Tag Archives: bebop jazz licks

5 Licks That Will Help You Understand Jazz Guitar

When I started listening to Jazz and trying to play it then a huge part of what I found exciting about it was that the lines were mysterious and complicated, and at the same time made sense and did not seem completely random.

This was what made me try to pick up phrases from Charlie Parker and John Scofield. I wanted to figure out how the music worked and how I could learn to play like that.

That turned out to be pretty difficult, but there are some basic things that you want to understand about Jazz licks or Jazz solos that will help you learn to play a lot faster. Things that I spent years figuring out, but that are an important part of what makes your solos sound like Jazz, and knowing that is going to speed up your learning process A LOT.

Dig Into The Chords

One of the things that make Jazz music challenging to play in the beginning is that the chords change quite fast. It doesn’t help that the harmony is fairly complicated, but this is also a description of how, especially Bebop-inspired Jazz, works: The lines you play in a solo will connect with the changes and often are so clear that you can pretty much tell what the chords are from just listening to the solo line.

This next example has a lot of chord tones in the melody, especially on beat 1 of the bar, so that when the new chord starts then there is a clear connection between the new chord and the note in the solo.

As you can hear, using chord tones and really hitting the clear chord tones when the chord changes give your solo that sound, that connection to the progression. (highlights)

The Most Important Chord Progression in Jazz

Here, the chord progression is a basic II V I in the key of C major (example chords) and this progression is, as you probably already know, one of the most common progressions in Jazz, and you will find that all over a lot of Jazz songs.

When you start improvising over the chords then you want to know the chord tones each chord, what you also call the arpeggio of the chord. One way you can practice this could be a simple exercise like this:

It is useful to also keep things in one position so that you can easily make a melody that moves smoothly from chord to chord without having to jump all over the neck, you can start doing that later(zoom?)

With this material, you can start making licks that really nail the changes, let’s check out how to make the licks stronger melodies.

The Solo Needs Energy And Direction

In the previous example, you saw that what you play in a solo is connecting to the chord, but just playing random chord tones doesn’t work.

It still has to make sense as a melody, and especially the transition from one chord to the next is important. This is often described as Forward motion, and when you play a solo then you play lines that aim for the target note on the next chord. Something like this:

With this lick, you can see how the descending melody on the Dm7 is going in an almost straight line to the B on G7. It is a bit more complicated on the G7 where you almost have two voices moving to the E on Cmaj7(highlight)

It is a good idea to practice composing lines and then work on choosing a specific target note on the next chord that you want to hit, doing a lot of that will help you start to hear melodies like that and that will become a natural part of your playing.

In these examples, I was mostly going for the 3rd of the chord. That is simply because that is one of the strongest and clearest notes. So in the beginning, this makes it easier for you to hear the chord change in your own solo line.

With all of this in mind then you can now start to learn some more building blocks for your Jazz solos.

Shortcut To Better Melodies

I already showed you how it pays off to use the chord tones in the melodies, but you can actually take that a bit further because the arpeggio is a great melody or building block that you can use in your lines in a few different ways, and there is more than one arpeggio per chord!

Here you have the Dm7 arpeggio on Dm7, but there are some other options for arpeggios on a chord. The arpeggio on the G7 chord is a Bø which is the arpeggio from the 3rd of the chord, and it is played as a triplet which is a nice way to change up the rhythm as well.

Just to quickly explain “The Science” behind the arpeggio from the 3rd:

If you look at a G7 arpeggio and a Bø together then you can see that they mostly contain the same notes and the difference is that you add a 9th to the sound when using the Bø instead of G7.

The same technique is used on the Cmaj7 where the arpeggio from the 3rd is Em7.

Until now everything was about the right notes, but let’s start to make it a bit more spicy with some wrong notes

Try Some Funny Notes

One of the things that often springs out when you both listen to a line or just look at a transcription is that there are a lot of chromatic notes in there.

