Tag Archives: bebop exercises

5 Scale Exercises That Make It Easier To Learn Jazz

Scale Exercises are the source of a  lot of problems. I remember running into this myself when I was starting out and I also hear about it often from students.  You practice a lot of exercises, but is it really helping you play better, or are you just repeating the same exercises without getting anywhere?

For me,  there were some exercises that really were game changers in learning Jazz, simply because they could do more than just teach me how to play an arpeggio or a scale, and if you want to improve your playing then you should check if they won’t also be very useful for you.

What is maybe a little weird about them is that they are not all the type of exercise that you work on everyday for months with a metronome, because there are other things you need to learn besides technique, and there are other ways to practice than using a metronome. I think  one of them is also a very powerful and practical way to build a fretboard overview.

Is this a video with a list that get’s filled in along the way? (#1, #2, #3, #4, #5 visible from the beginning)

#1 The Scale

With a build-up like this is then it is maybe a bit of a disappointment that the first exercise is practicing the scale,  since you are hopefully doing that already and you probably trying to not sound like you are playing scales when you solo and want to develop your musicality. But, playing the scale and knowing what notes are in there is important and as you will see it will serve as a foundation for everything else in this video plus that it is the shortest exercise you can imagine with a scale,

just make sure that you:

  1. Start with the major scale in one position before adding other positions and other scales
  2. Gradually get around to all keys so that you get flexible with that
  3. Don’t just play them mindlessly but try to make them sound good and be aware of what you are playing.

There is a video of Pat Metheny turning scale practice into music which I think is very inspiring.

The next exercise is a logical extension of practicing scales, and also what I often refer to as “the most important exercise for Jazz”, but remember that if you are practicing scales then it only takes a short amount of time to go over a key in all positions, and you can set up systems so that you get through all keys over a few days. It shouldn’t take hours of practice every day because you also need to play music when you practice!

As you will see with the rest of the exercises then it is important to connect things, not only the scale, arpeggios and vocabulary, but also chords, you will see what I mean.

#2 Diatonic Arpeggios

I learned this exercise the first time I went to a Barry Harris masterclass in the Hague, and it was an exercise that changed everything about how I practiced and made it all much closer connected to the music that I wanted to learn to play: Bebop. And for me, the goal of all of these exercises is to help you play better Jazz, and this exercise is actually a direct link to the music, and I think it is crazy that not everyone teaches this to their students.

Diatonic Arpeggios sounds difficult, but it is pretty simple, if you play the scale in positions then you can play a 7th chord arpeggio for each note in the scale by essentially stacking 3rds.

Explainer/close-up (a bit quick since it is twice) – hand + diagram + letters?

Show the process of stacking 3rds:

For C major if I start on C, then I build a 7th chord by stacking 3rds: C, E, G, B which is Cmaj7

for Dm7 it is the same thing: D, F, A, C.

You can probably tell that there are obvious technical benefits to working on this exercise, but if you are also aware of what notes and what arpeggios you are playing then you are really connecting some very important information on the guitar to the chords you want to solo over.

Doing this exercise makes it possible for you to take a Jazz standard and play arpeggios through the entire progression, which is a great beginning for internalizing a song and having a place to start with soloing over it, where you take an arpeggio and build a phrase around it.

Besides being a very solid foundation for improvising over chords and learning songs then it will also give you a lot more material, because if you analyze transcriptions of great Jazz musicians then you will find a lot of other arpeggios being used besides the arpeggio of the chord itself, and you are completely ready for doing that if you work on this exercise.

Take a look at how this line uses other arpeggios over the chords than the chord itself.

There are arpeggios from other chord tones that sound great over the chords, and like this you already know them!

Example II V I with other arpeggios.  — First play it then cut to quick highlights with the line above as voice over

Let’s look at some exercises that are not just regular exercises, but also incorporate some chords before we get to exercises for vocabulary and fretboard overview

#3 Diatonic Chords

When you are playing Jazz then you are both playing solos and chords because you are not soloing ALL the time, and you can practice chords in scales as well, which for me was a very useful way to work on exploring new voicings, getting familiar with diatonic chords and how their extensions sound. You can even do chords in scale positions.

This exercise is actually possible with all types of chords, but the most basic version is probably a good place to start and that is to go through the major keys using shell-voicings.

If you know your major scales well enough to know the notes in there then this can be a great exercise since it is not always practical to start on the root.

For example, if you want to play Diatonic chords in C major with the shell-voicings that have the root on the 6th string then you can’t start on C, and F or E is a better option.

