Top 5 Colorful Chords (EVERY Guitarist Should Know)

So you know a few jazz guitar chord voicings but you want something with a little more zing and zap? I am happy to share with you a few of my secret jazz-guitar-chord-weapons in this Quick Start Guide.

Swap out plain and boring chords for these jazz guitar chord voicings. You will immediately sound more sophisticated and ‘jazzy’ (if that is a term).

colorful jazz guitar chordDownload this Lesson PDF NOW

This lesson is included in your free pickupjazz eBook, #1 Jazz Guitar Chord Chart. This is your handy encyclopedia of jazz guitar chords to refer too and includes this lesson plus much more.

Before we continue, why are these jazz guitar chords more colourful?

The most simple chord is a triad 1 3 5. Jazz usually consists of 4 note chords with the 7th of the chord added. These 5 chords all use additional color notes on top of your base 4 notes.

Also, one of the crazy things about music is that dissonance sounds beautiful. Many of these voicings have a half-step (semitone) dissonance between notes. That ‘crunch’, when sandwiched with a few other notes, sounds beautiful.

If you are beginning jazz guitar I recommend you first check out top 10 beginner jazz guitar chords before continuing. Also, feel free to comment below with your own modern jazz guitar chords.

Top 5 Colorful Chords Infographic


Continue on for a detailed overview of each chord.

Audio Examples

I recorded each chord with a C root note, check them out below!

My Top 5 Colorful Jazz Guitar Chords

In order of easiest to hardest. A white circle is the chords root note (bass note). Easily move this shape up or down the fretboard, just center the white circle on your root note. Numbers indicate what finger to use.

1. The Am9 Open String Voicing

colorful jazz guitar chord
This is an Am9 voicing that sounds great on dorian IIm7 chords or tonic minor chords.

Bill Frissel is my one of my favourite guitarists. He is a pro at using open strings to create unique voicings. Listen to that beautiful dissonance between your open B string and the fretted C note.

2. The min9 ‘Pinky Stretch Chord’

colorful jazz guitar chord

This one requires stretching your pinky a little but it is totally worth it. That semitone (half step) between the 9th and b3 gives this chord voicing its unique sound.

You can also use this as a major7 voicing with the relative major chord. e.g with this voicing on Am9, it also works as Cmaj7. That semitone crunch is now the root and 7th of the maj7 chord.

Cool, right?

3. ‘The Chameleon Chord’

colorful jazz guitar chord

The best chord voicings have multiple uses. I learned this great voicing from a piano player. Depending on which root note you choose, it can take on 6 different functions.

Can you think of any other uses for this chord voicing?

4. ‘The Dom13b9 Chord’

Adding a b9 to a dom13 chords is an awesome thing to do. It adds dissonance and tension but not a nasty, jarring kind of dissonance. More of an open, happy dissonance.

Here are two of my favourite voicings for dom13 b9 chords.

colorful jazz guitar chord

The cool thing about diminished harmony is it repeats itself up minor 3rd intervals. So you can move this voicing up and down three frets. Play around with it!

You can pretty much use this chord instead of any dom7, dom9 or dom13 chord resolving to a major chord.

Can you think of any other uses for this chord shape? (Comment below)

5. ‘The Modern Chord’

colorful jazz guitar chord

Yes, I made up the name :)

This is another chameleon chord. It is one of my favourites (I probably use it much too often to be honest with you). Many modern day jazz guitar greats such as Kurt Rosenwinkle, Isiah Sharkey and Jonathan Kreisberg know of this voicing and often use it.

Wrapping Up

Well, that is all for my Top 5 Colorful Jazz Guitar Chord lesson.

I hope you have a few more colourful chords in your repertoire now. If you liked this lesson, I have complied it in a single PDF #1 Jazz Guitar Chord Chart, which is totally free.

Remember the best way to learn hip chords is to transcribe and watch videos of modern guitarists. My favourite guy for this is Kurt Rosenwinkle. Ben Monder has some crazy chordal concepts too. Bill Frisell is my favorite guitarist for open string voicings. Youtube whoever you are into and build your own unique pallet of chords.

Further Learning

Thanks for stopping by, feel free to leave a comment below.

~ Sam Blakelock |


  1. Alberto Gato Otero says


    The book is very useful, but there are a few typos:

    – In the audio examples in this article, the audios for the modern chord and the chamaleon chord are swapped.

    – In the modern chord chart, the tonic labeled “min11” should be in the previous fret. (This chart is wrong in the book as well).

    – In the book, in the Major chords section, the modern chord chart in the bottom right corner, has a tonic labeled “Z” that should be in the 5º string instead of the 6º.

    You have made a great effort writing the book, it is very well structured, but it will be better if you correct these typos.


    • Sam Blakelock says

      Thanks Alberto. I appreciate you taking the time with these. We will bring them into effect in the next edition.


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