When I was still just getting into playing Jazz, before I moved to the Netherlands, then I often found it very frustrating that I knew what scale to play, the arpeggio of the chord, and all those basic things, but I still couldn’t get it to sound right.
The lines that I played in my solos were correct but way too boring:
At the time I was checking out solos from Parker, Joe Pass, and a Danish Jazz guitarist called Jakob Fischer, and the way their lines flowed were much more elegant:
But while I mostly understood the notes and how it worked with the chords then I could not make my own version of it.
The solution sort of came from two things: Going to Barry Harris workshops in the Hague where I later went to study, and then those solos that I was checking out. Barry could really explain Bebop melodies in ways that made sense, and that also taught me more about how to break down the phrases I found in solos so that I could make them into more flexible chunks and get into my own playing.
That is what I am going to show you here, Let’s get to the first Building block which you might recognize from the previous example.
#1 Beautiful Bebop Interval
One of the problems in the boring line is that the melody is super predictable in how it flows which makes it heavy and not very interesting in terms of rhythm. In fact, all of these blocks are really about adding rhythm to your lines, because that is what Bebop is all about.
Here’s a great way to change the melodic direction by adding a lower chord tone, in this case, the 5th of the chord, and a chromatic passing note, it is actually a Barry Harris technique, but I’ll explain that later.
And that can be put into a lick like this:
But you can use this on other chords as well, on a G7 where the 3rd is B and the fifth is D:
or on a maj7 chord also going from the 3rd down to the 5th (show the lick Ex 7)
So you can see how you can easily move it around in the scale and have your melodies come more alive. The next one is taking this and going a step further.
#2 Beautiful Bebop Interval 2.0
Now that you have the large interval skip you can also add a leading note to that low chord tone and that really works:
And, of course, this can become a line:
Again this will easily work on a G7 as well, giving you something like this:
A side-note to these two examples is that you can see them as part of Barry Harris’ chromatic scale where he essentially sets up a system for adding leading notes, where anything can be a leading note, and that gives you some really amazing options, I’ll link to my video on that in the description of this video.
Make it your own!
An important thing to keep in mind is that you want to use these to develop your own material, so make variations of them, and explore what you can turn them into because that is where they really become valuable.
A few basic takes on the first two blocks could give you:
So there are all these things you can create from this and they all work. Let’s explore a way of changing up the rhythm by adding embellishments which is a little less complicated than these large intervals.
#3 The Triplet trill
It is nice to have material that is easy to throw in there and that change things up so you are not stuck with endless rows of 8th notes, again this is about rhythmic and melodic variation.
Let’s say you are playing a line like this:
But you can add a bit of energy to the first part of the line by playing it like this
And that trill is essentially just this phrase:
I think you want to play this with legato to get it to sound good, because playing it picking all the notes just doesn’t sound as good 99% of the time.
This little phrase can be used in so many ways. If you combine it with an Em7 arpeggio it is great for a Cmaj7 chord:
Or if you move it in the scale and add a leading note then you have a Dm7 lick:
In those Barry Harris Masterclasses, I remember Barry referencing this as a Parker thing when he added it to the solo line he was working on, but I am not sure if he always did that, it is certainly something you will find only in Parker solos, it is all over Bebop, and maybe a little less in Hardbop.
When it comes to learning this, then being practical is usually more efficient than being systematic, so an easy way to start exploring this in a scale is really just to move from string to string and see where it is easy to play, and from that try to see where you can use it, which for this position could give you an exercise like:
And an ascending where you are adding that leading note could then be:
Let’s take a look at another important trill to use, so that you never get stuck with 8th-note sickness again.
#4 The 16th Note Trick
This is also really easy to insert into your lines, notice that it again is easier to play it with legato technique, especially for higher tempos, but here you can actually get away with picking the notes as well.
Like this it sort of works as an enclosure for the note F and if you add an Fmaj7 arpeggio you have a great Dm7 line:
Again you can try to move that around to other strings, if I start on E on the G string then it can become a great line like this:
Which is obviously a lot more interesting than:
And here again, you can explore it by moving it around, and see what is practical for you, which is also how I came up with this exercise:
It is about using it!
As you can tell, then I am focusing on how you can use these phrases not only how to play them, and that is because I think that is way more important. In the long run, you want to make it a part of your playing, and your sound and you do that by learning the concept, not just a lick. Which is also really what Barry Harris taught by moving things around the scale and how to make phrases into exercises. Let’s make arpeggios more Bebop!
#5 The Other Triplet Arpeggio
This is different form the Bebop arpeggio that ou probably already know, with a triplet and a leading note:
Another approach that is also really useful is to play arpeggios like this:
This is especially great for targeting the 3rd f the chord, so for a Dm7 you can use an Am7 arpeggio and get a line like this:
And it also is a great way to get the transition from Dm7 to G7:
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