5 Ways In Which Jazz Will Make You A Better Acoustic Guitar Player

By Simon Candy

Studying other styles of music such as jazz, will only make you a better, more rounded acoustic guitar player and musician.

To become a great guitar player, you really need to look outside of your “comfort style” so to speak. By this I mean, be open to other styles of music, such as jazz. But what if you don’t like jazz, or even have any interest in playing the style?

Strange as it may seem to you, this does not matter. There are many things you will benefit from as an acoustic guitarist by looking at various aspects of jazz guitar playing.

To be clear, I am by no means saying you have to do a 180 degree turn from your way of playing, and become a jazz guitarist. I am simply saying to be open to the style of jazz so your acoustic guitar playing can benefit.

If you study the background of your favourite guitar players you will most definitely find their style of playing, in part, will have been influenced by other styles. Think Chet Atkins, Tommy Emmanuel, and John Mayor, for example. All these players have been influenced by the style of jazz and have certainly at least dabbled in it to grab ideas and concepts they can integrate into their own style.

“Pigeon holing” yourself as a player limits your creativity and scope of playing on the guitar, running the risk of sounding like a clone of somebody else, and/or become bored and stale with your own playing.

In today’s article I am going to present to you 5 areas of your acoustic guitar playing that will improve big time by being open to and learning from the style of jazz.


Who Cares If You’re Not A Jazz Guitarist!

Personally I love jazz! Both in playing it, and for what it has done for my guitar playing outside of the style itself. After playing guitar for 8 years, I stumbled across jazz and ended up studying it at college. In short, this was a massive game changer for my guitar playing and I am so grateful to this day that I went down this path.

Even though I studied jazz and have played it a lot, I don’t consider myself to be a jazz guitarist and I’m certainly not saying that you need to go and study jazz at college. What I am saying is to be open to other styles of music. Continually be on the look out for what you can grab from here and there to add to your own playing/style.

Think of everything you hear and expose yourself to as one big musical smorgasbord/buffet of food. Sure you have your favourite stuff that you’re going to have on your plate most of the time, but it’s nice to add some other things to enhance the flavour, so to speak.


5 Ways In Which Studying Jazz Will Make You A Better Acoustic Guitar Player

Below are 5 areas in which jazz will improve your acoustic guitar playing.

Chords: 

Jazz guitarist’s are known for their very large chord vocabularies, meaning the amount of chords they know and can use musically. Through studying jazz tunes you will drastically increase your own chord knowledge and vocabulary as you will need to in order to play the style.

The great thing is, these chords cross over to many styles of music and will be very useable to you outside of jazz. For examples of “jazzy” chords in non “jazzy” songs, check out John Mayor, Pink Floyd, or Tommy Emmanuel to name a few. 

Check out these jazz chords for your acoustic guitar playing

Arpeggios:

Of course arpeggio’s are used in all styles of music, none more than jazz. However, because of the nature of jazz and the fact that you are constantly switching between different key centres within the one tune, arpeggio’s become necessary a lot of the time to negotiate these changes. You may have heard the term “playing through the changes”. This is what I am referring to here.

It doesn’t matter if you play a style of music that is very diatonic and stays in the one key for the most part. Arpeggios are a great way to target specific chord tones, bringing a much more melodic component to your playing.

List specific “non jazz” songs that use arpeggios (Sultans Of Swing, B section of Time solo (other pink floyd songs)

There are also many ways you can apply arpeggio’s to your playing than what meets the eye, so to speak. See further down this article for an example.

Improvisation:

Yes, improvisation exists in other styles of music just as arpeggio’s do, however with jazz it’s at the forefront. Your improvisational skills will massively increase both in soloing and especially in jamming with other musicians when playing jazz.

Jazz musicians generally have very basic, generic charts for songs when jamming, and will totally improvise of the basic form of the tune. This is not only great fun to do, but there is so much to gain in developing your musical skills by doing so.

Walking Bass Lines: 

Walking bass lines are very prominent in jazz, and it’s not always the bass that will play these. Often you’ll find a guitar in perhaps a duo or trio, where there is no bass player, adopting some walking bass lines to include in the tune.

Learning the part of another instrument gives you a totally different perspective on your playing, and in this case with a bass part, a lesson in playing through the harmony of a chord progression.

Walking bass lines can also be applied to really “jazz” up a blues progression, as well as providing you with insights that will contribute to acoustic instrumental arrangements you may create.

Learn how to arrange songs that other instruments play onto your acoustic guitar

Chord/Melody: 

Chord/Melody playing is huge in the jazz world!

Chord/melody is when you play both the chords and melody to a tune at the same time on the one instrument, in this case a guitar. Check out players such as Joe Pass, Martin Taylor, and Lenny Breau, for examples of this approach.

Studying and learning jazz chord/melody pieces will give you an insight into how to do this for your own arrangements, be it jazz or an acoustic instrumental of a song in another style.

Learn how to create your own solo acoustic instrumental arrangement of a song


Diatonic Arpeggio Substitution

Let’s have a look at one application of arpeggios for your guitar playing. The following is what’s known as diatonic arpeggio substitution. This simply means you can substitute one arpeggio for another as long as the arpeggio you are substituting is from the same key.

For much more detail about this really cool concept be sure to check out these arpeggio applications for your acoustic guitar playing

This concept opens up the gateway to many cool and unique sounds with just a couple of arpeggio shapes under your fingers.

For our example here I am going to be using the following two major arpeggio patterns:

 

Major Jazz Arpeggio Root Position

 

 

Major Jazz Arpeggio Second Inversion

 

I will be substituting a G major arpeggio over an F chord. Both F and G are chords in the key of C, so we are sticking to our rule of diatonic substitution.

Here are both arpeggio patterns over an F chord vamp to introduce this sound to your ears:

 

Jazz Arpeggio Drill

 

 

 * Note that the above arepggio over the F chord may sound a little strange to your ear. This is becasue you are use to hearing an F arpeggio over an F chord. Allow your ears time to learn these sounds

 

And here is a short etude exploiting this sound:

 

Jazz Arpeggio Etude

 

 

By playing a G major arpeggio over an F chord we are actually getting a partial lydian sound as well as some upper extensions of the F chord.

How so?

Let me lay it out for you in a table:

 

 Backing Chord  Notes  Arpeggio Substitution  Notes  Resulting Sound  Notes
 F Major  F A C  G Major  G B D  F13#11  F A C G B D

* Note that by substituting one arpeggio for another of the same key, you aren’t necessarily getting all the notes of the resulting chord. You are however getting the extensions that best describe that chord. I have highlighted these notes in the last column of the table above to bring this to your attention.

 

The G and D notes of the G major arpeggio we are substituting in, are common extensions of the F chord (9th and 13th), and the B note is what gives us the lydian sound (#4/#11)

To understand this idea further, I have created a free ebook/audio you can download that goes into much more detail regarding this really cool concept.

To seriously multiply the uses of your arpeggio shapes check out these jazz arpeggios for your acoustic guitar playing