Learn to play the 1920s and ’30s chord melody and rhythm guitar styles of Eddie Lang, Nick Lucas, Freddie Green, Carl Kress, and other early jazz greats. With chord melody solos to popular swing melodies, advanced rhythm guitar techniques, and acoustic jazz picking techniques.
Matt Munisteri is a guitarist, singer, and songwriter based in New York City. A freewheeling and virtuosic guitarist on both acoustic and electric guitar—in music both modern and old-fashioned—he credits the early jazz plectrists of the 1920s and ’30s with providing the foundation for his technique and musical direction. As one of a relatively small number of authoritative acoustic jazz guitarists playing swing and early jazz, Matt has recorded extensively and is a first-call guitarist when a “period” sound is sought for CDs, film scores, and commercials.
He has collaborated with many colleagues in his field on concerts and recordings, including Vince Giordano, Mark O’Connor, Andy Stein, Frank Vignola, Bucky Pizzarelli, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Catherine Russell, Julian Lage, Geoff Muldaur, Loudon Wainwright, Howard Alden, Tim Kliphuis, and Matt Glaser. As an educator and clinician Matt has taught at the Berklee College of Music, the Augusta Heritage Center, the Ashokan Center, and Centrum. He has performed on A Prairie Home Companion, Jazz Night in America: Jazz at Lincoln Center, E-Town, Mountain Stage, and Michael Feinstein’s Song Travels.
Matt’s own recordings include the acclaimed Still Runnin’ Round in the Wilderness, the first of two planned CDs to explore the “lost” compositions of the under-recognized American singer-songwriter Willard Robison, Love Story, It’s Been Swell, and Hell Among the Hedgehogs, a smoking hot twin-guitar CD with the Hot Club of Cowtown’s Whit Smith.
Learn some of the essential chord voicings you’ll need to know to start playing 1920s-style chord melody, including the three major and minor triad voicings on the top three strings. With Notation/Tab
Roots of Jazz Guitar Lessons
A Roots of Jazz Guitar subscription includes:
Extensive early jazz and swing guitar video lessons
Detailed notation and tablature for every lesson
Lessons in rhythm guitar styles, chord melody playing, and more
High-quality video with multiple camera angles so you can see closeups of both hands in action
New lessons added every month
Get started now!Use promo code MattLand at checkout and get your first month free or $20 off an annual subscription. Subscribe to the Roots of Jazz Guitar course today for access to all of these guitar lessons and new material every month!
The Roots of Jazz Guitar Matt Munisteri talks about the acoustic jazz guitar styles of the 1920s and ’30s he’ll be teaching in this course, as exemplified by players like Eddie Lang, Nick Lucas, Dick McDonough, Carl Kress, Lonnie Johnson, and others. The style has roots in turn-of-the-century mandolin and banjo playing and features chord melody playing on the top strings as well as a distinctive rhythm style that combines bass lines and closed chords. Matt ends by playing an excerpt from one of Eddie Lang’s most famous compositions, “April Kisses.”
Matt Munisteri’s 1930 Gibson L-5 Guitar Matt talks about one of his 1930 Gibson L-5 guitars in this video. He discusses the history of the L-5 a bit and how he acquired this particular instrument from TR Crandall Guitars in Manhattan. The guitar had been owned for many years by someone who lived just a few blocks from Matt’s grandfather in Brooklyn, and when Matt had some work done on it he discovered that the great archtop guitar maker John D’Angelico had most likely worked on the guitar, probably replacing the frets, refinishing it, widening the f-holes slightly, slimming the neck, and replacing the fingerboard and tailpiece. It’s serial number is only seven digits away from his main guitar, another L-5, which he’s played since 2000. Matt also talks about some of the other guitars favored by early jazz players and finishes by playing the early jazz classic “Jeannine.”
