Tag Archives: bebop guitar

The 10 Bebop Skills You Want To Master

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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10 Classic Charlie Parker Licks That Will Make You A Better Player

If you want to learn to play Jazz, then nothing is more useful than checking out Charlie Parker, but you can learn a lot more than just where to add a chromatic note or which arpeggio to use. The 10 examples in this video will show you that but also some great ideas you can use for making better licks which is probably the real genius of Charlie Parker!

#1 Classic Parker With Odd Note Groupings

This example is one that you will find in a lot of Parker solos., and there are a few things to pick up here.

  1. Triplet arpeggios are great! Here it is a Gm7 arpeggio over the C7 chord with an F# leading note.
  2. The main thing here is the groups of 3-notes are a nice way to create an interesting flow on top of the changes. He is playing this with the chromatic phrases, but it can also work with a lot of other things like diatonic triads

Here you have a line using Dm, C and Bb triads as 3-note groupings on the C7

#2 Voice-leading Creates Beautiful Melodies

Another thing that Parker uses very frequently, especially in BLues is to play relatively simple melodies and then just lead the voice-leading turn it into beautiful music

 

So he is nailing the changes AND telling a story by just changing one note from D to Db which turns it into a great example of motivic development.

You can also add some extra chords in your solo to get more movement in the lines:

#3 Embellish The Chords

 

This line is from the solo on Billie’s Bounce, and Parker turns Gm7 C7 into Gm GmMaj7 Gm7 C7 and even adds this nice wide trill to the first Gm triad.

In fact, he uses the same technique in the theme, but with a different melody. It is also worth noticing how he changes up the sound by following up this fairly dense line with a really basic F blues lick with a lot of repeated notes.

#4 Don’t Be Afraid Of Chromatic Passing Chords

Another example of using more dense harmony is this part of a Rhythm Changes solo:

Using chromatic passing chords is something that didn’t really become that common in Jazz until after Bebop, but Parker was ahead of his time. Here he is turning Dm7 G7 Cm7 F7 into Dm7 Dbm7 Cm7 F7.

He probably thought: As long as you get to the right place then it doesn’t matter what route you take.

This next example is a great example of taking a very simple one-bar idea and then creating a 10-12 bar story with it.

#5 Arpeggios And Rhythm!

 

This is amazing! He is playing a very simple arpeggio melody, repeating it, and then developing it. This is a great example of how to develop a simple descending arpeggio with rhythm! That you can make a million variations of!

Let’s check out another real strong use of an essential melodic technique

#6 Motivic Development – Simple But Effective

 

The line on this Bb7 is really just using a Dø arpeggio, but then making the main motif a little more interesting with some 16th notes and moving around where it is played so that it is first on beat 3 (with an upbeat) and then on beat 2.

Changing the last note also gives it a typical blues call-response sound.

#7 Triad Inversions Are Bebop Gold

Chances are that you are not practicing your diatonic triad inversions. Most people don’t get beyond the root position triads, and that is a pity because you can make some great lines with them:

 

Here is a fairly simple short example of Parker using a 2nd inversion C minor triad, and in general you will find a lot of triad inversions in his solos, so just go practice that! You can thank me later!

Here is another example with a Bb major triad in 2nd inversion:

#8 Scale Runs Made Beautiful

The next example will show you two very common Bebop devices.

Here you have Parker inserting an arpeggio in a descending scale run. This way of breaking up scale runs to make them sound more interesting is all over Bebop, and in this case he is inserting an F major triad which is the triad from the 3rd of Dm7 which also adds the complete sound of the chord to a simple descending scale melody.

#9 How Grown-Ups Use Chromatic Passing Notes

You have jazz licks with chromatic passing notes, and then you have Parker licks with chromatic passing notes. Just check this out.

This is a lot more interesting and unpredictable than just adding a chromatic leading note before an arpeggio and he is really skipping around and adding leading notes in the middle of arpeggios. You really want to open up how you think about this!

#10 How The Pros Use Diatonic Triads And Arpeggios

You also want to be able to put together different diatonic triads and arpeggios to create more inspired melodies. Here Parker is doing that by playing the arpeggio from the 3rd, Dm7 as a triplet and then using that to transition into a Bb major triad adding scale runs in between to give it a great flow.

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For Any Jazz Lick You Need To Understand These 3 Things

In a lot of lessons on playing Jazz then chord progressions are reduced to scales and then that is the only way you try to understand what is being played. Obviously, that is important but you can learn so much more than this very basic understanding of what is happening, which is really just scratching the surface of the music and not really helping you make your own lines, which is probably why you are studying the licks in the first place.

