Tag Archives: how to play jazz licks on guitar

Why Patterns Are Always Better Than Licks – Parker’s Strategy

I love Charlie Parker’s playing. To me, he really IS the Mozart of Jazz, and phrases like this clearly demonstrate that:

But while a phrase like this is mind-blowing, then, you can’t use it in a solo. It is too long and complicated, it will ruin the flow and sound unnatural, and you don’t want your solo to sound like copy/paste blocks from famous artists. I’ll show you what a Pattern is, why Patterns are much more useful than licks, and why you want to turn your licks into patterns.

For this to work, you need to be familiar with the basic chords and scales, so for a II V I in C major, you need to know the arpeggios like this:

Basic information like these chord tones is essential. You’ll see along the way!

A Pat Martino Example

A LOT is going on in the Charlie Parker example, so it is probably better to start with something a little simpler and return to Parker later. Check out this short Pat Martino phrase from How Insensitive:

This is on a Dm chord, and you have a Dm chord in the II V I as well. In this case, I want you to focus on this part of the phrase:

Explainer:

See how It starts on the 3rd, F, and then adds a 3-note enclosure that moves to the root, D.

It probably makes sense to move it up an octave and close to where I played the arpeggios:

As you will see, this is already useful, but it is still not a pattern. The reason that you are checking out Jazz Licks in the first place is probably because your solo lines sound something like this:

Your lines sound like this because you know the scale and the arpeggio but are limited in how you can make melodies with these tools. The short Pat Martino phrase can already improve that:

.

The G7 part still needs some work, though; that will come. Notice that I am using the same phrase on the Cmaj7.

That bar starts with the 3rd, followed by the enclosure leading to the root, and then continues with the arpeggio.

What Is A Pattern?

Let’s figure out what a pattern is, and turn the Pat Martino phrase into a pattern. Then you’ll see how it will help you sound better. I’ll first give you an example but then also give you another way to think about Patterns rather than just short phrases.

Right now, the Pat Martino Phrase moves from the 3rd chord down to the root and adds an enclosure to the root.

But you could take the same idea and use two other chord tones. For example, you can start on the

and it also works from the 7th of the chord:

With these, you can apply it to other chords, and you have a much more flexible piece of vocabulary that you can use to create lines that sound great without sounding like a Pat Martino clone. In the next example, I use the pattern on all the chords, but the one on the G7 is a bit cheeky because I use it to target the third of Cmaj7.

It seems like this is “just” making variations of a phrase, but you can also think of patterns as a way of playing some notes, which can be incredibly powerful for arpeggios.

Important Patterns For Arpeggios

Let’s fix a common problem: you might not be there yet, but you will be soon. At some point, you will get tired of always playing arpeggios like this:

`Arpeggios are always the same 8th note run, and it is difficult to make them interesting and fresh, but if you think of arpeggio as a set of notes that you can play in different patterns, then you could take the Cmaj7 arpeggio from the previous example and play it with a triplet and a leading note, that is what I usually call the “Bebop arpeggio”, like this:

But you can also use the 8th note triplet differently to get a pattern that can be very useful for moving from one chord to the next, You’ll see in a bit.

And finally, you have the arpeggio the way it is played in the Parker example at the beginning of the video, which is what Barry Harris called a pivot arpeggio. It is a simple recipe: Play the root and then move the rest down an octave

to get a beautiful very melodic interval skip:

Treating these as patterns that you can apply to any arpeggio means that you can now start making lines like this next example, but, of course, start by working on them one at a time, not all at once, if you are new to them.

Here you see an example of how the 2nd bebop arpeggio can help move from Dm7 to G7, and you can hear how the pivot arpeggio breaks up the line beautifully.

What Is Great About Patterns?

Why is this approach so great? I think it is easy to see that these patterns are much more flexible and easier to use in a sole than the longer licks, like the Charlie Parker example at the beginning of the video, but there is another advantage that I think is just as important.