Chord Melody Basics, Part 1: Triad Inversions In this lesson, you’ll learn some of the essential chord voicings you’ll need to know to start playing 1920s-style chord melody. Matt starts by showing you the three major triad voicings on the top three strings, explaining the difference between root position, first inversion, and third inversion. He also shows you how to turn major triads into minor triads and gives you some ideas about fingering the shapes so that you can move through the voicings with the least amount of finger movement, changing your fingerings so you have a guide finger between chords depending on where you’re going and where you’re coming from.
Chord Melody Basics, Part 2: Harmonized Major Scales In this lesson, you’ll learn how to play the harmonized major scale using all three inversions of the triads on the top three strings. Matt gives you ideas about fingerings and how to make the most efficient fingering choices based on what voicing you’re going to.
Roots of Jazz Rhythm Guitar, Part 1: Freddie Green–Style Chord Voicings Matt talks about how the style of swing rhythm guitar evolved from Eddie Lang’s style, which alternated bass notes and treble strums, to what is commonly known as Freddie Green style, using three note voicings and a steady stroke. He explains how the Freddie Green voicings came from the chords played on tenor banjo, which preceded the guitar in jazz bands, showing you how the wider voicings written for tenor banjo were moved down to the lower register of the guitar, onto the bass strings, where they had more power and could cut through a band. You’ll learn basic Freddie Green voicings in this lesson.
Roots of Jazz Rhythm Guitar, Part 2: Blues Progressions and Picking-Hand Technique Using the chord voicings you learned in the previous lesson, you’ll learn to play a 12-bar blues progression. Matt also talks about picking-hand technique as it relates to the feel of swing guitar, and how your feel should be a product of the musicians you’re playing with. He starts by showing you a simple blues progression played with even quarter notes, giving you a chance to play along with him, and then talks about some of the different things he does with his picking hand, occasionally adding a short upstroke and changing the position of his hand over the strings to get different sounds. He also gives advice about general picking-hand technique, including the benefits of arching the wrist to get a relaxed sound.
Roots of Jazz Rhythm Guitar, Part 3: Passing Chords Matt shows you how he varies the blues progression with passing chords, including some diminished chords and different inversions and voicings of chords. He walks you through voicings for major, minor, seventh, and minor seventh chords in three inversions, demonstrating that some voicings or “grips” can be used for different chords, Gm for Bb6, G7 for Dm6 or Ddim, etc.
Roots of Jazz Rhythm Guitar, Part 4: Fretting-Hand Technique Matt talks about general fretting-hand technique for swing rhythm guitar, including the damping (or “release”) of the chord, so you can feel the end of the notes as well as the beginning, and how to play with a relaxed feel and not strain your muscles.
Roots of Jazz Rhythm Guitar, Part 5: Blues in Bb Matt plays three choruses of a blues in Bb at an easy tempo, so you can play along with him.
Eddie Lang’s Rhythm Style Eddie Lang’s style of rhythm guitar predates the swing rhythm sound of Freddie Green and others. His style used bigger chords as well as alternated bass notes and treble strums, and can be said to be responsible for the guitar replacing the banjo in American popular music. In this lesson you’ll learn some of Eddie’s favorite voicings and how he played them, alternating the bass and treble and adding some chromatic slides and upstrokes.
“Singin’ the Blues” Accompaniment Matt plays and sings the early jazz standard “Singin’ the Blues” as a demonstration of ways you can introduce some early jazz elements into a song’s performance. Matt’s version employs bass runs, single-note lines, and chordal fills, all of which are hallmarks of the accompaniment styles of early jazz guitarists such as Eddie Lang and Nick Lucas. The first chorus of his accompaniment is transcribed in the music that accompanies this lesson.
Roots of Jazz Rhythm Guitar, Part 6: Diminished Chords Learn how to use diminished chords to get between different inversions of a major chord. Matt starts by reminding you of the three different inversions in G major, and then gives you some examples of diminished chords you can use to move between the three inversions. You’ll also learn to use passing diminished chords on the bridge of “Honeysuckle Rose” and Matt gives you examples of using diminished on three choruses of a blues in Bb.
