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Jazz Beginners: Grant Green Is The Most Important Guitarist To Check Out!

The Most Difficult Skill To Learn

You want to sound like Jazz. That’s the goal! You want to be able to take a song, solo over it, and play stuff that sounds right, with good phrasing and good timing. And That, is the most difficult thing about learning Jazz is not the technical things like scales and arpeggios, hitting the changes.

One of the best places to get started with this is to start learning solos by ear, and I think you should start with Grant Green solos. You might wonder why Grant Green

That is because His solos will teach you:

  • Amazing Bebop Phrasing and Vocabulary on the guitar (so it is easier to play)
  • Great Jazz Blues (In A few different variations)
  • Fairly simple with Friendly tempos

Because if you are learning solos by ear then don’t go straight to Allan Holdsworth.

I’ll show you some great Jazz Blues examples from Grant Green and in the process show you solos to check out that are fairly easy to start with.

Let’s start with a great Jazz Blues line from his solo on Solid which is both my favorite Grant Green album and a great Bb Blues:

You can hear how strong the phrasing is and how he is just sitting so nicely in the groove. The line is simple, it’s just triad stuff, major pentatonic with that 6th, the G,

in there and sliding into the 3rd:

Notice how he also has a lot of dynamics in the lines the low G at the end of the example is almost not there.

From Blues To Bop

You can probably tell that this is far from impossible to learn, and alsoa lot of fun to play! That’s the blues side of things, but there’s also some Bebop stuff to check out. Here are some triplet arpeggios, pivot arpeggios and trills:

I don’t know why, but that last phrase ending with a maj7th arpeggio that dips to the 6th and back to the maj7th reminds me of Peter Bernstein. I need to figure out why that is. This and the next example shows how Grant Green uses different sounds to keep the solo interesting.

First we get all this Bebop: You have a descending Fm7 triplet arpeggio,

some phrasing with a slide into G then an Abmaj7 pivot arpeggio,

something he uses VERY often, and which is also a great Bebop sound. And on the Eb7 you have the maj7th arpeggio from the 7th: Dbmaj7.

This is exactly the type of line and the type of vocabulary building blocks that you want to have in your fingers and in your ears as a part of your playing.

Changing Things Up

But to change things up then Grant Green really shifts to another gear, going back to some Blues phrasing:

Notice that he just really sticks to simple Bb lines and isn’t playing material that is based on the F7 chord that’s in the song.

Digging into the Blues as a contrast to the longer Bebop phrase. That is also a huge part of what makes him such a great example.

I am focusing on Jazz Blues because Grant Green is amazing at this, but there are many other things you can learn as well, as you will see.

My hot take on Grant Green’s tone not being great on all albums also makes this a good example because here he sounds quite different from some of the later examples, that might also be why this album is my favorite, though having Joe Henderson on Sax also doesn’t hurt!

Mixing Major and Minor Blues

One of the greatest parts of the Jazz Blues sound is when you mix major and minor blues and get some of that blues sound but also has some of the expensive extensions in there. That is what happens here in this simple but strong example. Later I’ll go over an example that really leans on the minor blues scale. Check out how he is using a short 3 or 4-note motif and just sitting on the root, but using that to connect the whole thing and turn it more than just running the chords. In the 4th bar goes to minor pentatonic to create a bit of tension to drive the Bb7 sound home before the progression moves to Eb7.

Often when you start to play Jazz then you only want to spell out the changes, play lines and add chromatic notes and arpeggios. That is important, but it is good to remember that all the guys we look up to also sometimes plays something really simple. It is about balance.

Grant Green – A Tale Of Two Tones

I’ll show you more examples of this Jazz Blues Mix later.

