How To Play Jazz Barre Chords For Newbies (Guitar Lesson)

How To Play Jazz Barre Chords For Newbies (Guitar Lesson)

How To Play Jazz Barre Chords For Newbies (Guitar Lesson)

Today’s lesson is about playing jazz barre chords in all their groovy goodness.

Students often complain about what seems to be a tricky technique for these bar chord shapes…

But it’s easy once you know a few principles for the angle and position of your hand and thumb.

Let’s get into it!

FREE PDF Download: Click here to get a download of the PDF and backing tracks of all the jazz bar chord exercises covered in this lesson sent straight to your inbox.

Video Sections:

00:00 Introduction
00:26 Am7 Jazz Chord Shape
01:39 Where To Place The Thumb for Jazz Barre Chords
04:03 D9 Jazz Bar Chord Shape
05:29 Exercise 1: Am7 D9 Gmaj7 251 Progression
06:31 Dm9 Jazz Chord
07:14 G7alt Jazz Barre Chord
08:29 C6/9 Chord
09:28 Exercise 2: Dm9 G7alt C6/9 251 Progression
10:25 Wrap Up

Jazz Bar Chord Shapes Used In This Video:

Jazz Barre Chords Chart

Jazz Barre Chords Exercise 1 (See Video at 05:29)

jazz major chord exercise in G

This exercise features 2 of the most commonly used jazz barre chord shapes on the Am7 and D9 chord voicings.

Although there are multiple ways to play these chords, the shapes I have demonstrated in the video are more common for jazz.

Minor chords in jazz often have the 7th added, making it a minor 7th. The shape for Am7 indicated in this video is much better for jazz than the voicings commonly used in rock and pop. Notice how the fifth string is muted by the 2nd finger – eliminating unnecessary notes.

The D9 shape is commonly used for dominant chords in 2 5 1 progressions on guitar. Make sure you avoid strumming the sixth string with this shape.

Be particularly mindful to watch in the video how I place the thumb position above the neck for these two chords, which ‘clamps down’ the 3rd finger barre.

Jazz Barre Chords Exercise 2 (See Video at 09:28)

jazz chord forms exercise 2
jazz common chords forms - exercise 2 in c

These chords work out a 2nd finger barre on the G7 alt and the C6/9 jazz chords.

Why use the 2nd finger barre?

The answer:

It frees up your 3rd and fourth finger for adding melodies or other chord extensions on top of the basic chord. You’ll often notice these types of chord shapes used in Joe Pass chord solos.

Next Step: Leave a Comment About This Jazz Bar Chords Guitar Lesson

I hope you enjoyed today’s guitar lesson! Make sure you watch the video on this page all the way through for more tips on getting these bar chords under your fingers.

What did YOU think about this lesson on jazz barre chords? Leave a comment below now…

About The Author: Greg O’Rourke

BMus (Hons), ANU
Professional Guitarist & Founder of

Greg O'Rourke - Jazz Guitar LessonsAward-winning Australian guitarist Greg O’Rourke received his Bachelor Of Music Honours degree in 2006 and was a scholarship holder at the Australian National University School Of Music.
Originally a trained classical guitarist, Greg has developed a high level of expertise in jazz guitar and other styles. Greg’s versatile guitar ability is a credit to several teachers he has studied with over the years, including Mike Price and Don Andrews, well-known performers and teachers in the Australian jazz guitar scene. Greg also studied extensively with Tim Kain, one of Australia’s leading classical guitar performers and teachers.

Greg has given prizewinning performances at the Australian National University Chamber Music Competition and was awarded 1st prize in the Chamber Music division of the 2004 Australian International Guitar Competition.

Greg has many thousands of subscribers to his website and Youtube channel from all across the world. He is also an established author, with his book on jazz chord melody, The Easy Guide To Chord Melody Guitar becoming an international bestseller.

Greg has been featured on several high-profile jazz guitar websites, including Jazz Guitar Online, Fundamental Changes, and Takelessons.

2 5 1 Chord Progression Guitar | Fret Dojo

2 5 1 Chord Progression Guitar | Fret Dojo

2 5 1 Chord Progression Guitar: 20 Options in Under 5 Minutes

Have you been struggling to make a 2 5 1 chord progression guitar friendly?

Or maybe you want to understand what a 2 5 1 jazz chord progression is – and how to play it on guitar?


In today’s jazz guitar chord lesson, we’ll cover: 


  • The importance of the 2 5 1 progression and the theory behind it
  • 20 different ways to play a 2 5 1 progression on guitar, and
  • A neat way to rapidly learn all the jazz guitar chord shapes we’re going to cover.

Bonus PDF Download: To get your free printable PDF which has the jazz chord guitar tabs and diagrams for this lesson, go here>>

Where did the 2 5 1 jazz chord progression come from – and why is it important?

The 2 5 1 chord progression is the harmonic foundation for most jazz standards.

Before jazz standards even existed, there was Tin Pan Alley. Tin Pan Alley consisted of various New York music publishers and composers that wrote staggering amounts of popular music during the late 19th century and early 20th century:



Many of the tunes that were written by Tin Pan Alley composers used the 2 5 1 progression. Jazz musicians then took these songs and incorporated that into the jazz language, bringing the two five one along with them.


What is a 2 5 1 Progression and How Can I Build One for Myself?

A 2 5 1 progression (often marked in Roman numerals as ii – V – I) refers to the chords of the scale and key the song is in.

Let’s take the good ol’ C major scale and use this as a starting point for our 2 5 1 progression:


2 5 1 chord progression guitar

Now, let’s build chords from the notes in the C major scale, by stacking 3rds above each scale degree:

2 5 1 jazz

By stacking 3rds on each scale degree, we now have all of the basic diatonic chords within the C major scale (C major, D minor, E minor, F major, G major, A minor, and B diminished).

