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Jazz Guitar for Beginners – 10 Easy and Essential Lessons

I think you’ll agree that learning jazz guitar seems tough on a good day, and impossible on a bad day.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

In fact, learning jazz guitar can be fun, relatively easy at least to get started, and enjoyable in the woodshed.

The 10 lessons in this guide do just that, break down complex jazz concepts into easy to understand and apply exercises that quickly get you sounding like jazz in the practice room.

 

By focussing on the three key jazz guitar skills, you prepare yourself for jam sessions, gigs, or to jam along with your favorite backing tracks at home.

The essential skills needed to play jazz guitar are:

 

  • Soloing
  • Comping
  • Walking Bass lines

 

Over the course of these 10 chapters, these 3 fundamentals are broken down into easy to understand and apply practice routines.

These fun exercises help you quickly apply these skills to the fretboard through musical and audio examples.

By learning this material, you develop a strong skill set to build upon as you move forward with jazz guitar.

 

 

 

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How to Use These Beginner Jazz Guitar Lessons

 

First thing to get out of the way is that you don’t have to work each chapter in order, from 1 to 10.

But.

The chapters are written in that order to lead you smoothly from one concept to the next, if you choose to follow them in order.

It’s advised that you start on chapter 1 and move forward from there, especially if this is your first exposure to jazz guitar.

If you do want to skip around, I suggest starting on chapter 1, chapter 5, or chapter 9, as those are the first chapters for comping, soloing and bass lines respectively.

From there, make sure to jam along to the backing tracks for every exercise that you work on, where available.

Taking chords and soloing material to jam tracks develops your real-world jazz skills.

Along with your technical exercises, this ensures that you have a well balanced guitar practice routine.

And, the most important thing about learning to play jazz guitar, have fun!

 

 

 

 

Contents (Click to Skip Down)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1 – Beginner Drop 3 Chords

 

In the first chapter, you learn one of the most popular jazz guitar chords, the drop 3 chord.

By learning these drop 3 chords, you can comp progressions and jazz standards in the style of legends such as Joe Pass, Kenny Burrell, and Wes Montgomery.

So, grab your guitar, turn up your amp and get ready to play drop 3 chords.

 

 

What Are Drop 3 Chords?

 

While you may have heard of drop 3 chords before, and even learned a few of these shapes, you may be asking yourself:

 

“Why are they called Drop 3 chords?”

 

Here’s a formula to understand why they’re called drop 3 chords.

 

  • Take a closed-position chord, 1-3-5-7.
  • Take the 3rd note from the top of that chord and lower (drop) it by one octave.
  • You now have a drop 3 chord in 1st inversion (3rd in the bass).

 

Here’s how that looks.

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 1

 

 

There are also inversions for drop 3 chords, which you won’t learn right now, but can explore for further study.

Here’s the interval structure for each inversion of any drop 3 chord.

You simply flatten or raise any given note to produce the chord quality you want, such as 7 or m7.

 

  • Root Position Drop 3 = R-7-3-5
  • 1st Inversion Drop 3 = 3-R-5-7
  • 2nd Inversion Drop 3 = 5-3-7-R
  • 3rd Inversion Drop 3 = 7-5-R-3

 

Now that you know how to build drop 3 chords, you can take these chords onto the fretboard.

 

 

Drop 3 Maj7 Chords

 

Drop 3 maj7 chords are built by taking the Root-3rd-5th-7th of the major scale and stacking these notes to form a chord.

To build a root-position drop 3 chord rearrange those notes to form the interval pattern, R-7-3-5.

Here are two different Cmaj7 root-position chords to practice on guitar.

 

Audio Example hear audio for these Drop 3 Maj7 Chords.

 

Drop 3 Maj7 Chords

 

Once you can play these chords from memory, play root-position maj7 drop 3 shapes in all 12 keys.

 

 

 Drop 3 7th Chords

 

There are two different ways to think about drop 3 7th chords.

The first is using their interval structure, which is R-3-5-b7, or the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th notes of the Mixolydian Mode.

As you noticed, this chord is only one note different from the maj7 chord you just learned.

The second way to think about drop 3 7th chords is to take any maj7 chord shape you know and lower the 7th by one fret.

Here are two different drop 3 7th chords, in root position, to learn on the fretboard.

 

Audio Example audio for these Drop 3 7th Chords.

 

Drop 3 7th Chords

 

When you have these 7th-chord shapes down, move between maj7 and 7th chords from the same root, Cmaj7-C7 for example.

 

 

Drop 3 m7 Chords

 

As was the case with 7th chords, there are two ways to think about drop 3 m7th chords.

The first is to look at the intervals used to build this chord.

The interval construction for any drop 3 m7th chord is R-b7-b3-5.

These notes are drawn from the dorian mode, as the m7th chord is built by stacking the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th notes of this mode.

The second way is to compare them to the 7th chords you just learned.

Notice that m7th and 7th chords are only one note different, the b3rd in the m7th chord.

This means that you can take any drop 3 7th chord, lower the 3rd by one fret, and you have a m7th chord.

Here are two Cm7 root-position drop 3 chords for you to explore in your studies.

 

Audio Example audio for these Drop 3 m7 Chords.

 

Drop 3 m7 Chords

 

Once you can play these shapes from memory, play the following drop 3 chords:

 

  • Dm7
  • G7
  • Cmaj7

 

By doing so, you built a ii-V-I chord progression.

This is the most important progression in jazz, and one that you explore further in chapter 3.

 

 

Drop 3 m7b5 Chords

 

There are also two different ways to think about building drop 3 m7b5 chords.

The first is the interval construction, which is R-b3-b5-b7.

These notes come from the locrian mode, the 7th mode of the major scale.

The second way is to take any m7 chord shape and lower the 5th by one fret.

Here are two Cm7b5 crop 3 root-position chords to get you started with these shapes.

 

Audio Example hear audio for these Drop 3 m7b5 Chords.

 

Drop 3 m7b5 Chords

 

Once you have these chords under your fingers, move between Cm7 and Cm7b5 in both positions.

Then, take this exercise into 2 keys as you explore these important chords further in the practice room.

 

 

Drop 3 Dim7 Chords

 

The last drop 3 chords you learn are dim7 chords.

To keep things simple, you look at one way to build these chords on the fretboard.

To build dim7 chords, you take m7b5 chords and lower the 7th by one fret.

The interval structure for dim7 drop 3 chords is R-b3-b5-bb7.

The “double flat” 7 is referred to as a diminished 7th interval, hence the name of the chord.

Here are both root-position drop 3 dim7 chords to get started with these shapes in the practice room.

 

Audio Example hear audio for these Drop 3 Dim7 Chords.

 

Drop 3 dim7 chords

 

As with any chord you learn, start in one key until comfortable, then explore them in all 12 keys.

 

 

Drop 3 Chords Exercise 1

 

Here’s an exercise to memorize each of the drop 3 chords you’ve learned so far.

This exercise is great for seeing the close relationships between each drop 3 chord.

The exercise is fairly straightforward.

You begin on a maj7 chord, then move one note at a time until you reach the dim7 chord for that same root.

Here’s the order of chords in this exercise.

 

  • Maj7
  • 7
  • m7
  • m7b5
  • Dim7

 

Look familiar?

It’s the same order of the drop 3 chords you learned in this chapter.

Pretty cool right!

Here’s an example of this exercise in C on the 6th string.

 

Audio Example hear audio for the Drop 3 Chords Exercise 1

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 2

 

Use a metronome when practicing these chords.

This forces you to move in time between each chord, developing a smooth shift between each chord type.

 

 

Drop 3 Chords Exercise 2

 

You can also practice these chords from the 5th-string root.

The concept is the same, you just use a different string set during this exercise.

