Tag Archives: bebop jazz guitar

Get Scale Practice Right And It Will Boost Your Playing

Scale practice sounds, dry and boring and more than anything else about moving your fingers on the instrument in a way that is anything but music, but when you practice exercises like scale exercises then the purpose is to make it easier for you to play the things you want to play in your solos. It is really that simple, and keeping that in mind will help you come up with a lot of exercises that are much more efficient in making you play better.

Let’s take a look at what exercises you should be working on, but also how you should play them and think about them which is probably different from what you expect.

The Basics

With any scale you want to practice then you of course want to start with the most basic exercise of playing the scale. You can practice scales in many ways, in a position:

on a single string:

or across the entire neck.

To begin with, it makes a lot of sense to stick with positions, especially if you want to play songs with chord progressions that require different scales.

Just learning to play the scale, what notes are in there, and how it looks on the fretboard in that position. The important thing is just to not just stop there, because that is not enough and you can come up with more exercises that you want to get into your playing.

How To Play It What notes Seeing It On The Fretboard

What Are You Trying To Learn?

But when you solo then you are not just running up and down the scale, that sounds boring. You want to be able to create lines like this excerpt from Wes Montgomerys solo on Satin Doll:

And in this solo, there are a lot of 7th chord arpeggios and triads.

So it only makes sense that if you want to use those in your solos then you should also practice them in your scales. That is also why I made a video on “The Most Important Scale Exercise in Jazz” which is on practicing diatonic 7th chords arpeggios.

The reason that this is so important is that the basic chords you improvise over are 7th chords and this exercise is how you connect the scale to the harmony of the song.

First, you want to learn the basic arpeggios, and later in the video, I will show you some ways that you can expand the exercises so that it becomes almost small licks you can use in your solos.

This exercise can be a little tricky to play if you never tried it before, but there is a really useful hack to help you into it.

Each 7th chord is a stack of 3rds in the scale:

The C major scale is : C D E F G A B C

If you stack 3rds from C you get: C E G B

but instead of playing the entire 7th chord arpeggio then you can ease into it by first practicing the 3rds:

The 3rds are a good exercise for flexibility in your playing, and for the rest very much a technical exercise. The Diatonic triads are useful in solos and something that you anyway want to explore.

And then continue to the triads:

This also shows you why the 3rd interval is so incredibly important as a scale exercise, it helps you connect the scale to harmony.

 

How is it used: The Next Level!

As you saw both in the first Wes solo and can see in most bop-solos then the arpeggios and triads are played in specific ways in the solo, and you might as well incorporate that into how you practice the arpeggios through the scale.

In that way, you are just turning a scale exercise into a flexible lick that you can insert directly into your solo.

The most important version of this is probably using the 8th note triplet with a leading note:

This exercise is helping you vary the rhythm in your solo and teaches you how to use chromatic passing notes in your solos, and it is all over Bebop solos!

Another great way to use triplets is to use them to resolve the top note in the arpeggio like this:

This way of using the arpeggio lends itself really well to help resolve the top note for example in a II V like this:

A triad version of this exercise is also great and a shortcut to some Wes licks.

You start with this basic exercise

Taking this through the scale also becomes a great phrasing exercise

and this is also what you might recognize from this lick that Wes uses in his 4 on 6 solo from The Incredible Jazz Guitar Album:

Making Exercises From Licks

In general, it can be very useful to experiment with using fragments of licks that you transcribe as scale exercises, and in that way, both play them better and hear them move through the scale.

This can become this exercise:

You may be thinking that this is very complicated to keep track of what notes and arpeggios you have to take through the scale, but that is probably not how you want to approach it.

What Is Practicing The Right Way?

When you are practicing exercises like this then you can’t rely on analyzing everything, that is a separate skill and something you need to build in other ways. Instead, you should look at the exercise as a short predictable melody that you take through the scale and try to hear your way through it.

Again starting with this may seem difficult, but if you start with 3rd intervals and triads then you can get used to how it works and you will find that it is not as difficult as you might think.

With exercises like these then it really pays off to worry more about precision and clean execution than speed. This is simply because if you can easily play them cleanly at a slower tempo then speeding them up will become easier. You will probably also realize that if you speed it up before having control then you are going to have to go back and fix things later, and at that time you may also have developed some bad habits.

The Source Of Your Exercises

As I mentioned earlier then it is useful to take fragments from the solos of the people you transcribe and listen to. An amazing resource for this that you can get a lot of inspiration from is this Joe Pass book which has some rock-solid bebop lines that you want to have in your vocabulary and that can give you thousands of ideas for new exercises and lines to work on.

Is This Jazz Guitar Method Fantastic and Terrible At The Same Time

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This Is Ruining Your Jazz Solo – A Powerful Bebop Breakthrough

You have a problem if your Jazz solos sound too much like this:

In a way, this should work because a lot of things are right about this:

  1. It is nailing the changes
  2. There’s a place where you can add a nice Bebop accent
  3. It is actually also a motif that is being moved through the changes.

