Help Your Guitarist Succeed in Jazz Band

Get your guitarist from “Smoke on the Water” to “Stompin’ at the Savoy!”

Help your guitarist succeed in Jazz Band. We all know that guitarists struggle with reading music. We can overcome this, but, honestly, it’s not the first thing we need from our guitarist. What we need, in a big band, is for them to be able to read chord charts, use the correct style of voicings, and play with a swing jazz or basic Latin rhythm.  This is the first skill we should cultivate, then use it to build the rest. The rest being, reading rhythms, reading single note lines, improvisation, and other styles and types of chord voicings. All of which are covered in subsequent volumes of the Crash Course in Jazz Guitar Method.

A Crash Course In Jazz Rhythm Guitar was developed specifically to address this problem. This volume will take a guitarist all the way from not knowing the names of the notes on their guitar to being able to read the 3-page chart below.

The book contains tricks and tips that real jazz guitarists use when reading these charts. How we actually read them, what to include, what to exclude. How to play with the correct feel. The method is based on 3-note voicings in the style of Freddie Green, the legendary guitarist for the Count Basie Big Band.  I know most band directors would be happy to have Freddie Green chomping away on the chords back there. Now, they can focus on those saxes!

Many books teach jazz chords, and even 3-note voicings, but that’s not enough for our students. They also need to know how read the charts. Many of them don’t know what a 1st or 2nd ending is, what a Coda is, or even a repeat sign. This book covers all of that. I created this book with my students while going over the charts they were bringing from jazz band. So, everything in here is what the student will see in a real live band.

on May 14, 2017


The student will learn the following from A Crash Course In Jazz Rhythm Guitar:
  • All notes on string 6 and 5 and how to find them easily. Including sharps and flats. (The foundation of so, so much on guitar. Very Important.)
  • 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.
  • Swing Jazz Rhythm and Basic Latin Rhythm (Bossa)
  • 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, the student 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.

Support material is also available on the free companion website. The most important of which are playalongs, so the student can practice playing the new material in time, with a live band.

Here’s a sample playalong for a Jazz Blues.

Give your student a solid foundation in Jazz Guitar. Let them experience some success, then build upon that success. Crash Course In Jazz Rhythm Guitar is available on Amazon.


More Praise for Crash Course In Jazz Rhythm Guitar.
A Little Bit About Me and The Method


Why Can’t Guitarists Read? Sympathy for the G

Why can’t guitarists read?

Guitar is not taught in school. Period.  Well, OK, I guess that it’s then.

Alright, a little more.

All the band and orchestra instruments are taught in school, beginning in elementary school in many places. Guitar is excluded. Some schools have clubs now, but in the clubs, kids mostly play pop tunes. Certainly no reading is going on. Guitarists learn outside of an education system, by passing tunes to each other, or by use of “TABs” on the internet. It is a very old, and very useful system of notation for stringed instruments like guitar or lute. But, TAB, has it’s limitations, and is not used in scores. Maybe it should be, but that is subject for another post, and not the world we live in.


Guitar is also a very difficult instrument to read on. Depending on the size of your guitar, you may be able to play “middle C” in up to 5 places, 4 being realistic, and 3 being common. In order to read well on the guitar, you must learn five different complete patterns and all the corresponding notes. This is equivalent to learning five different stringed instruments really, a daunting task. That said, it is doable, of course.

It is my belief that all five positions should be learned. But, if we want someone to be able to play band music quickly we need only teach a middle of the neck position, with extensions. This will suffice and allow us to learn the other shapes also, as we have to play other keys within the same zone on the guitar.

Ok, getting too technical for this post.  I’ll save it.

In closing, have some sympathy for your guitarist. As far as reading goes, the cards have been stacked against them. Find them the help they need, and have patience. They are trying to catch up with people that have been reading for a few years already. They can do it, with the right guidance and approach.

Rock on.


Why Did I Write A Crash Course in Jazz Rhythm Guitar?


Well, long-story-short, I wrote Crash Course In Jazz Rhythm Guitar because it didn’t exist and the world needs it.  Get students ready to read charts, play correct voicings and in the correct style, all in a fun, directed, and quick manner.

I have been playing jazz guitar since high school. I went to music school, got an B.Mus in Jazz Studies. Gigged around, taught for a decade. Went back to school, got a M.Music in Jazz Studies. Gigged more, taught a lot more, starting doing studio session work, wrote tunes, toured, gave concerts.

Most of my students are not jazz guitarists, but many have been. I’ve taught privately and at institutions of higher learning. I’ve taught middle school kids to play it and college kids, too. It’s not much different really. All of my students have won their auditions, often beating out older kids. It’s not a competition, except it is. 🙂

Why did they win the audition? Because they play what the band director wants to hear from them.  I’ve been through the system, I still work within it, and I know what is needed for them to succeed right away. I know what the band needs/wants from them, and that’s what we get down first. It’s that simple.

On a larger note, I think jazz is often taught wrong, and I aim to tackle that, too. Especially to guitarists. So, it is my hope that I can use my 30 years of studying, playing, and teaching to get more kids playing jazz and having success, and therefore, fun.  Kids or adults.

Jazz can be hard or it can be simple. Or it can be lots of simples layered upon each other. Make it simple, that’s what both Joe Pass and Yusef Lateef told me, and I’ve taken it to heart.

Thanks for stopping by!



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