Now, you can see that the Parker example is constructed from four short phrases, and you can use all of them as patterns. One of them is the pivot arpeggio, and the other two are enclosures. If you look at Parker’s licks like this, you will see that they are almost always constructed of building blocks like this.

A short side-note: This clearly shows how enclosures are essential to Parker or any Bop-inspired solo. Sometimes I see people dismissing them as less useful, but they are everywhere and everyone uses them, so they are worth the effort to work on! Just hang in there, it will pay off, and you get to play phrases like this:

The other advantage is that you can approach this one variation at a time and not as a huge system of rules or a sea of different options, which is often a much more efficient and practical approach to adding new things to your vocabulary.

Internalizing A Pattern

Let me show you how I would work on getting a Pattern from the Parker lick into my playing. I think this diatonic enclosure is a great option because it is a simple but strong melody:

And then you construct a phrase around that using things you already know. Here I am leading into it with a scale run and using the enclosure to get to a Bø arpeggio over the G7:

You can also go to another phrase on the G7, like this pivot arpeggio. For this one, I leave the first part unchanged.

But you want to figure out more ways to lead into it, like this: Notice that I am using a G7 line that I play quite often. Of course, you only know if you have watched other videos of mine.

The point is that you put it together with the things you play and add that pattern or melody to your playing. Then, you can take another one or a variation of this one that you like.

This process gets easier the more you work on it. And vocabulary-based practice is a bit underrated, in my opinion.

Building A Vocabulary

But if you want this to work, you need to be able to recognize what is going on in the lines. That means being familiar with some of the common melodic techniques used in Jazz, such as arpeggios, chromaticism, and enclosures. I cover that in this video, which will give you a strong foundation for building more solid lines and getting more out of the solos and phrases you analyze.

Check it out!

Learn Jazz, Make Music.

I Wish Every Jazz Beginner Could Watch This!

 

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Your First 5 Jazz Licks (Beginner’s Guide To Arpeggios)

Everywhere you look a Jazz teacher is telling you that you should practice arpeggios if you want to play Jazz, but it is just as important that you know how to turn that arpeggio into music, into something you can play that also sounds like Jazz.

In this video, I’ll show you why you should not start with full arpeggio positions, not focus on arpeggio inversions (and give you something better instead).

I’ll also give you a way to find more arpeggios for the same chord, turn them into Jazz licks with a few phrasing and rhythm tricks, and of course The BEST arpeggio Exercise.

The Most Basic Arpeggio

Let’s start with a very simple arpeggio, here’s a basic one-octave G7. I’ll explain why I start here in a bit.

And so you have an idea about the sound, you can hear it as fitting with this G7 chord, just to have a picture of the harmony

You often find discussions online about whether it is better if you start with scales vs arpeggios or chord tones.

In reality, if you look at solos then it is clearly a combination of both, so you want to know your arpeggios and you want to understand that they are a set of notes in the context of a scale, they fit together and it is not one or the other, as you will see.

Rhythm and Phrasing

This is about building your vocabulary, and especially developing your rhythms in that vocabulary!

Think of the 4-note arpeggio  as a scale and start improvising just using those while using short rhythms and some phrasing like sliding into a note, in this case the 3rd:

Or using a pull-off to create more interesting dynamics in the line, here between F and D. This is the first type of Jazz lick: Arpeggio and rhythm

And when you try to make your own licks like this one, then start with a short 3 or 4-note phrase

Or like this:

Once you have that then compose a line, listen to what you can come up with as a follow-up and try somethings out to end with something like this:

Composing licks is where you get much more free to play melodies and also where you can start developing better rhythmical ideas. Limitation can be a great way to level up your playing, but now we need to add some more notes to the mix!

There Are More Notes!

As I mentioned, Chords and Arpeggios don’t exist in a vacuum, you can mix in the other notes in the scale and that is a great way to get better lines and be able to create a more natural-sounding flow in your solo.

