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The 10 Jazz Guitarists That You Need To Know

Listen To Jazz!

Listening to jazz is an important part of learning jazz and also one of the things that can speed up that process. It’s essential to check out the right people. In this video, I’ll give you a list of some of the jazz guitarists that I think you really need to be familiar with. I’ll go over some of their famous albums and, if sometimes that’s not my favorite, I’ll talk about why and give you an alternative as well. Let’s hope that doesn’t offend anybody.

#1 The Underdog of Jazz Guitar

I’m going to start with somebody who I think is sometimes a little bit overlooked and underrated very often and then move on to one that I accidentally skipped the first time around, but I’ll get to that later. Jim Hall, I think, is actually sometimes a little bit overlooked, and that’s a pity because he is an amazing jazz guitarist and also somebody that I’m still transcribing to this day. You can learn so much from his inventive melodies and his fantastic iron-strong rhythm and timing.

The Jim Hall album that I recommend you check out is his debut album, simply titled Jazz Guitar.

It’s in a trio with bass, piano, and guitar. His playing on this is super solid, very traditional, but at the same time also kind of giving us hints at what’s to come because he really invented modern jazz guitar. A funny side note about his debut album is that it was, of course, released without drums, but then later, because of the success of people like Kenny Burrell and Wes Montgomery (who will appear later in the video), they actually overdubbed drums on it and re-released it later. Now I’ve never heard that version, that might be better, but I am kind of curious how that sounded.

Playing In Taiwan

As you can see, I’m in Taiwan. I’m performing at the Taichung Jazz Festival this Saturday with Nick Javier and his band,

and I thought it would be fun to try and shoot a video here, even if I’m shooting on location. So that’s not something I’m used to, I’m learning, and maybe the quality is not what you hope, but at least you get to see a little bit of some of the parks in Taiwan. And I thought this was a great place to shoot because I’m, of course, sitting next to a colleague, and he’s getting the attention that he deserves.

#2 The One I Didn’t Know About

With the internet, it’s becoming super easy, barely an inconvenience to check out any album or track. Look it up on Spotify or on YouTube and listen to it, and that wasn’t the case when I was starting out. I was really depending on the recommendations of my teachers and the people that I played with. Even then, if I knew who it was, I still had to find a physical copy, so a CD or an album to listen to, and that’s the reason why I didn’t really check out Grant Green in the beginning. Nobody talked about him, so I wasn’t aware that he existed, which is really a pity because he is a great place to start if you want to learn jazz.

 

If you listen to him, you will hear clear, playable, strong bebop executed in a way that you can actually fairly easily check it out on guitar and learn from it, something that we don’t have a ton of examples of. I’ve talked about in other videos how I don’t really like Grant Green’s tone on those earlier albums, so my favorite album is a little bit later in his career. It’s one of the Blue Note albums, it’s solid,

but that’s also with Joe Henderson and McCoy Tyner. There’s just so much great music on that album, definitely worth checking out. If I were to recommend an earlier album, probably Grant’s First Stand is a good one.

It’s pretty early, it’s in ’61, I think, but that’s Grant Green in an organ trio. That’s really also an album with some fairly famous Grant Green solos that you want to check out, even if I think that the guitar tone has maybe a bit much pick attack and way too much spring reverb.

#3 I Wanted To Be Him When I Grow Up

Joe Pass is a huge influence on my playing. I really check out a lot of his stuff and also some of his books. I’ve made a video about his guitar-style book, which I think is a great method for learning jazz vocabulary.

But his most famous album is probably Virtuoso, which is a solo jazz guitar album.

And to be honest, that’s not my favorite album. I don’t actually like that album that much. I don’t listen a ton to solo jazz guitar. I tend to be much more focused on jazz where it’s about playing together in a group.

So my favorite Joe Pass album is Intercontinental,

which I think is a great example of his playing. I’m pretty sure they didn’t rehearse anything and they’re just going into the studio and recording some standards, but the result is amazing.

I have another video where I’m breaking down a jazz blues off that album and you definitely want to check out that album. It’s Joe Pass at his very best.

#4 The One I Ignored

The first time I heard Barney Kessel’s playing, I was actually everything but impressed, but that was just because I was listening to the wrong stuff. The albums that you want to check out from Barney Kessel are the Poll Winners albums. They’re actually sort of the first jazz guitar trio albums that are out there.

I think there are three of them and they’re with Shelly Mann, Ray Brown, and Barney Kessel. They’re amazing albums. It’s actually kind of hard to screw it up if you’re in that company, but that’s where you want to start if you want to hear some truly great Barney Kessel.

#5 The One I Studied

I didn’t think about this when I was preparing the video, but actually, I’m recommending really a lot of debut albums. And this is another one. When it comes to Pat Martino, the album that you definitely have to check out is El Hombre, his first album.

He’s also coming out of the organ trio tradition. The whole band is sort of built around an organ trio, but he’s adding a flute player. He’s also adding some percussion. So in that way, it’s not completely just organ trio, but that’s the basic sound. It’s an amazing album from, I think he’s 22 at the time.


You need to check it out.

#6 Check Out The Old Stuff

George Benson is probably the jazz guitar player that I think has the best phrasing. It is really amazing how good he sounds most of the time, even if maybe some of the later stuff where he’s like focusing more on being a vocalist than a guitar player is not really to my taste. And don’t get me wrong, I think it’s perfectly fine. You should do whatever he wants. Those are just not gonna be my favorite albums.

So my favorite albums from him would probably be Cookbook,

which is really just a sort of a picture of where he came from, the organ trio and those groups playing in a quartet, which is like an organ trio with a saxophone player. That is an amazing album. Everybody is playing really solid solos. Another one that’s really great to check out that I also want to mention is Giblet Gravy,

where he’s actually playing with Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Billy Cobham. That’s where the famous version of Billy’s Bounce is found, which I’ve talked about many, many times and also made an entire video on.

There Are More People To Check Out

For this video, then I kind of ended up just going with the classic guitar player. So really the people that are active in the ’50s, ’60s. And of course, there’s a lot happening on jazz guitar afterwards. And actually jazz guitar becomes really an important instrument from the ’70s on and maybe it’s not as much an important instrument in the ’60s. Let me know if you want another video where I talk about sort of more of the modern guys. So Schofield, Metheny, Rosenwinkel, Gilead Hickselman, Jonathan Kreisberg, all these guys. There are a ton of amazing guitar players out there.

