Tag Archives: how to play jazz guitar

The Two Reasons Triads Are Amazing For Jazz Solos

Usually, you connect Jazz with chords with a lot of extensions and alterations. But Triads are still an amazing resource that you can create beautiful lines with and something you definitely want to check out. In fact, you can use triads to add some things to your playing that are essential to Jazz and not just about what notes you play over a chord.

Of course, there are more than two things that are great about triads, but the two I talk about here are really useful for Jazz, but If you have other suggestions why triads are great and how you can use them then leave a comment.

Diatonic Triads – The Raw Material

Before you start using the triads then you should also have an overview of them and two things you can work on to have that overview would be to practice the diatonic triads in the scales:

and also check out the triads on string sets like this:

This is simple and basic stuff, you want to know diatonic triads and 7th chords for all scales that you need for soloing, and please start with major scales because you need that the most.

Triads Can Help Your Rhythm

First I want to show you how you can use triads to create more interesting rhythms in your lines. One problem that many students run into, and I know I did, is that when they figure out how to play changes, then everything starts to sound heavy and obvious when it should be light and swinging.

So you don’t want to sound like this

What is missing here is that the rhythm and the melodies are predictable and all move to and from the heavy beats

And instead, you want the accents to be on off-beats more syncopation and more surprising and a lot lighter. Since triads are 3 notes they are really good for having melodies that shift accents and make the solo dance more. Something like this:

So I am playing triads to create a pattern of 3 notes that shifts on top of the 4-4 meter and in that way sound a lot better.

And you can explore this in many ways, you can also add chromatic passing notes and not only use triads but still get a great effect:

Finding Triads

To come up with lines like this then it is useful to find the triads that sound great over a chord. Then you have some options to create the licks that sound great.

I am going to give you an easy way to explore that, before covering the other great triad trick you that is super useful for so many other things as well. There is a very easy way to do that by writing the scale out in 3rds.

So for Dm7, this is coming from the C major scale, which you can write in 3rds like this:

C E G B D F A C E G

The Dm7 chord is here: D F A C, and the triads we can use would be

Dm, F, Am, and C which you can see still contain some basic chord tones and also adds some beautiful extensions.

The G7 that you heard in the examples was coming from the C harmonic minor scale, so in fact, you are borrowing the dominant from minor to get some interesting notes, and also some really great sounding triad options:

So here you have the C harmonic minor scale written out in 3rds.

C Eb G B D F Ab C Eb G

The G7 is here! and then you have the triads G Bdim and Ddim, but Eb augmented works as well and you can make some really interesting melodies with them.

Writing out stuff like this is incredibly useful for your overview of the scales and will give you a ton of options to use in your solos.

Change The Chords!

The other thing that triads do really well is that you can get your melodies to make sense by playing the triads of a super-imposed progression and in that way create a sort of counterpoint to the original chord progression. Because you are playing something that works but also moves differently.

This is pretty easy, you can do this on a single chord like this:

Here I am playing a short walk up Cmaj7 Dm7 Em7 just using the basic triads and since Em sounds great on C major then the Dm triad just becomes a diatonic passing chord used in the melody that resolves back into the sound of the Cmaj7. But it really adds some movement instead of just playing up and down a Cmaj7 arpeggio.

More Chord Progressions

The same type of concept used on a II V I could give you something like this:

Here I am using triads from both C major and C harmonic minor, first walking up Dm and Em and then Fm and G from harmonic minor adding a Ddim before resolving. In this way, you have a line that shifts on top of the meter with 3-note groupings and also adds a different kind of movement in the chords.

Notice how using stepwise movement is a pretty easy and strong way to create these progressions.

This is a variation of the same idea, but now moving down from F to Dm and then using a D dim triad to get the G7(b9) sound.

If you really want to open up this type of thinking then you want to also add the triads in the altered scale, that gives you something like this:

Here the chord progression is F and Am on the Dm7 and then Abm and Db on the G7alt . You can hear how this also might work as chords:

And you sort of can turn the G7alt into a tritone II V using Abm7 Db7.

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Pentatonic Scale In Jazz – Exploring An Important Sound

These videos will show you how to develop Jazz lines and use them on Jazz Chords and Progressions so that you can start with material that you already know in Jazz.

When You Start Playing Jazz then using the Pentatonic Scale to really get the sound of different chords with alterations and extensions.

Check out the videos on YouTube

You can check out the videos as a playlist on YouTube here:

Pentatonic Scale in Jazz – Exploring an Important Sound

7 Pentatonic Tricks That Will Make You Play Better Jazz Solos

You might be getting Pentatonic scales wrong, and it is a really great and powerful Jazz sound even when you are using a very basic version of it. In this video, I am going to talk about how to come up with great pentatonic scale jazz licks and go over 7 ways to use pentatonic scales over chords I will start really simple and go pretty far out.

This pentatonic scales guitar lesson takes a look at how you can get some solid jazz licks using for the biggest part very basic pentatonic scale shapes and positions that you already know. For most guitar players the pentatonic scale is one of the first things we learn.

