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Easy Jazz Chords – Charts and Progressions for Guitar

When learning jazz chords, you find that these shapes are difficult to grab for the beginner guitarist.

While there are shapes that take time to master, there are also easy jazz chords for guitar that you can learn.

By working smaller, easier to play chords, you confidently outline chord progressions without growing an extra finger in the process.

This gives you the foundation to outline changes and then move to more advanced jazz chords from there.

In this lesson, you learn what jazz chords are, why these shapes are easy to play, and apply easy jazz chords to chord progressions and standards.

 

 

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Easy Jazz Chords Contents

 

 

 

 

 

What Are Jazz Guitar Chords

 

Before you learn to play easy jazz chords, take a look at what makes a chord sound jazzy.

Now, there’s really no such thing as a “jazz guitar chord.”

This is because there are only guitar chords, some or all of which are used in many musical genres besides jazz.

Though many genres use similar chords, there’s a guideline to help define the chords that jazz guitarists use in their playing.

 

Jazz guitar chords are often built with four or more notes, such as 7th, 9th, 11th, and 13th chords.

 

So, when learning how to play jazz guitar, working on 7th chords is the best place to begin, as it sets you up to learn extended chords as you progress in your studies.

To help you hear and see the difference between a triad, the three-note chords popular in rock and other genres, and 7th chords, here’s a C and Cmaj7 chord side by side.

Play them back-to-back to hear how they sound similar, but the Cmaj7 has a bit more “color” as compared to the C triad.

 

Click to hear easy jazz chords 1

 

easy jazz chords 1

 

As you progress throughout this lesson, you focus on building your 7th chord vocabulary.

You learn three-note root based and rootless 7th chords, as well as two-note shapes that you can use to play your favorite jazz chord progressions on guitar.

From there, once the material is comfortable, you’ve built a strong foundation to move on to 9th, 11th, and 13th chords.

Now that you know jazz chords are shapes that extend beyond the triad, you’ll learn why these shapes are considered easy.

 

 

 

 

Why These Chords are Considered Easy

 

When you think of the term jazz guitar chord, you probably don’t associate those shapes with the word “easy.”

But, while there are many chords that are difficult to play for beginner jazzers, there are also shapes that are easy to get under your fingers.

These two and three-note shapes introduce you to the world of jazz chords, and they become a go-to resource in your comping, chord soloing, and chord melody phrases.

To begin, take a look at some typical Cmaj7 shapes, ones that are difficult for many beginner jazz guitarists to play.

 

Click to hear easy jazz chords 2

 

easy jazz chords 2

 

As you can see, some of these shapes have barres and stretches that are tricky to get under your fingers.

While this may deter many players from continuing their jazz guitar studies, there are easier shapes that you can bring to the fretboard.

In the next example, you see a typical jazz chord, followed by three easy jazz chords in the same position.

As you see, the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th chords in the sequence are easier to play.

Give them a try and see what you think.

 

Click to hear easy jazz chords 3

 

easy jazz chords 3

 

If you played through the examples, you figured out that the first shape is still being played in the other three; you just remove notes to make it easier.

In jazz, you can remove notes from any chord and still maintain the fundamental sound of that chord.

Here’s an example of another jazz chord, one that’s tough to play, with the 5th taken out in the second example that makes it easier.

 

Click to hear easy jazz chords 4

 

easy jazz chords 4

 

When taking notes out of more complex shapes, you create three common chord shapes.

 

  • Shell Chords – R-3-7
  • 3rds and 7th – 3-7
  • Rootless Triads – 3-5-7

 

These three shapes are the basis for your studies in this lesson.

Now, while these chords are easy to play, there are roadblocks that you encounter with these chords.

The first arises when you reach the 3rds and 7ths.

Though these chords are the easiest to play in the lesson, they don’t have a root note.

Because of this, you have to play these chords on the correct fret without the aid of a root note.

To help you get over this roadblock, there are tips and exercises presented below.

But, if you get stuck, learn the examples as written, go slow, work the suggested exercises, and over time you’ll find any rootless chord quickly and easily.