#7 Skipped This One By Accident

Another guitar player that I wasn’t really checking out because nobody recommended that I listen to him and nobody told me that he existed is Kenny Burrell. And that’s really a pity because he’s of course also really an amazing jazz guitar player to check out. His most famous albums are probably the one with Coltrane and then also the Midnight Blue album.

Now, both of those are not my favorite albums. I’ve listened really a lot to this Jimmy Smith album

where he is actually just a sideman, but he’s of course featured really a lot and he’s playing on this is so amazing.

#8 The King Of Jazz Guitar

I think we can all agree that Wes Montgomery is the most important and the most influential jazz guitarist that we have. So it’s kind of difficult to sort of pick a favorite, but if I have to pick a favorite, my choice is actually pretty cliché because I’m gonna go with Smoking at the Half Note.

That’s the album with the Wynton Kelly Trio and with that combination Wes and Wynton Kelly Trio, it just can’t go wrong and it certainly doesn’t. It’s an amazing album. They all play great, but especially Wes is really playing some amazing solos and I’ve learned a ton from checking out a lot of solos of that album. If I was to recommend another album, then I think you can kind of check out a different side of Wes’s playing by listening to an album like Boss Guitar because there you hear him playing in an organ trio which is actually different.

It’s also a little bit earlier. Still an amazing album with a lot of great solos to check out.

One thing that I do want to point out is that to me, what makes Wes great is not that he’s playing with his thumb or that he’s playing a lot of octaves or chord solos. That’s technique. He’s great. He sounds amazing. It’s not about that, but I think what really makes his solo so amazing is the clarity of the music that’s in there. So he often plays simpler phrases, but he will then have that one phrase is followed by a phrase that is either a response or a development of what he just plays. And that really connects the whole thing. And that’s actually fairly rare with guitarists or with jazz musicians in general. And that is what makes Wes a genius to me.

#9 The 1st Secret Recommendation

Because I was depending on recommendations from my teachers and the people that I played with, not the internet, then there are a few guitarists that I listen to really a lot that are maybe not as famous, but there are some really great albums that I definitely think you want to check out. The first one I want to mention just shortly is Lorne Lofsky and his debut album, another debut album, which is It Could Happen to You.

That is such an amazing album. He’s always great, but that album is definitely worth checking out. And I’ve listened to that so much.

#10 Another Secret Recommendation

Another album that you want to listen to is a Victorious album that right now I can’t remember the name of, but I’ll put the cover on screen so you can check it out.

The way he plays here is so beautiful, especially that first standard, I Heard You Cry Last Night is such an amazing song the way he plays it. And it’s such a beautiful feel. You definitely want to check that out.

But besides listening to the music, then you of course also want to start to find solos that you can learn by ear. That’s the best way to really develop your phrasing, your swing feel and your timing. But you also have to make sure that you’re not starting with something that’s too difficult, that you’ll just break your neck or that you will get demotivated by. So to help you with that, check out this video, which goes over a few solos that are pretty easy to learn and not too long and definitely will help you develop your playing

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

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Why Their Jazz Blues Solos Always Sound Better Than Yours

Jazz Blues is surprisingly simple. The Lines are a lot simpler than you might think and probably stuff you already know, you just need to learn how to get it to sound right, and that is also easier than you might think!

Let me show you some amazing examples from what are probably also your favorite Jazz artists, they all play unbelievable Jazz blues solos and also give you some ways to make your own solid Jazz blues licks.

The sound of Jazz Blues is different than the sound of Jazz, the lines are related to Bebop lines, but they are different in quite a few ways, and that is probably what I like about them. Of course, the same is true if you compare Jazz Blues to what you might consider “straight blues playing” like this

In this video, I want to take a look at what that difference is, because if you know that then you also have an easier time getting the sound right in your playing.

Is This Overlooked When It Comes To Blues?

The first aspect of Jazz Blues is actually not as much about note choice or rhythm, it is about something that is at the core of the Blues sound. Try to listen to this part of George Benson’s solo on Bille’s Bounce. Notice how he is not just weaving through the changes, he is doing something else.

The scale that he is using here is often also a bit misunderstood, calling it Dorian is, I think, a bit misleading, but I will return to that part of it later. What you probably noticed is that he is repeating phrases, and he is also playing fairly short phrases. Obviously, motivic development is a massive part of most excellent jazz musicians’ toolbox, but here it is also related to Blues since the form of a 12-bar traditional Blues is about repeating and developing a motif through the form (Blues Progression diagram with phrases) In this case, the motif is a pretty simple descending melody and Benson is also moving the motif around rhythmically a bit, which is less common with blues but it is still clearly connected to Blues.

One thing that you want to be able to do is to play short phrases and find ways to repeat them through the form.

If you start to listen to it then you will hear this all over the place in the solos of Wes Montgomery, George Benson, and Charlie Parker, in fact, you will see quite a few examples of it in this video.  Let’s look at some rhythms

Stop Playing Bebop All The Time!

Another thing that is different from more straight Jazz or Bebop is how many notes you are playing and what rhythms. Again George Benson is a great example, so I’ll start with him and then move on to Wes. Check out how this phrase sounds amazing but certainly isn’t a Bebop line:

There are several reasons that this isn’t a Bebop line, but mostly the fact that he is playing quarter notes more than 8th notes is a big part of it.

Having simpler and more grounded rhythms is in fact also a part of the Blues sound where Bebop uses more syncopated rhythms in accents in longer lines.

Like Benson, Wes can do amazing things with this, and you want to notice that both the previous 2 and this next example are really only the same notes over the Blues, which is also important to learn. You could reduce it to a scale, but that might really help you as much as you think. You can also hear some of the other things I already talked about

As you probably noticed then, Wes is also repeating a phrase and developing it, just like George Benson was in the first example.

He also relies mostly on quarter note rhythms and not a Bebop 8th note flow,

and I think sometimes people forget that if you want to be able to play phrases and rhythms like this then you need to work on that. If you only practice playing 8th note lines through changes all the time, then you won’t get there. A part of the Jazz Blues sound with both Wes and Benson examples here, and this is true for these examples but also quite common in general in the solos I have checked out, is that the phrases seem to emphasize two notes: the 6th of the key, in F major which is a D, and the Ab,  the minor 3rd.

