Shell Jazz Guitar Chords (For Beginners)

Shell Chords (aka guide tone chords) are the most basic jazz guitar chords and are essential knowledge for every jazz guitarist. Having a good understanding of shell chords will make it easier for you to learn more complex chords later on.

Shell chords only contain 3 notes:

  1. The 1, also known as the root.
  2. The third: 3 in major and dominant chords, b3 in minor chords.
  3. The seventh: 7 in major chords, b7 in dominant and minor chords.

The third and seventh are the most important notes of a chord because they define if a chord is major, dominant or minor.

Shell jazz guitar chord chart & infographic



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 3 eBook Bundle

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62 thoughts on “Shell Jazz Guitar Chords (For Beginners)”

  1. Kevin Anderson

    4 on 6 lee ritenours version.
    Can you transcribed his version?

  2. Alex M Merola

    Nice walking bass accompaniment…thanks

  3. Patrick w Yakovich

    I like it!!

    Much less wandering required to find a subject and study it

  4. Dave W

    Great chord info here Dirk, thank you so much for this material. I’m glad I finally found this site. I’ve been away from guitar for a few years, and this site will help immeasurably!

    1. Dirk Laukens

      Thanks for the feedback, Dave! Let me know if you have questions…

  5. Mike C.

    What are you using for software to make the chord/scale diagrams?

  6. Donn

    Right hand needs some licks or anything that will give enough movement with my thumb and index finger to become smoother. Thanks donn

  7. Jeff Mahoeny

    I am brand new to the jazz guitar, but not new to jazz. With this course, I can already see that I have the tools I need to get underway!! THANK YOU!!


  8. Clement britto

    Sir, the lesson was great, easy to understand and to get started with jazz.

    1. Dirk Laukens

      Thanks for the feedback, Clement!

  9. Antoine

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

  10. Arthur

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

  11. TYGER

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

  12. Vince

    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


  13. ronert Arrington

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

  14. Paul Lavaud

    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.

  15. Lungisa John Williams

    Powerful stuff. Wow. Thank you

  16. Dana

    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!

  17. Stanley Churchill

    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!!!

  18. abol

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

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