Check out the article here: 7 Pentatonic Tricks

9 Surprising Pentatonic Scale Secrets on a Blues

Pentatonic Scales and Modern Jazz go hand in hand just like a guitar and pentatonic scale do. In this video, I am going to try to bring the two together using a 12 bar blues and demonstrating 9 ways you can apply pentatonic scales to this chord progression. The ideas are not only going to be on which scale to use on which chord, but more about finding a series of pentatonic scales that you can use to create other movements on top of the jazz blues.

The blues is a great progression to explore reharmonizations and super-imposed pentatonic scales. There are a lot of very standard chord changes that can be approached in many interesting ways. Most of the examples are using several scales to demonstrate other ways to move through the changes, but there are also a few surprising scale choices for a chord here and there.

Each of the concepts is demonstrated on the 12 bar F blues and then the idea is analyzed and explained.

Check out the article here: 9 Pentatonic Scale Secrets on a Blues

The Things You Should Know In The Pentatonic Scale

The Pentatonic scale is one of the first things we learn on guitar, and it is also a great scale to use on top of Jazz Chords. But there are also a lot of really great melodies and arpeggios that most people don’t use. In fact, it is one of the best ways you can make really melodic sounding licks with large intervals.

In this video, I am going to show some of them and how you can use them in some really great sounding lines and not only try to play Eric Clapton’s licks on maj7 chords.

Check out the article here: Pentatonic Scales – You Should Know This

Pentatonic Scale vs Arpeggios – Focus on The Right Things

What to focus on when learning Jazz Guitar: The Pentatonic Scale that you know or the arpeggios that everybody keep talking about? It is difficult to make the right choice, but you also want to get it right so that you don’t practice something that won’t help you get what you want from playing Jazz!

Check out the article here: Pentatonics vs Arpeggios

5 Pentatonic Scales That Sound Great On A Maj7

A Pentatonic scale is a great resource to get some solid melodies and colorful extensions to shine on a maj7 chord. In this video, I am going to go over 5 options for pentatonic scales that are really great on a maj7 chord.

Some of them you know already, but I will also show you how to get them to sound a little more interesting.

A few others you probably don’t know and I actually had a hard time finding the right name for them.

I am going to go over the 5 scales but also give you some tips or hacks on how to make more interesting melodies with pentatonic scales because that is something that is very underestimated.

Check out the article and PDF here: 5 Pentatonic Scales for a Maj7

1 Pentatonic Scale over 8 Chords – Jazz Guitar Lesson

In this guitar lesson I will take one pentatonic scale and show you how it you can improvise over 8 different chords with it.

All the examples in this jazz guitar lesson are using the E minor pentatonic scale, and it is quite amazing the wide range of guitar chords you can use a simple pentatonic scale on.

Even if you already know how to play over chords, you should always be looking for new ways to come up with melodies and chances are that in this lesson you might find new inspiration to add some jazz scale sounds to your vocabulary that you don’t already use!

Check out the article and PDF here: 1 Pentatonic Scale on 8 Chords

Do you really know the pentatonic scale?

Most guitarists learn the pentatonic scale as one of the first things they ever learn on the guitar, and most of the time it is not a scale that we think too much about when we use it. It’s just the pentatonic scale and it’s something that is in our ears and fingers for years, even if we are already for the rest playing music with extended chords, altered dominants etc.

In this lesson I am going to take apart the pentatonic scale and look at some of the things that you can find in there since that might yield some new ways of using it by combining what you know of the pentatonic scale and what you know about improvising with chords and arpeggios

Check out the article and PDF here: Do you really know the pentatonic scale?

 

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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Jazz Chords – A Simple But Amazing Solution You Want To Know

One of the great things about Jazz Chords is that if you learn even just a few basic jazz chords then you can open them up and add things to them in ways that sound really great. This video will show you two simple but important chord exercises and some of the ways that you can turn that into beautiful sounding chords, and I am going to use some real songs to demonstrate it because you need those as well.

Diatonic Chords and Shell-Voicings

I am going to build this on Shell-voicings which is a very solid set of chords to learn because you can turn them into a lot of other things along the way, which you will also see in this video.

Instead of just practicing chords separately then it makes a lot more sense to practice them together in the groups where you need them, for example as all the diatonic chords of a scale.

Here are the diatonic shell voicings of C major with the root on the 5th string:

Diatonic C major Shells

And you want to know the shell-voicings for the 6th string as well, and for F major that gives you these chords:

Diatonic F major Shells

Practicing stuff like this in all keys will teach you a lot about the keys and help you develop your fretboard knowledge.

Basic chords and a little beyond

Already with these chords, you can play most songs, so let’s try that on the standard Ladybird. This will also show you some of the rhythms that are, of course, also important to comping Jazz. I’ll start with the basic chords and then change things up by adding more melody notes in the 2nd half.

Ladybird Chorus

So as you can tell the rhythms are what holds this together, and I am adding a little extra by using different top notes over the chords, just grabbing what is easy to play and then make melodies with it.

so for Cmaj7 you have this shell voicing and then you can add the 5th, G, as a melody note or the 13th or 6th , the A

Walking Bass on the Blues

Instead of changing the rhythms and the melodies you can also focus on bass lines, and with the shell-voicings that are only 3 notes, you can easily get into adding a complete walking bass under the chords which is a great sound on guitar:

Walking Bass Chorus

You might not think about it, but this sounds a lot better on a guitar than on a piano and later in the video, I will cover another thing is a lot easier on guitar.

