The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
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  1. #1

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    I'm sure you hear a lot of this from newbs like myself. I'm not a newcomer to guitar. I've been playing guitar 60+ years, professionally, semiprofessionally, and now as a serious hobbyist. My musical background for the last 25 years or so is bluegrass and jump blues/swing...jazzy blues and blues-y jazz.

    I've decided to get more serious with my jazz playing and with learning theory. It's like I've started learning guitar from scratch. I've played by ear 99% of the time during my musical "career." Thus, I have a really good ear for picking things up. However, playing by ear will only take you so far when it comes to playing jazz. I can improvise over a 2-5-1 progression "fairly" well. But I have a long way to go to really be good at it.

    I'm mostly interested in chord melody playing as there aren't any jazz bands or combos within several hours driving distance from my home. I'm progressing just OK and it's going very slowly. Thus my frustration. I've purchased instructional materials from Truefire and this website (JGO) and I'm very, very, slowly progressing. Both, the materials and instructors are great. I've learned almost all the jazz chords. I can play through the root 5 and root 6 arpeggios albeit slowly. I haven't started with the jazz scales yet. I have learned parts or all of "How Great Thou Art", "Avalon", "Satin Doll", and "L'il Darlin"...chord melody style.

    Although I've learned almost all the basic jazz chords I'm struggling with what to do with them after learning them. I'm trying to plug in the 17 chords I've learned but I'm having difficulty getting them to fit into a song. I'm also having difficulty with the general vocabulary, language, and jargon of jazz. I guess that's where theory comes in?

    I'm feeling really overwhelmed by all that I have to learn just to get off the starting blocks. I'm hoping that soon I'll have some "ah hah" or epiphany moments. I can usually hear a 9th chord, major 7th, dom 7th, min 7th, 7th flat 5, dim 7th, 6th string root, 5th string root, and distinguish them all by ear. I do have some difficulty knowing where to play them on the fretboard.

    I'm embarrassed to say I have not memorized the notes of the fretboard. That's something I'm trying to learn right now. I know them on the 1st and 6th strings but have to stop and figure them out for the other strings. If someone points to and asks what note that is I can tell you but I have to figure it out in relation to the other strings. That pretty much sums up where I am in my jazz journey.

    Anyway, I'm open to any suggestions and recommendations you might have. I know an instructor would be very helpful but I would have to do that online as there are no jazz guitar instructors within a 100+ mile radius of my home. Thank you in advance for your help.

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    I'm also novice. The trouble with chord-melody seems to be having a bass-harm-melody line but only one attention..
    ... with an instrument that makes the fingers to lock when the best idea comes.

  4. #3

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  5. #4

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    Pick one note, play it on every string between the 1st and 12th fret while saying each note out loud. Then do another note, etc until you do all 12 notes. So example would be play Eb on every string, then C on every string, then A on every string. You have to say the name of the note out loud or this wont work. Do that for 5 mins a day and in a month you’ll have note locations down

  6. #5
    Thank you! I'll start doing that today. Very helpful suggestion.

  7. #6

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    Knowing the chords but not knowing how they're used suggests one of the most often heard bits of advice around here: learn more tunes.

    Going from Bluegrass to Johnny Smith solo guitar is a big leap to make all at once though. I'd spend some time doing basic 4 to the bar comping while reading from some simpler charts. You need to know how to do that in order to get to where you want to go anyway. You'll see how the chords are used and learn the fretboard a bit better along the way. iReal Pro is a good and inexpensive tool for this kind of thing.

    As has been said here before, it's a cumulative process. All the different things you do all combine to help you with the bigger picture. Work on being able to play solo versions, but work on other simpler stuff as well. AllenAllen made a great suggestion for part of your practising. Spend some time playing along with Miles on some modal stuff to get the feel and vocab without worrying so much about theory and changes. It's an easier step towards learning to make jazz noises.

    In the olden days we had to play along with LP's to learn this stuff. Trial and error. It's so much easier now with youtube and mp3 and such.

    Learning to play can all too easily become little more than a series of problems you have to solve one after the other. Bit of a headache really. Actual music is something else. Don't forget to have some fun!

  8. #7

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    Dear Sir or Madam: I'm this formal as you have played for over 60 years and I have only lived that long.



    Now - Never take all those chord figures and numbers - 13b5b9 - seriously, nonsense. You'll hear it when necessary.

    --------


    MAJOR - DOMINANT

    Home - Major or Minor 6th (not minor 7th) - 6/9/M7/ blah blah blah
    Away - Dominant (including the supposed 2 minor - m7 - and all those useless figures - 13b9b5#11#9) Just icing on the cake.

