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The Biggest Problem With Scale Positions and How They Can Ruin Your Progress

You have probably already realized that it is important to practice the right things so that you don’t waste time, and one of the things that most people, including myself, often tell you to work on is learning scales in positions but is that really what you should be working on? One aspect of this approach can waste a lot of time, but being aware of that can also be very useful for pretty much everything else you want to practice.

3 Position systems

There are different ways of creating scale positions with 3 main systems. I actually used or use two of them:

CAGED:

5 positions, built around 5 campfire chords and emphasizes never spreading your left-hand fingers.

3 notes per string:

7 positions built on consistently having 3 notes on each string

The Berklee scale system:

7 positions is focused on staying in one position on the neck.

 

Of course, they all work for more than major scales, so for each system,you have arpeggios and other scales that work together.

I learned scale positions very early on, first a mix of CAGED and 3NPS and later the Berklee scale position system, really just going with what I was told to practice by my teachers, and it was not presented as a grand system that would solve all my problems. On a recent video, I had a conversation with a commenter where we also talked about how we don’t always know exactly how people like Wes and Charlie Christian practiced.

Some of the later guys like Joe PaSs taught things to students and wrote books, so with them there is a better picture of how they worked on things like scales.

ish

With Wes, I don’t know how he thought about it, and I can’t really see it in his playing, but with Charlie Christian, you often clearly see chord voicings as the basis of the line,

which is also why he uses drop2 chords as arpeggios here and there. I think he played from chord shapes more than separate scale shapes.

For this video I am not going to get too much into a discussion of whether you should practice scales at all, it worked for me,  it is clear that Joe Pass did, and Barry Harris uses scales really a lot in his teaching, which is also a part of why it worked for me. I also don’t really want to get into the huge discussion of which scale position system is better, I used the Berklee system and 3nps the most but I also have had periods where I don’t practice scales in positions at all. You can check the old video on my technique practice on the channel if you want to know how that works

Scale Positions Are Great!

Before we get to the problems then let’s first look at why scale positions are useful, because In my experience both as a teacher and a student, then learning scales in positions is a very efficient and practical approach.

#1 Chunks

It is a way to make fretboard overview easier to learn. Instead of learning the entire neck, you can get a very solid overview of a small part of the neck and still start to improvise and develop those skills, so you can learn C major here and improvise over a song in that key and use the diatonic arpeggios to hit the changes.

#2 Moveable

You can move them around. On the guitar, you can move around positions and learning one position really means learning it in all 12 keys, and learning 5 or 7 positions is a lot easier than having to learn the neck for every key, and since the same scales go together in songs then you can move those relationships from song to song and key to key as well.

#3 Complete You won’t play yourself into a dead end in the middle of a solo – Illustration: playing a moving line on Cmaj7, but then have to move back to the play something on D7

It is also very complete. Sometimes I have seen students who were free over some chords in the song and then very limited on other chords, and which meant that they could solo all over the neck but kept being pulled back to one place when certain chords came by.

So there are many reasons for beginners to start with positions, and Joe Pass actually demonstrates a C major CAGED position in the video. (show video with diagram?) and later a scale position that certainly isn’t CAGED, maybe more Berklee System.

Scale Positions Can Be Tricky!

But no system is perfect, and working with positions then there are also things that you do need to take care of so that you actually make the information useful and can use it freely when improvising. Though these first ones are not that difficult to overcome, and not as serious as the last one.

#1 Open up the scale

You need more than just playing the scale. You don’t want to end up sounding like you are just running up and down the scale and only playing scale melodies.

 

You want to really play lines, and Jazz lines also have other things like arpeggios, triads, and chromatic phrases.

However all of these things can be practiced in the scale, so you can practice other melodies in positions by working on diatonic triads, chords, and triad inversions. Of course, you need to practice using them as well but working on that makes sense for so many reasons, and this is of course also what you will hear if you study Barry Harris stuff:

#2 Tie It Together

You want to Connect the information! This is probably one of the most important parts of fretboard visualization. I mentioned in the beginning that all of the different scale systems are not only major scales, they also have arpeggios and other scales, and you want to connect these things as well to get the full benefit of what is going on.

Getting those connections is not that difficult if you are already practicing, for example arpeggios and major scales, just choose a chord and a scale where that chord is diatonic, play the scale position, and try to see the arpeggio in there.

Maybe see if you can make some lines with that material.

Keep in mind that this is the kind of thing that you don’t want to approach in a too systematic way, something I will get back to later.

#3 Scale Boxes Should Not Be Prisons

Another common problem that you will need to overcome is that when you play then you want to be able to move from position to position. The positions should not be walls on the neck that you can’t get over, and there are some really good exercises to really connect the fretboard and become free.

The main thing to spend some time on is to improvise forcing yourself to change position, getting used to seeing the notes in the positions around the one you are playing in, and being able to move to them while continuing your phrase.

Another thing that is useful to work on is practicing along the neck with scales, arpeggios, and other things that you also use in the positions, hopefully recognizing those same shapes in the scale positions.

