Author Archives: jens

II V I – You Need To Practice This For Solos

The II V I progression is probably the most common chord progression in Jazz. In this video, I am going to go over some of the basic things that you need to practice and also how you take those basic tools and turn them into great material for a solo.

So that you can improvise over the chord changes so that your solos sound like Jazz and not just noodling in a scale.

What is a II V I?

If you look at the key of C major (play the scale)

then for each note in the scale you have a chord, this is what we call diatonic chords and for C major you have these chords:

(add the roman numerals on screen)

The II V I is a chord progression that starts on II (Dm7) goes to V(G7) and resolves to (I) Cmaj7. So the II V I is a short progression to take us to the C major.

If you play the chords of a II V I a little closer together you could get something like this:

Next, let’s look at some exercises you can do on the progression to give you something to solo with.

How To Solo Over A II V I – Basic Arpeggios

When you improvise in Jazz then you are playing melodies that are related to the chords that are in the song. That means that if you have a chord progression like a II V I then you want to know the melodic version of the chords, which is the arpeggios.

That means that a great exercise is to practice those arpeggios on the chord progression. Something like this:

Notice that I am playing the arpeggios as one-octave arpeggios in the same position, that is an easy way to practice these and especially easy to connect them to a chord progression.

Making Scale Practice Useful and Practical

Practicing scales and arpeggios directly on a piece of music is super useful to get an idea about how they sound in context and when to use them in a solo. It’s a great exercise whenever you want to learn a song or learn to use something on a song.

If you solo with the arpeggios then that clearly connects with the chord changes, so already with these arpeggios, you can make strong licks like this:

The trick is to make sure that you really bring out the notes of the chord, and here I make the change of the chord extra clear because I put a not on the 1 of the bar which was not in the previous chord, so the B on G7 and the E on the Cmaj7.

The Most Important Scale Exercise

The way I am playing the arpeggios as one-octave melodies is something that you can practice on a scale. If you do that then you are working on being able to play all the arpeggios in that scale in one place and you are pretty much ready to do the previous exercise for any progression.

Later in the lesson, I will show you why this exercise quickly becomes a gigantic short cut to having much more material on any chord you want to solo on.

Use The Scale As Well

As you could see at the beginning of this video, the whole progression is in the key of C major, and if you want to solo then you can use the arpeggios but you can, of course, also use the rest of the notes in the scale, so before we start to add some Bebop tricks then we need the rest of the notes:

 

Again it makes sense to practice this on the progression and hear how it relates to the chords, and you can do that in a very easy way by adding scale notes around the arpeggios from example 4

Like this, you can still hear the scale over the chord, and you still have the chord tones as the important notes because they are on the beat. (Highlight in the example maybe just on the Dm7 bar)

Now you can make a lick like this:

So there are more options with melodies, and the chord tones are still used, especially on the heavy beats of the bar: beat 1 and 3 which still makes it pretty clear how the solo relates to the chord.

Chromatic Notes (Bebop Made Simple)

Besides playing lines that are spelling to the changes then using chromatic notes in your solos is another part of the Jazz sound.

You can put up complicated rules for this, but you can also just try to start making lines and adding a chromatic note before a chord tone like this:

Here the chromatic notes are before a chord tone to help pull the melody forward and also really connect with the chords.

  1. First C# before the D
  2. A# to go to B on G7
  3. D# to E on Cmaj7

You can also see how the chromatic notes are used to really make the change of chord clear

And you can also use chromatic approach notes to other notes that give you a sound like this:

Here you have some chromatic notes scale notes, not chord tones, and also some places where I am using a chromatic note to delay the note, for example at the beginning of the G7 bar.

More Amazing Arpeggio Ideas.

As I said earlier if you practice the arpeggios in the scale then you get access to a lot more material, in fact, more than twice as much.

Let me show you an example:

If you look at a Cmaj7 arpeggio or chord then the notes are:

C E G B

When you solo on it then a line using the arpeggio sounds good because you are playing the same notes as the one playing the chords.

