Jazz Chord Shapes Guitar Workout

chord theory series: how to learn guitar chords - beginner to advanced chords free download: any jazz chords jazz guitar music theory technique Dec 22, 2020

This is an AMAZING jazz chord shapes guitar workout to master guitar 7th chords all over the fretboard.

Weekly Lesson #54

*** FREE Booklet: Learn just 8 shapes to play any jazz chord progression: https://www.soundguitarlessons.com/anyjazzchord

This is NOT a Guitar Hack

When I first started making guitar lesson videos people told me that I should make short "clicky" lessons to try and go viral.

I tried a couple times, but that's not me. I don't like to look for shortcuts.

In fact, I think the abundance of quick-win topics like "top 3 guitar hacks" is why it's so hard to actually learn and go deep on YouTube.

My goal is to provide substantive lessons with exercises that really work to help us improve on the guitar.

This guitar 7th chords video does exactly that.

This robust exercise for mastering jazz chord shapes on the guitar is amazing.

True, it's not an overnight guitar hack, but it's a resourceful approach that you can come back to for years.

Video Lesson Content Outline with Links:

0:00 - Lesson intro
0:43 - About this guitar 7th chords method
1:56 - Example of the cycle exercise
4:22 - Major triad template
5:29 - Full guitar 7th chords cycle off of C 
8:50 - Examples of chord quality cycle in real music  
10:05 - Full jazz chord shapes guitar workout walkthrough
18:46 - Why and when to use this exercise 
20:29 - Get my ‘any jazz chord’ method booklet

What You’ll Learn in this Lesson

In this you’ll learn one of my favorite guitar 7th chords exercises. 

This exercise is very useful for working on jazz chord shapes, guitar technique, or training our ears to hear different chord quality types. 

But it’s especially good for learning and understanding the music theory of seventh chord construction on the fretboard. 

This is part 9 of a lesson series on mastering chords on the guitar so make sure you check out all the other lessons in the series.

In part 8 I explained the music theory behind 7th chords.

It’s important to understand that stuff but the best learning happens from hands-on practice! 

Don’t make the mistake of learning about guitar, 7th chords, scales, arpeggios, modes, or any music theory without being able to play through the concepts on the guitar so you can hear them and see them on the fretboard. 

That would be like reading about swimming without getting in the water!

I’m all about making sure that we have actual exercises that teach us what we need to know—that is, that the steps of the exercise itself forces us to learn and know the end-goal information—and this exercise does exactly that. 

Even if you fully understand the theory of seventh chords this exercise is going to show you how and where those seventh chords exist all over the guitar, forcing you to find them, play them, and hear them.

Introducing the Chord Quality Cycle Exercise

In part 8 of this series we learned about the four different seventh chord qualities that exist in a major scale. Those chord qualities are:

  1. Major 7
  2. Dominant 7
  3. Minor 7 
  4. Minor 7 flat 5 (also called half diminished)

This exercise is called the Chord Quality Cycle Exercise because we are going to cycle through those chord qualities off of a single root at a time.

By playing these chords off of the same root, and in the order listed above, we only need to move one note by one half-step to create the next chord type in the list.   

That way we’ll get to see them essentially overlapping, which allows us to observe how they differ from one another and how they relate to one another. 

We’re going to take every single note that exists and play through this chord quality cycle off of the 6th string, 5th string, and 4th string roots of that note.

To eventually do the cycle off of every pitch in those three locations we’ll travel through the circle of fourths—after each root we’ll go up a perfect fourth to find the next. 

This exercise is methodical and complete, leaving no stone unturned, and those are the kinds of exercises that work the best for mastering the fretboard! 

In addition to those four chord quality types that come from the major scale, we’re going to add two more: major triad and diminished 7. 

Now our list is this:

  1. Major
  2. Major 7
  3. Dominant 7
  4. Minor 7 
  5. Minor 7 flat 5 (also called half diminished
  6. Diminished 7

The Major Triad Template Chord Shape

Before we jump in and do the full cycle exercise, I want you to start with something that I call a template chord shape. 