Now that you know why these are easy chords, you can explore effective and efficient ways to practice these shapes.

 

 

 

 

How to Practice Easy Jazz chords

 

When learning easy jazz chords, especially for beginner guitarists, it can seem like memorizing the shapes is enough.

But, memorizing shapes is just the beginning.

If you can play a shape from memory you’ve got it in your fingers, but there’s a difference between reciting shapes and applying them to chord progressions.

To get you beyond memorization, here are exercises to make the most of your time studying easy jazz chords.

 

  • Learn the examples as written.
  • Practice each example in other keys.
  • Play the examples with a whole-note rhythm.
  • Experiment with other rhythms over the backing tracks.
  • Apply these chords to other progressions you’re studying.
  • Practice playing these shapes over jazz standards.
  • Learn the chord studies below as written.
  • Change the rhythms for the chord studies over the backing tracks.

 

As you can see, there’s a lot of work in that list of exercises.

Don’t feel that you have to work on every exercise in that list.

Instead, use the list as a reference and pick a few exercises to work on to get started.

From there, move to other chord shapes and sections of the lesson and use other exercises with those new chords.

There are other, chord specific, exercises below.

But, for now, use this list as a reference chart when working these, or any, jazz guitar chord shapes in your practice routine.

So, enough talking, time to take these shapes to the fretboard.

 

 

 

 

Shell Voicings

 

The first set of easy jazz chords are shell voicings.

Shell voicings are three-note chords that contain the root, third and seventh of the underlying chord change.

There are other options and extensions that people use when comping shell voicings, but these two are the best place to start.

When building shell chords on the guitar, you find two options for fingerings.

 

  • Root-3rd-7th
  • Root-7th-3rd

 

Though they only have three notes, shell voicings provide all the information you need to sound the essential notes of any chord.

Here’s a list of the functions of each note in any shell chord.

 

  • The root defines the chord name.
  • The 3rd tells you if it’s major or minor.
  • The 7th tells you if it’s maj7, 7, m7, or mMaj7.

 

As you see below, these chords sound great, but they don’t outline every chord change directly, such as m7b5 chords where you need the 5th to tell m7b5 apart from m7.

You’ll explore ways to outlining m7b5 chords in later examples in this lesson.

To begin your studies of shell chords, take them to the fretboard.

Rather than learn a number of fingerings for shell voicings over different chord qualities, take these chords directly to chord progressions.

This way, you learn how to play shell chords on guitar, as well as apply them to popular jazz progressions at the same time.

The two progressions in this lesson are major and minor key turnarounds, beginning with the major key ii V I VI progression.

The first major ii V I VI example begins with a R-7-3 Dm7 chord and then moves to the closest chord shapes from there in the progression.

When doing so, you use the following intervals for each chord.

 

  • m7 = R b3 b7
  • 7 = R 3 b7
  • Maj7 = R 3 7

 

Go slow with these chords if they’re new to you.

Play each chord separately until you get it under your fingers.

Then, when comfortable, bring the progression together, first on your own, then with a metronome, and finally with the jam tracks below.

Once you can play them from memory with the jam track, begin to alter the rhythm and experiment with your picking/strumming options.

This gets the chords under your fingers, and gives you practice being creative with jazz chords in your playing at the same time.

 

Major ii V I VI Backing Track 2 5 1 C Slow No Piano

 

Click to hear easy jazz chords 5

 

easy jazz chords 5

 

In the second major turnaround, you begin with a R-3-7 Dm7 chord, moving on to the closest shapes for each chord from there.

Once you can play these first two examples, put on the backing track and jam while moving between both positions.

This teaches you to shift between fretboard positions as you comp over common jazz progressions.

As well, stay in C major with these chords, as written, or challenge yourself further by moving these chords to other keys.

 

Major ii V I VI Backing Track 2 5 1 C Slow No Piano

 

Click to hear easy jazz chords 6

 

easy jazz chords 6

 

In the next set of examples, you learn shell chords over a minor turnaround progression, iim7b5-V7alt-Im6-bIIImaj7.

When doing so, you outline the following intervals for each chord.

