Jazz Guitar Tips


A quick and practical overview of some of the most important jazz guitar tips. Find out about the too often underrated aspects of learning how to play jazz guitar (and developing as a jazz musician)...

My top-5 jazz guitar tips go something like this : listening, learning tunes (repertoire), working on rhythms, guitar gear / equipment... and diligence!

Share your favorite jazz guitar tips here...
(The best ones will be added to the top)


1 - Use Your Ears

  • Listening to great jazz recordings daily is crucial;
  • Try to remember melodies by ear;
  • (without opening that fakebook again)
  • Use your ears to tune the guitar;
  • Improvise without the aid of play-a-longs;
  • (create your accompaniment, your rhythmic/time feel and make your improvisation outline the chord changes effectively)
  • etc.

Remember that listening is the key to hearing all of this :

Time/rhythms, intonation, chords/progressions , song form, inflections, dynamics, improvisation, comping, phrasing, composition ... even hearing yourself comes from listening!

All good music comes from really listening all of the time.



2 - Learn Tunes Daily

Make repertoire a priority. You can't play jazz if you don't know any songs from memory! Make a list of tunes you can play fairly well.

At first, simply try to incorporate tunes into the "routine". For instance, instead of warming up on scales, arpeggios and chords you already know, spend the first 30-60 minutes of practicing learning a tune.

It's often at the beginning of a practice session that your mind is the most alert; take advantage of that.



3 - Jazz is All About Rhythms

  • Learn to use the metronome in practice;
  • Develop your awareness of time;
  • Think of rhythms, most of the time, when blowing/comping;
  • Hang out and play with good drummers. It's worth it!


4 - Worrying About Gear

Gear is not the problem, don't worry too much about it. You don't need an archtop and a polytone to sound good. (See Frisell, Ed Bickert, Lenny Breau, Mike Stern, Ted Greene, etc.)

Let yourself play on "non conventional rigs" if you feel and sound better doing so. (I have nothing against overdrive and a stratocaster on a jazz cocktail gig; as long as the music sounds good...)



5 - Practice, Practice, Practice

(the master of all Jazz Guitar Tips !)

Take your axe and play; Repeat daily.

Do this a lot. Simple but effective. Your abilities are directly proportional to the amount of time you spend playing. (You may re-read that 100 times.)

Stop reading, blogging, talking, (bragging?) or thinking about it and... simply play!

You may or may not organize your practice time. If you're like me, you'll end up organizing your stuff anyways... in the end, the time spent matters more than the materials you choose to practice.



What's Your #1 Jazz Guitar Tip?

Please share it with others!

Tell us about your practicing, gigging and learning experience on the guitar. The best jazz guitar tips from visitors will be added to the top of the page.

My Jazz Guitar Tip(s)

Jazz Guitar Tips by Other Visitors

Click below to see Jazz Guitar Tips from other visitors...

Polish your strings. 
I use flat wound strings on my Gibson 175. Whenever I fit new strings I put some thick paper underneath them, (to guard the fingerboard), and polish the …

Gear Does Not Matter (that much) 
I have been playing guitar for almost 20 years, mostly acoustic and classical music. Even here where the guitar itself is the only gear, it does not …

Having trouble learning the fretboard?
if you want to really get into a logical way of playing, try tuning your guitar in 4ths. Here's the tuning: Eadgcf This way, all you have to do …

Put a Guitar in Every Room 
... It can be a beater, doesn't matter. Some of my best practices have been in the bathroom. In addition to regular practice, I make it a point to …

Compose Your Own Music 
Creating original melodies and chord progressions is a great way to improve as a jazz improviser. You don't have to write everything down, simply invent …

Using arpeggios and triad shapes 
It's been a few months. Just purchased a 1997 Santa Cruz om to go along with my 1996 taylor 612c. I know you don't play those kinds of guitars both are …

Play along with other instruments than guitar. 
Play along with other instruments than guitars. Don't just play the notes but intonation and phrasing as well. Makes you very creative finding new technique …

Study Harmony like never before 
Tip for learning tonal harmony: Mapping Tonal Harmony 4.0 Watch this demo video to learn more: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Ltni6rPHUk Why Mapping …

Sing your lines 
When you are blowing changes, scat-sing your lines to internalize what you are trying to say. --- M-A's Comment: That is, indeed, a great tip! …

Listen to Different Instruments! 
HI, I'm no jazz god,but I play a lot of bluesy/jazz. Listening to horns and imbedding these solos/melodies by listening to them so often that I can …

Find a mentor 
I have been taking lessons for a year and have grown more in this year than the last 20 years that I've been playing. Once or twice a month is plenty because …

Have a Sound in Mind 
Simple tip : have your "ideal sound" in mind at all times. Do you want to sound like "bebop" guitar? Are you into "fusion" type of stuff? Do you want …

Trick to recall the names of the chords of a jazz standard while listening ... 
It is a good practice to guess the chord changes while listening a tune, assuring a solid synchronization of your solo to the accompaniment. This can …

Play music with other people! 
Get over your insecurities and do it!

Playing through chord changes 
Challenge yourself When practicing for solos, pick tunes that are harmonically challenging. There is nothing wrong with 12 Bar Blues, but it …

Don't look down 
Look at the changes while improvising-not at your fingers or the guitar.

Play Music for a Living! 
There is nothing that will excel your playing faster than the threat of homelessness or starvation! Note from webmaster : been there done that! But

Learn Jazz Solos 
I spent a lot of time in college and learning scales, modes, theory, exercises, discussing in forums, etc. But I still couldn't play jazz or improvise. …

Slash Chords 
When you encounter a chord symbol with a "slash" in it in a standard song, the letter on the right is what the bass is playing... For example, in Body …

Popular Chord Progression 
Learn I VI II V chords in one key about ten different voicings, then do in other keys. This way, you are never repetetive.

Study Harmony 
Harmony is music. Study it everyday. It doesn't matter "what" part of harmony and chord progressions your learn, simply do a bit in each practice session. …

Arpeggio Practice Routine 
Hi, Practice Maj7/Min7/Dom7 arpeggios in one position working round the circle of 4ths. C - F - Bb ect. -From webmaster : here's …

Give up! 
Start back again. Listen to the masters, for a long a** time. Eventually nice things happen. Don't let your passion slip. It's hard to get back …

Go out often! 
Get out of the practice room (when you feel ready) and go meet with other musicians at jam sessions and concerts. Practicing is not even half of it; …

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Learn Music Theory on a Guitar! 
-Know intervals by sight and sound. -Know how to construct major and minor chords. -Know how to construct any chord. -Know and understand CAGED. …

Practice on 1,2, 3..... strings. 
Working the neck horizontally really stimulates the ears! It forces you to play rhythmically and to chose the next note your gonna play. You cant …

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