Now let’s go further with this idea.

Let’s add an additional third on top of each degree to make 4 note chords, often referred to as jazz chords because of their jazzy sound:


2 5 1 jazz chord progression

Note: The above chord voicings are easy to play on piano but most of these are difficult on guitar – don’t worry, later on in this article I’ll give you plenty of great ways to play variations of these basic jazz chords.

You can refer to each chord numerically, based on the degree of the scale it is built upon. Cmaj7 would be the 1 (I) chord, Dm7 would be the 2 (ii) chord, Em7 would be the 3 (iii) chord, and so on.

This is where the meaning of ‘2 5 1’ comes from.

2 5 1 in C major would be the sequence of chords built on the 2nd, 5th, and 1st degree of a C Major scale – so Dm7 (ii), G7 (V), and Cmaj7 (i).

Read on to learn various sequences of  ii V I guitar chords and you’re set to be able to play this on the fretboard.


How can I apply this to my playing?

I’m glad you asked!

You can take this simple chord progression and voice them in different ways to add some color. I’ve arranged the following 2 5 1 guitar chords in a series of ‘levels’, with the chord voicings in each level getting more and more colorful and complex as we progress.

Side Note: Voice Leading

Notice that in the following examples how common notes between chords are usually held from one chord to the next, or move only by either a half-step or whole-step in the upper voices.

This is called voice leading and is a good rule of thumb to sounding jazzier in your chord playing, rather than jumping all around the fretboard.

However, our bass note is the exception. The bass, typically, does not need to follow these guidelines and is free to move with the root of the chord if needed/desired.

Note: I have kept the rhythms very simple in the examples, but feel free to experiment with your own rhythm patterns like how I demonstrate in the video above.

2 5 1 Chord Progression Guitar Level 1 Voicings

Let’s take a look at some basic guitar 2 5 1 chord voicings that sound great.

Option 1:

two five one

This example of 2 5 1 in C Major is pretty basic – in fact, I’ve omitted the least important note, the 5th, from each of these jazz chords to make them as playable as possible.


It fills in the harmony and sounds great in a solo/duo situation.

Notice how the top 2 voices of the chords voice lead nicely. There’s the common note of F between the Dmin7 and G7 (3rd fret of the D string) and B between G7 and Cmaj7 (4th fret of the G string). No note is descending more than a half step which results in that smooth sound which is so important for jazz.

Option 2:

2 5 1 guitar chords

Here’s another basic example but this time with full 4 note chord voicings.

As per the previous example, this also voice leads well. There’s at least one common note between each chord change and no voice (except the bass) is moving more than a whole step away.

Smooth voice leading is a common theme you’ll see through all the 2 5 1 jazz chord progression guitar voicings I’m covering today – it’s the key to sounding like a pro jazz player.


2 5 1 Chord Progression Guitar Level 2 Voicings

 In these excerpts, we’re going to start adding more extensions while continuing to voice lead the higher parts of the chord.

Option 3:

2 5 1 in c major

This one sounds a bit more jazzy.

When you add the note E to both the D minor and G chord, you get much more color to the progression – this brightens up things quite a bit!

The same applies when we add the note D to the C major chord at the end.

Option 4:

2 5 1 jazz chord progression guitar

This time around we’ve added the 11th (G) to D minor, the 9th (A) to G, and the 13th (A) to C major. These notes are what we call extensions – notes that add interesting color to the fundamental harmony.

For me, adding the 11th scale degree to a minor 7th chord makes it sound a bit suspended, while the G9 and Cmaj13 sound bright.


2 5 1 Chord Progression Guitar Level 3 Voicings

Let’s say you’re playing in a band situation with a drummer, bassist, and horn player.

When accompanying the other instruments, you’ll want to remove the low root notes from your 251 guitar chords. That way you’ll stay out of the bassist’s way. This also allows for more hip voicings, as one of your fingers won’t be stuck holding down the bass note, giving freedom for adding more extensions and tensions instead.

Option 5:

251 guitar chords

In Example 5, we’re continuing to use colorful chord extensions (i.e. Dmin9), but we’re also borrowing some notes from the parallel minor (C minor).

Note how I’ve borrowed the note Eb and added that to our G9 chord. This makes it a G9b13.

This chord is a bit “spicy” and creates a lot of tension. Since the tension is greater, it makes the resolution to the dreamy C6/9 that much sweeter.

Option 6:

251 jazz chords

With this sequence, we’re continuing to add colors to each of these 251 jazz chords (the note E to D minor and G7, also the D to the C major).

However, we’ve also borrowed the note Ab from the parallel minor and added that to the G chord.

The G13(b9) can sound a bit strange if you’re not used to it, but it can be a very hip sound. You have the brightness of the 13 (E) and the darkness of the b9 (Ab). Like in the previous example, this use of tension creates a stronger, more satisfying resolution when we get to the Cmaj9.


2 5 1 Chord Progression Guitar Level 4 Voicings

Option 7:

ii v i guitar

Here, we’re continuing to build off of the same shapes we’ve been using earlier.

For instance, the G7 chord in example 7 borrows the notes Eb and Bb from C minor.

I love these 2 5 1 chord progression guitar voicings because of how jazzy they sound.

Option 8:

guitar 2 5 1

Now we’re getting more tricky.

Here we’ve added the 9th to the D minor, creating a tense sound in the middle of the chord.

We then follow it with a G altered chord, adding the notes Ab and Db respectfully.

This G altered chord sounds dark and harsh which contrasts nicely to the bright and blissful Cmaj9 voicing that follows.