You could also explore doing this in a position, but that will not be useful for that many types of voicings, thought it is a nice exercise for the shell voicings:

The main benefits from this exercise are:

  • Know the chords in a key, and how they sound
  • Making it easier to play songs & hear the harmony
  • Exploring how chords move through a scale

Now, you have  the scale linked to both arpeggios and chords, so let’s connect it to the notes that are not in the scale since they are a part of the picture in Jazz as well.

#4 Chromatic Notes

This exercise is such a simple concept but when I first came across it then it  immediately  resonated with me and it really sounds like Jazz, already as an exercise. Of course, this comes from how frequently it is a building block in Jazz solos and especially Bebop lines. When I was given the exercise then I had already heard it 1000s of times in the solos Charlie Parker, Pat Martino and Wes Montgomery, so playing it really just made that click into place and gave me tons of phrases to use in my solos.

I am, as you may have guessed, talking about the Bebop arpeggio exercise, which I have also mentioned in other videos, and this was an exercise that I learned the first time I was at a Barry Harris workshop in the Hague.

The exercise is simple, you play each diatonic arpeggio as an 8th-note triplet and add a leading note in front of it, but it is also a great example of an exercise that is already vocabulary,

something you can use in countless lines and actually also illustrates why Barry’s method is so powerful: It is based on making exercises that are already solo lines, like this:

Obviously this is just the tip of the iceberg, and you can do so much more with adding chromatic notes or even chromatic phrases to arpeggios or intervals, and they will all be good exercise, in fact any vocabulary that you like is probably worth taking apart and turning into exercises.

Most of them will not be used as often as this one in solos, but they are still fun and useful to explore.

You can let me know in the comments if you want a link to a playlist with some of the Barry Harris videos I have done that go deeper into his method and  his system for chromatic notes.

The Bebop arpeggio exercise is the typical “scale exercise” that you can work on in all keys and positions with a metronome. You could approach the next exercise like that as well, but I am not sure I think that is the point of it really. However, It does really fit with the Barry Harris ideology and it is the BEST exercise for building a practical overview of the fretboard.

#5 Vocabulary

I remember when I was starting out and with a lot of the songs I could solo over, then there would be chords where I did not have the freedom to move around on the neck, I was stuck in a single position. if I had been given these exercises then that would have developed a lot faster than it did, in fact this is probably the most practical and efficient fretboard knowledge exercise that you can work on.

The idea of learning a phrase and taking it through all 12 keys isn’t usually considered a scale exercise, but it really is a great exercise for your overview of the scale and it will help you get better at finding the things that you want to use in your solos on the instrument.

Of course, phrases don’t always fit in a single scale, but then the different scales that are in the phrase anyway go together in the music so linking them up is incredibly useful.

There are two ways you can approach this, which are different takes on the geometry of the guitar, and both are equally useful. In the end, you can use both long and short phrases and explore how it is to move them around, but for this I will stick to a relatively short phrase which is a pivot arpeggio

and an altered dominant line

like this:

Example Bebop line  + Bebop line in one position and lots of keys and Bebop line in one key and several positions (Maybe Joe Pass Etudes in several positions)

The first variation is the traditional approach, so take the phrase through all 12 keys (and yes, for stuff like this the whole 15 or 30 keys or whatever that was, doesn’t make any sense at all, so 12 keys!). For this one, I am going to focus on staying around the same area of the neck, it probably won’t make sense to insist on staying completely in the same position, instead the priority should be to stay in the same area while keeping it playable and also possible to play with decent phrasing. This is much more useful, and you want to be practical!

This phrase combines an altered dominant with the key of the II V I which is a really useful connection, and taking it through the keys help you identify important building blocks in those keys and also know what the altered dominant is in those keys, which is (obviously) going to be very useful, we are not all playing in bands like AC/DC where 85% of the songs are in A.

If you are working on this exercise with licks that have common progressions and common building blocks then this is a great exercise for your playing, fretboard overview, ear training and vocabulary. It is good for a LOT of things.

The Guitaristic version of this is also really worthwhile, because you can also use this to develop the visual skills associated with the guitar and your overview of the neck.