Two Layers = More Rhythm

I love the sound of chords and walking bass, and it is great for comping in a duo setting. because you are laying down a complete groove, But sometimes it is also nice to not have to play a steady stream of quarter notes. Luckily Shell voicings are naturally split in two so that you have a root and a chord, and you can use these two layers to improvise with, similar to how a Jazz drummer improvises with snare and bass drum.

Example All Of Me

Samba and Bossanova

Another great way to use the 2-layer nature of the shell-voicings is to play Sambas and Bossanova’s. An example of this could be Blue Bossa that you can play as a samba like this:

Example Blue Bossa

If you want to check out some more bossa nova and samba patterns then I have a video on that which you can check out here: Bossa Nova Guitar Patterns – 5 Levels You Need To Know

Easy on Guitar – Annoying on Piano

When it comes to chords then most things are easier on piano than on guitar, and you can also get away with playing a lot more notes if you want to, but there is one thing that is really practical about guitar chords: We can shift them up and down in half-steps really easily, and that is an amazing sound for playing jazz chords.

You can put that to use on a song like “There is no greater Love” like this:

Example #5 There is no greater love

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A Simple Jazz Solo Skill You Want To Master

There is a skill that you can develop in your playing that will really help you play jazz solos, and this is not even that difficult to get started with all you need is a few arpeggios and a simple progression. This video will also show you how to practice more efficiently and not drown your practice sessions in just doing exercises.

An Easy Exercise on a Blues In F

One of the first exercises you should do if you want to get started playing Jazz is to outline a chord progression with one-octave arpeggios. Here is an easy version of that, and you can maybe even try to play along right away. After that, I will show you how to make that into a really strong solo developing rhythms, phrasing, and forward-motion, and I will also explain why I think this one of the most important things about being efficient with what you practice.

F Jazz Blues with arps

If this is still a bit tricky to play you can take the video back and try again or practice it later and return to really nail it, just because sometimes that really feels good.

Notice that you just need 5 one-octave arpeggios for this jazz blues and 4 of them are dominant arpeggios (show diagrams on screen)

F7:

Bb7:

D7:

Gm7:

C7:

Some Easy Music on a Blues In F

With this exercise, you can already start to make some music, and you want to, because that is why you practiced the arpeggios in the first place and it is not so difficult. I’ll play the example and then talk about how you go about playing like that.

F Jazz Blues

When you improvise like this then you are limited to four notes, and that can maybe seem difficult because you want to play bebop lines like

But with just the arpeggio you can start working on some things that are just as important as playing many notes: Phrasing and Rhythm and that is a much bigger part of Jazz in the end than long 8th note lines. Especially working on adding some interesting rhythms to your playing.

If you want some inspiration for this type of playing on guitar then Charlie Christian is worthwhile checking out.

What You Can Learn From Charlie Christian

When I was starting out playing Jazz then I was lucky in one way because one of the first things I had was a compilation album of Charlie Christian, I also had some Scofield and some Charlie Parker which I also loved, but at the time I could only figure out how to learn the Charlie Christian solos. Scofield was too weird and Parker was too fast and difficult to learn by ear. Charlie Christian’s style of playing is a lot less dense and with a lot of clear examples of great swinging rhythms which you want to learn. That is one HUGE reason to check out Charlie Christian and learn some stuff. Remember that Jim Hall heard one Charlie Christian Solo and from that decided to dedicate his life to playing Jazz music.

Check out another lesson on Charlie Christian: Charlie Christian Solo Analysis

Notice that I immediately start making music with the arpeggios that I am practicing, that is very important for everything you work on, I’ll return to that a little later.

Next, Let’s try adding some different types of phrasing, so you have some more sounds available and can change that up as well.

Some Easy Phrasing on a Jazz Blues In F

As you can tell this is really simple, you can add a lot more blues feeling and dynamics just by using some slides (example) and some (hammer-on/pull-off) and when you do that then you are really focusing on the music and how it sounds, it is not about technique or being flashy, you are trying to get it to sound great.

Another thing that is really a part of Jazz which you can also work on with this is to make the changes clear with strong natural flowing melodies, so that is something I’ll show you how to develop later as well.

Should You Practice All The Arpeggios?

What you can see here is that I am really working on getting as much music as possible out of these few arpeggios, and I think that is something to keep in mind, I at least need to remind myself very often, that you don’t always want to spend time first learning all inversions in all keys and all positions, on all string sets in all tempos, subdivisions and all tunings — phew

Maybe it is actually more efficient for your playing if you take a single position work on some simple and easy arpeggios and really get that to the place where you can make music with it. That is much more useful than getting lost in a sea of technical exercises because you actually get to make music with it and you can check out the next position some other day.

Nailing The Changes on a Blues In F

Now that you can play some interesting rhythms and add some phrasing to those lines, then it makes sense to also start to make the melodies longer so that you don’t end up just playing short isolated melodies for each chord which is hard to get to sound like a great solo.

