Getting started in jazz. Looking for help to get started

Hello, interested in starting jazz guitar and am looking for advice on what to focus on.
Will welcome any tips.
I understand from research that learning songs and standards is a good way to start, learning extensions and such.
Wondering what scales I should practice and learn (pentatonics, 3-note per string, one string) already have all five shapes of the major scale down.
Are arpeggio shapes okay to learn now?
Thanks in advance!:wink:

Learning standards is good. Do you have a fake book (like The Real Book)? If you want to get into jazz, that’s almost an essential. I’d start with some of the ballads or more bluesy pieces, at first. You can also start with a standard blues progression and “jazz it up” with rhythm and harmony changes (e.g., substituting extended chords, et cetera). That’s a pretty common place to start.

As far as scales, as a starting point you’ll want to be very familiar with the major scale and its modes, and what modes naturally apply to what chords (e.g., Dorian mode works well over min7 chords). With that said, I’d recommend focusing a lot on chord tones and arpeggios, because you’ll often be thinking in those terms (i.e. the current and upcoming harmony), rather than thinking about a specific scale in a specific key.

You’ll also want to focus on extended chords of many types, and learning common grips for them and perhaps different inversions.

How’s your theory? A solid understanding, there, can be very useful for jazz.

Just for clarification, I’m not a jazz guy, but many years ago I did hang out and play with some guys who were in the U.S. Army Jazz Band Combo in Japan. So I dabbled with jazz, but didn’t take it very far. I’m far from an “expert” or anything.

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Yes, I do have a very thorough understanding of theory, modes, chord tones, harmony, etc., I just can’t play any of it, except common chord grips and such. I do have the sixth edition real book and have been trying to learn simple standards.

Would you recommend me to start learning to sight read? I can sight read in first position, but because of just playing there, up the neck is a guessing game really. It would be nice to know how to do it for standards, just don’t know the best way to go about learning it.

Thanks again!

Yes, I think sight reading is quite valuable.

Guitar was my third instrument (with the first being piano and the second violin, although I only played violin for about a year while I was in school), so I already knew how to read standard notation when I came to guitar. However, translating the notes to the guitar’s fretboard was another story.

When I first started playing with those guys from the jazz combo one of the senior NCOs (who kind of became an informal mentor/teacher figure to me as a guitarist) introduced me to the Real Book, and also suggested that I develop my sight reading skills (for guitar) using the Berklee Press A Modern Method For Guitar by William Leavitt. I believe it’s what they used for “in house” instruction. In any case, I found it invaluable for learning sight reading applied to guitar. In fact, I’d say it’s designed for that. You might find some of the early parts tedious (a lot of the early material is in first position, which you already know), but the pieces are designed to get you reading in a step by step manner. And you can progress through them at whatever pace suits your current abilities. Highly recommended. Berklee Press also publishes some companion reading study books, but those are really supplementary. Just the “modern method” books (which are also available in a single volume format) will suffice.

Another book they suggested and that I found valuable was Mickey Baker’s Jazz Guitar.

While you need to study and work on such materials, as far as “learning to play jazz” goes I’d say the absolute best thing you can do is find some other musicians who already play jazz and jam with them. Tell them up-front where you’re currently at and what you’re aiming for. In my experience, they’ll bend over backwards to help you on the way. And there’s nothing that sharpens a musician faster than playing with other musicians (although I’d say it’s neck-and-neck with “performing”).

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Thank you so much! You have been a great help. I will check out that book.

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If you’re interested in finding some specific jazz tuition look for Guitarversum (Sandra Sherman) on YT; she’s very good with beginner, intermediate and advanced Jazz. I like to have a bit of a go at it but am anything but an expert :joy: