Big Five: Jazz Guitar Chords Warmup

Big Five: Jazz Guitar Chords Warmup

A Neat Way to Use "Chords You Know" As A Daily Warm Up Session

Here's a simple jazz guitar chords warm up that I personally use almost everyday to get my fingers ready for the practice session.

The PDF below depicts five different ways of playing the same seven chords. They are the 7 diatonic, 4-note, 7th chords in the key of C major. Learn how to derive seven diatonic chords in C major here...

... for a total of 35 chords!

I used five distinct closed voicings (as opposed to spread voicings) that are common on jazz guitar ... and they all remain on the same string set throughout one exercise. Just remember, one staff = one exercise.

Keeping the same voicing moving up and down on the same staff makes it easier to "see" on the fretboard (rather than jumping between string sets).

The voicings are as follow (line by line) :

  1. Drop-2 in root position on strings 5-4-3-2 (a classic!)
  2. Drop-2 in first inversion on strings 4-3-2-1
  3. Drop-3 root position on strings 5-3-2-1 (notice the skip)
  4. Drop-3 in second inversion on strings 6-4-3-2
  5. Drop-2 in second inversion on strings 6-5-4-3

Note: #4 and #2 are the same in a subtle way. The notes on the first string and sixth string are interchangeable (both "E" strings).

Jazz Newbie? No problem!

If all of the above went straight over your head, start with some basics! Please read the Ultimate Guide to Jazz Guitar Chords here ...

ultimate guide for jazz guitar chords


Inversions? Like a Handstand?

LOL - no need to hold your guitar upside down to play inversions. Simply put, we can play chords with a different "order" (from low to high) of the notes it contains.

For instance, a C major triad contains the notes C, E and G. We can play (low to high) C-E-G or E-G-C or G-C-E.

If we wrote this in relative terms, with numbers, we could rewrite the above like this: 1-3-5 or 3-5-1 or 5-1-3.

We use term inversion when the chord's root is NOT played as the lowest note of the chord. The C in the example above is the root (ie "the one" sometimes called la fondamentale in French).


A chord in first inversion means:
We're playing it so that the lowest note in the voicing is the 3rd of the chord.

A chord in second inversion means:
We're playing it so that lowest note in the voicing is the 5th of the chord.

Keep in mind however, that since we're still all playing the same notes, the chord name (or symbol) does not change.

For more details, please see the "inversions" topic in the No Nonsense Guides to jazz harmony here...

Or brush up from scratch on jazz theory here ...


Here's the complete jazz guitar chords PDF. Enjoy!

Click Here to Download the PDF "Big 5" Jazz Guitar Chords Warmup w/ TABS


Going Further: Some Suggestions

Too easy? If you just played through the page and went "Yeah ... what now?!", it means it's too easy. We can make it more difficult, don't worry.

Maybe you already knew this exercise and the associated voicings. Here's some more stuff to consider:

  • Try in C melodic minor: change all the E's to Eb's -- play the page again.
  • In C harmonic minor: all E's and A's become flat -- play the entire page again.
  • Keep the same voicings but play in other keys. For example: in F major, the first line would give the chords: C7 Dm7 Em7(b5) Fmaj7 Gm7 Am7 Bbmaj7 ... because all we did was make all the B notes B flat.
  • String transference: try to play the second and third staves on a  different set of strings (or changing string sets along the way.) This is hard and worth it! :-)
  • Even harder: using extensions! For each chord, replace the root for the ninth (whenever physically possible). See if you can add 13th or even 11th on some chords.
  • What else could you do with this exercise?

Remember, as a pro jazzer, your teacher (that's me!) is still using this very same page as a reference. You can go beyond what's printed here and come up with hundreds of interesting variations.


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! (watch video)


Already intermediate with jazz chords? Use what you know to develop more chords... If you're already familiar with regular 7th chords, 12-bar blues, II-V-I progressions then this is what you're looking for. It covers more blues, chord cycles, minor II-V's, rootless voicings and more. After this, you'll comp like a "real jazzman". (watch video)