Summertime Guitar Chord Study

The Easy Guide to Jazz Guitar Chords


One of the most common tunes to learn when first beginning your jazz-guitar journey is Summertime. A classic jazz standard, this tune is not only important to learn, but fun to play both at home and in jam situations.

When learning how to play this tune, we will learn the basic chord shapes but often hit a wall in regards to how to turn these shapes into a comping pattern that sounds good and engages the other people we’re jamming with.

To help you get over this hump in the woodshed, here is a sample Summertime Guitar Chord Study that you can learn in the practice room and use as a template to create your own cool-sounding comping ideas over this important jazz standard.

What’s In This Study?

I have labelled each of the chord shapes and concepts I’ve used to build the chord study in the music below. To help you review these concepts, or get your head around them if they’re new, here is a brief explanation of each of the chord concepts that you will find in this chord study.

So What Chords – These chord come from the opening melody to Miles Davis’ tune “So What.” They are two m7 chords a tone apart, Dm7-Em7, and are built by stacking 4th intervals together except the final interval, which is a 3rd.

Drop 2 Chords – These are commonly used jazz chords that are built with the root-position interval structure Root-5th-7th-3rd, with all inversions built progressively from there.

4th Chords – Chords build by stacking 2 or more notes using 4th intervals that are diatonic to the underlying chord or key.

3 to 9 Chords – These are chords that replace the root with the 9th of the chord, producing the interval structure 3-5-7-9, rather than the normally heard R-3-5-7.

7b9 Dim7 Chords – When playing over 7b9 chords or 7alt chords, you can outline a 7b9 sound by playing a dim7 chord from the b9, 3rd, 5th or b7th of the underlying chord.

Triads – Triads in this context refer to the 3rd, 5th and 7th of the underlying chord. When you take away the root of any chord, you end up with a triad, which is smaller and easier to move around the fretboard in your jazz guitar comping ideas.

Shells – Shells are three-note chords that combine triads, as you just learned, and other non-root three-note chords such as the 3-b7-b9 chord used over the A7alt shape in the example below.

Summertime Guitar Chord Study



Summertime Guitar Chord Study (1)

Summertime Backing Track

To help you practice this chord study, here is a short backing track using only Bass and Drums that you can play this chord study with, as well as practice your Summertime comping and chord soloing ideas in the practice room.



Do you have any questions about this Summertime Guitar Chord Study? Post your thoughts in the comments section below.


The Easy Guide to Jazz Guitar Chords

  1. ClemFeb 1, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    What a nifty lesson. And that to a song that almost everyone will play at one point.

  2. AlejandroFeb 2, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    Very useful this exercise. What is the key? Is it a major or minor key?

    • Matt WarnockFeb 2, 2014 at 6:18 pm

      Thanks, it’s in D minor.

      • Hank GregorJun 6, 2014 at 6:25 am

        I’m confused. If the key is D minor, isn’t the music sheet showing a C major key? Or is it, that the D minor means its a mode of the C major scale. Sorry if this is a simplistic question. Thanks for your great material.

        • Matt WarnockJun 6, 2014 at 9:21 am

          Hey, in jazz we sometimes use key signatures, but other times we just use accidentals in the music and no key signature, like in this tune.

      • simonSep 2, 2015 at 9:25 pm

        its in c major…. d minor dorian mode

  3. randimassimoFeb 3, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    Beautiful! it is possible to have other examples of comping in different jazz’s standard?

    • Matt WarnockFeb 3, 2014 at 3:36 pm

      Thanks, yes we have plans to do many more lessons like this in the future.

  4. BrianFeb 4, 2014 at 9:17 am

    Any chance of seeing a notation for the bass line used on the backing tracks?

  5. eyal korenFeb 4, 2014 at 9:35 am

    hello i enjoy your lesson very much like all the lessons that you send me so at first thank you.
    second each lesson helps me improve my playing and so iam happy with each lesson..