Here’s an example of this exercise applied to drop 3 chords with a 5th-string root.

 

Audio Example hear audio for the Drop  Chords Exercise 2

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 3

 

Once you have this exercise under your fingers, mix both exercises, 6th and 5th-string shapes, as you combine different string sets in the woodshed.

 

 

Drop 3 Chords Bonus Exercise

 

As well as getting these chords under your left hand, you can use these chords to develop your right-hand technique as well.

Here’s a fun exercise to begin separating any chord into a bass note plus the rest of the chord.

By doing so, you develop your right-hand technique, which comes in handy when learning how to walk bass lines on the guitar.

This exercise provides picking variety to your chords at the same time.

You work this exercise in three ways:

 

 

Feel free to use whichever right-hand technique you’re most comfortable with.

Here’s an example of breaking up drop 3 chords into bass note and the top-three notes as applied to exercise 1 above.

 

Audio Example hear audio for the Drop 3 Chords Bonus Exercise

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 4

 

This right-hand exercise is not only good for drop 3 chords, but for any shapes or progressions you’re working on.

Bring this exercise into any chord or progression exercise you’re working on in your practice routine.

 

 

Chapter 1 Checklist

 

Here’s a checklist to measure your progress when working on drop 3 chords in the practice room.

You don’t have to master all of these before moving on to the next chapter.

But.

Being able to play 2-3 of these items is a good test for when you’re ready to move on to the next chapter.

 

  • Play Maj7, 7, m7, m7b5, and dim7 drop 3 chords from memory.
  • Say the interval names for each shape.
  • Drop 3 chord exercise 1 and 2 from memory.
  • Drop 3 chord exercise 1 and 2 with the bonus exercise picking.
  • For a bigger challenge, say the note names for each drop 3 chord in these exercises.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 2 – Beginner Drop 2 Chords

 

When learning how to play jazz guitar, one of the most important shapes are drop 2 chords.

These root-position shapes allow you to cover a wider range of the neck as compared to drop 3 chords.

This is because there are now three string sets to explore, as opposed to the two for drop 3 shapes.

As well, drop 2 chords work well when used in chord melody and chord soloing situations.

Because of this, they’re essential learning for any guitarist looking to play chords in the style of Wes Montgomery, Jim Hall and Ed Bickert.

In this chapter you build, play, practice and apply drop 2 chords.

Check out these shapes, and most importantly, have fun with them.

 

 

What Are Drop 2 Chords?

 

While you may have heard of drop 2 chord before, you may not have learned why these chords are called drop 2.

To help you get a grasp on the theory behind these chords, here’s a formula to memorize the theory behind drop 2 chord shapes.

 

  • Take a closed-position chord, 1-3-5-7.
  • Take the 2nd note from the top of that chord and lower (drop) it by one octave.
  • You now have a 2nd inversion drop 2 chord.
  • To make things easier, take the top note of this new shape and lower it by one string.

 

Here’s how that looks.

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 5

 

There are also inversions for drop 2 chords, which you won’t look at now, but which are good to know for further study.

Here’s the interval structure for each inversion of any drop 2 chord.

To make other chords, such as 7 or m7, you flatten or raise the note needed to make that new chord.

 

  • Root Position Drop 2 Chord= R-5-7-3
  • 1st Inversion Drop 2 Chord = 3-7-R-5
  • 2nd Inversion Drop 2 Chord = 5-R-3-7
  • 3rd Inversion Drop 2 Chord = 7-3-5-R

 

Notice how the 3rd and 7th, as well as the root and 5th, of any drop 2 chord inversion are always next to each other.

This has helped me when building drop 2 chords.

Check it out, it will keep these notes organized in your playing as well.

Now that you looked at how to build drop 2 chords, you can take these chords off the page and onto the fretboard.

 

 

Drop 2 Maj7 Chords

 

The first set of drop 2 chords that you look at are maj7 shapes.

Maj7 chords are built by taking the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th notes of the major scale and stacking them to form a chord shape.

As well, you can think of maj7 chords from an intervallic perspective.

In this case, maj7 chords contain the intervals Root-M3-P5-M7, allowing you to build maj7 chords from any root note.

Here are three drop 2 maj7 chords to learn and memorize on the fretboard.

 

Audio Example hear audio for these Beginner Drop 2 Maj7 Chords

 

Drop 2 maj7 chords

 

Once you can play drop 2 maj7 chords, play the Cmaj7 drop 2 shapes followed by the drop 3 Cmaj7 chord shapes.

This helps you see the relationship between these two important chord grips on the guitar.

 

 

Drop 2 7th Chords

 

If you’re coming to jazz from rock or blues, then you’re no doubt familiar with 7th chords.

These chords are built by stacking the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th notes of the mixolydian mode.

This produces the interval structure R-3-5-b7.

As well, you can think of a drop 2 7th chord as being only one note apart from maj7 chords.

Take any drop 2 maj7 chord you know, lower the 7th by one fret, and you have a drop 2 7th chord.

Here are three different drop 2 7th root position chords to check out on the fretboard.

 

Audio Example hear audio for these Beginner Drop 2 7th Chords

 

Drop 2 7 Chords

 

If you have a background in rock or blues, take any song you know that has 7th chords, and play those songs using drop 2 chords.

 

 

Drop 2 m7 Chords

 

The next set of drop 2 chords that you learn are the m7 shapes.

You can build a m7 chord by taking the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th notes of the dorian scale.

This produces the interval structure 1-b3-5-b7.

You can also think of m7 chords as being one-note different from 7th chords.

Take any drop 2 7th chord, lower the 3rd by 1 fret and you now have a drop 2 m7 chord.

Here are three root-position drop 2 m7 chords that you can learn.

 

Audio Example hear audio for these Beginner Drop 2 m7 Chords

 

Drop 2 m7 chords

 

With the m7 drop 2 chords under your fingers, play Dm7-G7-Cmaj7  to form a ii-V-I chord progression.

 

 

Drop 2 m7b5 Chords

 

There are two different ways that you can build m7b5 chords.

The first is to think of the interval structure of the chord, which is 1-b3-b5-b7.

These intervals are taken from the locrian scale, the 7th mode of the major scale system.

The second way to think about m7b5 chords, is to take any drop 2 m7 chord, and lower the 5th by a fret.

Either way of thinking about m7b5 drop 2 chords is legit, so try both out and see which one suits you best.

Here’s an example of three different Cm7b5 root-position drop 2 chords on the guitar to check out.

 

Audio Example hear audio for these Beginner Drop 2 m7b5 Chords

Drop 2 m7b5 chords

 

Now that you have the drop 2 m7b5 chords under your fingers, play these shapes followed by the drop 3 m7b5 shapes from the same root.

Doing so gives you 6 ways to play m7b5 chords on the fretboard.

This is enough to allow variety when comping, and you cover the entire neck with m7b5 chords in any key.

 

 

Drop 2 Dim7 Chords

 

To finish your exploration of drop 2 chords, here are three shapes for the dim7 root-position chord.

To make things easy, think about the dim7 chord as being a variation of the m7b5 shapes that you just learned.

To do this, play any drop 2 m7b5 chord shape on the guitar, then lower the 7th of any of those shapes.

This produces the interval collection, 1-b3-b5-bb7 for a dim7 chord.

The bb7 (double flat 7) is also called the diminished 7 interval, hence the name of the chord.

Here are three root-position drop 2 chords.

 

Audio Example hear audio for these Beginner Drop 2 Dim7 Chords

 

Drop 2 dim7 chords

 

With each of the five basic qualities under your fingers in root position, take a look at a exercises that help you solidify these shapes into your playing.

 

 

Drop 2 Chords – Exercise 1

 

In this exercise, you begin on the maj7 chord shape on the lowest four strings.