Roots of Jazz Rhythm Guitar, Part 7: Picking-Hand Feel Matt gives more advice about different ways of playing the basic swing rhythm feel with your picking: the difference between putting emphasis on the first and third beats or the second and fourth, keeping your wrist loose, etc.
MORE CHORD MELODY VOICINGS
More Chord Melody Voicings, Part 1: Triads on the Middle Strings You’ve already learned the closed-voice triad voicings on the top three strings. In this lesson you’ll learn them on the second, third, and fourth strings, starting with root-position voicings in the key of F. Matt also shows you how to take a major triad voicing and make it minor, diminished, seventh, major seventh, etc. You’ll also learn first-inversion voicings in C major and second-inversion voicings in G with advice on using fingerings that allow you to move most quickly to the next chord shape.
More Chord Melody Voicings, Part 2: I–V7–I Licks Learn some cool ways to move between the I chord and the V chord using some of the triad voicings you’ve learned on the top three strings. Matt shows you two ways to move between an F and a C7, using C6 and C9 voicings, on the top three strings, giving you tips on fingering so that you can keep a guide finger on one of the strings as you move.
More Chord Melody Voicings, Part 3: Whole-Tone Voicings In this lesson, Matt shows you one of his favorite voicings, which can be used in many different ways. First he shows it to you as the third, seventh, and ninth of a C9 chord, and then shows you how you can use it in other contexts, including as a “whole tone” voicing. It has a very 1920s sound and was often used by Eddie Lang, Nick Lucas, and other guitarists of the period.
Bye Bye Blues
Bye Bye Blues, Part 1 In this lesson, you’ll learn a chord melody arrangement of “Bye Bye Blues,” a staple of traditional jazz and early 1920s music. Matt starts by going through the voicings you’ll use to play the arrangement, which is in the key of Bb. He shows you specific fingerings that will help you move from chord to chord smoothly, walking you through each voicing, showing you which finger is the guide finger and giving you advice on making each change as smooth as possible.
Bye Bye Blues, Part 2 Learn the chord voicings to the second half of “Bye Bye Blues,” most of which is the same as the first half. Only the last four bars are different. Matt also shows you some different rhythmic ideas you can try with the picking hand when you’re playing melody notes that last for a full measure or two.
Whispering, Part 1: Chord Melody The jazz standard “Whispering,” first published (and recorded by Paul Whiteman) in 1920 has a very 1920s sound, with some characteristic harmonic movement. You’ll learn a chord melody version of “Whispering” in the key of C in this lesson. Matt starts by playing though his arrangement and then goes through the chord voicings you’ll use to play it. He shows you the arrangement phrase by phrase, giving you advice on fingering to make the changes as smooth as you can.
Whispering, Part 2: Variations In this more advanced lesson on playing “Whispering” you’ll learn some cool 1930s-style chord-melody variations that feature contrapuntal voice movement and chord substitution. Matt also talks about picking-hand technique for playing chord melody, giving you advice about playing hard and loud downstrokes and bringing out the melody above the rest of the chord voicings.
Picking the Guitar
Picking the Guitar, Part 1 Nick Lucas’s instrumental tour de force “Picking the Guitar,” recorded in 1922, is one of the most important songs in the early jazz guitar canon. “Picking the Guitar,” along with another tune recorded by Lucas at the same time, “Teasing the Frets,” set a template for guitar playing that carried on through the music of Eddie Lang and even the Hot Club of France. Lang and Django Reinhardt shared a similar stylistic quality with Lucas in their use of picking-hand downstrokes, and “Picking the Guitar,” in addition to being a great tune to play, is a study in using downstrokes. Matt walks you through the first part of “Picking the Guitar” in this video, showing you the picking and fingering he uses in each section.
Picking the Guitar, Part 2 The second part of “Picking the Guitar” goes to the key of Am. Matt walks you through it, again showing you some of Lucas’s downstroke runs, and giving you suggestions on where to add some upstrokes. You’ll also learn a couple of variations on the A part in this video.