 

  • m7b5 – R b3 b7
  • 7alt – R 3 b7
  • m6 – R b3 6
  • Maj7 – R 3 7

 

Notice that there’s a Cm6 chord in this progression, a common sub for m7 chords when playing in minor keys, especially over Im7 chords.

Also notice is that the Dm7 and G7 chords have the same notes as the Dm7b5 and G7alt chords.

This is because there’s no 5th in a shell voicing, and Dm7 and Dm7b5 share the same 3rd and 7th.

As well, G7 and G7alt share the same 3rd and 7th, so are the same shape on the fretboard when using shell voicings.

 

Minor ii V I bIII Backing Track 2 5 1 Cm Slow No Piano

 

Click to hear easy jazz chords 7

 

easy jazz chords 7

 

The final shell voicing example starts with a R-3-7 Dm7b5 chord and moves on to the closest shapes for each new chord change from there.

When you have these shapes under your fingers, put on the backing track below and move between both minor turnaround chord groups in your playing.

That gets the chords under your fingers, and gives you practice moving around the fretboard in your comping at the same time.

 

Minor ii V IbIII Backing Track 2 5 1 Cm Slow No Piano

 

Click to hear easy jazz chords 8

 

easy jazz chords 8

 

 

 

 

3rd and 7th Chords

 

The second group of easy jazz chords are some of the easiest to play shapes you ever encounter, 3rds and 7ths.

While 3rds and 7ths are easy to play, using one or at most two fingers, they offer a particular challenge to beginning jazz guitarists, there’s no root.

Because there’s no root, you have to visualize the root note while not playing it to ensure you’re fingering the correct 3rds and 7ths.

This takes time to master.

But, in the meantime you can learn these shapes and apply them to progressions as you build your ability to play rootless chords in real time.

When playing 3rds and 7ths, you have two inversions to choose from.

 

  • 3rd and 7th
  • 7th and 3rd

 

From there, apply those two inversions to various string sets on the guitar.

To make things easy in the beginning, focus on the 4th and 3rd strings when playing these two-note chords on the guitar.

From there, move them to the 5th and 4th strings as you expand upon these ideas on the fretboard.

One thing you may be asking yourself at this point is:

 

“How can I sound the chord changes with just two notes?”

 

Well, as you learned with shell voicings, the 3rd tells you if a chord is major or minor, and the 7th tells you if the chord is maj7, 7, m7, mMaj7 etc.

If you have a bass player, they cover the root note, which frees you up to only play the 3rd and 7th on the guitar.

If you don’t have a bass player, you might be surprised at how well the 3rd and 7th defines the chord progression on their own.

When working through the chords below, play them without the backing track to hear the chord progression moving by.

Most people can still hear the changes, even without the root note.

This is why 3rds and 7ths are so powerful, and are essential jazz chords for any guitarist to have under their fingers.

The first major turnaround example starts with a 7-3 chord over Dm7 and then moves to the closest chord shape from that starting point.

When doing so, you use the following intervals.

 

  • m7 = b3 b7
  • 7 = 3 b7
  • Maj7 = 3 7

 

One thing to notice with 3rds and 7ths, is that you barely move your hand as you outline the changes.

This is an added bonus, you outline the chords and use minimal movement on the fretboard at the same time.

 

Major ii V I VI Backing Track 2 5 1 C Slow No Piano

 

Click to hear easy jazz chords 9

 

easy jazz chords 9

 

The second example starts with the 3rd and 7th for Dm7 and move to the closest shapes from that starting point.

If you have trouble finding the root close to these two-note shapes, do a few exercises to help you always know where the root note is.

 

  • Play the chords and sing the root note.
  • Play the root note, then play the 3rd and 7th.
  • Play the shell voicing first, R-3-7 or R-7-3, then drop the root note.

 

These three exercises can be applied to any 3rd and 7th shape, and are a great way to work on you root visualization in the woodshed.

 

Major ii V I VI Backing Track 2 5 1 C Slow No Piano

 

Click to hear easy jazz chords 10

 

easy jazz chords 10

 

Moving on to minor key turnaround, here’s an example that starts with a Dm7b5 3rd and 7th and moves to closest chord shapes from there.