2 5 1 Chord Progression Guitar Level 5 Voicings

Option 9:

ii vi chord progression guitar

Option 10:

ii vi chords

In both these examples, we’re continuing to use the more suspended sounding voicings for our D minor chord and brighter sounding voicings for our C major chord.

However, as you’ve probably already noticed, our G chord continues to get more and more dissonant. The G7(b13b9) is one of my favorites – it sounds dark and somber which adds an interesting twist to this timeless 2 5 1 progression.


The Minor 2 5 1 Progression

We can also play a 2 5 1 progression in a minor key.

This time, we’ll build chords primarily from the harmonic minor scale (and a little from the natural minor):

ii vi jazz

Minor 2 5 1 Chord Progression Guitar Level 1 Voicings

Let’s begin our look at the minor 2 5 1 with larger chord voicings (like we did with the major 2 5 1 progression earlier). Take a look at these examples:

Option 11:

ii vi minor

Option 12:

ii vi progression guitar

As you’ll notice, the 2 chord in a minor 2 5 1 is different. We’re no longer working with a Dmin7 – it’s now a Dmin7b5 instead.

The reason:

An A natural is not found in the C harmonic or natural minor scale – that scale note is now Ab.

These voicings fill out the harmony nicely and are great in smaller playing settings. You’ll also see that each progression adheres to good voice leading, as no note in the higher voices moves more than a whole step.


Minor 2 5 1 Chord Progression Guitar Level 2 Voicings

Option 13:

jazz ii vi

In this example, we’re substituting our G7 chord with a D fully diminished 7th chord (Ddim7). This chord implies a dominant 7b9 sound on the G7.

The Ddim7 chord in this context sounds quite dark. This works well in a minor 2 5 1 progression as it not only adds tension but adds more emotion to what you’re playing.


Option 14:

minor ii vi

Here’s an example using some 5 note voicings.

I like the G7 and Cmin9 voicings in particular because of the emotional relationship between the two chords. To me, the G7 sounds pointy and bright while the Cmin9 sounds sad and reflective.


Minor 2 5 1 Chord Progression Guitar Level 3 Voicings

Let’s take a look at some voicings that are more combo friendly.


Option 15:

2 5 1 chord progression guitar

Just like with some of the excerpts from the Major examples we covered earlier, we can add the 11th to our Dmin7b5 chord. This adds a bit of suspense and a ‘floaty’ sound – one of my favorite voicings and reminiscent of Ed Bickert’s sound.

Option 16:

2 5 1 jazz

Notice in this example how we’re playing an Fm7 chord where the Dmin7b5 is written.

When we take a look at the notes in Dmin7b5 (D – F – Ab – C), we see that the top three notes make up an F minor triad. We can, therefore, substitute our Dmin7b5 with an F minor triad and extensions of this, such as Fm7.

With all of the chords listed, major, minor, or otherwise, we can take the triads found within our extended chords and create new voicings. Pretty cool, huh?

Minor 2 5 1 Chord Progression Guitar Level 4 Voicings

Option 17:

2 5 1 jazz chord progression

Option 18:

two five one

Remember when we were talking about borrowing notes from the parallel minor for major 2 5 1 progressions?

You can apply that same technique when creating voicings for the minor 2 5 1 but in reverse – borrowing notes from the parallel major.

In the first example, we’re borrowing E Natural from the parallel major on our Dmin7b5 chord. We’re also borrowing A natural from C major when adding that to our G7 chord in the second example.

When you borrow these notes, you’re able to add brightness to a darker, more reflective progression. It adds a nice contrast!


Minor 2 5 1 Chord Progression Guitar Level 5 Voicings

Option 19:

2 5 1 guitar chords

Option 20:

2 5 1 chord progressions guitar

In these examples, we’re continuing to run with our “borrowing” concept.

This time, we’re applying those borrowed notes from the C Major scale to the C minor chord in each example.


Ways to Practice the 2 5 1 Chord Progression On Guitar:

One great way to get started practicing these 2 5 1 progressions is with a metronome or a drum track.

Set your tempo to 120bpm and practice the following excerpts.

The examples have a written-out rhythm that can be applied in almost any situation. However, once you get more comfortable, you can start playing around with other rhythmic ideas. When you’ve mastered one set of voicings move on to the next set:


Example 1 (Major ii – V – I Chord Progression Guitar):

26a - 2 5 1 jazz chords

Exercise 2 (Minor ii – V – i Chord Progression):

27a - 2 5 1 jazz chord progressions

If you’re feeling especially adventurous, practice this same etude in all twelve keys! Go around the circle of 4ths so you can familiarize yourself with the 2 5 1 chord progression in other keys apart from C.


What do you think?

Before you go – a question:

Which 2 5 1 chord progression guitar voicings from this article were your favorite – and why? Be sure to leave a comment below telling me your thoughts!


About Andrew Dodge:

Andrew Dodge Professional Jazz GuitaristAndrew Dodge is currently a session guitar player based in Portland, Oregon. He received his Bachelor’s in jazz guitar performance at Washington State University.

During his studies, Andrew gained performing, recording, composition, and teaching experience. He has performed and recorded professionally with a wide variety of bands that spanned across various genres which includes jazz bands, classical ensembles, rock bands, and Latin groups.

Andrew also had the opportunity to perform with world class musicians such as Stanley Jordan and Jeff Coffin.

He has continued to study with Steve Postel who is currently playing with renowned session musicians such as Leland Sklar, Russel Kunkel, Danny Kortchmar, and Waddy Watchel in the band, Immediate Family.

Andrew is currently producing his first studio EP which is set to release in early 2022.

