Learn Jazz Guitar

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Learn To Play Jazz Guitar
Tips and suggestions to get you started – learning the right way and making the most progress with the time that is available for practice.

If you really want a challenge then learning to play Jazz guitar is for you!

Not only will you need a good technique, you’ll also need to be musically creative, have a sound musical knowledge, know lots of advanced chords and have plenty of time to practise!

The CAGED System for Jazz Improvization

The Epiphone version of the Gibson ES-175 - iconic!
The Epiphone version of the Gibson ES-175 – iconic!

The “C A G E D” chord system is often used as a memory aid and system to learn where chords and the scales and arpeggios based on these chords may be found.

Each scale has five positions based on the above chord shapes along with the corresponding chord and arpeggio.

This means that you can cover the entire neck and improvise in five different positions (if you wish) on each chord.

Confused …? it takes a while to grasp but if you play the chord of C in the open position, then as an A shape in the third position, as a G shape (or part of) in the fifth position, as an E shape in position eight and lastly as a D shape in the tenth position.

That gives you five different places to play a C chord, C scale and C arpeggio.

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Joe Pass
Joe Pass taught this method of integrating the five scales, chords and arpeggios, which he called “forms” and the idea that by keep the approach as simple as possible, the easier it will be to improvise.

That doesn’t mean that improvising is simple, it means that the less you have to think about technical details in your head, the more creative you can be.

Jazz Blues – Jazz Funk etc.
Jazz guitar styles overlap (see also: learn to play blues guitar) into other styles such as blues and a good understanding of major, dominant seventh and minor chord sounds will help the inspirational flow.

Learning By Listening and Copying The Greats
Listening to your favourite players is essential to becoming a good player yourself and you will learn to play the jazz guitar more quickly.

Play What You Hear
They say if you can’t play what you hear in your head, it isn’t true improvisation – but you have to start somewhere!

Also, If you don’t put any sounds and riffs in your head by listening to great players, there will be nothing to draw from.

Of course learning riffs from the great players is something most guitarists do and eventually make them their own by changing them slightly.

Jazz Backing Tracks
A great way to practise jazz guitar improvisation is by using backing tracks.

You can create them by using software such as Band In A Box, or stream them live from Youtube where you’ll find hundreds of tracks that people have made for this purpose. Of course if you know a few other guitar players you could get together with them for practising rhythm and improvising.

For those who like another demanding guitar style, see Learn Classical Guitar.