If you look at the Wes motif then it has the D as the outer note and the Ab is the other note that stands out:

And the first example with Benson sort of does the same:

Play the 2nd Benson motif where the D is also the outer notes of the scale.

Of course, that is not going to be true for all phrases, but it comes back more often than you might think, and it can be fun to mess around with. Let’s go a bit deeper with the note choices and figure out if there is a “Jazz Blues Scale”.

Is There A Jazz Blues Scale?

You may remember that I said these first 3 examples could be seen as using the same scale. To me, they don’t immediately sound like it though, so maybe it is a bit of a stretch, but check this out:

The 2nd George Benson example is clearly using the major blues scale,

so the major pentatonic with an added minor 3rd: F G Ab A C D F

And, the 1st George Benson example uses the same note set but doesn’t really use the A (except for the pickup);

if you look at the Wes example then that is also using that note set:

“The Scale Is NOT The Answer”

So all of the examples would be covered by the Major blues scale, and that is an important building block, but something that I find myself saying more and more often to people, and which seems more and more true every time I think about it:

If I am trying to understand a phrase and learn from it then the answer is almost never a scale. It is not just a set of notes that makes something music. We are all using mostly the same notes, There are Amazing Bebop phrases – and – very Boring Heavy Metal scale sequences that use the same major scale.

But at the same time, the major blues scale is a very useful resource to explore and is probably used a lot more than you’d expect in Jazz Blues, also in some pretty creative ways when it comes to double stops which you will see later in the video.

But if there isn’t really a Blues scale then there is another way to think about it.

The Mighty Triad (and a few other tricks)

Like any style of music, there isn’t a single approach that describes everything that is possible, which is probably also better because if it was a formula like that then the music would probably be boring. Still, there are some things you can do that work really well and are used often.

Notice how Parker uses motifs, or maybe riffs is a better word for it, and also how he gets from the I to the IV chord in this example from Now’s The Time:

The motif in this example is built around an F major triad on the F7

and then he changes it to Fm when the song moves to Bb7 to spell out that chord change and still connect the phrases.

In thiscase, Parker doesn’t use the major pentatonic scale, a better description is probably that he is adding notes around an F major triad, and there are some really great and fairly famous lines of his that follow that recipe, like this one from the opening of the Now’s The Time solos.

The first part is really just an F major triad with some chromatic approach notes:

Phrasing Without Bends

But you can also go more for more of a major pentatonic phrase like this Wes line from his solo on Fried Pies, and notice how Wes is really relying on slides as a part of his phrasing, you could say that he uses those instead of bends in the phrase, and the slides are mostly targeting the major 3rd, A. Something that is very common for this sound:

In general, slides, hammer-on and pull-offs are often the preferred techniques in Jazz blues over bending, probably because people like Wes had very heavy strings and not a lot of sustain, but you can find examples of bending, they are just less common. What you want to explore is using slides and hammer-ons to get to the 3rd of the chord:

You had George Bensons pick up in the first example –

But you also have a sort of enclosure like this:

 

or using a hammer on like this

Without bending there are other things that Jazz guitarists get very creative with: Double Stops.

The Power of Double Stops

This first one is a great example of how Jazz Blues should not always go with the changes in the way Bebop usually does, because in this chorus from Wes’s solo, he just sticks to the same 2 bar riff, but what you want to notice besides the double-stops is also how that really creates some tension and drives the whole thing forward. And pay attention to what type of double stop this is.

This type of double stop is a sort of pedal point where the high D note is ringing through and then you have a G that is sometimes turned into a short blues phrase.

A great variation on this double stop you can hear in Wes’ solo on Fried Pies. The high D is still a pedal point but it is now becoming a part of a call-response phrase and I think this double stop is a lot less common outside Jazz:

You want to listen to this solo for how he develops phrases and connects from one phrase to the next, it is pretty amazing!

Chord Solos in Jazz Blues

Another important part of Jazz Blues is combining Jazz chords with Blues licks, which is an amazing sound, and here Joe Pass is absolutely mind-blowing. If you want to explore how he does this and also how he approaches Jazz Blues in general, then check out this video which has some of the most solid Jazz Blues you will ever hear!

This Jazz Blues Solo is Perfect And Nobody Is Talking About It

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Why They Sound Better Than You Every Time!

What is the difference between a good solo and a great solo? And what are some of the skills you want to develop to go from playing the right notes to really playing a great solo?

There is a set of 3 skills that especially a beginner won’t notice because you are too busy finding the chord tones and playing chromatic notes, and you want to start working on this from early on if you want to play solos that make sense and are not just random phrases.

The Problem With The Right Notes

When I was getting started playing Jazz then I practice scales and arpeggios since I had learned that I needed those to play Jazz. The problem I had with my solos was that even if I could play the right notes then it still sounded very fragmented and messy because I played everything per chord. Let me show you how that is the opposite of how George Benson plays. My playing at the time was like this:

 

These are all the right notes. but as you can clearly hear then it doesn’t make any sense at all because I am:

#1 Starting a new idea every bar

#2 Always Starting on Beat 1

#3 Stop playing so I Can Think Of The next chord

George Benson Gets It!

So what is the difference? He is playing from one chord to the next, so his melodies are ending on a note that clearly tells your ear that the chord is changing. In this case. it is super clear by hitting the 3rd every time:

Getting stuck with just playing something more or less random on each is a natural part of learning to play changes, but you can quite easily get started fixing it, and that is a really important skill to get in there so let’s look at that, and then dive into two other approaches that you hear a lot in the playing of Wes Montgomery and Jim Hall.

Forward Motion

When it comes to Bop-inspired Jazz, then a core principle in the solos is that often the melodies are dense with a lot of notes and are really pushing forward to the chord changes, similar to what you heard in the George Benson example. This is not that different from how Bach wrote music even if Jazz uses different harmony and also some “extra” notes here and there.