Level #1

Even before I was playing Jazz, I was always more interested in trying to figure out how to make my own version of whatever lick or solo I came across. That is the real goal of checking it out.

So let’s say you have something like this:

Probably the things that you actually find great about the lick is not only going to be which notes are used or the scales for each chord.

If that was the case then you could just scramble the notes around, but that will mostly turn it into complete nonsense

I remember having problems with lines that I learned and could not turn into something of my own, I could only play THAT version of it and not get it to work in a different way, and that was really annoying. One of the first ones was this Parker Octave displacement line:

EXTRA example 1

And it was impossible to move it around and get it to work and I got licks that didn’t resolve right and just didn’t sound good.

Extra example 2+3 (voice-over)

And I could not figure out what I was missing but something was certainly missing….

Level #2

A Jazz lick is a melody, sometimes we forget that, maybe because we zoom in too much on the chord or the notes. Melodies are not just individual notes next to each other, they are a long story, and very often they have building blocks. This is true for Jazz melodies like “In The Mood” which is built on a 1st inversion major triad:

But this is also the case with songs like the Jazz Standard “All Of Me” which also uses a 1st inversion major triad, and in fact, continues with a root position triad as the next phrase.

Instead of just looking at the individual notes that are played in a solo then it can be really useful to recognize which structures are played, and how they sound similar to Charlie Parker loves to use the m7b5 arpeggio from the 3rd of a dominant chord. This can give you shorter melodies and sounds that you can use in your own playing. It can also help you find new melodies in another way which I’ll show you in a bit, let’s first just look at another example and start with identifying some harmonic structures:

 

Here we have on Gm7, Dm7, Bb major triad,

For the C7alt: Ab major and Db minor triads

And finally an Am7 arpeggio for the Fmaj7

But there are also other melodies that you want to recognize besides arpeggios and triads. You don’t have rules or the exact names for them, but that is not that important, since it is more important that you have a way to identify what you want to play. Whether you call something a Honeysuckle Rose arpeggio, a pivot arpeggio or octave displacement is not going to make a big difference for what you play.

This example uses a few different melody types that are very common in Jazz.

When you analyze lines then start with the things you can easily recognize. Here that would be the arpeggios

Bbmaj7 on Gm7 and an Emaj7(#5) on the C7

A few of the new types of melodies

Before the Bbmaj7 you have an enclosure of the Bb.

The phrase after the arpeggio on C7alt is a scale melody with a chromatic passing note and

on the Fmaj7 you have a scale run from A down to F with an inserted chord tone.

But this is still about what is being played and not why it sounds good. Let’s have a look at how you might describe the melody that you are playing, something that I think we don’t spend nearly enough time on in Jazz and Jazz education

Level #3

One thing is that you can make melodies and use arpeggios then you still need to connect the melody across the chords for it to be a great line. There has to be a bigger picture or larger story to what you are playing, so let’s look at that.

This isn’t taught very often, and I think we still miss the tools to describe it, but it is beginning to show up in education. Let’s start with some examples using techniques that you probably already know and then a few that are more, sort of my own way of describing melody.

This is a clear example of a basic motif that is moved from chord to chord using voice-leading. This is a great way to tie together, and as you can see, it doesn’t have to be obvious.

Another way to play a motivic melody is to use the same type of melodies:

Here the skipping arpeggio melody is continued through the line creating melodic tension as well as harmonic tension. This is then resolved on the Fmaj7.

You can also use shifting phrases as a type of motivic development:

Here the arpeggio melody on the Gm7 is shifted to an Ebm7 melody on the C7alt and in that way, there is a motif that is developed.

The other well-known type of Melodic development is call-response, which sounds something like this:

Here you have an ascending call on the Gm7 with a descending response on C7.

But call-response can also be seen as a sort of melodic tension and release so in a simplified way, and you can think of melodic or rhythmic tension which then resolves on the next chord.

This example is creating tension by having arpeggios and large intervals on Gm7 and then resolving that tension with more stepwise motion on the C7alt. Rhythm can be a way to work with this as well:

Here you have the syncopation on Gm7 creating tension that resolves on the C7, and this is what ties the two melodies together.

 

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A Simple Way To Make Amazing Jazz Licks On A Single Chord

Whether you are trying to add a little Jazz flavor to your solos or working on getting your Jazz solos to sound better then you are probably stuck with mechanical sounding lines that miss that great feel or phrasing. So you sound like

And you want to sound more like this:

The thing that you want to learn is to start hearing melodies that have this type of phrasing, and that may sound incredibly complicated and like you have to transcribe 150 Charlie Parker and John Coltrane solos, but there is actually another way that can get you started a lot faster and a lot easier.

