This website hosts a wealth of information on how to play jazz guitar. We even have resources for you to learn how to tune a guitar. Even though every page is meant to be focused and "hands-on", the amount of stuff can become overwhelming...
When confused, a lot of people email me this kind of question :
"You website is nice and full of useful info... but where should I start exactly?!"
My first answer is always (of course) : please bookmark this website. Let it become a reference; come back to it often and you'll discover more and more things you can adapt to your practice.
... and I also decided to create these pages : my Survival Guide, which is like a "jazz guitar walkthrough" sorted by levels. That'll surely clear things up and give you a sense of direction.
I will explain some common steps taken by people who successfully learn how to play jazz guitar. I will also try to point out resources that a relevant to your level. Please keep in mind that they're merely general guidelines ... there's no right or wrong way to learn music.
The suggested "steps" to learn how to play jazz guitar come from my personal experience : mostly from studying, listening, practicing, learning, teaching, composing, jamming and, of course, playing a lot.
In short, beginners just "don't know where to put their fingers" so to
speak. The focus should be on learning the instrument and starting to
get familiar with the music. My recommendations for complete jazz guitar beginners :
You can only learn how to play jazz guitar if you listen to it!
That's probably the most underrated
practice suggestion ever. Your ears
should be over-saturated with good jazz,
Don't forget that live concerts are also highly recommended!
may seem vague, but that is really what playing is all about :
touching an instrument to produce sound! At first, you may notice how
your sound is inconsistent from note to note, string to string or from
chord to chord...
What you should be aiming for is changing the way you touch the guitar.
Focus on clean, "big" notes (or chords) all off the time and speak clearly. In
brief, whatever you
play, play it clearly.
Start with the major scale, then build yourself through a chord exercise like "The Big 5 Warmup". Play slow!
Always play in a comfortable position. Do not "over-tense" any muscle
(fingers, hands, arms, shoulders, neck and back.) Make your playing as natural as
possible. How to do that ? Simple : Maintain a relaxed posture and play using the
amount of energy. That's as natural as it
this step is not necessary, I've seen significant faster improvement in
students when they used a method (at any age or skill level.)
A method will ensure that you learn "the basics" that will become the
foundation of your whole playing. I highly recommend A Modern Method for
Guitar by William Leavitt (read the review).
A common mistake made by beginners is to work only on "technique" at
first (scales, chords, arpeggios, ...) when trying to learn how to play
jazz guitar. "Pure technique" is just no fun, it takes some "music"
Play jazz tunes
right from the start. Keep it simple : learn the melody thoroughly,
then the chords.
Play the melody "as is" and then loosely interpret it.
Rely on a good jazz recording of the tune.
Keep practicing one specific tune for long
enough so that you have it memorized for life (in your ears and
fingers.) Knowing one tune very well is better than knowing five
seems to be a daunting task, for guitarist especially... Start with
what you can. There's no rush and "learning it all" wont make you play
I suggest learning the
name of the notes on the whole neck at first. Map out all
the "natural notes" : C D E F G A B on one string at a time (as
explained in Learn the Fretboard)
The second little
"theory step" : learning the basic major scale construction,
chords construction and chord
progressions found in jazz music.
you can, play with other jazz musicians. It's preferable that they
are more advanced, but anything will do. The interactions will
playing in context;
this is the real challenge!
It is highly recommended that you learn some basic chords before playing with other musicians. This course is perfect:
Never played jazz guitar? Learn these chords first ... This eCourse is designed especially for absolute jazz guitar beginners or experienced guitarists without a jazz background.
No theory : just guitar playing! Once you watch and play along the video a few times, you'll possess a solid jazz guitar chords foundation : you'll have "what it takes" to play most standard jazz songs!
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