  6. WalterFeb 4, 2014 at 9:55 am

    Awesome enjoy it

  7. danieleFeb 4, 2014 at 11:45 am

    hello i enjoy your lesson very much

  8. DarioFeb 4, 2014 at 1:26 pm

    Always good to have options on this tune:)

  9. BrianFeb 4, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    Excellent lesson – as always. This is exactly the type of lesson I need. Something quick that moves me through the tune so I can get it under my fingers – and then later dig down into the tune and analyze what’s happening. Keep them coming!

  10. Mark RhodesFeb 4, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    Nice stuff. Love this tune and could always use a fresh take on it. Thanks!

  11. CarloFeb 4, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    very interesting lesson. Thank you.

  12. DennisFeb 4, 2014 at 4:42 pm


    Your use of the “lyric line” for the purpose of chord analysis is brilliant, and extremely helpful for me. Since I am a big fan of your teaching, I hope you use this technique more in the future, including with analysis of single-note lines. It’s not a technique that needs to be done for every tab, but I imagine in some instances it could make teaching certain types of material much more efficient, enjoyable, and productive.

    Dirk, I hope you show Matt’s example to your other contributors/teachers and encourage them to consider this technique in their analysis and comments on their lessons. This one really turned some lights on for me.

    Best to both of you,


  13. Matti.nFeb 4, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    I have’t regret once that moment that i subscribed your page man! This was like totally in right timing because i started to practise this Song By ear like few days ago! Thanx!

  14. CSoMusicFeb 4, 2014 at 5:04 pm

    Great material you offer here, thanks for your generosity Matt. I would love to get the notation for your guitar and bass parts for playing on my own. I have bought a couple of your e-books. Do you offer them anywhere on your site? Thanks again, I know it takes time and effort to produce good material.

  15. DanFeb 4, 2014 at 5:28 pm

    Another excellent lesson and very useful to me as I was looking for way to spice up my comping to this tune.

    • SummerMar 28, 2014 at 7:54 pm

      Short, sweet, to the point, FRaE-exEctly as information should be!

  16. GregFeb 4, 2014 at 9:23 pm

    Great lesson! Fantastic example of how to put all those comping ideas together to make a tune sound great and your explanation of the chords and ideas used is amazing. Also love the fact that you’ve recorded it so I can hear how it should sound and added the bass backing track to practice. Thanks again.

  17. IvanFeb 4, 2014 at 11:59 pm

    Quick question:

    Couldn’t the Gm7 in drop 2 formation during the 6th bar also be considered to be a 3to9 formation due to the addition of that A note in place of the root?

    • Matt WarnockFeb 5, 2014 at 12:12 am

      Yes you can look at it that way for sure. Since it’s so related to the xx3333 Gm7 shape, I often think about the xx3335 shape as an extension of that chord in that position. But it is also technically a 3 to 9 Gm7 chord, Bbmaj7 over Gm7.

      • Ivan CarvalhoFeb 5, 2014 at 12:23 am

        Thank you, Matt! I thought I was crazy for a second. I am new to Jazz and loving every minute. Keep these great lessons coming! Cheers.


  18. AdoVazFeb 5, 2014 at 2:41 am
  19. AyanFeb 5, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    Thanks For This Nice Lesson.

  20. LorenzoFeb 6, 2014 at 7:59 am

    Very interesting!!! Thanks!!

  21. qubFeb 6, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    Very interesting, I didn’t use any 4th chords in my playing so far (although I was aware of their existance), because I thought they make something weird to a tune, make it sound too difficult, unnatural. This lessons shows that this isn’t necessarily the case, when you use them from time to time. Great stuff and will for sure affect my playing.

  22. Cur-LFeb 6, 2014 at 5:27 pm

    I also liked this lesson. Great chords and an exquisite bass line.

  23. JoeyFeb 9, 2014 at 12:04 pm

    Thanks for sharing this. These concepts quite imnspired my thinking.