There are a few ways you can do that and the first one you might have heard me talk about before is: Thinking ahead and playing towards target notes. When you do that with simple material like this then you are really working on digging into the harmony and figuring out how it moves and how you can improvise with that movement and connect a longer melody across chords.

The concept is simple: For each chord, you pick a target note and then you practice making melodies with your 4-note arpeggios that lead to the target note on the next chord. An example could sound something like this:

I took this part of the form because it has the most movement so that you can easily hear and understand what is going on.

An easy target note is often the 3rd of the chord simply because that is the most colorful note. This is also why you think about chords in two groups: major or minor depending on the 3rd.

As you can hear and see in the example, the solo really connects with the harmony moving from D7, Gm7 to C7 and because I am thinking ahead and playing towards a note then the melody has a natural flow and sounds much stronger.

With this technique you don’t only want to practice connecting everything and end up with one long line weaving through the entire form, there are other ways to play solid melodies, and one of them is really tied to Blues as a genre.

Blues Melodies But They Work in Jazz

Sometimes it seems that the advice nobody is giving is that you have to learn how to listen to yourself, and I don’t mean that you have to learn to listen to recordings of yourself, even though that is important too. I am talking about playing a phrase and then listening to how it sounded and using this to play the next phrase. When you are playing a solo then working like this is like having a conversation with yourself, and we usually refer to this way of making melodies as call-response.

This is an incredibly effective way to tie together phrases and pretty simple to do and is mostly about giving yourself time to listen and respond. An example of how that might sound could be this:

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A Better Focus For Alternate Picking – Getting The Exercises Right

This lesson will give you some more efficient alternate picking exercises and strategies for guitar.

Most lessons on getting a better right-hand technique only focus on repeating patterns and picking exercises that are easy to speed up. Of course, you need to build that, but one thing that is left out is flexibility, and you need that for most kinds of interesting music it is not enough to be only fast and robotic.

Speed Is Not The Only Goal – What You Really Need

When you are developing techniques and you are trying to figure be precise and improve something in your playing, and often the only measure is speed, but this can also become a way to fool yourself into doing exercises that are not helping you solve the actual problem, simply because you can measure that you play some pattern or scale faster every week.

Of course, it makes sense to spend some time working on stuff like that helps you do easy patterns faster and more clean, but when you are playing solos then the melodies might be like this:

II V I lick

And here you are not really using those easy patterns and your right hand has to solve much more complicated problems.

This is where flexibility becomes a much more important part of your skill set and where you need to practice some different things to be able to play like this fast and clean, even if it is not as fast as some easy repetitive scale pattern.

How Do You Get Flexible Technique?

There are many ways to work on becoming more flexible and able to play more complicated picking patterns, playing etudes of different kinds are very useful so you can get into Bach or Kreutzer etudes and use those as technical puzzles to improve your right-hand technique

Another option is to work on taking melodies or structures through scale positions. Scale positions will often manage to make life difficult for your right hand and force you to solve some problems. This type of exercises can be as simple as playing the scale in 3rds or Diatonic Triads:

Exercise #1a – Diatonic 3rds

And you can add the Diatonic triads as well: (voiceover)

Exercise #1b – Diatonic 3rds

Remember that you can easily go back and check exercises if you want to really hear what they sound like or check how I play them. This material is very basic but also much closer to what you come to want to use in your solos

The goal here is to play the exercises cleanly and with good phrasing. Since these exercises are less systematic and therefore more difficult you probably can’t play them as fast, but working on them is helping your right-hand to be able to deal with the types of melodies that you come across in the Jazz lines and it will make it a lot easier to play less predictable melodies.

Let’s look at some other exercises that will really open up your playing.

Focus On The Difficult Bits

So instead of putting the focus on things that are really easy to play then it makes sense to work on the things that are difficult, and for alternate picking the easy part is to play more notes on one string, changing strings is a bit more annoying, but you can make some exercises that work really well for that:

Exercise #2 – Drop2 voicings

Here I am playing 1 note per string so playing this with alternate picking is forcing you to work on one of the most difficult.

You can also do this with other arpeggios but the drop2 voicings are very nice dramatic for lines like this:

Am7 Lick with Cmaj7 arpeggio

When you start working on this and think it is really difficult but you start to get somewhere then you should try two things:

Check out how amazing Bluegrass guys like Tony Rice are:

And then try to play the whole thing backward which is really difficult

Exercise #2 backward

Now we can start looking at some of the really annoying exercises

Annoying But Makes You Play Better

With the previous exercise then you were working on moving string to string while alternate picking. A good next step for this would be to work on this but also skipping strings. You can do this with spread triads. This is something that I thought of from seeing this video of Pat Metheny:

And if you want to see someone play some very dry technical stuff and get it to sound like beautiful music then go watch that video, Pat Metheny is another level.

I have two exercises with spread triads, one that is difficult and another one that is much more difficult.

#3a Exercise

When you practice these, then make sure to not play too soft. I have seen, with students and for myself, that it works better to have a nice clear attack on the note so that if you are not precise then you really mess it up.