Here you have a Cmaj7 arpeggio in a C major scale position (using 3NPS)

It Is How You Think About It

B-roll: practicing a scale with overlay of scale fingering? or picture of a neck with overlay

What I mostly see getting in the way with scale position systems is that they are systems and that everything should be approached as a system. It is easy to think that we should learn things in a system, but if you think about it then it quickly becomes clear that working like that is probably going to have you practicing exercises in positions 14 hours every day for years and years, while not playing any music which is not going to work.

You can quickly learn to play the scales in a way that requires very little effort. You see the notes on the neck and use muscle memory, and you also take some exercises to that level, like diatonic triads or 7th chord arpeggios,

but you can’t have that as a goal for every exercise, and at some point playing an exercise probably becomes more about relying on how well you know those basics and then hearing your way through the scale and using that you know the position. It is about a much more useful flexibility.

In the roadmap course, I teach a song using a small area of the neck because I want the students to practice some scale stuff, but the important lesson is what you can do with that, and what many also experience is that if they work on it like that then it becomes something that you can actually improvise with. But in the Roadmap I also get questions about making all the exercises into huge projects in all keys and all positions, and in my experience, that really doesn’t work and you end up not getting the material to a level where you can really use it in your solos.

The main thing to get rid of is probably the idea that you need to play things entirely automatically or as muscle memory, but instead it is about working on exercises to become better at moving and hearing them as melodies through the scale position.

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The Most Important Scale For Jazz

“Scales Are NOT going to solve problems”

I think sometimes when you want to learn Jazz then it is too much about learning 100s of scales, and that is not really what Jazz is about. There are a few scales and especially one scale that is endlessly more important than the rest.

Scales are not going to solve problems for you. if your solo doesn’t sound good, then learning hypochondrian b6 is not really going to make you sound any better over a Blues in F, and focusing on the scale takes away attention from more important things in your playing like the melody, rhythm, and phrasing.

You are much better off focusing on the most used scale and then really learning that, and this is mainly because

  1. it is the most used scale – so you are practicing things that you need to play often and
  2. It Becomes Easier To Learn Other Scales because they are mostly just variations on this one.

So of course, I am talking about the major scale!

Simply because that is the scale that is used the most, it covers the most ground and contains most of the chords.  It is not the only scale you need, but if you really dig into that then you will sound a lot better than if you try to learn 20 scales at the same time. This is also one of the reasons why I am not a huge fan of modes, but I will return to that later. Let’s look at what to learn and what to practice.

The Scale

My thoughts on what to practice are heavily influenced by how Barry Harris taught this in his masterclasses in The Hague. That was maybe one of the most important things I learned from him.

Let’s start with 2 octaves of C major:

When you learn any scale then it is useful to know what notes are in there, so C D E F G A, and it is useful to know the intervals in the scale relative to the root, Root, major 2nd, major 3rd, perfect 4th, perfect 5th etc.

Basic stuff that you want to know, but that you don’t want to think about too much unless you are figuring something out.

Of course, just playing the scale makes for some incredibly boring melodies that everyone will get tired of very quickly, so how do you get further? And THIS is a part of why the scale is important because the approach you use on the major scale will make it a lot easier to learn other scales and make that process a lot quicker.

When you improvise in Jazz then the melodies in your solo follow the chords of the song, and if you are playing a song in the key of C major then a lot of those chords are actually in the C major scale, so you want to be able to find those chords.

I am going to show you how this fits on a very common Jazz progression, a II V I. But first you need to be able to find the chords.

The Chords In There and the II V I

This  also works for other scales, and is something you want to keep in mind for working on them.

A chord is a stack of 3rds, so if you have the scale then you can construct the diatonic triads by stacking two 3rds on top of each other.

Here you will get:

C Dm Em F G Am Bdim C

As you can see below, in Jazz, the basic chord type is usually a 7th chord:

but all you need to get those is to add another 3rd, to get these 7 chords:

The Diatonic 7th chords: Cmaj7 Dm7 Em7 Fmaj7 G7 Am7 Bø Cmaj7

Finding the II V I

Now you have the diatonic chords in the scale, then you can pick out a II V I, since that is just the 2nd,  Dm7, the 5th, G7,  and 1st chord, Cmaj7 in that row of chords

You can play them like this:

And the II V I progression is very common in Jazz and probably the most common building block in Jazz songs, so it is a very useful place to demonstrate how this works and ties in with the major scale.v

You also want to notice that all of these chords are in the scale, so here the scale is a bigger thing containing and tying together several chords in a song, that means that often you stay with one scale but the important notes change with the chords.

Soloing over Chord Changes

Before I get into what exercises to focus on and the Barry Harris thing, then it is useful to look at what you actually need from the scale when you solo.

As I mentioned earlier, when you improvise in Jazz then you follow the chords, and you try to make melodies that make it clear what is happening in the chord progression. The easiest way to do that is to play the notes of the chord, which is what we call the arpeggio.