Chromatic phrases are used in different ways and there are a few different types in this example:

Let’s first check out the complicated phrases and then get to the easy chromatic phrases.

The first chromatic phrase on the Dm7 arpeggio is actually used as a way to create some tension that helps you move to the G7. A phrase like this is called an enclosure, which is really just a short melody that moves to a target note. In this case, the B on the G7, and in that way, it is helping them transition from Dm7 to G7.

A shorter enclosure is used on the G7 in the exact same way to take us from G7 to Cmaj7. This type of enclosure is sometimes referred to as a diatonic above chromatic below enclosure, something that you can use in many ways in your playing and that you want to explore on different chords.

The final use of chromaticism is on the Cmaj7 chord where the F# is used as a chromatic passing note. Because you don’t need complete phrases, you can also experiment with adding chromatic notes here and there that resolve to a note in the scale, or what is often stronger: a note in the chord. In this case, the F# is resolving to the 5th of Cmaj7, G.

But you can improvise with more than notes, you can also start to change the sound of the chords, and that is an amazing effect to work with!

You Can Change The Chords To Create New Sounds

Besides improvising licks on the chord progression then you can also start improvising with the chords in the progression. If your progression is going from Dm7 to Cmaj7 then you have a lot of freedom with what chords you are using to get there.

A simple version of this, and probably the first one you want to explore is to use a b9 on the dominant, so making it a G7(b9).

Doing this will help you get a bit more dissonance and more flow towards the Cmaj7.

So what I am using here is first the arpeggio from the 3rd on Dm7, and a Dm triad.

On the G7(b9) I am using a B diminished arpeggio, and you can see how that is the arpeggio from the 3rd of the chord: G7 B D F Ab.

This is a concept you can take a lot further with altered dominants, harmonic minor, and a lot more, but just getting started using the b9 and the diminished arpeggios is a great way to ease into it.

Important Skills To Develop For Jazz

What also really makes a huge difference for how well your jazz solos sound will be phrasing and rhythm, that are really the two next ingredients or skills that you want to develop, and one of the ways that you can really get that into your ears and into your playing is to start learning some solos by ear. That might sound incredibly difficult, but it certainly doesn’t have to be. Just check out this video where I recommend some solos that are very useful and both easy and short to get you started learning Jazz by ear.

5 Easy Solos to Learn By Ear and Boost Your Jazz Guitar Skills

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My 7 Best Jazz Licks with Only Four Notes

You are probably thinking 4-Note Jazz Licks! That doesn’t make any sense!

But actually, those 4-note licks are very important! They are the flexible building blocks that you put together as phrases in your solo.

Think of a solo phrase as a sentence (example 1 + text ) and these building blocks are the words, they are how you say something, and you need great building blocks for great solos and as you will see, just naming it with an arpeggio or a scale is nowhere near enough.

Let’s first look at one that is like adding instant Bebop to your solo.

Lick #1 – A Beautiful 6th Interval

This is so simple, but it sounds fantastic in a line, and it isn’t just an arpeggio or a triad.

You can at most call it a scale run with an inserted interval skip, and that is also not much of a description.

If you use it on a m7 chord you get this:

but it is equally great on a maj7 chord

With The Next One, you will see an example where it is pretty clear that just a chord name is not really a description

Lick #2 – Minor Triad With Extras

This is sort of an Am triad with an added B,

 

 

 

 

 

 

or you can think of it as a Cmaj7 shell-voicing with an added A.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is great for altered dominants like this G7alt:

or over an F# half-diminished chord like this:

And I think you will agree that calling it an Am triad or Am(add9) is not really describing it.

An Arpeggio Is Just A Set Of Notes

So you can see how this isn’t just an arpeggio or a scale, and that is what makes it great. You can again think of these building blocks as being like words. it is not enough to have an analytical term for a set of notes like maj7 arpeggio, Diminished triad, because it is just as important what melody you make with those notes.