    Pick out your melody by ear, get a fake book, put the chords underneath - voila - jazz arrangements.

    I envy your tenacity.

    Alan Kingstone
    Last edited by A. Kingstone; 08-06-2022 at 10:43 PM.

  9. #8

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    Hello! I’d like to second the above advice: learning tunes, reading notation, and esp. having fun.

    I’d also suggest building on your strengths such as playing by ear.

    You could try taking a relatively straight forward, more or less diatonic melody and learn it on a few places across the fretboard, different octaves, etc. But then, instead of jumping right into full chords, practice adding notes here and there, whatever is in reach, starting with a bassline.

    Bill Frisell demonstrates this in a video I’ve seen on YT. I think it’s from a DVD he did some time ago, “The Guitar Artistry of Bill Frisell,” as I recollect. “Melody, melody, melody,” to quote. He starts with the melody to “Days of Wine and Roses,” and adds a bassline. With just that, as he notes, it already sounds pretty full. No chords yet, just hinting at the changes. Adding a middle note may help to discover viable substitutions, all proceeding from melody and working with the limitations of the guitar, as advantages. But it’s better to watch Frisell demonstrate this than reading my describing it.

    There are of course countless ways and lessons, but this one changed my outlook on guitar. To me, that approach builds on the minimalist aspects of guitar.

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by jumpnblues
    I'm embarrassed to say I have not memorized the notes of the fretboard. That's something I'm trying to learn right now. I know them on the 1st and 6th strings but have to stop and figure them out for the other strings. If someone points to and asks what note that is I can tell you but I have to figure it out in relation to the other strings. That pretty much sums up where I am in my jazz journey.
    That's the key to it. How can you expect putting the right chords that you recently learned at the right spot if you don't know the notes of the fretboard.

    Start here. Figure the C major scale and do nothing but playing in C major from the low E to the High D or where ever your guitar ends. Start with the plain scale, switching positions as you go. I'm not a position player but as far as I've learned over the time most guitarists think in 5 positions ( 1. 3. 5. 8. 10.)

    Once you got the C major scale more or less in your fingers/mind start playing songs by ear. All over the board, all in C major.
    Play any song that comes into your mind, jazz tunes, bluegrass, children songs, pop hits, doesn't matter.

    In short time your going to "see" the white keys of the piano glowing up on the fretboard - everywhere! Suddenly you'll know where to put that newly acquired "F maj 79" shape/chord because now you know where the F is, every F!

    And every other note because for the rest of them... A flat is just one fret lower than A. B flat one fret lower than B.... and so on.... ha... cakewalk... keep it up!

  11. #10

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    Learn standards.

    most of the funny number stuff is what happens when you have a melody note over the chord.

    So this type of thing

    5 x 5 5 x x
    Am7

    5 x 5 5 3 x
    Am7 with a melody note

  12. #11

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    Hi

    If you read tab then learn arrangements and learn Note names in the meantime.

    Look up the book : jazz guitar chord melody solos

    That book is purely arrangements

  13. #12

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    From 'Using Shell Voicings' discussion:

    Quote Originally Posted by AllanAllen
    ...blanket statement: Learn songs, so the chords aren’t abstract and you can get really far with a few shapes. Music is about playing songs with people, not about the number of chords or scales you know.


    Allan said what I was trying to say in about 1/10 the number of words.

  14. #13

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    You need to go all in and learn to read music. The fundamental definitions of things like "note" refer directly to the marks on the staff. If you enter theory from a background based on pitch (playing by ear), you need to grasp as soon as possible that in music theory a letter note name may represent multiple pitches by being marked with an accidental, and a pitch played on the instrument may be represented by multiple note names using accidentals.

    For example, if you limit key signatures to four accidentals (those keys without enharmonic equivalents) then between the nut and the 12th fret you have eighteen places (pitches) that take two names... if you limit to six accidentals you have forty three that take two names.

    This means "learn the notes on the guitar" is not learning one name for each pitch or string-fret location, but must include the multiple names of those.

    Theory will quickly become incomprehensible even with scales and chords if you don't grasp the fundamental definitions provided through learning to read music.

  15. #14

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    I don't have specific materials or videos to recommend.

    My suggestion is based on the way I learned. This is a few months work.

    1. Learn to read. Start with Mel Bay book 1 and 2. Then go to Complete Rhythms by Colin and Bower. Play everything as written and up an octave.

