Tag Archives: how to play guitar

How To Go From Scales to Great Jazz Phrases

You are practicing scales so that you know what to play in your solos, but, like me, I am sure that you are quickly realizing that running up and down the scale is a pretty boring solo. Scales is just not music. You need to learn how to take the raw material of the scale and turn that into musical phrases that you can actually use in a solo.

Scales Are Boring

This is about how you think about what you are playing, and realizing that Jazz is a language that you need to learn to speak on your instrument, but, as you will see, once you get used to that thought then that can also help practice in a much more efficient way and get to enjoy your own playing more.

You already know your scales and hopefully, you also checked out some of the essential exercises like the diatonic triads and 7th chord arpeggios in there since those are very useful for not sounding like you are just running up and down a row of notes.

 

If you don’t know those exercises then check out this lesson on practicing scales.

Jazz Beginner Mistakes – How To Learn Scales

You want to avoid playing solos that just sound like you are running up and down the scale without any direction, completely at random.

Which doesn’t really sound like something that works in a solo.

How To Play A Jazz Phrase on a Cmaj7

So how do you solve this? You need to find a way to construct lines that are not just using random scale notes and that also make sense as an interesting melody and sounds like Jazz.

To keep it simple, let’s just say that you are improvising over a Cmaj7 chord and then I will show you how to start making lines that actually work.

Instead of playing random notes then you want to play something that connects with that chord. A Cmaj7 is C E G B (chord with diagram, right side) and if we play those notes then that will work really well with the chord.

With this you can already start to make something that sounds like music:

The difference is that it is not just running up and down the arpeggio, but instead, you try to hear a melody with the notes, adding some rhythm and hearing where it ends. But it is still pretty limited, so let’s add in some more notes in there, which is easy because there are 3 more notes in the scale.

Scale Notes and Phrases

If you make a line with the arpeggio notes and then start to add in the scale notes around it then you can create something like this:

As you can see the most of the notes are still the chord tones, and the way they are placed in the melody then they still help us connect to, or hear the chord, in fact, you can remove the scale notes and still have a great sounding line:

Sounding Like Jazz – Rhythms and Accents

One of the most important parts of getting a phrase to sound like Jazz is to get some syncopated rhythm in there. You can do this by either using syncopated rhythms like this:

Or by accenting notes so that the accents give you a syncopated rhythm

You get those accented notes by having a high note on an off-beat. In the beginning, you probably need to practice making and hearing melodies like that, but then it gradually becomes a natural part of how you hear melodies and how you improvise.

Adding Some Beautiful Wrong Notes

Another thing that you hear in something like a Wes Montgomery, George Benson or a Charlie Parker solo is chromaticism, which essentially means using wrong notes to create some tension that resolves to a right note. If you just play the “right” notes then it is as if you are missing something, and if you just play the chromatic notes then that sounds like you are just playing something wrong.

It has to make sense in the melody and resolve in the right way.

In this example, you have two types of chromatic phrases. Passing notes that resolve to chord tones, like this:

You can create chromatic phrases that resolve to a chord tone. Here it is connecting 7th to the 5th, G in half-steps. You can also have chromatic phrases that move around the resolution like this:

The enclosures you have here are targeting chord tones, first the 5th and then the 3rd: l (isolate enclosure of G and E)

And of course you want to end up with phrases that combine the two like this:

How You Practice Making Phrases

What you have seen until now are different options for building blocks, so small fragments that you use to build phrases with like the arpeggio, the scale, and two types of chromatic phrases. If you want to work on playing better lines then you should work on putting together phrases, but you can also learn a lot from studying how your favorite soloist plays. The way you do this is by analyzing the solo and try to figure out what building blocks are used and how the different blocks are put together.

Transcribing and analyzing phrases is really powerful because it comes from music that inspires us, and you start with what you hear.

This is not the only option, you can also work with making variations of building blocks by moving them around the scale, onto other chords or using rules not unlike what you find Barry Harris doing in his workshops.