Hal Galper wrote a good book about this calling it Forward Motion

which is a good way to describe it. The simple version of the concept is that you practice playing lines that end somewhere, so target notes. The notes in a solo line are not just random pitches against a chord,

they should fit together as a melody that moves to the next chord. Which is what you heard in the Benson example.

But there are some things that you can get wrong when you are working on target notes, so here’s a suggestion for getting started, and actually you should consider buying that book.

Choosing Target Notes and Practicing

For finding the right target notes then you sort of have to forget what you learned when you started checking out Jazz chords.

I am sure you have had lessons telling you that when you play chords then you just need the 3rd and the 7th to get the sound of the chord across. That would also suggest that you can use those two as target notes, but that is actually not really true.

Let’s look a II V I in C major:

The 3rd of the chord is still a really good option, as you heard in the George Benson example,

but the 7th is often a bit vague, and in the beginning, you want to train your ear by having very clear notes that tell you that the chord has changed.

On Dm7 then the C doesn’t really sound like a Dm7 on it’s own, it sounds much more like a C major chord, so having that as a target is going to be much more difficult.

The 5th, A, is however a very good target note instead, which is sort of the first note you would throw out of a chord. This is true for Cmaj7 as well where the 7th, B will really just sound like you are not resolving the V chord in a II V I. Of course, you can play melodies that make these notes possible, but as I said, you want to keep it easy to hear in the beginning.

Let’s say that we keep it easy and play the 3rd as a target note on all the chords, just like George.

You want to practice coming up with Dm7 lines that play towards and end on a B, a simple version could be something like this:

Or like this:

 

These are of course super simple, and I don’t actually have to start with the F on the Dm7, but I think you can hear how the melodies are naturally moving towards the chord change. Before we get to the Wes and Jim Hall examples then let me just show you how you can easily make it a lot more embellished with trills, leading notes etc:

So here it is a little less clear and the target note is often moved to the 4& which also makes it a bit lighter, but that is really just the next step to work on and it is the same concept.

How To Practice Forward Motion

If you practice soloing like this then you will get a lot better at creating lines that have a flow and that don’t sound like random things copy-pasted on top of the progression. I would suggest starting with keeping it simple composing lines and then gradually going from improvising over a basic turnaround rubato into playing in time and then taking it to some songs.

This skill is essential for anything Bop inspired, but the next two are maybe even more powerful and less Jazz specific. The first one is in everyone’s playing, but Jim Hall is truly a master at this!

Make People Remember Your Phrases

What Jim Hall does in this solo is probably the strongest melodic principle that we have, it is at the core of so many great solos and great compositions.

You first have a motif being repeated and developed over the Dm section of the song. He then rounds this off with a very chromatic line on the Aø D7 before starting to work with a short intervallic motif that is moved around in triplets.

Check it out:

So this is all over Jim Hall’s playing, but Wes uses this as well:

Here are a few very clear examples from Four on Six.

Clear, but still changing the rhythm on a simple 4-note motif. Notice that he plays it 3 times and then sort of finishes the sentence with something else. That is very common.

Both Wes and Jim Hall uses forward motion and motivic development, it is not one or the other, some of Jim Hall’s motifs have forward motion. Beethoven and Mozart knew how motivic development worked as well. The effect of this as a listener is that you hear something that you recognize but it is not just a loop, it changes and stays interesting in that way.

How To Practice Developing Motifs

The first important step is that you want to recognize these things when you listen to music,so try to listen to solos that you know and that you like and recognize the motifs in there. Again the way to practice this is to solo and try to stick with motifs when you improvise, so start rubato and play a short phrase then imagine how this phrase should move through the changes. Later you can start just sticking with a motif over a song and see what you can do with it.

I sometimes see comments on YouTube that want to attribute Wes’ playing to magic or some other vague term. I think that is surprising when his genius is, to me anyway,  the clarity of his strong melodic ideas. Can you be tone-deaf for melodies like melody-deaf?

Wes Montgomery uses another melodic technique quite often, and that is also a great strategy for making your solos a longer story.

Have A Conversation With Yourself

I often talk about how music is a language,  and music is a form of communication, a place where conversations happen.

And this can also be in your solo where you are having a conversation between phrases, what is often referred to as Call-response.

Check out how Wes does this:

He actually also has a great example of this with octaves from the earlier recorded version:

So this is about hearing different phrases as a back and forth between two sides.

Bebop 101 for Guitar!

Another guitar player that is really great at this and has some amazing lines to learn from both in terms of solid bebop and motivic development is Grant Green, and if you check out this video then you can learn something about how he creates melodic, playable, and beautiful bebop lines. Especially since it is bebop but not too difficult for guitar!

I Wish I Had Checked Out This Guy! His Solos Are Jazz 101 On Guitar

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5 Of My Favorite Bebop Shortcuts To Fix Your Jazz Phrasing

When I was still just getting into playing Jazz, before I moved to the Netherlands,  then I often found it very frustrating that I knew what scale to play, the arpeggio of the chord, and all those basic things, but I still couldn’t get it to sound right.

The lines that I played in my solos were correct but way too boring:

At the time I was checking out solos from Parker, Joe Pass, and a Danish Jazz guitarist called Jakob Fischer, and the way their lines flowed were much more elegant:

But while I mostly understood the notes and how it worked with the chords then I could not make my own version of it.

The solution sort of came from two things: Going to Barry Harris workshops in the Hague where I later went to study,  and then those solos that I was checking out.  Barry could really explain Bebop melodies in ways that made sense, and that also taught me more about how to break down the phrases I found in solos so that I could make them into more flexible chunks and get into my own playing.

That is what I am going to show you here, Let’s get to the first Building block which you might recognize from the previous example.

#1 Beautiful Bebop Interval

One of the problems in the boring line is that the melody is super predictable in how it flows which makes it heavy and not very interesting in terms of rhythm. In fact, all of these blocks are really about adding rhythm to your lines, because that is what Bebop is all about.

Here’s a great way to change the melodic direction by adding a lower chord tone, in this case, the 5th of the chord, and a chromatic passing note, it is actually a Barry Harris technique, but I’ll explain that later.

And that can be put into a lick like this:

But you can use this on other chords as well, on a G7 where the 3rd is B and the fifth is D:

or on a maj7 chord also going from the 3rd down to the 5th (show the lick Ex 7)

So you can see how you can easily move it around in the scale and have your melodies come more alive.   The next one is taking this and going a step further.