If you turn the row of chords for C major into arpeggios then you can easily play that through the scale and get some raw material for soloing:

and if you then take the 3 arpeggios of the II V I then you would have something like this:

This still sounds like an exercise, but already if you start being creative with the order of the notes you can turn this into something that sounds more like a melody, something that has a flow moving from one chord to the next:

And of course, the scale sits under this, and you can also use those notes when you solo as you take this further.

How To Really Internalize The Scale

So you already have the exercise that is playing the diatonic chords in scale. Another very useful option is to learn the diatonic triads which as you will see in a bit is great material for soloing as well, and then we can get into some of the Barry Harris-inspired exercises.

You probably remember that to create the 7th chords then you first stacked 3rds to create a triad and then added another 3rd to get the 7th chord.

And the notes of the 3 chords in the II V I are these:

What you want to realize is that the top 3 notes of each chord is a triad, and that means that you can use F major, Bdim and Em as material when you create lines over a II V I:

And create lines like this:

So for soloing it pays off to know your scale, to know the diatonic 7th chords in the scale and the diatonic triads, and it is practical to know what notes are in the chords because that helps you connect other arpeggios and triads to a chord, and it is fairly clear that this is important for almost any scale you want to use, not only the major scale.

But, these are all the basic things to give you an overview of the notes, the harmony, and how it all fits together. Another important thing to keep in mind is that you want to use this for solos, and that should be a part of coming up with what you practice!

Borrowing From Barry’s Vision

One of the things that really changed how I practiced after I had attended my first week-long Barry Harris masterclass in the Hague was a smarter much more efficient way to practice scales.

Several times in the masterclass while Barry had taught us bebop lines and explained how they worked, he had also taken a building block, or a piece of vocabulary, and turned it into a scale exercise.

This direct connection between what you wanted to play in your solos and what you should practice in your scales makes scale practice much more efficient.

I will go over some of the more advanced ones as well, but the basic example that you have probably heard me talk about before is playing the diatonic arpeggios as triplets with a leading note, which is sort of instant Charlie Parker:

And that allows for playing lines like this:

Pivot Arpeggios

Another great exercise that Barry used was pivot arpeggios, so an arpeggio where instead of just playing the ascending arpeggio then you play the first note, and then move the rest of the arpeggio down an octave:

You can turn that into an exercise like this:

And if you take the last Cmaj7, and just add a few chromatic passing notes then it immediately becomes a great Bebop phrase like this:

Getting Creative

And this is where it starts to get really interesting because you really turn anything you like into a scale exercise and then explore how it is to use the same idea or melody on other chords.

As an example you can combine the pivot arpeggio and the triplet with a leading note concept and then create a short building block like this:

 

As you can see it is not a systematic way to combine the pivot arpeggio with the triplet, but it sounds great, and it will work really well in some Bop lines, but first I’ll take it through the C major scale:

And then if you take the Fmaj7 version and use that on a Dm7 you can get something like this:

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3 Reasons Wes Montgomery Is Amazing And Worth Checking Out

Wes Montgomery is the father of modern Jazz guitar, but it was not because he played with his thumb or used octaves. This video explores what is truly amazing about his playing.

Discovering Wes

There are not that many recordings that made such a huge impact on me that I remember where I was and what I was doing when I heard them the first time, but it is amazing when you have that experience. My classical guitar teacher, Morten Skott, had suggested that if I wanted to learn Jazz then I should listen to Wes Montgomery, so I went from that lesson down to the record store and bought a Verve compilation on my way home.

The first tracks didn’t really resonate with me, and especially the string orchestra and big band were not what I expected. I was used to Parker playing with small groups and Scofield playing trio or quartet.

I guess it was the blues that really made the difference for me when I got to the last track on the album, the thumb. My way into Jazz was really coming through blues, I had the same thing with Parker where I completely got, KC Blues, Now’s The Time, and Au Privave but a piece like Donna Lee that I had heard of as being very famous just sounded random and chaotic to me.

The Thumb, is Wes playing in a trio with Ron Carter and Grady Tate, and the track is a masterclass in phrasing and Jazz tradition. Wes makes the trio sound like a big band and really relies as much on swing and blues tradition as he does on bebop harmony, again not unlike Charlie Parker.

It Is Not Playing Octaves With Your Thumb

To me, the essential lessons you learn from Wes are not about playing with your thumb, using octaves, or playing chord solos. Those are really great techniques, but they are just techniques. I think there are much more important things to learn and get into your own playing than focusing on those.

Now, If that offends you then feel free to relieve your anger in the comments, down below.

These discussions with only playing Wes line with your thumb and Django only used two fingers. To me, it doesn’t really make sense, but I guess for hardcore Django fans there is only one way to go…

At the same time if you listen to people like Robin, Christiaan and Mikko then I think have all fingers seems work too.

For the rest, you will probably agree with everything else I say in this video and I have one influence on Wes that I think is seriously overlooked, but I’ll get back to that later.

