"The Art Of Jazz Guitar"

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Jordan Warford here, Editorial Manager for Guitar Tips.

Thanks for taking the time to tune in this week. I can assure you that you will not be disappointed! Considering that this is the first newsletter of 2006, we thought that it would only be appropriate to have our first article focused around one of the most intriguing and complicated aspects of playing guitar - Jazz.

No matter what your style or taste, there is something to be learned from this genre. So let's take a look at what's in the first newsletter of the 2006 year!

In this edition:

We're picking up where we left off in 2005 with our special series focused on playing various genres of music. This week we have honed in our sights on jazz guitar. You will get the inside tips and tricks, in addition to ideas for the future that will help you to build the foundation you need to become a great jazz player and a more well rounded guitarist.

No matter how good a guitarist you are, it is nearly impossible to lay a proper foundation to jazz guitar in only one newsletter. As a result of this, we will be doing a mini series to our series so we can go more in depth on this genre. We'll be covering scales this week, and then move onto jazz chords in our next edition.

Many musicians are multitalented and enjoy acting as well. This week we have a great special feature to share with you that evolves around integrating your guitar with acting. Hear what you can do and get pointed to a site that will help you achieve a new level of success!

Our site review this month will be taking a look at Guitar Leads. This is our newest and most involved site we have to offer the budding guitarist. Learn what it's all about, how it came to be and what is on the inside.

As always, you can come and check out what your fellow subscribers are saying in our Feedback Booth. We'll see what was in our mailboxes over the Christmas break and get some new ideas for future newsletters.

Without further a due, let's get started!

How To Conquer The Fear


Fear is a common trait amongst guitarists. You may be sitting at your computer right now thinking, "He's insane, what could there possibly be for me to be afraid of besides the odd poke from my guitar string?" The fear I'm speaking of has nothing to do with a physical fear, rather, the fear of trying something that you know you're not good at.

The perfect example of a genre that evokes the most heart retching fear out of many guitarists is the thought of playing jazz guitar. There are so many different chords that have names many of us can't even pronounce, coupled with flawless technique, lightning fast speed, sense and feel of emotion and knowing the theory behind it all. Who wouldn't be a little freaked out?

It's one of the few areas of music that encompasses so many individual disciplines. Now the question remains, "Why on earth would I want to learn something like this?" The beautiful sounds set aside for a moment, the answer is quite simple: To build your skills.

If you stop and think about this situation for a second, you'll realize that it really doesn't hurt as much as you think it does. Practicing a chord like Em7-5 or A9+11 really isn't as bad as you may perceive it to be. In fact, it's really just a weird name and that's all that separates it from a more popular chord like E minor or A minor.

I won't lie, if you want to get serious about your guitar and learn these skills you will get frustrated and it won't be easy. The good news is I guarantee that you will improve with practice and most importantly, no one can hear you if you practice quietly in your bedroom!

Every professional musician I have seen or heard knows this material, whether they use it or not. The techniques spill over from other genres that we have covered and the things you will learn from jazz are easily applicable to all kinds of styles.

Before we really start to lay out the foundation, I want to make two more points. First and foremost, don't expect to sound great right away. You may progress faster than most or slower. Either way, you have the potential for greatness if you choose to practice it and learn it.

Secondly, I can't describe how large the genre of jazz guitar is. We could spend two years with one lesson after the other teaching you the things you need to know but unfortunately we don't have the time for that at the moment.

Take this lesson as an index to any household manual. We'll give you the getting started tips and list off the things that you should consider learning. This will hopefully build the interest and get the neurons firing.

Without further a due, let's move onto the basics of jazz.

Making the bridge from what you don't know to what you know.

The best way to learn jazz guitar is to simply break it down into baby steps. You have already seen quite a bit of the material we're about to talk about, it was just in a different form. First let's recap on the top three areas that make a jazz player rock.

#1. They know their chords.

#2. They know their scales.

#3. They have impeccable rhythm.

...So far we're on the right track. We've covered chords and how to learn new ones, we know the basics of scales and we have done some rhythm. No, we're not experts in these categories but it's what you need for the foundation.