But it still doesn’t really sound ok, So what IS the problem?

“It is Jazz! It needs chromatic notes!!!”

Still not really working, let me show you why:

A great jazz line should surprise you, it should not only change direction on the heavy beats like this or even the previous one did.

Because that makes it sound heavy, the lines should have more life and more interesting rhythm, not just go from heavy beat to heavy beat like a lawnmower.

Instead, you want something that is more like this:

Of course, It isn’t so that you can never change direction on a heavy beat, but not all the time, and it pays to figure out how to make the line more surprising, so let’s look at some surprisingly easy strategies for that.

Flipping Chromatic Enclosures

A simple chromatic enclosure that you probably already know is a great hack for this!

So if you have a Dm triad

then you can add the enclosure around the notes like this:

These are called diatonic above chromatic below.

The great thing about these is that they have a direction, and can go both up and down:

And that is much more powerful than you think.

 

Let’s say that you are playing a Descending Dm7 arpeggio:

But you want to add a chromatic enclosure around the last note, the D. The arpeggio is descending, so if you also take a descending enclosure then you get:

But if you have the enclosure go against the descending melody then you get this:

I am sure you can hear how HUGE that difference is!

And this will help you create lines like this:

Throw In A Triad

Another useful tool is to use the diatonic triads like I am using the Am triad on Dm7 in this example:

The concept is pretty simple if you have a note  where you can dip down and take a triad that fits the chord,  then that will work as a way to skip around and still be a strong melody.

In example 10, I did this on the E adding an Am triad. But you could also just take the A and use the Dm triad:

That will work in a line like this where I also use it on a D diminished triad on the G7(b9):

Steal a Bebop Trick

B-roll: Illustration of the F and E -> add low A?

Often a fantastic solution is to get a large interval skip in there but that sometimes sounds very unnatural. Luckily, we can lean on the Bebop greats to give us some tricks for this!

If you are playing a melody in the scale with a half step apart, so for example F down to E on the Dm7 chord then you can throw in a lower chord tone like the 5th, A:

And this always sounds great, another place where you can use that is on the G7 between the b9 and the root adding a low B:

One of the most powerful places to learn this and also get a ton of inspiration is of course to study the Bebop Greats, and especially Charlie Parker. Check out this video, If you want to see what you can pick up from him and also how I use that in my practice and playing. I can promise you that it is worthwhile and a lot of fun!

 

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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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These Scale Exercises Are Immediately Great Jazz Licks

You want to use the things that you practice, so if your scale exercises are already solid vocabulary or solid licks then that is, of course, a lot easier. Practicing scales should not just be dry technical and boring. What you work on should really connect with what you want to play in your solos and be more than just moving your fingers. So let’s have a look at some great examples of exercises that are really just “Instant Bebop” vocabulary.

Practice Bebop Arpeggios, Not Just Chord Tones!

This is an important exercise! In my experience, the best way to practice arpeggios is as diatonic arpeggios in a scale like this.

That is of course, super useful but also in itself not that inspiring.

Let’s add two things that we love about Bebop and Jazz:

  1. Chromatic Notes to add tension and movement
  2. Interesting Rhythms to keep it grooving and alive

Let’s first work a bit with making the rhythm just a little bit more interesting.

One way to make the rhythm more energetic could be to play the arpeggio as an 8th note triplet like this:

This is something that immediately gives you licks like this:

and you can turn that into a scale exercise like this:

If you play this exercise then you can use this rhythm on all the chords and in a lot of different places, and it already starts to sound like music.

The Chromatic Leading Note

Another great way to use arpeggios that are “Instant Bebop” is combining the triplet with a chromatic leading note:

Of course, you want to work on this for all the arpeggios, so taking it through the scale gives you this:

And, besides sounding like Charlie Parker or George Benson out of the box, this means that you can make licks like this:

Here I am combining the Cmaj7 with some chromaticism, something that both Parker and Benson do all the time.

You can also put it to use on a G7:

There are a few things you want to learn from this example:

  1. The arpeggio from the 3rd of the chord is great (here it is Bø over G7)
  2. Leading notes can sound great on the downbeat like the Eb on beat 3
  3. Large intervals in a scale run sound great! (I’ll return to that later in the video)

And all you have to practice is playing the arpeggio as a triplet and add a chromatic leading note before the first note. Before we move on to a great Barry Harris Exercise then don’t forget that the descending arpeggio sounds great as well, a simple version without the leading note gives the 1st note of the arpeggio a nice accent like this:

Barry Harris Knows A Few Tricks!

