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8 Essential Jazz Chord Forms for the Beginning Jazz Guitarist

When you’re starting out as a jazz guitarist, it can be overwhelming to think of all of the chords that you have to learn. Most rock and blues guitarists are familiar with open string chords, barre chords and other “plain” chord types. Well, jazz guitarists like to spice it up and we often use extended chords. So, instead of playing a C Major chord, a jazz guitarist might play a C Major 7th chord or a C Major 7th #11. Extensions like the major seventh or Sharp 11 gives chords more color.

The first step to learning jazz chords is to learn Seventh Chords. What is a Seventh chord? Here’s a quick and dirty lesson about making seventh chords: If you want to make a C Major chord in the key of C Major, you would first look at the C Major scale which is: C D E F G A B. Then, you would take the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes of the scale. That gives you C, E, and G. If you play those notes together, you get a C Major chord. If you wanted a C Major 7th chord, you would just add the 7th note of the scale to the major chord. So, you would get C, E, G, and B. Play those together and you get a C major 7th chord. A C7 or dominant 7th would be created by flattening the 7th. So you would get C, E, G, and Bb. To create a Cminor7th chord you would flatten the 3rd and the 7th. So, you would get C, Eb, G, and Bb. So that’s the gist of it. If you’re not clear on the theory, there are plenty of resources of the net. Check out this one.

Below you’ll find the 8 essential chord forms. These are chords with the root on the 5th and 6th strings and are very useful in a number of playing situations. In our next lesson, I’m going to show you a way to get through a large number of tunes with just following 8 chord forms. It’ll be pretty interesting. But for now just learn the following Seventh chord forms. Take your time and play each chord up and down the neck slowly and pay attention to the fingering underneath the chord grid.

Ok, that’s it about jazz chords until next time.

Comment below or ask questions!


C major 7th (CM7, CMaj7)

C Minor 7th (Cm7, CMin7)

C7th, Dominant 7th (C7, Cdom7)

C Minor 7th, Flat 5 (Cm7b5)

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RSS Feed for This Post16 Comment(s)

  1. JAMES R. HUGUELY | Jan 19, 2015 | Reply


  2. brian | Mar 24, 2014 | Reply

    wow this is all I had to do……

  3. kirk coneley | Mar 9, 2012 | Reply

    love what i see , thank you so much

  4. nancy | Jan 26, 2012 | Reply

    Thank you! Finally it makes sense!

  5. Naj | Jul 21, 2010 | Reply

    Thank you so much! I’ve been wanting to understand chord-building, especially for jazz, for a while now. Thanks again!

  6. floyd | Feb 13, 2010 | Reply

    really cool. i enjoyed playing it. it sounds really jazzy. big thanks for sharing.

  7. Paolo | Aug 20, 2009 | Reply

    Thank you for your lesson

  8. sam | Jul 28, 2009 | Reply

    dude it means bar it…like use ur pointing finger and rest it along all of the notes that the black bar is across.

  9. Paolo | Jul 4, 2009 | Reply


  10. perry | May 8, 2008 | Reply

    the lesson what great i have play all the chords but the cmin7b5 don’t know when or how to use them in my playing

  11. Kelly Unger | Mar 26, 2008 | Reply

    Thanks so much for this article! I love all your lessons, straightforward and basic, teaches what needs to be taught. With your site, my tutor and my guitar, I’m almost guaranteed to get into grade nine jazz band!

    Kelly Giselle Unger, AZ

  12. liza | Sep 11, 2007 | Reply

    this is helpful, i just joined jazz choir as a guitarist and i just know the major and minor chords. i kind of see the pattern in figuring out 7ths now

  13. Stil | Aug 2, 2007 | Reply

    Which strings do you play for each of these ? For example on C7 there is a black bar on the strings ? I am new so I dont understand.

  14. Peleke | Jul 7, 2007 | Reply

    Excellent. I didn’t actually need this, as basic theory is something I have a fair grasp of, but I wish I had found this last month. I swear, I spent several hours a day wading through all the usual internet crap until I found a decent article. I’m definitely referring people to this site :) Nice job.

  15. Leon | May 26, 2007 | Reply

    I’m glad the lesson helped. I’m going to be posting a lot more lessons in the future. Actually, I’m working on the follow-up to this lesson now. I hope you’ll keep checking back.


  16. Al Vance | May 22, 2007 | Reply

    enjoyed your lesson, I’m just starting out in guitar jazz and the 8 shapes helped me a lot.

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