As you saw in the previous section, the lack of a 5th over Dm7b5 and the altered notes over G7alt prevents those chords from totally sounding on the guitar.

But, the strength of the 3rd and 7th is enough to carry the progression, with or without a bass player.

When playing minor key 3rds and 7ths, you’ll use the following intervals for each chord.

 

  • m7b5 = b3 b7
  • 7alt = 3 b7
  • m6 = b3 6
  • Maj7 = 3 7

 

Notice that there’s a Cm6 chord in the progression, and therefore the b7 you’d expect over that chord is replaced with a 6th interval.

This is common in jazz, especially with Im7 chords, and so it’s worth exploring and applying to your practice routine.

 

Minor ii V I bIII Backing Track 2 5 1 Cm Slow No Piano

 

Click to hear easy jazz chords 11

 

easy jazz chords 11

 

The final 3rd and 7th example begins with the Dm7b5 3rd and 7th intervals, then moves to the closest subsequent chords from that starting point.

Once you have these shapes under your fingers, put on the backing track and mix together both positions as you work on shifting in your comping.

This is tougher with 3rds and 7ths, as there are no root notes, which are usually the first note you visualize when shifting chords around the fretboard.

Go slow when working on shifting rootless chords, visualize the root notes, and build up the tempo in this exercise from there.

 

Minor ii V I bIII Backing Track 2 5 1 Cm Slow No Piano

 

Click to hear easy jazz chords 12

 

easy jazz chords 12

 

 

 

 

357 Triads – Rootless Chords

 

The last group of easy jazz chords are three-note rootless shapes containing the 3-5-7 of each chord.

These shapes build on 3rds and 7ths, but you now add the 5th for color with those two-note chords.

When doing so, you produce the following interval groups for each chord.

 

  • 3rd-5th-7th
  • 5th-7th-3rd
  • 7th-3rd-5th

 

As well, when using 357 chords, these shapes form triads on the guitar.

This makes it easy to learn if you already know how to play triads.

If not, triads are easy to finger on the fretboard, and won’t take long to get under your fingers if they’re new.

After learning any of these examples, move between 37 and 357 chords to hear and see how they’re similar, yet unique, on the fretboard.

Lastly, there are many different string sets to explore with 357 chords.

To keep things focused, you learn 357 chords on the 432 string set in this lesson.

These strings are perfect for 357 chords, as they sound the chord, stay out of the way of the bass player, and don’t interfere with the soloist.

Once you work this string set, expand to other strings as you take these shapes further in your studies.

The first example starts with a 357 Dm7 chord and moves to the closest next shape from that starting point.

When doing so, you use the following triads for each chord.

 

  • Dm7 = F
  • G7 = Bdim
  • Cmaj7 = Em
  • A7 = C#dim

 

Knowing which triads are used for each 7th chord allows you to apply 357 chords to other musical situations.

For example, any m7 chord can be played with a major triad from the 3rd of that chord, such as F over Dm7 or C over Am7.

Now, having said that, in the first example you see the b13 being used over A7, which isn’t part of a triad.

Since you often see the VI chord in jazz written as a VI7b9 or VI7b13, I’ve included that alteration in the first example.

The second example features the C#dim triad over A7 to use as a comparison.

 

Major ii V I VI Backing Track 2 5 1 C Slow No Piano

 

Click to hear easy jazz chords 13

 

easy jazz chords 13

 

Moving on, you now play the Dm7 with the intervals 573, moving to the closest chord from that starting point.

Practice moving between these first two chord positions before moving on to the next example, as you have three positions of 357 chords to learn on the guitar.

 

Major ii V I VI Backing Track 2 5 1 C Slow No Piano

 

Click to hear easy jazz chords 14

 

easy jazz chords 14

 

In order to cover the entire neck with 357 chords, you need to learn three different positions.

This example begins with the 735 Dm7 chord and moves through the changes from that starting point.

After learning this example, jam over the backing track and move between the three positions for major turnaround 357 chords you learned in this section.