This example is from Cool Blues, another Bb Blues, and here you can also hear an example with a much thinner tone luckily not so much spring reverb as he has on the Standards album. I suspect that it is a combination of which amp settings and then which guitar he uses, possibly also what the recording engineer decided to do. In these earlier recordings like Cool Blues he is playing his ES330 which has p90s and he showed George Benson that he always sets his amp by turning down treble and bass completely and turning up the mids. I believe he was using a Fender Super Reverb. I do wonder if he wasn’t playing an amp without a mid control, I think most amps didn’t have that in 60s, but I am not sure. The tone is in any case fairly thin even compared to how he sounds in the first example from Solid, which I prefer. I tend to think it is about him not using a p90 from then on, but again I am, not sure. Let me know what you think, I know it is an unpopular opinion that I am not a fan of his early tone…

Check out how minor blues is also nice for Jazz:

Raw Minor Blues

Here’s another example from the album Grantstand which came out in 1961. When I was checking out what year this was from, because it sounded like an early album I noticed something quite mind-blowing: Grant Green Recorded 8 Albums as a leader in 1961!

That is pretty insane! And he was a sideman on 15-16 other albums.

Pretty impressive!

Check out how he starts his solo with some REAL minor blues:

This is all Box 1 Bb minor blues,

the only thing that doesn’t make it something Stevie Ray Vaughan or Clapton could have played is that he isn’t using any bends here. He stays with this sound and elegantly transitions into a solid Bebop line that I think also illustrates something that often is analyzed wrong on m7 chords, especially from this period.

It’s Not Melodic Minor

Check out how he is really just sliding into that B to go the G7 (play) and it is not just scale or arpeggio there is immediately a trill in there as well.

That Cm7 line really shines, it is simply a beautiful Bebop melody with that skip and the enclosure! (PLAY) Often you will hear people analyze that as Grant Green playing Melodic minor on Cm7, because there is no Bb in there but you do have a B.

That isn’t really what is happening, it is just an enclosure of the root with a chromatic leading note.

But as I have said in other videos: If you are trying to analyze and understand a lick or a melody then the answer is probably not a scale. That is just what notes are used and a random set of notes from the scale won’t sound that great. There is always more going on.

Let’s check out some motivic stuff with rhythm and maybe a line George Benson stole from him.

Melody and Rhythm

George Benson plays this exact turnaround in his Billie’s Bounce solo,

right t the spot where the studio lost power and the tempo gets warbly. I don’t know what you think, but I think it is a nod of gratitude to Grant Green.

Check out this pickup from his solo on Blues For Willarene:

 

I just wanted to include that. This Blues is from Grant’s First Stand which is another of his albums recorded in 61.

The main reason I am including this is this next phrase:

So again mixing the Major and minor blues sound setting up a motif (play) then he changes it a bit, mostly by moving it so the rhythm is more on offbeats.

then the next version uses a higher note and morphs into this motif which is all on one string, and he works with that going to Eb7 and back.

Another Intro To Jazz Blues: Joe Pass

The way Grant Green works with the rhythm in developing this motif is phenomenal! You can learn so much from playing these solos! Another solo that both defines great Jazz Blues and taught me a lot is the track “Joe’s Blues” from the album “Intercontinental” Check it out!

It is by far my favorite Joe Pass album to listen to and that Blues is incredible!

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

 

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

This is one of the best people to check out if you want to develop pretty much everything you need to learn when starting out with Jazz: Phrasing, Vocabulary, Rhythm and most importantly these solos are pretty easy to figure out and play. I have given them to students to learn by ear many times, and they always learn a TON from it! Which makes me almost want to submit a complaint with my former teachers because nobody told me to check him out, but I’ll get back to that later.

The guitarist I am talking about here is Grant Green, someone who was a massive influence on a LOT of people, from Benson, to Pat Metheny, Peter Bernstein and Kurt Rosenwinkel. Super important figure in Jazz Guitar history!

3 Eras for Grant Green

To me, there are sort of 3 periods for Grant Green’s playing.