In the previous exercise, there was a lot of string skipping and a lot of 1 note per string and that makes it difficult but it is also building precision and the flexibility to move like this in solos, and you can make it even more tricky by not always having the string skips in the same place.

#3b Exercise

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Bebop Magic – One Of The Best And Most Difficult Things About Jazz

One essential part of Bebop lines and melodies that you need to check out is octave displacement. It is a simple technique, but you need to understand how to use it if you want to really nail the Bebop sound. That is what I want to show in this Jazz Guitar Lesson.

One of the great typical or cliché phrases in Bebop sounds like this:

and actually, that is just a way of playing this line which sounds about 5% as interesting:

I am sure you want your solos to sound like the first phrase, I know I do…

The difference between those two is that in the middle of the first example then the melody moves up an octave in a way that sounds both beautiful and interesting. This is mostly referred to as octave displacement, and you can use this for a lot of great things, and that is what I want to talk about in this video.

What is Octave Displacement

This technique or way of making melodies is called a few things, mostly it is referred to as Octave displacement, but you will also hear, among others, Barry Harris call some of them pivot arpeggios and different ways of looking at them will give you different ideas for using it, as you will see later in the video.

The concept is fairly simple, if you have a scale melody then you can move a part of the melody an octave, just like you saw above:

And you can do this in other places as well:

Another variation could be this:

But here the skip is placed so that the high note is on the beat, and that works but are not as catchy as the other one in terms of phrasing.

But of course, you can also use this on arpeggios to get some really beautiful melodic interval skips in your lines.

I was always drawn to licks like this when I was beginning to learn Jazz, and I was trying really hard to make lines that had larger intervals, but they always sounded unnatural and weird, not like the Pat Martino or Charlie Parker lines that I was transcribing and checking out. It wasn’t really until I went to a Barry Harris workshop that I started to understand how this worked and got some tools to start to incorporate it into my playing.

Pivot Arpeggios

A great way to make your lines less one-directional (B-roll) and add some great twists and turns is to use this on arpeggios.

The concept is pretty simple, instead of playing an ascending arpeggio like this:

Here I am playing first a chromatic enclosure and then the Bø, so the arpeggio from the 3rd of the chord, over a G7 and resolving this to the Cmaj7.

If you turn into the Bø arpeggio into a pivot arpeggio then you get an example like this:

Here you play the B and then you move down the rest an octave to get a nice descending 6th interval.

Strategies For Making Better Lines

And of course, you can extend this to other chords as well and use it to make your lines more interesting with a few adjustments.

Look at this fairly basic Bop-line:

We have an Fmaj7 arpeggio on Dm7, so the arpeggio from the 3rd, then a chromatic enclosure to take us to G7 where the line is built around a G7 arpeggio and a scale run G7b9 sound, and finally an Em7 arpeggio on Cmaj7, so again the diatonic arpeggio from the 3rd of the chord.

This is all pretty solid but you can add pivot arpeggios to this fairly easily like this:

Here I am moving the first note of the Fmaj7 arpeggio up an octave, and later also making the Em7 a pivot arpeggio

But you can also apply this to the G7 bar:

Now the G7 arpeggio in the beginning of the G7 bar is turned into a pivot arpeggio, and you can see that the pivot technique also often works on inversions of an arpeggio since the G7 arpeggio is in fact an inversion with the 3rd as the lowest note.

Displacing David Baker – Aiming for a single note

This is a very specific example, but it I find that there are so many great lines to get from this that it should be included, and you can also add some nice chromatic things with this.

You, of course, already know the David Baker Lick, in part thanks to David Baker but probably also thanks to Adam Neely:

Using this lick with octave displacement can give you not only some of my favourites but also some Charlie Parker and George Benson favourites, (whoever you feel is more important as an influence 🙂)

Let’s look at one way to understand the construction because actually, it is just a scale run with some passing notes.

Clearly, the G, Gb , F is scale melody with a Gb leading note. E to D is also clearly step-wise. So only the A is a bit odd, but you may know how Barry Harris talks about adding “half-steps” between notes that are already a half step apart. His concept is that in that case, you can use any note as a “half-step” and here we are using the A. So in that respect the lick is a scale run with two added “half-steps”, the Gb and the A

And that A is a great candidate for octave displacement, like this:

This already sounds great and is something you will find in a lot of George Benson and Grant Green lines, but you can also add an extra leading note:

Which sounds amazing, and you can make it a short turn as well, something that I have found with Doug Raney:

Just to give you an impression of how this can be put to use you can check out this II V I lick:

In this lick, I am using the octave displaced licks on the Dm7 chord and on the Cmaj7 chord.

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7 Easy Jazz Standards In Minor You Need To Know

Most Jazz songs are in a major or a minor key, and Minor songs are a great place to learn several things that you need in Major as well, so it is a good idea to really dig into studying some minor songs.

In this video, I am going to go over 7 songs that are in a minor key that you want to have in your repertoire because knowing them will improve your playing.