For most Jazz licks there are two main ingredients, meat, and potatoes if you will: The Scale and The Arpeggio. You can let me know in the comments which is which 🙂

To keep it simple, I will use an Am7 chord as a II chord in G major, what you may also call The Dorian Scale or Mode something like this:

And you can play an Am7 arpeggio, which is the melodic version of the chord like this:

The way your playing sounds using the scales and arpeggios is probably like cooking without any spices, it is not interesting and there are no surprises, so let’s get started fixing that.

The Best Phrasing Building Block!

Let’s make it a little more interesting, with probably one of my favourite building blocks when it comes to phrasing:

So now something is happening, mainly because the line is not just running up and down the scale or arpeggio like this

What I am using is a short melody with 4 notes:

It is skipping around and also has a nice chromatic leading note which resolves in a great sounding way.

Try to play the D on the 1& a little louder that makes it feel better and sound more like Jazz. If you play all of the notes completely even then it sounds a bit boring.

This one is easiest to use if you have a place in the scale that is like this, so B C D, half step, whole step.

If you move it around you see how it doesn’t work as well and gets difficult to play

But the basic version is still great for a lot of licks

A Few 16th Notes Sound Great!

A similar but much more flexible little phrase is also still the easiest to play on one string:

The small phrase you can take from this is this one:

And again you want to accent the note on the 1& a little to make it a bit more syncopated.

This is a great phrase to move around on one string like this:

Which is also a good exercise for knowing the fretboard.

But this type of phrase also works if you don’t have all the notes on one string like this:

So now the pull-off on 1& is still getting an accent, but the last note is on the next string. It is followed by a little scale melody and then the Am7 arpeggio and a scale run to takes us up to the 9th of the chord B.

The one that I always found to be the master of these types of phrases would probably be Charlie Parker, and I actually did a video discussing this on Patreon using one of his solos, but you will also find great examples in the playing of Joe Pass.

Let’s have a look at another great way to make your lines sound like Jazz phrasing and also start to combine the different building blocks!

A few things are going on here. The main ingredient is this 16th note trill:

But as you can see I am also using an Em7 arpeggio over the Am7 chord,

and that has to do with how the notes are of Em7 are related to Am7:

Am7: A C E G

Cmaj7: C E G B

Em7: E G B D

So for Em7 the E and the G are chord tones and on Am7 the B and D are the 9th and 11th both notes that sound good on that chord, and as you can see Cmaj7 is also a great arpeggio to use on Am7.

Back to the Trill!

This is easiest to play if you have the notes on two strings, and actually, this trill is pretty easy to practice in a position like this

Let’s combine this with the first building block:

And of, course, you can also add in the 2nd building block.

As you can see then it really pays off to work on developing a vocabulary of building blocks. Those are the real licks that you want to pick out of Charlie Parker solos or other things you hear.

And when you find something like this then spend time practicing to use them and compose licks so that you become better at that and the new material becomes a part of your playing.

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The 5 Bebop Facts That Will Help You Learn Faster

Bebop was not invented on guitar, and some of the ways we usually learn things on the guitar works against learning to play Jazz or Bebop, but there are a few basic but important things that will help you think about playing Jazz in a different way so you don’t waste your time practicing the wrong things.

Getting Into Jazz and Learning Bebop

When I was starting out trying to learn to play Jazz then I was doing the same thing that everybody else does, I was working on scales and arpeggios and learning some solos hoping to combine that into something that would be my own Bebop solos. But, it doesn’t really work like that, you don’t learn a language by only learning the alphabet, which is obvious because a lot of very different languages use the same alphabet,

So even though we all use the same notes then we need to practice different words. So transferred to music: Different exercises will be useful depending on what style of music you play.

When it comes to learning Bebop then I always relied on analyzing solos that I transcribed myself or what I could get my hands on written out, but a major breakthrough was going to a Barry Harris workshop at the Conservatory in the Hague. He showed us exercises that were tailor-made playing Bebop and that really helped my playing get a lot better.

One Octave Arpeggios Rule In Bebop

One of the first things that I learned from Barry Harris, that really was a game-changer for me was that you should practice the arpeggios as one-octave diatonic arpeggios in a scale.

The reason for this is pretty simple, that is how they are most often used in Bebop solos as you can see in this transcription of Charlie Parker’s solo on the blues Billie’s Bounce.

