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The Anderson Files: What is a Jazz Chord?



So what are Jazz Chords? First, let’s start with what they are not…

Jazz chords are not open chords, barre chords or power chords. The characteristics of jazz chords are four-part voicings, no open strings and an organization based on sets of four strings. 

When you are inside the four string set, you can find find four different voicings or positions for each chord. Jazz chords are not typically triads but they can be used. The most common jazz chords are chords that have a 7 or 6 in their name. At a more advanced level, they can be upper partials. These are chords with 9, 11 or 13 in their notations. Altered chords which are the b5 and #5, the b9 and #9, the #11 and the b13 are in this more advanced category.

The concept of drop 2 voicing etc is not very relevant to the guitar if you understand the string set concept and systems.

Jazz chords are typically learned by studying a particular chord type and then moving notes to create other chords. This is far more efficient than memorizing hundreds of diagrams.

Jazz chords may appear in songs or you may substitute jazz chords  for the written chords. Jazz is a very versatile form and can and does use every type of chord that you can imagine. 

Exploration is always encouraged!

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