Since C E G B sounds good then the arpeggio from the 3rd of the chord works as well because that is mostly the same notes:

C E G B

   E G B D

This trick you can do for all the chords in the II V I and then you get this exercise:

And you can take this material and make a lick like this:

And here I am using Fmaj7, Bø, and Em7 on the II V I, but you can also mix in the original arpeggios and there are a lot of options.

The Jazz Guitar Roadmap

My new online course is a great way to get started learning Jazz guitar, you can build your skills going through a step-by-step method.

✅ An organized approach for practicing and learning Jazz Guitar

✅ How to get you started playing solos that sound like Jazz

✅ What you need and how you start coming up with Jazz lines

Get an invitation to check it out here: http://bit.ly/JazzGtRm

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Diminished Chords – Beautiful Progressions and How To Use Them

The Diminished Chords are often causing a lot of people trouble, and that is a shame because there are so many amazing sounding progressions that use diminished chords and you can make beautiful chord progressions with them as well.

In this video, I am going to show you the two main categories of dim chords and how you can use diminished chords in some great sounding progressions.

It isn’t that difficult there are just a lot of people telling you to think stuff on dim chords that don’t fit with what you hear, and that is probably getting in your way.

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Content:

00:00 Intro

00:27 The Two Types of dim chords

01:41 Dominant Diminished

02:16 Common Dominant Diminished Progressions

04:28 Subdominant Diminished

05:20 Resolving Diminished Problems

05:53 Common #IV dim progressions

07:32 Soloing over Diminished Chords

07:40 Like the video? Check out my Patreon page!

 

 

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Chord Solos – You Can Make It Easy Like This

Playing a chord solo seems if not impossible then very difficult but, actually, there are quite a few things you can do to make it a lot easier and still sound great. In this video, I am going to cover 5 hacks that will help you get started and add chord solos to your jazz guitar playing and once you get started it is going to be a lot easier to expand it.

The Chord Solo Licks That Scare You

Usually when we think about a chord solo then the phrases are like this:

And that is difficult and moving around the entire guitar with a ton of voicings for each chord.

But most of the time the phrases are not that complicated and you can really do a lot with some fairly simple things.

That is what I want to show you in this video!

#1 Keep it simple – Part 1

You can play great harmonized melodies with a lot less than this. First, let’s make it super simple and then I’ll expand it a little bit and then you can already do a lot.

Here are 3 voicings:

And just using these 3 chords and changing the melody you can make a lick like this:

Here I am just using the basic voicings from example 2 and then changing the melody and adding some rhythm.

Since we play fewer notes and simpler melodies with chord solos then rhythm becomes much more important, but that is great for developing the rhythm in your single-note solos as well, everybody wins.

Let’s take this up a level by playing fewer notes and then start to add some other cool tricks!

#2 Keep it simple – Part 2 – A little less simple

You have a few melody notes for each chord, but can also turn them into 3-note voicings that still work:

Film with arrows from one diagram to the next? Split-screen (film playing chords with lots of space

And then you have some more options for top note melodies and can play something like this:

Now you can start with a single position and improvise some chord solo lines, the next thing to do is to make it a bit more flashy and add some more movement.

#3 Arpeggio to Targets In Chord Solos

Playing arpeggios as block chords in a chord solo is tricky, you need a lot of voicings, and it is heavy to play.

Cut in: We also often like to play arpeggios fast which don’t help. (shot after #5)

(extra b-roll arpeggio playing is recorded) – The last two are good

But a clever way, that I stole from piano players, is that you can also choose to play the arpeggio and just harmonize the target note.

That sounds like this

Shot twice different zoom

Here I am playing a Dm7 arpeggio that takes me to the G7(#9) chord and I only harmonize the Bb. As you can hear this works really well.

#4 Super Easy Chromatic Chords That Sound Amazing!

If you want to play Jazz then you also want to use chromatic passing notes, and luckily there is an extremely easy way to use them in chord solos.

