Jazz Guitar could be considered as an extension of the Blues guitar as many players first got hooked on the guitar by first learning the Blues. Even today in 2013, almost one hundred years sense the innovation of Jazz. Jazz guitar players are still advised to begin by learning the Blues guitar and then start to expand their knowledge as their technique and “ear” develops.
As a Guitar player learns the feel of a twelve or twenty four bar blues, they can begin to experiment by adding notes to the Major Pentatonic scale. Remember that when using the Major Pentatonic scale there really aren’t any wrong notes. But as you expand your note selection and begin using Major Diatonic, Dorian and more complex scales there will be occasions where notes from these new scale will not sound right. Note that in Jazz the keys and timing can change very often. A good example of rapid key changes in a song would be demonstrated in Giant Steps which was written and performed by legendary Jazz Saxophonist John Coltrane.
This added attention to detail of having to keep track of the different scales, chord changes and time changes may detract from the ability for many jazz guitarists to truly let go and play with as much “feel” as a Blues guitarist.
While many Jazz guitar players might probably argue that they play entirely by feel. It would be safe to say that almost all of them had to put in many years of endless practicing to develop their chops to such a high degree.
There is nothing as exciting as listening to a gifted Jazz guitar player playing seemingly effort less through the many different changes that occur in the song. While watching Jazz Guitar players you can see the intensity that’s involved in soling and on many occasions you can actually see the musician satisfaction as they take on a solo develop it and then return back into the groove. All without missing a beat!
To give a brief idea of what goes into playing Jazz Guitar. Let’s build upon our example in our Blues Guitar page. If we want to solo over a basic I-IV-V chord progression the rhythm would most likely contain various chord alterations such as flat 5th, added 9th or 6th and more… While the rhythm has grown in complexity, the scales used by the guitar player has also increased. A good selection of scales or modes to use over a C Major I-IV-V pattern would be either a C Major scale (C – D – E – F – G – A – B – C) or a Dorian mode (D – E – F – G – A – B – C – D) or even a Mixlydian mode (G – A – B – C – D – E – F – G).
The number of great Jazz guitarist is too numerous to list on this page, but here’s a few names of some Jazz Greats that would be worth your while to listen to… Enjoy!