The Jazz Guitar Chords

As a guitar teacher with decades of experience, I know how overwhelming it can be to make the switch to jazz guitar from acoustic. If you can understand the basic chords for Jazz guitar, the sky really is the limit for your mastery over this complex instrument.

Let’s get right into it and outline what a jazz guitar chord is and which ones you need to know about to become a pro on this musical instrument.

What is a Jazz Chord?

First, let’s explain that there is no such thing as a definitive jazz guitar chord. There are specific types of chords that jazz musicians and composers tend to use in their work. Most rock and pop music requires only three-note triads, on the other hand.

So, instead of just playing C, A, Bm, Dm with a m7 chord or two added to the mix, you’ll be doing extensions beyond those triads with four, six, and five-note chord shapes. Playing those same chords as Dm9, A7b12 etc., is the result of these triads. In other words, there aren’t any jazz chords that are specifically for jazz, but you would be using these as a guideline.

You may be new to these chords, but given enough time you’ll slowly begin to gain confidence using them. You’ll also start to pick out these extended chords as you play them over the course of your work with this instrument.

Chords You Need to Know

No matter what, you should know the following chords before you begin your work with jazz guitar:

• Major 7

• Minor 7

• Minor 9

• Dominant 9

• Min7b5

• Dom7#5

• Diminished 7

These basic chords will help you gain a better foundation before you explore the more complex chords in jazz music.

Practicing Beginner Chords

Before you move on to practicing more complex chords, perfect your beginner chords. First, ensure that each note of the chord is clean and easily heard once strummed. Don’t be afraid to take things slowly at first to get comfortable with the new shape of your fingers on the fretboard.

Next, experiment with moving the chord up and down the fret board. This enables you to get a feel of how you’ll play later on, and helps you gain knowledge you previously didn’t have. You can also switch back and forth from different chords. Increase you speed slowly as you change chords. After you’ve done all this, bring together your new skills with a jazz standard that resonates with you.


Jazz guitar chords aren’t completely different from standard guitar chords, but they do require a different set of skills. When you practice your basic chords, you’ll begin to stretch your musical interests and eventually be competent in a new form of musical instrument. Embrace these chords and start practicing today. The sooner you begin to practice, the sooner you’ll master the jazz guitar.

Guitar Chords – The Foundation for Rock Music

Guitar chords can be considered the foundation for rock music. Many times, a songwriter will put together a chord progression, which is just a sequence of chords that is repeated in the song verses, the chorus, or both. From that initial chord progression, every other aspect of the song can be imagined and written – the bass line, drum riffs, tempo, guitar lead, etc. You get the picture.

To illustrate this point, this is how The Beatles began writing. Early in their careers, John Lennon and Paul McCartney would get together with their guitars and come up with the chord progressions and riffs that would later turn into some of the most memorable music of all time.

As a guitarist songwriter, whether you start a song with a guitar riff or a chord progression, you will be working with chords early in the songwriting process. Sometimes the tune will call for a different tone, one that a basic chord doesn’t provide. This is why it is important to build your arsenal of guitar chords.

I’ve talked about basic guitar chords and their forms in previous articles. You’ll find once you’ve learned these, there are some additional forms that you will want to learn to round out your tonal palette. For example, there are sustained chords, diminished chords, minor seventh chords and barre chords. All in all, there are thousands of potential chords.

Fortunately, you don’t have to learn them all. As long as you memorize the handful of chord forms (check out my other articles), you’ll have no trouble coming up with interesting chord changes and substitutes for basic chords in your songs. It will take some time to put your knowledge into practice, but it is time well spent.