It really is just about putting in some notes from the scale between the arpeggio notes, here’s a very simple one, and notice that you don’t have to start on beat 1 all the time:

And you can of course still add some phrasing to these more dense lines, which gives you the second type of Jazz Lick: Mixing Scale and arpeggio

Once you start working on the arpeggios like this then you can clearly create and play a lot more great lines with arpeggios because you can add in scale notes.

The BEST arpeggio Exercise

Before I show you some ways to add chromatic notes to your vocabulary then first, let’s quickly cover how you should practice the arpeggios. You already heard how useful it is to add the scale notes to the arpeggio when you are soloing, so it actually makes sense to focus on that connection when you are practicing.

In this case, the G7 is in the scale of C major, and you can turn all the diatonic chords in a scale into an arpeggio exercise which then links those arpeggios to the scale and as you will see later also gives you some more options with arpeggios that you can use over a chord, and you already practiced them!

For every note in the scale, you can stack 3rds in and in that way, create a 7th chord on each note of the scale.

If you play this for the C major scale then you get this exercise:

Once this becomes easy then you want to explore ways to add chromatic notes and rhythm to these arpeggios, but first, try to explore that in lines!

Chromatic Notes – Outside The Scale Are NICE!

There are many ways to add chromatic passing notes to your solos. First, check out this example, and then I’ll show you how you can turn that into some strategies and exercises you use yourself:

You have two kinds of chromatic approaches here, both are important to know.

First a leading note for the 3rd in the first chord run.

It can be useful to try this out as an exercise adding a note a half step under each chord tone like this:

The other approach is in the middle with two notes surrounding the 5th of G: D.

This is referred to as a chromatic enclosure. A chromatic enclosure is a short melody that moves to a target note,

in this case, it is sort coming from the previous exercise but combining it with a scale note above the chord tone.

YOu can see that in this exercise where there are enclosures before all the notes in the arpeggio:

And if you have the feeling that your solos are just running up and down scales and arpeggios then enclosures can fix that very effectively which gives you the 3rd type of Jazz Lick adding chromaticism:

It almost doesn’t sound like a G7 arpeggio anymore, but maybe that is also the point?  We a re just getting started, because there are more arpeggios you can use over a G7 chord, it isn’t only the G7 arpeggio.

More Arpeggios On Every Chord?

This way of thinking works for all chords, so you want to think of this as a system. Because it is really powerful!

The way it is constructed is by stacking 3rds, and if you add another 3rd on top then you have a G7(9) chord(play), but if you take away the G then notice that it is a Bø arpeggio (play)

And, this works over the G7 as well so you can use this to make lines as well, and of course, also use chromatic notes and phrasing.

I am using this Bø arpeggio:

And that can give you the 4th type of Jazz Lick with the arpeggio from the 3rd:

And keep in mind that this is why you can use an Em7 arpeggio over a Cmaj7 chord and an Fmaj7 arpeggio over a Dm7 chord.

It gives you a lot of great sounds.

I mentioned that you can use something else instead of inversions, and this is one of the best Bebop tricks in the book!

One of the Best Things Barry Harris Taught Me!

Beginner Jazz licks can sound too much like just running up and down scales and arpeggios in a mechanical way, and here is a great way to fix that which I learned from Barry Harris.

Usually, we play the arpeggio starting on the root and then up the arpeggio.

But you can also play the root and then move the rest of the arpeggio down an octave, it’s a more interesting melody and you are still just playing the arpeggio:

In this case, it makes more sense to play this arpeggio an octave higher,

and notice how you are for the most part just playing the arpeggio the same way we started the video,  now you are just changing the 1st note:

This is what Barry Harris called a pivot arpeggio, and again this is something that works for all arpeggios, and you can create some really great lines with it,  so the 5th type of Jazz lick is a Pivot Arpeggio Bebo Lick and notice the grace note on the low note as well:  :

The Source Of Amazing Bebop Techniques!

