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Last Updated on January 17, 2024 by Ben



The biggest takeaway so many fail to see in Joe Pass chords book is…

The “nameless-jazz-chords method“…

Eliminate thinking of chords as you play by playing what you genuinely hear



Dear fellow guitarist,

Can you imagine yourself possessing the skill of improvising mind-blowing chord combos intuitively without the need to think about where you’re gonna go next as you play?

Wouldn’t it feel liberating to be able to pull out NEW creative and sincere chord variations that sound fresh and innovative on any given tune, just by ear?

If you’re a Joe pass fan (like me), you know that’s how Joe used to play and that an excellent way to describe his playing (and soon yours) is just “pure truth.”

So, if you wish to acquire this skill (a la Pass) that so many guitar players lack,



Here’s the good news:



35 years ago, Joe provided us with a key for tapping into the ocean of jazz chords in the form of a book called: “Joe Pass chords book.”

Being what Ella Fitzgerald called the “Great Genius,” he knew exactly what he wanted to give us in writing this book.

Although you can, and probably will, discover unusual chord voicings and extended chord forms that’ll color you’re playing with more modern jazz sounds by next Monday, that’s not the primary purpose of this book.

It’s neither a book about learning “chord forms” nor chords theory, although it contains 153 chord shapes for a specific reason (I’ll get to it below).

In fact, Joe didn’t even label the chords throughout the book, which is why I call it “the nameless-jazz-chords method.”



So what is it about?



The Joe Pass guitar chords book is unlike any other book because it’s not about learning chords. It’s about a new perception of using chords.


Instead of looking at a chord as a single entity that (with theory) can be extended with additional color tones such as 9th or 6th, for example, you will learn to ascribe each chord to a broader family of chords that perform the same harmonic role and where the family’s sound is the emphasis.

This way, you’ll be able to replace a chord with any other from the same family, regardless of its name, extension, or the theory behind it.

Joe laid out each family through nameless chord shapes. So if you’re confronted with a simple C major chord (which belongs to the Major family), for example, you can substitute it with any of the 28 shapes he presents on pages 3-5. and you’ll get a different rich color of sound that performs the same harmonic function as the C Major.

Theory-wise, by doing so, you’re not making a mistake. Practical-wise, you break free from thinking about which chord you’re playing. 

That’s why Joe never labeled the shapes in his book. It’s irrelevant.

When you don’t learn (or think about) chords by name, you learn them by listening to their sound, thus, developing the sensitivity of playing by ear.

And if your ears direct the way you play rather than your brain, you’ll make chord choices that flow more naturally so that your listeners can sense the sincerity pouring out of your playing. 



Three months missed.



Being the perpetual procrastinator I am, it was only three months after my paperback copy sat perfectly on my music stand (collecting dust) before I found the time between gigs to open it.

At first glimpse, I wasn’t impressed—a few new shapes, but nothing to get excited about.

But then I read the introduction written by Joe Pass himself, and within a few seconds, I knew it was a treasure for limitless possibilities:

Understanding that I can take different shapes and link them under one bounding sound category canceled the need to know the theory behind them. 

I used to experiment and entertain myself with the endless new options opened until my ear got more sensitive to the “color” of each category.

I’ve found that breaking out of the worry of what these chords are was quite addictive.

It felt like playing real music, not like a dummy playing exercise of replacing chords.

Moreover, I loved being confident to play any chord I “heard” even when considered “incorrect.”

If I’d known this method would revolutionize my approach to jazz harmony, I wouldn’t have let those three months slip away. In fact, I’m angry at myself for not starting much earlier.



My 23 years old (and still counting…) copy of Joe Pass Chords book


Why do so many fail using the Joe Pass chords book?


They expect to get something different out of the Joe Pass chords book.

If you’re looking to add new shapes to your arsenal, don’t get the book!

There are plenty of chord encyclopedias out there for this purpose.

But if you’re an Intermediate or advanced guitar player who possesses some good understanding of chord theory under your belt, working with this book will break the chord patterns you’re used to playing, taking your playing a step further plus equipping you with the ability to:


  • Apply this method instantly on any jazz standard and sound more modern.
  • Break the rules of chord “correctness” and unleash creativity.
  • Play smoother-sounding voicing movements. 
  • Substitute any given chord at any music style.
  • Choose different angles to tackle old boring chords to sound fresh.  
  • Have more harmonic choices to express yourself also in studio work.
  • Avoid sounding corny and repetitive and excite your listeners. 
  • Inspire other musicians with your new secret approach.
  • Break out of the shackles of standard major7/minor7 and blues-based chord progressions.
  • Express your creativity on slow jazz Ballads or up-tempo standards.


That’s a lot to get out of a slim 24-page book, but the material is so deep that



When you use it, another cool thing will happen:



You’ll notice that you can also apply the same method to your solo improvising, Which will result in emerging a new YOU as a jazz player.

The only one who can give you a glimpse into a mind of a genius is the genius himself- Joe Pass, who wrote this book. ( That’s the reason I got it in the first place).

I still can’t believe the tremendous impact it had on my playing, so I urge you to look inside a true master’s mind today and see how you can play the same way.

There’s no way to describe the Joe Pass chords book other than a golden resource for an inexpensive price ($7.99 for the paperback on

If you’re serious about your playing, start early:



Get it Here!

Disclosure: We are a professional review site that receives compensation from the companies whose products we review or recommend.


Joe Pass chords book summary


The Joe Pass chords book describes Joe’s point of view when confronting chords and their role within a chord progression.

For you, it will be a fresh new perception of how to substitute and use chords.

The method presented is simple but requires adequate experimenting time until you can play chords solely by ear.

Excellent skill to acquire for a cheap price.


Have a Look!



Also Read :

Check out the Mickey Baker Book if you’re bridging between simple chords to jazz chords.


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