17 Easy Jazz Guitar Chords For Beginners

Jazz guitar chords can be complicated and as a beginner, it’s hard to know where to start. When first learning how to play jazz chords, many of us are intimidated by their sounds and shapes. But, jazz chords don’t have to be difficult to get under your fingers if you begin with the right shapes. The chord chart in this lesson features the 17 chord shapes that are essential when learning how to play jazz guitar.

This lesson is designed to introduce you to the various families of jazz guitar chords, with a focus on important, but easy-to-play shapes.

By studying the basic jazz chords in this lesson, you will not only introduce yourself to the world of jazz guitar chords, but you will learn how to apply them to chord progressions as well, getting you ready to jam with friends or comp along to your favorite backing track in no time.

The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary

THE JAZZ GUITAR CHORD DICTIONARY (FREE eBOOK)


Download now and learn 244 chord shapes!

 

What Are Jazz Chords?

This is a tough question to ask, as many chords associated with jazz are also found in pop, classical, rock, blues, and other musical genres.

Jazz chords are shapes that use at least 4 notes in their construction. These are chords that go beyond the 3-note triad and include the 7th, 9th, 11th, and/or 13th.

If you want to play a major chord in rock, you would normally just play the major triad, G for example.

If you want to play a major chord in jazz, you would play Gmaj7, G6, G6/9, or another major chord that extends beyond the major triads that are used as rock guitar chords.

In order to help you learn the construction of each chord in this lesson, the intervals for each shape have been written on the fretboard, which will help you understand how all of these chords have been constructed.

Here are the interval formulas for the five chord types you will be learning first:

  • Major 7th chords: 1 3 5 7
  • Dominant 7th chords: 1 3 5 b7
  • Minor 7th chords: 1 b3 5 b7
  • Half-Diminished 7th chords: 1 b3 b5 b7
  • Diminished 7th chords: 1 b3 b5 bb7

These formulas are explained in more detail in our chord theory tutorial, but knowing them isn’t a must at this time. You can learn jazz without knowing too much theory, although music theory can be a huge time-saver for learning jazz guitar.

Start by learning the basic chords and chord progressions below, and then keep working on chord theory, as it will be covered in other guitar lessons.

How to Read Chord Diagrams?

The red circle represents the root note (aka 1 or bass note) of the chord. The numbers in the black circles are the other chord tones.

On the chord charts below, all bass notes are C.

By moving these chord shapes up or down the guitar neck, you get other chords of the same type.

For example: move the chord shape of Cmaj7 two frets higher and it becomes a Dmaj7.

Movable guitar chords

The numbers at the right side of each chord diagram indicate which fingers to use to fret the chord with your left hand.

Guitar chord fingerings
The x symbols at the left side of the chord indicate that those strings are not to be played. This means most of the chords in these chord charts cannot be strummed but must be played fingerstyle, with the thumb and first three fingers of your right hand.

Notice how each chord type only changes one note compared to the next chord type. This can help you memorize the chords and relate them to one another.

For example: Cmaj7 (first shape) and C7 (second shape) only have one different note (the flat 7). The same goes for C7 and Cm7 (the minor 3rd).

Hear how changing these notes alters the chord quality.

Guitar chord types

Jazz Guitar Chord Charts

The following chord charts show you the easy jazz chords laid out on the fretboard for you to play through and use as a reference guide for further study.

These must-know chord voicings are essential for any beginning jazz guitarist and the minimum requirement to learn jazz standards. If you memorize every chord shape and practice them well, you will be able to play the chord changes of most jazz standards.

Learning jazz chords is best done by playing songs and practicing the chord progression exercises that are below the jazz chord chart. When you have these exercises under your fingers, start playing other chord progressions.

 

Jazz Chords with the Root Note on the 6th String

Jazz guitar chords with root on the 6th string

 

Jazz Chords with the Root Note on the 5th String

Jazz guitar chords with root on the 5th string

 

Jazz Chords with the Root Note on the 4th String

Jazz guitar chords with root on the 4th string

Click here to download these chord charts as an infographic.

How To Practice Jazz Guitar Chords?

The most fun and effective way to practice jazz guitar chords is playing chord progressions and jazz standards.

Below are four exercises that will get these beginner guitar chords under your fingers.

