnotesforbeginnersMany instrumentalists enjoy playing jazz because it allows you to be creative, both with accompanying chords and melodic soloing. There are many great jazz songs available, but in most cases, those playing the music prefer to supplement the made song into their own by using their own melodies and chords, which is why any great jazz player should know a lot of chords. Udemy offers many courses that can help you learn to play jazz guitar.

Learning to play jazz guitar chords can seem daunting, even if you already know how to play the guitar. Jazz chords are different than other guitar chords. However, if you know these and can play them already well, moving into jazz isn’t as hard as you might thing. You simply need to know a few easy chords called “Seventh chords”. Learning these chords will help you play jazz and start learning bigger chords as well.

Major Seventh Chord

The major Seventh is built from the Seventh, Fifth, Third and First notes of the major scale, and tends to best capture the jazz sound. Because it is a major chord, it sounds “happier”, but it is still mellow and has a touch of melancholy to it. If you want to know more about chords, consider enrolling in a course such as Udemy’s How to Play Every Open Major & Minor Guitar Chord to gain a full understanding of how chords work.

It is important to improvise new chord shapes, and the one that the Major Seventh chord uses is the “shell chords”. These leave out the fifth degree and provides us with the first, third and seventh degrees.

The above example is the G Major Seventh Chord. The first shape (the black one) is the root of the chord and is in the G position. You can see this is on the sixth string. If you will play this chord with your right hand, use your thumb for the low note (black one circle) and the index and middle fingers for the other two. The trick is to only pluck those three notes and no others, otherwise the sound will not be correct. Remember, you must hold down the correct strings and pluck just those notes.

It is important to be able to read a chord diagram, like the one above, because this is how music is written for any kind of guitar. The chord itself is shown with the black circles. The numbers inside the black dots tell you which fingers to use. The x’s to the side tell you not to hit those strings.

The above example is also a shell chord, but is in the key of C. The root chord is the black circle labeled “2” in this case.

You can practice moving between the G and C Major Seventh Chords above and move the fingers around on the fret to hear the different sounds. You will hear that it sounds jazzy.

Dominant Seventh Chord

The dominant seventh chord sounds very bluesy and most of the blues songs available now only use the dominant seventh chord, in different keys. This chord is built from the flat seventh note, regular fifth, third and first notes from the major scale, again leaving out the fifth degree. These are denoted as “G7 or C7”.

Try finding a G7, C7, and D7 dominant seventh chord and switch between them all using different combinations. Many people tend to play the G7 with a sixth string root shape and both the C7 and D7 with the fifth string root shape.

Minor Seventh Chord

This chord has more mellow tones than a regular minor chord, and can be used in place of any minor chord you see to provide a jazzier feel to the music. However, these chords tend to sound more dramatic than other minor chords, so err on the side of caution until you learn to hear the subtle differences between the Minor Seventh and other minor chords.

This chord is built from the first, flat third, fifth, and flat seventh degrees of the major scale, though you still only use three fingers to play the chord. This chord is denoted as m7, and you will most likely see the key written first as a capital letter, such as this: Gm7.

As practice, use the Am7, Em7, and Dm7 chords in different ways to hear a minor blues sound.

Understanding Chord Shapes

A chord shape is simply moving your fingers along the guitar neck and playing in different frets. It seems simple, but you must remember the actual chord to play and where fingers are to be lined up; then move up and down the frets, keeping your fingers in the same position.

It is also easiest to play one chord shape and then play another chord shape close to the first. This way, your fingers aren’t moving up and down the guitar neck more than needed. However, once you get used to the hand movements required to play chord shapes in different frets, you can play at one end, then move to the other end of the guitar, though doing so a lot will get tiring.

In essence, each chord shape has two choices. These choices include the key you play in and the fret you choose.

As stated before, jazz is about creativity, so use your imagination and come up with your own chords. To do this, take three to four chords from your key and switch between them using the jazz shell chords. For example, in G major, you can use Gmaj7, Bm7, Am7, Cmaj7, D7 and Em7. Move through each of these in any order you choose and then move to a different fret and continue. This allows you to practice and hear. After a while, you will come up with your own favorite choices based on what sounds good to you.

This may seem slightly difficult, but it is just because you need practice. Explanations can be given about the different keys, different chords, etc., but until you actually start playing them and hearing their differences, you won’t understand what people are talking about.

Just remember, in jazz, there is very little you could do that would be “wrong”, because jazz is all about being unique. If you want to learn more about jazz guitar or any other guitar lessons, head over to Udemy. Udemy has one of the most comprehensive programs online when it comes to learning how to play jazz guitar chords.