The Unimportance of Genre

Creating a mini-feature on the Cambridge Jazz Festival got me thinking about genres and how we categorise music – does the name of the genre of music you make really matter? Or is it just a short-hand people use to know whether or not they might like listening to something?

Here’s some links to the bands mentioned:

Lastly, links to the Cambridge Jazz Festival:


Standard Chord Progressions 2 – The II V I

In Jazz we like to say that each chord plays a particular role within a scale. The job of the I chord is pretty clear  – it’s what we want to hear the most, no matter what comes before it we need this to feel satisfied at the end of a piece. The V, (or Dominant as it is often called), is expected before the I – it sets it up. The II, sets-up the V which in turn sets-up the I.

You could say that the II V I does for jazz what the I IV V does for blues, and there are some short jazz pieces that consist entirely of that, (in one form or another). The II V I is used more often, however, as part of a piece of music, perhaps at the end to gently wind-down to the root chord. In any case, most of the jazz lessons I present to you will either include or entirely rely on the II V I, and there’s many interesting ways it can be adapted, so you’d best get used to it.

We’re going to learn the pattern in C Major, using 7th chords. The chords are shown below, followed by the phrasing we’re going to use.

Quartal Harmony

Here’s something that’s been fascinating me recently – Quartal Harmony. If you’re at all into jazz or fusion you may already be aware of this idea, if not you might like to use it to embellish chord progressions, or use them as a basis for some unique solos. As I’m still getting to grips with these ideas I’ll leave it to the experts to explain.


Memorizing The Fretboard

(I’ve stolen an image from for this. So there.)

These are some tips and tricks to help you memorize the fretboard. Memorizing the fretboard will help you to instinctively know where to go in order to voice different chords.

The first step is to remember the order of the open strings, which is as follows, (from deepest pitch to highest), E A D g b e. Quite often the thinnest three strings, (the ones which aren’t coiled), are written as lower-case letters. This helps to avoid confusion, being as there are two strings pitched to E.

Secondly, you need to remember that any note on the 12th fret is the same as it’s open string, only an octave higher.

The next sensible thing to do is to learn the notes on the deeper E string. Start by learning the notes on the 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th frets, which are shown below. I have yet to see a guitar that doesn’t mark these frets on the freeboard or at least on the side of the neck. Be aware that a few guitars mark the first fret as well, mostly for aesthetics, so the 3rd fret is not always the first inlay on your guitar neck.


The fourth step is remembering that the 1st fret on the E string is an F, the 8th fret is a C, and the 10th fret is a D. It is about this point that you will also need to learn that there are no Cb, B#, Fb or E# notes. If you are playing an E, (open E string), and sharpen the note by a half step, you will be playing F. Similarly, if you sharpen a B by a half step you will be playing C. In reverse, flattening a C will give you a B, and flattening a F will give you an E.

The next step is to memorize the highlighted notes on the A string, which are as follows. Also, remember that the 2nd fret on the A string is a B note.


Once you have these down, you’ve certainly done the majority of the work. Learning the notes on the D and G strings is comparatively very easy. All you need to know now, is that if you play a note on the E or A strings, you can play that note’s octave, by skipping a string and playing 2 frets above. For instance, the following pairs are the same notes, but an octave apart:


A similar rule is true when your first note is played on the G or D string. You need to take account of the tuning discrepancy for the B string. You’ll need to skip a string, but then play three frets higher, like this:


Once you have these seven steps down, it’s only a case of filling in the gaps, which is usually as simple as placing a b or # symbol next to the adjacent note. And there you have it, fretboard memorized.

Hammer-Claw Finger-Picking Technique

Hammer-claw finger-picking is a technique used in country, jazz and sometimes blues music where the guitarist plays with their fingers rather than a pick. In this style your thumb is the “hammer” and your fingers are the “claw”. Your “hammer” is intended to play the bass strings, (E, A and sometimes D), and replicate the job of a bass guitar, while your “claw” plays the chords on the higher strings. The really cool thing about this technique is it can replicate more than one instrument, which can thicken-out a solo performance remarkably.

Below are the charts for the 4 chords you’ll need. Although other notes are used between these chords, these are the shapes you’ll be holding down the majority of the time.


Here is the tab and notation, broken up into each figure as discussed in the video.


Backing track.

Example Song #3 – 7th Barre Chords in Gm

This track is intended as an exercise for students who have recently been introduced to 7 Barre Chords. Once they are familiar with the shapes this track is a good way of learning how they’re used in practice. You’re playing mainly 7 barre chords.

The Basic 7 Barre Chords lesson will be a useful reference if you need to remind yourself of the chords used below. (Use the Bm7 shape with the roots on the 5th and 3rd frets for Dm7 and Cm7 respectively. Use the F#m7 shape with the root on the 3rd fret for the Gm7. The F#7 shape on the 1st fret give you F7. Lastly, the BMaj7 shape on the 1st fret will give you BbMaj7)
You may also want to review the first Basic Barre Chords lesson. (Use the Bm shape, but with the root on the 5th fret to get your Dm barre chord).


This can also be used as a backing track for solo guitarists. The key is Gm.