How to Get Into Guitar Jazz Music

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Want to know how to get into guitar jazz music? Here’s everything you need to know, from the basics of the genre to the best guitarists out there.

Start with the basics

Jazz guitar is a style of music that can be both fun and challenging to play. If you’re new to the genre, it’s important to start with the basics. In this article, we’ll give you a crash course in jazz guitar, starting with the basics of the genre and moving on to some of the more advanced concepts.

Listen to a variety of artists

A great way to start is by listening to a variety of guitarists and bands. This will give you a feel for the different styles of jazz guitar and help you decide which artists you like best. You can find a wide variety of jazz guitarists on streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, or you can check out our list of recommended artists below.

As you listen, pay attention to the different sounds the guitarists are able to create. Notice how they use chords, melodies, and single-note runs to create their unique sound. Also, pay attention to the rhythm section (usually drums, bass, and piano) and how they interact with the guitarist. This will give you a good foundation for understanding jazz guitar comping (rhythm playing).

Find a guitar teacher

Nowadays, with the popularity of YouTube guitar lessons, online guitar courses, and other digital learning tools, it’s easier than ever to start learning guitar on your own. However, while you can certainly get a lot of mileage out of digital learning resources, there are still plenty of good reasons to start with a guitar teacher.

A good guitar teacher can help you learn the basics more quickly and effectively than you could on your own, and can also help you develop proper technique from the start. In addition, a good teacher can introduce you to new concepts and repertoire as you progress, and can provide motivation and encouragement when you need it. While digital resources can be very helpful, there’s no substitute for one-on-one interaction with a qualified instructor.

Learn about chords and progressions

Many people want to get into guitar jazz music but don’t know where to start. Chords and progressions are a great place to start. Chords are the basic building blocks of jazz and knowing how to build and use them will help you create your own jazz music. Progressions are simply sequences of chords that are commonly used in jazz.

Understand chord progressions

In order to comp (accompany) a melody, you need to know how to construct chords and how those chords relate to each other in order to create chord progressions. Simply put, a chord progression is any combination of two or more chords played in succession. Chord progressions are the backbone of jazz and the reason why the genre has such a distinct sound.

There are countless ways to combine chords, but some progressions occur more often than others. The most important thing to remember is that there are no rules when it comes to creating chord progressions. You can use any combination of chords you like as long as it sounds good to your ears. With that said, here are five common chord progressions used in jazz:

I-IV-V: The I-IV-V progression is one of the most popular progressions in all genres of music and deserves its own section. This progression uses the tonic, subdominant, and dominant chords and gives off a very stable feel due to its resolution back to the tonic chord. You’ll find this progression in countless songs including “Ain’t Misbehavin’” by Fats Waller and “Summertime” by George Gershwin.

ii-V-I: The ii-V-I progression is another extremely popular chord progression found in almost all styles of music. This progression uses the second, fifth, and first degrees of the major scale and creates a sense of forward motion due to its resolution on the tonic chord. You can hear this progression used extensively in jazz standards such as “All the Things You Are” by Jerome Kern and “So What” by Miles Davis.

iii-vi-ii-V-I: This particular chord progression is sometimes referred to as a “cycle” because it starts and ends on the same degree of the major scale (in this case, the third degree). This provides a feeling of resolve despite using some rather unconventional chords along the way. You can hear this cycle used throughout Thelonious Monk’s classic track “‘Round Midnight” as well as Duke Ellington’s “Take The ‘A’ Train

Learn to read chord charts

In order to understand chord charts, you need to be able to read basic music notation and know the names of the guitar strings. Music is written on a staff, which is a set of five lines. The top line is called the first string, while the bottom line is called the sixth string. The notes on a chord chart are listed in standard notation, with the first string being the lowest note. For example, if you see an A7 chord charted as 5-7-5-6-5-5, it means that you should strum all six strings open and then play the seventh fret on the fifth string, followed by the fifth fret on the fourth string.

Explore different genres of jazz

Guitar jazz is a type of music that many people enjoy. If you are new to this genre, you may be wondering how to get into it. There are many different types of jazz, and each one has its own unique sound. You may want to start by exploring different genres of jazz to find the one that you like the best.

Traditional jazz

Traditional jazz is a style of jazz music that developed in New Orleans in the early 1900s. It is characterized by a swinging rhythm, polyphonic (multiple melody) improvisation, and a focus on collective rather than individual expression. Traditional jazz bands typically consisted of five or six musicians playing acoustic instruments, such as trumpet, trombone, clarinet, piano, banjo, and drums.

The earliest form of traditional jazz was Dixieland, which gained popularity in the 1920s. Dixieland was largely built on the work of Jelly Roll Morton, a New Orleans-based musician who is credited with creating the first jazz compositions. Other important early innovators include Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet. Traditional jazz remains popular today, especially among older listeners.


