How to play jazz for beginners

Guitar Practice Routine - 10 Essential Tips

Learning jazz guitar requires a systematic and disciplined practice routine. Here's a comprehensive practice plan bringing together 10 essential points to help you develop your jazz guitar skills. 

1. Warm-up

Warm-up exercises are essential for guitarists to enhance finger flexibility, improve dexterity, and prevent injuries. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced player, dedicating a few minutes to warming up can significantly impact your overall playing ability.

Scale Exercises:

  • Major Scales: Play major scales in various positions on the neck.
  • Minor Scales: Work on natural, harmonic, and melodic minor scales.
  • Modal Scales: Explore modes such as Dorian, Mixolydian, and Lydian.

Finger Independence:

  • Chromatic Exercises: Play chromatic runs to improve finger independence.
  • Spider Exercises: Work on spider-like finger movements to enhance agility.


2. Chord Voicings

Chord voicings are the artistic choices we make in arranging and playing chords. They go beyond the basic open chords, allowing guitarists to explore a rich palette of sounds and textures.

Chord voicings involve selecting specific fingerings and positions on the fretboard, creating diverse tonal variations even when playing the same chord.

Drop Voicings:

  • Practice drop 2, drop 3, and drop 2 & 4 voicings for major, minor, and dominant chords.
  • Apply these voicings to a ii-V-I progression in multiple keys or to other essential chord progressions.

Extended Chords

  • Learn and practice 9th, 11th, and 13th chord voicings.
  • Apply these extended chords to jazz standards.

3. Jazz Standards

Exploring jazz standards is akin to delving into a rich musical tradition where improvisation, innovation, and interpretation flourish.

Each standard tells a unique story, offering a framework for musicians to weave their narratives through harmonic exploration, rhythmic ingenuity and melodic expression.

Melody Playing:

  • Choose a standard like "Autumn Leaves" or "Blue Bossa" and learn the melody by ear.
  • Experiment with different phrasing and articulation.

Comping Patterns:

  • Develop comping patterns using the chord voicings learned earlier.
  • Play through the standard's chord progressions, emphasizing different chord tones.

Rhythmic Variation:

  • Experiment with rhythmic variations while comping to enhance your sense of groove.
  • Use a metronome to practice keeping steady time.

4. Improvisation

Improvisation is the art of spontaneous musical expression, a captivating journey where musicians create on the spot, weaving melodies, rhythms, and emotions in real-time.

Mastering the art of improvisation involves understanding scales, chords, and the unique characteristics of your instrument. It's a dynamic process that encourages creativity and self-expression.


  • Start by transcribing short phrases from jazz guitarists you admire.
  • Gradually move to transcribing entire solos.


  • Break down transcriptions to understand the theory behind the solo.
  • Identify scales, arpeggios, and target notes used in the solo.


  • Incorporate transcribed licks and phrases into your own improvisations.
  • Experiment with different scales and modes over various chord progressions.
Minor 7th arpeggio lick 2

5. Technique and Theory

In the realm of musical proficiency, technique and theory serve as the cornerstones that elevate musicians from mere players to expressive artists. A balanced approach to technique and theory is essential.

Technique enhances your ability to translate musical ideas into fluid, expressive performances, while theory equips you with the understanding to make informed musical choices.

Technique Exercises:

  • Work on specific techniques like legato, alternate picking, slides, hammer-on/off, bends, and string skipping.
  • Apply these techniques to jazz patterns and scales.

Theory Application:

  • Study chord-scale relationships and practice applying appropriate scales to chords.
  • Experiment with different chord substitutions in progressions.

6. Ear Training

Ear training involves honing the ability to recognize intervals, identify chords, and reproduce melodies. This skill not only sharpens your listening acuity but also transforms the way you approach learning and performing music.

It's about developing a finely tuned musical ear that guides your playing and enriches your musical expression.

Interval Recognition:

Chord Recognition:

Misty - jazz standard - erroll garner

7. Rhythm

Understanding and internalizing rhythm involves more than just counting beats—it's about feeling the groove, creating dynamic accents, and maintaining a steady pulse. Rhythm mastery empowers you to infuse your playing with energy, emotion, and a sense of musicality.

Rhythmic Patterns:

  • Practice various strumming patterns and rhythmic comping.
  • Use a metronome or drum tracks to develop a strong sense of timing.


  • Explore syncopated rhythms and accents in your comping and chord playing.

8. Repertoire Expansion

Just as a chef constantly discovers new ingredients to create diverse and flavorful dishes, musicians expand their repertoire to enrich their musical palette.

Repertoire expansion is the process of broadening the collection of songs and pieces a musician can perform, ensuring versatility and the ability to adapt to various musical contexts.

Learn New Standards:

  • Regularly add new jazz standards to your repertoire.
  • Experiment with different keys and arrangements.

Chord Substitutions:

  • Explore advanced chord substitutions for common progressions.
  • Learn to apply tritone substitutions and diminished chords.
Drop 2 minor 7 chords lowest note on 5th string

9. Recording and Self-Evaluation

The process of recording not only documents your playing but also unveils nuances that may go unnoticed in real-time. It's a powerful means to analyze your technique, explore your tone, and showcase your musical ideas.

Self-evaluation, then, becomes a critical skill in understanding your playing style, identifying areas for improvement, and celebrating your accomplishments.


  • Record yourself regularly to track your progress.
  • Focus on clarity, timing, and expression in your recordings.


  • Listen critically to your recordings and identify areas for improvement.
  • Use the feedback to set goals for future practice sessions.

10. Relaxation and Enjoyment

Finding a balance between disciplined practice and sheer enjoyment is essential. Relaxation allows you to play with ease, fostering a natural flow in your movements and promoting a more expressive and authentic playing style.

Enjoyment, on the other hand, is the fuel that keeps your passion alive, reminding you why you picked up the guitar in the first place.

Free Play:

  • Spend a few minutes playing something you genuinely enjoy.
  • Experiment with different styles or improvise freely.


  • Reflect on your practice session and acknowledge your achievements.
  • Set positive intentions for your next practice session.

Remember, consistency is key. Adjust the time allocated to each section based on your preferences and available time. As you progress, you can also introduce more advanced concepts into your routine.

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