If that is how you want to sound then it is probably more useful to practice playing arpeggios like that instead of only working on complete positions all the time.

Another advantage to this exercise is that the arpeggios are connected to the scale and you can use the other scale notes to make lines as well as the arpeggio, it is not an isolated thing like a separate arpeggio position.

There is another huge benefit to working on arpeggios like this, but I will cover that later in the video.

Scale Patterns Are For Heavy Metal

I have often heard people writing off Bop solos as patterns and scale runs, but that really sells short what is going on, it actually doesn’t describe it at all. Jazz is not that pattern-based. In fact, saying that any style is just a bunch of patterns strung together is probably untrue, maybe, except metal as the Ikea-Shredder Yngwie Malmsteen demonstrates playing his favourite 4-note scale pattern on YouTube

A Bebop line is like this:

Comparing it with this “yngwie”-Bop:

Learning To Compose Bebop Lines

For Jazz you don’t want to spend too much time on mechanical scale patterns in your practice, the goal is to do exercises that help you come up with Bop melodies, and it is not just rules and mathematical equations that create the melodies.

Take these two exercises:

And using that material you want to work on combining them in a lick like this:

Melodies Built Around The Chords

So if the solo is not just scales and scale patterns and not just arpeggios, then what is going on?

The arpeggios are often central in the melodies, and the melodies are created around the arpeggio notes. If you take the opening phrase of the Parker Solo:

It is really just an F major triad with phrases leading into each note and the chord tones are placed on the beat. You should also notice that the b7 is introduced later in the line announcing that the chord is changing to Bb7. Parker does this very often.

You want to work on hitting chord tones on the strong beats, 1 and 3 to get the sound of the chord across. You also want to practice creating melodies by adding scale notes and chromatic passing notes around those notes because THAT is what these melodies mostly are, and that is what you should practice creating.

Endless Long 8th Note Lines

A cliché description of a Bebop solo is that it is an endless line of 8th notes that never stops and weaves through the changes. I know that in one of my favorite books, Joe Pass Guitar Style, Joe Pass emphasizes the importance of developing the skill of playing continuous 8th notes through a progression, but if you listen to this Parker Solo then it is clear that Bebop is not only long rows of 8th notes. In fact, there is a LOT of space in this solo and the rhythms are not often 8th note runs, so being aware of rhythms, leaving space, phrasing across the bar line, and working with embellishments and triplets are great things to learn to use and to make a part of your sound.

Being aware of this and listening to Parker and Pass playing actually solos will teach you a lot more than a book anyway…

Let’s look at how the arpeggio exercise that I started with can make your life easier and give you more stuff to use in solos.

You Can Use Different Arpeggios On One Chord

If you look at what Parker is playing in the solo then there are a few spots where he is playing a different arpeggio than the chord that is used.

In the 3rd chorus on the Bb7 he uses Dø and

on the D7 he is using F# diminished:

What he is really doing here is that he is using the arpeggio from the 3rd of the chord.

 

If you take the scale that goes with a Bb7 then you have this scale which you might call a Bb dominant scale or an Eb major scale: Bb C D Eb F G Ab Bb Bb7: Bb D F Ab And If I instead play the arpeggio that you have on D then you get D F Ab C which is Dø

In the same way you have D7(b9) coming out of G harmonic minor (highlight D7 in G harmonic minor)

And the arpeggio on F# in G harmonic minor is an F# dim arpeggio: F# A C Eb

So in that way you have more arpeggios that work over the chords, and you also want to notice how it sounds great to play them as triplets to change up the line. That really adds energy!

There are a few more Barry Harris exercises that are almost great licks in themselves, but I will save those for another video.

Don’t Get Stuck In Bars And Chords

Until now the things that I have talked about are pretty straight forward and the point has been that Bebop improvisers work with the chords as a simplified version of the melody to create their solos. But you can also choose to mess around with the chord progression.

In the first chorus Parker is just playing F7 for the first 4 bars:

But in the 3rd chorus he is clearly going to Bb7 even hinting ad Bbm6 to go back to F

Another thing that he uses is to play over the barline as he does in this example, where he doesn’t really resolve the C7 until beat 2.

Working on being able to improvise with the chord progression and the barlines like this is something that can make your solo much more surprising and interesting, you just have to watch out that you don’t get lost.