What we're going to do now is expand on each of those categories. In todays lesson, we will take a more in depth approach to scales.

Scales: So you think you know your scales? This will take you to a completely new level, I guarantee it. The number of scales that can be used in Jazz guitar are astonishing. However, the same can be said for various other genres of music as well.

Looking at what we already have available to us, there are plenty of options we can utilize that will allow you to branch off of familiar scales that you already know.

Before your ego gets too bloated, there is more memorization ahead (after all that comes with music.) One thing many beginners, and even intermediate guitarists fail to realize is that the keys that Jazz guitarists play aren't unusual from the keys that we play on a regular basis.

What's the difference? They utilize their fretboard to the extent that they can play any note that is within that key anywhere on their fretboard. In essence, they "own" the notes.

They accomplish this task by using scale "Positions." Every scale has five common positions that are numbered from one to five. Look at them as fingering patterns (which can be categorized under the same number as the position.)

You can play these fingering patterns all over your guitar neck, therefore allowing you to hit every note on your fretboard that is in that particular key.

Every scale type has its own set of five different positions that can be shifted to cover every note. A great example of this would be an A Ionian scale (known to many as the major scale) which has five different positions in different locations on the neck. You can shift this position up two frets and locate every position available for the B Major scale.

Now here's the catch, you cannot use that same fingering pattern for anything other than Ionian type scales. If you were to play a mixolydian scale, you would need to learn the five new fingering patterns to play the scale in its five positions on the fretboard.

The most common position/pattern, and the one that you have seen most frequently on this newsletter is the first position. Here is an example of what a first position scale will look like:

...In this case, the key is A Major (Ionian.) Take note of the fingerings. You will use that finger to recreate another scale in the Ionian mode that will be in the first position. To do that, let's first visit all of the various five positions, where they are located, the patterns, and the fingerings.

Getting down to business.

For our purposes today, we will take the F Major (Ionian) scale and locate all of its positions and fingerings. Let's examine all five positions of the F Major scale:

First Position:

Second Position:

Third Position:

Fourth Position:

Fifth Position:

...Notice how every position and every fingering pattern is different? This may seem like a lot right now, but you have really won 1/7 of the battle.

If you have taken the time to begin to memorize your notes as we have talked about in previous lessons, you should know your low E string inside and out. Every one of the above positions are linked to knowing these notes and frets.

Let's say I was playing my F Major (Ionian) scale in its third position. However, we want to change keys and play the E Major (Ionian) scale in its third position. All we do is simply move down (or up depending on what key you want) from the key we are currently on.

Since we are on the fifth fret, we go down two spaces and land on our E Major scale which is on the third fret. We can keep the same fingering and pattern, just move it all down two frets. Then you have your E Major scale in its third position.

Use the above examples as reference points to figure out the other scales. For instance, we know that if we want to play our F Major scale in the second position, it starts on the third fret of our low E string. Figuring out the same scale position for a different key is as simple as counting up or down the fretboard by twos.

The reason why you count by twos is because every fret is equal to a semitone and there are two semitones between each whole tone (Ex: A to B is one whole tone.)

Now you have 35 new scales to practice just by learning the five positions and applying them to every Ionian scale. Pretty cool stuff eh?


So far, you've probably been wondering what some of this terminology means and where it all comes from. These are healthy thoughts to think about since we're about to jump into some material over the coming months that will be dealing with it.

We'll start with a little history lesson. Thousands of years ago, the Greeks used a different form of scales that were composed off of tetrachords (the first or second half of any scale.) These modes were popular amongst the Roman Catholic church and they enjoyed using them, however, they had some transcription errors and the translations weren't working out for them. In other words, they sounded horrible.

Luckily, Pope Gregory I was there to lend a helping hand by reorganizing these modes for use in the church. He renamed them to make more sense and got things back on track. These modes would then turn into the guitarists' best friend years later.

When the Greeks made up these "Scales," there were seven of them. This still holds true today. The reason I put scales in quotation marks is due to the confusion between scales and modes.

Many guitarists like to call modes scales. The fact of the matter is, they are theoretically linked through music but have two different purposes.