 

Jazz Guitar Chords Exercise 1 – Kenny Burrell

This vamp in the style of Kenny Burrell is a good exercise to practice minor and major 7 chords.

In this exercise, you will learn three common chords, beginning with F9 (bar 17):

F9 chord

The next two are E7#9 and E7b9, which are often played in succession (bar 19 and 20):

E7 altered chords

 

 

Kenny Burrell Minor Blues Chords Vamp

 

 

Jazz Guitar Chords Exercise 2 – Diminished Chords

This chord progression exercise introduces a new, but common diminished chord shape (here with G# as the root):

 

 

Jazz Guitar Chord Exercise 2

 

 

Jazz Guitar Chords Exercise 3

in this exercise, you will be playing a series of 2 5 1 progressions using a simple rhythm so you can concentrate on the chords.

 

Backing Track

Listen & Play Along

Beginner chords example 1

 

 

Jazz Guitar Chord Exercise 4 – Walking Bass

This exercise combines the beginner guitar chords from above with a walking bass line.

 

Rhythm Track

Listen & Play Along

Beginner chords example 2

 

 

Jazz Guitar Chord Exercise 5

This chord exercise over a common chord progression includes diminished chords.

Backing Track

Listen & Play Along

Beginner chords example 3

 

More Easy Jazz Guitar Chords

When you’re ready with the 17 chords from the chord charts above, it’s time to learn some more chord shapes and chord types.

 

Major 7th Chords

Here is a chord chart with 9 major chord voicings, which include maj7, 6, and 6/9 chords.

These major jazz chords are often used at the Imaj7 chord in a major key ii-V-I progression.

 

Easy Jazz Guitar Chords - Major Chord Chart

 

Dominant 7th Chords

You will now move on to working on dominant jazz chords, which will focus on 7, 9, and 13th chord shapes.

Some of these chord shapes you will already know as they are common blues guitar chords.

These chords are used in jazz blues chord progressions, as well as the V7 chord in a major key ii-V or ii-V-I progression.

 

Easy Jazz Guitar Chords - Dominant Chord Chart

 

Minor 7th Chords

In this section, you will work on minor jazz guitar chords, which include m7, m6, m9, and m11 chord shapes.

Minor jazz chords are often used as the iim7 chord in a major ii-V or ii-V-I progression, as well as the Im7 chord in a minor ii-V-I progression.

 

Easy Jazz Guitar Chords - Minor Chord Chart

 

Minor 7b5 Chords (aka Half-Diminished Chords)

The next group of chords focuses on minor 7b5 chords, also called half-diminished chords and written m7b5.

Because there is only one easy shape per string set for these chords, you will only need to learn 3 m7b5 voicings.

Half diminished chords are used as the iim7b5 chord in a minor key ii-V progression.

 

Easy Jazz Guitar Chords - Half Diminished Chord Chart

 

Diminished 7th Chords

Diminished chords are often used as passing chords, such as in the chord progression Imaj7-#Idim7-iim7.

They can also be used in place of a 7b9 chord, such as playing C#dim7 instead of A7b9.

 

Easy Jazz Guitar Chords - Diminished Chord Chart

 

Altered Chords

The last set of chords that you’ll explore are altered chords, which you will often see written as 7alt on lead sheets. These chords feature the b9, #9, b5 or b13(#5), or any combination of those notes.

Since we are looking at easy jazz chords in this lesson, you will only use one altered note per chord. Over time you might find yourself drawn to use two altered notes when playing these types of chords, such as 7(b9,b5) for example.

These chords are often found as the V7 chord in a minor key ii-V or ii-V-I chord progression, which you will see in the chord progression examples below.

 

Easy Jazz Guitar Chords - Altered Dominant Chord Chart

Major 2-5-1 Comping Patterns

Now that you have checked out these easy jazz chords on their own, it’s time to bring them together and apply them to common jazz progressions.

To begin, here are three ii-V-I-VI chord progressions that use the shapes from this lesson in their makeup. After you have learned these initial examples, make sure to take them to other keys in order to practice them around the entire fretboard.

You can substitute any other chord from the same family into these progressions in order to expand upon them in your studies. For example, if the chord is Cmaj7, you could play a C6 or C6/9 chord in its place as they are all from the same family of chords.

To start off, here is a ii-V-I-VI in C major that begins with the iim7 chord on the 6th string, and moves around the changes from that starting point.