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Why You Need To Learn Bebop Themes If You Want To Play Jazz

Learning Jazz Guitar you probably already discovered that some skills are a lot more difficult to internalize and also hard to improve with exercises in the way that you can practice scales and arpeggios. The things that I am talking about here are skills like rhythm, phrasing, and vocabulary. These topics require a lot of work, but one very effective way to get improvement is to start learning Bebop themes and let those Bebop themes teach you, to paraphrase a famous jazz guitarist.

What is a Bebop Theme Anyway?

When I am talking about Bebop themes in this video, then I am referring to the types of melodies that you find in pieces by people like Charlie Parker, John Lewis, Bud Powell, and others. Usually, they are written using standard progressions, and especially often on Blues and Rhythm Changes. To name a few famous examples, Donna Lee which is probably by Miles Davis, or Parker’s Anthropology, or Dizzy Gillespie’s Groovin High.

What is great about bebop themes is that essentially they are melodies that are written out Bebop solos, so the melody in a Bebop Theme is similar to a bebop solo and not a vocal melody as you find on a great American songbook Jazz standard like the one shown below:

A Quick Win And A Stepping Stone

The immediate bonus here is that when you learn a Bop theme then you are studying a solo and really getting that type of melody and phrasing into your ears and fingers.

One of the best ways to improve phrasing and vocabulary is to learn solos by ear. You have probably heard me and a lot of others say that often. The problem with this is that solos are long, they don’t repeat that many things and they are difficult to both learn and remember.

Since Bebop themes are complicated melodies similar to Bebop solos then they are not as easy to memorize or play like a “normal” Jazz Standard melody, but the fact that the theme is a lot shorter and also often has more repetition means that learning Bop themes is a bit like a fast-food version of transcribing, and unlike most fast food it is actually good for you.

So if you are new to learning Jazz solos by ear, what we call transcribing even though there is not necessarily any writing involved, then an easy way to get started is to learn some bebop themes by ear.

What Will You Learn?

There are quite a few things that you develop by playing Bebop themes. Let’s have a look at some of the benefits:

Technique and Fretboard Knowledge

When you are playing this type of vocabulary then you have to figure out how to execute some pretty difficult music, and obviously, that is good for your technique and while figuring out how you can play the phrases then you are most likely going to move around a bit and find a practical place on the neck where you can play it, so in that way it is also a useful exercise for your fretboard knowledge.

Phrasing and Rhythm

Studying and learning Bebop lines, and especially when you also (of course) checking out recordings of the song, is going to develop your phrasing. Playing along with a recording and really listening to how a piece of music is phrased is probably the most efficient way to learn to phrase, and I have used Bop themes for myself but certainly also for my students with great success when it comes to improving phrasing. Another exercise that I also see work really well is to write easy solos for students and teach them to play it along with a recording of it. This is also a major part of what people learn in my course the Jazz Guitar Roadmap. One thing is to understand what to play, but it is much more useful to hear it and to experience how it feels to play it with good phrasing.

Vocabulary

My friends over at the Guitar Hour Podcast are often finding themselves discussing what studying vocabulary and language actually is, and it is a term that does not always mean the same thing from lesson to lesson or teacher to teacher. So to me, the point of developing your vocabulary is that you can create and play lines or melodies that sound in-style for a specific genre, in this case, Bebop. So when you are working on vocabulary, then you are, hopefully, taking melodies or licks and using them to help you get better at improvising in the same style. That does not have to mean playing licks all the time, but it is more about learning the language or style by example, which is not that far from how we learn actual languages.

From this point of view then playing Bebop themes are exposing you to those phrases and you internalize examples of how those melodies sound, and how they work which will help you hear phrases like that internally, something that is a part of being able to play solos in that style, but not the only thing you need to do. If you stick with the language analogy then I would describe this as being able to listen to a language and understand it, but not being able to speak it. In fact, that is how I learned Dutch, with an odd period where I understood most things but never could take part in a conversation because it was all passive.

And if you like podcasts then check out the Guitar Hour Podcast for some interesting discussions about pretty much everything guitar-related. They are often what I spend time doing when I am driving long trips, and I am not only saying that because I won the quiz they had at the end of the year.

You can check it out here: https://theguitarhour.libsyn.com/

How Should You Study?

A huge part of what is practical about Bebop themes is that they are shorter than solos and generally also more repetitive. This means that they are simply less information to learn, but they still have important and very useful information.

You will probably benefit from learning and practicing them in any possible way, but there are a few things I would suggest you consider:

Learning by Ear

If you learn the theme by ear then you don’t have to worry about mistakes in a real book or Omnibook, and while it may seem more difficult in the beginning, then the time you need to spend listening to it to figure it out will probably mean that actually learning to play it will take less than half the time because you already know what it sounds like. Using the ability to slow down recordings can be very helpful, but watch out that you don’t overdo it so that you only hear a note and not the phrase.