The term scale can be defined as a series of notes ascending or descending in order of pitches of key or mode between the root and its octave; starting on the tonic and ending on the tonic. While that may not make any sense to you, don't worry about it. Hang in there for one more second and all will become crystal clear.

A mode is simply a way of manipulating the scale to create a greater assortment of sounds. According to the definition of a scale, a mode is technically a scale but it is used by musicians to open up the doors to new sounds.

Modes are divided into specific systems. Like I mentioned a moment ago, there are only seven of them and they go as follows:

Ionian (I)

Dorian (II)

Phrygian (III)

Lydian (IV)

Mixolydian (V)

Aeolian (VI)

Locrian (VII)

... An easy method of remembering these modes, and one that Chris (Owner of Guitar Tips) uses, amongst many other guitarists is the acronym "I Don't Play Loud Music At Lunch." It works like a charm and gives you a head start.

The three Major modes are the Ionian, Lydian and Mixolydian and the rest are considered minor. Jazz guitarists rely on modes to set the tone of the music.

At the beginning of this lesson on scales, I said that they play the exact same keys we do. This is true, however, in addition to utilizing the full neck of the guitar, they also use modes to get the awesome flavors out of the scales. Look at it as the meat seasoning on your steak.

Check out our newsest site, Guitar Leads, for more of this kind of information and a more in depth look at modes.

Making the connection.

Before we move on to the rest of the newsletter, a quick explanation is warranted. I didn't cover various scale positions and modes for no reason. One helps you to understand the other better.

There are many more positions and patterns that allow you to discover an easy way to find and memorize all of the modes in every location on your neck. They are quick and relatively painless with a few hours practice on each.

Here is an example of all of the modes for the key of D. They are all seen in the third position to make life easier for all of you when going through each of them. Please enjoy!

D Major (Ionian):

D Dorian:

D Phrygian:

D Lydian:

D Mixolydian:

D Natural minor (Aeolian):

D Locrian:

Putting it into practice...

Now that you have the basic ideas of where some of this material comes from, it's time to look at how you can practically use it. This section will be slightly different from the usual practice riff that we include on a regular basis. This week we're going to give you the tools, let you see them in action and then begin learning your own unique style.

Jazz relies quite a bit on improvisation and composition. In order to get to that point, read this article and check out our archive. First, let's take a look at your techniques.

In order for you to perform at the highest level, you need to adopt some proper technique. Insure that the strap of your guitar lifts your guitar up to roughly midway on your chest. It will feel tighter than usual but you'll find that your left hand will have more mobility. I like to use the analogy, "Hold your guitar like a gun."

Jazz guitarists not only look at the location of their guitar but also where their right hand is. You shouldn't have to strain to pick out the notes, nor should you feel any discomfort on long stretches with your left hand.

Use the classical tricks like hammer on's, pull off's, trills, slides, etc. to get the desired effect. Jazz sounds very mellow sometimes but it can also move extremely quickly. Don't be afraid to use rests and other various pauses in the music you play. Here is a brief audio example of the F Major scale (Ionian) in action:

This brings me to our next topic, speed. Jazz guitar tends to involve quite a few fast licks that require top technique. The best way to achieve top speed is to keep your thumb planted behind your neck and to use the tips of your fingers.

While it may not feel natural right now, you will grow into it. Go extremely slow at first and work your way up to top speed. A metronome is your best friend for building speed. Here is a video example of how you can practice for top speed:

...With that in hand, continue to work on learning those scales that we have just covered and connect them together when playing so you can use the entire fretboard. We'll give you some riffs to play that incorporate this in our next edition.

Special Feature

Guitar & Drama: The Valuable Connection

Music is an extremely vital element to many aspects of our lifestyles. Whether you're watching a movie, play/production, or if you are just looking for that piece of serenity at the end of the day, the guitar is a great place to start.

One aspect of music that is often underestimated is the relationship it holds with the other art forms. Drama is one of those art forms that seems to fit like a glove. Until recently, I had not thought of this obvious connection. Then a subscriber and drama teacher by the name of Andrew McCann sent me an extremely detailed email that included all of this great information.

