How Charlie Parker Licks can help you play better Jazz Guitar

In this lesson I am going to take a Charlie Parker lick and show you how I work on getting that lick into my playing and how I generate new vocabulary from the melodic ideas in it.

This video is coming after all the requests I got in my video on Top 5 Jazz books One of them was the Charlie Parker Omnibook which I used by taking lines and using them in my own playing.

The Charlie Parker line

The line I am going to use is from the Blues in C: Perhaps. While I prepared the lesson I for some reason ended up transposing it to F, I have no idea why anymore..

Here’s the original as Parker plays it:

For this lesson I am going to concentrate on the first part, which is the line on the Gm7. 

The way Parker uses it is that he plays it first on the Gm7 and then repeats it with a slightly different rhythm on the dom7th. In fact he is creating a Bbm7 on top of the C7.

If you check out the solo on Perhaps you should notice how Bird returns to this line a few times throughout the solo. If you don’t already own the Omnibook you should consider getting it:

Bebop lines

Bebop lines are mostly consisting of scale melodies, chromatic passing notes, triad inversions and 7th arpeggios in root position. When bebop was around there were a lot of things not really in use yet: Altered scale, pentatonics, quartal harmony.

Even though Parker lines are maybe in some ways simpler they are still very strong melodies with some impressive melodic ideas and concepts that you can learn a lot from. 

Applying the line in my own playing

The first thing you can do is to take the line as it is and find places where it will easily fit the chords.

If I use it on a II chord in a II V I in F major that could be like this:

As you can see I am not trying to make the entire line bebop and do use altered on the dom7th chord. After all I am not a bebop player and a lot of things has happened since then…

If we look at the line it is essentially a scale run from C to A with a Bb triad inserted inbetween. Therefore it will probably also work well on a I chord in Bb major:

These two examples are of course composed and not improvised. You should probably see them as snapshots of how I might take the line and then slowly improvise my way through a song I know really well and use the line while connecting it with the rest of my vocabulary. 

Generating new material

The first thing I thought of with this was to make a version that is minor and not major. If you do that you might end up with something like this over a Dm7 chord:

The line is here a scale run from E to B in the key of C major and on the D I insert a descending D minor triad.

Now that we have a minor version of the line we can also make a version that will fit on an altered dominant like this G7alt line:

Other variations on the line

Another variation that we can make on this line is to change the arpeggio from a triad.

In the example above I changed the scale run to start from the 3rd of G minor and then the arpeggio that I insert is not an Am triad but instead a Bbmaj7 arpeggio.

Another option is to use a Drop2 voicing as arpeggio instead of the triad, that could gives us the line here below.

In this line I have a Gm7 drop2 voicing instead of the Bb major triad.

Make your own lines

Part of learning from solos and licks is to use the material to create your own material. In the examples above I am really not trying to make strict bebop lines. Another thing that you can tell is that there are not really any rules, you have to use your oown knowledge and your own taste to make new lines with the material.

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You can also download the PDF of my examples here:

Analyzing a Charlie Parker Line

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