This is also often overlooked when it comes to checking out transcriptions vs learning solos by ear. If you learn it by ear then you don’t have to worry that much about learning to play it.

If you want to check out some solos to train your ear then have a look at this post:

The Solos You Want To Learn By Ear To Play Better Jazz Guitar

Playing along with recordings

The most efficient way to learn phrasing from studying Bebop themes is to really dig into the way it is played and try to learn the phrasing of somebody performing it. By really experiencing how the melody sounds and how the phrases are played you can develop your own ability to hear and play lines with that type of phrasing.

Of course, this is a lot easier if you also check it out by ear, because you then have already listened to the melody a lot and probably already know how it is phrased, that aspect is already in there.

It is a lot more difficult if you are reading the melody and have to internalize the phrasing from a much more abstract medium like sheet music (of some form).

That said, learning bebop themes and playing them with the recording is never a waste of time, and often also a fun challenge.

What More Can You Get Out Of It?

Now you already know how studying bebop themes will help your phrasing, technique, and ear-training. But of course, it can also be put to use to develop your vocabulary.

The melody is a bebop solo used as a theme so analyzing, studying, and using it as licks can be very useful. Especially if you can find small fragments that you can make variations of and turn into new vocabulary, rather than just quoting the theme. It can also be very useful to start analyzing the melody and understand some of the melodic techniques used since there are quite a few things that are very typical to Bebop that you can check out and use as a way to create your own licks.

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Bebop Magic – One Of The Best And Most Difficult Things About Jazz

One essential part of Bebop lines and melodies that you need to check out is octave displacement. It is a simple technique, but you need to understand how to use it if you want to really nail the Bebop sound. That is what I want to show in this Jazz Guitar Lesson.

One of the great typical or cliché phrases in Bebop sounds like this:

and actually, that is just a way of playing this line which sounds about 5% as interesting:

I am sure you want your solos to sound like the first phrase, I know I do…

The difference between those two is that in the middle of the first example then the melody moves up an octave in a way that sounds both beautiful and interesting. This is mostly referred to as octave displacement, and you can use this for a lot of great things, and that is what I want to talk about in this video.

What is Octave Displacement

This technique or way of making melodies is called a few things, mostly it is referred to as Octave displacement, but you will also hear, among others, Barry Harris call some of them pivot arpeggios and different ways of looking at them will give you different ideas for using it, as you will see later in the video.

The concept is fairly simple, if you have a scale melody then you can move a part of the melody an octave, just like you saw above:

And you can do this in other places as well:

Another variation could be this:

But here the skip is placed so that the high note is on the beat, and that works but are not as catchy as the other one in terms of phrasing.

But of course, you can also use this on arpeggios to get some really beautiful melodic interval skips in your lines.

I was always drawn to licks like this when I was beginning to learn Jazz, and I was trying really hard to make lines that had larger intervals, but they always sounded unnatural and weird, not like the Pat Martino or Charlie Parker lines that I was transcribing and checking out. It wasn’t really until I went to a Barry Harris workshop that I started to understand how this worked and got some tools to start to incorporate it into my playing.

Pivot Arpeggios

A great way to make your lines less one-directional (B-roll) and add some great twists and turns is to use this on arpeggios.

The concept is pretty simple, instead of playing an ascending arpeggio like this:

Here I am playing first a chromatic enclosure and then the Bø, so the arpeggio from the 3rd of the chord, over a G7 and resolving this to the Cmaj7.

If you turn into the Bø arpeggio into a pivot arpeggio then you get an example like this:

Here you play the B and then you move down the rest an octave to get a nice descending 6th interval.

Strategies For Making Better Lines

And of course, you can extend this to other chords as well and use it to make your lines more interesting with a few adjustments.

Look at this fairly basic Bop-line:

We have an Fmaj7 arpeggio on Dm7, so the arpeggio from the 3rd, then a chromatic enclosure to take us to G7 where the line is built around a G7 arpeggio and a scale run G7b9 sound, and finally an Em7 arpeggio on Cmaj7, so again the diatonic arpeggio from the 3rd of the chord.

