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Basic Jazz Chords

The Jazz Guitar Lessons

Presented here are most of the common jazz chord shapes (grips) for guitar. Of course there are many many more and they will be covered later - but for now get started with these...

These shapes, like the ones before and all those to come need to MEMORIZED. This is very important. Make a Mental Chord Dictionary in your head to store all these new shapes (make sure you also remember which note is the root note).

Remember that when I explain notes I sometimes use - 6:3 - which means string:fret.

Video Lesson


Major 7

Major 7th chords are the first chords that we will learn. They sound very jazzy and are very hip. Below are two examples of how to play a Maj 7 chords (Maj 7 chords are also denoted with a triangle, but I can't make the computer do that, so I'll use Maj 7).

Note that I have given you two grips (chord shapes), one with a 6th string root and one with a 5th string root. As you should know, what ever note you put the root note on is the name of the chord. For example, if you put the root note from the first shape at the 3rd fret then it would be a G Maj 7 because the note on the 6th string, 3rd fret (6:3) is G. If you moved the same shape to the 6th fret root the chord would be Bb, because the note at 6:6 is Bb. Got it? I hope so.

Note also that in the first shape you should mute out the 5th string with the inside of your first finger and the 1st string with any available finger or hand part. On the second shape the 6th string should be muted with the end of your first finger.

Major 7 Chord

Major 7th chord

Minor 7

The concept of the moving root note thing is the same for EVERY CHORD SHAPE THAT DOES NOT USE OPEN STRINGS, including these min 7th chords (Minor is also noted as a dash (-), i.e. Amin7 could be written A-7).

Note that the 5th string in the first grip should be muted by the second finger. In the second grip the tip of your first finger should mute the 6th string. This is quite common and you should try to do this naturally when you have a 5th string root note.

min7 chord

minor 7

Dominant 7 - E Shape

Dominant 7th chords are usually just written as 7, the dominant word is left out. Practice these as you have the shapes before.

7 chord

7th chord

Minor 7 b5

Minor 7b5 chords (pronounced minor seventh flat five) are also called half diminished. There are several ways of notating these chords. The most common are are min7b5, -7b5 or a circle with a line through it (the circle indicates diminished, cut in half with the line).
Note again the use of muting, the first shape using the 2nd finger to mute the 5th string, and the first finger to mute the 1st string. The second shape uses the tip of the first finger to mute the 6th string and the fourth finger to mute the 1st string.

min7b5 chord

min7b5 chord

Diminished 7

Diminished chords are either written as dim or as a circle. They are a very interesting chord and I will explain their tricks in another lesson but the big idea is that every note is a root note, so as long as the note that you want is under one of your fingers, you have the right chord.

Using the example below with the root note on the 5th string, put at the second fret, you have the notes x, B, F, Ab/G#, D, x (x being a string that is not played). This chord is all of those diminished chords, so could be called B dim, F dim, Ab dim or D dim!!! It is quite common to use the lowest note (in this case on the 5th string) as the root note for your mental dictionary, and just know that they have some tricks.

You will also find that you can move the shape up or down in minor 3rd intervals (3 frets, 2nd fret to 5th fret to 8th fret etc.) , and the notes will stay the same but they will move strings. Sound complicated? It is a pretty confusing concept unless you Know Where The Notes Are (lesson found in "Practical Music Theory"). If you move the below example up 3 frets, putting the 5th string root note at the fifth fret, you get the notes D, G#/Ab, B and F. The same as before but in a different order. More on this in another lesson coming soon.

dim 7 chord

diminished 7 chord


Lesson ID: JA-001