What are the essential skills (or tools) every jazz guitarist should have? We'll attempt to answer this question over the course of this series, Jazz Guitar Toolbox.
The goal of this series is to lower the barrier of entry into the world of jazz guitar by giving you all the tools you'll need to play standards and beyond.
Some of this stuff might seem basic but remember - you can't build on a rocky foundation!
This first lesson is all about the major scale. I'll show you how to play it, how to practice it in an effective way for jazz guitar, and then explain the theory behind it.
1. Basic Moveable Fingerings
- one with the root on the sixth string
- and one with the root on the fifth string
2. How To Practice These Scale Patterns
Now that you've learned the shapes let's talk about how to practice these effectively.
I'll make it simple: here is an actual step-by-step routine that you can do each day until you're feeling really confident.
2. Eighth notes: Ascend and descend between 60-100bpm and play eighth notes. Practice swung, then straight eighths.
3. Thirds: Ascend and descend through the scale by playing diatonic thirds:
Then, move on to different keys, one per day. Here is an order of keys that you can follow:
3. Theory Behind The Scale
The simplest way to think of a major scale is as a formula of whole steps and half steps. Whole step = 2 frets, half step = 1 fret.
A major scale is: W W H W W W H
- saying the names of the notes during the practice routines above
- quizzing yourself with Q-cards
- writing out the major scales by rote
Or if you prefer to focus on one thing at a time.... spend a long time with each major scale. There are 12 months in a year, there are 12 different keys. Hint hint! 🤔
Here is an answer "key" you might find useful:
- C major: C D E F G A B
- G major: G A B C D E F#
- D major: D E F# G A B C#
- A major: A B C# D E F# G#
- E major: E F# G# A B C# D#
- B major: B C# D# E F# G# A#
- F# major: F# G# A# B C# D# E#
- Db major: Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb C
- Ab major: Ab Bb C Db Eb F G
- Eb major: Eb F G Ab Bb C D
- Bb major: Bb C D Eb F G A
- F major: F G A Bb C D E
Learning Jazz Improv? Use These 3 Easy Scales to Solo on 95% of Jazz Songs...
Improvising "jazz style" on songs from The Real Book shouldn't be a headache. This guide shows you the 4-step process to apply scales that make you hear the sound of each chord while improvising.
Marc-Andre Seguin is the webmaster, mastermind and teacher on JazzGuitarLessons.net, the #1 online resource for learning how to play jazz guitar. He draws from his experience both as a professional jazz guitarist and professional jazz teacher to help thousands of people from all around the world learn the craft of jazz guitar.