#1 Not Afraid To Keep It Simple

One of the things that Wes does really well is to make every note count, and he doesn’t rely on using many notes very often.

You can see examples of this in how Wes often uses quarter note with a single note, like this phrase from Four On Six:

and it is common when he plays octaves like this example from the thumb:

In this example from the Thumb, he is actually ignoring the changes and just playing the root for almost 4 bars which is also not that common in Jazz.

You also want to notice that he might be playing one note and only play quarter notes, but he is still playing with dynamics adding an accent to 2 and 4 to lock in with the groove.

#2 The Power Of Short Phrases

Compared to a lot of other great improvisers then Wes plays a lot of short phrases, especially if you compare him to a lot of other Bebop and Hardbop guitarists, but that is also one thing that he uses to make his solos so incredibly melodic and often also incredibly groovy.

Wes will play short melodic ideas and he is a master at tying them together in very creative ways:

In this example, he starts out with call-response between a lower and a higher melody.

Then this is turned into a descending arpeggio motif that he takes through the shifting II V’s

And you can easily hear how the shorter phrases are connected to each other and develop tying the entire segment together as a complete piece of music. Again not playing more notes than needed.

Side-note: If you know your Wes solos, then you will probably notice that I am using fragments from both the Incredible Jazz Guitar version and the Smokin’ at the half note version. This last one was from Smokin at the half note.

Another example of how he employs Call response is from the other recording of four on six:

Here you have a very clear call with octaves and then the response with the arpeggio melody.

Again the idea is that we recognize one part and hear the other part change

The most important aspect of this is that it ties the whole solo together, he is not just playing from one note to the next. He is playing phrases that are related to each other, and often this ties together longer periods like 8 or 16 bars.

I think this is a huge part of what Pat Metheny describes as “melodic clarity” when he talks about how Wes influenced him in the interview on Alex Skolnick’s podcast “Moods and Modes”. If you haven’t heard that then go check it out, it is certainly worth listening to, both for Pat being an amazing musician, but also for Alex’s really useful perspective and explanations that tie together the whole thing.

#3 Repetition Legitimizes

Another thing that is closely related to the short phrases that Wes also really takes advantage of very often is using riffs. In the Thumb he repeats a two-note figure that really comes across as a part of a big band shout chorus:

Example 5

Essentially he plays the same melody with the same rhythm and only changes things to fit the chord progression.

The use of quarter note rhythms and drop2 voicings also really helps to bring the big band vibe.

The Secret to Wes’ Phrasing?

There is one influence on Wes that is rarely mentioned but is clearly very important.

This example is almost a direct quote of the shout chorus riff in Count Basie’s Splanky, and usually we talk about Wes being inspired by Charlie Christian, and you can hear Parker licks in his playing quite often, but you have to remember that he was also growing in a period where popular music was Big Band Swing, and those types of melodies and that type of phrasing is not getting the credit it deserves for being a part of his playing.

Splanky is off the legendary Count Basie album Atomic Basie, and if you want to improve your phrasing and learn to think in shorter riff like phrases in your solos then learning a few of those melodies and playing them along with this amazing big band is probably not the worst idea in the world.

Another example of a similar big band inspired riff is found in his solo on Nica’s Dream, again using rhythm and drop2 voicings to make it really stand out:

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3 Reasons Your Comping Sucks and How To Fix It

Usually when people talk about comping then it is about what chords to play, extensions and voicings, but that is not at all what comping is about. There are other things that you want to focus on that are a little less obvious. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t improve them. And you want to, because otherwise you are going to get fired….

You can probably split this into 3 main skills that you can develop, and these are things that you need to have some control over and you can always develop them further, and if you don’t know them then you will probably ruin the music for everyone!

The upside to this is that the things you will develop with this are also going to make you play better solos, in quite a few ways.

#1 Rhythm

When I went to jam sessions or was teaching combos then one thing that I often had to spend time on was teaching guitarists or piano players to not only think about the chords when they comp.

What Not To Do

I always found that the worst type of comping is when the one comping is only thinking about the notes and the voice-leading and is not taking responsibility for the groove or the interaction at all. Basic things like listening and having a vocabulary of rhythms and grooves is much more important than knowing a ton of fancy voicings.

No Fancy Chords! It’s a Blues

But there are great ways you can work on this. Let’s get rid of the fancy chords!

If you take a Bb Blues then you should be able to play through it with 2-note shells, so just the 3rd and 7th of each chord.

Like this:

When you don’t have more material in your chord then you are not thinking about extensions and colors or how to get to the next chord, so you have a lot more time to work on being creative with rhythm and locking in with the rhythm section.

While you are working on this then you probably start to notice how repeating patterns can be really useful, and make the whole thing strong, solidifying the groove and the chord.

Exercise 2

This is something that you also can spend some time working on, so try to take rhythms from people you like listening to and make them into riffs that you can take through a progression.

Wynton Kelly is a good choice for someone to listen to for this, but a lot of the hardbop guys are really good at laying down a groove like that, if you know a great example of someone comping on a song then leave a comment!

