I was Googling on the subject of chord progressions when I came upon 10 Jazz Guitar Chord Progressions. Now I’m not really a jazz guitarist but I’m keen to learn what differences there might be with the chord structures used in other genres.
This is a good site because it hooked me in enough to try out all 10 progressions and, in two cases, I took these on to new compositions, which I’ll share in a minute. I’ll probably return to test out a few more at a later date.
So, what’s so special about a jazz chord progression? Well, the cynical answer would be that it’s just the same as any other but with no everyday major or minor triads. It becomes jazz when you make every major chord into a major seventh and every minor into a minor seventh. As I say, this is a cynical answer but I was amused to find when that, when I tried out a jazz guitar sample library for Kontakt, called Django, from Impact Soundworks, the rhythm guitar samples included no regular major or minor chords at all (although I did find the library really useful so I’m not complaining!).
But, of course, there’s more to it than that. Jazz chord progressions are simply much more adventurous than those found in most other modern genres. That wasn’t the case in the 60s and the 70s, when we had some very sophisticated pop, rock, R&B and even folk music, but it is now. So, there’s a lot that contemporary songwriters and composers can learn.
Jazz chord progressions won’t necessarily make your music sound like jazz, because there’s so much more that influences the end result than the chords. But they will add some sophistication to the sound and you may or may not find this useful.
Anyway, I used the progression labelled on the website as Take the A Train, named after the classic Duke Ellington track and I made my own piece, which I called Take the Train.
The progression goes Cmaj7 D9 Dm7 G7 Cmaj7 Cm6 which, if you strip away the niceties, leaves you with C D Dm G C. I’ve added to the progression with my own ‘anthem’ section, which goes C G Am Am7 F Dm7 G6 G7. Apart from the introduction on electric piano, I deliberately used synths to get away from an obvious jazz feel. Did I achieve that? You tell me.
As I said before, I worked on two of the progressions. The other was #4 on the website and labelled Passing Chords. My example is called Passing By and, on this occasion, makes no attempt to avoid a jazz feel.
Intro: Dm Dm7 G#dim7 G7
Verse: Cmaj7 C#dim7 Dm7 D#dim7 Em7 C#dim7 Dm7 Dm7b5
Chorus: Cmaj7 C#dim7 Dm7 Dm7b5 Cmaj7 C#dim7 Dm7 D#dim7 Cmaj7 C#dim7 Dm7 Dm7b5 Cmaj7 C#dim7 Dm Dm7 G#dim7 G7
If you’re a guitarist and not used to these types of chords, then these progressions might seem a bit challenging. But if you use the chord shapes below, you can get by without any sweat:
In summary, if you’re not already familiar with jazz chords, I’d take a look at some of these progressions yourself. They’ve been used by many musicians before and have plenty of life left in them yet.