Add More Flavor to Your Playing With These 7 Jazz Guitar Chords

Add Flavor to Your Playing With These 7 Jazz Guitar ChordsWhether you’re a jazz nut or not, these jazz guitar chords can add a whole new level of richness to your repertoire. Guitar teacher Jerry W. shares the 7 types of chords you’ll need to know…

So you are getting tired of playing only major chords and the occasional minor chord?  You would like to add more flavor to your playing by adding some jazz guitar chords.  Excellent!  Let me introduce you to 7 common jazz chords you can begin to use in your music.

If I were to show you all possible chord charts for all seven chords it would be more than this post could cover.  So what I am going to do is show you the most common open positions for these seven types of chords and how you might use them.

The Major 7 Chord (maj7)

The major 7 chord can be used to replace the I chord or the IV chord in major keys.  As a quick theory reminder, the chord number refers to the scale tone the chord is built upon.  So for instance the C and F chords in the key of C.  (They are the 1st and 4th scale notes in a C major scale.)  Here are six open position major 7 chords you can play.

Open Position Major 7 Guitar Chords

Here is the chord progression I-IV-I-V-I in a few keys to show you how it works:

 

Key of C: Cmaj7 – Fmaj7 – Cmaj7 – G7 – Cmaj7
Key of G: Gmaj7 – Cmaj7 – Gmaj7 – D7 – Gmaj7
Key of D: Dmaj7 – Gmaj7 – Dmaj7 – A7 – Dmaj7
Key of A: Amaj7 – Dmaj7 – Amaj7 – E7 – Amaj7
Notice that the V chord is a dominant 7 chord not a maj7 (i.e. G7 not Gmaj7.)

 

The Add 9 Chord (add9)

The add 9 chord, like the major 6 can be used to replace most major chords. Here are some examples of open position add 9 chords.

Open Position Add 9 Guitar Chords

The D chord in this example is actually a D2 chord because it is missing the 3rd of the chord, but it can function in the same way.  Here is the chord progression I-IV-V-I in a few keys to show you how it works.

 

Key of C: C(add9) – F(add9) – G(add9) – C(add9)
Key of G: G(add9) – C(add9) – D7 – G(add9)
Key of D: D2 – G(add9) – A(add9) – D2
Key of A: A(add9) – D2 – E(add9) – A(add9)

 

The Major 9 Chord (maj9)

The major 9 chord is almost identical to the add 9 chord except we have both the 7th and 9th in the chord.  Here are some examples of open position major 9 chords.

Open Position Major 9 Guitar Chords

Here is the chord progression I-IV-V-I in a few keys to show you how it works.  I have mixed major 7 and major 9 chords so you can practice both.

 

Key of C: Cmaj9 – Fmaj7 – G(add9) – Cmaj9
Key of G: Gmaj9 – Cmaj7 – D2 – Gmaj9
Key of D: Dmaj9 – Gmaj7 – A(add9) – Dmaj9
Key of A: Amaj9 – Dmaj7 – E(add9) – Amaj9

 

The Major 6 Chord (6)

The major 6 chord can be used to replace almost any major chord.  Here are the six most common open position major 6 chords.

Open Position Major 6 Guitar Chords

Here is the chord progression I-IV-V-I in a few keys to show you how it works:

 

Key of C: C6 – F6 – G6 – C6
Key of G: G6 – C6 – D6 – G6
Key of D: D6 – G6 – A6 – D6
Key of A: A6 – D6 – E6 – A6

 

You may want to compare this to the sound of the same progression using the major 9 chords above.  Also, if you replace the V chord with a V7 chord you will find the progression has a stronger pull back to I.

 

The Minor 7 Chord (m7)

The minor 7 chord can be used to replace most minor chords.  As an added benefit, the minor 7 built off from the ii chord can also be used to replace the IV chord.  Here are five open position minor 7 chords.

Open Position Minor 7 Guitar Chords

Here is the chord progression vi-ii-V-I in a few keys to show you how it works:

 

Key of C: Am7 – Dm7 – G7 – Cmaj7
Key of G: Em7 – Am7 – D7 – Gmaj7
Key of D: Bm7 – Em7 – A7 – Dmaj7
Key of A: F#m7 – Bm7 – E7 – Amaj7

The Minor 9 Chord (m9)

The minor 9 chord can be used to replace the ii chord or vi chord in major keys.  Here are some examples of open position minor 9 chords.

Open Position Minor 9 Guitar Chords

Note: the Dm(add9) is not a true minor 9 chord because it is missing the 3rd of the chord and is therefore a little less dissonant, but it will function in the same way.  Here is the chord progression vi-ii-V-I in a few keys to show you how it works:

 

Key of C: Am9 – Dm(add9) – G7 – Cmaj9
Key of G: Em9 – Am9 – D7 – Gmaj9
Key of D: Bm9 – Em9 – A7 – Dmaj9
Key of A: F#m7 – Bm9 – E7 – Amaj9

The Dominant 9 Chord (V9)

The dominant 9 chord can be used to replace a V chord.  Here are some examples of open position dominant 9 chords.

Open Position Dominant 9 Guitar Chords

Here is the chord progression vi-ii-V-I in a few keys to show you how it works:

 

Key of C: Am9 – Dm(add9) – G9 – Cmaj9
Key of G: Em9 – Am9 – D9 – Gmaj9
Key of D: Bm9 – Em9 – A9 – Dmaj9
Key of A: F#m7 – Bm9 – E9 – Amaj9

 

I hope this introduction into some common open position jazz guitar chords has sparked your interest in the beauty and variety available in these chords.  By using your capo you can take these chords and extend them into any key.  Or you may wish to study the moveable versions of each of these chords so you can use them in higher positions on the guitar.  Keep practicing and you will have mastered a whole new universe of chords, sounds and styles.

Looking for one-on-one instruction? Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced guitarist there is always more to learn, and a great teacher can help guide you to the next level in your playing. Search for a guitar teacher today!

JerryJerry W. teaches classical guitar, composition, trombone and trumpet in Grosse Pointe, MI.  He received his Bachelor of Music in Theory and Composition from Cornerstone University and went on to receive both his Masters and PhD in Music Composition from Michigan State University.  Jerry has been making music and teaching students for over thirty years.  Learn more about Jerry W. here!

 

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Photo by Tom Marcello

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3 replies
  1. Zvi
    Zvi says:

    On your page where you show these wonderful open position jazz chord, the diagram for the Am9 chord is wrong.
    Many thanks

    Reply

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