Similar to what word you use in a sentence there are options and they feel different even if they are sort of the same thing. The 3 examples below are all Cmaj7 arpeggios, but as you can see the melody is very different from example to example:

So you need to know what set of notes but also need to have some ideas on how you get them to sound great. Sometimes the arpeggio is enough, but you want to be more creative with your melodies than that.

Ironically, the next two examples are arpeggios and sound amazing.

Lick #3 – A Hidden Arpeggio

This arpeggio is not strictly a diatonic arpeggio in C even if the notes are all in that scale, it is an Fmaj7 with a B instead of a C

The fact that I call it a maj7(b5) arpeggio is also something that can get the comment section all fired up because some people will insist that it is a #11

But: an Fmaj7(#11) is a chord with 6 notes: F A C E G B and it seems a bit silly to call it an Fmaj7(omit5, add#11). Calling it Fmaj7(b5) makes it very clear that the arpeggio only has 4 notes and especially that there is no C in there which is important for how you use it.

Of course, there is plenty of room in the comments if this really offends you. Go right ahead!

This is a great sound for an altered dominant or a backdoor dominant like this:

You can also use this as a voicing and that sounds amazing as well.

If you have Fmaj7 here, then you create Fmaj7(b5) by moving down the 5th a half step:

And listen to this:

That sounds really great!

The next one is pretty simple but is also so good for really nailing a sound!

Lick #4 – Almost Obvious Arpeggio

So this is a basic m7b5 arpeggio, and I am starting with an Fm7(b5) here because I want to show you how great that sounds on a G7 altered, really nailing the sound and resolving so nicely!

Example 16

Before we get back to some examples that are more melodic techniques than great sounds on a chord, then I want to just show you how you find blocks like this in the solos you transcribe or analyze, because these are really the things you want to search for and try to work into your playing.

Finding the blocks

 

Just to give you a quick impression of how you can isolate some blocks then look at this part of Pat Martino’s solo on Just Friends.

Of course, not everything is a neat 4-note phrase, so the first phrase is a 1-bar phrase with some rhythm in there.

Then you get a pick up followed by a scale melody, a Coltrane pattern, another scale melody with a 16th note turn, descending scale, and then a Bbm triad with an added C. A different version of what I cover as the 2nd lick.

So that is how you can start to find things you want to get into your playing.

Here is another Bebop classic that you definitely need to know.

Lick #5 – The Bebop Arpeggio Melody

There is a fair chance you have heard me talk about this Bebop phrase before. Playing a maj7 arpeggio with octave displacement is a great sound for a lot of chords, and it is in so many Bebop and Hardbop solos. Here it is on a m7 chord:

This list would not be complete without a chromatic enclosure. The next one is one I took from a Michael Brecker solo

Lick #6 – A Great Enclosure

This is one that I picked up from Michael Brecker, but later I actually realized later that he probably got it from Charlie Parker.

It is like a standard enclosure with a leading note for the leading note.

But you also want some more modern sounding melodies, and the next one is one of my favourites, and one that is really underused in my opinion

Lick #7- My Secret Weapon

This Quartal arpeggio with a tritone is a great sound. It works for so many things, tonic minor, altered dominants, but also diminished scale sounds.

I have written it out so that it is the top part of a G7(#9) chord:

         

and you can use it in an altered line like this:

but it also works great with a diminished scale sound:

Finding Truly Great Phrases

When you start searching for blocks like this then I think the best place to do that is probably in the music that inspires you, so the solos that you think are amazing are also more likely to give you this material. This is also why I referenced Pat Martino’s solo on Just Friends. Learning solos and analyzing phrases is incredibly useful for this, and if you want to check out some of the phrases that I think are must-know vocabulary then check out this lesson:

The 3 Bebop Licks You Need To Know

The other way is to mess around with material and try out things to see if you come across something that you like. This is also a lot of fun but can be very time-consuming.

 

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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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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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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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