Lydian Dominant Scale (Guitar Lesson) – Ultimate Guide

Lydian Dominant Scale (Guitar Lesson) – Ultimate Guide

Lydian Dominant Scale (Guitar Lesson) – Ultimate Guide

Does the Lydian Dominant Scale seem somewhat cryptic to you?

If you’re a guitarist looking to put some more spice into your solos: look no further…

In today’s post, we’re going to:

  • Discuss the Lydian Dominant scale with its various names and applications;
  • Take a look at how to lay out the Lydian Dominant Scale on the guitar fretboard, and
  • The best ways to practice and master it for improvisation.
Bonus PDF Download: Get access to a print friendly pdf version of the exercises in this article as well as a backing track to use for your practice session.
By the end of this post, you’ll have a clear path for using the Lydian Dominant scale on guitar for your solos.

Along the way, we’ll answer your theory questions, give you a bit of a historical context, and the essential tips on how best to apply this cool scale to your soloing.

Let’s dive in!

Video Sections:

00:00 Introduction
01:20 What is the Lydian Dominant Scale?
01:50 When To play Lydian Dominant For Soloing
02:12 Lydian Dominant Scale Method 1: Relationship To The Lydian Mode
03:16 Lydian Dominant Scale Method 2: Mode Of The Melodic Minor Scale
04:06 Lydian Dominant Scale Method 3: ‘Chord/Scale’ Method
04:33 Lydian Dominant, ‘Acoustic Scale’ and the Overtone Series
05:10 Examples of Lydian Dominant Songs
06:06 Lydian Dominant Guitar Scale Approach #1: Single String Method
07:52 Lydian Dominant Guitar Scale Approach #2: Box Position Method
09:04 Lydian Dominant Guitar Scale Approach #3: Diagonal Method
11:11 Wrap Up & Next Steps

What is The Lydian Dominant Scale?

To construct the Lydian Dominant Scale from a given root note we can follow the following formula (let’s use C as the root for this example):

C Lydian Dominant: C D E F# G A Bb
Formula: 1 2 (or 9) 3 #4 (or #11) 5 6 (or 13) b7
Interval Spacing:

(T = Tone, S = Semitone)



Here’s what the scale looks like in notation:

C Lydian Dominant Scale Notes:

C Lydian Dominant Scale Guitar

When To Play Lydian Dominant:

Lydian Dominant is an excellent scale choice to use over most dominant chords, especially dominant chords with a #11 or b5 in the chord name, such as D7#11 (which is the same way of saying D7b5).

Now let’s discuss 3 ways of understanding this scale:


Lydian Dominant Scale Method 1: Relationship To The Lydian Mode

Something I need to answer first and foremost:

Why is it called Lydian Dominant?

Notice how the name may remind you of another scale – the Lydian mode.

In fact:

Both the Lydian and Lydian Dominant scales are nearly identical – sharing the characteristic sharpened 4th degree:

C Lydian b7 scale and C Lydian

Our friend Lydian Dominant shares six out of seven notes with the Lydian Mode – all except the b7 at the end.

That b7 note explains the word ‘Dominant’ in the name.


The b7 note is the characteristic interval of dominant chords:

C Lydian Dominant Scale Notes

For this reason, this scale is sometimes referred to as a ‘Lydian b7 scale’.

In summary:

A good way to think of this scale is:

Take the Lydian mode, and lower the 7th one semitone (i.e. one fret).

I like this method as it’s easy to understand.

BUT for the sake of completion, let’s cover some other interesting ways to understand this scale below…


Lydian Dominant Scale Method 2: Mode Of The Melodic Minor Scale

Another useful way of looking at the Lydian Dominant Scale is as the 4th mode of the Melodic Minor Scale.

Confused? Let me explain.

Let’s take A melodic minor as an example:


Lydian Dominant Mode Of A Melodic Minor

Now play the same notes but start on D (i.e. the 4th degree) instead of A:

Lydian b7 Scale Guitar

Voilà – you now have a Lydian Dominant Scale!

This is good news if you’ve already mastered the melodic minor scale itself.

An example:

Let’s say the band is playing a funky vamp on a D7 chord:

Simply play an A melodic minor scale over the D7 vamp – although you’re thinking A melodic minor, it will result in a Lydian Dominant sound over that chord.

Cool, huh?

Give it a try over the Youtube backing track above.

(Bonus tip: Try starting A melodic minor on the G# (the 7th degree) and you’ll get an Altered Scale, the 7th mode of melodic minor – but that’s a story for another day.)


Lydian Dominant Scale Method 3: ‘Chord/Scale’ Method

Understanding a scale in terms of how it relates to a chord is very useful as a jazz improviser.

The reason?

If you understand a scale as a set of chord tones, you can clearly see how each note in the scale relates to the chord you are soloing on.

Most chords are built by stacking thirds.

Let’s examine a D13#11 chord in this way, which is a D7#11 with a 13 added. We can build this chord by starting with the D root, then stacking 3rds on top:

Lydian Dominant Arpeggio

Collapse these chord tones into a single octave, and here we are with our scale of the day – the Lydian Dominant Scale:


D Lydian Dominant


This is where those numbers 9, #11, and 13 came from in our Lydian Dominant scale formula – they relate to their position in the vertical structure of the chord rather than their horizontal position in the scale.

This is the essence of the chord scale theory: chords and scales are the same things, just one is vertical and the other horizontal.


Lydian Dominant, ‘Acoustic Scale’ and the Overtone Series

Interesting fact:

The Lydian Dominant scale has a direct relationship to the overtone series – the naturally occurring resonance in nature when a fundamental tone is sounded:

Overtone Scale


If you approximate the harmonic series to the nearest semitone, overtones 8 through 14 precisely spell out Lydian Dominant, hence the terms ‘Acoustic Scale’ or ‘Overtone Scale’ that are sometimes used to describe this scale:

Acoustic Scale

It’s intriguing to think that every note you hear has Lydian Dominant hidden mysteriously within those vibrations…


Examples of Lydian Dominant Songs:

Mostly everyone on the planet would be intimately familiar with the sound of Lydian Dominant in its pure form.


