Learning to play jazz guitar means getting many concepts into our heads, sounds into our ears and shapes under our fingers.
While we can never say that “if you learn these exact things you will be a great jazz guitarist,” there are specific fundamental chords, scales and arpeggios that every jazz guitarist should get under their fingers and in their ears.
Below is a list of 15 Chords, Scales and Arpeggios that I’ve culled together from my two decades of studying with great teachers, learning from great players and watching my students struggle and grow as jazz guitarists.
This list alone won’t make you a great player overnight, but it will give you a leg up on those players who don’t want to put the time in to learn this important fundamentals of our instrument.
Have a question or comment about this lesson? Visit the 15 Chord, Scales and Arps thread in the MWG Forum.
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1. Major, Minor, Diminished and Augmented Triads in all 12 keys starting on the 6th, 5th, 4th and 3rd string groups.
2. One and Two Octave Arpeggios starting on the 6th and 5th strings for Maj7, 7, m7, m7b5, mMaj7 and Dim7 chords.
3. 3 to 9 Arpeggios for Maj7, 7, m7, m7b5 and mMaj7 on both the 6th and 5th strings, one and two octave.
4. Drop 2 Chord Voicings for Maj7, m7, 7, m7b5, mMa7 and Dim7, all inversions and string sets.
5. Drop 3 Chord Voicings for Maj7, m7, 7, m7b5, mMa7 and Dim7, all inversions and string sets.
6. Drop 2 and 4 Chord Voicings for Maj7, m7, 7, m7b5, mMa7 and Dim7, all inversions and string sets.
7. Major Scales and Modes in all 12 keys
8. Melodic Minor Scales and Modes in all 12 keys
9. Harmonic Minor Scales and Modes in all 12 keys.
10. Symmetrical Scales in all 12 keys.
11. Altered Dominant Bebop Scale in all 12 keys.
12. Major and Minor Pentatonic Scales in all 12 keys.
13. Major and Minor Blues Scales in all 12 keys.
14. Dominant, Minor and Major Bebop Scales in all 12 keys.
15. Harmonic Major Scales and Modes in all 12 keys.
Being able to play all of these 15 items won’t make you a great jazz guitarist, but it will give you a strong command of your instrument and expose your fingers and ears to the main building blocks of jazz, and any modern music.
The key is not to only practice these ideas and then move on to improvising when you have them down, you should be practicing improvisation as you learn these ideas as well.
Do you have a fundamental concept that you think every jazz guitarist should know? If so, share it in the comments section below.
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