As I mentioned in the beginning of this section then I found myself in a place where I was practicing scales in all positions, but I was only able to solo in some of those positions. I only knew how to play the scale in some places without having any vocabulary. Taking a simple phrase and then sticking to one key, but exploring how to play it in all positions is in a way the guitar version of moving a lick through 12 keys, and that can be an exercise that really opens up scale positions for you. When you find the building blocks that you need in each position by moving some lines through the positions, then it gets easier to solo in those positions. In fact, I was given this exercise by a teacher later when I moved to Copenhagen and it did indeed quickly start to do exactly that for my playing. This is also the kind of exercise that you can explore doing with the shot solos from the book the Joe Pass Guitar Style to get more out of them, but you can check that video out later.

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How To Make Your Own Bebop Licks

You already know that Jazz lines use arpeggios and chromatic phrases, but at the same time just knowing that doesn’t mean your lines sound like Bebop, and you don’t want to only play other peoples licks that you transcribed. You need to study phrases and learn how to create and hear those types of lines.

That is what I will show you how to do in this video.

Most of us already practice arpeggios and chromatic passing notes, but one thing is going over exercises another is to put it together and actually use it in your solos. As you will see in this video, One of the best ways to do that is to check out what makes up a strong lick and practice making lines with what you find. In this video, I am going to give you some examples and break them down so that you can take some things away and start using that to get some stolid bop lines into your vocabulary.

And when you strip down the lines then it is pretty amazing how simple they are!

Lick #1

Understanding How a Bebop Lick Works

This is a basic Bebop G7 lick, and it may seem very complicated, but it is really just built around a G7 and a Dm7 arpeggio:

Let’s break it down and then I will show you how you can start playing lines like this yourself:

The first part is a way of adding leading notes moving from F to D in the G7 arpeggio

You can see how the melody is moving from E via Eb down to D, and I am using the G as a chromatic note in between F and E. This is btw a Barry Harris trick.

So moving from F to D becomes F G E Eb D

The Eb to D is played with a pull-off because that gives and accent to the Eb leading note, that is more interesting, and the (boring) resolution is naturally a bit softer.

I am using the same principle between the B and C and inserting a D

Then you have the next part of the G7 arpeggio: G and F

From there the next part is a Dm7 arpeggio with an enclosure around the first note using a scale or diatonic note above and a chromatic note below, E and C#.

The lick ends on the B, adding a grace note.

Making Your Own Licks

Right now it might seem like there are a lot of things happening, and I think that if you want to work on making licks in this way then it makes more sense to just take a single thing and make variations on that, so, for example, take the first phrase and then try to use that together with a G7 or a Dm7 arpeggio

something like this line with G7:

or if you combine it with a Dm7 arpeggio:

And you can also just take the first part of the line and combine that with a Bø arpeggio like this:

Practicing With Material Like This

1 Be able to play the line.

2 to make a line with that chunk and combine it with the scales and arpeggios you use.

And if you work on it like that then you will start to hear melodies with it can come up with great sounding licks of your own that use this.

Let’s have a look at another example and go over some more things you can use in your playing plus see other ways of using what I already covered.

Lick #2

More about how the viewer recognizes the structure?

Maybe you can already begin to see the structure.

The first part is a G major triad in 2nd inversion, followed by a scale run, an Fmaj7 arepggio, and two G7 arpeggio notes.

The G major triad is played in the 2nd inversion with a leading note before the first note.

You can get a lot of interesting melodies by just adding a chromatic leading note before an arpeggio or triad, and practicing this as scale exercises and exploring melodies with it is very effective. Think of melodies like Well You Needn’t or Night in Tunesia

Adding a chromatic passing note to the scale run between A and G

The next part is a descending Fmaj7 arpeggio with an added trill on the first note:

And finally two notes from the G7 arpeggio.

Analyzing Licks for New Vocabulary

Now you are probably beginning to see how you can also transcribe some of your favourite phrases from Joe Pass or Parker and then really try to understand what is being used in there and use this method to get that into your playing.

A huge part of improving our playing is actually figuring out what it is we like and what we need to change, and that is very difficult when you are on the inside looking out.

So now whenever you find something you like in a transcription you can analyze what is going on, and instead of only having a single technique you can copy/paste, you can now start to make it a method for thousands of variations that you can use to develop your own bebop vocabulary.

Let’s check out another lick and get some more things to work with!

Lick #3

This lick is mostly coming from scale melodies, but then you can add a lot of interesting twists and turns to make those more interesting to listen to, but you can already now see that there are some new tools in there that you can use in your own playing.

So, as you can see, then removing the embellishments leaves 3 pretty simple building blocks:

Which is two scale melodies and two notes from the arpeggio

The first part is adding a trill and a leading note around the first D, using hammer-on pull-off to play the fast 16th note triplet and the fast notes really add a lot of energy to the line.