A template chord shape is a chord shape that we start with. We can then manipulate the template to find all the other chord types. 

This way we’re memorizing the template shape and then understanding the theory of how to create all the other chord types from that starting point—instead of memorizing six chord shapes and not seeing how they’re related. 

Our template chord shape for this exercise is the major triad. Be able to play these three chord shapes off of the root note ‘C’ to start with: 

Chord Template Shapes

If you play each of those off of ‘C’, you’re playing a C major triad in three different places on the guitar. 

In part 7 of this lesson series we learned how to play any major or minor triad in six different places all over the fretboard. Our three template shapes for this lesson are three of those same shapes out of the six.

Definitely check out part 7. That exercise is great too! 

Using these template chord shapes as starting points, we’ll move one note by one half step at a time to make all the other chord quality types.

Chord Quality Cycle off of the 6th String

Now we’re ready to cycle through the 7th chords. Here are the diagrams of the cycle rooted on the 6th string.

Play through these. And you want to have this memorized. 

Doing it from memory forces you to know what to move to make the next chord type. It makes you think of the chord tones and the qualities. 

If you need to find what number a chord tone is to be able to move it, use the scale-counting chord tone method we learned earlier in part 3 of this lesson series.

Now we do the chord cycle off of the 5th string and 4th string root as well. All off of the ‘C’ root.

Chord Quality Cycle off of the 5th String

Chord Quality Cycle off of the 4th String

Examples of the Chord Quality Cycle in Real Music 

Because this is a parallel exercise, meaning we’re keeping the same root and moving qualities around above it, it’s not really something we’re practicing for the sake of using it in real music. 

Instead, we’re doing it to see the relationships between the chord types clearly and to practice the technique. 

BUT little pieces of this happen in music all the time. 

For example, the song Something by The Beatles uses those first three chord of our cycle off of ‘C’ at the beginning of the verse. 

|C        |Cmaj7   |C7      |F         | 

And in jazz progressions it’s very common for dominant 7 chords to turn into minor 7 chords on the same root.

For example, a concluding phrase in the jazz standard All of Me moves from D7 to Dm7 before resolving to G7 and Cmaj. 

It’s also common in jazz to turn half diminished chords into fully diminished 7 chords, treating them as the iiø and V7b9 of minor ii V i progressions. 

So, little pieces of this will come up in real musical situations, even though we’re practicing this for the theory mapping of the fretboard and technique challenge. 

The Full Jazz Chord Shapes Guitar Workout

For the full chord quality cycle exercise we want to do that cycle that we just learned off of the 6th, 5th, and 4th string, and off of every single root possible. 

We have to repeat things anyway when we practice to get it down, we might as well repeat something through all the keys all over the guitar. 

This is how we master the fretboard! 

Do the full cycle in the diagram below in those three locations off of each root through the circle of fourths. 

Circle of fourths order: C, F, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, B, E, A, D, G


Refer to the video here to see me demonstrate through the entire exercise. 

Get my ‘Any Jazz Chord’ Method Booklet 

We haven’t covered every chord type here so if you actually want to play 7th chords in songs there may be some chord types that come up that you aren’t familiar with just from this exercise.

I have an awesome methodology for teaching how to play the chords of any jazz using just eight easy chord shapes. It’s fun, it’s simple, and it’s awesome. It’s a complete booklet and totally free. If a crazy chord comes up in a tune you’re trying to play, then you’ll have a chord shape to use that works, that’s accurate, and sounds great. 

Get the booklet for free here: https://www.soundguitarlessons.com/anyjazzchord

Don’t miss next week’s lesson because we’re going to take all the same shapes from this exercise and actually play them through every key on the guitar—so we’re actually playing the chords that fit together and make progression that sound great. 

I hope you enjoyed this lesson and benefited from it. Let me know what you thought in the comments. Thanks!

- Jared



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