You need to remember that we learn this by hearing how it is supposed to sound, not by reading a book or using some sort of ruleset.

Practicing Riffs

An example of a pattern to practice through a song could be something like this:

And if you try, then you can hear how the consistency that it brings when you make it through the song and how it really helps actually keeps in interesting and also makes whatever variation you play so much more powerful.

I think this is one of the most underestimated things in comping that will make pretty much everyone sound 10 times as good.

The Golden Tip For Comping Rhythms

One thing that can change so much about how you sound when you comp and especially if it grooves is to Be aware of long and short notes, and use that creatively!

There is a big difference between:

and something like:

Essentially the rhythm is the same, and I am only changing between long and short notes.

#2 Melody

When you play chords then melody is one of the most important things to make it sound good. Something that helps you tie the whole thing together.

So, besides rhythms, you want to work on playing strong natural-sounding melodies that make sense.

Simply because this:

Does not sound as good as this:

And the difference is that the 2nd example has a melody, it is in itself a story with an interesting flow and more surprises, so you can easily hear how that works a lot better, but how do you develop that?

There are two things I think you want to work on here, and they both have some nice bonus side-effects for your playing.

Chord Melody Will Teach You

If you want to have great melodies when you are playing chords then learn to put chords under some great melodies, so harmonize great songs and make your own chord melody arrangements, like this fairly dense harmonization of There Will Never Be Another You

When you are harmonizing melodies like this then you are finding practical ways of playing melodies with chords and that is something you can take directly into your comping, and you anyway want to be able to harmonize the melodies you play with others.

Shortcut to Chord Solos

When you can improvise a melody in your comping then this is really just a less active chord solo, and you can still think in motivic development call-response. That is a great way make music with the chords

And comping like this is really just setting you up for playing complete chord solos of harmonized lines, which is one of my favorite things to do!

Let’s look at what is the core of comping, and how not to get fired!

#3 Responsibility

Almost nobody talks about this, but I do think this is the #1 reason that you will be considered a good sideman: You Need to be aware of your role in the band and try to serve the music, not your ego.

What Peter Bernstein is talking about here is the importance of making things clear, and being aware of how the music feels. Making other people feel comfortable while playing is incredibly important and not being afraid to lay down clear harmony for the rest to fly over is underestimated. You might want to show your chops and hip rhythms and chords but you need to know when to do that and when to just support.

Again with this, repeating patterns are often a good place to start because you are giving the soloist something predictable to build on and then you can start the conversation from there.

The Most Important Practice Tip

In the videos that I talk about how to learn Jazz then I often tell you to practice playing songs and make music with the things that you practice, and for me that was always how I worked on comping. You really learn so much from putting on the metronome on 2&4 and cop through a tune, think about how to get it to sound good and what kind of vibe it should have. I think that is the best way to work on this, but also something that whenever I ask students about it they look like it is a completely alien idea.

The Efficient Way To Learn Jazz Chords

There is a way to learn and look at Jazz chords that is much more efficient than just practicing drop2 or drop3 inversions and If you want to connect what you know and have more options to use the skills that you have developed with these exercises then check out this video which shows you how to think and organize that.

Comping A Jazz Standard – This Is How To Get Started

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Make it Easy To Learn Jazz Standards – Important Chord Progressions in Minor

In this lesson, I will go over the most important harmonic building blocks in a minor key, which will help you learn most Minor Jazz standards and give you a ton of options for your own songs.

When you learn Jazz songs, you need to memorize the chord progression, and if you try to do that as a long string of chords, that is NOT going to be very easy. Instead, you want to recognize the smaller building blocks of the song, making it 5 or 6 things to remember instead of 30.

It is a little like going from looking at a row of letters to recognizing the words and reading the meaning, and I am sure that you can see how reading words and remembering the meaning is much more useful than spelling everything.

This lesson will show you how that works.

Hearing The Chord Progression

The way I am going to do this is also important, because it will help you learn and remember songs a lot faster! I will play the different building blocks but I will also play some songs they are used in. Hearing how they sound in a song is probably more important than recognizing them on a piece of sheet music.

If you think about the chords in blocks like this you can use the songs you already know to learn new ones because you recognize how they are similar.

And more what is more important: You know how it sounds

#1 The Most Important Progression

As I will show you later in the video, minor keys do things major keys don’t, like having chord progression that is only one chord but still moves.

But of course, the most common progression is the cadence of the key, the minor II V I.

You have that in most minor songs like Alone Together or Yesterdays. And actually, the next progression is a very common variation on this II V I but it is a little hipper.

A funny side note with the minor II V I is that in the pure form, you use all 3 minor scales, one for each of the chords:

Dø from Natural minor, G7(b9,b13) from Harmonic minor, and Melodic minor on the Tonic chord being m6 or mMaj7. This is, of course, a part of why these are considered more difficult than the major counterpart.

But let’s check out a very common variation that just screams minor.

