I think it is time you test your Bebop skills so you know where you are at with your solos. For some of them I am very happy I learned that early on and a few that I wish I had figured out a lot earlier, but I’ll tell you about that along the way.
#1 Diatonic One-Octave Arpeggios
This is essential for Bebop, and luckily something I was taught early on by both my teachers in Denmark and at the Barry Harris workshop in the Hague.
If you transcribe or analyze Bebop solos, maybe even jazz solo in general, you will see that most arpeggios are played as one-octave melodies and not the large positions we use on the guitar.
And it really makes sense a lot more sense to focus on practicing the things that you actually need in your solo, so you want to practice your diatonic arpeggios in any scale you want to use in your solos, but what is more important is of course that you want to practice using the arpeggios in your solos.
And you can use that in a line like this:
So the question is: Can you use these one-octave arpeggios in your solos?
Even if you don’t pass the test then this video will give you some things to you can add to your playing that really will improve how you sound, and it is fun to keep score.
#2 Arpeggio From The 3rd of the Chord
The great thing about the diatonic arpeggio exercise is that it gives you A LOT of material, and the 2nd most important arpeggio for a chord is the arpeggio found on the 3rd of the chord. This is all over Bebop solos, and something you want to have in your vocabulary for sure. Again something I learned from Barry Harris.
To demonstrate this, let’s take a II V I in C major: Dm7 G7 Cmaj7
Dm7 to G7 to Cmaj7. And here you have an Fmaj7 arpeggio from the 3rd of Dm7, which is really giving you the sound of the chord and adding a 9th on top
and for the G7 you have Bø which essentially does the same thing giving you a 9th on top of the G7.
A line using these two could be something like this:
Where you have the Fmaj7 arpeggio here, and the Bø arpeggio on G7 here.
Do you use the arpeggio from the 3rd of the chord in your solos? Keep track and leave your score in the comments!
#3 Ending Phrases On An Upbeat
This is something that is tricky for a lot of guitarists, probably because it is so difficult to learn to play sustained notes on a guitar, but Bebop is called Bebop because of the way a lot of phrases end, so you want to be able to play phrases that end with
I don’t remember when I started getting this right, but I am pretty sure it was after quite some time. It wasn’t really something I was taught or that my teachers pointed out to me, but it is a good skill to work towards:
If you really want to know then record yourself soloing and listen to how often you end on a short note on the offbeat. You may think you have it, but maybe not?
#4 Chromatic Passing Notes
This is usually one of the first things associated with Bebop: Chromatic passing notes, even though that is something you have in a lot of other styles of music as well.
The basic principle is, of course, to add a chromatic passing note that resolves to the next note in the melody, just to create a short moment of tension and some forward motion to the line.
That can be used like this, which is almost a Parker lick:
You probably knew this one, but the complicated cousin of the chromatic passing note, That, is a different story.
#5 Chromatic Enclosures
These types of melodies blew my mind when I first came across them with Pat Martino and Joe Pass. This is where chromatic phrases really start to become interesting. These melodies are also a lot less common in other genres of music.
The idea is to have a short melody with chromatic passing notes that move around the target note and there are many different variations you can use:
Here you have a chromatic enclosure before the C and also a longer chromatic phrase targeting the high B
And you definitely want to have this in your playing if you want to sound like Bebop!
#6 Triplet Arpeggios (two variations)
Playing Arpeggios as 8th-note triplets is a great rhythmical part of the Bebop vocabulary and also something that it really pays off to practice through your scales, both for technique and because it is great vocabulary.
The first variation is to play the arpeggio as a triplet with a leading note. That would give you this exercise.
But you can also drop the leading note and play this variation:
And that will give you phrases like this:
Where I am using the Em7 arpeggio with a leading note and the Cmaj7 triplet arpeggio without the leading note.
You practiced your triplet arpeggios, right?
#7 Octave Displaced Arpeggios
This is probably one of the Bebop secrets. At least it seemed magic to me when I tried to figure out how it worked by myself and just kept failing miserably
But actually, it is something you can easily work with and start using in your playing. The coming skills are not as much about what to play, but how to play it which is really what mostly is missing and what really makes the difference.
The concept is simple: Here is a one-octave Cmaj7 arpeggio, and instead of playing the arpeggio as an ascending melody you can move the last notes down an octave to get this great melodic skip in there.
And you can use that to create lines like this II V I where I use it twice:
And here you have the Fmaj7 arpeggio as an octave displaced or pivot arpeggio on the Dm7 and the Bø arpeggio on the G7.
#8 The Chord Tone Skip
Similar to the octave displaced arpeggios this is a great melodic skill that is a great part of the Bebop language: adding skips between notes in scale melodies. Mastering this helps you get rid of endless boring scale-run licks that are closer to a cure for sleeplessness than a great Jazz lick.
This is especially effective between two notes that are a half step apart like C and B on a Cmaj7 chord.
So you have the arpeggio from the 3rd Em7 arpeggio, and then a chromatic run where I am inserting the low E between C and B.
And you probably recognize this from the solos you have heard by George Benson and Pat Martino. The question for the test results is: Are you like George and Pat?
#9 16th notes
Another melodic embellishment that makes your solos sound more interesting is to add some 16th note turns or trills. I am not actually 100% sure what the name is, feel free to leave suggestions in the comments. This is actually something that I think I could still use a bit more in my playing and have fun working in there more and more.
This type of phrase also helps you not get stuck in the boring 8th note lines, since it helps you how to change direction in a line and create some variation in the rhythm.
You can just add an arpeggio run to it and then it is a great Bebop Line
Did you fail already or are these last skills helping the score?
#10 triplet trill
This type of trill can also really change things up and make your lines sound better. This is all over Parker and Pass solos and also turned into a repeated figure by Grant Green and Wes Montgomery.
On guitar, this is usually executed with legato playing which makes it easier to play the fast-moving trill and also gives it a more fluid sound.
And you can put this to use in a line like this:
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