How Jazz Will Make You A Better Acoustic Guitar Player

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

By Simon Candy


Jazz Concepts For Guitar 1Studying 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!

Jazz Concepts For Guitar 2Personally 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.

Do not become overwhelmed by the amount of information below.

Simply pick one area you would like to work on and improve in your playing and check out the corresponding video tutorial that accompanies it.

I still work on each and every one of these areas of guitar, and will continue to do so as there is always more to learn and apply to ones 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. 

A great place to start increasing your chord vocabulary beyond open and bar chords is block chords.

Block chords will have you playing the main chord types of Major 7, Minor 7, and Dominant 7 all over the fretboard, and are great for using in any style of guitar playing.

Checkout the video below for a detailed tutorial on block chords:



• 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.

In June of 2007, I came across a particular way of practicing arpeggios that was a complete game changer for my playing!

Up until this point in time, I could play arpeggio shapes on the guitar, but I didn’t have any real way of using them in my playing. This was because I lacked a training method in which to develop the skill of arpeggiation.

That all changed in June of 2007, and in the video below I take your through this method I learned in great detail:



• 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 off 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.

Checkout the video below for an introduction to improvising.

A common misconception is that you need to be at a certain level of playing to be “ready” to improvise.

The truth is, the time is NOW wherever you are at with your playing.

You don’t even need to know a single scale shape to start improvising.

Scale shapes do help of course, but are not a necessity to begin developing the skill of improvisation, a point that is addressed amongst others in the video below:



• Walking Bass:

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.

To learn how easy it is to start creating and playing walking bass lines on guitar, watch the video below.

In it, I take you through a simple method to get you started with walking bass lines. While there are many approaches to playing a walking bass line on guitar, this one is by far the easiest and quickest to do:



• 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.

A common misconception is that chord/melody playing is difficult to do. A simple YouTube search on chord/melody might solidify this belief.

However, be careful.

Just because you see someone playing a complicated chord/melody arrangement of something on guitar, does not mean the style of chord/melody itself is difficult.

In fact, when broken down in a systematic way, chord/melody playing is really quite simple.

Watch the video below for a comprehensive tutorial on how to build your own chord/melody arrangements of songs on guitar:



Learn these simple but creative ways to use arpeggios on guitar