The first exercise was something that I learned from Barry Harris when he was giving masterclasses at the conservatory in the Hague, this next exercise is also from those masterclasses. It is what Barry calls pivot arpeggios, and what often is also called octave displacement, but the way Barry shows the exercise really already makes it like practicing building blocks for great licks.

The concept is really simple: First, you play the arpeggio and end by going down one step in the scale.

The second part is the same melody, but now you move the phrase down an octave except for the first note.

Let’s translate this to the guitar, an easy place to play it would be F major like this:

I imagine you can already hear how this already just sounds like a short lick you are moving around, and actually, both the standard way of playing the arpeggio and the pivot version is great as a line.

here’s a II V I in F major:

And it is a solid option for an Fmaj7 line as well:

And as I mentioned, you can also use the “un-pivoted” version as a great way to frame or target a note with an arpeggio like I am targeting the 3rd of the Gm7 in this line:

And cleary Barry knows his stuff because the triplet version of this melody is also a great option:

Until now it has been about getting arpeggios to become amazing Bebop lines, but you can actually also work on this with simpler scale exercises.

Bebop Boost Your Scale Runs

This exercise is just playing the scale in diatonic 6th intervals, a really pretty sound in itself but not immediately an amazing Bebop line.

I guess this is the least obvious exercise, but as you will see it is incredibly useful!

The reason why it doesn’t sound like a lick is that you are playing so many of them next to each other, so you need to spread them out a bit and add them to something like a scale run.

And this is what I used in the previous examples like ex 3 and ex 4, the concept is pretty simple. If you have a scale melody then see if you can add an extra note when you are on a chord tone. In Example 14 that was on the root which adds an E. In example 3 it was the 3rd down to the 6th, and placing it at the end of the line makes it even more dramatic.

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How To Write Great Jazz Vocabulary And Learn From Charlie Parker

Sometimes I like to challenge myself to find new things to play in solos, and one way I do that is to limit myself to a single thing and then really explore that, and that is what I am going to do in this video with a basic Cmaj7 arpeggio and all the Bebop Tricks I can think of, or at least most of them.

#1 Parker and the Blues Mystery

Of course, you want to explore the beautiful vocabulary of the great players, and then use that to make your own licks.

This is classic Bebop: maj7 arpeggio followed by a descending chromatic run. This is all over Parker and Benson solos.

This specific example is really just a variation of a Parker line that he plays on Au Privave:

Charlie Parker and the Maj7 arpeggios on a Blues

An interesting side-note here is that Parker is old-school: he plays Fmaj7 on an F blues, especially in bar 6. There are quite a few examples of this and that is a great sound to explore! Of course, this is coming from Blues first being just triads F, Bb and C, then probably 6th chords before we started using dominant chords, and I think this is a great reminder of you should not always reduce songs to chord symbols, because we lose something in the process. I am curious what you think?

As I said, Charlie Parker does this very often and another great variation is this example from his solo on Now’s The Time. (Example)

But you don’t want to only play ascending melodies with arpeggios, so before we make it really complicated then let’s try a descending version:

#2 Descending Is Great As Well

With this example, I really love how you can really bring out the chromatic leading notes by sliding into the resolution. Here it sounds great and also helps you get away with a fairly harsh leading note on beat one, and as you can hear the descending 8th note triplet sounds great as well.

To me, whether something is Bebop is probably more about how the melody flows than what notes are being played, I will give you a more detailed example of that later in the video.

#3 Making Scale Runs Sound Amazing

When you are creating lines with a certain type of arpeggio like this Cmaj7 then it is also a test of what you can do with all the other things you know.

In this example, the line is really just the arpeggio and a scale run, but I am adding in a few chord tones to break up the scale run that otherwise would be:

Example scale run #1

And then I am adding Cmaj7 chord tones on off-beats to make the line pop and make more interesting like this:

Example scale run #2

So here you have a high G on the 4& and a low G on the 1&.

#4 This Is Also In There

Combining Arpeggios is a great way to make interesting melodies, a bonus with the Cmaj7 is that you can also just take the upper part which is an Em triad like I do here triads are after all incredibly strong melodies. Another great option is to add more complicated and interesting chromatic enclosures as you will see in the next example.

#5 First A Beautiful Chromatic Phrase

Here I have a chromatic enclosure that is targeting the B, and follow this with the descending arpeggio creating a great line. You could also see the entire descending melody as an Am9 arpeggio. But you don’t need to only add the chromatic phrases before or after the arpeggio, they fit in the middle as well.

When Is It Bebop?

I keep talking about Bebop , but when is something bebop? To me, the type of melody in the examples are Bebop oriented, which I think mostly means that the melody has direction and follows the harmony. In Bebop you are finding creative ways to spell out the changes and create beautiful flowing melodies, but you can easily play licks with the same material that are not like this at all but still sound great:

In this lick, the Am7 line only uses Cmaj7 arpeggio notes, but it does not really sound like a Bebop melody, mostly because it is skipping around more wildly, and the melodies don’t have as much forward motion.

