How To Make Jazz Licks From Easy Chord Shapes

When you use the chord shapes you play to make solo lines you can access a lot of very useful material. The Link also helps your solos in other ways because it makes it easier to use the chords to tie together several phrases.

In this lesson, I am going to go over this approach with some easy chord shapes and show you how you can apply this to a song and also how you can put it to use on complicated progressions like Giant Steps.

Setting up this Jazz Solo Lesson

To show you how easy this is I am going to take the first 8 bars of Take The A-train, make some easy voicings and use them to make some lines. (here we go)

Finding Voicings for a Solo

A simple way to play the chords of Take The A-train with basic jazz chords could be:

To make them more useful for solos then it makes sense to take away the root and turn them into more compact 3-note voicings:

Examples making lines on a Cmaj7

Now you have some chord voicings and you can start working on turning them into solo lines. The concept is really simple, the melody is using the notes of the chord and adding notes around it from the scale.

These two examples are just basic ways to turn the rootless Cmaj7 voicing into a line by using the voicing and some of the notes around the voicing.

Another example could be this one:

Notice how the lines are different from what you normally will end up with if you use scales and arpeggios.

Playing a Solo based on the Chords

Turning this into a complete solo is really just following the same principle

First, let’s have a look at how the lick is constructed and then I can show you how that works in connecting the lines.

Voice-leading Jazz Licks

The big advantage is that now you have a melody based around the 3-note chord and for the next chord you can use the same lick and just move it to that voicing. In that way you are voice-leading the entire thing. This is exactly what I do in example 3 on the Cmaj7-D7 chords.

Voicings as more interesting melodies

If you use this technique on a II V I with common voicings like the ones shown below, then you can get some really great fresh sounding melodies.

The melody is really just arpeggiating the Dm7 shape, but because the voicing has the 9th(E) in there then we get a nice maj7 interval in the melody.

If you think about this then it is as much a question of learning songs to improvise on and then use the chords as a way of getting some solo material as well

A Practical approach to turnarounds

A basic way to play a turnaround in C could be using the chords shown below.

This is easily turned into a lick, just playing the chord shapes and adding an occasional extra note here and there:

A Solid Strategy for Giant Steps

This is also a refreshing way to approach Giant Steps where you can get some new melodies using shapes that you already have in your fingers.

Using these shapes to play a lick could give you something like this:

With Giant Steps I think it really works well to also add melodies that are not only 8th notes, something that we play too often on changes like that.

Learning Songs to Solo on

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