    I would like to know if these chord categories are somehow common in the world of teaching? They really help to organize and memorize all the grips.

    Thanks again. So much fun.

    • Matt WarnockFeb 9, 2014 at 12:08 pm

      Hey Joey, yes learning maj7, m7, 7 and m7b5 chords are a good place to start with jazz grips, they are very common and found in almost all jazz tunes in one form or another.

      • JoeyFeb 9, 2014 at 6:56 pm

        Hi Matt, sorry I meant the terms: So What/Drop2/etc. These have been new to me.

        • Matt WarnockFeb 9, 2014 at 7:02 pm

          Yeah, those too, good ways to think about them for sure.

  24. Paul SorensenFeb 13, 2014 at 5:25 pm

    A little about the “So What” chords and sound. The piece being set in D minor utilizes the Dorian Mode which has as it’s most characteristic coloring the interval of B natural to A ( major 6th of Dminor to the fifth of Dm ). Also the C natural to B and vice versa are just as significant when staying within the Dorian Mode. The chord Bill Evans plays on So What emphasizes the coloring by having the B to A, be the two top notes of the Em to Dm harmonies. ( Structures of 4th intervals used also )
    Thanks Matt for the site!

  25. Mark RhodesFeb 27, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    Very good lesson. A tune everyone will play at some point (-perhaps many points) and this gives me a fresh approaching to comping for it. I hope there are more lessons like this because a) they help and b) they inspire me to look for new ways to play things (-or what amounts to the same thing, take something I learn in one tune and apply it to others.)

  26. SteveFeb 28, 2014 at 6:18 am

    I must share my experiences when I’m here with you and your coaching. I spend maybe an hour or two of very focused exploration within the very context of your lesson!! It’s amazing!! The material that you present is always within my abilities and comprehension of theory, but it never fails to pull me out of my comfort level and work in a new area – “without a net” so to speak!! lol I manage to get to that magical place where the world almost disappears and all of my attention and passion is dialed into being in the moment. I mean, you just can’t get any better than that!! This is beautiful stuff and I can honestly feel artistic growth when I’m here! Thank you so very much:)
    Question : Who is Dirk Laukens? That’s the name that comes up when I receive emails from this site. I am familiar with Matt Warnock and have even had a skype lesson with you. I truly love what you present and a thousand thank you’s sir!!:)

    • Matt WarnockFeb 28, 2014 at 9:16 am

      Hey, glad you liked the lesson. Dirk is the owner of and publisher of the website. He’s a great jazz guitarist and teacher and I work with him on developing lessons for the site.

  27. JeffFeb 28, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    The chord studies are MUCH more helpful to me than books because I am not strong on theory and I can hear and visualize the chord patterns as I learn them. I hope you will consider making a lot more available.

  28. stew firthMar 18, 2014 at 1:03 am

    hi great lessons but i cant get the audio.what do i need (soundcloud or something?)

    • Matt WarnockMar 18, 2014 at 8:56 am

      Hi, thanks for checking out the lesson. You just need to click play on the audio. If you are using an older browser you might need to make sure you have the latest version to see the audio player.

      • stew firthMar 21, 2014 at 12:36 am

        thanks i updated google chrome still a frowny face.i’m using win xp is that the problem>?

        • Matt WarnockMar 21, 2014 at 12:49 am

          Not sure. I can see it in soundcloud. If you visit can you listen to audio there?

  29. Yohann RogerApr 10, 2014 at 10:39 pm

    Hey! thank you so much for all these lessons, I really have learned a lot through this site here. You have made a good job.

  30. stanley westerborgMay 18, 2014 at 12:32 am

    very supporting, all of your lessons. the tabs really enjoyable. thank you very much.

