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How to Play Jazz Chords in Fingerstyle Guitar

Learn how to play jazz chords from guitarist Adam Smale in this online fingerstyle guitar lesson from Howcast.


With finger style jazz, you're still using your fingers to play. One of the biggest difference is just, you're playing more complex chords. So as an intro into playing finger-style in jazz, I'd like to show you how to play a blues using more jazzy chords.

So we're going to start off with a blues in the key of G, and I'm going to start it off with what's called a G13 chord. It's a G7 chord, a dominant 7 chord, but it has a couple other notes thrown in for more color.

So, just to describe the voicing to you, I'm playing a G on the sixth string, third fret. My second finger's reaching around and grabbing an F on the fourth string, third fret. My third finger's grabbing a B on the third string, fourth fret. And now, with my fourth finger, my pinky, I'm grabbing two notes, an E and an A. And all those notes together make a G13 chord.

Now when we're talking chord progressions, we give those Roman numerals, so our B chord is going to be Roman numeral one. Our C chord, which is going to be called C9, is going to be Roman numeral four, that's our four chord. How you find that out, if you count up four notes from G, you're going to find C, so G, A, B, C. Four chord. And we'll go back to G13. Then we head back to the four chord, C9, back to G13 again.

Now if something comes up it's going to be our sixth chord, if you count up six notes from G, I'll let you do that, you get E. So we're going to play an E7 chord, but here I'm adding the sharp 9, and a sharp 5.

So if you look close at my fingering, I'm playing an E, a G sharp, a D, a G natural, and a C natural. That creates an E7 sharp 9, sharp 5 chord.

Then our next chord is going to be the two chord. This is a nice little voicing to play, a minor 7. This happens to be A minor 7. So you can think of it as a C major chord. Take your first finger off, plunk your second finger down on the sixth string and now you get A minor 7. And then that's our two chord. Now back to the 5 chord again. I'm playing D7 sharp 9. This time I just decided, "I'm not going to play a sharp 5," and then back to G13.

So I'll run through this again. I'll just do a four-on-the-floor Freddie Green style for you for now, just to mark out where the chords are.

[playing guitar]

And there we have our basic blues form of 12 bars, 12 measures.

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