So you’re a guitarist and you want to start getting your jazz chops together. Awesome! When it comes down to it, the main thing you need to focus in on is learning jazz language. You need to understand the harmonic and melodic structures that jazz musicians use to improvise.
Once you start to understand that language, you can begin to take the guitar stuff you already know and apply it to jazz. The great thing about learning jazz is a lot of it has to do with the language and not your instrument!
So we have tons of lessons and resources on Learn Jazz Standards to help you with that. The more you practice, and practice the right way, the more you will improve.
And by the way, make sure you’ve signed up to receive our free “Ultimate Jazz Guide to Practicing,” if you want to make sure you are working on the right things. It will just take a minute to sign up, we’ll send it to you, and you can continue on.
But as guitarists, we still need to get some of those basics under control. As a comping instrument, it is important for you to have some basic voicings in your repertoire.
Many jazz voicings are 7th chord voicings. So in this chart, I show you the main types of 7th chords and some basic voicings to get down. Let’s dive in!
It is organized as follows:
- The first row is major chords (major 7th, 6/9, etc.)
- The second row is minor chords (minor 9, minor 11th, etc.)
- The third row is dominant (9, 13, etc.)
- The fourth row is min7b5 (also known as half-diminished) and dim7 (fully diminished)
Additionally, for each quality (or row in this case)
- 2 voicings have the root on the 6th string
- 2 voicings have the root on the 5th string
- 1 voicing has the root on the 4th string
Finally, each of these chords is actually a moveable shape. That means that you can move any of these chords to another root.
For example, the CMaj9 in the first row is x3243x. It can become a DbMaj9 by moving the entire shape up a half step to x4354x.
Whether you are new to these voicings for guitar, need a review, or just want to use the handout in your own teaching, I hope you get some great use out of this handout!
If you’ve got these down, but you’d like to understand more about how to start playing single-note lines over these chords, it can be helpful to learn some scales over them. Check out A Guide for Which Scales to Play Over 7th Chords.