 

Major ii V I VI Backing Track 2 5 1 C Slow No Piano

 

Click to hear easy jazz chords 15

 

easy jazz chords 15

 

Moving on, you now play 357 rootless chords over a minor turnaround progression.

When doing so, you won’t be using triads for every chord, as G7alt and Cm6 don’t produce triads with these chord shapes.

Here are the intervals used over each chord.

 

  • Dm7b5 – b3 b5 b7 (Fm)
  • G7alt – 3 #5 b7
  • Cm6 – b3 5 6
  • Ebmaj7 – 357(Gm)

 

As you can see, some chords produce triads while others don’t.

Notice that you’re now outlining the b5 in each m7b5 chord, as well as the #5, an altered note, in the G7alt chord.

This helps you get a bit of color over those chords, and differentiates them from their major key counterparts.

 

Minor ii V I bIII Backing Track 2 5 1 Cm Slow No Piano

 

Click to hear easy jazz chords 16

 

easy jazz chords 16

 

In the next progression, you play the 573 Dm7b5 shape and move on to the closest next chord from there.

Once you can play these first two positions, practice moving between them as you take them to the backing track below.

 

Minor ii V I bIII Backing Track 2 5 1 Cm Slow No Piano

 

Click to hear easy jazz chords 17

 

easy jazz chords 17

 

The final example uses the 735 Dm7b5 chord and moves to the next closest chord shapes from that starting point.

After getting these chords down, put on the backing track and move between all three minor turnaround examples as you work on shifting in your practicing.

 

Minor ii V I bIII Backing Track 2 5 1 Cm Slow No Piano

 

Click to hear easy jazz chords 18

 

easy jazz chords 18

 

 

 

 

Major Jazz Blues Studies

 

Now that you know how to play easy jazz chords, and apply them to major and minor progressions, you can take them to larger forms.

In this section, you learn three major jazz blues studies built using the easy jazz chords from the previous sections.

Each study mixes both positions of chords you studied earlier, so you have a shift or two to navigate in each example.

As well, the studies are written with a static rhythm to make it easier to get these shapes under your fingers.

From there, once any study is memorized, take them to the jam track and practice altering the rhythms as you take each study further in the practice room.

Lastly, make sure to memorize the shapes as you go, and memorize the root-note positions for the rootless shapes.

By doing so, you learn these chord studies and build your ability to apply these easy jazz chords to other musical situations.

 

 

 

Major Jazz Blues Shell Chords

 

The first chord study uses shell chords to outline a jazz blues chord progression in G.

The chords are written with a steady half-note rhythm that you can use as a starting point in your studies.

Once you have this rhythm under your fingers, and the chords memorized, comp them over the backing track, altering the rhythm as you go.

As you can see, the chords are a mixture of the two positions learned earlier.

This means that you have to move around the fretboard more than you have so far in the lesson.

If this poses a technical problem, go slow, and isolate those shifts in your practice routine.

When they’re comfortable, speed them up and bring them back into the phrase and study as a whole.

This allows you to both play the study with confidence, and increase your ability to navigate shifts on the fretboard at the same time.

 

G Blues Backing Track Blues G Slow No Piano

 

Click to hear easy jazz chords 19

 

easy jazz guitar chords 17.1

 

 

 

Major Jazz Blues 3rds and 7ths

 

In the next jazz blues chord study, you use 3rds and 7ths to outline each chord in a G blues progression.

This study uses a steady quarter-note rhythm, which again you can use to get you going with this study before moving on to other rhythms from there.

As well, once you get this example under your fingers, and memorized, mix shell voicings and 3rds and 7ths in your comping.

In the woodshed it’s beneficial to isolate chord types such as these two shapes.

But, in the real world you move between shapes at will and as the musical situation dictates.

So, feel free to push your practicing in that direction if it feels OK and comfortable to do so.

 

G Blues Backing Track Blues G Slow No Piano

 

Click to hear easy jazz chords 20

 

easy jazz guitar chords 18.1

 

 

 

 

Major Jazz Blues 357 Chords

 

In the final major blues chord study, you use the rootless three-note shapes that you learned previously to outline the chord progression.