Then, move one note at a time until you finish on the dim7 chord on that same string set.

By working drop 2 chords this way, you wind up with the order maj7-7-m7-m7b5-dim7, the same order that you learned these chords in this chapter.

This exercise increases your dexterity and chord knowledge.

It helps you hear the differences and similarities between these chords on the fretboard.

Here’s an example of this exercise written out from the root note C.

 

Audio Example hear audio for the Beginner Drop 2 Chords Exercise 1

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 6

 

Once you learn this exercise from C, play it in a few keys to see how it sits around the fretboard.

 

 

Drop 2 Chords – Exercise 2

 

The next exercise uses the same principal as the first, though now on the middle 4 strings.

These chords are great for comping, as they have a full sound, but don’t get too close to the higher range of the guitar.

This allows you to keep out of the sonic real estate of the soloist.

Here are those shapes from a C root note to explore in the woodshed.

 

Audio Example hear audio for the Beginner Drop 2 Chords Exercise 2

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 7

 

A fun exercise to work on at this stage in the game, is to run the drop 2 chords through each chord quality with a 5th-string root, followed by drop 3 chords from that root.

This allows you to see each of the options you have for both chord shapes on the 5th string.

And then on the 6th string, if you take this exercise to that string set as well.

Check out this fun way to move between drop 3 and drop 2 chords in your jazz guitar workout.

 

 

Drop 2 Chords – Exercise 3

 

The last exercise focuses on running through each chord quality for drop 2 chords on the top 4 strings.

With time, you’ll find that these end up being the drop 2 chords that you rely on the most when comping, soloing and arranging chord melodies.

Because of this, they’re worth spending a good amount of time on to get down comfortably in the woodshed.

Here’s the exercise written out from the root note C.

 

Audio Example hear audio for the Beginner Drop 2 Chords Exercise 3

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 8

 

Now that you worked all three string sets for this exercise, pick one root note and play the maj7-7-m7-m7b5-dim7 chords on the 6th-string root, then the 5th-string, and finally the 4th-string all in a row.

This is a great way to test your knowledge and work on shifting around the neck quickly and smoothly at the same time.

 

 

Drop 2 Chords – Bonus Exercise

 

As well as using drop 2 chords to work on left-hand dexterity, you can use these shapes to develop your picking hand.

One of the roadblocks that many beginner jazz guitarists face, is that they always see chord shapes from the bass note.

While this may help you see the neck, is puts a constant emphasis on the lowest note of each chord shape that you play.

Because the highest note of each chord sticks out the most, here’s a beneficial exercise to train yourself to see the top note of each chord as the most important.

Here’s this exercise as applied to the drop 2 chord exercise 1.

The crux of the exercise is that you pluck the top note of every chord first, and then play the rest of the notes from there.

 

Audio Example hear audio for the Beginner Drop 2 Chords Exercise 1

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 9

 

After you work on this exercise over drop 2 chords, bring it to your drop 3 chord practicing as well.

 

 

Chapter 2 Checklist

 

Here’s a checklist of exercises you can use to measure your progress when working on drop 2 chords in the practice room.

You don’t have to master all of these items before moving on to the next chapter in this guide.

But, being able to play 3-5 of these items from memory is a good test to see when you’re ready to move on to the next chapter.

 

  • All 3 Maj7, 7, m7, m7b5, and dim7 Drop 2 chords.
  • Recite the intervals for each Drop 2 chord shape from memory.
  • Drop 2 chord exercise 1 and 2 from memory.
  • Drop 2 chord exercise 1  and 2 with the bonus exercise picking.
  • For an extra challenge, name the notes for each chord you play.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 3 – Beginner ii V I Chords Part 1

 

In Chapter 3, you take the knowledge that you learned in chapter 1 and apply it to the ii V I VI progression.

Found in many jazz standards, the ii V I VI progression is must know material for any aspiring jazz guitarist.

The ii V I VI progression is also called a “turnaround,” as it turns the tune or section back to the tonic chord.

Having a good theoretical knowledge of these chords, and playing them on the guitar, allows you to easily navigate your favorite jazz standards.

 

 

What Is a Jazz Turnaround?

 

The major key ii-V-I progression is essential knowledge for anyone learning jazz guitar.

The progression is called a ii-V-I because these three chords are built from the 2nd, 5th and 1st notes of the major scale.

If you take the 2nd, 5th and 1st notes of the C major scale for example, you produce the notes D G and C.

From there, you can build chords on top of those notes by stacking 3rds from the scale on each root.

When doing so, you end up with Dm7, G7 and Cmaj7.

These are the three chords in a ii-V-I chord progression in the key of C major.

Here’s how that process looks on paper.

Check it out to get a grasp of this concept from a theoretical level so that it’s easier to apply these chords to the guitar.

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 10

 

Now that you have an understanding of the first three chords in a turnaround, you look at the trickiest chord in this set, the VI7b9 Chord.

 

 

The VI7b9 Chord and Why You Play It

 

To finish off the turnaround progression, you need to add one more chord, the VI7b9 chord.

Don’t let this chord scare you off, it sounds tricky, but it’s not that bad to play on guitar.

First, take a look at why you use this chord during a turnaround, as it’s not totally in the key of C major.

Normally, you expect to see a vim7 chord in a major key, Am7 in C major for example, as that’s the relative minor chord.

But, in jazz you want to add tension to your chord progressions.

And so you change that chord to become a VI7b9 instead of the more traditional vim7 chord.

The reason this chord works, is that the VI7b9 resolves to the iim7 chord, Dm7 in the key of C major.

When doing so, the VI7b9 acts as a “secondary dominant,” a V7th chord that temporarily highlights a non-Imaj7 chord in the progression, in this case the iim7.

A7b9 is the V7b9 of Dm7, the iim7 in a ii-V-I in C major.

The A7b9 is helping to “turnaround” the progression back to the iim7 chord.

And it uses a V7-im7 movement to help solidify this sound further.

That’s why you use the VI7b9 chord in jazz, most of the time, as opposed to the more traditional vim7 chord.

To make VI7b9 chords easier to play on the guitar, you can use a chord substitution.

Instead of playing a full VI7b9 chord, you play 4 out of those 5 notes, the 3rd, 5th, b7th and b9th.

This leaves the root out in this chord shape.

When doing so, you produce a #Idim7 chord, or C#dim7 in the key of C major.

Below you can see this chord transition in action, from the VI7b9 to the #Idim7 to the iim7 chord.

Notice how the dim7 chord allows you to use previous knowledge to play this progression.

Also, hear how smoothly the bass line runs when applying this chord to a turnaround.

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 11

 

For now, keep this knowledge handy as you begin to take the VI7b9 chord, played as #Idim7, onto the fretboard.

Once you begin to hear this chord in action, it makes more sense as the smooth movement between chords comes to light.

 

 

Drop 3 Chord Progressions Exercise 1

 

Here’s a turnaround using drop 3 Chords, with the iim7 chord on the 6th-string root.

From that first chord, the other chords in the progression stay within a few frets in order to keep the chord movement smooth.

Here’s a backing track, bass and drums only, to work with in your studies of these chords.

 

Backing Track C Turnaround No Piano Backing

 

Audio Example hear audio for the Beginner Drop 3 Turnaround Chords Exercise 1

 

Drop 3 2 5 1 chords 1

 

Go slow when working with this exercise.

The goal is to play quickly between chords, so that your chord changes are smooth and seamless.

But, the tempo of the exercise can be slow and steady in order to allow yourself time to achieve this goal.

 

 

Drop 3 Chord Progressions Exercise 2

 

You can also play through a turnaround using drop 3 chords that begin with a iim7 chord on the 5th-string.