This is all pretty solid but you can add pivot arpeggios to this fairly easily like this:

Here I am moving the first note of the Fmaj7 arpeggio up an octave, and later also making the Em7 a pivot arpeggio

But you can also apply this to the G7 bar:

Now the G7 arpeggio in the beginning of the G7 bar is turned into a pivot arpeggio, and you can see that the pivot technique also often works on inversions of an arpeggio since the G7 arpeggio is in fact an inversion with the 3rd as the lowest note.

Displacing David Baker – Aiming for a single note

This is a very specific example, but it I find that there are so many great lines to get from this that it should be included, and you can also add some nice chromatic things with this.

You, of course, already know the David Baker Lick, in part thanks to David Baker but probably also thanks to Adam Neely:

Using this lick with octave displacement can give you not only some of my favourites but also some Charlie Parker and George Benson favourites, (whoever you feel is more important as an influence 🙂)

Let’s look at one way to understand the construction because actually, it is just a scale run with some passing notes.

Clearly, the G, Gb , F is scale melody with a Gb leading note. E to D is also clearly step-wise. So only the A is a bit odd, but you may know how Barry Harris talks about adding “half-steps” between notes that are already a half step apart. His concept is that in that case, you can use any note as a “half-step” and here we are using the A. So in that respect the lick is a scale run with two added “half-steps”, the Gb and the A

And that A is a great candidate for octave displacement, like this:

This already sounds great and is something you will find in a lot of George Benson and Grant Green lines, but you can also add an extra leading note:

Which sounds amazing, and you can make it a short turn as well, something that I have found with Doug Raney:

Just to give you an impression of how this can be put to use you can check out this II V I lick:

In this lick, I am using the octave displaced licks on the Dm7 chord and on the Cmaj7 chord.

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The 3 Bebop Licks You Need To Know

Obviously, you are not going to learn to play Bebop by just studying 3 licks, but if you want to add that sound to your playing and mix in some bebop in your solos then this is not a bad place to start. And you want to make sure that you know these if you want to play Jazz.

Bebop – Learning The Language

Having the right vocabulary for a style of music is really what determines whether you can play that music or not, and I clearly remember when I was starting out playing Jazz. I transcribed solos, practiced scales and arpeggios, and then I tried to improvise jazz solos

And I quickly became aware that even though I knew the changes and the song then my solos did not really sound like Jazz. They were just a lot of the right notes.

What helped me, and what will probably also help you is learning licks and also start to make your own licks with the same type of melodies, so studying licks is not just learning them, it is learning how to write certain types of melodies. That is what learning vocabulary is really about.

#1 Triplet Arpeggios

This first one, you probably heard me mention before, and it is really the closest thing I know to instant bebop: Playing arpeggios as triplets with a leading note.

And this way of playing arpeggios is a part of so many classic bebop licks like this Parker line:

And it works for other chords as well:

It is a great way to add a little variation to an 8th note line, and the faster notes really adds some energy or excitement to your solo.

 

The way you, of course, practice this is to play this pattern through the scale as diatonic arpeggios and then start writing licks with them, and there are so many things you can work on:

You can combine two arpeggios:

Here I am using Em7 and Cmaj7 over the Cmaj7 chord, both solid choices for that chord.

Another option is to follow a triplet arpeggio with some chromatic leading notes:

Small Building blocks, not massive licks

As you can tell, I am presenting these licks as building blocks, and that is really because that is how they will be most useful to you and help you develop your own language. As I mentioned in the intro, my experience is that making your own licks and getting those to sound like bebop is one of the best ways to learn to play bebop, and also pretty much how Barry Harris teaches it. I will return to this a little later in the video and also explain why I don’t like Bebop scales.

#2 Honeysuckle Rose

This lick is called honeysuckle rose because it is the main motif in the Fats Waller song Honeysuckle Rose, but it is also an extremely common way to play arpeggios in Bebop, and it is one of the most melodic ways to add large intervals to your 8th note lines which can stop your solos from sounding very very boring.

This is really just a way to play an inversion of an arpeggio, it is also called octave-displacement. You start on the root and then play the arpeggio, but after the root, you move everything down an octave which gives you a beautiful skip from the root down to the 3rd and a natural way back up through the arpeggio.

Parker, Grant Green, and George Benson do this all the time in their solos. (examples?)

And you can make so many great lines with this melody as well by adding some simple scale melodies

Or some chromatic enclosures:

In fact, the topic of octave displacement is maybe worth an entire video? Let me know in the comments if you are interested in a video on that.

Bebop is a form of composition

The most important goal with studying this or any Jazz stuff, is to be melodic, to play strong Bebop lines that really flow and avoid having strange fragments next to each other that don’t make any sense.