    2. Then find videos of chord melodies of simple tunes. Compare them to the chart.

    3. Try tunes like Don't Blame Me, All of Me, Moonglow, Girl From Ipanema. Simple tunes. Learn to play them as chord melody and comping. Might as well read the melody while you're at it.

    4. For soloing you have two main choices:

    A) Strum the chords and scat sing. If you sing something you like, put it on the guitar. You're done.

    B) Leap into an unpleasant, possibly bottomless, abyss of Theory of Improvisation. Several lifetimes in the future you'll have mastered enough of it to finally do Choice A, above.

    5. If you decide to transcribe, start with players who don't play a zillion notes like Hank Mobley (usually) and Paul Desmond (almost always).

    I think I'm kidding, a little.

  16. #15

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    Op: hey I have trouble assimilating and prioritising all the information in order to play jazz guitar

    JGO: here’s some lists of things that you absolutely must learn that represent years of focussed practice
    Last edited by Christian Miller; 08-08-2022 at 03:33 AM.

  17. #16

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    If you want to get started reading music may I suggest starting by memorising the c major notes in 5th position? Practice it every day for about 15 minutes.

    Then test yourself with musical words like Cabbage, bag, baggage, face, bad dad and so on.

    Should take a relatively short time. (You then have a solid base in the centre of the guitar neck to build from)

    Once the natural notes in 5th, you can then learn the accidentals You also want to focus on learning other keys, starting around the nearer keys (F, Bb) and G on the sharp side. These are the most useful.

    Then I would say prioritise reading melodies and chords from the real book and so on over classical pieces. Read the music you intend to play.
    Last edited by Christian Miller; 08-08-2022 at 03:32 AM.

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by pauln
    You need to go all in and learn to read music.
    You actually don't. Although it's definitely a good idea to learn to read and you won't hear me say otherwise but to learn the notes on the guitar doesn't actually require reading. There's plenty of sites online that teach that without notation. Again, remember I said that I think reading music is a good idea in the long term (that may not be where this guitarist needs to start) but there are many jazz musicians who we all praise who coudn't read or struggled to read. If you can't read music it doesn't mean your out of the game.

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by A. Kingstone
    Dear Sir or Madam: I'm this formal as you have played for over 60 years and I have only lived that long.



    Now - Never take all those chord figures and numbers - 13b5b9 - seriously, nonsense. You'll hear it when necessary.

    --------


    MAJOR - DOMINANT

    Home - Major or Minor 6th (not minor 7th) - 6/9/M7/ blah blah blah
    Away - Dominant (including the supposed 2 minor - m7 - and all those useless figures - 13b9b5#11#9) Just icing on the cake.

    Pick out your melody by ear, get a fake book, put the chords underneath - voila - jazz arrangements.

    I envy your tenacity.

    Alan Kingstone
    I've always subscribed to this kind of reductionist approach - everything is either Tonic or Dominant. The subtleties can wait .... BUT...

    When trying to teach this to others (I used to teach a bit) sooner or later certain "incovenient" questions arise.

    One such question concerns why m6th is viewed as Tonic, where the same pitch set is definitely classed as Dominant (rootless 9th chord, m7b5 etc).

    I found it easier to divide things into T / D for major, and T / D for minor. This way you can explain why m6 sounds more stable and less "modal" than m7 when used as Tonic in a minor key.

    Also, you can introduce the all important V7b9 class of Dominant which is the default in a minor key. The other altered notes just spice it up a bit. It's then easy to show the relationship b/n v7b9 and Diminished.

    Then you need to explain how the minor key set of Dominants (including all alterations as well at the nat 13th) are frequently used in Major keys. This may be the point where to introduce an explanation about how these resemble Tritone subs.

    I know you know this stuff even better than I ever will, and that you are keen to not deter the would be new student of Jazz guitar, as am I. Which is why I think it's important to not over burden the new student, but also to not sow seeds for future confusion either, and let's face it, it's easy for the learner to get very confused very quickly, particularly if they like to ask lots of questions!

    I'd start with T / D for Major and see how people go with that. When they're ready, I'd hit them with T / D for Minor - which is where the real fun begins I reckon ...

    Speaking for myself, I wish I'd been taught things in the same order, would have saved a few years of unnecessary confusion...

  20. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by princeplanet
    I've always subscribed to this kind of reductionist approach - everything is either Tonic or Dominant. The subtleties can wait .... BUT...

    When trying to teach this to others (I used to teach a bit) sooner or later certain "incovenient" questions arise.

    One such question concerns why m6th is viewed as Tonic, where the same pitch set is definitely classed as Dominant (rootless 9th chord, m7b5 etc).

