Shell Jazz Guitar Chords (For Beginners)

The Easy Guide to Jazz Guitar Chords


Shell Chords are the most basic jazz guitar chords and are essential knowledge for every jazz guitarist. The following chord chart contains the most important shell chords.

Shell jazz guitar chord chart & infographic

A note about printing: I realise these big chord charts are hard to print, that’s why I’m compiling them in an ebook for easy printing. I’ll let you know when the ebook is finished


How To Use Shell Chords?

Shell chords are often used in a walking bass accompaniment. Here is an example on the standard All The Things You Are:



All The Things You Are walking bass


Also check out this other chord chart for beginners: 17 Essential Jazz Guitar Chords


The Easy Guide to Jazz Guitar Chords

  1. Larry6stringApr 2, 2014 at 7:10 pm

    Awesome Thanks. I use the major chord voicings over m7 ie Ab over Fm7 and minor chord voicings over the maj 7,ie Gm over Ebmaj7 and also the 3 9 & b7 triads over the dominant chords. I like your use of G#o7 vice C+7. Thanks again Dirk. Larry

  2. samApr 2, 2014 at 8:17 pm

    Thanks for the shell jazz guitar chords.I am a beginner and this will help me.

  3. Avi JamanApr 2, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    Obviously a labor of love on your part. KUDOS!

  4. Willie ByrdApr 2, 2014 at 10:17 pm

    I would like to purchase a jazz chords and licks on a DVD where how can I buy them on the lead guitar.please contact me back to let me know how.

  5. ArmandoApr 2, 2014 at 11:00 pm

    Again very clear lesson. Done for a working musician easy to understand, and usefull to apply to the next gig.

    Love your hints.


  6. jstringzApr 3, 2014 at 12:00 am

    This lesson is very ok, i really love it its really gonna help my jazzy touches

  7. mississippiApr 3, 2014 at 12:19 am

    Wow, very nice lesson.

  8. robApr 3, 2014 at 12:32 am

    Dirk love your lessons and all thanks man ! Rob!

  9. ArtApr 3, 2014 at 12:51 am

    Thank you so much! Wish you were around decades ago. I’ve spent so much money on other books and dvd’s, you are one of the best. There are not many. Keep up the great work.

  10. SlowfingersApr 3, 2014 at 4:38 am

    Dirk- Fantastic lesson! Really great…You are treasure and I hope Belgium appreciates you as much as the Jazz Guitar community does!
    As a beginner, so often jazz lessons are presented, for example: Here is a scale/arpeggio/ solo,or whatever.. and learn it in all keys until you can play it in your sleep, up and down the fretboard and then come back and we’ll go to the next step….
    Ah… um… that might take quite a while…. and who really does this?

    That is why your lesson is effective… its not like this…

  11. Mike MeierApr 3, 2014 at 4:50 am

    Very nice. Very valuable. I look forward to purchasing the ebook.

  12. Wilhelm LuterszApr 3, 2014 at 4:59 am

    AMAZING ! You continue to provide exemplary tutorials, especially for beginners. Clear, and concise. Keep up the good work. Looking forward to the e-book.

  13. Joseph BeggyApr 3, 2014 at 5:17 am

    Valuable information. Thanks.

  14. timApr 3, 2014 at 6:28 am

    Juicy jazz gems !

  15. Timo HaanpääApr 3, 2014 at 8:25 am

    Excellent lesson!

  16. tonyApr 3, 2014 at 8:27 am

    simply superb!!!!!

  17. SilverfoxxApr 3, 2014 at 9:15 am

    Hi Dirk
    Thank you for another useful lesson. I like
    the sample on my wife’s favourite song
    “All the Things you are “

  18. LorenApr 3, 2014 at 9:36 am

    I love these things – use them often. Many of what I’ve been calling “shell chords” are inversions other than 1-3-7, though. _Many_ of them, for example, are 5-3-7. A form that Freddie Green used, and Django and many others, is 3x23xx = C7. The 5th is in the bass, w/no root. Similarly, 5x35xx functions as Dm7, no root, 5th in bass (or F major, 3rd in bass, no root.) And so on.

    I’m just wondering whether a “shell chord,” as you define it, is going to have the 1-7-3 chord tones, in that order…. I realize that this is what you say, but was this intentional?


  19. Nick AustraliaApr 3, 2014 at 10:47 am

    Hi Dirk
    What’s the chance you can show the chords orientated for left handed players also?
    Thanks for the great work and inspiration to all us beginners . Cheers mate

  20. DennisApr 3, 2014 at 11:48 am

    Very useful information. Thanks a lot!

  21. Yinghui WanApr 3, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    this is really cool stuff. cause i am from china, and in my country, we don’t have this kind information, thanks for your sharing. cheer up…

  22. RayApr 3, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    Brilliant lesson Dirk. Just what my 76 year old fingers need, none of those nasty stretches. I appreciate all of your lessons, but for me this is the most useful.

