For The Experienced Jazz Guitarist Only: Freddie Green Fundamentals

The tips below will assist an experienced jazz guitarist play in a style similar to that of Freddie Green. The author makes no claim that these tips capture Freddie's musical genius.

Left Hand

  • Abandon any notion that Freddie primarily employed three note chord voicings on the 6th, 4th, and 3rd strings. He rarely played a chord with three clearly sounded notes.

  • Create a tenor melodic line, or alternate bass line, on the 4th string.

  • On the 4th string, play no note lower than an F, and no note higher than a D.

  • Use common connecting tones when possible.

  • Jump no farther than a major third.

  • Use stepwise motion often.

  • Use an occasional passing note on beat 2 or 4.

  • When the chord is a dominant seventh, play the 3rd or 7th and add the tritone on the 3rd string on beats 2 and 4.

  • Beats 1 and 3 are held slightly longer than beats 2 and 4.

Right Hand

  • Strum all strings; mute all except the string(s) on which a pitch is sounded.

  • Strum near the end of the neck on beats 1 and 3.

  • Strum nearer the bridge on beats 2 and 4.


  • Use an acoustic archtop with heavy gauge strings and high action.

  • Use a faux-tortoiseshell pick with a thickness of 0.90 mm or greater.

  • An electric guitar will not provide the Freddie Green sound.

Feel and Approach

  • Blend with the bass and the drums; emulate a pitched hi-hat.

  • Be felt more than heard.

  • Swing, swing, swing, but in a relaxed manner.

Michael Pettersen
January 2003

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