It’s the main scale used in the iconic theme music by one of the most favorite TV shows of all time:

Have a go at playing The Simpsons on your guitar – a fun Lydian dominant scale melody to get used to the sound in a variety of keys.


Jazz Tunes That Use The Lydian Dominant Scale

An appearance of a dominant 7#11 chord is a clear invitation for jazz improvisers to look at using Lydian Dominant.

One of the most famous jazz examples that features a dominant 7#11 sound is none other than Duke Ellington’s Take the A Train:

(You’ll often see the chord notated in jazz charts as D7b5, but it’s just another label for the same chord, D7#11.)

In addition to the D7#11 chord used, the melody also gives us a clue with that Lydian raised 4th in the 3rd bar:

Lydian Dominant Songs

Now there’s a perfect place to flex our Lydian Dominant muscle on.

Here’s another – Blue 7 by Sonny Rollins, who uses the Lydian Dominant scale in the head of this song:

Not a well-known tune, but a fine example of a melody written using Lydian Dominant. Like other Blues heads, the melody transposes to the subdominant in bars 5-6 and then returns.


Where Do I Start With The Lydian Dominant Scale On The Guitar?

Being able to quickly see the pattern on your fretboard is the goal of all scale practice.

Let’s sketch out several strategies for mastering the Lydian Dominant mode (i.e. the Lydian b7 scale) on guitar.


Lydian Dominant Guitar Scale Approach #1: Single String Method

A good place to start is to be able to play the Lydian Dominant guitar scale on a single string.

The reason:

Playing a scale on a single string like this gives you a feel for the distance between each note, i.e. whether the notes are a whole step or half step apart.


Step 1:

To get started, play this scale starting from an open D on the 4th string then play the scale only on that string:

D Lydian Dominant On 4th String

D Lydian Dominant Scale Melody 4th String

Exercise: Run the scale up and down a string and then just improvise little melodies by ear; this should help you connect what you see with what you hear and bypass excessive thinking. Try it out over this D7 drone:


Notice how every note in this scale sounds good – there are no notes to ‘avoid’ which makes it very easy to apply over dominant chords.


Step 2:

The next step is to locate the D root on another string (say, the G-string) and apply the scale formula to that string instead:

D Lydian Dominant on 3rd String

D Lydian b7 Scale on 3rd String

Note: the diagram only goes up to the 12th fret, but see if you can figure out how to continue to play the scale beyond that.)


Step 3:

Rinse and repeat for the remaining strings. After we’re done with all that we end up with a full fretboard map of the scale:

What Is The Lydian Dominant Scale


Lydian Dominant Guitar Scale Approach #2: Box Position Method

The next stage of Lydian Dominant scale guitar proficiency is position playing.

A position is all the notes you can play without shifting your whole hand up or down the neck; typically spanning 4 frets plus one on each side if you stretch/pivot.

Important note:

It’s overkill, in the beginning, to try to memorize every different box position pattern of the Lydian Dominant scale.

For now, stick to these positions with the root on the low A and E strings, as they are generally the easiest positions to relate to common bar chord shapes:


A String Root (Diagram starts on 4th fret)

Using Lydian Dominant A String Root


E String Root (Diagram starts on 9th fret)

Using Lydian Dominant E String Root


Once you’re familiar with these 2 shapes, you think of them as two ‘islands’, which you can then travel between via the single string approach we covered earlier in this lesson:

Lydian Dominant Scale Positions

Lydian Dominant Guitar Scale Approach #3: Diagonal Method

This is where you can visualize the fretboard in one-octave scale patterns linked diagonally across the fretboard.

Have a go at the following pattern (note that suggested fingering is on the diagram this time instead of intervals):


D Lydian Dominant – Diagonal Scale:

D Lydian Dominant Scale Guitar Diagonal

You can also do a very similar pattern starting with your root note on the 6th string. Let’s try this with a G root note instead:


G Lydian Dominant – Diagonal Scale:

G Lydian Doinant Scale Guitar Diagonal


This approach is the best of both worlds: a combination of the ‘horizontal’ single string approach and the ‘vertical’ box positions – carving out a ‘diagonal’ ­approach that covers the whole range of the instrument.


Most of the one-octave patterns are very similar, which helps for easy memorization of the scale. (For more on this kind of scale approach, check out my detailed post on the Tree jazz guitar scale system here.

Keep in mind:

Everyone learns differently, so you might favor one approach over the other for laying out this scale on the fretboard.

Experiment with each approach and see what makes the most sense.


Lydian Dominant Guitar Scale Approach #4: Letting go – A Taste Of Freedom


Lydian Dominant Scake Guitar Freedom

The last and the most desired level of scale proficiency is as close to total freedom on the fretboard as you can get.

It’s when you have the whole fretboard map visualized and burned in your muscle memory from using one or a combination of the above approaches.

Here’s what to do (try looking at the fretboard map above if you don’t have it completely visualized yet):

  • Start at the lowest note in your register and work your way up somehow through the scale to the highest note; then go back.
  • Pay attention to how you change the positions and keep the fingering comfortable; otherwise, avoid following a strict ‘approach’ or rules.
  • Take as much time as you need with each note.

This final approach will help you intuitively find the notes of the scale and will develop your ear training. It is the most powerful and flexible of all the approaches we’ve covered.