    I found it easier to divide things into T / D for major, and T / D for minor. This way you can explain why m6 sounds more stable and less "modal" than m7 when used as Tonic in a minor key.

    Also, you can introduce the all important V7b9 class of Dominant which is the default in a minor key. The other altered notes just spice it up a bit. It's then easy to show the relationship b/n v7b9 and Diminished.

    Then you need to explain how the minor key set of Dominants (including all alterations as well at the nat 13th) are frequently used in Major keys. This may be the point where to introduce an explanation about how these resemble Tritone subs.

    I know you know this stuff even better than I ever will, and that you are keen to not deter the would be new student of Jazz guitar, as am I. Which is why I think it's important to not over burden the new student, but also to not sow seeds for future confusion either, and let's face it, it's easy for the learner to get very confused very quickly, particularly if they like to ask lots of questions!

    I'd start with T / D for Major and see how people go with that. When they're ready, I'd hit them with T / D for Minor - which is where the real fun begins I reckon ...

    Speaking for myself, I wish I'd been taught things in the same order, would have saved a few years of unnecessary confusion...

    What? LOL! It'll come with time and practice. Heck, every one of the jazz masters was a novice at one time.....I think.
    Last edited by jumpnblues; 08-08-2022 at 10:25 AM.

  21. #20

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    Hey Jump, life is short, right? There are ways to teach / learn Jazz Harmony / Theory that has taken some of us decades. You always hear that there is NO shortcut, but then you hear Pat Martino as a 17 year old and you start thinking "hang on a minute..."

    From a standing start, how quickly did the greats get their system together (CC, Wes, GB etc)? And many horn players or piano players got their chops happening within a few years, so we know it can be done. Sure, these people were geniuses, but they were also shown the secrets of Jazz from the street. Most of us here don't have that now, so we get it from books, courses, youtubes, or Forums like this. Trouble is, it is the s-l-o-w way to learn because we keep getting distracted with information that is not appropriate for our needs, or we get exposed to information out of sequence or out of proportion. It's ok if you're young, but sounds like you're not, so not so much time to waste?

    The Tonic vs Dominant approach is the fastest way many of us know how to cut to the chase in Jazz, whether it's improvising, comping or constructing chord melody. It can save you from years if not decades of unnecessary information which may not be useful for your needs. If there is a shortcut, then this is it. Try a search for "Tonic / Dominant" on this forum as well as generally. You can thank me later (or not... )...

  22. #21

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    Poor OP. Reminds me of the parable of the blind men describing an elephant. It is long like a snake! No, it has the wings of a bat! No, it is thick like a tree trunk!

    But I’ll add my half blind perspective:

    I wish music was about playing with other people, but no one I know has the time or energy for anything as “stupid” as playing music. Sounds like the OP has the same issue.

    Much of jazz guitar education, and much of the advice here, is about playing a steaming solo backed up by a bass player, drummer, and an intrusive pianist. After years of trying to learn from what is typically taught for jazz guitar I finally came to the conclusion that solo guitar, even jazz solo guitar, is closer to classical guitar than traditional jazz.

    My advice? Learn solo arrangements of the tunes you like note for note. Perform them to your family and friends, or just for your own pleasure. In parallel, and at your leisure, learn some theory that will help you understand how the arrangements were composed. As you learn the theory, start making your own arrangements that you learn note for note.

    The way this becomes “jazz” is to someday be so proficient in arranging for solo guitar that you start being able to spontaneously modify arrangement as you play, or even spontaneously create arrangements from a melody. But you have to walk before you run, and spontaneous arranging for solo guitar is being able to run a hurdles race while juggling a cat, a chainsaw, and a flaming torch.




    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro

  23. #22

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    ?
    Quote Originally Posted by fleaaaaaa
    You actually don't. Although it's definitely a good idea to learn to read and you won't hear me say otherwise but to learn the notes on the guitar doesn't actually require reading. There's plenty of sites online that teach that without notation. Again, remember I said that I think reading music is a good idea in the long term (that may not be where this guitarist needs to start) but there are many jazz musicians who we all praise who coudn't read or struggled to read. If you can't read music it doesn't mean your out of the game.
    Just to be clear, I have read music since I was 8 years old. However, I have never touched books, charts, lead sheets, or scores to play jazz on the guitar; I grasp, compose, practice, and perform exclusively by ear, no theory, no named things whatsoever. Playing music certainly does not require knowing how to read, and does not require knowing music theory, but understanding theory does require knowing how to read (don't have to be good at it, just able).

    You say, "...to learn the notes on the guitar..."

    You mean all two hundred thirty-two of them?

