Bebop Magic – One Of The Best And Most Difficult Things About Jazz

One essential part of Bebop lines and melodies that you need to check out is octave displacement. It is a simple technique, but you need to understand how to use it if you want to really nail the Bebop sound. That is what I want to show in this Jazz Guitar Lesson.

One of the great typical or cliché phrases in Bebop sounds like this:

and actually, that is just a way of playing this line which sounds about 5% as interesting:

I am sure you want your solos to sound like the first phrase, I know I do…

The difference between those two is that in the middle of the first example then the melody moves up an octave in a way that sounds both beautiful and interesting. This is mostly referred to as octave displacement, and you can use this for a lot of great things, and that is what I want to talk about in this video.

What is Octave Displacement

This technique or way of making melodies is called a few things, mostly it is referred to as Octave displacement, but you will also hear, among others, Barry Harris call some of them pivot arpeggios and different ways of looking at them will give you different ideas for using it, as you will see later in the video.

The concept is fairly simple, if you have a scale melody then you can move a part of the melody an octave, just like you saw above:

And you can do this in other places as well:

Another variation could be this:

But here the skip is placed so that the high note is on the beat, and that works but are not as catchy as the other one in terms of phrasing.

But of course, you can also use this on arpeggios to get some really beautiful melodic interval skips in your lines.

I was always drawn to licks like this when I was beginning to learn Jazz, and I was trying really hard to make lines that had larger intervals, but they always sounded unnatural and weird, not like the Pat Martino or Charlie Parker lines that I was transcribing and checking out. It wasn’t really until I went to a Barry Harris workshop that I started to understand how this worked and got some tools to start to incorporate it into my playing.

Pivot Arpeggios

A great way to make your lines less one-directional (B-roll) and add some great twists and turns is to use this on arpeggios.

The concept is pretty simple, instead of playing an ascending arpeggio like this:

Here I am playing first a chromatic enclosure and then the Bø, so the arpeggio from the 3rd of the chord, over a G7 and resolving this to the Cmaj7.

If you turn into the Bø arpeggio into a pivot arpeggio then you get an example like this:

Here you play the B and then you move down the rest an octave to get a nice descending 6th interval.

Strategies For Making Better Lines

And of course, you can extend this to other chords as well and use it to make your lines more interesting with a few adjustments.

Look at this fairly basic Bop-line:

We have an Fmaj7 arpeggio on Dm7, so the arpeggio from the 3rd, then a chromatic enclosure to take us to G7 where the line is built around a G7 arpeggio and a scale run G7b9 sound, and finally an Em7 arpeggio on Cmaj7, so again the diatonic arpeggio from the 3rd of the chord.

This is all pretty solid but you can add pivot arpeggios to this fairly easily like this:

Here I am moving the first note of the Fmaj7 arpeggio up an octave, and later also making the Em7 a pivot arpeggio

But you can also apply this to the G7 bar:

Now the G7 arpeggio in the beginning of the G7 bar is turned into a pivot arpeggio, and you can see that the pivot technique also often works on inversions of an arpeggio since the G7 arpeggio is in fact an inversion with the 3rd as the lowest note.

Displacing David Baker – Aiming for a single note

This is a very specific example, but it I find that there are so many great lines to get from this that it should be included, and you can also add some nice chromatic things with this.

You, of course, already know the David Baker Lick, in part thanks to David Baker but probably also thanks to Adam Neely:

Using this lick with octave displacement can give you not only some of my favourites but also some Charlie Parker and George Benson favourites, (whoever you feel is more important as an influence 🙂)

Let’s look at one way to understand the construction because actually, it is just a scale run with some passing notes.

Clearly, the G, Gb , F is scale melody with a Gb leading note. E to D is also clearly step-wise. So only the A is a bit odd, but you may know how Barry Harris talks about adding “half-steps” between notes that are already a half step apart. His concept is that in that case, you can use any note as a “half-step” and here we are using the A. So in that respect the lick is a scale run with two added “half-steps”, the Gb and the A

And that A is a great candidate for octave displacement, like this:

This already sounds great and is something you will find in a lot of George Benson and Grant Green lines, but you can also add an extra leading note:

Which sounds amazing, and you can make it a short turn as well, something that I have found with Doug Raney:

Just to give you an impression of how this can be put to use you can check out this II V I lick:

In this lick, I am using the octave displaced licks on the Dm7 chord and on the Cmaj7 chord.

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