Twelve Essential Jazz Chords

Maybe the time has come when you've decided you'd like to play some of those great old swing tunes like Ain't Misbehavin', All of Me, Lady Be Good, Honeysuckle Rose. Got your ear set on some Brazilian bossa, choro or modern jazz? Go looking for a mandolin chord book in your local music store and you're lucky if they carry one. If you do, they'll probably have all the chords you need... plus a lot of other you wouldn't ever possibly use.

Most of us appreciate access to good information, but when you're starting out, too much gets in the way of the learning experience. It can be a frustrating having all of that information and not knowing how to sort out what's useful and what's not.

A common element in the jazz and swing is that most seasoned players rely heavily on a relatively small set number of chords as do most guitar players. However, those chords are in closed positions so they can be moved around the neck and serve us in many keys, not just one. With that in mind, 12 chords turn into well over 100 different combinations!

That brings the following set I suggest to players wanting to branch into this type of music. It consists of 12 chords in closed positions and if I'm doing a jazz gig, these are getting 95% of the work. Now not everyone will use the same base set, but give these a whirl when you're learning and keep and ear out for the good ones that YOU like and add them as you go.

Note that the Bb and F7 listed below are missing the notes on the E string which make then into their true forms. Please consider these as substitutions for the full chord. I think you'll prefer this fingering when a chart calls for that chord. Also, the Dm7 is missing the 5 note which again falls on the E string. More doesn't always mean better but this is just my opinion. Try it and decide for yourself.

Looking for a lot more than this? Check out Mel Bay Deluxe Encyclopedia Of Mandolin Chords by John Baxter which has contributions from the author of this web site.

12 Essential Jazz/Swing Chords

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12 Chords in Adobe Acrobat

jazz chords