What topics should I master on music theory before I move on to jazz guitar? Is it necessary to learn blues guitar? I have basic knowledge of music theory, like major and minor chords.

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    How about practice, what can you do in practice? Why do you think you need more theoretical knowledge on topics? :) Can you play songs by ear? Can you identify chords by ear? Do you know what a chord will sound like before you play it? Can you improvise new chord progressions for melodies? :) Can you play songs in different keys? Apr 6, 2020 at 17:06
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    If I did, I would have posted a link to it. Anyway, find the melody and chords to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star by ear and play it in different keys. Then Let It Be. Apr 6, 2020 at 18:16
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    @NewGuitarMan, any list will be partly a matter of taste. But there is a history to Jazz and Jazz guitar that cannot be denied. As for learning guitar, get your hands on Mel Bay or William Levitt's beginner books and work through them, preferably with an instructor. As for simple melodies. Miles Davis was as gifted as Mozart when it came to writing memorable melodies. Give the following a listen, Kind of Blue and Birth of Cool. Specifically, Four, All Blues, So What.
    – user50691
    Apr 6, 2020 at 18:48
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    Don't look at a real book or other anthology. That will be utterly meaningless w/o context. Listen to Kenny Burrell's debut album, specifically Don't Cry Baby. You are, after all, a guitarist and Kenny is a great. Listen to Wes Montgomery's Debut album, specifically 4 on 6, West Coast Blues. Also try Ah Um and The Clown by Mingus. In Be Bop land, Parker and Diz, look up A night in Tunisia, Ornithology, Donna Lee, Groovin' High. Just listen, don't play. Ask yourself if you like it and want to learn it. These are oldies but still goodies.
    – user50691
    Apr 6, 2020 at 18:53
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    I totally forgot the Latin influence! Jobim, Brazilian Jazz, listen to Wave (brilliantly beautiful), there is a live recording of him playing with his son and Herbie Hancock at the Brazilian Jazz fest early 2000's. It's a great rendition.
    – user50691
    Apr 6, 2020 at 18:56

3 Answers 3


You should not master anything as a prerequisite for learning Jazz guitar. There is no hierarchy of styles. If you like Jazz start with Jazz. I would say the only real prerequisite is that you actually like Jazz as a style of music. If you don't you will never enjoy learning it and never play it well. Start by LISTENING. That is what music is, experiencing sound. Listen to the greats starting with Eddie Lang, Charlie Christian, Django Reinhardt, Wes, Joe Pass, Pat Martino, Grant Green, George Benson, John Scofield, Pat Metheny, Allan Holdsworth, Al Dimeola, Ronnie Jordan, and on and on, picking what you like from the list and dropping the rest. A key to great musicianship is being a good listener in every respect. So, listen to people you like, start transcribing their licks by ear if you can, get your hands on transcriptions or TAB as needed. Take lessons.

Some folks might start throwing a list of music theory prerequisites but this is really misleading. Theory comes after practice!

Also, listen to other instruments. Coltrane, Davis, Parker, Dizzy, Bill Evans, Mingus, Monk, Duke, Count, etc. Jazz is a culture not an exercise.

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    Don't know if you have to be a jazz fan to enjoy those amazing artists though. That moment when you learn that Django actually has a disability and STILL shreds like that, priceless.
    – Stian
    Apr 7, 2020 at 9:27
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    I agree, great music and musicians should transcend style. But some people just dont respond the same way.
    – user50691
    Apr 7, 2020 at 9:51
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    +1 for "If you like Jazz, start with Jazz." I once liked the idea of learning to play Jazz, because Jazz musicians generally understand what they're doing when they play. The problem was that I don't care to listen to Jazz. I changed my focus to learning to play the songs that I love, as well as try to understand the theory. If there's an occasional jazzy chord, then great. I will occasionally read about Jazz theory, and talk to my teacher about it. Apr 10, 2020 at 20:33

Don't worry about 'theory', unless by that you mean basic musical literacy - reading notes and rhythms. That always comes in useful!

And beware. There's a lot of half-assed 'theory' in the jazz guitar world. Listen, read, copy. Look at WHAT various books and other forms of instruction tell you to play. Don't get too hung up on their WHY explanations though.


If you don't know more than basic majors and minors you're going to struggle.

Theory wise, the need to know what it is that makes a chord that chord is pretty important. being ablee to play in every key , so knowing what that entails, is paramount, as is knowing your instrument really well, and being able to hear something and repeat it, pretty well note for note - good ears. that's a start.

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