Level Up With These Fun Lydian Dominant Scale Guitar Exercises

Here are some practice ideas to give you some possibilities of how you could improvise with this scale:


Lydian Dominant Scale Guitar Exercise #1: Groups Of Three and Four

Have a go at these simple sequences of groups of three:

Lydian Dominant Licks


And now this example, where this time the pattern is arranged in groups of four:

When To Play Lydian Dominant

Lydian Dominant Scale Guitar Exercise #2: Skips Not Steps

Just playing the scale by its steps can get pretty stale.

Any scale you work on should also be played with skips. Here’s an example of Lydian Dominant with skips of thirds:

When To Use Lydian Dominant Scale

I encourage you to work out the same approach with other intervals, but nailing the 3rds is more than a good start.


Lydian Dominant Scale Guitar Exercise #3: Trippy Triads

Another fun and useful thing to practice is sequences of triads based on the notes in the Lydian Dominant scale (hint: this should be easier if you’ve worked on the 3rds above).

These Lydian Dominant arpeggio patterns can create a hip contour to your lines when soloing:


The examples above are written with a box position approach in mind, but you can just as well apply the sequence ideas to single strings (horizontal) and the range-based approach (diagonal).

Try coming up with your own patterns or Lydian dominant licks based on the exercises above.

Who Uses Lydian Dominant Scale


The Lydian Dominant Scale could be considered the complete Dominant 7 sound, which, unlike other scale choices, feels very stable and resolved.


Insights and Tips:

  • Other names for this scale are Lydian b7, acoustic scale, or the overtone scale.
  • No note of this scale clashes with a straight dominant seventh chord sounding underneath.
  • When to use Lydian dominant: The #11 is the characteristic note which, when appearing in a melody over a dominant chord, invites the use of the scale.
  • Whenever there is a section of a form that has a prolonged dominant pedal or vamp, the Lydian Dominant Scale would be one of the main candidates for the job.
  • Particularly useful in Blues tunes, where you would choose to play the dominant 7th chords for the I and IV degrees – that’s where you can show off all the sequences and licks you’ve come up with while working on the above-mentioned exercises.
  • Another good place could be the bridge of a Rhythm Changes tune – plenty of opportunities over all those dominant 7th chords!
Bonus PDF Download: Get access to a print friendly pdf version of the exercises in this article as well as a backing track to use for your practice session.

Further Resources:



Practicing the Lydian Dominant Scale on guitar thoroughly will be a great asset for your fretboard knowledge and muscle memory.

While it is not the only way to think about dominant chords, it’s definitely a fruitful one – a sound that lets you spread your wings over a Dominant 7 vamp, or shred hip Alan Holdsworth or John Coltrane-like runs.

Hit us up in the comment section with your thoughts or questions that are left unanswered – let’s get the discussion started…


About The Authors:

Greg O’Rourke, BMus (Hons), ANU – Founder of

Greg O’Rourke is the FretDojo Academy’s main instructor and the founder of – one of the most popular jazz guitar websites online today. Greg’s mission is to empower guitarists worldwide with the tools to make great music by providing high quality step-by-step courses and materials.

Greg has many thousands of subscribers to his website and Youtube channel from all across the world, and is also an established author, with his book on jazz chord melody, The Easy Guide To Chord Melody Guitar becoming an international bestseller.

Greg’s website has helped thousands of people improve their jazz guitar playing, and he’s been featured on several high profile jazz guitar websites including Jazz Guitar Online, Fundamental Changes, and Takelessons.

Danil Zverkhanovsky, (BA), Jazz Guitar

Danil Zverkhanovsky is a Ukrainian musician and producer based in Berlin and Kyiv. He has released his solo debut album In Pieces Suite in 2017, has released music as a co-leader of the band Bird Dreams and worked on various projects by other artists as a guitarist as well as a producer/mixer.

Danil was born in Kyiv in 1994 and has studied music with emphasis on guitar in the Glier College of Music in Kyiv, University of Arts Graz and Jazz Institute Berlin. Among his most notable teachers were Volodymyr Shabaltas and Kurt Rosenwinkel.

He is currently working on multiple projects including solo albums, new music for Bird Dreams as well as single releases in diverse genres.

Ready to take your jazz guitar playing to the next level?
Get access to FretDojo’s online course library here >>

Jazz Guitar Scales: One Pattern To Rule Them All

Jazz Guitar Scales: One Pattern To Rule Them All

Jazz Guitar Scales: One Pattern To Rule Them All

Have you been struggling with jazz guitar improvisation and are wondering about the best jazz guitar scales to use?

In this jazz guitar lesson, I’m going to show you a simple yet easy trick to improvise over the entire fretboard using a clever jazz scales method I call the “Tree System”. 

This system will make the fretboard easy to understand, give you a great framework for remembering all those jazzy scales, and save you a lot of time as well.

Bonus PDF Download: To get your free printable PDF which has the jazz scales guitar tabs and diagrams for this lesson, go here>>

Stick around to the end of this beginner jazz guitar lesson, because as a bonus I’m also going to give you some very useful tips on how to derive any jazz guitar scale or mode from this one pattern that I’m going to show you today.

Video Sections:

00:00 Introduction
01:19 The problem with CAGED scales (or box patterns) for jazz guitar positions
02:44 Introducing the “Tree” jazz guitar scales system
03:43 Branch 1 of the Tree System for jazz – major scale
06:27 Improvisation example with Branch 1
06:53 Branch 2 of the Tree System
10:07 Benefits of the Tree System
11:01 Guitar modes – creating a Dorian Scale from the Tree system
14:20 Wrap Up

The Issues With Box Position Jazz Guitar Scales:

In the past you might have learned something about the CAGED system otherwise known as “box patterns”:


This system splits the guitar neck into five boxes. Every box has notes out of the major scale, but just starts on a different note.

