Before investigating specific chord and comping techniques it is essential that you know how to practice jazz guitar chords so that each of the concepts in this series can be learnt properly and applied in practical situations.

Developing a solid chord dictionary is essential when learning how to play jazz guitarand it is important that each new technique is practiced in context as soon as possible so that you can use them freely.

Having new licks and chords available in a variety of practical contexts means that we are less likely to forget them and more likely to use them at gigs or jam sessions.

The first way to practice chords is over the II-V-I progression. II-V-I’s are very common in jazz, and almost every tune has them, just as you have an arsenal of ways to improvise over this progression, you must also know how to comp it.

In a II-V-I progression each chord modulates a 4th and changes chord type. The II chord is typically a minor 7, the V chord is a dominant 7 and finally the I chord is a major 7 chord type.

To complete the first task on how to practice jazz guitar chords, take any minor 7th chord you know and then find the closest dominant 7th chord a fourth up, and finally find the closest major 7 chord a fourth up from the dominant 7th to form a well voiced II-V-I progression.



Practice Jazz Guitar Chords

Practice Jazz Guitar Chords


Besides practicing the four chord main types; major 7, dominant 7, minor 7, minor 7b5 through the cycle of the fourths, practice each chord type by itself this way. The following example shows the dominant 7th chord been moved through the circle of fourths.

Cycling dominant 7th chords appear in countless jazz and pop tunes so it’s worth having them under your fingers in all 12 keys.


 How to Practice Jazz Guitar Chords in 4ths

Practice Jazz Guitar Chords

Another beneficial way to practice jazz guitar chords is applying them to tunes, and looking at each possible way a chord can be voiced. The following example shows how you can apply dominant 7th chords to a Jazz/Blues progression.

Note that the jazz/blues progression is mostly cyclic anyway, so practicing jazz guitar chords in 4ths like in the last example will mean that the majority of the chord movements will already be familiar.



The next method of how to practice jazz chords is limited fret spans.

Most of the time when playing jazz guitar chords movement between frets should be smooth with no huge leaps across the neck. One way that you can achieve this is by limiting yourself to finding all the voicings to a progression within a certain fret span.

The most common fret spans for doing this are 1-5, 5-9, and 10-13. Not only will doing this exercise help you voice lead chords will better, you will also be forced to find some new and interesting voicings that may not have thought of before.

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