Jazz chords

In this section, you will learn about jazz guitar playing and in particular learn some useful chords and common chord progressions.

Useful chords to learn first

The first chords you chord learn if you want to get a jazzy guitar sound are the Major and Minor 7th. The chords create another color to the sound than the usual major chords. These are known as major seventh chords:

Cmaj7

  • Cmaj7 chord diagram

Dmaj7

  • Dmaj7 chord diagram

Fmaj7

  • Fmaj7 chord diagram

Amaj7

  • Amaj7 chord diagram

And here follows minor seventh chords:

Cmaj7

  • Dm7 chord diagram

Em7

  • Em7 chord diagram

Am7

  • Am7 chord diagram

Bm7

  • Bm7 chord diagram

Two moveable Major 7th chord shapes

These moveable chords sound even more "jazzy" than the open chords.Two shapes are presented in both categories with bass notes on the first and the second strings. By using both variations you won't be forced to long jumps on the guitar neck in the chord changes.


maj7 (shape 1)

  • maj7 chord diagram

maj7 (shape 2)

  • maj7 chord diagram

m7 (shape 1)

  • m7 chord diagram

m7 (shape2 )

  • m7 chord diagram

Common chord progressions

A very common jazz progression with a kind of moody character goes like this:


Dm7 – G7 – Cmaj7

The formula for the progression above is:

ii7 – V7 – I7

This means that you can use the same chord formula in all keys.The roman numerals tells which note it is in the scale and small numbers mean minor, otherwise it's major.

Let’s take another one, based on the same formula with one chord added:

Bm7 – E7 – Amaj7 – Fm7

In both these cases the first chord in the progression has not been first in the key, which is typical for jazz progressions. The first progression is in the key of C and the second in the key of A.

Play chords over scales

If want to improvise jazz a great way is to play scales over chords (see the article "The relationship between chords and scales"). It is great if you could play together with someone else. If not, you could play with some backing tracks.

If we return to the common Dm7 – G7 – Cmaj7 progression you could play three different scales over it. There are many possibilities, one way would be: D Dorian over Dm7, G minor blues pentatonic over G7 and C Lydian over Cmaj.