Barry Harris’ pivot arpeggios are a great way to level up your Jazz lines, and you can take this even further by exploring Barry’s approach to adding chromatic notes to your lines often referred to as Barry’s chromatic scale which is a great approach to make chromatic phrases very melodic! You can check out my video on that here, and also learn why Bebop scales are usually a complete waste of time!

Why Barry Harris’ Approach Is So Much Better Than Bebop Scales!

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Cookin’ Great Jazz Licks With Basic Exercises – 5 Step Process

The Mysterious Recipe

In the beginning, Jazz improvisation can seem mysterious, but just like food, there is actually a recipe you can follow to develop your ability to improvise great lines. In this video, I’m going to give you that recipe including the secret ingredient that is left out of the process so often, and it really won’t be the same without it.

The goal is to be able to construct a lick like this:

The chord progression is a II V I which is a very common Jazz chord progression. You can play the chords like this:

I am not going to talk too much about the progression, because this is about soloing over it. I have other videos on harmony.

The Main Ingredients

Any recipe starts with some ingredients. You have the Progression, there is a scale that goes with that, in this case, that is the C major scale.

And the main ingredient is that for each of the chords in the progression, we can play these easy 1-octave arpeggios, so this exercise:

Just like a meal usually consists of several different dishes, then as I go through this recipe I will show you how each step is something you can turn each step into music and explain how.

With the arpeggios, you can already follow the chords and create a solid line like this:

Follow This Recipe

Similar to a recipe, chords, scales, and arpeggios are only ingredients and it is as important what you do with those ingredients if you want it to work.

What is the  method in this example? I am following the chords completely because  I am only using the arpeggio of each chord, so the notes are taken nailing the harmony,

but the important thing is to get this to sound like a melody and not like a bunch of random notes

The way you get that right is by playing from one chord to the next,  which means a melody on the Dm7 is moving toward a target note on the G7.

Here it is the 3rd of G7 that is the target note which is very easy to hear and works like a signal that we changed chords, but there are more things in that first example that you still need to figure out.

Adding More Flavor

There are two other “types” of notes, that you can add to your jazz licks. The first one would be the notes that are in the scale but not in the chord, it is a bit like basic seasoning, there is no food without it, and the easiest way to use scale notes is in between arpeggio notes, so this:

can become this:

It is a subtle change, but the rhythm sounds a lot better in the 2nd example.

The other type of note that you want to add, is a more radical sound, adding flavor and spice to the whole thing: The chromatic notes.

Here I am going to stick with a simple version: You can add chromatic leading notes a half-step under a chord or scale note, where the chord tones often are the easiest to use.

There are some myths about how to use chromatic notes, but I’ll get into that in a bit. You could turn that into this exercise for the arpeggios which actually breaks that rule:

The rule that I am talking about is that sometimes people will tell you that chromatic leading notes should not be on the downbeat, and in the exercise every leading note is on the downbeat.

The idea is that this:

Is wrong, and it would be better to do it like this:

I think you can hear that both could work and that it is not useful to limit yourself with rules like that, in fact, rules are rarely a thing in music.

Now you can start writing  lines like this:

Serving The Notes In The Right Way

But you need to do more than find the ingredients and cook the food. It also needs to be served in the right way, and that is where rhythm becomes important.

In the first example, I changed up the rhythm in two ways. The first one is pretty easy to use. On the Cmaj7 I play the arpeggio as am 8th note triplet

Triplets are amazing for arpeggios, and two variations of this are very useful to know. The first one is to add a leading note and then play the arpeggio:

But you can also play the arpeggio and use that to get to a target note

But there  is another rhythm that you want to explore using which is a very important part of the syncopation you hear in Jazz: Anticipating the chord on the 4&!

This is pretty simple: You want to hit the target note on the 4& instead on beat 1 when the chord changes, so instead of this:

 

You want to play the B on the 4& like this:

So now you can put all of this together and start writing licks like this:

 

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The Real Reason You Are Not Getting Better At Jazz

You don’t want to only play other people’s licks in your solos. You want to improvise, that is the point of Jazz!

