Amazing Bebop – How to play like Sonny Stitt

If you want to learn Bebop then there are few people better to check out than Sonny Stitt. In this video I transcribed and analyzed two bebop licks from his solo on Au Privave from the Stitt plays Bird. These great licks are fantastic examples to learn from and contain some solid ideas you can add to your vocabulary.

How to Learn Bebop 

Often when you work on learning bebop all your solos are just up and down scales and arpeggios. Stitt has some beautiful ways to add variation both melodic and rhythm that I will try to explain in this lesson.

On a side note it is also worthwhile checking out this album because Jim Hall is playing on it as well.

Sonny Stitt Bebop Lick #1

This first example is a clear example of how he isn’t only running up and down . The first bar is really a descending melody with D, Bb, A, G and F. But he breaks up that movement by adding a lower chord tone: D. This is similar to some of the ideas that George Benson used in the All The Things You Are line that I talked about in this video: Why George Benson lines are Amazing

On the C7 Sonny Stitt uses triplets as a variation for the 8th note lines. First a chromatic run from the 3rd(E) to the 5th(G) and then a descending C7 arpeggio.

The line ends with a short scale run from A to F.

Sonny Stitt Bebop Lick #2

The 2nd example uses a lot of similar ideas. On the Gm7 the low D is again used as a note to insert into the melody and break up the scale run. This happens twice and at the end of the Gm7 line he also adds a chromatic approach to the D.

The C7 line also makes use of the low D, but is for the rest using two arpeggios that work really well over a C7: Bbmaj7 and Eø. Both are played as ascending 8th note triplets.  I this case Stitt is suspending the resolution of the C7 and continue into the F bar with a chromatic encircling of the C, so the resolution isn’t until beat two of that bar.

The rest of the F7 line is a descending melody built around a Dm triad and flowing into another encircling of the Bb. From the Bb the line ends with an ascending Bbmaj7 arpeggio.

Applying this to your own playing

For now I will focus on adding the idea of adding notes to descending scale runs on the Gm7.

The first part of Example 3 here below is a Gm7 scale (or F major if you will) and in the 2nd half I have added lower chord tones to the descending scale run. In this example I find that it works better to use the Gm triad as lower notes, so that is what I have used. You can of course experiment and discover what you prefer. 

Example of using this concept in your own playing

The example here below is using the D pedal point idea on the Gm7. As you can see it can be placed differently in the bar without loosing its effect. I am using the low D twice on the Gm7.

The C7 line is first an ascending Eø arpeggio played as an 8th note triplet. From there it is a descending chromatic run ending up with an enclosure of the A on Fmaj7.

Adding the same idea to the dom7th chord

Adding the same type of idea to the V chord in the II V works as well. Here the Gm7 line is similar to the one above except the D,C,Bb is replaced with a chromatic passing note phrase: C B Bb. 

On the C7 the phrase starts with a descending scale rund and then adds the lower G between the D and the C. From the C I use the passing note again and then skip down to a G to approach and resolve to the 3rd(A) of F. 

Bebop lines and their construction

If you have followed any of the classes of Barry Harris then you are probably familiar with the idea of writing lines like this where you have a scale run or an arpeggio and then you add embellishments to it in the form of extra notes, chromaticism etc. This way of thinking is a great way to describe the language which is why I use it here as well.

If you want to play lines like this then it is very useful to work on construction them in this way and get the ideas into your ears in that way.

From Bop to Bach: Forward motion and Target Notes

If you want to take a closer look at one of my solos with my analysis you can check out this lesson which also includes some thoughts on how to construct solo lines, but then using forward motion and target notes:

Rhythm Changes – Target Note Strategies

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Amazing Bebop – How to play like Sonny Stitt

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