#2 The Most Minor Cadence

This Chord progression is extremely common in minor and includes a tritone substitution, which is maybe a little surprising since that is mostly seen as a type of reharmonization, but here it sounds surprisingly natural and I will explain why in a bit.

You know this progression from Minor Blues or songs like You Don’t Know What Love Is.

There is a reason that this tritone substitute doesn’t sound so crazy or out of place. The chord consists mostly of diatonic notes, so for Ab7:

Ab C Eb Gb

Is mostly diatonic to C natural minor: CEb F G Ab Bb C

This progression is probably the most common final cadence in minor Jazz Standards. Next, let’s look at an important progression that doesn’t resolve to minor at all.

#3 Another Common Cadence

You don’t always go back to the tonic in a song, there are other places you want to move to or visit in Minor. The relative major is a very common destination. You come across this in songs like Beautiful Love: – First minor cadence then major

or the other way around in Autumn Leaves, first to major then to minor:

It is a nice variation to have, as is the next one which is also a cornerstone in the tonality

#4 We Need To Go To The Subdominant

Another place that many songs go is the IV in the key. You don’t want to just cycle around the tonic all the time, that gets really boring. An example would be Alone Together. It first moves around on the tonic and then before it gets boring it goes to the IV chord.

So a cadence to the IV in the key is useful:

Before we get to the One-Chord-Progressions then let’s look at a few great minor turnarounds.

Should I Make A Major Version?

The minor songs tend to be a little simpler than many major progressions, mainly because there is less use of modal interchange and fewer modulations. But would it still be interesting to make a similar video for major keys?

#5 Turnaround Variations in Minor

There are turnarounds that almost only work in minor, but the two most common and important version is of course the I VI II V in minor:

And the version with a secondary dominant for the II chord, which is again a tritone sub:

 

Another turnaround that is used almost exclusively in minor is the Andalusian Cadence:

But in minor, you only need one chord to create progressions.

#6 Chord Progressions With One Chord

You know both of these examples since they are incredibly famous. These are really just voice-leading tricks that sound great and are often used in the minor.

The first is the “Stairway to heaven/My Funny Valentine” line-cliche which has a static minor chord where the root is moving down in half steps:

Often we forget the other variation of these which is the line-cliche from the 5th which you find in songs like Cry Me A River and of course most famously the Theme from James Bond

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Comping A Jazz Standard – This Is How To Get Started

Just learning the chords is not enough to really play something that sounds like real Jazz Comping, and you need to develop more than just finding some chord voicings.

In this video, I am going to take an easy Jazz Standard, and then show you how you can start with basic chords and step by step develop your comping, improvise with the chords, and lay down the harmony so that it sounds beautiful and interesting.

Level 1 – Basic Chords

Perdido is a great and very easy Jazz Standard to work on if you are new to playing Jazz, and as you will see, it is a good chord progression to develop some very solid comping skills.

If you play through an A part with a basic set of chords then you only need these basic chord voicings

And making this a little more interesting is pretty simple.

Splitting The Voicings In Two

What I am doing here is just adding some rhythms and splitting up the chord voicings in a bass part and a chord part.

Thinking of the chords as two layers like this is actually a really essential way of thinking of grooves, even if it is not that clear in Jazz.

This is of course also what happens with a walking bass and chords where there are clearly two active layers

Let’s have a look at what you can do the chord voicings to start comping with them

Level 2 – Rootless chords and melodies

The first thing to do is to take the basic voicings from example 1 and then turn them into rootless voicings by leaving out the bass note, like this:

And you can take the 3-note voicings in example 4 and try some different melody notes here as well:

You can also start adding melody notes on the top string:

In this way, you also have some small melodic exercises for the chords and that is going to be really useful for the next section when this has to be turned into comping.

Level 3 – Comping

With this material, you can now start to make short melodies and riffs and comp through an A-part. First I’ll show you how that sounds and then talk about how you practice playing like this

As you can see these are small melodies with a few notes on each chord, so you want to keep it really simple so it doesn’t get in the way.

Notice how I am not writing any extensions here because we are improvising with the chords and they are changing all the time, so it is better to just write the basic chord.

Develop Your Comping Rhythms

If you want to develop your own vocabulary then you could start with a single chord and just play simple two note melodies.

You can then take this to the song and start developing your comping.

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How To Make Your Comping Rhythms More Interesting

In this video, I am going to take a simple comping rhythm that you probably already know and show you some different ways that you can develop that and get some new material so that you don’t always play the same rhythms and can start developing your own playing.

Remember: If You Can Comp – You Can Work!

The Most Important Jazz Rhythm Known To Man

Throughout this video I am going to show you how you can mess around with this rhythm and everything is really simple, just playing a II V, but sometimes the rhythm suggests some extra things you can try so there are a few other tricks as well.

As you have probably guessed the first rhythm is just the basic Charleston, if you know only one rhythm, then make it that one.

So this you already know and you should be able to play it on all songs. Actually taking these rhythms through songs is a really good exercise and that goes for all the rhythms in this video.

