Tag Archives: Bebop blues

A Simple Jazz Blues Approach That Makes You Sound Better

You already know it: It is not nearly as important what notes you play compared to how you play them. That is what I am going to use in this video because you can just take some really basic notes and then work on playing them in a way that sounds better. Once I started thinking more like that I really started to feel a difference in what I played, and it really lifted the solos and made them sound much more like “Real Jazz” (if that is actually a thing)

We can start with a basic C7:

And then use this simple one-octave version of the arpeggio for a C7:

Phrasing And A Little Rhythm

Now you can start working playing these notes and get them to sound like a Jazz Blues phrase. This is really about imagining a slow medium groove and just see if you can make some simple melodies, something like this:

So simple short phrases in the groove, think Wes Montgomery or Grant Green, and just try experimenting with coming up with some melodies.

You can actually get them to sound even better by adding this:

All that is changing is that you slide into the notes, which is sort of the Jazz version of bending strings.

Before you move on to another technique you probably also want to start to make longer phrases as well:

Here you want to notice that the longer phrases is really just two phrases put together and that one phrase works as a call (play) and the other as a response.

You can practice this by just playing a phrase then stop and try to imagine what you think should come after it, is it an ascending or descending phrase? A lot of notes or a few etc. Try to start getting used to hearing phrases and listen to what you hear inside

The Power of Legato Dynamics

Often when you practice legato technique then you are probably working on getting notes to sound equally loud so that there is no real difference between the picked notes and the ones you play with hammer-on/pull-offs

but they do have a different quality of tone, and this is something you can use to make your solos much more expressive and add some dynamics to your lines, which is a really important part of Jazz lines.

First, you can add the rest of the position around the one-octave arpeggio

This is just to have more places with two notes on one string so that you can use legato.

Now you can start creating lines like this:

And the fact that some notes are louder than others really helps make the whole thing much more interesting, so it is also something you can incorporate in your music as a dynamic quality. In fact, the is what you will hear with a lot of players like Grant Green, Wes, and more modern guys like Pat Metheny.

Adding A Little Color

Because you start with the basic chord tones then everything you play will sound good, but also very safe and maybe even a little bit boring. Besides working with phrasing techniques you can start to add in some more colors by surrounding the arpeggio with the rest of the scale. So let’s do that and then move on to some double stops.

So you go from this:

And then you place that in the scale:

The best strategy is probably to start by just adding notes in between the notes of the arpeggio:

Here you have the A before the 7th but notice that you can still use the slide to add another sound and the F is inserted to lead to the E.

And you are using scale notes to lead into the arpeggio. here’s another example:

Notice how the slide takes an incredibly simple melody adds a more bluesy character.

So the difference between the two bars below:

Double-stops and Pedal-tones

Double stops are often associated with Blues and work great for the sound. But there is another polyphonic technique that is also really great that you use which I will cover after this.

You can use double stops as a sort of emphasis on a chord tone, like this:

Here the double-stop is the important part of the phrase, and then the descending melody ending on the b7 drives home the blues feel. This is btw something you will hear Parker do very often: ending phrases on the 7th in a blues, especially just before moving to the IV chord.

Another great way to use double-stops could be this:

Example 13

The tritone is a great choice for a double stop that also really nails the sound of the chord.

Another way to use several voices that Kenny Burrell also uses quite often works like this:

Example 14

Using Pedal notes is a great sound, and it is a little overlooked, but still something you will hear in Stevie Ray Vaughn’s playing quite frequently.


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Bird Blues – How to play and Understand the Chords

Bird Blues or Parker Blues is one of the most important Chord Progressions if you want to understand bebop. Charlie Parkers reharmonization of the 12 bar form is both an insight in how Bebop players love playing moving chords and also an insight on how reharmonization and chord progressions were going to change after bebop.

In this lesson am going to go over two sets of voicings to play the Parker Blues and also discuss how the progression works compared to a normal 12 bar jazz blues.

Getting to know Bird Blues chords and how they sound

A good place to start if you want to understand a chord progression is to play it. Having heard them and being able to play through the harmony in time makes it a lot easier to have an idea about what is going on.

In the example below I have written out the chords using the method and exercises that I cover in my lesson How to Play Jazz Chords

As an aid in playing the chords I have also included these diagrams:

Analyzing the progression

The Bird Blues or the Parker Blues progression is best understood against the 12 bar blues. This is not strange since it is a reharmonization of that, very well known progression.

The Maj7 chord

The first thing that stands out is that the first chord is a Maj7 chord and not a dom7th.  Whenever you play a blues all the main chords in there are dom7th chords, so you would expect an F7.

In fact there are more explanations for this. In earlier jazz than bebop the Blues was played with triads or 6th chords so they were not yet dominant chords. Parker actually will sometimes play the major scale of the tonic on a blues. An example is Cool blues which also does not have a IV in bar 2.

Another plausible explanation was that in bebop it was common to disguise the original progression by changing the chords slightly. Ornithology is an example of this where an Ebmaj7 is turned into an Eb7.

Bebop Back cycling

A defining charateristic of bebop is that the focus is to play the movement of the chords. Bebop is full of chains of chords that don’t stand still and continue to move. The progression in bars 2-4 is an example of this. The original blues progression might have a Cm7 F7 in bar 4. The Dm7 G7 and Eø A7 are just adding a movement to point towards those chords and therefore also point to Bb7.

Chromatic II V Cadences

On the IV chord I have written  two chords:  Bb7 and Bbmaj7 this is because Blues for Alice, the blue print for this type of progression has a Dom7th there, but two other famous variations: Freight Trane and Bluesette both use maj7 chords on the IV.

The progression from IV to the II in bar 9 is a long row of II V chords descending chromatically.

Moving from IV the song goes to IVm which is a very common tonal progression. In true bebop fashion it here appears as a II V or IVm7 bVII7. And where you would expect a tonic chord you get the II V a half step below: Am7 D7 which is then followed by a II V in Gb: Abm7 Db7.

When playing this it is about descending II V’s and it is more parallel harmony than anything else, how ever you could also interpret it as a reharmonization of IV IVm I bIIIdim:

Bb Bbm F/A Abdim that is reharmonized as Bb Bbm7 Eb7 Am7 D7 Abm7 Db7.

This way of reharmonizing a dim chord to a II V is also what happens in Just Friends.

The final cadence and turnaround

As you can see the final cadence and turnaround does not differ much from a standard blues. On ooccasion the V chord will be replaced with the tritone II V so Dbm7 Gb7 instead of C7. For the rest there is not really anything to talk about.

Bebop Comping: Drop2 voicings

One of the most important voicing types when it comes to bebop is Drop2 voicings. This is true both for piano and guitar. Here under I have written out a basic chorus of drop2 voicings on the Parker Blues that you can work through when comping on this form.

You can of course also check out more on drop2 voicings in my study guide:  How to Learn to Play Jazz Chords – Study Guide

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Bird Blues – How to play and Understand the Chords + Diagrams

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