Working with limitations can be a really good way to help you explore and dig deep into how you solo over a chord progression.
This exercise that I am going to show you works great as a few different levels of practicing and will help you develop:
- Fretboard overview
- Making it impossible to rely on habits
- Creativity with Rhythm and Melody
I am going to apply this to the song Ladybird in the video, but I actually also used to practice this with a single pentatonic scale, and you can also change the way you approach it so that it fits you.
Start with a song you know, but you can also use it to open up songs you are studying and really work on connecting the harmony and moving freely through the chords.
A Pretty Simple The Exercise
I am going to stick to one position and use 3 strings to really explore:
- How the changes connect
- What Melodies I can make
- How to make music with a limited amount of notes
It is a limitation but it is also in a way really making it a lot easier because I don’t have to think about a million possibilities and scale…
Ladybird and Some arpeggios
If you look at the Chord Progressions of Ladybird you can see that essentially it is in C major:
The Basic Scale position and reduction
Since the song is in C major then the basic scale position could be:
And I am going to reduce that to these 3 strings:
The Arpeggios and REALLY knowing the Harmony
The first part of the exercise is to take this small area of the neck and find all the arpeggios. This is because I want to improvise in this area just using the arpeggios, which is a great way to REALLY solidify your fretboard knowledge and know the harmony of the song.
The way I found these arpeggios is using my fretboard knowledge, so the way that I see the notes on the neck and how I organize using the Arpeggio fingerings that I am familiar with. It is very important that you use your own version of this, you could play through mine and see what you think, but it is more important that you use your own choices, that is the information you want to get better at using and my arpeggio fingerings may not help you with that.
If you want to download a PDF of my Arpeggios then there is a from further down in the article.
The first exercise is to use the arpeggios above and then solo on the song.
If this is completely new to you then it can be good to run through the song in rubato and get used to making melodies within these limitations.
I play two different solos with this in the video, one with and one without a backing track.
What You Want To Improve
What you want to focus on when playing like this:
- Freedom when improvising, try new things
- Using your overview of the fretboard
- Find NEW melodies
The Next Step – Adding the context
The next thing you can start working with is to take the overview you have of the arpeggios and the harmony and then add in the rest of the material you usually use, so scale, chromaticism etc.
I have a solo demonstrating that in the video as well. Again you want to focus on how free you are and finding new things to play. Really digging in and getting everything out of the few notes you have available.
Putting this to use on other Jazz Standards
It is important to work through the harmony of standards and really get the scales and arpeggios under control just like you need to know the melody and the chords by heart.
This collection of lessons will help you build that foundation for 5 songs:
Getting more arpeggios and scale positions
If you want to expand your knowledge of arpeggios and scales you can also check out the PDF chart section of my website:
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You can also download the PDF of my examples here:
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