One of the most frequently asked questions among those who send us emails is about how to start entering the world of Jazz guitar. Although they like Jazz music and have been on the guitar for a while, there is a feeling of being intimidated by this genre that makes them wonder where do I start?
The truth is that jazz music can be intimidating and there are many approaches from which to face it. To start you must have some prior knowledge of music theory and some skill with the guitar. It is not necessary to be an expert either but to know the basic music theory.
Required background knowledge:
- Chord formation
Knowing how to form chords throughout the fingerboard and find the logic of the notes regarding the tonic (intervals) is much more important than knowing scales, something that often confuses those who want to start in Jazz, there is a belief that there is than knowing thousands of scales. NO MISSING.
Now we are going to see the first steps to get into the Jazz guitar
Listen to Jazz:
Although it seems absurd, this first point is essential, Jazz is a musical language and the best way to get acquainted with it is without the instrument, only by listening, the more the better and to be able to be in a chronological way. The language of Jazz has evolved from its earliest days but the foundations remain the same. The best way to start is by listening to the original Jazz, Dixieland, Swing years 20-40, there are the foundations of the Jazz language. Any listening within the genre will be positive for learning
Why highlight this obvious point? Sometimes I get the feeling that the interest in playing Jazz comes from people who have heard little or practically nothing of the genre, but they find the idea of playing it interesting. Okay, but it will be much more difficult since they are not at all familiar.
Choose a Standard:
In this second step, we are already going to choose a standard, some very classic and not excessively complicated, that is, a progression that I do not have many chord changes. My suggestion would be Take The A Train or one of the similar characteristics.
After listening to it a thousand times and being totally familiar with it we would begin the study. The accompaniment chords first. This is going to be the most important part both to perform an accompaniment and to facilitate the solo task. It would be great to know the chords in more than one position.
Now we go with the melody and here you not only have to learn it but also analyze what notes sound on each chord. Be aware of the notes we play and what chord is playing when we play them.
If we have done this well we already have a lot of cattle. When trying to improvise we already know the positions of chords on which the theme is developed and what notes the melody uses on them.
Here comes the point that generates the most doubts and despite the existence of many approaches, we will continue to focus on the basics. Chords and arpeggios.
The best option is to locate the chord arpeggios that the theme has in a single position. For example, between fret 5 and 7. Take all the arpeggios of the chords in that space and start playing with them on a backing track of the standard. Play with the notes of the arpeggios rhythmically and without much pretense. Then we can do the same in another area of the mast.
At first, it will sound very basic but this is the way to go. If we have learned the melody of the theme we can also play with it mixing it with notes from the arpeggios.
It would be great to listen to all the possible recordings of great jazz masters who have touched on that specific subject to see how they perform and what resources they use. It would be perfect to learn some of his licks, knowing what specific chord we can put that lick on.
The next step would be to go from arpeggios to licks, adding some colors and adding rhythmic variations to the notes of the arpeggios.
The road is long and you are always learning within Jazz music but little by little you end up getting results. As a final recommendation, throughout the history of Jazz, there have been very great musicians but in this initial stage of our learning, it would be very good to focus on some of them who knew how to play brilliantly within the style without overcomplicating it and with technical resources within reach of the majority such as Charlie Christian or Chet Baker.