Are you an aspiring jazz musician looking for easy jazz guitar songs? Then you’ve come to the right place. In our list of easy jazz songs on guitar we are exploring popular jazz songs that are ideal for beginner players. You will learn different jazz styles as well as music theory to play this difficult genre of music. Use your guitar as the lead instrument to play each track and enjoy playing.
Take a look at our beginners guide how to play jazz to get the basics of the genre down and then you can jump into this list easily. Each of the songs we’ve featured below comes with a video tutorial that you can watch to learn how to play the track. These tutorials are done by professional guitar players who have the jazz standard of playing down. Read on to find every popular song that can be played by a beginner.
Table of Contents
1. Blue Bossa
We’re starting off our list with Blue Bossa, a song released in 1963 which was written by Kenny Dorham. This song is a great example of mixing Latin jazz with bebop style. You will notice that there is a bossa nova type feel to this popular song which gives it that Latin flair.
Before you start trying to play jazz guitar to this tune, you will need to master the rhythm for a bossa nova. The rhythm is the main part of any bossa nova song so it’s important that you nail it. Once you feel confident that you can play the rhythm properly, use the video tutorial below to learn the song.
Nuages was a song that was written in World War II shortly after the German’s occupied Paris. The song comes from the famous father of gypsy jazz, Django Reinhardt, and it’s arguably his most famous work.
When the song was first released it did great in record sales and the wistful, sentimental melody evokes thoughts of better times. Even today the song is considered a jazz standard of gypsy jazz and is still very popular.
The simple chord progression you will be playing is great on the acoustic guitar but it can also work on electric if that’s your preferred style of instrument.
3. All the Things You Are
Featured in the musical Very Warm for May and written by Oscar Hammerstein and Jerome Kern in 1939, this entry into our easy jazz guitar songs list is still very popular. Many jazz guitar players have gone on to record their own versions and perform it during their live concerts.
One of the main reasons why this song is still successful and has achieved such longevity is thanks to the harmonic structure. The main sections used a chord progression that moves in 4th intervals and the bridge is made up of two II-V-I chord progressions. It then returns back to the first section again to finish.
4. Autumn Leaves
Jacques Prevert and Joseph Kosma were the French/Hungarian team behind the popular classic Autumn Leaves. In terms of easy jazz guitar songs this is a great one to learn because it teaches you about chord melodies and how to build up jazz solos.
5. On Green Dolphin Street
When On Green Dolphin Street was initially released by Bronislaw Caper in 1947 it wasn’t actually a huge hit. The reason that it became so popular for jazz musician is thanks to the harmonic movement which is very interesting. It uses alternative eight bars of pedals which is a great way to practice your pentatonic scale. You then move into a rapid chord progression of eight bars too.
It was the 1958 performance starring Cannonball Adderley, John `Coltrane and Bill Evans that would make this tune popular. Many artists still experiment with it to this day.
6. Take the A Train
Take the A Train was a song written by Billy Strayhorn. It’s a tune that the Duke Ellingtn orchestra adopted as their main theme after the writer presented it to Ellington back in 1940. The lyrics were written as Ellington instructed Strayhorn to do. When it was released it became one of the immediate jazz standards that stayed in the top charts for seven weeks.
The melody itself is very joyful and it features a lot of strong flat fifth notes which feature in th second bar. The bridge is very uplifting and it starts on a IV chord. Because this song is still so popular for jazz guitar songs it’s an essential one to learn if you want to learn the jazz genre.
Corcovado is a mountain that overlooks Rio de Jainero and this is where the inspiration for Corcovado was taken from. In the English lyrics which were written by Gene Lees, the song was titled Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars. Once again we are looking at a bossa nova rhythm and overall composition because of the Latin Brazilian roots. The songwriter is indeed Brazilian and his name is Antonio Carlos Jobim.
The true beauty of this song is in the composition which evokes the tranquility of the mountain with the use of soothing melodic phrases. these phrases move up and down in complete tones. It’s a great one for any guitarist to learn if you want to play more bossa nova style music. It’s a piece that is often used during jam sessions thanks to its simplicity and great tonal range.
8. Cotton Tail
A more up beat and swinging jazz song is Cotton Tail by Duke Ellington. It has a faster tempo and features 32 bars of an AABA chord progression. This is based on I Got Rhythm by George Gershwin and this style is known as rhythm changes.
The great harmony of this jazz hit was immediately popular amongst musicians in the the 1930s thanks to those easy chord changes. These can be substituted and altered to make many more compositions using the chord changing template that Gershwin set out.
Learning how rhythm changes work and navigating through them is a basic skill you will need to learn if you want to be a jazz guitarist. This is a great place to start and it’s fun to play on the guitar too. Once you have got the basic sequence down it will open up countless doors for you to play more tracks with rhythm changes.
We hope you enjoyed our list of jazz standards which will give you the ideal starting point for learning jazz on the guitar. The basics of jazz must be learned before you jump into this list so you can make the perfect song even better. Check out more easy songs with simple chords my jazz legends such as Miles Davis and Charlie Parker. Remember that we have plenty of guides here on our website including easy Christmas songs to get you ready for the festive season.