But at the same time, maybe your solos don’t sound right, maybe they don’t even sound like Jazz.

If are you already practicing scales and arpeggios, then this video is about the next thing you need to learn, which was probably also how people like Joe Pass and Wes learned to play Jazz.

Learning solos by ear is a part of this, but it’s not the only thing. For a really long time, when I was studying then I felt that I didn’t learn a lot from transcribing solos, and that made me think that it should not be a big priority for my study, but in hindsight, that was completely wrong and not even how I was actually studying, but I’ll get back to that.

The Answer Is Not A Scale!

Let’s start with something that is so often presented wrong in lessons and probably also the reason you are watching this video.

Try to imagine that you are listening to your favorite part of one of your favorite solos. I am sure you can see how the answer to understanding why that phrase in a solo sounds great is not just a scale name.

You can’t listen to a Wes Montgomery solo, stop somewhere in the middle and go “Dorian” and then your solos start sounding amazing.

That’s obviously not how it works, and that is because when you are playing music then you are not thinking about a scale or an arpeggio. When I am playing solo then I am thinking about phrases that fit the music, the other stuff is too many steps from being something I can play. So you want to learn phrases and be able to play phrases, not just notes and scales.

And this is where the food analogy is a good description of a Jazz phrase:

A Jazz phrase is like a recipe for something that tastes great.

The scale and arpeggios, chromatic phrases are all ingredients, but it is as important that you know how to turn them into the dish.

I am sure you can imagine that even if you have all the ingredients for a burger then mixing the stuff up in random order is not likely to yield a delicious meal.

Jazz phrases are the same, it is only a part of the picture to know what the ingredients are, and only studying that won’t really get you very far, because it is like just knowing a lot of stuff that can be ingredients in food but clearly, that doesn’t mean you can cook something great.

So you have to not only memorize the ingredients but also learn how you put them together, that is the core of the recipe.

Where Do You Learn The Recipe

And there are some skills needed to understand the recipe for a jazz lick.

As I mentioned, then for a very long time I felt like I wasn’t really learning anything from transcribing entire solos. In the beginning, I was doing that really a lot, because that was what people around me suggested that should do, and especially when I did not have a teacher that was the only thing I could do to learn something new. But I sort of stopped when that didn’t seem as useful as a lot of the other things that I was working on, stuff I had picked up from Barry Harris and the material I was given by my teachers. But maybe that was more how I saw it at the time and not really what was going on, because next to this I was also starting to build other skills that would help me get so much more out of what I transcribed.

In the beginning when I was learning solos then I could at most just repeat what I had transcribed and hopefully connect it to my own vocabulary. That already makes it useful, but it is also far from taking the material to the level where you can use it freely in your own playing. Let’s say that I transcribed this part of a phrase from Grant Green:

One thing is learning the solo by ear and playing it along with Grant. That is incredibly valuable for phrasing and timing and a lot of other things, but now I want to use it to become better at making my own Jazz lines. And I took this phrase because, as you will see, it is an example of something that you want to understand and recognize and learn how to use in your own lines. Grant Green is also a very clear example of someone who checked out Charlie Parker, which is also important, but I will return to that later.

You can look at this phrase at different levels.

#1 The Notes

On the surface: If I look at the notes being used over Gm7 then I have the G, in the bass, and then 5 more notes: Bb C D F, and A.

So if I have to attach a scale to it then it could be G Natural minor, or Aeolian, or it could be a Gm7 chord in F major.  In this case, the Gm7 is a part of a II V I in F major so it makes sense to go with that. Music is about context.

But just knowing the scale would NEVER help you play a line like this, there is a lot more going on.

#2 The Harmony and Arpeggios

It is a Gm7 chord, you can see a Dm triad here (highlight),

even if that isn’t really the best way to understand that. You can also see that he is playing the 5th on the 4& so as an anticipated beat 1,

and the Bb is on beat 3 so he is really connecting to the chord tones on the heavy beats.