The idea is the same as the previous exercise, only now you’re in a different position on the fingerboard.

 

Backing Track C Turnaround No Piano Backing

 

Audio Example hear audio for the Beginner Drop 3 Turnaround Chords Exercise 2

 

drop 3 251 chords 2

 

Now that you worked out both strings using drop 3 chords, mix these two groups of chords together in your routine.

 

 

Drop 3 Chord Progressions Bonus Exercise

 

When working these exercises, you can break things up by using various rhythms.

One of the most popular jazz guitar rhythms is the Charleston rhythm.

This rhythm is built by playing one chord on beat 1, followed by an attack on the & of the 2nd beat.

Here’s an example of how this rhythm would look and sound in the key of C.

When you’ve got it down, jam it along to the backing track below.

 

Backing Track C Turnaround No Piano Backing

 

Audio Example hear audio for the Charleston Rhythm Example.

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 12

 

Though it’s a simple rhythm, it’s an essential rhythm to have down for any developing jazz guitarist.

 

 

Chapter 3 Checklist

 

Before moving on to the next chapter, here are 5 exercises to explore the ideas in this chapter further.

You don’t have to be able to play all 5 of these before moving on to the next chapter.

But, being able to play 2 or 3 from memory is a good litmus test as for when you’re ready to move forward.

 

  • Play exercise 1 and 2 with the backing track.
  • Repeat the 2 exercises using the Charleston rhythm for each chord.
  • Repeat these exercises using the bonus exercises from Chapter 1.
  • Sing the root, and then the melody note, of each chord along with your guitar.
  • Write out the ii V I VI chord progression in C from memory.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 4 – Beginner ii V I Chords Part 2

 

In this chapter, you’ll learn how to apply Drop 2 chords to the ii-V-I-VI turnaround progression.

Though the progression is the same, notice the different sounds and timbres that Drop 2 chords produce.

It’s this difference that’ll allow you to chose the right moments to apply these chords in your comping and chord melody playing.

 

 

What Is a Jazz Turnaround Chord Progression?

 

Since you learned about the jazz turnaround progression in the previous chapter, here’s a quick refresher.

The jazz turnaround in a major key contains the chords iim7-V7-Imaj7-VI7b9.

Don’t forget, you’re substituting the VI7b9 with a #Idim7 chord.

This substitution creates smooth voice leading motion in the bass line.

Here’s an example of a jazz turnaround in the key of C major.

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 13

 

Remember that the chords are pulled from the underlying major scale, in this case the C major scale.

To build a turnaround, you take the 2nd, 5th, 1st and 6th notes of that scale and then add chord qualities.

In this case, those chords are Dm7-G7-Cmaj7-A7b9.

Again, you then replace A7b9 with C#dim7 from there to complete the progression.

 

 

Drop 2 Chord Progressions Exercise 1

 

Now that you reviewed what a turnaround is, you can apply drop 2 chords to your practice routine.

This first exercise starts with the iim7 chord on the lowest four strings, then moves to the closest V7, Imaj7 and VI7b9 chord shapes.

When practicing these chords, make the transitions between chords as smooth as possible, so that there’s no lag between chords.

Go as slow as you need, and focus on making quick, clean shifts between each chord in your comping.

 

Backing Track C Turnaround No Piano Backing

 

Audio Example hear audio for the Beginner Drop 2 Turnaround Chords Exercise 1

 

251 chords Drop 2 1

Remember to use the backing track with this chord exercise.

Learning how to hear these chords in the context of harmony is an essential part of the learning process.

So, whenever possible, use a backing track with these exercises.

 

 

Drop 2 Chord Progressions Exercise 2

 

The second turnaround exercise is played on the middle four strings.

Starting with the iim7 chord, the rest of the chords move to their closest fingerings from there.

When doing so, the V7 chord falls on the top-4 strings and the other chords on the middle-4 strings.

Here’s how that progression looks in the key of C major.

 

Backing Track C Turnaround No Piano Backing

 

Audio Example hear audio for the Beginner Drop 2 Turnaround Chords Exercise 2

 

251 Chords Drop 2 2

 

With both drop 3 and drop 2 turnarounds under your fingers, play every group of chords you know for this progression..

This helps you to see the relationship between drop 3 and drop 2 chords as you combine them over this progression.

 

 

Drop 2 Chord Progressions Exercise 3

 

To finish this series of exercises, here are the turnaround chords as applied to the top-four strings.

Again, work these shapes slowly in one key at first, focusing on making smooth transitions from each chord.

And, when comfortable, jam them over the backing track below.

 

Backing Track C Turnaround No Piano Backing

 

Audio Example hear audio for the Beginner Drop 2 Turnaround Chords Exercise 3

 

251 Chords Drop 2 3

 

Now that you worked all three string sets for drop 2 chords through a turnaround, mix them together.

Put on the backing track and comp through each string set in the key of C, back to back.

This allows you to see and hear these chords across the entire fretboard.

Which in turns allows you to apply them quickly and easily to any tune you are practicing or jamming on in the woodshed.

 

 

Drop 2 Chord Progressions Bonus Exercise

 

After working the above three exercises, you might ask yourself:

 

“Where can I take these ideas next in the woodshed?”

 

One of my favorite ways to expand on these chords, is to approach each new chord in the progression by the same chord a half-step above.

This creates a tension and resolution sound in your chord lines, bringing to mind the classic comping of players such as Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, and Ed Bickert.

The idea is fairly simple.

But, it produces big results in your comping, chord soloing, and chord melody phrases.

Here’s an example of that technique as applied to a turnaround in the key of C major.

 

Audio Example hear audio for the Beginner Drop 2 Turnaround Chords Bonus Exercise

 

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As you can hear, this approach has a tense sound to it on beat 4, that is then released on beat 1 of the next bar.

Be sure to always resolve that outside chord properly, as it can sound great if you do, but sound like a mistake if you don’t.

 

 

Chapter 4 Checklist

 

Before moving on to chapter 5, here are 10 exercises that you can do to explore these drop 2 exercises further.

You don’t have to master all 10 of these exercises before moving on to chapter 5.

Being able to play 3 or 4 from memory would be a good goal to have before moving forward.

 

  1. Play the Drop 3 exercises 1, 2 and 3 with the backing track.
  2. Mixe all 3 positions for these chords together over a backing track.
  3. Repeat the first 2 exercises using the Charleston rhythm.
  4. Repeat the first two exercises using the half-step approach chords.
  5. Repeat exercises 1-4 using the right hand bonus exercise from chapter 1.
  6. Repeat exercises 1-4 using the right hand bonus exercise from chapter 2.
  7. Play any of the above exercises and sing the root of each chord.
  8. Play any of these exercises and sing the top note of each chord.
  9. Write out the ii V I VI chord progression in C from memory.
  10. Sing the bass notes for a ii V I VI progression away from your guitar.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 5 – Soloing Over m7 Chords

 

You now learn how to solo over m7 chords.

m7 chords are found in many of the jazz standards that make up the Great American Songbook.

As well, they’re one part of the most common chord progression in jazz, the ii-V-I.

Learning how to accurately and musically solo over m7 chords allows you to blow with confidence over ii-V-I progressions.

It will also help you solo over modal jazz tunes such as So What and Milestones.

So, grab your guitar as it’s time to get started with learning how to solo over m7 chords!

 

Free Jazz Guitar eBook: Download the Beginner’s Guide to Jazz Guitar PDF with a Bonus Chapter not found online, “5 Must Know ii V I Jazz Guitar Licks.”

 

 

 

How to Solo Over m7 Chords – m7 Arpeggio

 

To begin, you look at the most direct way to outline any m7 chord, the m7 arpeggio.

The m7 arpeggio has all of the same notes as the m7 chord, R-b3-5-b7.

