How to Play Jazz Chords Like a Boss



Learning how to play jazz chord progressions means learning how to play fast-moving ii-V chords. 


ii-V’s are found in countless jazz songs and tend to move by pretty quickly, especially those that fit into one bar. 


While learning chord shapes is helpful, it can lead you to jump all over the fretboard as you use root-based shapes for a ii-V. 


To avoid this problem with fast-moving ii-V chords, the most important concept you can practice is voice leading


To create a smooth voice leading you want to move from one chord to the next with as little movement, and as much color, as possible. 


The easiest way to do this is to learn guide tones and then add color notes on top of those shapes. 


In these exercises, you start with 4 positions of guide tones and then proceed to add 5ths, 9ths, and 13ths on top of those chords. 


You can also add in the 11 and #11 over these chords, as well as the #9 over E7


Start with the exercises below and then expand beyond these color tones when and if you feel it’s needed in your playing.


ii V Jazz Chord Shapes


To begin your study of ii V voice leading, here are the guide tones only in four positions for Bm7 and E7. 


Start by memorizing at least one of these positions and working those shapes over the backing track in your studies. 


From there, you can move on to a new position or you can just down and start adding color tones to your 3rds and 7ths over ii-V’s. 


Your goal is to have 2 or more of these positions comfortable in your playing with at least 2 color tones that you can apply over those shapes in your comping. 


So, start with one position and one color-tone and move forward from there when ready.

Backing Track 1

In this first ii V chord exercise you use the 5th over Bm7 and E7 in your comping phrases. 


Go slow, say each chord out loud, even name the notes in the chords if you can to solidify these shapes in your comping.

Backing Track 1

In this exercise you use the 9th over both Bm7 and E7 in your comping and chord soloing


Start with these shapes on their own, then mix them with previous shapes from this lesson to expand your ii-V chord chops when ready.

Backing Track 1

Here you use the 9th over Bm7 and the b9 over E7 to bring tension into your comping phrases. 


Play each chord separately and sing each note in these chords to get that b9 into your ears. 


If you can hear tension notes comfortably it’s much easier to add those chords to your comping. 

Backing Track 1

In this exercise, you use the 13th over Bm7 and E7 in your comping phrases. 


Begin with these shapes only, then mix them together with previous shapes in this lesson when you’re ready.


Backing Track 1

Lastly, here you use the 13th over Bm7 and the b13 over the E7 to bring tension into your comping phrases. 


Start with this example on its own, then mix it together with previous exercises in this lesson when you’re ready.


Backing Track 1