His early Bebop/Hardbop period, which is what I will focus on in this video. A lot of Organ trio stuff and also this guitar trio album simply called “Standards”.

then a true Hardbop era, with more modal Jazz and albums with Coltrane’s rhythm section, “Solid” is an amazing album from this period

and finally the Funk and Soul period where you have “Green Is Beautiful”

But the stuff that is so incredibly valuable for beginners learning Jazz is mostly the early stuff, and I think you will see why. And just to warn you: I will also talk about why I don’t like his tone that much on these albums, but you can of course start complaining about that already now in the comments.

Let’s get to the first example which is the pickup and the beginning of the solo, and it demonstrates 3 things that you definetely want to have in your playing, probably a more..

Bebop On Guitar, But Done Right

I should probably mention that the song is You Stepped Out Of A Dream, off the album called “Standards”. The whole album is a guitar trio, and Green doesn’t play any chords in this song at all, same goes for the other songs on the album, but it is an incredible album to check out, his playing is so solid and the lines are so strong.

The pick up is a long G7 line, even if I just write C6 since it is the end of themelody. It is a great example of how you can use trills in your playing to change up the flow a bit and make the whole thing come alive so it isn’t just 8th note lines all the time.

And it is really just a G7 out of C harmonic minor:

The first 4 bars of the solo shows some really useful examples of motivic development with 3 phrases that link in motifs:

First two phrases on the Cmaj7 are descending arpeggio melodies

and then the he connects the 2nd phrase of Cmaj7 with the phrase on Dbmaj7, using the same beginning notes over the chord.

Another thing that you want to notice is the large interval skip that Grant Green uses on the Dbmaj7 chord, inserting a low F between Db and C.

This is instant Bebop, and you will see 3 more variations of this later in the solo, and if that is all you learn from this solo then it is still worth the effort! As you will see, then this works on a lot of chords and is a great way to change things up so that your lines are not always running up and down scales or arpeggios but also surprising the listener a bit.

The II V I to Ab major that follows is also a great line, but later you also have a perfect II V I line! This one has what you could call a Dbmaj7(9) arpeggio,

Something you will see him play a few variations of as well in the solo. On The Eb7 there is another great interval skip that I always associate with Wes: You encircle the 3rd of the dominant and then skip up to the root, Wes does this a few time in 4 on 6.

Let’s take a look at that Perfect II V I

The Perfect II V I

Grant Green is a great example of how to be practical about taking Charlie Parker Bebop licks, that are often difficult to play on guitar,

and then make them into really playable and very solid Bebop material for Guitar. This, coupled with how he usually plays fairly relaxed tempos, makes these solos a lot easier to play and it is still really good music.

Check out this line and then I’ll talk about how it is a perfect example of a II V I bebop lick

You can hear that it has it all: syncopation, trills, interval skips and triplets. The funny thing about this is that you can see it as an embellishment of a very simple skeleton, like this:

Explainer: First you get the syncopation and the enclosure (From D to Bb) This is followed with the 2nd way to introduce interval skips:

 

The Pivot arpeggio that takes you to G on C7 (Pivot arp to G) We still have 2 variations of these in the solo though.

From here, he then adds a trill and an enclosure to resolve to the 3rd of F: A (C7 line to Fmaj7)

 

One thing you want to notice is that at the very beginning when he has the enclosure taking us to Bb then he is playing the enclosure in the opposite direction, so the melody moves down from D to Bb, but he plays the enclosure up from A to C. Again this is a much more interesting melody, also without the syncopation.

Everything moving down sounds like this

compared to the “flipped enclosure”

This is also a thing that Parker does really a lot, so he probably got it there. We still have two more variations of those large interval strategies so let’s get to the next example

Two Great Examples of Chromatic Notes

There is a really cool trick with enclosure at the end of this example, but let’s start with the phrase on the Dbmaj7, where he is really laying back in the time. Again he is adding a low F between Db and C, but this time he is adding a leading note to that lower note which is a great way to amplify the effect of the interval skip, because you are skipping down to a funny note that needs to resolve:

On the II V in Ab that follows he uses the Dbmaj7(9) arepggio that I talked about earlier, but adding a trill and going in to two enclosures next to each other that sound really great:

Here you have a melody which is first an enclosure of Bb and then on of G

This is very similar to how George Benson creates some great lines on Billie’s Bounce, no scales, just using triads and enclosures. Let me know if you want a link to the video where I talk about that.