#2 Beautiful Bebop Interval 2.0

Now that you have the large interval skip you can also add a leading note to that low chord tone and that really works:

And, of course, this can become a line:

Again this will easily work on a G7 as well, giving you something like this:

A side-note to these two examples is that you can see them as part of Barry Harris’ chromatic scale where he essentially sets up a system for adding leading notes, where anything can be a leading note, and that gives you some really amazing options, I’ll link to my video on that in the description of this video.

Make it your own!

An important thing to keep in mind is that you want to use these to develop your own material, so make variations of them, and explore what you can turn them into because that is where they really become valuable.

A few basic takes on the first two blocks could give you:

So there are all these things you can create from this and they all work. Let’s explore a way of changing up the rhythm by adding embellishments which is a little less complicated than these large intervals.

#3 The Triplet trill

It is nice to have material that is easy to throw in there and that change things up so you are not stuck with endless rows of 8th notes, again this is about rhythmic and melodic variation.

Let’s say you are playing a line like this:

But you can add a bit of energy to the first part of the line by playing it like this

And that trill is essentially just this phrase:

I  think you want to play this with legato to get it to sound good, because playing it picking all the notes just doesn’t sound as good 99% of the time.

This little phrase can be used in so many ways. If you combine it with an Em7 arpeggio it is great for a Cmaj7 chord:

Or if you move it in the scale and add a leading note then you have a Dm7 lick:

In those Barry Harris Masterclasses, I remember Barry referencing this as a Parker thing when he added it to the solo line he was working on, but I am not sure if he always did that, it is certainly something you will find only in Parker solos, it is all over Bebop, and maybe a little less in Hardbop.

When it comes to learning this, then being practical is usually  more efficient than being systematic, so an easy way to start exploring this in a scale is really just to move from string to string and see where it is easy to play, and from that try to see where you can use it, which for this position could give you an exercise like:

And an ascending where you are adding that leading note could then be:

Let’s take a look at another important trill to use, so that you never get stuck with 8th-note sickness again.

#4 The 16th Note Trick

This is also really easy to insert into your lines, notice that it again is easier to play it with legato technique, especially for higher tempos, but here you can actually get away with picking the notes as well.

Like this it sort of works as an enclosure for the note F and if you add an Fmaj7 arpeggio you have a great Dm7 line:

Again you can try to move that around to other strings, if I start on E on the G string then it can become a great line like this:

Which is obviously a lot more interesting than:

And here again, you can explore it by moving it around, and see what is practical for you, which is also how I came up with this exercise:

It is about using it!

As you can tell, then I am focusing on how you can use these phrases not only how to play them, and that is because I think that is way more important. In the long run, you want to make it a part of your playing, and your sound and you do that by learning the concept, not just a lick.  Which is also really what Barry Harris taught by moving things around the scale and how to make phrases into exercises. Let’s make arpeggios more Bebop!

#5 The Other Triplet Arpeggio

This is different form the Bebop  arpeggio that  ou probably already know, with a triplet and a leading note:

Another approach that is also really useful is to play arpeggios like this:

This is especially great for targeting the 3rd f the chord, so for a Dm7 you can use an Am7 arpeggio and get a line like this:

And it also is a great way to get the transition from Dm7 to G7:

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

Learning to play Jazz is a huge challenge, and when I started out then I spent a lot of time working out some solos by ear which taught me a lot of things, and also a lot of things I didn’t realize I was learning. In this video, I am going to recommend some good solos if you want to get started learning solos by ear, some I checked out myself in the beginning and some that I have use often with students, and along the way, I am going to talk about what you learn and give you some tips about how to learn from by ear.

The most efficient way to learn what is probably a lot of the most important things in Jazz is to learn solos by ear, what we often call transcribing even though you might not really want to write them down, but I will talk about that later. Among other things this is something that helps you improve: Swing, Timing, Phrasing, Dynamics, Shape, Contrast, Build up, Technique, Fretboard Knowledge.

This is pretty difficult to get started with, and getting sensible suggestions that help you get started with this is something that there are nowhere near enough recommendations for. I will go over some more tips later in the video, but If you are new to Jazz then don’t start by transcribing Charlie Parker on Donna Lee or John Coltrane on Countdown, find some short and easy examples and build your skills so that you give yourself the best possible chance to develop this ability. Otherwise, you are just going to get frustrated and fail

The Conga Conundrum

The first solo is one that I did not check out when I was learning Jazz, in fact, I somehow missed Kenny Burrell almost completely for some reason and didn’t discover him until much later, but this is the opening track from a truly iconic jazz guitar album: Midnight Blue. A weird side-step here, but In the early 60s everybody had to add conga’s to their jazz albums. You can hear that with Pat Martino but also with Wes (El hombre and Cotton Tail)

I wish somebody could explain to me why they did that?

Kenny Burrell – Chitlins Con Carne

This is one of the first solos that I give to my students, mainly because it is just a medium 12-bar blues in C, not even a Jazz Blues because there is no II V. Kenny Burrell is mostly just using C minor pentatonic and you can play it mostly in the Box 1 pentatonic position. The lines are great, so you learn how he is using a lot of interesting techniques, melodies, and phrasing.

On the recording, Kenny Burrell is comping himself, with the C7#9 but to make it easier in the beginning then I usually tell students to leave out the chords, just to make it simpler. In a way, the fact that Kenny Burrell plays the chords really helps make the whole thing easier to learn, because it is keeping the phrases compact, and with a clear beginning and end, divided by the chords.

This solo is very easy, and I tend to use it to help people get started transcribing and really get used to how it is to learn a solo by ear more than trying to teach phrasing and vocabulary, but of course, you do learn a lot of other things while checking out the solo. Starting to get used to learning by ear will help you pick up a lot of things so much faster, so that is extremely important and useful and that is important enough to see learning this solo by ear as an independent goal.

I’ll talk more about some of the things you want to do when you are transcribing solos later in the video.

Let’s take another example which was one of the very first solos I ever learned played by no other than the father of Jazz Guitar!