If you have trouble finding the root notes of these shapes in your playing, slow way down and practice playing the root note of each chord followed by the shape.

This helps you learn the chords, relates those shapes to the root notes, and applies them to other musical situations in your playing from there.

After you can identify the closest root note for each shape, speed the study back up and work on playing it over the audio example and jam track below.

From there, alter the rhythms as you expand upon this chord study in your woodshedding.

 

G Blues Backing Track Blues G Slow No Piano

 

Click to hear easy jazz chords 21

 

easy jazz guitar chords 19.1

 

 

 

 

Minor Jazz Blues Studies

 

To finish your study of easy jazz chords, you now apply the shapes from this lesson to minor jazz blues.

When jamming with other musicians, minor jazz blues tunes are called almost as often as their major blues cousins.

Because of their popularity, knowing how to comp over this 12-bar form with confidence prepares you for your next jazz jam situation.

Besides, it’s fun to jam over these chords on guitar.

As always, take your time with these studies, work them with a metronome, and memorize them as you go.

Once you can play them from memory with the audio track, put on the backing track and comp over those changes with the chords in the studies.

If you feel ready, change the rhythms at this point to take each chord study further in the woodshed.

 

 

 

Minor Jazz Blues Shell Chords

 

The first minor blues study featuring easy jazz chords uses three-note shell voicings to comp over each chord change.

As you saw with the major blues examples, this study mixes both positions of chords that you learned earlier in the lesson.

Because of this, there are a few shifts that you’ll have to navigate when learning this chord study.

As well, the chords are written with a steady half-note rhythm to get your started.

Once you’ve got the chords down, jam over the backing track and add your own rhythms as you take these shapes further in your practice routine.

 

C Minor Blues Backing Track Blues Cm Slow No Piano

 

Click to hear easy jazz chords 22

 

easy jazz guitar chords 20.1

 

 

 

 

Minor Jazz Blues 3rds and 7ths

 

Moving on, the second minor jazz blues chord study is built with two-note chords, the 3rds and 7ths you learned earlier.

These easy jazz chords may only have two notes, but as you learned in previous exercises, they are tough to nail because they lack a root note.

Because of this, visualizing the root note for any of these two-note chords will be helpful as you learn to play each shape on the guitar.

Feel free to play the root note then the 3rds and 7ths at first to build that relationship on the fretboard.

Or, you can play the root note, followed by the two-note chords, which will also help you use the root note as a reference when first working this chord study.

If you find that you can visualize the root easily, or have no problems finding the 3rd and 7th without having to use the root, then move on to learning the study.

This easy jazz chords study uses a steady quarter-note rhythm, which you can use as a jumping off point in your practice routine.

Once you can play this rhythm, experiment with your own rhythmic variations as you jam this study over the minor blues backing track below.

 

C Minor Blues Backing Track Blues Cm Slow No Piano

 

Click to hear easy jazz chords 23

 

easy jazz guitar chords 21.1

 

 

 

 

Minor Jazz Blues 357 Chords

 

The final minor blues study features the rootless three-note shapes you learned earlier in the lesson.

Again, you might need to use the root note as a reference to help find these shapes on the guitar when taking them to other situations.

Or, you may find that you’re able to grab them without any issue right away.

To test your chord-finding skills, play the shapes in the study below and say each chord name out loud, or to yourself if you prefer.

Then, after you’ve memorized the first four bars, do that from memory.

Play the chords, say the names, but don’t look at the sheet music.

When you can do that comfortably, move on to the next four bars and repeat the exercise.

This is another way to build your confidence and ability with rootless jazz chords on the guitar.

And again, use the static rhythm as a starting point, then move on to using your own rhythms from there as you jam these shapes over the backing track below.

Lastly, notice the last Cm7 chord, in bar 11 of the progression, uses the note B, the 7 of Cm7.

This is a third variation that you can use when comping minor chords in jazz.

Alongside the m7 and m6 chords, this mMaj7 chord gives you another color to play with in your comping and chord soloing lines.

 

C Minor Blues Backing Track Blues Cm Slow No Piano

 

Click to hear easy jazz chords 24

 

easy jazz guitar chords 22.1



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