But, instead of strumming those notes, you pluck them separately.

This allows you to use these chord tones to build lines in your guitar solos.

Here you can see and hear the m7 chord and arpeggio in order to see how the two are related.

 

Audio Example hear audio of a Dm7 Arpeggio over a Dm7 Chord

 

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Now that you know how to build a m7 arpeggio, here are four different fingerings to check out.

Start by learning one shape, from the 6th-string root, and working that shape with a metronome.

From there, put on the Dm7 backing track and solo over that chord using only the 6th-string arpeggio shape.

Then, move on to the other shapes when you’re ready.

Here are those four one-octave Dm7 shapes.

 

Backing Track Dm7 Backing Track Slow

 

m7 guitar soloing 1

 

 

 

How to Solo Over m7 Chords – Dorian Scale

 

As well as using the m7 arpeggio, you can also build your m7 lines with the dorian scale.

Dorian can be thought of in two ways on the fretboard.

The first, is that it’s the second mode of the major scale.

This means that D dorian is the same as C major, except spelled from D to D instead of C to C.

You can see this on paper below.

As well, you can compare D dorian to D major.

If you take D major, 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 intervals, and lower the 3rd and 7th, 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7, you produce D dorian.

Here are both options is to compare.

 

Audio Example hear audio for the Dorian Scale over a Dm7 Chord

 

m7 guitar soloing 2

 

To help you get started with dorian on guitar, here are four one-octave fingerings.

Start by learning one fingering from memory.

Then, solo over the Dm7 backing track using that one fingering in your lines.

From there, repeat these same exercises for all of the other one-octave shapes.

 

Backing Track Dm7 Backing Track Slow

 

m7 guitar soloing 3

 

Once you work each one-octave fingering on it’s own, combine these shapes to cover more area on the guitar in your solos.

 

 

How to Solo Over m7 Chords – Technical Exercises

 

Here’s a fun exercise that you can work on in the practice room with m7 soloing concepts.

Play the arpeggio descending, and then dorian in that position ascending, as you combine the two ideas in your studies.

Often times, you start lines on the root of any scale or arpeggio.

Especially when first learning how to solo over m7 chords.

But, by doing exercises such as these, you break out of that habit of always starting your lines on the root.

Here’s an example of how to apply this concept to 6th and 4th string sets for both the Dm7 arpeggio and D dorian.

Run this exercise with a metronome, then begin to combine m7 arpeggios and dorian in your solos over the backing track.

 

Backing Track Dm7 Backing Track Slow

 

Audio Example hear audio for the How to Solo Over m7 Chords Exercise 1

 

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As well, you can apply this exercise to the 5th and 3rd string sets for the m7 arpeggios and dorian.

Here’s how this variation would look and sound over a Dm7 chord.

Again, go back to the jam track above when you’re ready to solo with these concepts.

 

Audio Example hear audio for the How to Solo Over m7 Chords Exercise 2

 

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It’s a small idea, but mixing arpeggios and scales goes a long way when learning how to solo over m7 chords.

 

 

How To Solo Over m7 Chords – Enclosed 5th

 

When learning how to solo over m7 chords, one of the first roadblocks you face is playing correctly but not sounding like jazz.

To help you get a jazzy sound into your m7 phrases, here’s a short motive that you can use in your solos.

This idea is called an enclosure, and below you see an enclosure applied to the 5th of D dorian.

The enclosure is built by targeting a note in the chord or scale that you’re soloing over, such as the 5th in this example.

You do this by playing 1 fret above, then 1 fret below, before landing on your target note.

There are other types of enclosures, but for now this is a great place to start with this bebop technique.

Learn the following enclosure in D dorian in your studies.

As well, the key to learning any bebop soloing technique is to apply it to your improvisations.

So, make sure to put on the backing track and solo over a Dm7 chord, integrating the enclosed 5th into your lines.

 

Backing Track Dm7 Backing Track Slow

 

Audio Example hear audio for the How to Solo Over m7 Chords Bebop Exercise

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 18

 

 

It’s a simple idea, but the enclosure can bring a much wanted jazz sound to your improvised lines.

Enclosures create a sense of tension and release, encouraging you to practice more as you begin to sound like jazz in your solos.

 

 

Chapter 5 Checklist

 

Here are 7 check points that you can use in order to expand on the ideas in this chapter.

You don’t have to be able to play all 7 before moving on to the next chapter.

But, having a secure understanding of 3-5 of these exercises is a good litmus test as to when you’re ready to move on from here.

 

  • Solo over the Dm7 backing track using only m7 arpeggios.
  • Solo over the Dm7 backing track and use only D dorian.
  • Mix scales and arpeggios in your solos.
  • Sing the root note D and play the Dm7 arpeggios above this note.
  • Sing the root note D and play D Dorian on top of this note.
  • Play a Dm7 chord on the guitar and sing the Dm7 arpeggio over that chord.
  • Strum a Dm7 chord on the guitar and sing D dorian over this chord.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 6 – Soloing Over 7th Chords

 

In chapter 6 you learn how to solo over 7th chords.

Since it’s the middle chord in a ii-V-I chord progression, the 7th chord comes up a lot when soloing over jazz tunes.

As well, the 7th chord is found three times in a jazz blues chord progression, the I7, IV7 and V7 chords.

Because of this, it’s a chord that you want to spend time with in the woodshed.

In this chapter you learn how to solo over 7th chords by exploring arpeggios, scales, bebop vocabulary and essential exercises.

 

 

 

What is a 7th Arpeggio?

 

When learning how to solo over 7th chords, the most direct route to outlining those sounds is to use the 7th arpeggio.

This gives you the option to use only the chord tones of a 7th chord when soloing, outlining the chord exactly at the same time.

Here’s an example of a G7 chord and arpeggio side by side so you can see that relationship in tab and notation.

Strum a G7 chord that you know, then playing this G7 arpeggio to hear how they sound the same, but have a unique sound as well.

 

Audio Example hear a 7th Arpeggio played over a 7th chord harmony.

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 19

 

To help you set out with your exploration of 7th arpeggios, here are four, one-octave 7th arpeggios.

Start by working each shape separately with a metronome, then the backing track when you’re ready.

From there, move on to the other shapes in your practice routine.

 

Backing Track G7 Backing Track Slow

 

solo over 7 chords guitar 1

 

 

 

What is the Mixolydian Scale?

 

When learning how to solo over 7th chords, one of the most commonly studied concepts is the mixolydian scale.

This scale works perfectly when soloing over 7th chords, and is used in many genres, such as country, jazz, blues, and rock.

There are two ways that you can think about the mixolydian scale.

The first being as the 5th mode of the major scale.

So, if you have a C major scale, and you spell that scale from G to G, you’ll produce G mixolydian.

As well, you can compare mixolydian to the same major scale, as they’re only one note different.

The major scale has the interval structure 1 2 3 4 5 6 7, while the mixolydian scale has a b7, 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7.

Here are both of those examples in tab and notation so you can see them written down.

 

Audio Example hear a Mixolydian scale being played over a 7th chord.

 

solo over 7 chords guitar 2

 

Here are four, one-octave shapes to get you started with learning the mixolydian scale on the fretboard.

Again, learn one shape, memorize it, then jam with it on the backing track before moving on to the other shapes.

 

Backing Track G7 Backing Track Slow

 

solo over 7 chord guitar 3

 

 

How to Solo Over 7th Chords – Exercises

 

With the 7th arpeggio and mixolydian scale under your fingers, here are a few exercises that combine them in your practicing.

The concept for this exercise is that you play up an arpeggio and then down the scale in that position.

Here’s how that exercise looks when applied to the 6th and 4th-string roots for G7 arpeggios and mixolydian.