    There are two kinds of accidentals employed so the seven notes may represent the twelve pitch classes using twenty-one different names, depending on which of the thirty keys, so six strings over twenty-one frets in standard tuning produce one hundred thirty-two pitches that take two hundred thirty-two names; these names:

    E-FbE#-F F#-GbG G#-AbA A#-BbB-CbB#-C C#-DbD D#-EbE-FbE#-F F#-GbG G#-AbA A#-BbB-CbB#-C C#-Db
    B-CbB#-C C#-DbD D#-EbE-FbE#-F F#-GbG G#-AbA A#-BbB-CbB#-C C#-DbD D#-EbE-FbE#-F F#-GbG G#-Ab
    G G#-AbA A#-BbB-CbB#-C C#-DbD D#-EbE-FbE#-F F#-GbG G#-AbA A#-BbB-CbB#-C C#-DbD D#-EbE-Fb
    D D#-EbE-FbE#-F F#-GbG G#-AbA A#-BbB-CbB#-C C#-DbD D#-EbE-FbE#-F F#-GbG G#-AbA A#-BbB-Cb
    A A#-BbB-CbB#-C C#-DbD D#-EbE-FbE#-F F#-GbG G#-AbA A#-BbB-CbB#-C C#-DbD D#-EbE-FbE#-F F#-Gb
    E-FbE#-F F#-GbG G#-AbA A#-BbB-CbB#-C C#-DbD D#-EbE-FbE#-F F#-GbG G#-AbA A#-BbB-CbB#-C C#-Db

  24. #23

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    Op for the love of god get a teacher and stay away from this vortex of confusion lol

  25. #24

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    There are “piano White notes that come alive” on the fretboard?

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by jumpnblues
    I'm sure you hear a lot of this from newbs like myself. I'm not a newcomer to guitar. I've been playing guitar 60+ years, professionally, semiprofessionally, and now as a serious hobbyist. My musical background for the last 25 years or so is bluegrass and jump blues/swing...jazzy blues and blues-y jazz.

    I've decided to get more serious with my jazz playing and with learning theory. It's like I've started learning guitar from scratch. I've played by ear 99% of the time during my musical "career." Thus, I have a really good ear for picking things up. However, playing by ear will only take you so far when it comes to playing jazz. I can improvise over a 2-5-1 progression "fairly" well. But I have a long way to go to really be good at it.

    I'm mostly interested in chord melody playing as there aren't any jazz bands or combos within several hours driving distance from my home. I'm progressing just OK and it's going very slowly. Thus my frustration. I've purchased instructional materials from Truefire and this website (JGO) and I'm very, very, slowly progressing. Both, the materials and instructors are great. I've learned almost all the jazz chords. I can play through the root 5 and root 6 arpeggios albeit slowly. I haven't started with the jazz scales yet. I have learned parts or all of "How Great Thou Art", "Avalon", "Satin Doll", and "L'il Darlin"...chord melody style.

    Although I've learned almost all the basic jazz chords I'm struggling with what to do with them after learning them. I'm trying to plug in the 17 chords I've learned but I'm having difficulty getting them to fit into a song. I'm also having difficulty with the general vocabulary, language, and jargon of jazz. I guess that's where theory comes in?

    I'm feeling really overwhelmed by all that I have to learn just to get off the starting blocks. I'm hoping that soon I'll have some "ah hah" or epiphany moments. I can usually hear a 9th chord, major 7th, dom 7th, min 7th, 7th flat 5, dim 7th, 6th string root, 5th string root, and distinguish them all by ear. I do have some difficulty knowing where to play them on the fretboard.

    I'm embarrassed to say I have not memorized the notes of the fretboard. That's something I'm trying to learn right now. I know them on the 1st and 6th strings but have to stop and figure them out for the other strings. If someone points to and asks what note that is I can tell you but I have to figure it out in relation to the other strings. That pretty much sums up where I am in my jazz journey.

    Anyway, I'm open to any suggestions and recommendations you might have. I know an instructor would be very helpful but I would have to do that online as there are no jazz guitar instructors within a 100+ mile radius of my home. Thank you in advance for your help.

    Tunes. You have to learn Tunes.


    Tunes are what will give context to all the random bits you’ve learned so far. That in turn will make it infinitely easier to memorize, and more importantly hear. Eventually, with some knowledge you might not have yet (but can be acquired on this site) you will be able to use the tricks you learn from tunes in your own improvisation.


    Hope that helps.


    PS, no need to reinvent the wheel. Pop over to YouTube and just start copying other folks arrangements that you like and are comfortable for your current playing ability.