I immediately asked him to give you the inside scoop on how guitar can be such a great tool for drama teachers and students alike.

Mr. McCann has an amazing resource online that is worth a visit. He is highly skilled and a trained professional. He undoubtedly has a passion for igniting the flame of education, which is a very encouraging thing to see.

It's a must read for anyone involved in the fine arts. Here's what my fellow colleague had to say when I asked him the simple question, "How does guitar fit into teaching drama?"

"The guitar has always proved an essential tool of the trade to myself, as a drama teacher. An acoustic or semi-acoustic guitar is portable and flexible enough to provide a backing source at a moment's notice, whatever the location, when rehearsing standard songs or when improvising new material.

The advent of high-tech effects pedals and workstations (I use the Digitech GNX3) , modeling amplifiers and guitars, has made studio-type sound effects available at the touch of a button (or pedal) for the benefit of audiences used to the sophisticated effects associated with today's top level bands or cinema-based drama.

There has also always been a close relationship between the teaching of drama and the teaching of music. Most drama teachers whose work involves a performance element will undoubtedly have considered incorporating music into their productions at some time or other. For a drama teacher to be a musician as well, is a considerable asset!

But traditionally, the guitar is a complex instrument and I had the advantage of being lead guitarist in a group before becoming a drama teacher, which gave me a head start. So why should I advocate that drama teachers should consider learning an instrument that takes years to master? Well, what brought me to this way of thinking was when I was trawling across the Internet for a means of encouraging my teenaged son, Felton, to persevere with the new Strat he had been given for his birthday.

Like many kids of his age, he was keen to learn, but wanted to learn quickly. The idea of being a rock star was great, but the thought of grafting through laborious finger exercises, hour after hour, developing his skills at the pace of a snail, did not exactly appeal to him! Then I stumbled across Chris Elmore's ad which boasted "How To Play the Acoustic/ Electric Guitar in 30 Days."

Naturally, I was reticent. Having been playing, myself, for over forty years (-and still having much to learn-) how could I expect a mere child to acquire such a skill in so short a time! To my surprise, when I studied what Chris had to offer, it was different from the usual approach to guitar teaching. It cut corners, but without omitting essentials. It went straight to the heart of what was required, with immediate effect, which created a sense of purpose and the fulfillment of progressive achievement from the outset. ("I can do that- and now I want to learn how to do this!")

What is more, the course was online, interactive and visual, with the facility to use sound to support the learning, when appropriate. It was also downloadable to subscribers, thus making it available offline. Updates could be accessed at no extra cost, as and when they were made available. Interesting and highly informative newsletters were e-mailed at regular intervals. Overall, it was a treasure trove for any guitarist!

What is more, I found to my delight that all levels of guitarists were catered for by Chris Elmore's site. There were backing tracks to jam to; favorite songs to learn; and even a new facility aimed at developing advanced lead guitar skills, each individual aspect available for a one off additional modest subscription. I believe that Chris Elmore's Guitar Tips site will enable both practicing and potential drama teachers to add an additional dimension to their teaching by learning to play the guitar quickly, easily and skillfully.

Those who can currently play the guitar will benefit by access to backing tracks, favorite songs or advanced lead guitar playing skills which will serve to enhance what skills they already have. By using the guitar in their teaching, drama teachers will be able to back singing rehearsals, improvise new material and provide instrumentation for performances.

Once the skills have been acquired, they will be able to use guitar workstations, effects pedals and digital recording methods (using digital multitrack recorders and/ or computers) to create backing tracks to support performances. If you are considering learning the guitar to support your Drama Teaching, then there is no better starting point than Chris Elmore's site. Click the links, explore them for yourself and see what you think."

Speaking of links to click on, you can check out Mr. McCann's site by clicking here. I hope to receive more emails in the future from those of you who benefited from this special edition.

Until next time, keep on picking!


If you've always wanted to learn to play the guitar but never had the chance, give me 17 minutes a day for 90 days and I'll show you how to play virtually any song you want! Visit http://www.guitartips.com.au