Learn this shape from memory and then mix the 7th arpeggios and mixolydian in your solos over the backing track.

 

Backing Track G7 Backing Track Slow

 

Audio Example hear audio for this how to play 7th chords exercise.

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 20

 

 

Here’s that same exercise as applied to 7th arpeggios and mixolydian starting on the 5th and 3rd string root notes.

 

Audio Example hear audio for this how to play 7th chords exercise.

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 21

 

With both positions down, work them together in your solos over the backing track to expand upon these ideas on the fretboard.

 

 

How to Solo Over 7th Chords – Enclosed Roots

 

You now apply an enclosure to your 7th-chord soloing, now over the root of the underlying chord.

In this case, you add a half-step above, then a half-step below, followed by the root itself.

Here’s an example of an enclosure applied to the root of a G7 arpeggio and G mixolydian.

Learn it and then jam it over the backing track when you feel ready.

 

Backing Track G7 Backing Track Slow

 

Audio Example hear audio for the how to play 7th chords enclosure example.

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 22

 

You might have to force it into your solos a bit at first to get the sound of the chromatic notes into your ears.

But, with time you become more used to this “jazzy” outside sound, and be able to use enclosures organically in your solos.

 

 

Chapter 6 Checklist

 

Here are 10 exercises that you can do in order to expand on the ideas about how to solo over 7th chords.

You don’t have to be able to play all of these items before you move on to the next chapter.

But having 3-5 of these exercises down securely is a good test as to when you’re ready to move on to the next material.

 

  • Solo over a backing track using only the 7th arpeggios.
  • Solo over a backing track and use only G mixolydian.
  • Put on a backing track and solo using both the G7 arpeggios and G mixolydian.
  • Solo over a backing track and play single-lines for 2 bars, followed by G7 chords for 2 bars.
  • Reverse this to comp for 2 bars then solo for 2 bars.
  • Sing the root note G and play the G7 arpeggios above this note.
  • Sing the root note G and play G mixolydian on top of this note.
  • Play a G7 chord on the guitar and sing the G7 arpeggio over that chord.
  • Strum a G7 chord on the guitar and sing G mixolydian over this chord.
  • Put on a backing track and scat sing a solo over that chord.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 7 – Soloing Over Maj7 Chords

 

When learning jazz guitar, one of the most common chords you encounter is the maj7 chord.

As it’s the resolution point of the ii-V-I chord progression, the maj7 chord will crop up time and again in your playing.

Therefore, it’s an essential chord to study when beginning to learn jazz guitar.

In this chapter, you learn how to solo over maj7 chords using arpeggios, scales, bebop vocabulary and must-know exercises.

 

 

What is the Maj7 Arpeggio?

 

When soloing over maj7 chords, the most direct way to outline these chords is to use the maj7 arpeggio.

Maj7 arpeggios are built by stacking the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th notes of the major scale, producing the intervals pattern R-3-5-7.

Here’s how that process looks on paper.

Strum a Cmaj7 chord and then play a Cmaj7 arpeggio right after to hear how they compare.

 

Audio Example hear audio of a Cmaj7 arpeggio played over a Cmaj7 chord.

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 23

 

To get you started maj7 arpeggios, here are four, one-octave maj7 shapes.

Start by learning one shape, jam that shape on the backing track, then move on to the other shapes and repeat that approach from there.

 

Backing Track Cmaj7 Backing Track Slow

 

solo over maj7 chords guitar 1

 

 

What is the Ionian Mode?

 

The next device that you explore is the Ionian mode, otherwise known as the major scale.

Containing all of the notes that make up the maj7 chord, 1-3-5-7, as well as three color tones, 9-11-13, Ionian is great when soloing over maj7 chords.

Here’s an example of a two-octave C major scale that you can memorize and use to jam over the Cmaj7 backing track.

 

Backing Track Cmaj7 Backing Track Slow

 

Audio Example hear an example of the C Major Scale played over a Cmaj7 Chord.

 

solo over maj7 chords guitar 2

 

Here are four examples of one-octave C major scale fingerings that you can work on in the practice room.

As was the case with the maj7 arpeggios, start by working each one-octave shape separately with a metronome.

Then, when comfortable, jam them over the backing track below.

 

Backing Track Cmaj7 Backing Track Slow

 

solo over maj7 chords guitar 3

 

 

 

How to Solo Over Maj7 Chords – Exercises

 

Now that you’ve checked out the maj7 arpeggio and scale, here are two exercises that combine them on the guitar.

In the first exercise, you play the C major scale ascending followed by the Cmaj7 arpeggio descending from two string sets.

After you can play this exercise, mix the arpeggios and scale in your solos over the jam track.

 

Backing Track Cmaj7 Backing Track Slow

 

Audio Example hear audio for the How to Solo Over Maj7 Chords Exercise 1.

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 24

 

Here’s that same exercise as applied to 5th and 3rd-string shapes on the guitar.

 

Audio Example hear audio for the How to Solo Over Maj7 Chords Exercise 2.

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 25

 

After you can play and solo with these exercises separately, combine them over a backing track in our soloing practice.

 

 

How to Solo Over Maj7 Chords – Enclosed 3rds

 

You now be adding a bebop technique, the enclosure, to the 3rd of the maj7 arpeggio and scale.

To do this, you play one fret above, then one fret below, before landing on your target note, in this case the third.

Here’s how that technique looks when applied to a Cmaj7 arpeggios and C major scale.

After playing it through, jam with it over the backing track.

 

Backing Track Cmaj7 Backing Track Slow

 

Audio Example hear audio for the How to Solo Over Maj7 Chords – Enclosed 3rd Example.

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 26

 

Enclosures can sound a bit too tense or “outside” for some of us when first applying them to your solos.

But, with time and practice they can start to sound more “normal.”

This allows you to use them more organically and less forced in your jazz guitar lines.

 

 

Chapter 7 Checklist

 

Here are 10 exercises that expand on the ideas in this chapter.

You don’t have to be able to play all 10 of these items before you move on to the next chapter.

But having 3-5 of these exercises down securely is a good test as to when you’re ready to move on.

 

  • Solo over a backing track using only the maj7th arpeggios.
  • Solo over a backing track and use only the C major scale.
  • Put on a backing track and solo using both the Cmaj7 arpeggios and C scale.
  • Solo over a backing track and play single-lines for 2 bars, followed by Cmaj7 chords for 2 bars.
  • Reverse this exercise by comping for 2 bars then soloing for 2 bars.
  • Sing the root note C and play the Cmaj7 arpeggios above this note.
  • Sing the root note C and play the C scale on top of this note.
  • Play a Cmaj7 chord on the guitar and sing the arpeggio.
  • Strum a Cmaj7 chord on the guitar and sing the C scale.
  • Put on a Cmaj7 backing track and scat sing a solo.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 8 – ii V I Soloing Part 1

 

You now apply arpeggios, scales and famous jazz licks to your ii V I solos.

Though you’ve already studied these three chords separately, it can be difficult to bring them together.

Because of this, take more time on this chapter, as it’ll take longer for you to get this material under your fingers.

 

 

How to Solo Over ii V I Chords – Arpeggios

 

To begin, take the arpeggio shapes that you learned in previous chapters and apply them to ii V I’s.

You start looking at arpeggios that begin with the iim7 shape on the 6th-string root.

Then, you move to the closest arpeggios for the V7 and Imaj7 chords from that starting point.

In this first exercise, you play each arpeggio ascending from the root as you work them over the chord progression.

Make sure to use the backing track when running these shapes in your soloing practice.

 

Backing Track 251 C Backing Track

 

Audio Example hear audio for this ii V I arpeggio exercise.

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 27

 

You can now reverse the first exercise as you play each arpeggio from the top down.

