Jazz Guitar Chords in Scales

Jazz Guitar Chords in Scales

Learn to Play Chords in Three Scales

If you here, it means learning chords in scales is your next step in chordal playing. I will show you how to derive chords from common scales and appropriate fingerings for each. This is basically the continuation of the other basic jazz guitar chord charts found on this website (where we examine chords of each types from a C root note).

So, our method here is to use scales to get lots of chords. With the major scalemelodic minor scale and harmonic minor scale we will get a total of 21 chords Few... that's a lot! Don't worry though. I'll start simple and build from there. No mysticism or magic here. Just chords! :-)

Building Chords in Scales: The Theory

So the approach is the harmonization of a scale to get the chords it contains. We simply add "stacked thirds" to get four-note chords on each scale degree. See, three scales (all with C tonic, or root) are harmonized in thirds here:

jazz guitar chord charts

As you may or may not know, the chords above are almost all impossible to play on the guitar (in this format at least)... take your best shot. But most of them required stretches that are impossible.

They're called "closed" voicings, try them on the piano when you have a chance. On the guitar, we need a different "spacing" between the notes AND we want to keep the root of each chord on the two bottom strings. I wanted you to understand the process behind the following chord shapes and that is why I posted these jazz guitar chord charts (with theory) on the website.


Solving the Stretches: from Closed to "Dropped" Voicings

So: We will use the first "C major 7th" chord (upper-left corner above) play the same notes (ex: C E G B) but in a different order (ex: C G B E) keeping C in the bass. Check this out:

jazz guitar chord charts

Et voila!

This C major 7th shape will be the reference point for now. For the record, we call this a drop-2 voicing. We use mostly drop 2 and drop 3 voicings throughout jazz guitar chord charts ... more on this later.

A Quick Drop-2 Explanation : From a closed voicing, the second voice from the top is taken down an octave. Look at the spacing on the above C-G-B-E (on the right ...) The lowest (C) note was taken down an octave from its assorted closed voicing which was G-B-C-E. But don't worry if you don't get this right away.


Drop 2 Voicings in C major, melodic minor and harmonic minor

Let's play the drop-2 chords in three scales (major, melodic minor and harmonic minor) in the key of C.

-The "little triangle" means major 7th
-The "little circle" means diminished 7th
-The "dashed little circle" means minor 7th flat 5

jazz guitar chord charts

Performance: don't forget to descend the scale also! See how to play chords in these jazz guitar chord charts in this video:

New Chords?! (with SHARP fifth!)

As you may have noticed, this approach brings up two new chord shapes that were not part of the previous jazz guitar chord charts:

  • major 7th with a raised 5th (spelled 1 3 #5 7)
  • minor with a major 7th (spelled 1 b3 5 7)

They are both only "one finger away" from an chord that has already been discussed. That is the good old major 7th ! (1 3 5 7)

Jazz Guitar Chord Charts

Expanding on chord shapes your already know should become a habit! It will also be covered in other instalments of this "chords in scales" series. But for now...


...and another set of strings (with skip!)

Let's now proceed the same way with the bass on the 6th string. I will use the key of G to demonstrate another "spacing" between the notes of a chord. In musical terms, another voicing. This one involves non-adjacent strings.

Jazz Guitar Chord Charts

Et voilà again!!!

This one is the new point of reference (for now) and it's called a drop-3 voicing. Notice the string-skip.

A Quick Drop-3 Explanation: From a closed voicing, the third voice from the top is taken down an octave. Look at the spacing on the above G-F#-B-D (on the right ...) The lowest (G) note was taken down an octave from its assorted closed voicing which would be F#-G-B-D. Once again, don't worry about understanding the theory so much ... just play the chords!


Drop 3 Voicings in G major, melodic minor and harmonic minor

So let's play the drop-3 chords in the three scales (major, melodic minor and harmonic minor) but in the key of G.

Note (same as above):
-The "little triangle" means major 7th
-The "little circle" means diminished 7th
-The "dashed little circle" means minor 7th flat 5

Jazz Guitar Chord Charts

As in the drop-2 (the key of C), we get two "new" drop-3 shapes: major 7th with raised 5th and minor with major 7th. Also don't forget to play them descending! (as in the video)


Jazz Guitar Chords in Scales: Wrap-up

So we now have the two basic voicings to play "chords in a scale". They sound good and are easy to play.To take full advantage of this approach, I strongly suggest you go further than the written examples. You can cover more territory on your fretboard by using the following suggestions:

Use all the frets you have
Going further up or down on the fretboard in the same key until you reach the nut (or the bridge!!!) Meaning that you keep using the SAME set of 4 strings to play up and down the guitar.

Jazz Guitar Chord Charts

Use different set of strings
Playing the same chords in the same order but varying the string sets. All the above examples are all "four chords per string set". Check this one out :

Jazz Guitar Chord Charts

It could be qualified as a "six ... then two chords per string set". Use your imagination and you'll find what works for you. (ie, decide when it's time to change string set when ascending or descending the chord-scales.)

Remember also that this whole process is applicable starting from any root on the guitar neck! Take the time to learn other keys on your fretboard! I repeat: LEARN OTHER KEYS! You'll be glad you did. :-)



  • Drop-2 = adjacent set of strings (with bass on 5th or 4th). In C major above.
  • Drop-3 = non-adjacent set of strings (with bass on 6th or 5th). In G major above.
  • Cover all available frets in the key (up AND down).
  • Play "4 chords per string" then find you own way (switch string set when you want).
  • Use in major, melodic minor and harmonic minor scales.
  • Available in 12 keys... (-;
  • Don't always rely on jazz guitar chord charts ... memorize the chords!
  • Have fun!

Going further: Introductory Course (for Jazz Guitar Chords)

If you wish to go further and apply chords in real contexts (on II-V-I) with 9ths and 13ths, using interesting rhythms, going “rootless” (and more!), then this free resource is highly recommend:


The eBook is broken down into smaller chunks of lessons for easy, convenient learning. It’s free too!

Click here to check out the Jazz Guitar Comping Toolkit here…