In this video, I was only talking about using the arpeggio of a single chord, but there are many other options that you can work on. If you want to explore how you can start using different arpeggios for a chord and also how you make bebop inspired lines with them then check out this lesson on: “the most important scale exercise in Jazz”

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What Really Makes It Sound Like Jazz?

You already know that just playing the pentatonic scale doesn’t really make it sound like a great blues lick. There are other important things like bends and vibrato that make it sound great.

Of course, this is true for Jazz as well: It is not enough to just run up and down the arpeggio to make it sound like a great Jazz line. You want to play things that sound like this:

In this lesson, I am going to show you some of the techniques you can use to add some jazz phrasing or flavor to your playing, and you don’t need a million scales and arpeggios for this, and this is more important and much more effective

It is Not a Rule Book, It Is A Sound

I am going to use Blues as a reference in this video because most people already have some experience with that and a clear idea about when something sounds like blues or not.

I don’t know if you ever thought about it, but you probably did not learn to play or recognize Blues by reading a list of rules, at least I certainly did not read a Blues rule book.

You just heard it so much that you can recognize the general sound. I think it is important to keep that in mind, and in this video, I am going to give you some examples and then in those examples point out what gives it a Jazz sound.

That way you learn to recognize it and also have a way of using it in your own playing.

Sliding Into It

Here I am making the line work by sliding into the B and then continuing down an Am7(9) arpeggio. This way of changing how some of the notes sound really makes the line a lot more interesting.

And you can use this with any type of material, it also sounds right if you are just sliding into notes in the pentatonic scale:

One of the things you really want to avoid is that all the notes sound the same, this is just one trick, let’s look at some more that you can add to your playing.

 

Fast and Easy Embellishment

One problem that you can run into as a beginner jazz guitarist is that you play long winding 8th note lines, and they have all the right notes and arpeggios, but it still doesn’t really work.

But one of the things that can make a line like this a lot more interesting is to add some embellishments like this:

And you can practice playing these small legato embellishments and insert them into your playing. Some common ones to know would be these:

Notice how they are all small clusters of fast notes targeting a chord tone in Am

You already heard how the first two sound. The last one could be put to use on an Am7 like this:

Here I am targeting the 5th of the chord using a variation of the last embellishment in example 7

Changing The Rhythm

Of course, there are many other ways you can change the rhythm besides embellishments, but one that I think deserves a mention here is 8th note triplets, and especially playing arpeggios as 8th note triplets. This is pure Bebop or instant Bebop, and a great way to make an 8th note line more varied.

Here I am using it on the Am7 arpeggio. You can also use it on descending arpeggios as I did in the beginning of the video or like this:

I have a few other videos where I talk about practicing arpeggios and I am not going to go over it in too much detail here, you can check those out through the link in the description. Let’s look at maybe the most important part of how you get a line to sound like Jazz: Dynamics

The Notes Are Not The Same

Not every note is the same, and they should also not be played the same. I have mentioned before how Bop lines are all about the rhythms that are hidden in the accents and also how that is a big part of why Jazz is rarely played with overdrive or distortion because we want to have the ability to make the notes have very different dynamics.

What this is really about is making lines where you can add accents in the right places. Something where we, frustratingly enough, don’t have a rule book.

But!

You should work on adding accents to your lines and also work on writing lines that allow for interesting accents.

A lick that doesn’t really work would be this:

But if you try to create melodies where the high notes are on off beats then you can end up with something a lot more interesting like this:

Here the melody has a high note on 3& in the first bar and on 2& in the second bar that I can give an accent, and this makes it a lot less heavy and much more groovy.

Starting to hear the phrases as these flowing notes with some notes popping out is a huge part of Jazz phrasing and if you start to get that into your system then you can make almost anything sound like Jazz.

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Get This Right About Everything You Practice

It is difficult to find time to practice and keep learning, so it is very important to not waste time with the things that you practice. Exactly what you practice is going to be different from person to person, but there are some useful questions that you can ask yourself about what you have in your guitar practice that will help you check that it will make sense to spend time on and is not a waste of time.

