I'm an amateur guitarist, I like jazz and I decided to try to learn the basics from the beginning (self-teaching at the moment). I started reading Mickey Backer's "Complete Course in Jazz Guitar" method, but suddenly stopped at Lesson #1 !

I found this Amin7 right hand fingering:

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which looks quite un-natural (I must rotate my left hand and shift up the thumb too much to properly "bar" the 4 strings).

I usually play it in this way:

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Other chords in the first chart of the method look weird as well, so I got another method: Jody Fisher's "Beginning Jazz Guitar", but surprisingly there is no left fingers notations at all on chords charts ?


  1. Should I struggle with the weird fingerings suggested in the Mickey Backer's book until I find them natural ?

  2. Where can I find other "valid" chord fingerings (if any) ?

  3. Why a (very) popular method like the Jody Fisher's book, doesn't provide any left-hand chord fingerings advice ?

What are your suggestions?

5 Answers 5


Both shapes you pictured are A - 7 chords.

Also 6th string 5th fret, 5th string 3rd fret and 4th string 5th fret is form of A - 7.

If you play the top four strings, 1,2,3,4 together leaving out the 6th string bass that is also a form of A - 7. Sometimes you don’t have to or want to play the full array of chords, just enough for the listener to get the idea. In jazz sometimes all you need are the Root, the third which shows if it is major or minor and the 7th which shows if it is dominant or Major 7th chord.


If you fretted the full barre version - E5,A7,D5,G5,B5,e5, then you could mute whatever you need, with a little practice. Or play the strings you want to with hybrid picking. In the barre version, there are 2 A, 2 E, a G and a C. If playing alone, an A,C and G are sufficient - in jazz the 3rd shows maj/min., while the 7th shows, well, the 7th! In an ensemble situation, the bass would likely play root A, so you could actually play middle two strings to do the job.

Your question - don't rely on other players fingering. It works for them but you don't have their hands. Work out your own - there aren't that many combinations. Sometimes there is only one way to finger a chord, and if you find it next to impossible, find another voicing, and/or play it somewhere else, different strings, different frets.


I learned to fret this quite effectively from Rick Peckham at Berklee Online in the Chords 101 class. Use the ring finger to barre the top strings, then wrap the middle finger on top of that to fret the sixth string. The fifth string and first string will be naturally muted. This is a much quicker and convenient fretting method.

To answer your first question, Mickey's suggested fingering is the most effective, fastest and it naturally mutes the necessary strings.

  • It's generally accepted that the thick strings are called the bottom strings, as they produce lower sounding notes.. Did you mean 'barre the top strings'?
    – Tim
    Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 6:38
  • Yep. I usually avoid that error. Kind of embarrassing, actually. Yes, I did mean barre the top strings.
    – blusician
    Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 7:57

Answer 1 - Definitely not! You don't need struggle with those chords I tough disable people (with no middle finger, as example) and a solution for that particular chord was using a bar, it means press all strings with one finger it seems difficult but it's an alternative

Answer 2 - It should be a bunch of it but I don't know sorry, but I will explain why I don't in the answer 3

Answer 3 - Yes! The Jody fisher's is a good book. And why I think they don't provide chord fingers suggest... I think the musician has to Be free to make his own choice, there's no a particular way that someone can say it's wrong or correct, correct way is the way that u can do with no problems. There are many difficult jazz chords and probably u will face good challenges but remember, there's no struggle after few hours practicing.


Your frustration with the Mickey Baker book is completely understandable. For a beginner without a teacher it is well-nigh incomprehensible:lots of chords and exercises and not a single hint as to how one might 'turn them into jazz'. It is also a method 'of its time', which is a long time ago, so it doesn't include some of the cool sounds that have emerged in the last fifty years. For help with the chords: our fingers are designed to open and close in one plane. Our knuckles aren't ball and socket joints and our fingers don't tend to bend sideways, unless you're in the act of breaking them. You can use this to your advantage by rolling your barring finger/s slightly sideways. This can help to make the barre a tad more flat and rigid.

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