That sounds like this:

Here I am using chromatic passing notes on both Dm7 and G7alt. The way it works is really simple.

I have a chromatic note, a D#, before the E melody on Dm7, and I use the same voicing as I do on the E to harmonize the D# and the chord just slides into place.

On the G7alt the example is exactly the same, but here it is descending not ascending.

The next hack is a great way to harmonize more difficult melodies like arpeggios.

#5 Two-Note Block Chords for Arpeggios

As I already showed you earlier in the video, you can add arpeggios to a chord solo by harmonizing the target note of the phrase. There is another way to work with arpeggios that also works very well and is both easier to play and less heavy sounding, compared to harmonizing each note.

This is something you will hear Joe Pass do from time to time. Harmonizing an arpeggio with intervals, and usually 3rds because that sits very well in an arpeggio and makes it easier to play.

That sounds like this:

Here I am using an Fø arpeggio on the G7alt and putting a full chord under the high note the Eb. Of course, you can also choose to just use 3rds the entire way.

 

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One Thing That Will Make Your Solos A Lot Better

There is a trap that you can fall into when it comes to practicing. Usually, we spend a lot of time learning songs and trying to hit the right notes in your jazz solo, but it can be very a huge problem if you only take your playing to that stage. That is not where the music is, there is a lot more that you need to develop to sound great when you are improvising, but most of it is fairly easy to improve if you are aware of it and focus on it in your practice routine, as you will see in this jazz guitar lesson.

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Content:

00:00 Intro

01:02 Metheny Practicing

03:07 Parker Thinks The Same

05:07 Practice Practice Practice

06:03 Telling Better Stories in Your Solos

06:30 Use Different Building Blocks

08:30 This video didn’t teach you anything

08:57 How to Connect Phrases 

10:09 Develop your skills

10:16 Like the video? Check out my Patreon Page

 

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Arpeggios – Things To Get Right From The Beginning

When you start learning arpeggios then usually it is in positions and that is great for having an overview of all the chord tones of a chord but it is not immediately easy to use them and to add that to your playing in a way that sounds good, it is this separate pattern that you can’t really get to work.

This video will help you fix that so that you start playing better jazz solos and don’t waste time when you are practicing arpeggios.

Problems with Positions

Most of us start learning arpeggios like as complete positions, so something like this:

This is a great way to see where all the Cmaj7 chord tones in one position of the neck, but it is not immediately going to help you use this when you solo, mainly because it is a separate thing that is pretty big with a lot of notes and if you are playing a song with a Cmaj7 chord then there is a big chance that you end up just starting on the root and playing up the arpeggio

A few things are missing with this:

  • It isn’t flexible at all
  • It doesn’t really fit with what you play before
  • The melody is pretty predictable and boring

But there are some good things as well, you

  • Are Playing the Changes
  • You Do Know and Playing an Arpeggio

Let’s fix this! so that you can practice arpeggios in a way that makes sense and really get them into your playing. It is a lot easier than you might think.

And then later I am going to show you one exercise for arpeggios that really helped me open up my jazz playing and made everything a lot easier.

Arpeggios in their natural habitat

In the first example, it is clear that you can play a Cmaj7 and know the diagram, but also that it isn’t really something that is a part of your playing.

One really important part of making melodies with an arpeggio is to also use scale notes around it. Another important part of using an arpeggio is that you use that arpeggio but you also want to get to the arpeggio of the next chord, and that is also in the scale.

So try to see how we have a Cmaj7 arpeggio

and around that, we have the rest of the C major scale:

Right now this is about understanding where the arpeggio comes from and how it is a part of that scale, but later in the video, you will see how it is useful for a lot of other things.

Make It Easier To Create Great Lines

To get started using the arpeggios and also to become a little freer with them then it makes sense to not use the whole position, but instead use a single octave, making it just 4 notes.

In Jazz, you will actually find that this is also how we play arpeggios most of the time.