Charlie Christian – Grand Slam

Sometimes you learn a solo just because you are curious about what is being played and why it sounds like Jazz. That was the main reason I checked out Charlie Christian’s Grand Slam solo. At that point, I had an idea about what it meant to solo over changes but I hadn’t figured out enough examples to really know what to do and how it worked.

This 30-second 2-chorus blues solo by Charlie Christian is a great study in especially rhythm. Charlie Christians playing here is bebop-related, but the lines are as much swing language as they are bop, and they are great clear examples of that. Often having rhythms like this in your playing is really overlooked, but it will really boost how you sound if you work on it.

This was on one of the first Jazz CDs that I ever bought and I sat down and learned this solo in a day to figure out what was going on. At the time I was tuning my Strat down a half step and not being familiar with Jazz found the key of F for a blues a very odd choice (and I was in fact playing it in F# of course), I have since become more used to playing Blues in F, maybe even more so than in E…

Two other guitarists, that I checked out a lot, both talk about Charlie Christian as their main influence: Wes Montgomery and Jim Hall. Jim Hall even credits the Grand Slam solo as the reason for him getting into playing Jazz.

Grant Green – Cool Blues

Another solo that I picked up along the way as a teacher was Grant Green’s solo on Cool Blues. Grant Green is a great resource for learning Bebop on guitar and most of my students have had his solos as homework.

This solo is on Green’s “Born To Be Blue Album” and it is full of the typical strong Bebop Grant Green language that is so useful to check out and also very playable on the guitar. I imagine he got it straight from Parker, but I actually don’t know. This is a practical solo because the tempo is relaxed and the solo is not that long.

A bonus to this recording is that Grant takes an extra solo before the last theme, so if you are in the zone you can check that out as well.

Don’t forget to like the video if you find this useful, that is a huge help for me and the channel.

Tips for Transcribing solos

There is a right and a wrong way to go about learning a solo by ear, and here are a few things you want to pay attention to and try to get right when you are learning a solo.

Listen To The Solo (And Then Listen To It Another 10 times)

This can not be understated, the more you listen to the solo the easier it will be for you to learn to play it, and trust me, you will probably save time if you first just listen to the solo a lot, and I mean REALLY a lot! In fact, just listen until you can sing it.

Know The Song

Solos in Jazz are generally on a form, and if you know the chords where they are in the song then you are going to have a much easier time learning the solo and hearing what is being played, simply because you know what that part of the song sounds like, for example, if you are transcribing a solo on Just Friends and knows that it goes from Bbmaj7 to Bbm6 then it is easier to figure out what is going on.

Learn Phrases Not Single Notes

If you want to remember what you are learning then it is important that you start thinking of the solo in phrases and learn it phrase by phrase. That way it is going to make more sense and be a lot easier to get into your system. It is similar to how you don’t try to learn a language word for word, but really try to learn to say something.

Don’t Write It Down, Focus On Playing The Solo

I think it is often overlooked what is most useful in learning a solo, because I don’t think it is the exact phrases or notes. It is much more about the way the phrase sits on the groove in this performance or the exact phrasing and subtle things like that don’t make into a transcription, so you are better of learning it by ear and memorizing it like that instead of writing it out and then playing what is on the page, which is really more of a reading exercise that leaves a lot of information behind.

Wes Montgomery – Four On Six

Four on Six is probably the most famous Wes song, and the first recording off “The Incredible Jazz Guitar” album is a great solo to check out for some of the things that you definitely want to learn from Wes:

Melodic and short phrases, motivic development, Call-response, rhythm. It is all in there.

For this solo you can also leave out the octave and chord parts as they are more difficult, just learning the first few single-note choruses will already teach you a ton of great stuff.

Learning Wes solos taught me a lot about phrasing and being melodic but still swinging, and the clarity in his melodic ideas are worthwhile checking out for anybody who wants to play Jazz. I ended up having a year in my study where I was always learning Wes solos and got through most of Smokin’ at The Half Note and a lot of other songs as well.

If you want to check out some of my videos on Wes solos then there is a playlist in the video description: Videos analyzing Wes Montgomery solos

George Benson

I have always loved how George Benson could make pretty much anything sound like fantastic Jazz phrases, and this solo on “The Borgia Stick, off The George Benson Cook Book” is no exception. This was also one of the first solos that I say down and obsessed about when I was just starting out, and I am still a bit surprised that I managed to figure out the chords in there.

This solo is great if you are not that at home in Jazz Harmony. The lines are surprisingly simple and most are really just A minor pentatonic stuff, but learning to play them and add all the beautiful rhythms and grace notes in this Benson solo is going to be great for your playing. His use of intervals and chords is also amazing and still fairly simple.

Honorable Mentions

Of course, there are many many solos to check out, and these 5 are just the tip of the iceberg. If you have great suggestions for Jazz guitar solos to learn then leave a comment, maybe we can make an even longer list of recommendations to help learn Jazz..

A few others that I spent time on, in the beginning, deserve a mention as well:

Jim Hall on Stella By Starlight, in fact, that whole first Jim Hall Album is a masterclass in swinging rhythms and motivic development, but the Stella solo is fairly easy to check out.

Another Stella solo is by Ulf Wakenius. This is fairly unknown, and it is off a Niels Henning Ørsted Pedersen album called “To A Brother” and Ulf Wakenius is playing a lot simpler than what I am used to from him, but both this solo and the one on Alone Together are great and really helped me out in the first few months when I had trouble telling what was the theme and what was the solo.

Another thing that you should not underestimate is the wealth of great solos that are on YouTube and not on any albums. A Solo that I always found to be a great example of Bensons playing is this really simple 1-chorus solo on Take The A-train from some obscure television show in the 70s. Lots of Blues but only great phrases! There are some hidden gems out there!

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What Makes This Sound So Good and How To Play Like That

One thing that we probably all love is the sound of great jazz phrasing in a solo. In this video, I am going to take a look at a great example from George Benson and talk about why these jazz phrases sound great. In that process, I will also go over some ways to turn the lick into exercises and use those to make your own licks that have great phrasing.

I also explain how jazz phrasing sometimes clashes with some of the other skills we teach for jazz improvisation and how to work around that.

The George Benson Solo Example

Here is a transcription of the phrases from the Benson solo that I am using

I am going to use the 2nd line as an example.

#1 Why does it sound great?

