15 basic jazz guitar chords you must know

15 basic jazz guitar chordsHere are the 15 most important jazz guitar chord positions that every beginning jazz guitar student must know. They are grouped into five families : 

  • Major seventh chords (Maj7)
  • Minor seventh (m7)
  • Dominant 7th (7)
  • Half diminished / minor seventh flat fifth (m7b5)
  • Diminished 7th (dim7)

How are built chords ?

Chords can be built with root (1), minor (b3) or major third (3), fifth, which can be perfect (5), diminished (b5) or augmented (#5) and seventh, which can be major (7), minor (b7) or diminished (bb7). 

  minor major perfect diminished augmented
Root          
Third O O      
Fifth     O O O
Seventh O O   O  

 

Generally speaking, chords are constructed by stacking thirds (minor and major). Here is a summary chart about the construction of the main types of chords.

Minor seventh (m7) 1 b3 5 b7
Major seventh (M7) 1 3 5 7
Dominant seventh (7) 1 3 5 b7
Half diminished (m7b5) 1 b3 b5 b7
Diminished seventh (dim7) 1 b3 b5 bb7

 

You will find below ten guitar fretboard diagrams and charts related to these chords. Three positions for each type of chord. One with the root on the sixth string, one with the root on the fifth and one with the root on the fourth string. Of course, there are many other important jazz chords, but the idea is to show only 15 basic chords no to destabilise the jazz beginner with too much chords. Please note that in this lesson augmented chords have been voluntarily omitted. However, for much information, you can visit the full lesson about the inverted jazz chords related to these basic positions.

Major seventh chords

Major seventh chords are built with a root (1), a major third (3), a perfect fifth (5) and a major seventh (7). 

Formula 1 3 5 7
C major seventh chord C E G B

 

Abbreviated chords symbols

There are several different ways of writing the same chord or scale sound. The most used symbols for major seventh chords (example in C) are CM7, C∆ and maj7. 

FULL COURSE WITH INVERTED MAJOR SEVENTH CHORD DIAGRAMS

Major seventh guitar chord

C Major seventh guitar chord

Major seventh jazz guitar chord

Minor seventh chords

Minor seventh chords are made up of a root (1), minor third (b3), perfect fifth (5) and minor seventh (b7). 

Formula 1 b3 5 b7
D minor seventh chord D F A C

 

Abbreviated chords symbols

The main symbols for minor seventh chords (example in C) are Cm7, C-7, Cmin7, Cmi7.

FULL COURSE WITH INVERTED MINOR SEVENTH CHORD DIAGRAMS

Minor seventh guitar chord diagram

Minor seventh guitar chord diagram

Minor seventh guitar chord diagram

Dominant 7th chords

Dominant 7th chords are made up of a root (1), a major  third (3), a perfect fifth (5) and a minor seventh (b7). 

Formula 1 3 5 b7
G dominant 7th chord (G7) G B D F

 

Abbreviated dominant 7th chord symbol

Basically, dominant are chords with just a number, without any “major” or “minor” definition but only a "7". For example, C dominant 7th will be written "C7".

FULL COURSE WITH INVERTED DOMINANT SEVENTH CHORD DIAGRAMS

Dominant 7th jazz guitar chord diagram

Dominant seventh guitar chord diagram

Dominant 7th guitar chord diagram

Half diminished chords

Half diminished chords are built with a root (1), a minor third (b3), a diminished fifth (b5) and a minor seventh (b7). They can also be named "minor seventh flat five chords" (m7b5), because they are minor seventh chord with a fifth lowered by a 1/2 step.

Formula 1 3 5 b7
Bm7b5 chord  B D G A

 

Half diminished chord notation and symbols

Half diminished chords may be found written in several ways : Cm7(b5), Cm7b5, Cmin7b5 or CØ. The last one should not be confused with the diminished notation that is a circle without a bar through it. 

FULL COURSE WITH INVERTED HALF DIMINISHED CHORD DIAGRAMS

m7b5 chord guitar diagram positions

half diminished jazz chord guitar diagram

m7b5 chord guitar diagram

Diminished seventh chords

Diminished seventh chords (dim7) are made up of a root (1), a minor third (b3), a diminished fifth (b5) and a diminished seventh (bb7). Therefore, they are built with a diminished triad (1-b3-b5) and a diminished seventh interval (bb7).

Formula 1 b3 b5 bb7
Bdim7 chord  B D F Ab


Diminsihed 7th chord notation 

Diminished seventh chords can be written º7 or dim7. 

FULL COURSE WITH INVERTED DIMINISHED CHORD DIAGRAMS

Diminished 7th jazz guitar chord diagram

Diminished 7th guitar chord diagram

Diminished 7th guitar chord diagram

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