Jazz, rooted in music technique and theory, is often thought of as difficult and hard to understand, with complex rhythms and strange chords. Understanding all of this often seems out of reach.

However, like anything Jazz can be learned – in this series of articles we’ll be looking at an introduction to jazz for the guitar.

In this first article we’ll look at some simple jazz chord progressions to get you started. We’ll try and keep the music theory down to a minimum so as not to scare you off!

Usually most chords we play in rock or blues music are based on triads. Triads are based on three notes taken from the scale that the chord originates from. Three notes that make up a triad are the root note (for C Major that would be the C note) the third (the note E in our example) and the 5th (G in our example).

Usually chords used in Jazz are more advanced than a triad (as a minimum jazz chords usually have 4 notes). Jazz chords are often said to have extensions – so for example if we were playing in the key of C we can add different notes of that scale to the chord to enhance the chord. For example a 7th note to a C Major chord (the B note) the chord would become C Major 7th.

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101 Uptown Jazz Chord Progressions with Guitar Chord Frames

Jazz progressions differ from the normal progressions used in blues and rock (which tend to be based around the root note (say C) the 4th note (F) and the 5th (G)) and often form around the tonal movement between chords. The best way to learn this is to listen to a piece of Jazz music and listen to the way the chords are voiced to allow the top and inside parts of the chord to move smoothly, from one chord to the next. When your practicing your progression see how this works for instance in example 1 of our chord progressions below note in the movement from C Major 7th to A minor 7th how the C scales 3rd note (the E) is retained in the second chord A minor 7th.

Often when your looking at Jazz chord sequences they may be written using Roman Numerals. Using Roman Numerals is a common way of memorizing short chord progressions. Instead of quoting the actual chord symbols people use the roman numerals along with the type and extension of the chord. The numbers represent each step in the scale so for example I represents the root note of the scale (eg C in the C Scale). Don’t worry too much about this now – it’s just another way of writing out a piece of music.

So now we’ve covered some of the basics – let’s jump into some chord progressions. As always practice these with a metronome and try these both in 4/4 time and 3/4 time

Jazz Chord Progression 1.

Cmaj7 – Am7 – Dm7 – G7

Jazz Chord Progression 2

Cmaj7 – Amaj7- Dm7 – G7

Jazz Chord Progression 3

Em7 – A7 – Dm7 – G7

Jazz Chord Progression 4

Gmaj7 – C7 – D7 – Eb7 – D7 GMaj7 – C Maj 7th

Jazz Chord Progression 5

F – Cmaj7 – Dm7 – A – F#m7 – Bm7 – E7 – A – C7

Jazz Guitar Strumming patterns

Jazz often incorporates ‘swing’ and the rhythms can get quite complicated. For the examples above stick to the beat and hit each beat as a downstrokes. Try the above examples at some medium to fast tempos and at various neck positions.

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