Picking the Guitar, Part 3 After playing the B part twice, you return to the A part and then modulate to the key of F for the C part, which includes some of Nick Lucas’s characteristic dissonant chords.
Picking the Guitar, Part 4: Complete Tune Matt puts all the pieces of “Picking the Guitar” together, playing the complete form: AABBACCA.
I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire
I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire, Part 1 “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire” was written in 1938 and was a big hit for the Ink Spots. It’s a great tune for practicing sliding inversions when playing chord melody. Matt starts by singing it through so you get a sense of the melody and basic chords. Then he starts breaking down his chord melody version of the tune, which is in the key of F. This arrangement includes some sliding inversions, and Matt shows you how to finger each inversion to make it easy to slide to the next. It also includes some phrases with cool internal movement and even a couple of dissonant Dick McDonough-style licks.
I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire, Part 2 The bridge of “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire” begins with a Cm7 - F7 progression and Matt puts a chromatic descending line under the melody that moves nicely between these two chords. In this lesson, you’ll learn the bridge to “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire” as well as an unusual ending.
April Kisses, Part 1 Eddie Lang recorded his guitar showpiece “April Kisses” on April 1, 1927. Although he’s credited as the writer, some people have surmised that it may be an old Italian tune, but nobody really knows where it came from or when Lang may have written it, if indeed he did. Matt shows you how Lang played it the one time it was recorded and also gives you ideas about playing variations and making this “rhapsodic meditation” your own. He starts by showing you how Lang played the A section of “April Kisses,” giving you tips on fingering and picking as he goes.
April Kisses, Part 2 You'll learn the B part of “April Kisses” in this video. Matt takes it apart phrase by phrase, showing you his fingerings and a few different ways to play some of the passages. You’ll also learn the way Lang plays the A part the last time through, including a few variations with different chord voicings.
Honeysuckle Rose, Part 1 Matt uses the jazz standard “Honeysuckle Rose” to talk about song form. He tells you how to quickly communicate a song’s form to fellow musicians and then walks you through the basic form of “Honeysuckle Rose,” playing rhythm and singing the melody. Then you’ll learn a chord melody version of “Honeysuckle Rose” that is inspired by Dick McDonough and Bucky Pizzarelli. With all its harmonic and melodic variations, Matt’s chord-melody version of “Honeysuckle Rose” is almost a solo in itself, but it contains just enough of the tune’s essential melody to also work as a first-chorus melody statement. This loose and swinging interpretation is right at home in a 1930s small group swing context. Matt walks you through the A parts in this video.
Honeysuckle Rose, Part 2 In this video, you’ll learn a chord melody version of the bridge of “Honeysuckle Rose” that includes a cool lick that comes from Allan Reuss. Matt also shows you a variation on the A section with an alternate fingering for one of the complicated lines.
Somebody Loves Me
Somebody Loves Me, Part 1 The 1920s jazz classic “Somebody Loves Me” was written by George Gershwin, Ballard MacDonald, and Buddy DeSilva and was a hit for the Paul Whiteman Orchestra and Ukulele Ike. It has an unusual chord structure, so Matt starts by singing and playing rhythm once through the song to give you a sense of the melody and basic chord progression. Then you’ll learn a chord melody arrangement of “Somebody Loves Me” that uses the Alan Reuss lick you learned in “Honeysuckle Rose” and has as some cool contrary motion on the bridge. You’ll learn the first two A parts of Matt’s chord melody arrangement in this video.
Somebody Loves Me, Part 2 The second A part of “Somebody Loves Me” ends on a Bm (the iii of the key of G), and the bridge begins on A minor. Matt’s arrangement includes a chromatic descending line through the first four bars of the bridge. After showing you all the chord voicings you’ll use to play this arrangement, Matt plays the whole song through from beginning to end, demonstrating how to maintain a nice, swinging feel.
Roots of Jazz Source Material
Check out these songs and guitarists featured in the Roots of Jazz Guitar course.