F Jazz Blues Soloing

It’s always tricky to move from playing pentatonic over the whole blues form to really get into the chords and play something that follows the harmony. In this lesson I’ll present a set of arpeggios, some exercises, target notes and strategies for making solos where you can hear the harmony in the improvisation.


The approach in this lesson is very similar to the approach I presented in the lesson on soloing over a Bb blues: The idea is to present the arpeggios for all the chords in one position so that it is easy to practice them on the progression and later also a lot easier to connect them when moving from one arpeggio to the next.

F Jazz Blues

Let’s first look at the 12 Bar Blues progression that I am using in this lesson_

F Jazz Blues Soloing - ex 1

You might notice that I’ve simplified the progression a bit so that it never contains a II V in one bar. In those places I chose to just play the dominant since that is the main harmonic function in those situations. If you are not familiar with the Jazz Blues you should spend some time trying to play this progresssion to get it into your ears.

Now we have the harmony we can look at the arpeggios for each of the 6 different chords:

F Jazz Blues Soloing - ex 2

As you can see I am not starting each arpeggio on the root, but instead focusing on covering the same part of the neck. This is very important because when we start making melodies then we it has to be easy to make a natural melody from one chord to the next without skipping around on the neck or have to jump to a different string.

To make it easier to practice the arpeggios on the progression I only includede one bar of 8th notes for each chord. In this way it is very easy to copy/paste the arpeggios on the progression and start playing the arpeggios in the context where we need to use them.

Arpeggio exercises

Besides just practicing each arpeggio it is a very good idea to work on playing the arpeggios in different patterns. I show a few in the video, but playing them in groups of 3 or 4 notes, skipping notes etc are good ways to get more flexible with the arpeggio. You need the flexibilty when you start improvising, and keep in mind that it is about flexibility and overview not about speed when working on this.

The first exercise is to just play through the Blues with the arpeggios from exercise 2:

F Jazz Blues Soloing - ex 3

The next thing that I’d suggest that you start working on is connecting the arpeggios. Practicing the arpeggios in this way over the progression is a way to get closer to how you improvise, something that you should also strive after when making exercises.

The idea is to start playing the arpeggios over the blues and then when ever the chord changes to continue the movement with the note that is the closest in the next arpeggio. It’s quite tricky to get started with but very rewarding when you start getting the freedom while improvising.

F Jazz Blues Soloing - ex 4

With an exercise like this you get a completely new exercise if you start on a different note, and if you keep on going it should keep mutating into new exercises, also a very healthy way to keep your ears and mind busy while practicing something as simple as arpeggios.

Target notes

As I demonstrate in the video the thinking behing making harmony clear in a solo line is to target certain notes of the strong beats (in this case the 1). The idea is that a strong and logical sounding line will be a line that has the direction towards a clear target note. I also discuss this way of making melodies in another lesson that you can check: Target Notes

In the video I demonstrate how I use this principle while practicing rubato on the F7 Bb7 change targeting the Ab(7th) on the Bb7. I also do a short solo on the whole blues. The target notes I chose for the chords are in most cases 3rds and 7ths since they are determining the sound of the chord. I am sure you have heard about this before.

Here is an overview of the target notes:

F Jazz Blues Soloing - ex 5

The only place where I deviate from the 3rds and 7ths targets is the B dim chord which is identical with the   Bb7 chord except for the root, so the root is a useful target note in that case (that does not happen too often).

As always you can download the examples I used as a pdf here:

F Jazz Blues Soloing

If you want to check out an example solo that I wrote with three choruses on an F blues only using the arpeggio notes I have one available for sale in my store:

F Jazz Blues Etude 1 – Basic Arpeggios

In that lesson I am playing a solo on the F blues and talk about how I make the different  lines, applying the melodic ideas that I talk about in this lesson. It is meant as a an extension of this lesson that goes a bit deeper in how you apply this and gives an insight in how I think about melodies and how I improvise.

I hope that you liked the lesson. If you have any questions or comments then feel free to leave them here or on the video. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Instagram, Twitter Google+ or Facebook to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.

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