The two notes before Bb are an enclosure, so he is playing towards the note on beat 3, making that a target note.

 

This is already getting you closer to being able to create something that will sound right and not just throw random notes at the chords, because there is a direction and some notes need to go in certain places.

You can probably also tell that this takes some experience with both analyzing and listening to the music, but that is definitely something you want to learn.

I said that it wasn’t really a Dm triad, so let’s look at that because that is really important here.

#3 Melody

I already pointed out that it is not enough to just look at what notes are being played, you need to understand how they work in the line to understand what is going on.

An example of this could be this excerpt of a George Benson line which is also on a Gm7 chord in a II V I in F major:

If you don’t realize that the C# and the F# are chromatic leading notes

then you are going to end up thinking that this is a very weird scale, probably with 9 or more notes. And you realize that by noticing where the C# and F# are going. (show resolutions in sheet music))

This is also happening in the Grant Green example:

The A and C are an enclosure pulling towards the Bb on beat 3.

You also want to notice that the melody moves down from D to Bb but the enclosure is placed so that it skips down to A and then moves up to C, so it is in the opposite direction.

In fact, Benson does the same thing, the melody is moving up from D to G, but the enclosure is moving down from A to F# (highlight)

So that is something to keep in mind if you are making lines with chromatic enclosures: If the melody moves up then try to let the enclosure move down and vice versa.

The Triad That Isn’t A Triad

Let’s demystify The Dm triad that isnt a Dm triad. You want to see this as a part of another melody: A Bbmaj7 Pivot Arpeggio.

So, a Pivot arpeggio is an arpeggio where instead of playing the ascending arpeggio like this:

then you play the first note and move the rest down an octave to create this beautiful melody with a large interval skip:

And this can be hard to recognize until you have transcribed a few solos and seen this happen often, but that is why you keep learning solos by ear and get more familiar with the language.

Analyzing Solos For Recipes

I never did an analysis like this on an entire solo, but I did do it every time I had a spot that I thought was really good, so that I could not only learn the lick but also learn the concept or the recipe. In many ways that is also what Barry Harris teaches, it is not only what to play but also how to put it together, how to turn it into music. That is why he invented concepts like pivot arpeggios and why he is such a valuable resource when you are trying to learn.

This also brings me back to my story about how I wasn’t transcribing complete solos a lot for some time because what I was still doing was figuring out all the “good bits” so I would have solos that I listened to and they would have parts that I liked and that I didn’t understand, but I wanted to have in my playing, those I kept going for, and that still makes me figure things out. Later I realized that my phrasing and swing feel really benefitted from learning solos by ear and then I got back into working on entire solos, which I still do regularly.

Learn Like The Masters = Learn From The Masters

Of course, learning the solos is only a part of it, another activity is as important when it comes to getting this into your playing, but first, I already mentioned how I hear Grant Green (and actually also George Benson) as coming straight from Charlie Parker when it comes to vocabulary. This is really just about recognizing parts of phrases and melodic techniques that are similar to Parker. You can also find examples here and there of Wes playing Parker licks.

To give you an example then check out this phrase from Wes Montgomery’s Solo on, The Parker F-Blues, Au Privave:

This sounded very familiar to me, and Wes probably got that from this part of  Parkers solo on Now’s The Time, which is essentially the same phrase at the same place in the form since both songs are 12-bar blues progressions in F.

Connecting all of this across songs and artists is really about listening to a lot of music, and listening more than once. Something that is often worthwhile is listening together with other people and talking about the music you are listening to. Hanging out can be as useful as a lesson!

 

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If I started Jazz Guitar In 2023 then this is what I would practice

The problem with learning Jazz Guitar is not finding the information, you can find everything explained and almost everything written out on the internet, but where do you start? What is important to learn and what should you practice?