Adding an Extra note

The first thing we can try is to add an extra note to the charleston

Notice that this rhythm is easier to play but it still sounds great! What you are doing here is adding a note before the 2nd note in the Charleston, but that is of course not the only option.

Syncopated rhythm

and of course, you can also add a note after one of the two notes to get a rhythm like this, which is a basic syncopation.

The way I am going through these examples and coming up with them is really just doing simple things like adding a note here and there or shifting the rhythm as you will see in the next example.

Don’t play on beat 1

The next thing you can try is shifting the entire rhythm.

Here I am moving it an 8th note, so instead of 1 and 2& it becomes 1& and 3. Of course, this works better with really simple rhythms like the one I am using here with only two notes. After this one, I’ll show you a great place to add a chromatic passing chord.

How Do You Practice The Rhythms

The way you get rhythms like this into your playing is probably by repeating them similar to what I do hear and then try to take them through some chord progressions you know like a blues or a standard you are really familiar with.

When you play it like that you really start to hear it and then it will start to pop up in your own comping.

Syncopated Upbeat

This rhythm adds an extra note to the previous shifted rhythm, which makes the first two notes sort of resolve on beat 3. I make that a little more clear by also using a chromatic passing chord to resolve to 3

Using chromatic passing chords on the guitar is often really just about sliding into the chord you want to end on.

The Boogaloo Rhythm

This rhythm is really useful for boogaloo and soul-jazz grooves like Sidewinder and Alligator Boogaloo. It is the original pattern but now shifted an entire quarter note so that it starts on beat 2.

It is the accent pattern that Barry Harris plays on sidewinder and it is a part of what Dr. Lonnie Smith plays on Alligator Boogaloo. These are both songs you want to know by the way.

Chromatic Boogaloo

Here you can add a note as well to have a rhythm like this:

Again I am using the chromatic passing chord on the G7 bar which just slides in place. It can be a little heavy if you make this a groove and have that chromatic note on the 3, but as a comping rhythm among other rhythms, it is fine.

 

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How To Make Your Own Bebop Licks

You already know that Jazz lines use arpeggios and chromatic phrases, but at the same time just knowing that doesn’t mean your lines sound like Bebop, and you don’t want to only play other peoples licks that you transcribed. You need to study phrases and learn how to create and hear those types of lines.

That is what I will show you how to do in this video.

Most of us already practice arpeggios and chromatic passing notes, but one thing is going over exercises another is to put it together and actually use it in your solos. As you will see in this video, One of the best ways to do that is to check out what makes up a strong lick and practice making lines with what you find. In this video, I am going to give you some examples and break them down so that you can take some things away and start using that to get some stolid bop lines into your vocabulary.

And when you strip down the lines then it is pretty amazing how simple they are!

Lick #1

Understanding How a Bebop Lick Works

This is a basic Bebop G7 lick, and it may seem very complicated, but it is really just built around a G7 and a Dm7 arpeggio:

Let’s break it down and then I will show you how you can start playing lines like this yourself:

The first part is a way of adding leading notes moving from F to D in the G7 arpeggio

You can see how the melody is moving from E via Eb down to D, and I am using the G as a chromatic note in between F and E. This is btw a Barry Harris trick.

So moving from F to D becomes F G E Eb D

The Eb to D is played with a pull-off because that gives and accent to the Eb leading note, that is more interesting, and the (boring) resolution is naturally a bit softer.

I am using the same principle between the B and C and inserting a D

Then you have the next part of the G7 arpeggio: G and F

From there the next part is a Dm7 arpeggio with an enclosure around the first note using a scale or diatonic note above and a chromatic note below, E and C#.

The lick ends on the B, adding a grace note.

Making Your Own Licks

Right now it might seem like there are a lot of things happening, and I think that if you want to work on making licks in this way then it makes more sense to just take a single thing and make variations on that, so, for example, take the first phrase and then try to use that together with a G7 or a Dm7 arpeggio

something like this line with G7:

or if you combine it with a Dm7 arpeggio:

And you can also just take the first part of the line and combine that with a Bø arpeggio like this:

Practicing With Material Like This

1 Be able to play the line.

2 to make a line with that chunk and combine it with the scales and arpeggios you use.

And if you work on it like that then you will start to hear melodies with it can come up with great sounding licks of your own that use this.

Let’s have a look at another example and go over some more things you can use in your playing plus see other ways of using what I already covered.

Lick #2

More about how the viewer recognizes the structure?

Maybe you can already begin to see the structure.

The first part is a G major triad in 2nd inversion, followed by a scale run, an Fmaj7 arepggio, and two G7 arpeggio notes.

The G major triad is played in the 2nd inversion with a leading note before the first note.

You can get a lot of interesting melodies by just adding a chromatic leading note before an arpeggio or triad, and practicing this as scale exercises and exploring melodies with it is very effective. Think of melodies like Well You Needn’t or Night in Tunesia

Adding a chromatic passing note to the scale run between A and G

The next part is a descending Fmaj7 arpeggio with an added trill on the first note:

And finally two notes from the G7 arpeggio.