Start slowly with this exercise as it’s difficult to begin any arpeggio from the highest note.

Practice this exercise without any time or tempo to begin if needed.

Then, once you have the fingerings down jam them along to the backing track.

 

Backing Track 251 C Backing Track

 

Audio Example hear audio for this ii V I arpeggio exercise.

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 27

 

You now look at alternating each arpeggio in your ii V I soloing practice.

Making the jump from one shape to the next in a ii V I arpeggio exercise is never easy at first.

So, make sure you focus on those transition points, and work between each shape slowly with a metronome to conquer them in your studies.

 

Backing Track 251 C Backing Track

 

Audio Example hear audio for this ii V I arpeggio exercise.

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 29

 

The last variation has the first arpeggio descending and the second arpeggio ascending.

Again, it’s tricky to start any arpeggio from the top note and work down.

So, go slow with this exercise and take your time with it before moving on to the next section in this chapter.

 

Backing Track 251 C Backing Track

 

Audio Example hear audio for this ii V I arpeggio exercise.

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 30

 

With all four ii V I arpeggio exercises under your fingers, combine these patterns in your solos over the backing track.

 

 

 

How to Solo Over ii V I Chords – Scales

 

You now apply scale shapes to a ii V I chord progression in your guitar solos.

To start off, look at the D dorian scale that begins on the 6th-string root.

Then, you play the each scale in close proximity to that starting point.

The first exercise finds you playing each scale ascending for the ii V I progression,

You play one-octave shapes for the iim7 and V7 chords, and a two-octave shape for the Imaj7 chord, as you have twice as much time to explore that chord.

 

Backing Track 251 C Backing Track

 

Audio Example hear audio for this ii V I scale exercise.

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 31

 

In the second exercise, you descend each scale in the ii V I chord progression.

While you’re just playing the first exercise backwards, it can be difficult to begin a scale from the top note.

So, take your time with these exercise, work with a metronome, and make sure that your transitions smooth.

 

Backing Track 251 C Backing Track

 

Audio Example hear audio for this ii V I scale exercise.

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 32

 

With this variation, you play the first scale ascending, followed by the next scale descending..

This is a small alteration to the first exercise, but it’s a tricky one, so go slow and take your time when practicing.

 

Backing Track 251 C Backing Track

 

Audio Example hear audio for this ii V I scale exercise.

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 33

 

The last ii V I scale exercise is the reverse of the last approach, as you descend the first scale and ascend the second.

 

Backing Track 251 C Backing Track

 

Audio Example hear audio for this ii V I scale exercise.

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 34

 

With all four exercises under your fingers, play them back to back to hear how these approaches sound different, yet similar, when applying to ii V I’s.

 

 

How to Solo Over ii V I Chords – Licks

 

As you learn how to solo over ii V I chords, you need to build your jazz vocabulary.

This means that you need to build your jazz lick repertoire by bringing chromaticism, tension and release, and other jazz language into your solos.

Here are two, ii V I licks that you can learn and apply to your solos.

While learning these licks will get the ideas under your fingers, that’s only the first step when learning any new lick.

To take these licks further, use the following exercises.

 

  • Put on the ii V I backing track and play the lick along to the chords.
  • Alter the rhythm by playing some notes shorter, others longer, and placing notes in different parts of the bar.
  • Add notes from scales and arpeggios, as well as enclosures.
  • Take notes out of the lick.
  • Repeat an of the above exercises but sing the lick.

 

Now that you know how to practice these licks, take a look at the first ii V I lick.

This first lick uses four important elements that are worth dissecting further in order to understand why the lick works.

The first item is the rhythm for the arpeggio in bar one.

An 8th note followed by an 8th-note triplet is a very common jazz arpeggio rhythm.

The next two items are the chromatic licks in bar two.

Here, you have the notes C-A-A#-B, which targets the 3rd of the G7 chord, and the enclosure on the root of that same chord, Ab-F#-G.

Both of these items are good examples of how to integrate chromaticism into your jazz guitar lines.

The last item to look at is the resolution from the b7 of G7, F, to the 3rd of Cmaj7, E, on the downbeat of the last bar.

This “guide tone” resolution is something you find in the playing of many legendary jazz guitarists.

 

Backing Track 251 C Backing Track

 

Audio Example hear audio for this ii V I Jazz Guitar Lick.

 

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The second lick in this chapter uses two enclosures.

One on the root of the Dm7 chord and the 3rd of the G7 chord.

The second uses the  same guide-tone resolution between the b7, F, of G7 and the 3rd, E, of the Cmaj7 chord.

Notice that the enclosure over the 3rd of G7 is anticipated by a half beat, it starts on the & of 4 in the first bar and resolves on the 2nd beat of the 2nd bar.

This type of rhythmic anticipation is a fun way to create tension in your lines, as long as you then resolve that tension properly as is the case in this lick.

 

Backing Track 251 C Backing Track

 

Audio Example hear audio for this ii V I Jazz Guitar Lick.

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 36

 

 

 

Chapter 8 Checklist

 

Here are 10 exercises that you can do to develop your ability to solo over ii V I chords further in the woodshed.

You don’t have to master all of these 10 exercises before moving on to the next chapter.

If you have 3 to 4 of these items down, then you should be ready to move on and explore the next material.

 

  • Put on the ii V I backing track and solo using only arpeggios.
  • Using the ii V I backing track, solo over these chords using only scales.
  • Solo over the ii V I backing track using both the arpeggios and scales.
  • Blow over the ii V I backing track, using one of the above licks as the basis for your lines.
  • Solo over the Miles Davis song “Tune Up,” using only arpeggios.
  • Improvise over “Tune Up,” using scales.
  • Blow over “Tune Up” using both the arpeggios and scales.
  • Using the licks from this chapter, solo over “Tune Up.”
  • Sing the root notes for a ii V I in C and play the arpeggios.
  • Play the ii V I scales on the guitar and sing the roots for each chord.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 9 – ii V I Soloing Part 2

 

In this chapter, you use the same arpeggio and scale exercises as you learned in chapter 8, now from a different string set.

When soloing over ii V I chords, it’s a good idea to break these concepts down into smaller chunks that you can work on slowly and thoroughly.

After you work through the material in this chapter, combine it with the material from chapter 8.

 

 

Soloing Over ii V I Chords – Arpeggios

 

Here’s an arpeggio exercise that begins on the Dm7 5th-string arpeggio shape, and continues to each new arpeggio in close proximity from there.

These exercises are tricky, so use a metronome and go slowly as you work on playing each idea smoothly and accurately on the guitar.

The first exercise presents each arpeggio ascending as you work these shapes through a ii V I chord progression.

As always, get them under your fingers then solo with them over the jam track below.

 

ii V I Backing Track 251 C Backing Track

 

Click to hear audio for this ii V I Arpeggio outline.

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 37

 

This exercise reverses the previous approach as you’re now descending each arpeggio in the ii V I chord progression.

 

Backing Track 251 C Backing Track

 

Audio Example hear audio for this ii V I Arpeggio outline.

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 38

 

In the next exercise, you ascend the first arpeggio, followed by a descending arpeggio.

 

Backing Track 251 C Backing Track

 

Audio Example hear audio for this ii V I Arpeggio outline.

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 39

 

You can also play these exercise with the first arpeggio descending and the second arpeggio ascending.

 

Backing Track 251 C Backing Track

 

Audio Example hear audio for this ii V I Arpeggio outline.

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 40

 

When these shapes are comfortable separately, combine them in your practicing.

This opens up your neck, expanding your fretboard knowledge as you are expanding your jazz guitar soloing vocabulary.

 

 

Soloing Over ii V I Chords – Scales

 

You can also apply scales to your ii V I practice routine.

