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Jazz Guitar: History and Highlights

Jazz records

When you hear the word “jazz”, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Louis Armstrong? Saxophone? Trumpet? New Orleans? Most likely guitar would not be one of the first words that are top of mind. While Jazz music itself has been around for a little over a hundred years, incorporating guitar has been a relatively new addition for the New Orleans-born genre. 

Guitar stumbled into the spotlight during the Chicago Era of jazz music, which is when the genre underwent a transformation thanks to Lonnie Johnson in the 1920s. As jazz music changed and band sizes grew larger, it obviously became hard to pick out the soft notes of the guitar among the hot-shot horn sounds. Leo Fender can be credited for letting the world hear the jazz guitar, literally. He’s the inventor of the first electronic pick-up, which transforms the vibrations of the strings into an amplifiable electric signal. And thus, the guitar now has a seat at the jazz table!

Playing jazz music on the guitar is both highly enjoyable and oftentimes challenging without the proper training. It will also help to have a solid understanding of the basics. Luckily, we offer courses specific to this genre that will help any aspiring jazz guitarist reach their goals.

Some of the topics we cover are:

  • Jazz harmony, which helps to understand chords that contain extensions and alterations
  • Chord voicings, which are chord spellings that are unique to the guitar and allow you to play complex chords through an accessible fingering.
  • Scales, modes and arpeggios, which are the foundations of playing melodies and improvising solos
  • Common jazz chord progressions to help you learn some of the common chord progressions that can be found frequently in jazz music
  • Chord melody arrangements, which is playing the chords of a song and the melody of the song simultaneously
  • Walking basslines, which create rhythm and motion in the lower register of your guitar
  • Improvisations, which include developing motifs, “singing” your solo and transcribing the solos of jazz greats

Contact us if you’d like to learn more about our jazz guitar offerings!

Learn to play what YOU like to hear.