Chord progressions are a succession of chords played one after another and during a specified duration. Because learning to play through different common progressions in various keys is such an important tool for the modern jazz guitarist, in this lesson you will learn how to recognize these progressions from a Roman Numeral standpoint, allowing you to quickly transpose them to other keys, as well as two different ways to comp through each progression on the guitar.
In this form of notation, the Roman Numeral I represents the first note in the scale, so if you are playing a song in the key of C, this will be C. The numeral II represents the second note in the scale, D, and so on.
It's important that you learn to recognize these classic chord progressions and that you practice improvising over them, so grab your axe, turn up your amp and let’s dig in to these 7 Must Know Jazz Guitar Chord Progressions!
Jazz Guitar Chord Progressions 1 - ii V I Major
| IIm7| V7| Imaj7|
| Dm7| G7| Cmaj7|
The 2 5 1 progression is without any doubt the most popular chord progression in jazz. I'm not going to give you a list with songs that use this progression, since a jazz standard without a II V I is almost unthinkable. Some jazz standard chord progressions are nothing more then a series of II V's.
| Imaj7 VIm7| IIm7 V7| IIIm7 VI7| IIm7 V7
| Cmaj7 Am7| Dm7 G7| Em7 A7| Dm7 G7
This chord progression is the first A of a 'rhythm changes'. 'Rhythm changes' are a kind of chord progression that use the same chord changes as 'I've Got Rhythm', a song written by Gershwin in 1930. People started using this progression to jam on and so many different melodies came into being that use the same chord changes.
| Imaj7| |(IIm7| V7)| Imaj7| |(IIm7| V7)| Imaj7
| Cmaj7| |Cm7| F7| Bbmaj7| | Bbm7| Eb7| Abmaj7
This is also a very common jazz chord progression. There are 2 modulations in this progression: the chords start in the key of C major, modulate to Bb major in the 3rd bar and again modulate in the 7th bar, this time to Ab major.
| Imaj7#I°7| IIm7#II°7| IIIm7VI7
| Cmaj7C#°7| Dm7D#°7| Em7A7
| Imaj7| | II7| %| IIm7| V7| Imaj7|
| Cmaj7| | D7| | Dm7| G7| Cmaj7|
| Imaj7| (IIm7V7)| Vmaj7
| Cmaj7| Gm7C7| Fmaj7
| Imaj7| I7| IVmaj7| IVm7| IIIm7VI7| IIm7V7| Imaj7
| Cmaj7| C7| Fmaj7| Fm7| Em7A7| Dm7G7| Cmaj7
Peter teaches music theory, bass guitar, and piano lessons in Stratford, CT. He specializes in teaching classical and jazz styles as well as advanced music theory. Peter has been teaching for over 20 years and he joined the TakeLessons team in August 2012. Learn more about Peter or search for a teacher near you!
Photo by Simon White