There are a number of ways to learn how to play jazz guitar, and not all methods will work for every person. In this post, we’ll explore some of the pros and cons of several different approaches to learning how to play jazz guitar.
Private Jazz Guitar Lessons
Taking private lessons with an experiences jazz guitar teacher is probably the most efficient way to learn how to play jazz guitar. However, this can be quite pricey. And if you’re not located within a major metropolitan area, it could be difficult to find a qualified teach for jazz guitar lessons. On the other hand, if you do have access to a jazz guitar teacher, you’ll likely progress much more quickly than via other available methods.
Online Guitar Lessons
If you live outside of a major metropolitan area, you might be able to find an excellent teacher who teaches jazz guitar lessons online. Now that online music lessons have become so prevalent, you can likely find an extremely qualified jazz guitar teacher who will be very glad to teach online, and you might even find the cost to be most reasonable than in-person lessons. Some drawbacks to online lessons will be that the instructor will not be able to offer feedback about tone as accurately given the sound limitations of online lessons, and the delay in the online format could make playing together in the lesson more difficult, and possible not even possible, depending upon the technology the teacher is using.
One fantastic example of a jazz guitar teacher who is doing a great job of offering jazz guitar lessons online is my colleague Ed Levy, right here in New York City. Ed offers online solo and group jazz guitar lessons, and will regularly offer workshops focusing on specific aspects of playing jazz guitar. Ed’s playing credentials are impeccable. He’s worked with some of the finest musicians in the world in addition to performing with many Broadway pit orchestras. He also offers several eBooks on jazz guitar playing and an incredibly helpful blog concerning various aspects of guitar playing.
Speaking of books….
Jazz Guitar Method Books
There are any number of books available detailing how to play jazz guitar. Several of the most notable books available are Jazz Guitar Soloing: The Cellular Approach by Randy Vincent, Three-Note Voicings and Beyond (also by Randy Vincent), and The Advancing Guitarist by Mick Goodrick.
On major advantage to using a jazz guitar method book is that it will be much less expensive than taking private jazz guitar lessons. However, you’ll miss the necessary feedback from an experienced instructor that will help you to progress at a steady pace. That said, starting with a method book can be an excellent way for someone to get started if they’re an advanced level guitarist looking to add another style in their wheelhouse. However, jazz guitar is so specific that it would behoove any aspiring jazz guitarist to seek out a private teacher or even group lessons at some point to ensure they’re headed down the right path.
Learning By Ear With Recordings
This is the “old school” way to learn how to play jazz on any instrument. This is definitely the least expensive way to learn how to play jazz guitar, but it can also be the most frustrating. For many years, jazz musicians have learned their craft by imitating recordings, learning solos note for note, and trying out new material in jam sessions. No matter how many Wes Montgomery recordings someone has dissected, there are so many subtle nuances to playing jazz guitar that it’s almost impossible to master the style without having at least some guidance from an experienced and knowledgeable instructor.
Whether you choose to take jazz guitar lessons in person or online or if you go about learning jazz guitar through method books and recordings, it’s likely that you’ll need to seek out guidance from an experienced instructor at some point. Whether you choose online or in-person lessons will be decided by your personal needs and possibly your location. Also, the approach you choose will also be guided by your learning goals. If you’re a hobbyist looking to improve and have fun, you could be well suited with books and learning by ear. In order to be able to play jazz guitar on a professional level, most people will probably find that a combination of all of these approaches will be necessary.
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