I don’t know if you ever thought about it, but most Jazz standards are in a major key. Some pretend to be in minor but then turn out to be in major. I don’t want to single anyone out, How Deep Is The Ocean, You’d Be So Nice To Go Home to, What Is This Thing Called Love.

Anyway… The first song you probably already know, but maybe a few of the other ones will be a surprise, and later in the video, I will also talk about why So What is not on the list.

#1 Autumn Leaves

Probably one of the most well-known Jazz standards, and even though the old Berklee Realbook has it in Em, then the most common one in Jazz is G minor.

A little fun trivia is that the Miles Davis “riff” is actually also a part of the original arrangement with that clear m6 sound.

Lesson on Autumn Leaves as a Chord Melody: Easy Chord Melody on Autumn Leaves

What do you learn?

When you are working on Autumn Leaves then you are working on the two main cadences, the major tonic and the minor tonic cadences (highlight in sheet music). It is also a great place to explore how to play tonic minor since you really have the melodic minor sound in both the melody and the arrangement with the Gm6 riff.

#2 Blue Bossa

Another famous and simple song that is often among the first 3 tunes that you learn is Blue Bossa. Mainly because it is a short 16-bar form and has really basic harmony in the key of C minor only taking a short detour to Db major, which you could describe as a cadence for the Neapolitan subdominant, even though the melody maybe suggests otherwise.

Learn Blue Bossa: Blue Bossa Getting Started Soloing

Famous Versions

There are quite a few famous versions of this song to check out beyond the original recording by Joe Henderson. Especially George Benson and Pat Martino’s interpretations are worth checking out!

#3 Bernie’s Tune

I think this is maybe the least known tune in this list. It was actually difficult to find songs that are in a minor key and also not too difficult, but this song is really pretty simple and covers some basic chords in the key that you want to master, especially the tonic minor and the tritone substitute of the V of V. The chords are also lasting a little longer so you have a bit of space to develop your vocabulary and really get into those melodic minor sounds and how beautiful they are.

The melody of this song is also based on a great swinging riff using 3/4 on top of 4/4. Lots of stuff to learn from this one.

Lesson on Bernie’s Tune: Getting Started With Melodic Minor on a Jazz Standard

#4 Softly As In A Morning Sunrise

This is in a way a minor version of Rhythm Changes, mainly because the A-parts are built around a minor turnaround, which is of course the most important progression in the key. It is usually played in the key of C minor.

There are many fantastic versions of this song, both Jim Hall and Emily Remler are important Jazz guitar versions to check out. Emily Remler also includes a beautiful reharmonization of the melody going away from the minor turnaround, but still going back to the usual progression later in the solo.

The bridge is a short trip to the relative major: Eb and then with a few diminished chords back to Cm.

Lesson on Emily Remlers Solo: Emily Remler on Softly as in a morning sunrise

#5 Minor Blues

The Minor blues is really the re-invention of the 12 bar blues of the Hardbop era. The most famous examples are probably Coltrane’s Mr. PC and Equinox, but of course, there are other great examples out there. Mr. PC and Equinox are great examples of the extreme range of tempos that you play blues in with one being very fast and the other very slow.

While the minor blues is a great progression to check out how to use different minor sounds, so really dig into melodic minor or Dorian and it is also a great exercise in playing the most common variation to the minor II V which uses a tritone substitution for the V of V instead of the II chord

Minor Blues Lesson: Using Minor Blues to learn Melodic Minor

Similar to Bernie’s tune this is a great progression to explore tonic melodic minor, Lydian dominants, and altered dominants (high light or call out)

#6 Summertime

Gershwin’s Summertime is a beautiful song that is actually a bit modal in the sound. It is a great example of a short-form song that still manages to get around the tonic, subdominant, dominant and relative major. It is also a good vehicle for other meters like Jonathan Kreisberg’s amazing 5/4 version of the song, also an awesome example of dynamic solo guitar performance.

And what many people don’t realize is that Wes Montgomery’s song Four on Six is in fact written on this chord progression with some common reharmonizations.

Lesson on Wes’ Four on Six: How To Make Simple Sound Amazing – Wes Montgommery

#7 Solar

In a way this is a Parker Blues version of the minor blues. It is actually also a Bebop composition written by Chuck Wayne and then later stolen by Miles Davis, who we all know as the composer, and even has a bit of the melody on his tombstone.

Solar is a great song to study because it has a melody that is quite clearly using tonic minor and also a lot of typical bebop movement with a long series of “how high the moon II V I” meaning that the tonic chord becomes a m7 to become the II in a II V going down a whole-step.

The famous recordings of this song would probably be Pat Metheny trio and Brad Mehldau trio both are amazing! A great composition on these changes is Jerry Bergonzi’s On Again Off Again with some interesting shifting melodic minor scales by Mick Goodrick in his solo. He also recorded it with John Abercrombie on a later album.

Chord solo lesson on Solar: Easy Chord Solo Exercise

Honorable Mentions

As I already said, most Jazz standards are in minor, and I actually asked a few colleagues about suggestions for this list and didn’t really get something that I thought was easy and famous enough. Maybe it was because they were both bass players?

