Chords

Welcome in the jazz chord section of Jazz Guitar Licks.com

You will find here tons of information about the most common to the most complex guitar chords used in jazz music. Each page is dedicated to a specific type of chord including guitar shapes, formula charts and theory lessons. Triads, seventh chords, Extended chords, drop 2 voicings, drop 3 voicings, close and open positions are discussed in detail.

What Chords Are Used in Jazz?

Seventh chords are the most used used in jazz music, they are the backbone of jazz harmony. They are built with four notes (root, third, fifth and seventh) and are divided into six important types :

  • Major 7 (1 - 3 - 5 - 7)
  • Minor 7 (1 - b3 - 5 - b7)
  • Dominant 7 (1 - 3 - 5 - b7)
  • m7b5 (half-diminished) (1 - b3 - b5 - b7)
  • Diminished 7 (1 - b3 - b5 - bb7)
  • Major Augmented 7 (1 - 3 - #5 - 7)
  • Dominant 7 Augmented (1 - 3 - #5 - b7)
  • Minor Major 7 (1 - b3 - 5 - 7)
  • 7sus4 (1 - 4 - 5 - b7)

Sixth chords can also be used in place of seventh chords, the main types are minor 6 (1 - b3 - 5 - 6) and major 6 (1 - 3 - 5 - 6).

Seventh chords are generally enriched with extra notes above the octave as the ninth (9), eleventh (11) and thirteenth (13). These supplementary tones are used to add interesting colors to basic chords thus giving number of possibilities as min9, maj9, dom9, min11, maj11, dom11, min13, maj13, dom13, 6/9 etc.

Some of these notes can be altered to bring tension and harmonic interest giving altered chords with weird and long names as 7#9, 7#5, 7b9b13, Maj7#11, some of them are simply noted with the "alt" extension.

And what about triads? Triads don't have what we call a "jazz sound", they are not very interesting except when they are superimposed to basic chords in order to add extensions.

How To Read Guitar Chord Diagrams?

Guitar chord diagrams, or guitar chord shapes are used to help visualize the chord positions on the guitar neck. They can be presented in two ways, horizontally and verically. They represent the guitar neck with the position and the name of the chord tones.

Sometimes the fingers used to fret the notes are represented by a number related to each finger next to each string. 1 for index, 2 for middle finger, 3 ring finger, 4 little finger.

The black cross (X) means that the string should not be played.

The numbers below or on the left represent the fret number.

The root note (R) is represented by a red (or orange) circle. This note gives the name to the chord.

95 percent of the chord shapes shown in the lessons below are movable. Meaning that you can play them anywhere on the guitar neck while keeping the same position. The root will determine the tonality of the chord.

The two shapes below show how to play an A7 chord (dominant seventh). You can play it the key you want providing that you know the name of the root. For example, by playing this shape with the root note at the seventh fret you get a B7. The root note at the tenth fret the you obtain a D7.

 

Guitar chord diagram       Guitar chord shape

 

What Does Voicing Means?

A chord voicing is the way the notes of a chord are organized. The most used voicings are :

  • Drop 2 voicing : The second highest note of a seventh chord in close position is dropped to the bass.
  • Drop 3 voicing : The third highest note of is dropped to the bass.
  • Drop 2-4 voicings : The second highest note and the fourth note are dropped to the bass.

Each drop chord can be inverted giving us more chord positions. These inverted chords can have third, fifth or seventh in the bass.

What Are Extended Chords?

Extended chords are chords that contains notes above the octave (9,11,13)

What Are Altered Chords?

Altered chords have notes altered by a flat (b) or a sharp (#). These tones are #9, b9, #11, b13, b5 , #5.

How To Practice Jazz Guitar Chords?

The first way is to play the chords related to each tone of each family of scale (melodic minor, harmonic minor, diatonic) . In other words, you need to know how to harmonize each important scale in thirds and play the chords.

You will find some articles in the blog section on how harmonizing scales, so you will get the answers you need.

The second way, the most fun, is to play over common chord changes found in jazz as 2 5 1, 1 6 2 5, essential jazz blues progressions, rhythm changes, etc.

The final and most important way is to play over jazz standards.

Whatever the case, you need to know any jazz chord, how they are built, what are the chord tones therein, how to name them. You have to recognize them, know how to write them and finally create you own chord positions depending on what you need.