How To Make Jazz Licks More Exciting

The main vocabulary in Jazz is 8th note lines and is what makes up in most bebop inspired jazz licks. It can be a little tricky to sound good with solos like that because even if you play the right notes, use the arpeggios and follow the changes the line can sound boring and square.

In this video, I am going to give you a way to change things up and show you how to create more exciting jazz licks that take you to the next level as an improviser. Starting from a Charlie Parker lick and then developing the concept.

It’s really about how you think about it when you try to come up with new lines, and something you can easily add to your playing.

Start with a Boring Jazz Lick

Just to have something to compare to. Here is a really boring jazz line:

Everything is on the beat and heavy, and it is moving in a very predictable way.

How Charlie Parker uses Rhythms

What I am going to talk about in this video is about using groups of notes in your solo lines. Charlie Parker does this all the time.

The two things that make the Parker line stand out are the triplet Gm7 arpeggio and the chromatic phrases that follow.

In this video I am going to focus on the last part of this: Having odd-note groupings in your jazz licks.

I talk about the triplet arpeggios in this lesson: The Most Important Scale Exercise In Jazz

Using 8th note groupings in Jazz Licks

The interesting rhythm is that the meter is 4/4 but the melody is shifting on top because it is groups of 3 8th notes.

Split the bar in 3’s and 2’s

How do you work with this. Let’s take a bar of 8th notes and then we can group them together in groups of 3 and 2 notes.

The obvious one is 3 3 2

If you try to use that in a line then you come up with a phrase like this:

It doesn’t really matter how you make the melodies, but it is easier to get it to work with descending melodies as I do in example 3.

Making Melodies with odd note groupings

A good fit for a 3 note grouping is a triad.

If I use the triad from the 3rd and the root on the Gm7 I can make something like this:

Conclusion – It is really just about making melodies that we naturally want to not emphasize the heavy beats,1 and 3, all the time.

3-2-3 Grouping

Of course, you don’t have to use 3,3,2 you can also use 3,2,3:

Taking it further: Across the barline

You can also make ideas that move over several bars, so for example move groups of 3 notes over two bars

We have 16 8th notes, so that is 5 3 note groupings and then we can resolve on the last 8th.

A Great Melodic idea: Repetition

And you don’t have to change the grouping, it also works really well with repeating the pattern on each chord, in fact, that can work as a very clear way to play a different kind of line if the rest of your solo is more forward-moving bop lines.

And finally: 5-note groupings

Now that you are working with phrases over two bars you can also start to use groupings with more notes like 5 note groupings.

Here’s an example of that:

Taking These Concepts to a Jazz Standard

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