So let’s go from a full position to this simple 1-octave shape:

Now it is easier to make some melodies, and you can start to hear melodies, simple but strong things like this and add a little phrasing and dynamics:

Make It More Natural And More Free

Now you can start to add the scale notes around the arpeggio and this is really where you can use the material and start making music with it.

Here is an example of that

You can see how the scale notes are inserted between the arpeggio notes because you still won’t really nail the sound of the chord. The scale notes are extra notes in between HIGHLIGHT Arpeggio Notes

Similar to the previous example this is adding scale notes between the arpeggio notes but still creating a strong melody.

What to Practice and Explore

I think that it is a good idea to practice arpeggios in positions, it gives you an overview, and if you also can get used to seeing it in the scale around it then that is very useful.

Besides doing that it is very important that you also spend time composing lines using just a few notes and mixing that up with the scale. In the beginning, I would use a basic single octave as I did here, and then you can always expand on that. (Diagram again?)

In this position, you also have this complete octave:

The Best Exercise For Combining Scales and Arpeggios

One of the exercises that really helped me get better at making bebop lines and using arpeggios was to practice the arpeggios in the scale, so what you can call diatonic arpeggios.

This way of combining the chords and the scale is really great for having a library of things to use and also for connecting the scale with the chords you solo over.

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10 Chord Melody Intros You Need To Know

It doesn’t really matter if you are playing chord melody arrangements by yourself or if you are in a band. Being able to play a great sounding intro to a song and really set up the listener for a piece of music is very practical.

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Content: 

00:00 Intro

00:55 The Turnaround – The Perfect Intro

02:43 #IV – All of Tonal Harmony (almost..)

04:42 Modal Interchange and Beautiful Colors

06:49 Pedal point – Creating Tension

08:23 II V chain – Minor Cadence movement

10:25 Melodic Pedal Point

12:04 Start On A Tritone Substitution

14:00 Sus4 Pedal point

14:58 Lady Bird Turnaround – Modal Interchange

16:26 Phrygian Intro – Pretend to be another key

18:38 Complete Chord Melody Arrangement to Check out

18:45 Like the video? Check out my Patreon page!

 

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How To Make Your Own Bebop Licks

You already know that Jazz lines use arpeggios and chromatic phrases, but at the same time just knowing that doesn’t mean your lines sound like Bebop, and you don’t want to only play other peoples licks that you transcribed. You need to study phrases and learn how to create and hear those types of lines.

That is what I will show you how to do in this video.

Most of us already practice arpeggios and chromatic passing notes, but one thing is going over exercises another is to put it together and actually use it in your solos. As you will see in this video, One of the best ways to do that is to check out what makes up a strong lick and practice making lines with what you find. In this video, I am going to give you some examples and break them down so that you can take some things away and start using that to get some stolid bop lines into your vocabulary.

And when you strip down the lines then it is pretty amazing how simple they are!

Lick #1

Understanding How a Bebop Lick Works

This is a basic Bebop G7 lick, and it may seem very complicated, but it is really just built around a G7 and a Dm7 arpeggio:

Let’s break it down and then I will show you how you can start playing lines like this yourself:

The first part is a way of adding leading notes moving from F to D in the G7 arpeggio

You can see how the melody is moving from E via Eb down to D, and I am using the G as a chromatic note in between F and E. This is btw a Barry Harris trick.

So moving from F to D becomes F G E Eb D

The Eb to D is played with a pull-off because that gives and accent to the Eb leading note, that is more interesting, and the (boring) resolution is naturally a bit softer.

I am using the same principle between the B and C and inserting a D

Then you have the next part of the G7 arpeggio: G and F

From there the next part is a Dm7 arpeggio with an enclosure around the first note using a scale or diatonic note above and a chromatic note below, E and C#.

The lick ends on the B, adding a grace note.

Making Your Own Licks

Right now it might seem like there are a lot of things happening, and I think that if you want to work on making licks in this way then it makes more sense to just take a single thing and make variations on that, so, for example, take the first phrase and then try to use that together with a G7 or a Dm7 arpeggio

something like this line with G7:

or if you combine it with a Dm7 arpeggio:

And you can also just take the first part of the line and combine that with a Bø arpeggio like this:

Practicing With Material Like This

1 Be able to play the line.

2 to make a line with that chunk and combine it with the scales and arpeggios you use.