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Content:

00:00 Intro

00:28 Clear Goals

01:29 What Do I Need?

02:16 What Do I Learn?

02:44 The Right Way To Plan Practice

03:18 How Do I Practice Better?

03:30 Raw Material

04:02 Basic Application

04:30 Make Music With It

04:59 Going Through A Song

05:28 Use It Or Lose it!

05:58 Like the video? Check out my Patreon page!

 

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Harmonic Minor Is Amazing On These 3 Chords

The Harmonic minor scale is a very distinct sound and it is one of the cornerstones in the songs we play. It is also just a beautiful color that you can add to your solos. In this video, I am going to show you how you can apply the harmonic minor scale to some chords and get some great sounds.

I sometimes see people comment that you don’t need the harmonic minor scale, I think this video will clearly show you why you don’t want to miss it.

I am going to apply it to 3 chords, and to have some chords that you can use we need to just check out the diatonic chords in harmonic minor.

A harmonic minor – What we use it for and why

A harmonic minor is: A B C D E F G# A

The diatonic 7th chords of A harmonic minor would be:

AmMaj7 Bø Cmaj7(#5) Dm7 E7 Fmaj7 G#dim

The 3 chords that I am going to focus on are the 3 last diatonic chords: E7, Fmaj7 and G#dim.

Two are extremely common and in a lot of songs and one is a very specific sound that is a great way to change things up a bit and a good introduction to poly chords.

One way to understand Harmonic minor is to see it as a minor scale that Is changed so that we have a dominant chord.

The A natural minor scale has these diatonic chords:

Am7 Bø Cmaj7 Dm7 Em7 Fmaj7 G7

A harmonic minor A B C D E F G# A has these diatonic chords:
AmMaj7 Bø Cmaj7(#5) Dm7 E7 Fmaj7 G#dim

You want to have a dominant chord to really hear that the piece is in A minor. This is the primary function for A harmonic minor

E7 – In Minor and in Major

In this scale we have an E7 with a b9 and a b13:

E G#B D F A C

You get this chord by stacking 3rds in the scale.

This gives us these E7 chords shown below. Of those three the E7(b9,11) is not that nice, but the E7(b9,b13) is a great description of how the dominant sounds.

And some of the arpeggios that work well for this chord would be:

Using E7 from harmonic minor

You can use the E7 in a minor II V I like this:

But it also works great in a major cadence as a surprising sound that quickly resolves back to the tonic:

G#dim – More than just A minor progressions

If you look at the A harmonic minor scale and the key of A minor then the G#dim is a dominant chord that wants to resolve to the tonic

Notice that I don’t use harmonic minor on the tonic chord, I am using melodic minor which is a more common tonic minor sound.

The “difficult” dim chord

But in Jazz we mostly come across subdominant diminished chords, and here the harmonic minor scale is also very useful. Mostly the diminished chord is then written as an Abdim chord like this in F major:

Am7 Abdim Gm7 C7 Fmaj7

The way you arrive at the A harmonic minor scale here is by altering the F major scale:

F major: F G A Bb C D E F

And if you want to fit the dim chord in there then we need an Ab(or G#) and a B:

F G# A B C D E F = A harmonic minor

An example of a line sounds like this:

Fmaj7(#9,#11) – Harmonic Minor Poly Chord

This chord is not very common, in fact I don’t think it is in any Jazz Standards I know. It is however a great different sound that you can use to play something surprising in a solo. Monk used this chord in Round Midnight and Wayne Shorter uses it in Speak No Evil.

This chord is in fact the diatonic chord on F in the scale:

A harmonic minor: A B C D E F G# A

Fmaj7(#9,#11) : F A C E G# B

You could look at this as being an E major triad over an F major triad.

The way you usually play this chord on guitar is like this where you leave out the 5th of the lower triad:

A line using this sound as a substitute for a tonic F major chord:

Melodic Minor – The Other Cornerstone

Harmonic minor is a cornerstone in tonal harmony and is what you want to use for a lot of essential chords in a key. Another very important and also very beautiful minor sound that sounds really great on especially tonic minor chords is melodic minor. If you want to check out this scale and how to use it then this video will really give you something to work with.

