7 Great Jazz Licks And Why You Need To Know Basic Arpeggios

You need to know your basics and you need to know them extremely well. I am sure you have heard that before. Once in awhile it is very useful to go back to the basics and really improve the jazz licks that you can write with very simple and basic scale and arpeggios choices.

When you do that then you are working on being better at using rhythm, make stronger melodies and have better phrasing, and you always want to improve that.

In the end, it is more important to improve those skills instead of knowing a lot of scales and arpeggios.

The things you need for this video are basic material that you probably already know and practice: the scale, the arpeggios and also the diatonic arpeggios of that scale.

And what this lesson is going to show you is 7 great licks that are just using these basic arpeggios and give you some ideas so you can start making better licks like this yourself.

Scale and Arpeggios

The basic C major scale I am using here:

This is combined with the diatonic arpeggios that I also cover in this lesson: The Most Important Scale Exercise In Jazz

And of course, you can also download Scale and Arpeggio diagrams in this section of my website: PDF Charts and Diagrams

Lick #1 Just Basic Arpeggios – But Great Rhythm

The first example is only using the basic arpeggios of each chord. The reason why this works so well is that the rhythm is more interesting and driving it forward.

Notice that moving to the G7 and the Cmaj7 the melody is changing to the next chord on the 4&. In that way it is anticipating the chord change, something that is an important part of Jazz.

It is also important to see how them melody really works towards the chord change and in that way adds direction to the line.

Lick #2 Forward Motion

The second lick is making use of forward motion, an aspect of especially bebop, that Jazz has in common with the music of Bach.

When you work on forward motion you should try to create melodies that move towards a target note in the next chord. You can explore this in more detail in this lesson: Target notes on a II V I or an extensive guide in this webstore lesson: Rhythm Changes – Target Note Strategies

In this example the target note is the 3rd on both the G7 and the Cmaj7

Lick #3 Quarter-note Rhythms

Rhythm is important, as you can tell from the first two examples, but Jazz is not only about 8th notes. It is as important to learn to play rhythms that use quarter-notes and in fact, they are great for more groove-oriented playing. You don’t want to only play long 8th note lines in your solos and you want to sit in the groove with the beat.

The example below demonstrates how you can incorporate some quarter-note rhythms in your lines, but again keeping it simple.

Lick #4 Rhythmical Tension

Rhythmical tension is not often a topic in Jazz guitar lessons, but any aspect of music can be considered as a tension/release tool.

In this example, you can hear how the melody is moving forward and using first the trill in the Dm7 bar and the off beats in G7 to create tension which is then released back on the beat on the Cmaj7.

This way of thinking about other aspects of music when improvising, so no only trying to create tension with harmony, scale or note choice, is very powerful and really underrated.

Lick #5 Changing Direction

The first examples were focused on rhythm and direction of the melody, and the goal was to drive the line forward.

If you only focus on that you will get very clear lines, but they also become a little predictable because you are playing from chord to chord and often emphasizing the heavy beats where the harmony changes.

In the example below, you can hear how the melody is changing direction and skipping around in the middle of the bar.

Especially the G7 arpeggio that is played with octave-displacement or pivotting.

If you want to see more examples of this then check out this lesson: Bebop Soloing – The Licks You Need To Check Out

Or this WebStore lesson: Bebop Embellishments on Take The A-train

Lick #6 Chromatic Enclosure

Another way to create tension without using fancy scales or structures is to use Chromatic melodies in the lines. The concept is to use a short melodic phrase with notes that don’t belong to the scale.

That melody sounds outside and is made so that it resolves to a target note back inside the sound of the chord or the key.

In the example below I am using chromatic passing notes on the chords as enclosures and passing notes (on the Dm7), and also to drive the change of chord from G7 to Cmaj7.

Lick #7 Everything All The Time

And of course, you can also put all of these things together (well most of them anyway). In this example, there are different rhythms, enclosures and melodic turns.

See if you can recognize the different blocks which will really help you understand how the line works and get more out of analyzing other solos by famous players like Charlie Parker or Wes Montgomery.

Of course, I also analyze it in the video.

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