  31. steve neavesMay 25, 2014 at 10:42 am

    very nice this has added to my of chords and playing

  32. StanJun 14, 2014 at 6:49 pm

    Thank you so much, this is the greatest. However I’m a Bass player(electric) but a big jazz nut. I’m a new player and maybe once and a while we could maybe get some bass notation…:)

  33. BahestyJun 19, 2014 at 11:49 am

    Thank you so much for this site. It is very essential for musician. I really like it.

  34. BpDJul 17, 2014 at 3:20 am

    Wow. I just became a fan of this page.

  35. zivJul 26, 2014 at 11:21 pm

    may i ask why there’s a G note in dm7 and there’s a A note in Em7?

  36. Matt WarnockJul 26, 2014 at 11:29 pm

    Hey. The 11th is a common color tone on m7 chords, that’s why both of those notes are in there.

  37. MarkAug 17, 2014 at 1:40 am

    Sorry to be the odd man out, but I am confused: This lesson is titled “Summertime guitar chord study”. What am I not seeing ? The staff at top is not Summertime, it’s “So What”. No ? Since I’m the only one bringing it up, I guess I’m literally on a different page than everyone….! Talk about superimposition….!

    • Matt WarnockAug 17, 2014 at 6:38 am

      Hi Mark

      The chords above are for the song Summertime. So What has the chords “Dm7 for 16 bars, Ebm7 for 8 bars, then Dm7 for 8 bars.” This comping arrangement uses a few modal chords, but the song it is based on is Summertime. hope that helps.

    • milkmannnvMar 10, 2015 at 8:35 pm

      This is a comping study which uses some fourth (quartal)harmony here and there, as do all of Matt’s excellent comping arrangements.I think this idea became most known because of Miles So What recording,but has now become a part of the jazz vocabulary.Thank you so much for all the great comping lessons Matt!

  38. RRCJan 22, 2015 at 2:32 am

    LOVE it!! Thank you.

  39. milkmannnvMar 9, 2015 at 2:49 am

    All of these chord comping studies are amazing.After working on M7,m7,Dom7 and m7b5 chord scales,Maj and min 2-5-1’s ,these studies have really helped fill the void in my comping over jazz standards and given me lots of ideas I hadn’t considered before.Thanks.

  40. David SzaboJan 30, 2016 at 5:02 pm

    The comping study is cool and the backing track is the bee’s knees. Just the right speed for me without any tweaking. Thanks a lot!

  41. BREWFeb 16, 2016 at 11:57 am

    Hello again Matt!!

    I am really very fond of your SHELL TRIADS (and the way you make use of them at the end of this tune)! (And in your other comping studies as well.)

    So much so that I’d love you to tell me HOW DO YOU COME UP WITH THEM in the harmony? (If it’s no state secret!)

    And, just for the fun of it, I added in the following triad 5-6-5 on the D-G-B strings in the last half note of Bar 9 and it seems to sound OK there.


    BREW – Bruno

  42. C DownerApr 5, 2016 at 1:30 am

    I might as well try to learn Chinese.
    You Music Teachers have no idea about the nonsense you write assuming that we all understand
    what you write, trying to explain what we, as beginners, should do to achieve anything worthwhile.
    For instance what are these terms?
    ‘Root position interval,Inversions built progressively,’
    ‘Diatonic Underlying Cord or Key’,
    ‘dim7 chord from the b9, 3rd 5th and 7th of the underlying chord’

    What language are you communicating in. I find this type of music theory complete nonsense
    and I am totally turned off because much of what you write seems like nonsense to me.I suspect I’m not the only one who feels this too.

  43. PrakashApr 8, 2017 at 2:58 pm

    all that terms speak about what is sounding in the track…….what more to said?………..keep the sound and from there step by step u will undertand everything……..I´m spanish trying to learn english, if I ear the word “table” and I do not have the concept of a table in my mind, the word “table” will be a nonsense forever…….in this case u have in the track the reality about is speaking all u at the moment do not understand.

  44. PrakashApr 8, 2017 at 3:02 pm

    thanks to all the people behind……

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