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This Is A Better Strategy For Jazz Guitar

Most jazz guitar lessons will tell you that you need to know your scales all over the neck, you need to know all the arpeggios and all the chords, understand all the theory. But what nobody seems to talk about is what order you should learn this in, and does learning jazz guitar mean that you first have to learn 3-5 scales in 7 positions with 7 diatonic arpeggios each?

Content:

0:00 Intro – Can you play Jazz without 2 years of scale practice?

0:34 How Most of us get into Jazz (me included)

1:16 Wes Montgomery Practicing Scales

1:36 Jazz is not a skill

1:56 Where does it go Wrong?

3:32 What Are You missing?

4:14 How To Fix It

4:46 A more simple approach

5:32 How It Works on a Song

5:58 Quick Analysis of the Chord Progression

7:07 The Scales we need

8:02 Making it a short compact amount of material to practice in 5-10 minutes,

8:45 Like the video? Check out my Patreon page.

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Jazz Phrasing Techniques – How To Get A Better Jazz Flow

Jazz is a musical language, we talk about learning vocabulary and learning phrasing all the time. But I do see a lot of students only
practicing what notes to play and really missing out on how to learn to phrase so it sounds like jazz.

So let’s say that you can make a line like this one:

It sounds good, but it sounds a lot better if you play it like this:

That’s what I want to talk about in this lesson!

Listen for the phrasing and the techniques used

First I am going to give you some examples of the different techniques you can use and then I am going to go over how you can start using it in your own playing for arpeggios, jazz blues and making scale runs much more interesting.

In a way this is a video on legato technique, but it is really more about how you use it make better lines.

How does it make it sound better?

In the example below I am using a slide to move from the chromatic leading note to the root. This brings out the more interesting chromatic note that “doesn’t fit” and it makes the resolution more subtle.

At the end of the 1st bar you can see a 3 note grouping starting on G. The pull-off gives the G an accent which sits well in the groove. The next phrase is the same phrase that is move down a half step and executed in the same way. This shifts the 3-note group but also ties together the line across the two chords.

The trill on beat 3 of the 2nd bar is also a way to add movement in the 8th note line.

More rhythm, more phrasing!

The example here below uses some of the same techniques but is a lot less dense.

The G# leading note is sliding up to the A, again using the concept of bringing out the “interesting” chromatic note and not the resolution. This is also what happens at the end of the line going to G.

The pull-off in the triplet is here more functioning as a way to make the melody more playable.

How do you get this into your own playing

For you to start working with this type of phrasing and techniques you should start looking at the lines you make and spot how you can add to the phrasing.

Example 4a here below is a really basic Gm7:

This can be embellished with a leading note as shown in 4b which makes it sound a lot better:

Adding Dynamics to spice it up

Legato is a great way to add some dynamics and make a lick less monotonous.

Try playing this line:

Instead of playing this by picking each note and make it pretty even you can add a lot of life to it and get it to sound a lot better:

A key ingredient of Jazz Blues

Using grace notes and slides are really what makes Blues work in Jazz lines. Try to listen to these two ways of playing the same melody, first with and then with out the embellishing phrasing:

And without:

Leading notes to arpeggios

A great and easy way to add some interesting phrasing is to use leading notes. This works especially well with arpeggios as shown in the example below, where I am adding an F# in front of the Gm7 arpeggio.

Keep it practical

If you want to practice this then you could explore exercises like this one. Notice how I am using slides in some places and hammer-ons in others. It really just depends on what is easier to use in each case.

Making your scale runs more fun to play

Scale runs can quickly become boring. In this section you have two licks with scale runs and I will shouw you how to make add some more movement with simple embellishments.

Example 7 has a scale run in the 1st half of the bar. This is turned into a triplet rhythm with a slide and hammer on/pull-off. What really helps here is also that the direction now changes within the run so it is less predictable.