The next technique is one of my favourites, and it is great for making a scale run sound a lot better! Here I am first inserting a low A in between the F and the E, it is similar to the way I use the G in example 1, but adding this large interval below sounds great.

I follow it up with another chromatic leading note between E and D

The next scale run is another example of how you can get a great sound out of adding a lot of passing notes in a line. Here it is also really changing the direction of the line and making it much more playful and surprising.

Chromatic note from D to C, Chromatic note above between C and B, and an extra leading note below the B.

And then finally two arpeggio notes to still nail the sound of the chord

More Bebop Vocabulary

If you want to build your bebop vocabulary and play more interesting lines then check out some this download:

Take The A Train – Bebop Embellishments

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Bebop Soloing – The Licks You Need To Check Out

Bebop is a beautiful but difficult musical language to learn.

Bebop is a beautiful but difficult musical language to learn.

Sometimes it works better to hear how the phrases sound and try to play them. This way you get a feel for how you should phrase them, and add to your bebop soloing techniques.

This started as a lesson on how arpeggios are used in bebop but then I got really into the licks and liked them so much that I ended up just making a lot of really solid traditional bebop lines.

You should check out the licks but also try to isolate small phrases and make your own licks with them. That is how it really becomes a part of your vocabulary.

1 Inserting 2nd voice and using trills

In the example below I am using two voices in the Dm7 line. The 1st voice is on beats 1 and 3 and in between are the counter-point melodies. This way of adding extra melodies is a great way to add surprising skips and have short changes of direction in the lines

2 Using a chromatic enclosure to resolve

Chromatic enclosures are a great way to create suspensions and movement in a line. In this line, the Dm7 line is first suspending the F with a 4-note enclosure. I am also using chromaticism to move from the G7 to Cmaj7.

3 Adding Arpeggios in Scale-runs

Inserting arpeggios in scale melodies is a good way to change things up. This is what is happening with the Am triad on the Dm7 chord.

The G7 line is using a G augmented mixing it up with an Abm triad.

4 Arpeggio Patterns to get large intervals

Using Arpeggios played in inversions and patterns is a great way to have melodies that are closely related to the harmony and add larger, more surprising, intervals.

On the Dm7 I am using a 1531 pattern of the F major triad. The triad of the 3rd. The G7 line has a Bdim arpeggio, again the arpeggio from the 3rd.

5 Voice-leading ideas as great bebop lines.

Many great bop lines are made from voice-leading concepts. This example is turning a Dm7 – DmMaj7, Dm7 Dm6 into a great super-imposed bop line.

Notice how the Dm to DmMaj7 uses basic arpeggios and introduces a large range.

6 2-note enclosure and motivic chromaticism

The line on the Dm7 is starting with a 2-note enclosure. The G7 line is using the G augmented triad and adding octave-displacement.

The last half of the G7 bar is a chromatic phrase that is moved and repeated on the Cmaj7 to develop the melody.

7 Moving phrases on the G7 chord

Another way to move phrases is illustrated on the G7 line in this example. The motif uses a maj7th interval that really makes it stand out.

8 Chromaticism and Maj7 inversions

Chromaticism as a means to suspend the sound of the chord is a good way to keep the line moving forward and also a way to add an outside phrase to a line.

The line below opens with a double-chromatic enclosure resolving back into the chord on beat 3.

9 Extended arpeggios in Bebop Soloing

Using 9th arpeggios is also a good option for bebop lines. The line here below is using a DM9 arpeggio and playing the last part of it as an 8th-note triplet.

The G7 line is using a Bdim arpeggio and breaking up the 8ht note flow with a trill.

10 Triplet and embellishing dim arpeggios

The Dm7 line is using the Fmaj7 arpeggio, again the arpeggio from the 3rd of the chord. This time it is played as an 8th note triplet.

The entire line on the G7 is based around a pattern of a B (or Abdim) that is embellished with passing notes and played in an inversion.

Level up your Jazz Phrasing

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3 Bebop Concepts and how to turn them into Jazz Licks

Bebop is a fundamental part of all modern jazz. In this video I am going to go over three concepts that are used a lot in bebop solos. I will turn them into some simple exercises and finally demonstrate how you can put them together to make some solid bebop jazz licks.

All the examples and exercises are in the key of G major, and the lines I will end up with are all going to be II V I licks in the key of G major.

The exercises are not necessarily meant as something you need to learn to play really fast. They are more aimed at things you can check out so that you get better at composing lines, explore the possibilities and develop your vocabulary.