There are some issues using this approach for jazz guitar though:


Problem #1:

These box scale positions literally box you in! Being fixed in a single position like this can be very limiting. It really does feel like you are chained up, constrained, and unable to completely express yourself on the instrument:



Problem #2:

A lot of the interest in jazz comes from crossing a wide range of pitch when playing a phrase, such as this one:


But if you look at the box scales, at least 50% of each pattern is not that useful, as most of the pattern is too low – which can get very muddy when soloing, especially when playing with a bass player or another guitarist.


Problem #3:

The majority of notes repeat themselves in each of the box scale positions. It’s not a very efficient learning method as you are learning all these different patterns with the same notes basically repeated in each one:



Now don’t get me wrong – box patterns are still good to learn, and for rock and blues they actually work pretty well, due to the very limited number of key changes in most songs in those styles.

But in jazz music, the key changes come thick and fast, and you can very quickly get muddled with those box patterns. If you are always scratching your head trying to work out where the notes are that you want to target on the fretboard, this will distract you from actually making music.


A Different Way To Go About Jazz Scales For Guitar:

 Let’s think for a moment of a piano and how it’s laid out.

There aren’t multiple ways to play the same note on a piano. Middle C is always middle C, and there’s no way around it:

Also notice how the octave of each scale looks the same – you don’t need to remember a new pattern each time you go up to the next octave:


So what if we treated the fretboard similar to a piano?

Could we just learn one basic layout to the whole fretboard so you would instantly know where scale notes are anywhere on the neck?

Let’s have a look at a system where we can start to treat jazz scales more like a pianist, and greatly simplify our learning of the guitar fretboard for improvisation.


 Introducing the “Tree” Jazz Guitar Scale System

 I find one octave patterns much easier to remember and to lay the fretboard out with instead of using box patterns.

Let’s begin by looking at this one octave G Major guitar scale:



So far so good. This will be the first pattern of our ‘tree’ system.

Now let’s look at another single octave G Major scale, but this time starting on the 4th string instead of the 6th:


Notice anything similar?

Although the scale shapes are different, they start in the same way – both start with the 2nd finger, and the first 3 notes are in the same finger pattern in each.

Now let’s look at one more pattern – this time up around the 7th fret:


This isn’t a complete scale diagram as I would then need to shift out of position to reach the final notes (they would be on fret 12, 14 and 15).

But notice how in this scale shape how, once again, the pattern of the first few notes are the same as the other patterns.

So if we link these 3 guitar scale shapes together, we get one large pattern across the fretboard, moving ‘diagonally’:

9-jazz-scales-guitar-tabsWhat’s neat about this:

This 3 octave mega scale is so easy to remember.

Each new octave begins with the 2nd finger – and the same finger pattern for the first 3 notes in each octave.

We now have one scale, covering the most usable range of the guitar. Rather than learning several box patterns that overlap, you only need this single diagonal pattern to solo with G Major over the entire fretboard.


Working Out Scales In More Keys:

Now, in order to get different keys, all you need to do is to shift this pattern up and down the neck.

The pattern that I showed you above works well for several keys like F#, G, Ab, A, Bb and B.

But other keys such as Eb or F won’t work as well, because I’ve run out of frets down the lower end of the guitar.

But we can use this idea of single octaves linked diagonally to work out an extra “tree branch” which will complete our full “tree” scale system. Read on to learn how…


Branch 2 of the Tree System for Jazz Guitar Scales:

Here’s a couple more one octave scale shapes that will comprise Branch 2 of our system:


Notice how the pattern on the left in the above diagram is exactly the same as the very first pattern we covered earlier in this lesson – it just starts on the 5th string instead of the 6th.

The second pattern in the above diagram is the only distinctly different pattern in the whole system, as it starts with the first finger instead of the second.

Remember those 3 high notes that I needed to finish off the first branch?

This is actually the top string of our final pattern:


So this is the point where all these scale patterns connect, like the trunk of the tree:




Once you’ve learned to thread these major scale patterns together, you can choose to play through either of the two ‘branches’ of the system. Because the one octave patterns are all so similar, it makes it very easy to ensure you are hitting the correct notes of the scale everywhere on the fretboard.

So that completes our system: instead of learning five very unrelated positions (or box patterns) that overlap, you now have these easy to remember single octave pattern shapes threaded together through the entire fretboard.


Benefits of the Tree Jazz Scale System:

Here’s why this jazz guitar scale system is so powerful.

For example:

If I wanted to learn a Gmaj7 arpeggio, I can learn it with similar patterns on the fretboard and then link it all together to make a MEGA arpeggio over several octaves, giving me a lot more range to explore on the instrument compared to using a box pattern:


Joe Pass often mentioned that it’s useful to repeat licks again in another octave to get more mileage out of a line for jazz guitar improvisation. This system makes it simple as you just follow the tree down one of it’s branches:



Bonus Tip: Creating Other Jazz Guitar Scales and Modes:

 Learning a single box pattern for every new scale you want to learn, that has no clear relationship to other scale patterns you learned in the past, confuses many students.

The Tree system, however, makes it easy to learn any other guitar scale or mode that you wish.

For example:

If I wanted to play G Dorian instead of G Major, I just need to lower the 3rd and 7th notes of the major scale pattern:


If I give each of the patterns from Branch #1 this treatment, I will now end up with a Dorian scale across the whole fretboard!


In this way, I can derive any scale I want simply by altering the relevant notes in each one octave pattern through the branches of the system.

As every new scale you learn is an alteration of the basic one octave major scale patterns, I believe the Tree guitar scale system is far easier to learn and less confusing than box scale positions.

Ironically, the more complex the music you play, the simpler the approaches you need.

