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


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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.


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Do you have any questions about this Summertime guitar chord study? Post your thoughts in the comments section below.


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71 thoughts on “Summertime Guitar Chord Study”

  1. Malcolm

    Struggling here tbh. I can’t see the relationship between the practice study and the suggestions in the text. I’m familiar with all the ii. v. I theory and movements but can’t make sense of it in relation to the study material. I’m normally able to work out keys but I just can’t with this.

  2. Álvaro

    BBoa noite, eu motorista carreteiro aposentado desde criança eu adoro guitarras, no entanto estou estudando trombone na escola, toco um pouco de guitarra, estes estudos são ótimos, aprendi muitos acordes novos, obrigado.

  3. 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?

  4. 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

  5. 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.

  6. Alex Merola

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

    1. Tony

      Is the schema 2,5,2,5,3,6,4,3,2 ?

  7. 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.

  8. Rob

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

    Best wishes


  9. 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


  10. 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.

  11. Prakash

    thanks to all the people behind……

  12. 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.

  13. BREW

    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

  14. David Szabo

    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!

  15. milkmannnv

    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!

  16. milkmannnv

    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.

  17. Matt Warnock

    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.

  18. Matt Warnock

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

  19. ziv

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

    1. Brent

      The Dm7 and Em7 are, as explained in the prologue, built in 4ths – D, G, C – until the last note (F) which is the minor 3rd of the root, D. This is the way Miles Davis articulated the minor sevenths in his song, So What.

  20. BpD

    Wow. I just became a fan of this page.

  21. Bahesty

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

  22. Stan

    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…:)

  23. steve neaves

    very nice this has added to my of chords and playing

  24. stanley westerborg

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

  25. Yohann Roger

    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.

  26. Jeff

    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.

  27. Steve

    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!!:)

    1. Matt Warnock

      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.

  28. Mark Rhodes

    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.)

  29. Paul Sorensen

    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!

  30. Joey

    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.

    1. Matt Warnock

      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.

      1. Joey

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

        1. Matt Warnock

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

  31. Cur-L

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

  32. qub

    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.

  33. Lorenzo

    Very interesting!!! Thanks!!

  34. Ivan

    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?

    1. Matt Warnock

      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.

      1. Ivan Carvalho

        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.


  35. Greg

    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.

  36. Dan

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

    1. Summer

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

  37. CSoMusic

    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.

  38. Matti.n

    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!

  39. Dennis


    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,


  40. Carlo

    very interesting lesson. Thank you.

  41. Mark Rhodes

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

  42. Brian

    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!

  43. Dario

    Always good to have options on this tune:)

  44. daniele

    hello i enjoy your lesson very much

  45. eyal koren

    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..

  46. Brian

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

  47. randimassimo

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

    1. Matt Warnock

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

  48. Alejandro

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

    1. Matt Warnock

      Thanks, it’s in D minor.

      1. Hank Gregor

        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.

        1. Matt Warnock

          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.

      2. simon

        its in c major…. d minor dorian mode

      3. Jose

        Looking at the chords, it looks like key of F (Fmaj7). Any comments please?

        1. Matthew Warnock

          It’s in Dm, the relative minor of F major

  49. Clem

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

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