#6 Chromatic Detour

This line is really just a Cmaj7 arpeggio where I add two chromatic phrases..

You start with the Cmaj7 then on the 3rd(E) you add an enclosure which is scale note above, F, chromatic below: D#

The next step is to add a walk-up to the 7th using A and A# as an approach.

Having several descending melodies next to each other can create a great rhythmical cascading effect, like the next lick which is Wes Inspired.

#7 A Great rhythm from Wes, Pat Martino or Parker?

This combination adds a descending line that I have found in both Wes Montgomery and Pat Martino solos, and actually, I have the impression that it is really a Parker lick, but I can’t remember where I heard it. You can let me know in the comments if you know.

This rhythm is an example of playing groups of 3 8th notes, which is both an important sound in Jazz and a great way to change things up. Of course, the Cmaj7 doesn’t have to be the one-chord in the progression, it can also be an upper-structure like it is in the next example.

#8 It Does Not Have To Be A Cmaj7 Chord

Here I am using the Cmaj7 for an Am7 chord in a II V in G.

One of the things I really like about this lick is that I am using the arpeggios to harmonize a really simple melody, so in a way, it is just this melody

That is harmonized with descending arpeggios creating Cmaj7, Am7, and then a C Diminished triad.

#9 Creating Patterns and Pedal Notes

A great way to not only have lines moving from target note to target note is to add some pedal point melodies as I do in this example where the E in the Cmaj7 arpeggio becomes a pedal point with the G B and A melody above.

Another way to make the lines more interesting is to use phrasing and, to me, a Master of that was Wes, so the next example is using some of his techniques.

#10 Wes Uses Technique To Get Phrasing

In this example, there is a bit more space, and the line is using chromatic passing notes that slide into the resolution. This is a technique that I really picked up on from Wes, and it is one of the best ways to just add a subtle change in the sound of your lines, while also making it more surprising. You hear George Benson use this very often as well.

This example is adding leading notes to the B and the E.

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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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Simple Things To Play On A C7 That Sound Great

Sometimes it is great to have some things to fall back on when you are soloing. Stuff that you can easily get to sound good and that fits the chord, whether you solo on a song or on a Blues, you don’t want to run out of ideas or play something that doesn’t work.

In this video, I am going to show you some easy things to use on a C7 chord. Most of this stuff, you already know, I just want to show you how to tweak it and make it sound better.

Chromatic Shortcut

So we keep it simple, this C7 and this scale around it:

You probably know this way of adding chromatic enclosures around the notes of a chord where you use a diatonic note above and a chromatic note below. Joe Pass does this really often.

There is a way of using this that nobody really talks about, that really makes it sound so much better, I will get to that in a minute.

Like anything else, you should mix it with other things like the scale. Then you can make lines like this:

Here I have an enclosure around the G and the E, but this line sounds a little predictable and you can make it much more interesting if you turn around the enclosures:

so now I am skipping down to F# back up to A and then resolve to G, and the same thing happens on the E. This makes the line sound much more interesting and unpredictable but still has a natural flow.

So if you work on using enclosures then think about turning them around like I am doing here, that can really make a huge difference.

Make an Arpeggio Sound Amazing

Before I show you a visual trick that works great for dominant chords then you should check out this really useful concept that combines arpeggios, chromaticism and triplet rhythms.

If you have seen any of my videos then you have probably heard me talk about how you can use the arpeggio from the 3rd of the chord.

For the C7 then you have the C7 arpeggio and from the 3rd, the E, then you have this Eø arpeggio.

This already gives you a lot of material, but an easy way to play this arpeggio so it sounds even better is to add some chromaticism around it and change the rhythm.

Here you add a chromatic leading note before the arpeggio, play the arpeggio as a triplet to add a little energy, and then also add some chromaticism going down from the top note.

And this works great for the Eø, George Benson does this all the time, but you can also do that from the root:

As you can see it is great to really know the diatonic arpeggios because a lot of them work on other chords, so if you want to check out some exercises for this then check out this video called The Most Important Scale Exercise For Jazz

Visual Triad and Quartal arpeggios

You probably know this as the top of a C7(13)

and a great visual connection is how this is diagonal across the strings and you can flip it around and then you have a C major triad.

and that is what I am using here, which sounds great and is pretty easy to play.

Let’s look at some another great arpeggio option

A Secret Arpeggio

One arpeggio, which is in fact another favorite of both Charlie Parker and George Benson, is using the arpeggio from the 7th of the chord, so for C7 that is a Bbmaj7 arpeggio. (filmed end of the examples no backing)

That is what I am using here, playing it as a triplet and putting it together with some basic scale melodies, typical bebop

But you can also connect it to a Gm triad like this:

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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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