One of the most important aspects to learning jazz guitar is building up a repertoire.

But, with there been so many jazz standards to learn, which ones are best suited for beginner students to focus on?

This article contains five beginner jazz guitar songs that are suitable for new jazz guitarists.

Each of these beginner jazz guitar songs has been successful with my private students in helping them learn jazz guitar.

So pick up your guitar and get ready to learn your first jazz standard.

 

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar Songs – Summertime

 

Summertime is a great beginner jazz guitar song for those making the transition from blues and rock playing to jazz.

Almost all of the melody comes from the minor pentatonic scale, which can also be used to improvise over the majority of the chord progression.

The Summertime chord progression can be harmonically dense or very simple to start with, making it ideal for beginner jazz guitar students.

In terms of feel, Summertime works has been recorded in different styles and time signatures.

Check out this cool video of Adrian Ingram playing the Wes Montgomery arrangement using block chords to harmonize the melody.

The example below demonstrates a cool intro vamp I learned from a Martin Taylor video that gives the song a blues type of feel.

This vamp can be used in the first four bars of the progression, as well as in bars 9 – 12.

Summertime is usually played in A minor or D minor. It is a popular choice for vocalists though, so be prepared to play it in any key.

 

beginner jazz guitar songs - summertime

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Summertime Backing Track & Chord Progression

 

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar Songs – So What

 

Improvising over chords that change in every bar often seems daunting to new jazz guitarists. Especially those who are used to using one scale for an entire solo.

So What is the ideal beginner jazz guitar song to combat this problem, because the entire song only contains two minor 7th chords a half step apart.

So What is usually played in the key of D minor at jam sessions.

The chord progression alternates between 16 bars of D-7, 8 bars of Eb-7 and finally 8 bars of D-7 in the final section.

This chord progression gives students plenty of time to blow over one chord using freshly learned scales and apreggios.

The two jazz guitar chord voicings diagrammed below are often referred to as the ‘So What Chords’.

Both of these chords are 4th voicings. Bill Evans uses this cool chord phrase in conjunction with the horn section to answer the bass melody.

Check out this article for a minor 7th licks study I wrote over a chord progression very similar to So What.

 

beginner jazz guitar songs - so what

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So What Backing Track & Chord Progression

 

 

Beginner Jazz Guitar Songs – Tune Up

 

The most common progression in jazz music is the major ii-V-I progression, which Tune Up features extensively.

¾ of the Tune Up chord progression are Major ii-V-I’s moving down in whole steps making it a perfect progression to practice new drop 2 and 3 chords.

The first four bars of the melody are repeated down a tone lower in bars 5 – 8. So, as guitarists, all we have to do is move the first melody phrase in bars 1 – 4 two frets lower.

The melody works great with beginner jazz guitar chords. The longer melody notes (usually 3rds over the I chord) sound great when harmonized with drop 2 chords which contain the 3rd as the highest note in the voicing.

Tune Up is often played and recorded at faster tempos, but it should be practiced at a slow tempo to begin with.

 

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 Tune Up Backing Track and Chord Progression

 

 

Other Beginner Jazz Guitar Songs

 

Besides the tunes listed in this article, there are 3 other must know beginner jazz guitar tunes that are covered in their own articles.

Links to each of these standards are included below.

 

  1. Blue Bossa
  2. Autumn Leaves
  3. Jazz Blues
  4. Take The A Train

 

What are some of your favorite beginner jazz guitar songs? What was the first standard that you learned to play? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

 

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