Bebop was the first style of modern jazz.It was developed in the early and mid-1940s. The two main figures were Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Other bebop pioneers include Dexter Gordon, Bud Powell, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and Ella Fitzgerald.

Bebop bands typically consisted of five or six musicians,with the double bass or guitar providing the only harmonic accompaniment during solos. The typical bebop band instrumentation was tenor saxophone,trumpet,piano,bass and drums. This instrumentation is still standard today for small jazz groups performing bebop or mainstream jazz standards.

Hard bop

Hard bop is a subgenre of jazz characterized by a return to small combo settings and a focus on hard-hitting rhythms. Hard bop also incorporated influences from rhythm and blues, gospel, and blues. The result was a style of jazz that was more accessible to audiences than the bebop that had preceded it. Hard bop is often associated with the period from 1955 to 1965.

Some of the most influential hard bop musicians include:

-Art Blakey: Drummer and bandleader who was one of the key figures in the development of hard bop. He led the Jazz Messengers, one of the most important hard bop groups, for over 30 years.
-Horace Silver: Pianist and composer who was one of the founders of hard bop. His piano playing style was very influential and his compositions are standards in the genre.
-Cannonball Adderley: One of the most popular alto saxophonists of all time. His recordings with Miles Davis, such as ” Kind of Blue,” helped to bring hard bop to a wider audience.

Modal jazz is a post-bop musical style that developed in the late 1950s and early 1960s. rooted in Miles Davis’s 1958 composition “Milestones”, John Coltrane’s 1959 recording “Giant Steps”, and modal improvisation.

Whereas bebop or hard bop were based on chord progressions, with harmonic development as the main goal of the soloist, modal jazz abandoning chord changes, lasting harmonic progressions, and clear tonality in favor of a looser, more open improvisational approach based on scales or modes.

Modelessness also allows for greater freedom within each scale or mode; rather than being restricted to one note per chord as in tonal harmony, modal jazz gives the soloist more options and can create a greater sense of forward motion.

Free jazz

Free jazz is an approach to jazz improvisation that was first developed in the 1950s and 1960s. It has been described as “the sound of surprise”, and is characterised by the use of extended harmonic phrasing, complex rhythms, and a wide range of timbral effects.

The style is often associated with composers such as Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, Archie Shepp, and Sun Ra, but many other important free jazz musicians have emerged in recent years, including David S.Ware, William Parker, Matthew Shipp, Joe Morris, Anthony Braxton, and Peter Brötzmann.

Free jazz can be seen as a reaction against the stylistic restrictions of bebop and hard bop, which were the dominant styles of jazz in the 1950s. It was also a response to the commercialisation of jazz in the form of “cool” and “fusion” styles.

Some of the key features of free jazz include:
-Extended harmonic phrasing: Free Jazz musicians often explore beyond the standard chord progressions found in bebop and hard bop tunes. They might use wider intervals, unusual chord voicings, or chromatic devices such as tritone substitutions.
-Complex rhythms: Free Jazz rhythms can be extremely complex, often featuring odd time signatures or polyrhythms. This can make them difficult to play if you’re not used to them!
-A wide range of timbral effects: Free Jazz musicians make use of a wide range of sounds and timbres. This might include making use of extended techniques on their instruments (e.g. playing with mute on trumpet), or using electronics to create new sounds (e.g. feedback loops).

Develop your own style

It is important to find a guitar style that speaks to you and is interesting. Take the time to explore the different sounds that the guitar can make. Experiment with the different techniques that you can use to create your own sound. Listen to a lot of guitar jazz music to get an idea of what you like and what you don’t like. When you find a sound that you like, try to replicate it.

Find your influences

In order to develop your own style on guitar, it is important to have influences in your playing. These can be other guitarists, other musicians, or even non-musicians. It is important to have a wide range of influences so that you can draw from a variety of sources when you are creating your own style.

Once you have identified your influences, it is important to listen to their music and try to emulate their style. This does not mean that you should copy them exactly, but rather that you should use their style as a starting point for your own playing. As you develop your own style, you will likely find that your influences change and evolve over time.

It is also important to experiment with different sounds and techniques. Trying new things is a great way to find new ideas for your playing. You never know when you might stumble upon something that sounds great and becomes a part of your signature sound.

So get out there and start listening to a wide range of music, both inside and outside the genre of guitar jazz. By expanding your musical horizons, you will be better equipped to develop your own style on the instrument.

Experiment with different techniques

When you’re just starting out, the best way to develop your own style is to experiment with different techniques. There are a few basic techniques that all guitarists should know, but once you have those down, don’t be afraid to try something new. If you hear a guitarist doing something you like, ask them how they do it. Most guitarists are happy to share their knowledge with others.

There are also a lot of resources available online and in books that can teach you new techniques. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different sounds and see what you can come up with. The more you experiment, the more likely you are to develop your own style.

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