I have talked about what makes jazz phrasing great in other videos, and there are many things that come together to make a jazz solo great, but one thing that is a huge factor is how the line lets us give some notes an accent.

Let’s focus on the last part of the example and get a little scientific by slowing it down. You can hear that in the video.

When you listen to the slow version you can hear the accents on the high notes that are not on the beat:

I am sure you already have an idea about this, and one way to access this is to sing bop lines in terms of phrasing, that really helps you realize that you probably hear it and you just need to figure out how to get it on to your instrument.

But two of these examples are similar in a way and you can practice getting that into your lines quite easily.

#2 What Should You Practice

If we look at this fragment (D# to E in bar 2) then what happens here is Benson is playing a blues phrase, but the effect is really just a leading note resolving upwards and then a lower not.

If we apply this idea to an arpeggio then you would have an exercise like this:

And at the end of our example, Benson does something similar with this arpeggio, one way to look at that is as a way of playing a 1st inversion Cmaj7 arpeggio. If you take that through a scale then you have this:

#3 How Do We Play Licks that Sound Like That?

Usually when you start playing Jazz then you have a really hard time playing logical melodies that follow the changes. And one of the first things you learn, or at least should learn, is that if you play chord tones as target notes on the heavy beats of the bar then you connect with the phrase.

This might sound like this:

Where I am playing an F on beat one and an A on beat 3, but the line doesn’t really give us a nice flow with some accents. As my old teacher used to say: “It doesn’t make me want to dance”

But with the exercises, you can start putting together your own lines and in that way getting it into your playing.

Here I am using the exercise from EX2 on the Dm7 (play that) and leaving a little more space to go from G7 to C

Another one could be something like this:

Develop your phrasing

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How to Use the Blues in a Jazz Solo

There is something special about the Jazz Blues Guitar sound and that type of phrasing! The blues is a very important part of Jazz, but it can be difficult to get those bluesy phrases to work on a jazz song, the way Joe Pass or George Benson do.

In this video, I am going to show you how to do that, a common mistake we make and also talk the different ways great guitarists like George Benson, Joe Pass, and Emily Remler use blues phrases in jazz solos.

Other videos on Joe Pass, George Benson, and Emily Remler

George Benson – This is The Best Jazz Blues Solo I know

Emily Remler – How To Reinvent a Standard

Joe Pass – How to Keep Solos Interesting

Content

0:00 Intro

0:17 Blues Phrases from George Benson, Joe Pass, and Emily Remler

0:34 Example #1

0:47 Benson’s Major Blues Sound

1:38 Play Blues From The Key of the Piece

1:58 The Blues As Leading Notes

2:48 Altered Dominant? Blues!

3:21 Example #1 Slow

3:38 Benson’s Blues Approach

4:04 Pat Martino On Benson 

4:20 Example #2

4:29 Joe Pass – Watch What Happens

5:24 Joe Pass’ Minor Blues

6:43 Example #2 Slow

6:55 Blues In Major and in Minor songs

7:19 Example #3

7:32 Using Blues in a Minor Key

8:11  Emily Remler – Softly As In A Morning Sunrise

8:53 From Blues to Triplet Groupings

9:20 Example #3 Slow

9:36 The Things You Want to Do To Use Blues in Jazz Solos

10:22 Like The Video? Check out my Patreon Page!

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How to Use Chromatic Ideas in Jazz Licks The Right Way

Chromaticism is a huge part of Jazz. In this video, I am going to take a look at some great examples of chromatic jazz licks or phrases from Charlie Parker, Pat Metheny, Doug Raney, Pat Martino, and George Benson. All the examples are great ideas when it comes to chromatic phrases and also quite different takes on how to work with it.

I am sure you can get some great ideas from this, I know that I did.

Content:

0:00 Intro

0:19 Jazz licks from Charlie Parker, George Benson, Pat Metheny, Doug Raney, and Pat Martino

0:33 Charlie Parker Lick – #1 Connecting Jazz Chord Tones

1:50 Lick # 1 Slow

1:54 Pat Martino – #2a Chromaticism with a Pedal Point

2:35 #2b Chromatic Enclosure

3:04 Exercise for Chromatic Enclosures

3:23 Lick #2 Slow

3:27 George Benson – #3 Pentatonic Chromaticism

4:53 Lick #3 Slow

4:59 Doug Raney – #4 Bebop Chromaticism

5:41 Creating lines from a skeleton with added chromatic phrases

6:15 Lick #4 Slow

6:31 Pat Metheny #5 Outside Chromatic Notes

7:00 Bebop Ala Metheny

8:20 Lick from Solar with Parallel Thirds

8:43 Lick #5 Slow

8:49 Like the video? Check out my Patreon Page!

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5 Jazz Blues Licks – How to use Transcribed ideas

In this video, I go over 5 longer Jazz Blues Licks that incorporate different ideas that I took from transcriptions of great guitarists such as Grant Green, George Benson, Charlie Parker(not really a guitarist, but he wished he was), Wes Montgomery, and John Scofield.

These examples really highlights how I work with material that I have transcribed, and most of them are in fact in videos I have done on these artists.

How I use transcribed licks

For me using larger chunks of a solo from somebody else was never really working. I always preferred to work with small phrases or even the concept behind a phrase and then use that to make my own version of that idea.

In these examples, I am mostly using small bits and pieces of other guitarists licks. This is mainly because the relation to the original would maybe be too unclear.

Grant Green and his great triad lick

This first example uses an opening phrase that is quite common with Grant Green. He uses this 2nd inversion triad in both Miss Ann’s Tempo and I’ll Remember April.

For the rest the line is using some of the great ideas that we use in Blues influenced jazz with the sliding leading notes and especially approaching the 3rd from a half step below.

Another typical jazz line is the use of the G augmented triad to help pull towards the C7.

George Bensons Major Blues Genius

A comment on my recent video on George Benson went on and on about how his use of major pentatonic lines was dreadful. A very strange idea since most of the guys (like Parker and Coltrane) use this sound a lot. And besides that I can’t imagine not wanting to be able to play Blues phrases with the soul of Benson.

The quote in this phrase is in the middle of the line. It starts in bar 2 and continues into bar 3. In the original(in F) he playes the upbeat in quarter notes. Here I turned that into 8th ntoes.

