If you want to learn to play Jazz, then nothing is more useful than checking out Charlie Parker, but you can learn a lot more than just where to add a chromatic note or which arpeggio to use. The 10 examples in this video will show you that but also some great ideas you can use for making better licks which is probably the real genius of Charlie Parker!
#1 Classic Parker With Odd Note Groupings
This example is one that you will find in a lot of Parker solos., and there are a few things to pick up here.
- Triplet arpeggios are great! Here it is a Gm7 arpeggio over the C7 chord with an F# leading note.
- The main thing here is the groups of 3-notes are a nice way to create an interesting flow on top of the changes. He is playing this with the chromatic phrases, but it can also work with a lot of other things like diatonic triads
Here you have a line using Dm, C and Bb triads as 3-note groupings on the C7
#2 Voice-leading Creates Beautiful Melodies
Another thing that Parker uses very frequently, especially in BLues is to play relatively simple melodies and then just lead the voice-leading turn it into beautiful music
So he is nailing the changes AND telling a story by just changing one note from D to Db which turns it into a great example of motivic development.
You can also add some extra chords in your solo to get more movement in the lines:
#3 Embellish The Chords
This line is from the solo on Billie’s Bounce, and Parker turns Gm7 C7 into Gm GmMaj7 Gm7 C7 and even adds this nice wide trill to the first Gm triad.
In fact, he uses the same technique in the theme, but with a different melody. It is also worth noticing how he changes up the sound by following up this fairly dense line with a really basic F blues lick with a lot of repeated notes.
#4 Don’t Be Afraid Of Chromatic Passing Chords
Another example of using more dense harmony is this part of a Rhythm Changes solo:
Using chromatic passing chords is something that didn’t really become that common in Jazz until after Bebop, but Parker was ahead of his time. Here he is turning Dm7 G7 Cm7 F7 into Dm7 Dbm7 Cm7 F7.
He probably thought: As long as you get to the right place then it doesn’t matter what route you take.
This next example is a great example of taking a very simple one-bar idea and then creating a 10-12 bar story with it.
#5 Arpeggios And Rhythm!
This is amazing! He is playing a very simple arpeggio melody, repeating it, and then developing it. This is a great example of how to develop a simple descending arpeggio with rhythm! That you can make a million variations of!
Let’s check out another real strong use of an essential melodic technique
#6 Motivic Development – Simple But Effective
The line on this Bb7 is really just using a Dø arpeggio, but then making the main motif a little more interesting with some 16th notes and moving around where it is played so that it is first on beat 3 (with an upbeat) and then on beat 2.
Changing the last note also gives it a typical blues call-response sound.
#7 Triad Inversions Are Bebop Gold
Chances are that you are not practicing your diatonic triad inversions. Most people don’t get beyond the root position triads, and that is a pity because you can make some great lines with them:
Here is a fairly simple short example of Parker using a 2nd inversion C minor triad, and in general you will find a lot of triad inversions in his solos, so just go practice that! You can thank me later!
Here is another example with a Bb major triad in 2nd inversion:
#8 Scale Runs Made Beautiful
The next example will show you two very common Bebop devices.
Here you have Parker inserting an arpeggio in a descending scale run. This way of breaking up scale runs to make them sound more interesting is all over Bebop, and in this case he is inserting an F major triad which is the triad from the 3rd of Dm7 which also adds the complete sound of the chord to a simple descending scale melody.
#9 How Grown-Ups Use Chromatic Passing Notes
You have jazz licks with chromatic passing notes, and then you have Parker licks with chromatic passing notes. Just check this out.
This is a lot more interesting and unpredictable than just adding a chromatic leading note before an arpeggio and he is really skipping around and adding leading notes in the middle of arpeggios. You really want to open up how you think about this!
#10 How The Pros Use Diatonic Triads And Arpeggios
You also want to be able to put together different diatonic triads and arpeggios to create more inspired melodies. Here Parker is doing that by playing the arpeggio from the 3rd, Dm7 as a triplet and then using that to transition into a Bb major triad adding scale runs in between to give it a great flow.
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