What Does A Guitarist Need to Know For Jazz Band Audition?

So, you want to get into your school jazz band, middle-school, high-school, or college. It’s a blast and you get to play in a super cool group, doing something different than the normal guitarist. Good for you! But, the audition is coming up and you’re not sure what’s expected of you. What does the guitarist need to know to play in jazz band? There are two main types of jazz band, Big Band and Combo Jazz.  We’re going to be talking about Big Band.

What you’re required to know and how good you’re expected to be vary greatly depending upon what grade/level you are auditioning for, and how advanced your school is. Some programs are really mellow and some are crazy technical!

The number one thing you need to know is how to read a chord chart and play chords, preferably with a jazz sound and in a jazz style/rhythm.  There are a lot of possibilities here, too, but if you want to make sure you cover your bases and sound great from day 1,  learn 3-note chords/voicings and the swing style rhythm, ala Freddie Green. The Crash Course in Jazz Rhythm Guitar will take you from knowing nothing to playing 3-note voicings in swing rhythm in a fun, easy, step-by-step method.

The list below is what you should know how to do, and in order of priority.


  1. Read and Play Chord Charts in a Jazz Swing Style.
  2. The Pentatonic and Blues Scales. (For Improvisation)
  3. Latin Rhythm Style. Generic cover all like a Bossa Nova rhythm.
  4. Reading Rhythms for “comping” patterns. (Comping means playing chords or accompanying.)
  5. Reading Rhythms for “comping” patterns. (Comping means playing chords or accompanying.)
  6. Reading Single Note Lines
  7. High Voicings/ Chords for other styles.
  8. 3/7 Voicings/chords comping.
  9. Comping Rhythms for various styles.
  10. Advanced Improvisation
  11. How to meditate while they work endlessly on the horn parts. 

Ack! That’s a long list, but, remember, that is all the way from beginning to advanced.

For 97% of you, just knowing items 1 and 2 will win you the audition.  You don’t have to know everything to get started and win the audition. You just have to know the “right” stuff, what you band director wants to hear from their guitarist. It’s not bar chords or rock and roll. It’s 3-note voicings and swing rhythm. Get these down and then build up the rest. Other books in the Crash Course series cover all the other items, and will be covered later.

A Crash Course In Jazz Rhythm Guitar covers list items 1 and 3.  Item 2 is available for free on the companion website.

So, don’t get overwhelmed, don’t watch a million youtube videos.  You have one task ahead, learn 3-note voicings, how to read charts, and swing and latin rhythm.

Have fun! oh, and listen, always listen to the music you are going to play.



Master 3-Note Voicings and Chord Charts/ Big Band Charts

Layered Simplicity

My whole philosophy in this Crash Course is to learn each layer of jazz guitar as simply as possible. Focusing on one element and really get a handle on it before moving.

It is discouraging and unhelpful to struggling to play chords that way out of your range. Heck, it discouraging to do anything like that. You don’t start of on the high dive, ya know?

I believe you learn how to play 3-note chords first. Get good rhythm, a fantastic vocabulary, and a working knowledge of standard chord progressions.  You simplify, and you’ll never be confused by what is happening in the music.

If you can, focus on one main thing at a time. Don’t just take my word for it. Here is famed blogger/marketer/wisebaldmanonthemountian Seth Godin’s take on it. 

Not sure if Crash Course is for You? Maybe this will help.  “Say One Thing At A Time”

About Crash Course In Jazz Rhythm Guitar Vol 1

If you follow the step by step program you will be able to play the tune at the end, Grasshopper Reaches Top of the Mountain.

The Sample below is an excerpt. Much, much more is covered. You can check out the Table of Contents to get more idea of what is covered. The goal of this book is to get you playing jazz rhythm guitar quickly, correctly, with voicings that are legitimate and sound great!

Here is the Sample PDF for Crash Course in Jazz Rhythm Guitar.

 Get Crash Course in Jazz Rhythm Guitar on Amazon

Crash Course in Jazz Rhythm Guitar is For:

  • Students of any age or background.  (Note Reading Not Required.)
  • Guitar Teachers that want to help their students pass the audition and get in the big band at school.
  • Guitarists coming over from other styles.
  • Singer-songwriters that want a really cool sound to add to their mix.
  • Instrumentalists looking to accompany other players or singers. It’s the perfect mix of bass note and chord quality. Punchy, full, yet nimble.
  • Swing jazzers, Gypsy jazzers, Western-swingers, post-modern jukebox lovers.
  • Fans of Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Freddie Greene, Django Reinhardt, or Bob Wils.

You Will Learn, In A Simple Step-By-Step Process:

  • All notes on string 6 and 5 and how to find them easily. Including sharps and flats.
  • The easy formula to learn all the notes on the guitar.
  • 3-note chords. The backbone of jazz rhythm guitar.
  • How to read chords on a lead sheet.
  • How to simplify complex chords and still play something that is correct and sounds great!
  • All the symbols that you need to know to read that Big Band chord chart. (Rhythms are addressed in volume 2.)
  • More…..

By The End Of the Book, You Will:

  • Have a solid command of 3-note chords, able to accompany in many styles.
  • Have formed a foundation for building a thorough understanding of jazz.
  • Harmony will begin to make sense. (Told to me by an older student who has been playing for years.)
  • Have developed good time and a good rhythmic pulse. (The Playalongs really, really help with this.)
  • Now have the ability to go on and learn Rhythms, Improvisation, High Chords, 3/7 comping, Sightreading, Theory and more. All in future volumes on this Crash Course Series.
  • Other benefits that people keep bringing up, that I would have never imagined. (Thank you guys and gals!)


Be Efficient.


Make It Easy.

How to Strum For Swing Jazz

There are many ways to strum the guitar while playing Rhythm Guitar. Swing Jazz guitar has a very specific way, and it primarily involves downstrokes.  There are a lot of subtle variations, but we’re going to start with the basics, just pure downstrokes, then downstrokes with short notes in the left hand.