Whatever system you end up using:

Make sure it’s one where you can focus less on trying to find the right notes, and more on actually making music.

Bonus PDF Download: To get your free printable PDF which has the jazz scales guitar tabs and diagrams for this lesson, go here>>


What Do You Think? Leave a Comment…

So there you have it – the Tree Guitar Scale Method revealed!

Over to you – what do YOU think of this jazz guitar scale system? Do you think I’m onto something here – or do you disagree with this method? Leave a comment below with your thoughts….

Greg O’Rourke

BMus (Hons), ANU

Founder, FretDojo

Ready to take your jazz guitar playing to the next level?
Get access to FretDojo’s online course library here >>

Bossa Nova Chords Progression – Seduce The Six Strings Baby (Guitar Lesson)

Bossa Nova Chords Progression – Seduce The Six Strings Baby (Guitar Lesson)

Bossa Nova Chords Progression – Seduce The Six Strings Baby (Guitar Lesson)

Yeah baby – in today’s beginner jazz guitar lesson you’ll learn a very cool bossa nova chords progression – and I’m going to show you how to build up one of the most useful bossa nova guitar rhythm patterns step by step.

If you can play one bossa nova rhythm well you can play them all I think, so today I’m going to show you one of the most useful bossa nova guitar patterns that I tend to use when playing Brazilian guitar chords at gigs.

Stick around to the end of this bossa nova guitar lesson because as a bonus I’m also going to give you some very useful jazz chord voicing tweaks to help make your playing instantly sound more authentic with those cool Brazilian guitar chords.

Bonus PDF Download: To get your free printable PDF which has the bossa nova guitar tab for this lesson, go here>>

Video Sections:

00:00 Introduction
01:31 Exercise 1 – Basic Bossa Nova Guitar Pattern
02:06 Fingerstyle Warmups For Bossanova Guitar Chords
05:34 Exercise 1a – Alternating Bass on Bossa Nova Guitar Chords
07:07 Exercise 2 – Adding Syncopation
10:02 Exercise 2a – Syncopation + Alternating Bass
11:29 Exercise 3 – Chords Anticipation in Bossa Nova Chord Progressions
16:22 How Insensitive Bossa Nova Comping Example
17:22 Next Steps

Let’s go through everything I cover in the video step by step:

Step 1 – Basic Pattern For Bossa Nova Chord Progression
(see video at 01:31)


Let’s build this up little by little. Start with a basic Dmaj7 chord and only hold that one for this exercise.

So pretty easy in the left-hand, but on the plucking hand, we’ve got a bit of fingerstyle work to do. Fingerstyle is the preferred plucking technique for bossa nova comping as it’s very natural to play these kinds of rhythm patterns like this.

Notice how the thumb plays on beats 1 and 3 of the pattern. This is typical with bossanova guitar chords – the bass remains steady on these beats while the fingers create interesting counter rhythms over the top.

Use the thumb for the bass notes and your index, middle and ring fingers for the top notes. As a warmup exercise, alterate playing a bass note with the thumb with the top three open strings with your fingers to get a grip on the movements.

This can take a bit of time to get used to, so don’t worry if you can’t do that straight away – practice make progress!


Step 1a – Alternating Bass on Bossa Nova Guitar Chords
(see video at 05:34)


This one is very similar to the first one above. The only difference is how you alternate the bass between the 5th and 6th strings, creating more interest.

Step 2 – Adding Syncopation (see video at 07:07)


Awesome – we’re nearly to the point where you’re going to be able to play the full bossa nova guitar pattern I’m leading you to.

 This one provides a bit more syncopation to the rhythms you are playing with the fingers.

 It’s good to stick to a steady groove with bossa nova guitar, but sometimes it’s nice to mix up things a little bit and put a little bit more syncopation in those upper notes.

Yes, it does look complicated on the sheet music, but when you listen to it and play along with the video, your ears will make sense of how the rhythm should go.


Step 2a – Syncopation + Alternating Bass (see video at 10:02)


We are getting sooooo close to our ultimate bossa nova chords progression pattern, but just one more step before we get there. 

You’re going to do the same thing that we just did in the previous exercise, but all we need to do now is alternate the bass note back and forth between the 5th and 6th strings.


Step 3 – Chords Anticipation in Bossa Nova Chord Progressions
(see video at 11:29)



Here it is – the final pattern! 

This is actually very similar to the pattern that you did in the previous example. This time, you’re adding a little upbeat anticipation on some of the chords.

Instead of just a single chord in the fretting hand, you now have:

Dmaj7 | Bbdim7 | Am7 | D7(b9) | Gmaj7

Notice on the upbeat to the Bbdim7 and the D7(b9) I anticipate the chord by an eighth note.

If you want to sound really hip with this Brazilian style, grab the chord voicing on the upbeat to the next bar here and there when you play bossa nova chord progressions.

Also, as I demonstrate on the video, have a go at moving the top note in the voicings up and down as you play the pattern to make a quasi-melody – this can make the comping sound very sophisticated.


Wrap Up & Next Steps:

Bonus PDF Download: To get your free printable PDF which has the bossa nova guitar tab for this lesson, go here>>

I hope this post got you inspired to give this bossa nova chords progression pattern a try.

Bossa nova guitar is one of the coolest comping techniques and is essential knowledge for any jazz guitarist – many jazz standards are in a Latin feel and so at some point you’ll definitely to be asked to play with this kind of rhythm pattern.

Over to you – leave a comment to let me know what YOUR favorite bossa nova tunes are so I know which bossa nova chord progressions I should focus on in future lessons on this website.

 ~ Greg O’Rourke

BMus (Hons), ANU


World Leader in Online Jazz Guitar Lessons

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