And if you work on it like that then you will start to hear melodies with it can come up with great sounding licks of your own that use this.

Let’s have a look at another example and go over some more things you can use in your playing plus see other ways of using what I already covered.

Lick #2

More about how the viewer recognizes the structure?

Maybe you can already begin to see the structure.

The first part is a G major triad in 2nd inversion, followed by a scale run, an Fmaj7 arepggio, and two G7 arpeggio notes.

The G major triad is played in the 2nd inversion with a leading note before the first note.

You can get a lot of interesting melodies by just adding a chromatic leading note before an arpeggio or triad, and practicing this as scale exercises and exploring melodies with it is very effective. Think of melodies like Well You Needn’t or Night in Tunesia

Adding a chromatic passing note to the scale run between A and G

The next part is a descending Fmaj7 arpeggio with an added trill on the first note:

And finally two notes from the G7 arpeggio.

Analyzing Licks for New Vocabulary

Now you are probably beginning to see how you can also transcribe some of your favourite phrases from Joe Pass or Parker and then really try to understand what is being used in there and use this method to get that into your playing.

A huge part of improving our playing is actually figuring out what it is we like and what we need to change, and that is very difficult when you are on the inside looking out.

So now whenever you find something you like in a transcription you can analyze what is going on, and instead of only having a single technique you can copy/paste, you can now start to make it a method for thousands of variations that you can use to develop your own bebop vocabulary.

Let’s check out another lick and get some more things to work with!

Lick #3

This lick is mostly coming from scale melodies, but then you can add a lot of interesting twists and turns to make those more interesting to listen to, but you can already now see that there are some new tools in there that you can use in your own playing.

So, as you can see, then removing the embellishments leaves 3 pretty simple building blocks:

Which is two scale melodies and two notes from the arpeggio

The first part is adding a trill and a leading note around the first D, using hammer-on pull-off to play the fast 16th note triplet and the fast notes really add a lot of energy to the line.

The next technique is one of my favourites, and it is great for making a scale run sound a lot better! Here I am first inserting a low A in between the F and the E, it is similar to the way I use the G in example 1, but adding this large interval below sounds great.

I follow it up with another chromatic leading note between E and D

The next scale run is another example of how you can get a great sound out of adding a lot of passing notes in a line. Here it is also really changing the direction of the line and making it much more playful and surprising.

Chromatic note from D to C, Chromatic note above between C and B, and an extra leading note below the B.

And then finally two arpeggio notes to still nail the sound of the chord

More Bebop Vocabulary

If you want to build your bebop vocabulary and play more interesting lines then check out some this download:

Take The A Train – Bebop Embellishments

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Pentatonic Scale vs Arpeggios – Focus on The Right Things

What to focus on when learning Jazz Guitar: The Pentatonic Scale, that you know or the arpeggios that everybody keeps talking about? It is difficult to make the right choice, but you also want to get it right so that you don’t practice something that won’t help you get what you want from playing Jazz!

This is a very common question in YouTube comments and my Facebook group.

Surprisingly the answer is not that simple, because it is really about what You think is important and what you want to achieve, but it is still important that you make the right choice.

 

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Content:

00:00 Intro

00:30 A Difficult But Important Choice

00:40 Pentatonic Scales – Start With What You Know

02:27 Chords That Don’t Fit With A Pentatonic Scale

02:54 What Do You Think?

03:23 A Jazz Lick with Pentatonic Scales vs A Bebop Jazz Line

04:46 How Most Jazz Musicians Think about Pentatonic Scales

05:55 Arpeggios – Directly Into The Jazz Vocabulary

06:24 Connecting To The Harmony

07:19 Jazz & Bebop Vocabulary

07:45 Which one is better?

08:25 Getting more out of Pentatonic Scales!

