11 Easy Jazz Songs on Guitar

I admit that I have some regrets about my own musical journey. 

And one of those regrets is not learning more about Jazz theory and developing the chops necessary to play Jazz guitar.

Because playing the more difficult compositions by some of the famous guitarists like Joe Pass or Wes Montgomery takes a lifetime to master, or at least thousands of hours. 

For example, there are seasoned Jazz guitarists that can play so fast that their fingers are just a blur. And they don’t even have distortion or delay effects to cover up any mistakes!

But if you’re like me, sometimes you can get tired of playing the same Blues, Rock, and Country music that everyone else plays. 

Plus, Jazz just has that mysterious and sophisticated aura that sets it apart from other genres. 

But there is hope for us… not every Jazz song is beyond reach.

They might still be harder than the latest Foo Fighters or Taylor Swift songs, but with a little time, you can master one or a few Jazz songs.

And it won’t just make you a better player in the end, it will make you a more interesting player and expand your chord vocabulary so you can apply what you learn to other styles too. 

Now as far as the tone you’re looking for, your amp should be set to clean with the tone in the middle or towards the bass side (with some reverb if you want). 

And for your instrument, you can use a solid body guitar but make sure you are using the neck pickup, preferably a humbucker. 

Of course, a hollow body is more traditional but Jazz guitars can be very expensive!

Lastly, for songs that require a pick, you should be using a thick one such as Dunlop’s Jazz III model.

So let’s check out some different songs that you can attempt without making your fingers suffer too much!

1. Dream a Little Dream of Me – Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong

This flirty old song has been around forever and covered by many artists but it’s a perfect first Jazz song to try. 

While Ella and Louis are accompanied by a horn section in this famous recording, The Mamas and the Papas did it on guitar and it sounds spectacular on any instrument. 

The video tutorial below will have you playing some diminished and 6th chords but if it’s too much you can try the tab that uses more standard chords. 

And whether you want to fingerpick it or try strumming along with the melody of the song is up to you (playing chord accompaniment is called “comping” in Jazz guitar lingo). 

Here is a breakdown of the song using simple chords.

Verse: G B7 Ab G7 C B7 A A7

Dm Fm C D9 G7

And then play Eb7 if you are about to enter the Chorus / Bridge section instead of repeating a verse.

Chorus / Bridge: Ab Fm Bb Eb7 (three times) 

Ab Fm G7

It has a lot of different chords for sure, but that’s what makes it sound so dynamic and “jazzy”!

Link to tab

And here’s a lesson:

2. The Girl from Ipanema – Stan Getz and João Gilberto

Brazil doesn’t just export coffee and soccer stars. It’s also the birthplace of Bossa Nova (“new beat”) which is a guitar-driven offshoot of Jazz music. 

And this is the song that started it all as far as making it a popular style.

I can still remember the first time I heard someone do this on an acoustic guitar and looking confusedly at the chords they were using.

Now, I admit the names of the chords used in this song are intimidating. But their bark is worse than their bite.

Just think of them as “shapes” rather than their technical names like Ab7(#11) or Db6add9/Ab.

But you should be prepared for one thing that is probably new to a lot of players who haven’t dabbled with Jazz chords before. 

And that is having omitted or muted strings between other strings which are played. It’s a little different than not playing the E or A string as you do with some cowboy chords.

In this song, it won’t matter too much if you are plucking the strings but if you try to use a pick, it will take some practice!

This brings us to the biggest stylistic feature of this song: the rhythm.

You will be alternating your bass notes with the higher strings in a very precise style, and I highly recommend using the video tutorial to learn this one.

The good news is that this song was such a driving force in the Bossa Nova Jazz style that if you choose to learn another Bossa Nova song, there’s a good chance it will use the exact same technique!

Link to tab

And here’s a lesson:

3. Fly Me to the Moon – Frank Sinatra

If you need an easy crowd-pleaser, a Frank Sinatra tune is always a safe bet. 

And this song is quite simple, using chords that are easy to finger and a novice strumming pattern of down, down, up, up, down, up.

The verses mostly just repeat the same chord progression, but the song’s choruses end on different notes, which I will highlight below.

Here is a breakdown of the song.

Verse: Am Dm7 G7 Cmaj7 F Dm E7 Am A7 (E7 is simply E in verses 2 and 3).

Chorus 1: Dm7 G7 C Am Dm7 G7 C E

Chorus 2: Dm7 G7 C Am E7 Dm7 G7 Fm C

Chorus 3: Dm7 G7 C Am Dm7 G7 Dm7 G G7 C

Link to tab

And here’s a lesson:

4. Autumn Leaves – Eric Clapton

When I think of Jazz guitar, I seldom think of Eric Clapton but this is one of the most popular songs for beginner players as they start their journey into the genre.

And because of that, there are some great lessons available to help you along the way. 

Musically, I think it is a lot catchier than many Jazz tunes, which is probably why Eric Clapton decided to cover it. 

If you want to play this song using only chords, you can check out the tab.

But this one has a slow tempo and sounds so much better with the single-note melodies mixed in, I think it is worth the extra effort to learn the embellishments.

And Youtuber Paul Davids is an amazing teacher so check out his tutorial and see if you can follow along!

Link to tab

And here’s a lesson:

5. Corcovado (Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars) – Stan Getz and João Gilberto

This one has a lot of different chords, but if you have learned The Girl from Ipanema, it should be easier!

Link to tab

6. Moon River – Audrey Hepburn (from Breakfast at Tiffany’s)

Link to tab

7. Bye Bye Blackbird – Nina Simone

Link to tab

8. Take the A Train – Duke Ellington feat. Betty Roche

Link to tab (easy)

Link to tab (more advanced)

9. In a Sentimental Mood – Duke Ellington

Link to tab

10. Blue Bossa – Joe Pass and J. J. Johnson

Link to tab

11. Days of Wine and Roses – Wes Montgomery (or Frank Sinatra)

Link to tab