Concept 1: Triplet arpeggios with chromatic leading notes

Using 7th chord arpeggios to emphasise a note is a very common device in Bebop lines. One of the ways that you will see this used the most is to take a 7th chord arpeggio, play it with a leading note before the first note and the rest of the arpeggio as a triplet. This makes it a natural way of highlighting the 7th in the arpeggio. 

To practice playing this we can do this for each of the arpeggios in a scale. In example 1 I have written this out in a G major scale. You probably want to take it through the different positions you use

Working through a position like this is a great work out for your technique and you need to figure out different ways to execute the triplets which may vary from position to position.

Another way you want to work on these arpeggios is to not work in a position but to work on a string set as shown in example 2 here below:

Concept 2: Adding Chromatic Passing notes to the scale

The 2nd idea is to be able to insert chromatic passing notes between any two notes in the scale.

In this example I will use the same position for the G major scale as above:

We can insert a chromatic between any of the notes in there as shown in example 4 below.

This is really simple in all examples except when we don’t have a chromatic note between the notes. This is the case between B and C. One way to solve this is to  use the diatonic note above, so in this case the D. This is also shown in example 4.

Of course you can expand on this and start to use several chromatic passing notes in a line. I won’t cover this in detail, but an example of adding passing notes between A and B and also between B and C is shown below:

Concept 3: Octave Displacement

The concept of octave displacement is a way to introduce larger intervals into your melodies by displacing part of a simple melody an octave. A few examples of this is shown in example 6 here below. The only thing to remember is that the octave displacement works the best if it is introduced on an off beat.

The first line is a simple II V I in G major using an Am7 arpeggio and a scale run on D7 to resolve to the 3rd on G major.

The 2nd line is displacing the phrase from the G in the Am7 arpeggio . This yields a beautiful descending 6th interval and it resolves to the B an octave lower.

In the 3rd line the octave displacement is on the D7, where the line is displaced an octave up on the E. 

The final example is using octave displacement on both the Am7 and the D7 to get two nice skips.

It is quite amazing how useful this idea is and how we can make several melodies that sound quite different from the same simple statement. 

Creating bebop lines with the concepts

In this section I am taking the three concepts and putting them to use in some II V I lines. This will show how easy they actually are to use. Hopefully it will also show you how strong the concepts are in making solid bebop lines.

Arpeggios, Scale runs and diminished sounds

In the first example here below, I start with an Am7 arpeggio with a leading note. From the targeted G on the 3rd beat the line continues up the scale adding an A# between the A and B. On the D7 it is first descending down the scale to F#. From the F# it goes on in an F# diminished arpeggio. The arpeggio is octave displaced which adds a very nice major 6th interval between the F# and the Eb. It then descends down to resolve to a B on the G major chord.

The arpeggio from the 3rd

In the next example I start by encircling the 3rd(C) of Am7. The line then continues with a triplet Cmaj7 arpeggio and then adds a “chromatic” D between B and C .

The D7 line is again utilising an F#dim arpeggio that is octave displaced. This time between the high Eb and the F#. It then continues first up to C and then down the arpeggio to resolve to the 5th(D) of Gmaj7.

Interval skips leading into an augmented triad

The third line is also using the Cmaj7 arpeggio on the Am7. This time in the lower octave. From the B on beat 3 it then descends down an Em pentatonic fragment which serves to encircle the 3rd(F#) of D7. On the D7 the line starts with an octave displacement moving the descending line up between F# and Eb. From the Eb it descends down the (G harmonic minor) scale to the b13(Bb). This becomes the first not of an augmented triad that is then resolved to the 9th(A) of Gmaj7.

How to use the material in this lesson!

To get the exercises into your fingers and ears you probably want to play the exercises in different positions and keys.  

Where I would suggest that you spend most of the time when working on this is in making lines with the material. Once you can play the exercises a bit you can start working on coming up with lines using the three concepts and in that way expand you vocabulary. You cna work on this both by writing down material but also just sitting around and coming up with melodies. If you do the latter you are better off making sure that you can play them in time so that you are sure that it makes sense rhythmically.

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Another way to work further on developing your Bebop phrasing is available in this lesson:

Jazz & Bebop Phrasing – C Blues

You can also download the PDF of my examples here:

3 Bebop Concepts and how to turn them into Jazz Licks

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics or how I can make the lessons better then please let me know. Leave a comment on the video or  send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make them fit what you are searching for.

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.