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Coltrane Patterns -Why They Are Amazing

What are Coltrane Patterns? Small 4 note fragments that you can use in your solos, and they are amazing because for each chord you solo over there are a lot and they are very easy to play. And this makes them great building blocks for jazz lines of pretty much any kind. What is not to love?

What are Coltrane Patterns

Two basic types: Major: 1 2 3 5 and minor: 1 b3 4 5.

In C major that would, for example, give us a C major: C D E G and an Am A C D E

You could create more but I just want to keep it simple, which is more efficient.

How to not study Coltrane Patterns

It’s funny because my introduction to Coltrane Patterns was to try to solo only using that. This was when I was just starting out and that didn’t get me anywhere. It wasn’t until a year later when I started to transcribe solos that I realized that these melodies were everywhere, the trick was to not try to only use that in a solo.

How to Find Them For A Chord

Figuring out which Coltrane Patterns are useful is about looking at the ones you have and relating them to the chord.

The context here is a scale, so let’s take a Cmaj7 chord and a Cmaj7 scale.

C D E F G A B C

We have two types of Patterns, the major and the minor.

In C major the possible Major options are C, F and G. You can look at that from the Major triad, there are 3 major triads and you can make a Major Coltrane pattern for each:

C D E G

F G A C

G A B D

and in the same way, the minor ones that are available are A, D and E, following the minor triads in the scale.

A C D E

D F G A

E G A B

 

Of these Coltrane patterns then we can leave out the ones that include an F which leaves us with 4 Coltrane Patterns that all work: C, G, Am and Em.

The next thing to check out is then how to use these patterns in some lines.

Combining with Arpeggios

Combining the patterns with arpeggios is a great way to start and also a fairly easy way to get into your vocabulary. As you will see it is also a way to use the Coltrane Patterns as an alternative to arpeggios that is a lot easier to play.

Before an arpeggio, demonstrates that it is a very easy melody to make licks with and you can easily put it together with some arpeggios on a Cmaj7

Here is an example that is a little less clear but still a great melody:

The first example was a bit square and you can easily use them like that, but the 2nd example is freer and a little less using 4 note blocks on the heavy beats.

More Melodies & Combining Different Coltrane Patterns

It is also useful to check out how to combine different Coltrane Patterns and also trying to play them in different ways, not only ascending and descending.

Here is first the basic ascending/descending melodies

And you can explore lots of other patterns as well to get a lot more out of these 4 notes. Here are a few examples:

Kurt Rosenwinkel uses the first melody quite a lot, it is in one of the examples in the lesson I did on his I’ll Remember April solo.

Using these other melodies in a lick on a Cmaj7 could sound like this:

Pat Martino’s Dominant trick

Another use that I come across from time to time, but which I associate with Pat Martino is this example of using an E Coltrane pattern over an Am7 chord. It works as either a melodic minor sound or as a sort of chromatic enclosure. That is a little up to how you hear it.

When I was preparing this video I tried to figure out which solo I had this from because it is really something that I connect with Martino, but I couldn’t find it anymore. Let me know if you know a place where he plays it, I am pretty sure I have it from one of his solos.

Using Coltrane Patterns for Chromatic and Outside Things

Since the Coltrane Patterns are really easy to play they are also very useful for shifting in and out of the tonality.

Below is a Cmaj7 example that uses an Em Coltrane Pattern and then shifts this down to an Ebm pattern to create an outside sound before resolving back in the 2nd half of the 2nd bar.

This also works great on a II V I. Below is an example on a II V I in G major. Here I am using a Db major coltrane pattern to slide out of the key and resolve it back into G major on the D7 chord by playing a C major Coltrane Pattern.

Notice how I use the same fingering and phrasing for the melody which gives it a cascading sound.

Coltrane Patterns on Standards

Coltrane Patterns are closely related to pentatonic scales, and are also really a part of that sound. If you want to get better at using Pentatonic scales in your jazz playing then a great place to start is this lesson:

Lady Bird – Arpeggios & Pentatonic Scales

 

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