Summertime Guitar Chord Study

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 labeled 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 chords 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 ChordsDrop 2 chords 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 ChordsQuartal chords are built 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 1-3-5-7.

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.

ShellsShell chords 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.


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68 thoughts on “Summertime Guitar Chord Study”

  1. Jim

    Hi—I’m a rank newbie about jazz, just surfing to learn whatever I can. I notice that every arrangement here is all seventh chords. Why is that?

  2. Steve

    Sorry if this is a bit weird but I always try to analyse stuff back to basics. In music it’s nice to throw out the naming conventions and the theory and just see what’s happening with the tones / sounds in the tune. Fortunately this can be done by analysing the TAB and seeing where the tones move to in terms of semitone movement / interval changes. Be great if there was some teaching based on this. Cheers

  3. David

    I am new to jazz but the first two chords in the first measure (so what chords) have g in the dm7 and an a in the em7 included in their stucture. Would that require the chord symbol names to include an 11th or 4th to be represented in their chord symbol names?
    Thank you for this lesson.

  4. Alex Merola

    Really great lesson…can’t wait to use it!

  5. John Yow

    I am a lawyer by profession, but have an undergraduate degree in music (mostly brass instrument). In the short time I have worked your lessons, I find them an excellent way of teaching jazz guitar. Keep up the good work.

  6. Rob

    OK, reread your notes and looked at links given. I think I understand the alternative given.

    Best wishes


  7. Rob

    Hello Matt
    Thank you for another enjoyable, fascinating and informative lesson. Please keep them coming. I am very much a novice in terms of theory and practice of jazz {although I don’t let that stop me trying} I note the same chord name appearing in a number of bars but with different fingering for each. Why is that? For colour, musical fair, to illustrate more than one way of doing the same thing? I hope this isn’t a dumb question.

    Best wishes


  8. Lewis

    Finding this tough…but NOT giving up. Main problem for me is what fingering to use having spent years using normal barre chords in rock and blues. Going to get this no matter how long it takes.

  9. Prakash

    thanks to all the people behind……

  10. Prakash

    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.

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