In this video, I will talk about how to keep it practical and what goals to aim for, but also highlight how we now have things available that make it easier, things I didn’t have access to back in 1996 or 7 when I started playing Jazz, and maybe they are not all great..

 

Let’s see if it really is easier to learn Jazz now than it used to be.

#1 Play Music – The Most Important Goal

Getting started without taking lessons is pretty difficult.  When I was first trying to learn a Jazz Standard, then I picked one that I thought sounded cool and tried to solo over it.  But at that time, I didn’t have a Jazz teacher, and working it out on my own was a complete disaster.

Even with all the mistakes and skills I didn’t have, I did get one thing right with that.  If you want to learn Jazz then you want to learn some music to play, that is the big goal around everything:

playing music, and you want to built the rest in a practical way around that. I’ll get to some basics on how to learn a song in a bit, but first you need to understand why it is important that you focus on learning songs.

Why You Want To Learn Jazz Songs

Anything you practice you want to learn to use when you make music, so you actually need to practice to use it, which is almost always missing in the equation, and that is what the songs are for: They are what you play when you make music.

They become the place where you take everything you work on whether it is a lick, an arpeggio or a chord voicing, and learn how to actually make music with it. Some students think that you just need to practice scales or arpeggios and then they magically become great licks in your solos, and that NEVER ends well…..

How You Learn Songs – It is pretty easy now!

There are a few very useful tools to learn songs that were not around when I learned Jazz. In the long run, you want to focus on learning songs by ear. In the beginning, then the chords are difficult to do by ear, so I would suggest always trying to learn the melody by ear first, and here it is a lot easier that we have things like Spotify, or YouTube and don’t need to buy cds or records of the songs, or even figure out what album a song is on. Everything is pretty easy to find on the internet and you can check out different versions and use those to learn the melody. This is great ear training and will also help you develop important skills that I’ll get to later in the video.

You should have a decent shot at learning the melody, and If you can, then check out the chords as well, but otherwise we have things like iReal, or Google to help with that, and of course the trusted old RealBook, but of course, those have been around for a long time! (as you can tell from the coffee stains and tape holding it together.

The Short list of things to focus on when learning a song for jazz soloing would be to:

Learn the melody

Because it will help you hear the harmony, understanding the form something to tie it all together.

Learn the chords

We mostly improvise over chords and if you know the chords and the arpeggios + the key of the song then you are already pretty far in terms of what you need to solo. Playing the chords in time helps you hear the harmony and the flow of the song, which makes it easier to improvise a solo.

Start soloing

Practice the scales and arpeggios in one (or more) positions so that you can solo over the song without having to skip around the neck at random.

And Don’t try to do the entire neck at once if you are new to it, just keep it simple, that is a super common mistake, and nobody learned anything from only practicing scales, except may to not only practice scales…

#2 Scales and Exercises

With learning songs there are a lot of tools that can help you learn faster, with scales and exercises then that is a bit more down to you to put in the work, and make the right choices

I think it is important to not get lost in working on too many things here, so just start with major scales, maybe don’t do all positions, but instead focus on what you need in the songs you play, and work on some exercises in those scale positions that help you solo better.

So here I am talking about learning basic exercises like diatonic triads and 7th chord arpeggios, triad inversions and add leading notes to arpeggios. The things you need for playing Jazz lines,

remember that there should be a connection of some sort. Then you can add more positions and more scales along the way, but again focus on what you need when you solo and try to practice so you improve that, don’t practice scales that you have never heard being used or that you won’t use for another few years. In fact, this is important for any exercise.

The same goes for chords, be careful with massive systems, inversions and permutations because they will eat up your practice time and instead keep it simple and build a vocabulary of chords that you can actually use when you play. I have other videos that give you a more practical approach for that. Let me know if you want a link.

I think this is mostly about working with a metronome, practicing the exercises and I don’t think there are that many differences between now and when I started out. But one thing is knowing all the technical parts of this, putting it together so that it sounds like a Jazz solo is something else entirely, and again it is a lot easier to come by information than it used to be, maybe  even too easy?