As you can tell, I think you will learn more about making strong bebop lines by practicing to compose lines, and that is simply because composing lines is like improvising them, except you can go back and figure out how to make the line sound even better.

In that way, you are really working on building your vocabulary of strong lines and you are also practicing putting them together in the perfect way.

By working on constructing lines and you are giving your imagination and ears time to really listen to the sound of what you are practicing and you are making sure that you can fit the different pieces together in lines with it suddenly changing because you are skipping and playing something that does not sound melodic.

#3 David Baker Lick

This phrase is probably most famous from David Baker’s books on Bebop and a symbol of people studying bebop, but it is of course also a common and useful phrase to have in your vocabulary.

This is a phrase for a V or a II chord, so I have decided to write it out as a G7 lick, not on Cmaj7.

This lick is a construction of some chromaticism and a nice interval skip that sounds very melodic. The first part is moving from the G to the F with a Gb inbetween and then it skips up to an A and down a 4th to end with E and D.

This lick is a great building block both on the G7 and on the Dm7. If you use it on the Dm7 then you get something like this:

The line starts with an Fmaj7 arpeggio, the arpeggio from the 3rd of Dm7, and then a scale run with a leading note from the Dm into the G7 and then essentially just playing the lick and adding an E that then naturally sounds like a resolution to Cmaj7.

It also works really well on the Dm7.

The first part is just the David Baker lick, followed by an enclosure to take us to the 3rd of G7. Here I play the entire Bø arpeggio and run down the scale using a chromatic passing note to resolve smoothly to the 3rd of Cmaj7.

Why I don’t Like Bebop Scales

I often get asked to make lessons on Bebop scales, and while I don’t think anybody died from checking out some Bebop scales, I do think that the way people are asked to practice and use them is really just helping them play very predictable step-wise lines that are also very boring, and to me, that is the opposite of what I think is great about Bebop and everything you don’t want to learn.

You want to learn to play great surprising lines with melodic twists and turns and practicing to play chord tones on the beat and leading notes on off beats is not what that is about. I still suspect that there was more money made with Bebop scales than there were with Bebop.

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How To Make One Arpeggio Into 25 Great Jazz Licks

It is surprisingly difficult to get arpeggios to sound good, and often solos become boring and predictable with uninspired melodies, that’s why it is very useful to work on becoming better at writing your own Jazz Licks

In this video, I took a really basic Cmaj7 arpeggio and then I wrote 25 short and easy Jazz Licks using that arpeggio, so if you are looking for inspiration or want to check out some new ideas then you can probably find something here.

Keep it simple – Just Like You Practiced It

Let’s start with the basic ascending arpeggio, then I will go over some other simple ways to make more lines and at the end discuss some that I don’t use but that you can certainly explore in your own solos and make many more licks.

As you can see the construction is fairly simple, mixing the arpeggio with scales and chromatic enclosures. But you can still do a lot and make some great sounding lines.

This video will also give you some really basic ways to make licks and help you come up with something new or internalize something you are practicing.

When you work on this then try to write melodies, don’t just go for what you can play, try to make music. Don’t just move your fingers

Now let’s try to play a descending arpeggio and use that.

But Turn It Around

The next 5 licks all use the basic descending Cmaj7 arpeggio.

With these examples I am also using a few more advanced chromatic ideas as you see in example 9, and using sus4 triads is also a great “other” type of sound to throw in there example 8

The Bebop Arpeggio

Playing arpeggios as a triplet is another great way to make some great lines, certainly works for Charlie Parker and Wes Montgomery!

I also talk about this way of playing diatonic arpeggios in the lesson on The most important scale exercise in Jazz

In example 14 I use one of the triads that is a great option with the Cmaj7, the one from the 5th: G major

Don’t Start With The Arpeggio

Of course, you can also make some licks where the first thing you play is not the arpeggio. Which gives us a lot more melodies.

As you can see, I rely a lot on adding chromaticism to the arpeggios to make the lines a little more interesting and adding more movement in and out of the key.

Notice how most of these examples would work really well on an Am7 or D7 chord where a Cmaj7 arpeggio is useful. Making connections like this can be very efficient.

Ascending Arpeggios With a Pickup

With these examples, I am still keeping it very simple, so if you are looking for other things to try then remember that you can also:

  • Add notes between arpeggios notes
  • Play Sequences
  • Use Octave displacement and Inversions
  • Maybe those are for another video?

The Jazz Guitar Roadmap

If you want learn how to create solid Jazz licks on a standard then check out my online course:

The Jazz Guitar Roadmap

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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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