The phrase in bar 4 is a Parker line similar to one of his lines in his original version of Billie’s Bounce.

Kenny Burrel and Wes Montgomery

The first phrase (another major pentatonic :) ) is from Kenny Burrell. The descending 6th at the end is really beautiful. On the C7 I am using a double stop trill that you can hear both Benson and Montgomery use. Wes plays a whole chorus in No Blues off Smoking at the Half note with this phrase. Here I am putting it on the IV chord rather than the I where both Benson and Wes use it.

Scofield’s Amazing Arpeggio Ideas and slides

This example is beginning with a lick that is not exactly taken from a Scofield solo but is more “in the vein of” The way he uses different types of legato techniques to create a really nice flow is beautiful, even if it is a little tricky to play.

The phrase in bars 3 and 4 is more of a direct quote from Scofield but the 2nd half is my take on developing the original as a motif. Here I take the opportunity to also turn it into a more altered sound.

Imitating Wes is always worthwhile

This example is a take on a Wes line from his (unbelievable) solo on Four on Six off the Smoking at the half note album. The original is on 4 bars of G minor, but here I have taken it to G major keeping the basic shape and changing the notes around.

What to take away from this lesson

I think these examples describe how I work with material that I have transcribed. Some of the examples I might really play in a solo and some that I might work with while practicing to develop them into more personal takes on the lines.

Developing your own material is important (and fun) so I’d suggest you do the same.

Supercharge your Blues playing!

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The Reason Your Jazz Guitar Licks Suck and How you fix it!

Your jazz licks have all the right arpeggios and chord tones, target notes etc. And they still don’t sound like great bop lines! The Problem is probably with the jazz phrasing.  In this video I am going to give you a basic understanding of some of the jazz phrasing that can lift your solos to the next level.

I am also going to give you a way to write licks which you can phrase better and take a few bars from a George Benson solo to demonstrate how he gets it right!

The Good, The Bad and the Bebop!

In the example below I have written out two examples of jazz lines over a Turnaround in C major.

They both contain right notes and the melodies are moving from chord to chord in a logical way, but the second one sits better in the groove and is easier to phrase in a nice way.

The difference is where the target notes and the notes where the line changes direction are placed. In the first example this is all the time on the heavy beats (so beats 1 and 3). This is shown with the circle.

In the second line these notes are placed mostly on an off-beat and that makes it possible to give them an accent and add some more life to the line.

I guess the difference is that bebop lines need the syncopated lines that have high notes and turning points on off-beats because that makes it come alive and add some small dynamic surprises for the listener. 

Composing lines with better phrasing

It does sound a little strange I know, but actually we can work on making lines that are easier to phrase in a right way. 

The trick is to find a way to create lines where we have a high note on an off-beat.

If we take the two heavy beats in the bar, 1 and 3, then there are two types of off-beats we can have: The one before a heavy beat: 2& and 4& and the one after a heavy beat: 1& and 3&.

Before a heavy beat

In example 3 I am using the Dm7 G7 progression to demonstrate 4 different ways to have a high note (and therefore an accent) before beat 3.

After a heavy beat

The 3 different examples below show how you can add an accent on 1& by making that note a local high note.

It is worth noting that the descending line actually also makes the 1& a note you can accent, so that option is also often a good way to add an accent. You will also see this in the George Benson solo.

Examples of Jazz Licks with accents

To show you some examples of lines that have melodies that you can add accents to I have written to II V I lines in C major.

The first example starts with an accent on the 2&. This is achieved with an Fmaj7 arpeggio similar the 2nd bar in Example 3. The rest of the bar does not contain anything that gets an accent. 

In the G7 bar the first accent is on the 1& where the D is a high note. There is another accent on the 3& where the B can get an accent.

The 2nd example is using the same arpeggio on the Dm7 to get an accent on the 2&, but this time the arpeggio is played in an inversion to add a large 6th interval skip on the 1& 

The ascending arpeggios are also used to get accents on the 2& and 4& on the G7alt. Here it is first a G augmented triad and the 2nd one is an Fm7(b5) arpeggio.

Other ways to lget better at phrasing

Learning from composing and analyzing is only one way of the ways to internalize these things. Of course it will help you recognize and hear where accents are and understand the phrasing examples you hear on a conscious level.

Another way to work on this is to listen and imitate examples of good phrasing, this can be copying records or learning to play transcriptions.

Why George Benson has great phrasing

As an example of somebody with good phrasing here is 4 bars from a George Benson solo. These 4 bars are an excerpt from his (really fantastic!) solo on Billies Bounce. I transcribed it and will go over where the accents are.

The excerpt starts on the II V to Gm7, which in Billie’s bounce is Am7 D7(b9). The first part is a sweep of a triad which does not contain any accents, mostly because this technique does not really allow you to add an accent.

The line on the D7 moving to Gm7 does have an accent. The Sweep of the C major triad comes out on an F#. From here it skips up to a D and descends step-wise to Bb. This means that it is possible to add an accent on the 4&(C) which George does. 

On the Gm7 the A on the 2& get’s an accent., and for the rest there is no accents in the Gm7 line. Ont the C7 the G on the 1& is a high note which then gets an accent. It is followed by a dramatic skip (dramatic in a beautiful way…) and the line is ended with a bop cliche that ends on an D on the 3& that also naturally get’s an accent.

On the F7 D7 there are not notes on the off beat and therefore no accents. 

The Gm7 C7 line at the end of the chorus actually has accents on all off beats in the bar, which is of course possible, in this case it is also part of a blues phrase that somewhat asks for it.

How do you go about improving your phrasing?

When you are working on phrasing I would suggest that you combine all the approaches I discussed in this lesson. It is important to listen and analyze solos to get the sound of the phrasing into your ear. At the same time you can reinforce this process with composing and exploring what lines you can come up with that has notes that you can give an accent.

Finally it is also really good to have some solos that you really copy and play along with the record to really get into how the guitarist is phrasing.

Good luck with it!

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Take this approach further with more examples

If you want to explore the concepts discussed in this lesson further with some exercises and examles you can check out this lesson in my WebStore:

Jazz & Bebop Phrasing – C Blues

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You can also download the PDF of my examples here:

The reason your jazz licks suck!

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