 

Listen & Play Along

easy jazz chords example 1

 

Next, you will work out the same progression, but this time the iim7 chord is on the 5th string and you will move to the other chords from that initial chord.

 

Listen & Play Along

easy jazz chords example 2

 

Lastly, here is a progression that moves around the fretboard a bit, which is something you might want to do when comping behind a soloist, beginning with the iim7 chord on the 4th string.

 

Listen & Play Along

easy jazz chords example 3

Minor 2-5-1 Comping Patterns

The final exercise in this lesson will feature three minor key chord progressions that use a number of the chords featured in the lesson above.

As was the case with the major key examples, feel free to expand upon these chord progressions by taking them to other keys, as well as substitute other chord shapes from this lesson into these progressions.

To begin, here is a minor ii-V-I-bIII progression that begins with the iim7b5 chord on the 6th string and works around the chords from that starting point.

 

Listen & Play Along

easy jazz chords example 4

 

Next, you will begin with the iim7b5 chord on the 5th string and work your way around the progression from there.

 

Listen & Play Along

easy jazz chords example 5

 

Finally, you will begin with the root note of the iim7b5 chord on the 4th string, with the subsequent changes being closely related to that initial shape.

 

Listen & Play Along

easy jazz chords example 6

 

After you have explored these shapes, and if you got stuck or have any observations on this lesson, share your thoughts in the comments section below.

If you want to learn how to play jazz guitar chords step-by-step, check out our best-selling eBook, The Easy Guide to Jazz Guitar Chords.

 

The Easy Guide to Jazz Guitar Chords

 

 
  • Vasiliy says:

    Super !!! I like !

  • Khoi says:

    Is it possible for you to include suggested fingerings for these chords? for example, Cm7 with D string as root note, i’m assuming you barre the E and B string with your middle finger? and for Cm7b5 you barre the E B and G strings with your middle finger? I’m really having trouble with Cm7 with D string root because my ring finger would lightly touch the B string and mute it. I have small hands by the way

    • Dirk Laukens says:

      Hi Khoi, I added the fingerings to the chord chart.

  • Ramesh S says:

    Hello Master ,
    I am practising according to you book ,How to play perfect Cmaj7 -drop3 chord (page 21) by without playing open string A ,root position of C at 8th fret. When I am playing I am hitting the open string A .

    • Dirk Laukens says:

      Hi Ramesh, drop 3 chords are usually played fingerstyle: play the bass note with your thumb and the rest of the notes with fingers 1, 2, and 3. If you want to strum these chords, you have to mute the open A string with finger 1 from the fretting hand (the same finger that is fretting the bass note). I hope that clarifies it!

  • L’Acadie says:

    Hi, is there a particular reason why fingerings are not noted for the chord shapes?
    I find proper fingerings essential, especially to know what possible anchor fingers to use when switching to a new shape.
    Or is the idea that there are basic common fingerings for each shape that one can easily look up on the web?

  • Tom says:

    Hi! I love his, how can I buy more of that? I bought Introduction to Jazz Blues Guitar and it is not that funny and I am stuck after one chapter as there is some crazy solo…

    Thanks! Tom

  • CORBIN SMITH says:

    Extremely helpful and well done. The slightly harder progression of material makes it easy to build from the fundamentals you teach in example 1.

    Thanks For Your Time and Effort,
    Corbin Smith

  • Rob says:

    Brilliant lessons. Well set out and straightforward to follow. Thank you for the time and effort you put into providing this information for us.

    Kind regards

    Rob

  • Bernadin Ekka says:

    Awesome because I just began jazz. I am new for jazzing.

  • David says:

    I love this stuff. It really brought home to me, to see how enjoyable this is to listen to and I’m jumping in with both feet. Thanks!

  • Len Lawson says:

    Very helpful,Dirk,much appreciated.Appreciate the large printing,Len.

  • Frits says:

    Hoi Dirk, great stuf to start Jazz guitar.

  • Kwautztretschke says:

    One thing I don’t understand is why the Chord marked F7 in the second line is tabbed as the m7 shape?

  • Kwautztretschke says:

    This website is amazing. I will definitely use your exercises and memorize these chords. Thank you for this incredibly helpful chart and example.

    Greetings from Germany!

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