Some of the songs that are very common, and in a minor key that is maybe not precisely easy would be Alone Together, Beautiful Love, Angel Eyes and You Don’t know what love is. They are all worth checking out because even if they are not exactly what I consider easy

Alone Together

Beautiful Love

Angel Eyes

You Don’t Know What Love Is.

Please let me know if you have other suggestions for easy songs in a minor key! It is always great to have suggestions for songs!

Why No “So What”?

So why isn’t So What on the list? I get the question “what about So What” very often on my 10 easy standards video, and I understand why that would seem to fit both there and also here, it is a song with very few chords for a jazz song. But to me, it is more logical to have a list of songs where studying one will help the other, and So What is a completely different type of sound and song than these. In fact, it is not really in a traditional key. There are no cadences or really moving harmony, so in that way, it is something else.

That does not mean that it is not a good song, that I don’t like it or that it won’t be useful to study, but, to me, it is something else and not anymore related to these songs than it is to How High The Moon.

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The Best Triad Exercises – How To Get The Essentials Right

Working on triad exercises is a great way to get more things you can play in your solos, but is also a great way to build your overview of the fretboard and open up how you move from one position to the next in a solo.

In this lesson, I am going to show you 5 triad exercises that were very useful for me and that will develop your playing, fretboard overview, and your technique.

#1 Diatonic Triads – Most Important Triad Exercise

Whatever you want to learn or get better at in Music, a good strategy is to also keep in mind what context you will use it in, and somehow include that in the exercise. It is never really enough to just be able to play something, there is always more going on. To link the triads to scales, positions and inversion then I am going to cover some horizontal, vertical, and diagonal connections that are very useful.

Diatonic Triads

The first place I would suggest that you start working on triads is to practice the diatonic triads in whatever scale positions you are used to.

This is a great way to start seeing those patterns within the scale, and you can use the triad as a part of a lick and easily connect it to other things like 7th chord arpeggios and scale runs.

With knowing these then it is of course also really useful to know what triads you are playing so that you know

  • The Diatonic Harmony of the Scale
  • What Triads are available and will work over other chords

This is the most basic way to practice the triads, but once you work on this I would recommend that you try to also explore the inversions.

Creating Inversions of the triads

Creating inversions of a triad is fairly simple. You have one root position and then 2 inversions. You can create the inversions by moving up the lowest note an octave.

So C major root position: C E G, move up the C one octave and then play from E, G, C  once more now the G is the lowest note: G C E

Taking this through the scale and keeping track of the triad is a great exercise and sounds like this:

Diatonic 1st inversion triads

Another great thing to explore is to play the notes in a pattern to get a different melody out of the triads already when they are technical exercises. This pattern which goes 3rd, root, 5th is a solid melody in solos as well, plus it is easy to play.

Diatonic Triads in 315

Technique For Diatonic Triads

When you are playing these exercises then you can use several techniques. It is not really important and depends more on how you play. I would start with alternate picking, but in the end, adding in economy and legato is a good idea, just make sure to listen to how it sounds, your choices can change the dynamics in the triads and maybe accent something that you don’t want to.

#2 Diatonic Triads Along The Neck

Let’s look at moving up and down the neck to start bridging the gap between positions

Diatonic Triads of C major on the A,D and G string set

Again you want to be aware of the chords you play, and also check out the other string sets like the next on D,G and B

Diatonic Triads of C major on the G,D and B string set

And with these, you can also work on the inversion of course. Here are the 2nd inversion triads along the neck on the top string set:

2nd Inversion Diatonic Triads of C major on the top string set

A Fantastic Alternate Picking Exercise

Working on these one-note-per-string triads is a great way to become more precise and efficient for your right hand when it comes to alternate picking. It is the type of thing that you will see in exercises by Steve Morse and also have jaw-dropping examples of in Bluegrass.

You can of course also work on different economy picking strategies, but maybe that is something for another lesson (once you have practiced your alternate picking a bit more)

#3 Inversions Along The Neck

The next level for your fretboard overview is to start working on inversions of a single chord along the neck. One way to do that could be on a single string set:

C major inversions on A,D, and G string set

And of course, you can do this on other string sets as well.

C major inversions on D, G and B string set

This is great to develop your fretboard knowledge and really know the triads. A good mental exercise is to play the triad inversions and then see the scale around it for each inversion, really linking up the triad and the scale.

#4 Turning Inversions into Vertical Triads

The inversions are a great way to play the triads as flexible groups of notes around the neck, but you can also turn them into a gateway to seeing entire positions of the triad by linking inversions from string set to string set (play inversions horizontally to show the gradually reveal the triad position)

This way of looking at a triad position is useful because it is not just a large block that you run through without thinking. Something that is often an issue with scale and arpeggio positions.

You can make the connection as chords or play them as an inversion exercise

An exercise like this is really about linking all the information so that you have an easier time remembering and using it in solos. Now you have linked the triads across the neck both in a vertical and horizontal way, let’s add a diagonal approach as well.

#5 Repeating Cell-Shapes

If you look at the way the first root position C major triad looked at the beginning of the lesson;

then that is a pattern that is taking up two strings, and the way the guitar works, a pattern like this is easy to move across the fretboard by moving it up an octave and playing the exact same pattern.