These exercises use a 5th-string Dm7 scale, with the rest of the scales sticking closely to that position.

Make sure to practice these patterns with a metronome.

Here’s an example of how you can apply those scales to a ii V I chord progression with each scale ascending.

 

Backing Track 251 C Backing Track

 

Audio Example hear audio for this ii V I Scale outline.

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 41

 

The second exercise uses descending scales to outline each of the three chords in a ii V I progression.

 

Backing Track 251 C Backing Track

 

Audio Example hear audio for this ii V I Scale outline.

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 42

 

You can also mix these two approaches, as in the following example where you ascend the first scale, descend the second scale.

 

Backing Track 251 C Backing Track

 

Audio Example hear audio for this ii V I Scale outline.

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 43

 

Here you reverse the previous exercise, as you begin with a descending scale followed by an ascending scale.

 

Backing Track 251 C Backing Track

 

Audio Example hear audio for this ii V I Scale outline.

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 44

 

Make sure to work these patterns separately, then combine them over the fretboard in your studies.

You cover a large part of the fretboard when soloing, providing a sense of freedom as you’re never lost when soloing over ii V I’s.

 

 

Soloing Over ii V I Chords – Licks

 

To finish off, here are two licks that you can learn, analyze, and expand upon in your practice routine.

Learning the lick is just the starting point when absorbing these ideas into your soloing chops.

To help you fully digest these licks, here are five exercises that you can use in the woodshed.

 

  • Put on the ii V I backing track and play one of these licks.
  • Change the rhythms of any lick.
  • Add notes from the related scales and arpeggios.
  • Remove notes from the lick.
  • Sing the lick and play the chords on guitar.

 

Now that you know how to practice these ideas, take a look at how these two licks are built.

The first lick uses a number of interesting ideas that you explore further on the guitar.

The first is the use of the #7, C#, to approach the root of the Dm7 chord in bar one of the lick.

Starting on the #7 is a common Bebop technique that’s used to add tension and release to your arpeggios.

As well, the 1235 pattern in bar one is a classic John Coltrane technique.

You also see enclosures being used over the root in the second bar, Ab-F#-G, and the 3rd in the last measure, F-D#-E.

 

Backing Track 251 C Backing Track

 

Audio Example hear audio for this ii V I Guitar Lick.

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 45

 

The second lick also features enclosures on the 5th of Dm7, Bb-G#-A, and the root of G7, Ab-F#-G.

Here, there’s a different rhythmic grouping than you’ve seen before.

As well, there’s an ascending, three-note scale pattern in the last two measures.

Though it’s a simple pattern, using three-note groupings with two-note rhythms, 8th notes, creates syncopation in your jazz lines.

 

Backing Track 251 C Backing Track

 

Audio Example hear audio for this ii V I Guitar Lick.

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 46

 

 

Chapter 9 Checklist

 

Here are 5 extra ways that you can practice soloing over ii V I chords.

Since the material in both chapters 8 and 9 is very similar, you can also take these 5 ideas and apply them material from the previous chapter.

If you have 2 to 3 of these items under your fingers, then you should be ready to move on to the final chapter.

 

  • Play a ii V I chord progression on the guitar in C and sing the arpeggios.
  • Comp a ii V I chord progression on the guitar in C and sing the scales.
  • Play a ii V I chord progression in C and scat sing a solo over those chords.
  • Sing the root notes of a ii V I chord progression in C and improvise on guitar.
  • Sing the root notes of a C major ii V I progression and solo using licks on guitar.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 10 – Walking Bass Lines for Guitar

 

Learning how to comp through tunes means exploring drop 2 and drop 3 chords.

But.

It also means adding bass lines to these chords so that you can function musically and fully in a solo, and bassless, situation.

Here are five exercises that teach you to walk a full bass line and add chords beneath that bass line comping.

 

 

Walking Bass Lines on Guitar – Exercise 1

 

To begin, you place the root note of each chord on the first beat of the bar.

By adding the root on the first beat, you solidify the sound of the chord you’re on, and tell the listener exactly where you are in the bar.

Though it’s a simple exercise, this is the most important step from which you build a full bass line.

So, go slow and take your time with this exercise in the woodshed.

When working on any exercise in this chapter, apply them to the backing track (piano and drums only) in your studies.

 

Backing Track C Turnaround No Bass Backing

 

Audio Example hear this walking bass line on guitar audio example.

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 47

 

To help get this approach down further, play the chords for a ii V I chord progression, and sing the root notes of each chord.

This way you get your ears involved with the bass line, as well as your fingers on the guitar.

 

 

Walking Bass Lines on Guitar – Exercise 2

 

Once you have the root note secure on the downbeat of each bar, you add a chromatic approach note on beat 4.

You can choose to approach the next root above or below, either is fine.

So it’s a good idea to practice both, and then let your ears decide which approach is right for any musical situation.

 

Backing Track C Turnaround No Bass Backing

 

Audio Example hear this walking bass line on guitar audio example.

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 48

 

 

 

 

Walking Bass Lines on Guitar – Exercise 3

 

The next step that you take adds a second chromatic approach note on beat 3 of the measure.

You have four options when approaching the root note that you resolve to in the next bar:

 

  • Two notes above.
  • Two notes below.
  • One above one below.
  • One below and one above.

 

Try a few options when learning how to apply two chromatic notes to your walking bass lines.

Though there are only four possibilities, when you factor in the chords and the number of bars in any tune, these four options are enough to get you through any performance.

Here’s an example of a bass line that uses this approach.

 

Backing Track C Turnaround No Bass Backing

 

Audio Example hear this walking bass line on guitar audio example.

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 49

 

Notice that sometimes your second chromatic note is a diatonic note for the chord you are on, such as the A on the 3rd beat of bar 1 in this example.

Though these second chromatic notes are sometimes a chord or scale tone for the chord you are on, think of them as “leading” toward the next chord.

One thing that’s helped me with walking bass lines on guitar, is to think about beats 1 and 2 of a bar as sounding the chord you’re on, while beats 3 and 4 lead the listener towards the next chord.

Doing so organizes your lines, and gives them a sense of direction in a musical situation.

 

 

Walking Bass Lines on Guitar – Exercise 4

 

To finish up your walking bass line, you add a  diatonic note to the second beat of each bar.

While chord tones can be a more secure option, sometimes they aren’t always a good option from a fingering perspective.

So a scale note can be used effectively here as well.

 

Backing Track C Turnaround No Bass Backing

 

Audio Example hear this walking bass line on guitar audio example.

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 50

 

 

 

 

Walking Bass Lines on Guitar – Chords

 

With a walking bass line under your fingers, you can add chords to your bass notes.

There are many ways you can put chord shapes on top of bass notes, but I find that adding them on the & of beat one is a great place to start.

Because you play the root note on beat one, you can easily add a root-position chord shape that you know above this note.

Here’s an example of a walking bass line over a ii V I progression, where you’re adding chord shapes on the & of 1 in each bar.

 

Backing Track C Turnaround No Bass Backing

 

Audio Example hear this walking bass line on guitar audio example.

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar 51

 

Go slow with this example, work it with a metronome, then take it to the backing track when you’re ready.

 

 

Chapter 10 Checklist

.

As this is the final chapter, you can take your time with these exercises.

Work on getting each one down securely in the practice room, as there are no more chapters to move on to.

Be sure to work any and all examples here with a metronome.

This ensures you work on developing a solid time feel when walking bass lines.

 

  • Work on exercise 1 from memory.
  • Add one note at a time until you’ve built a walking bass line.
  • Apply the walking bass line rules to a blues progression.
  • Apply the walking bass line rules to a jazz standard.
  • Add chords to all of these bass line exercises.

 



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