  23. UweApr 3, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    Thanks a lot! Nice stuff!!!!

  24. David FernandezApr 3, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    Dirk, yours is the first online Jazz tutorial that not only tells but SHOWS you how. Starting with your free Jazz Guitar Cord Book and now this shell cords all I can say is a big THANK YOU to you for your generosity in sharing your knowledge. I am an intermediate player (average) who mostly plays by ear who, until three weeks ago did not know what a ll V l meant. But now when I play a cord progression I am delighted to KNOW what I am playing. It is very satisfying and empowering. Also your Jazz Guitar Gazette- Premium is excellent because they’re in bite size pieces and I would recommend this tutorial to anyone out there who’s been looking for a good teacher. The material I have so for will last me for a very long time. Once again thank you.

  25. BillApr 3, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    As always Dirk, great lesson, lessons like this help so much.

  26. Anup BharvaniApr 3, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    Very very useful info…thanks!!!

  27. Sharon Kathleen JohnsonApr 3, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    The walking bass guitar example could benefit from being played much more slowly. It’s beautiful but rushed?

  28. raulzApr 3, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    Thanks a lot Dirk for this awesome lesson.
    I have a question: If we build 3 note jazz chords (1,3,7),how can we construct the beautiful diminished (m7b5) chords?

    Warm regards and thanks again.


  29. jimmApr 3, 2014 at 7:11 pm

    Excellent…how come when I learned “Guitar” guitar, no one told me these things. But with Jazz Guitar, you gottta know it ALL! Very cool – very intimidating! Someday I’ll attempt Jazz, for now I’m trying to figure out the CAGED system!

  30. ChrisApr 3, 2014 at 10:20 pm

    It took me a minute to orient myself – I think standard chord charts are rotated 90 degrees clockwise (so the strings go north/south and low e is left-most).

    Other than that brief confusion on my part, it was really cool! Thank you!

  31. WarrenApr 3, 2014 at 11:17 pm

    Appreciate your efforts on this subject. Great for me, I can make changes pretty quickly of these simpler shapes. I have hope of actually keeping up with most arrangements.

  32. kennyApr 4, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    Hi DIRK,many thanks for the shell chords…i like the simplicity of your lessons,already applying them in my playing,aspecially with chord-melody arrangements….many,many thanks Dirk……..KENNY East London.South Africa…

  33. JoeyApr 4, 2014 at 8:58 pm

    Thanks for all the things 😉

  34. ericApr 4, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    As always very interesting and explained in a clear and simple way! tnx

  35. naimeApr 6, 2014 at 8:35 am

    cool stuff man!

  36. griphoniiApr 6, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    Shell chords are exceedingly important in any type of rhythm section for lots of reasons. One, eliminates mush and competition. Three books: George Van Eps, Ted Greene and Carlton Johnson (Freddie Green type).

  37. BillApr 7, 2014 at 4:59 am

    Fantastic Dirk!

  38. Teris MartinosApr 7, 2014 at 5:14 am

    This was exactly what I was looking for! Thank you man!

  39. SundaApr 10, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    Thanks for sharing your knwoledge for free. it really helps me and God bless you

  40. OdinApr 15, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    you are a saint Dirk, thank you so much!

  41. felipelotasApr 15, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    great effort

  42. abolApr 23, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    Thanks for the shell jazz guitar chords.I am a beginner and this will help me.

  43. Stanley ChurchillApr 23, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    This is my starter, after finger exercises, along with the scale that goes with each shell chord. As a beginning jazz player, this has helped with my understanding of musical structure and also has increased my “feeling” for my fret board. I have also found that it helps with my understanding of what is going on as I learn/practice some of the licks.

    Thanks guys!!!

  44. DanaJun 14, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    Great stuff! I just bought three note voicings and beyond, based on your recommendation here, and this lesson is the perfect accompaniment, if you will excuse the pun, to that book. Thank you so much for sharing all this!

  45. Lungisa John WilliamsAug 28, 2014 at 5:10 am

    Powerful stuff. Wow. Thank you

  46. Paul LavaudOct 24, 2014 at 10:56 am

    I am very grateful to you for showing these basic Jazz Chords shapes for beginners, which I did not know. It is indeed powerful stuff. Thank you. This is where I need to begin personally. Learn new chords shapes which I believe will be a good start and also for any individual who wish to learn to play Jazz style. Thank you again.

  47. ronert ArringtonOct 26, 2014 at 3:58 pm

    I like the two note power chords. Improvising do we play chords or notes first?

  48. VinceNov 30, 2014 at 1:35 am

    I am studying your intro to jazz blues course and I’m trying to learn chord voicings.
    Can you tell me if your ebook is available. At the end of the above exercise you stated: A note about printing: I realise these big chord charts are hard to print, that’s why I’m compiling them in an ebook for easy printing. I’ll let you know when the ebook is finished


  49. TYGEROct 19, 2015 at 2:52 am

    please i’m anxious to see this book. When will it be ready ?

  50. ArthurApr 1, 2016 at 7:07 pm

    Very, Very helpful,simplier impossible, this is very clear.
    thanks a lot

  51. AntoineOct 21, 2016 at 2:01 am

    I think you want four flats in “all the things you are” (Ab). Thanks for doing this!

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