Example 8a and 8b use a similar approach for the first part of the bar. Here the scale run also introduces a larger interval from D up to the G on beat 3.

Build your own phrasing!

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If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics then please let me know. Leave a comment on the video or send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make them fit what you are searching for.

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Amazing Little Solo Exercise That You Don’t Want To Miss

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.

Cmaj7

Fm7

Bb7

Cmaj7

Bbm7

Eb7

Abmaj7

Am7

D7

Dm7

G7

Cmaj7

Eb7

Abmaj7

Db7

If you want to download a PDF of my Arpeggios then there is a from further down in the article.

Getting Started

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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If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics then please let me know. Leave a comment on the video or send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make them fit what you are searching for.

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5 Things That Will Boost Your Jazz Guitar Playing

When I look back at when I learned how to play jazz guitar then there are some things that I did which in hindsight clearly helped me get further and took me up sometimes several levels.

Most of these habits I didn’t think about in a strategic way, but I think that if you are trying to learn Jazz then these 5 tips are important for you to consider and will help you learn more and learn faster, which in the end also often means having more fun doing so.

Check out how to Practice Jazz Guitar

This is a Good 10-minute Practice Routine

30 min Jazz Practice Routine How To Find The Perfect Balance

Content

0:00 Intro

0:34 #1 Be Consistent

2:32 #2 Focus on Playing Music 

2:50 Achievable goals and using what you practice

3:14 Difference between learning an Arpeggio and Using it in music

4:08 #3 Play with Others

4:23 Responsibility and using what you practice

5:34 It is also about motivation

6:29 #4 Learn by Ear

6:59 What You Learn

7:29 A song I learned from Vic Juris

7:59 How to learn a song by ear

8:27 Learn Jazz Solos by Ear – What You Learn

9:03 A great alternative to start with

9:35 #5 Be Creative and Decide How It Should Sound

9:54 How do YOU want to sound?

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If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics then please let me know. Leave a comment on the video or  send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make them fit what you are searching for.

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3 Ways To Play More Interesting Rhythms In Your Solos

Learning to play solos where the rhythm really sounds like Jazz is difficult and it is probably the most important part of Jazz. Jazz Rhythm is a language that you need to develop.

What you want to focus on is practicing things that help you hear phrases that have those rhythms in them. They have to be in your ear and in your system if you want them to come out into your playing.

Content:

0:00 Intro – Jazz Rhythm – Hearing Phrases with great rhythms

0:30 #1 Themes and Melodies

0:45 Internalizing melodies = internalizing rhythms

1:34 Using Theme Rhythms in Solos – Tenor Madness

2:04 The other elusive skill for Jazz Playing

2:18 Rhythmical Target Notes

2:33 The Different Kinds of Target Notes

2:53 Example: 4& as Rhythmical Target on a Turnaround

3:40 #3 Rhythmical Displacement

4:13 Example Motif from Bernie’s Tune

5:20 More than just the notes

5:40 Like the video? Check out my Patreon Page

The Magic Chord – 10 ways to Use this Amazing Jazz Chord

The Magic Chord is a great name for this Maj7(b5) voicing. This is because it can work for a lot of different jazz chords sounds and sounds really great as a lot of useful chords. The Magic Chord can be seen as an advanced chord concept, but really is a very practical way of playing a lot of chords.

In this video, I am going over 10 examples of how you can use this voicing as dominants, tonic minor, half-diminished, Phrygian chords and altered dominants. It really hits some great extensions and chord sounds in harmony from both Major and Melodic minor scales.

Content:

0:00 The Magic Chord (just ask Herbie Hancock)

0:43 II V I in C major

1:17 II V I in D minor

1:52 Phrygian Chord to Tonic – C Major

2:26 II V I in D major

2:58 IIø Valt I in A major

3:31 II bVII I in C major

4:02 II Valt I in Bb major

4:37 II bII I in C major

5:09 II V I in Eb major

5:42 II bVII I in G Major

6:15 Like The Video? Check out my Patreon Page!