Analyzing Licks for New Vocabulary

Now you are probably beginning to see how you can also transcribe some of your favourite phrases from Joe Pass or Parker and then really try to understand what is being used in there and use this method to get that into your playing.

A huge part of improving our playing is actually figuring out what it is we like and what we need to change, and that is very difficult when you are on the inside looking out.

So now whenever you find something you like in a transcription you can analyze what is going on, and instead of only having a single technique you can copy/paste, you can now start to make it a method for thousands of variations that you can use to develop your own bebop vocabulary.

Let’s check out another lick and get some more things to work with!

Lick #3

This lick is mostly coming from scale melodies, but then you can add a lot of interesting twists and turns to make those more interesting to listen to, but you can already now see that there are some new tools in there that you can use in your own playing.

So, as you can see, then removing the embellishments leaves 3 pretty simple building blocks:

Which is two scale melodies and two notes from the arpeggio

The first part is adding a trill and a leading note around the first D, using hammer-on pull-off to play the fast 16th note triplet and the fast notes really add a lot of energy to the line.

The next technique is one of my favourites, and it is great for making a scale run sound a lot better! Here I am first inserting a low A in between the F and the E, it is similar to the way I use the G in example 1, but adding this large interval below sounds great.

I follow it up with another chromatic leading note between E and D

The next scale run is another example of how you can get a great sound out of adding a lot of passing notes in a line. Here it is also really changing the direction of the line and making it much more playful and surprising.

Chromatic note from D to C, Chromatic note above between C and B, and an extra leading note below the B.

And then finally two arpeggio notes to still nail the sound of the chord

More Bebop Vocabulary

If you want to build your bebop vocabulary and play more interesting lines then check out some this download:

Take The A Train – Bebop Embellishments

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Jazz Chords – Using Triads in Jazz Comping – Study Guide

You can use triads to play jazz chords, and it is a very powerful tool for this. Triads are very flexible and easy to play while also sounding great as chords. In this playlist, I will go over how you can use the triads you already know to play great sounding jazz progressions using only easy 3-note jazz chords.

We can play a wide range of chords with these 3-note easy jazz chords and they are very easy to add notes to or change notes to give us the extensions or alterations we want.

You can check out the videos here or go through the playlist on YouTube through this link:

Jazz Chords – Using Triads in Jazz Comping – Study Guide

Working with Triads as Jazz Chords and making it a flexible tool

This video discusses how you can work with triads and inversions when comping, showing you how to voice-lead them, use inversions, and add extensions and alterations.

Finding Triads for 7th chords

This video is actually about soloing, but the first few minutes provide a very thorough method for relating triads to a 7th chord.

Playing a Jazz Standard using Triad voicings

In this lesson, I am going to show you how you can get started with some triad voicings. Starting with what you already know and then go over 5 levels, step-by-step, of how you can play some great sounding comping ideas using these amazing voicings.

Applying Triad voicings to a Jazz Blues

This lesson is going over how you find triad voicings for a C jazz blues. You will also learn what you can do with the voicings you find using melodies and inversions.

 

Other great 3-note Jazz Voicings to Add To Your Vocabulary

When you think about Jazz Chords then you are probably thinking about rich chords with a lot of beautiful extensions. Of course, the rich colors of Jazz are about having chords that are embellished like this. At the same time when you are playing Jazz and when you are comping then you also want to have flexible chords so that you can move from one to the next, create small melodies and 3-note chords are fantastic for this.

 

Using less common Triad choices on a Maj7 chord

This video is going over 6 triads that I use for my Cmaj7 voicings and will also demonstrate how you can use them in a II V I cadence in C major. At the end of the video, I go over 4 more triads that are a bit tricky to use but also yield more interesting sounds!

Let me know what you think!

These videos give you a path to work on using triads and becoming very flexible with them, is there something you are missing or maybe something else you would like to see?

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Altered Scale – How To Make It Sound Amazing

The Altered scale is a very common sound in Jazz and also one that can be tricky to get into your playing. In this video, I am quickly going to cover how you get it to work in your playing and what to practice and focus on. Then I am going to go over some examples of what you can use and how you can get that to sound fantastic in your solos with a little bit of practice.

The Altered Scale is a mode of melodic minor, and there are many great sounds in there that you can use in your own playing.

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Content:

00:00 Intro

00:47 What the altered scale is for a dominant?

01:46 The 2 problems with the altered scale

02:24 How to get around that just by thinking a little bit differently.

03:06 Lines with Direction and Target Notes

03:44 Using the “trick” to make lines

05:06 More Diatonic Arpeggios

06:12 Non Diatonic Arpeggios

06:38 Triad Pairs

07:19 Quartal Arpeggios

08:04 Drop2 voicings

08:45 Sus4 triads

09:31 Melodic Minor is Awesome!

09:37 Like the video? Check out my Patreon page

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