And this works for any type of triad and its inversions

EXAMPLE 2nd inversion triad cell

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The 3 Bebop Licks You Need To Know

Obviously, you are not going to learn to play Bebop by just studying 3 licks, but if you want to add that sound to your playing and mix in some bebop in your solos then this is not a bad place to start. And you want to make sure that you know these if you want to play Jazz.

Bebop – Learning The Language

Having the right vocabulary for a style of music is really what determines whether you can play that music or not, and I clearly remember when I was starting out playing Jazz. I transcribed solos, practiced scales and arpeggios, and then I tried to improvise jazz solos

And I quickly became aware that even though I knew the changes and the song then my solos did not really sound like Jazz. They were just a lot of the right notes.

What helped me, and what will probably also help you is learning licks and also start to make your own licks with the same type of melodies, so studying licks is not just learning them, it is learning how to write certain types of melodies. That is what learning vocabulary is really about.

#1 Triplet Arpeggios

This first one, you probably heard me mention before, and it is really the closest thing I know to instant bebop: Playing arpeggios as triplets with a leading note.

And this way of playing arpeggios is a part of so many classic bebop licks like this Parker line:

And it works for other chords as well:

It is a great way to add a little variation to an 8th note line, and the faster notes really adds some energy or excitement to your solo.

 

The way you, of course, practice this is to play this pattern through the scale as diatonic arpeggios and then start writing licks with them, and there are so many things you can work on:

You can combine two arpeggios:

Here I am using Em7 and Cmaj7 over the Cmaj7 chord, both solid choices for that chord.

Another option is to follow a triplet arpeggio with some chromatic leading notes:

Small Building blocks, not massive licks

As you can tell, I am presenting these licks as building blocks, and that is really because that is how they will be most useful to you and help you develop your own language. As I mentioned in the intro, my experience is that making your own licks and getting those to sound like bebop is one of the best ways to learn to play bebop, and also pretty much how Barry Harris teaches it. I will return to this a little later in the video and also explain why I don’t like Bebop scales.

#2 Honeysuckle Rose

This lick is called honeysuckle rose because it is the main motif in the Fats Waller song Honeysuckle Rose, but it is also an extremely common way to play arpeggios in Bebop, and it is one of the most melodic ways to add large intervals to your 8th note lines which can stop your solos from sounding very very boring.

This is really just a way to play an inversion of an arpeggio, it is also called octave-displacement. You start on the root and then play the arpeggio, but after the root, you move everything down an octave which gives you a beautiful skip from the root down to the 3rd and a natural way back up through the arpeggio.

Parker, Grant Green, and George Benson do this all the time in their solos. (examples?)

And you can make so many great lines with this melody as well by adding some simple scale melodies

Or some chromatic enclosures:

In fact, the topic of octave displacement is maybe worth an entire video? Let me know in the comments if you are interested in a video on that.

Bebop is a form of composition

The most important goal with studying this or any Jazz stuff, is to be melodic, to play strong Bebop lines that really flow and avoid having strange fragments next to each other that don’t make any sense.

As you can tell, I think you will learn more about making strong bebop lines by practicing to compose lines, and that is simply because composing lines is like improvising them, except you can go back and figure out how to make the line sound even better.

In that way, you are really working on building your vocabulary of strong lines and you are also practicing putting them together in the perfect way.

By working on constructing lines and you are giving your imagination and ears time to really listen to the sound of what you are practicing and you are making sure that you can fit the different pieces together in lines with it suddenly changing because you are skipping and playing something that does not sound melodic.

#3 David Baker Lick

This phrase is probably most famous from David Baker’s books on Bebop and a symbol of people studying bebop, but it is of course also a common and useful phrase to have in your vocabulary.

This is a phrase for a V or a II chord, so I have decided to write it out as a G7 lick, not on Cmaj7.

This lick is a construction of some chromaticism and a nice interval skip that sounds very melodic. The first part is moving from the G to the F with a Gb inbetween and then it skips up to an A and down a 4th to end with E and D.

This lick is a great building block both on the G7 and on the Dm7. If you use it on the Dm7 then you get something like this:

The line starts with an Fmaj7 arpeggio, the arpeggio from the 3rd of Dm7, and then a scale run with a leading note from the Dm into the G7 and then essentially just playing the lick and adding an E that then naturally sounds like a resolution to Cmaj7.

It also works really well on the Dm7.

The first part is just the David Baker lick, followed by an enclosure to take us to the 3rd of G7. Here I play the entire Bø arpeggio and run down the scale using a chromatic passing note to resolve smoothly to the 3rd of Cmaj7.

Why I don’t Like Bebop Scales

I often get asked to make lessons on Bebop scales, and while I don’t think anybody died from checking out some Bebop scales, I do think that the way people are asked to practice and use them is really just helping them play very predictable step-wise lines that are also very boring, and to me, that is the opposite of what I think is great about Bebop and everything you don’t want to learn.

You want to learn to play great surprising lines with melodic twists and turns and practicing to play chord tones on the beat and leading notes on off beats is not what that is about. I still suspect that there was more money made with Bebop scales than there were with Bebop.

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