How I discovered Grant Green

As I mentioned in the beginning then I was never told to check out Grant Green, which is probably just a coincidence. I had actually checked out some of his later stuff before getting into Jazz, but I did not think to look for more standard material by him. It wasn’t really until I started looking for material that I could use for teaching that I discovered him, mainly because his solos are not too long and not too fast plus that they are often on a 12-bar blues or on a common jazz standard, which makes them great for learning Jazz. This led me to checking out quite a few solos and using them really a lot in lessons and I really like a lot of his albums, especially Solid is a favorite of mine where Joe Henderson is also really amazing! B-roll: Joe Henderson Photo or VIdeo

The Tone And All That Reverb

Grant Green clearly doesn’t fit the typical myth about Jazz tone, with the tone rolled down and bass turned up on the amp, but of course that is also a myth. If you have watched any of my other videos on my guitars and how I think about tone, then you might be able to guess that I am not a massive fan of how Grant Green sounds on these early recordings where I think he is using an ES330 which is a completely hollow version of a 335 with p90 pickups. According to George Benson then Grant Green set up his amp by turning down treble ad bass and turning up the mids, which actually is not that different from how I set up my amp. When I talked about not liking the attack on my ES175 in the video on that guitar, then that is exactly what you hear in this recording of Grant Green. Of course, I think it is fine for him, but it is not what I want to sound like. I have similar thoughts on the spring reverb that is very present on this album, when I listen now I do wonder if it is not a studio spring reverb instead of the amp, but it is hard for me to tell. Remember that it is quite possible to like how somebody plays without wanting to have the same tone, and for the rest feel free to “open up emotionally” in the comment section.

No Chords, Just Fills

I want to add a short side-note on the harmony Grant Green uses on this song and how he doesn’t use any chords, which is not very common for jazz guitar trios, but I think it is clever how Grant Green uses fills to spell out the harmony next to the melody. This is especially clear on the maj7 chords in the beginning. where you have the 3rd in the melody and then Grant Green plays a riff spelling out movement from the 7th to the 6th which both gives you the chord and suggests some harmonic movement.

He probably got that from the trombone part on the Sonny Rollins version, EXAMPLE And I say that because he also plays the same reharmonization and also the same wrong note in the melody that Sonny plays. The next example is on top of that reharmonization.

Pivot Arpeggio 2.0

The reharmonization here is that you usually don’t go from Fmaj7 to Fm7, but instead it goes from Fmaj7 to Am7 D7, so V of V. Both sets of changes fit the melody which is just a C.

What I want to highlight here is the 4th variation of those Bebop interval skips, because here you have an Abmaj7 pivot arpeggio on top of the Fm7, but Grant Green adds two nice variations to it. You get a leading note to the low C, and there is a trill on the G when he gets back up

The other thing that I want to point out here is how he also uses the enclosure and interval skip on Bb7 to get that nice interval at the end of the line:

Which is similar to what he did on the Eb7 in the first example.

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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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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!

If you want some more jazz blues examples then check out this WebStore lesson:

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Grant Green – How to Bridge Bebop and Blues

Grant Green is the master of mixing Bebop with Blues and playing Swinging rhythms. This video is taking three licks from a solo as an example of the Grant Green Guitar Style. His unigue combination of great rhythms, bebop chromaticism and bluesy simplicity has inspired jazz guitarists for decades.

The Grant Green video 

The three phrases I go over highlight the mix of blues and bebop, the great cross-rhythms and of course some of his other swinging rhythmical ideas. I talk about them and also try to give some suggestions on how to practice playing like this.

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