8 Jazz Guitar Chords Every Beginner Must Know

What are Jazz guitar chords? This beginner’s guide covers everything you need to know, from common chords to their appearance and how to play them.

Every genre of music creates a unique sound–playing them is a matter of knowing where and how to position your fingers along the fretboard. 

Jazz chords are essential for any guitarist to learn because they add sounds to your repertoire, and you can use them in all genres. 

This article gives you an overview of Jazz chords. It helps you expand your skillset by teaching you some basic finger positions to get you started. 

What are Jazz chords?

In music, a chord is a group of notes played together. The most common type of chord is known as a triad, which refers to a three-note combination that includes a root, a third, and a fifth. Jazz chords generally add the seventh note and sometimes omit the fifth note–giving them a distinct sound.

If you’re unfamiliar with chords or need to brush up on your basics, our blog, Guitar Chords for Beginners: Ultimate Guide, can bring you up to speed. 

The term “jazz” refers to a wide range of musical styles that developed in the early 20th century in the United States. While the origins of Jazz are contested, the music is generally characterized by a syncopated rhythm, improvisation, and a unique blend of African-American and European musical influences.

Playing Jazz chords

You don’t need to be a Jazz player to learn the chords. Musicians use Jazz chords in various genres like pop, blues, country, rock, flamenco, and more.

When playing Jazz chords, there are a few things to keep in mind. Like most chords, you can transpose Jazz shapes along your fretboard. The root note determines the name of the chord. So if you’re playing a Gmaj7, the root note is the note G. If you move your shape up a half-step, it becomes G#maj7.

Jazz chord symbols.

If you’re playing Jazz chords, you need to be able to identify them.

People use abbreviated versions of the chord titles to make them more convenient to fit on chord charts. 

Here are some common Jazz chord symbols you’re likely to come across:

Major TriadC
Minor TriadCm, C-, Cmi, Cmin
Diminished TriadCo, Cdim 
Augmented TriadC+, Caug, C(#5)
Minor SeventhCm7, C-7, Cmi7, Cmin7
Dominant SeventhC7, Dom7
Major SeventhCmaj7, C∆7, Cma7, CM7
Fully Diminished SeventhCo7, Cdim7
Half Diminished SeventhCm7(b5), CØ7, C-7 (b5)

There are tons of other Jazz symbols. However, figuring out the rest is straightforward if you can identify whether the chord is major, minor, augmented, or diminished. 

Because of the range of variations for each symbol, it can be a bit confusing to recognize them at first. However, once you commit them to memory, identifying becomes second nature.

Common Jazz chords on guitar.

Now that you know what Jazz chords are and how to recognize them, it’s time to turn your theoretical knowledge into practical know-how. 

The diagrams below tell you exactly how to position your fingers on the fretboard. There is a number next to each circle that represents a finger. 

1 = index finger

2 = middle finger

3 = ring finger

4 = pinky finger

The chords go from left to right, the leftmost chord being the low E string. The root dot represents the root note, the downward-facing bracket means you play the notes it encompasses with a single finger, and ‘x’ means that chord is muted. 

Basic major chords.

Basic minor chords.

Basic dominant chords.

Basic diminished chords.

You can find these Jazz chord charts and more at Justinguitar.com. Start by practicing these chords, and once you have the hang of them, add some more to your library! 

5 Famous Jazz guitarists you should know about.

Learning guitar chords can feel monotonous and drain your enthusiasm. While it may be challenging to conceptualize as a beginner, the fun begins when you can string them together. 

Check out these five Jazz guitarists–guaranteed to pump you up for some Jazz chords!

jazz guitar chords

Wes Montgomery (1923-1968)

Wes Montgomery was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, and began playing guitar when he was eight. His brothers, Monk and Buddy, were musicians, and the three of them performed together in various clubs in the Indianapolis area. 

In 1948, Wes moved to New York City, working with Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, and Thelonious Monk. He recorded his first album as a leader in 1959, and over the next few years, he became one of the most popular Jazz guitarists in the world. His distinctive style combined elements of Bebop, Blues, and Gospel music. He influenced many other guitarists, including George Benson and Pat Martino.

Montgomery’s recordings include some of the most influential Jazz guitar albums of all time, such as The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery (1960) and Full House (1962). 

jazz guitar chords

Django Reinhardt (1910-1953)

Django Reinhardt was born in Belgium. He started playing the violin at seven but soon switched to guitar. Reinhardt taught himself how to play and developed his style, combining Gypsy music with American Jazz.

Throughout his musical career, he played with several famous Jazz musicians, including Duke Ellington and Coleman Hawkins, and recorded several solo albums. Unfortunately, his career was cut short by a fire that damaged his left hand. 

Reinhardt’s music has influenced many guitarists, including Jimi Hendrix and George Benson. Many people admire his unique music style today, and he is considered one of the greatest Jazz guitarists of all time.

jazz guitar chords

Charlie Christian (1916-1942)

Charlie Christian was a highly influential Jazz guitarist who was a master of the electric guitar and is credited with helping to pioneer the use of the instrument in Jazz. His innovative style influenced many subsequent Jazz guitarists and helped shape modern Jazz’s sound.

Christian was born in Dallas, Texas, and began playing guitar early. He developed a distinctive style that was influenced by blues and swing music. Christian moved to Oklahoma City in 1935 and began playing with the Benny Goodman Sextet. He quickly established himself as a virtuoso guitarist and became an essential group member.

Christian’s career was cut short by his untimely death in 1942, but his legacy as a Jazz pioneer is secure. His innovative style and masterful technique inspire guitarists and music lovers worldwide.

jazz guitar chords

Mary Halvorson (1980 – present)

Mary Halvorson is a Jazz guitarist making waves in the music scene. She has a unique style that blends various genres, making her one of the most versatile and innovative guitarists. 

Halvorson has worked with some of the biggest names in music, including John Zorn, Bill Frisell, and Vijay Iyer. She has also released several solo albums, which have received critical acclaim. Halvorson is a true force to be reckoned with, and she only improves with time.

jazz guitar chords

Pasquale Grasso (1988 – present)

Pasquale Grasso is a young, prodigious Jazz guitarist. He has been turning heads and winning accolades since he started performing professionally in his native Italy at 16. He has since gone on to perform worldwide as a solo artist and a member of various prestigious ensembles.

Though still in his 20s, Grasso has already established himself as a masterful guitarist with fluid, lyrical style firmly rooted in the Jazz tradition. He deeply understands Jazz guitar’s history and evolution, and his playing reflects this knowledge. At the same time, Grasso is not afraid to spin things, infusing his playing with a healthy dose of creativity and originality.

Whether performing a standard ballad or an up-tempo bebop tune, Grasso always swings with aplomb. In addition to his impressive technical skills, Grasso is also a gifted improviser, capable of spinning out long, intricate solos that are always fresh and exciting.

Keep calm and play Jazz.

Jazz chords are essential for guitarists playing any style. They offer a unique sound that can enrich your play style and expand your skill set. Jazz music is loved by many and heavily influences other music genres.

Learning to play guitar is an endeavor that can be incredibly fulfilling. There’s so much material to take in, and it can be a beautiful medium of expression–you just need to learn to speak the language. Simply Guitar is an app designed by music teachers to give you the best start to your musical journey. Try it out today!