#3 Learn The Language

All the scales and arpeggios: someone with a lot of books or practicing with list of scales and chords popping in?

When I started out learning Jazz then I was already listening to a people like Charlie Parker, John Scofield and Pat Martino, but I also tried to find some books in the library that could help me learn, and at the time there was not a lot I could use. The only books I found were on Bebop and the material in there was a lot of boring exercises with lines that did not use songs and did not sound like the stuff I heard when I listened to the music, so I quickly dropped using them, and kept going figuring out bits and pieces by ear, because that was the best I had.

You can know all the scales and arpeggios in the world and still not know how to get anything to sound like a Jazz phrase. Like any style of music, Jazz needs a certain flow and the right notes need to be in the right place. There are a few ways you can study this, and not studying the language and just inventing your own melodies will often mean that you don’t REALLY sound like Jazz when you improvise, at the same time, that is also a question of taste, so feel free to leave angry comments on personal expression and artistic freedom below, maybe Wes is too clinical for you, Metheny is artificial or Joe Pass is boring. It is a sensitive topic.

The David Baker book that I checked out didn’t appeal to me, but in hindsight maybe a big part of why it didn’t do that was that I had to read the music to hear what it sounded like and I didn’t know how to phrase Jazz lines, so the examples were not really Jazz when I played them. So at the time it probably sounded like this,

But now you can find many lessons with both audio and video examples so that you can hear how the vocabulary you are trying to learn actually should sound, both examples from famous solos and stuff that people on the internet come up with. The important thing is to learn to make your own licks using that language and that takes time, but it is essential that you learn to understand how the lines work, that may be one of the most important reasons why Barry Harris and his approach is such an incredible resource, a resource where you no longer need to be in the room with him since his masterclasses are on YouTube and there are channels dedicated to how he teaches.. Another way to learn vocabulary is the next topic which is also one of the best ways to improve almost everything about your playing.

#4 Phrasing and Ear training

This is SO important for learning to actually sound like Jazz and being able to play in style. When it comes to learning Jazz then it is fairly easy to learn the big rough building blocks, so the scales, arpeggios, analyzing chords and playing licks.

But it is much much more difficult to learn all the subtle things in the phrasing like how much distance is there between 8th notes (because that is much more important than you might think). When should you play behind the beat, what notes should have subtle accents, which ones shouldn’t.

 

And it turns out that for most people those are things that are very difficult to learn by analyzing and explaining them compared to learning solos by ear and getting them into your ear and into your playing without having to analyze it.

Getting started with learning solos by ear can be very difficult, but it is worth the effort, because you will learn A LOT from it. I think this is one thing where it has become so much easier with YouTube, Spotify and having a lot of music available, plus that you can slow down music with the help of programs like Transcribe!

or even work within YouTube using things like the Vidami pedal that really makes it so much easier to check things out by ear.

The only thing missing is some advice on what great beginner solos to check out, and that can really mean the difference between impossible and super easy, barely an inconvienience, which also relates to the next part of learning Jazz.

#5 Learning Path and Information Overload

What should you work on? This is a common issue especially if you are trying to teach yourself jazz guitar using online materials. If you don’t know what is missing in your playing then it is also incredibly difficult to figure out what to work on next and how to learn that. On the internet then there are usually 100 different suggestions, but how do you choose what fits you and helps you the most?

I think the obvious solution here is to find a good teacher who has more experienced ears and a better overview of what you need to learn. I have had a lot of really good teachers, which is probably the easiest way to speed up your learning process. But, of course it is not always possible to find a teacher that fits you or that is available when you are, so if you want my take on getting started learning Jazz in a step-by-step process then check out my Jazz Guitar Roadmap course, where you can also get some feedback on your progress by posting videos in the course community, and that helps catching things that are specific to you and that you maybe can’t hear yourself.

Is it easier to learn Jazz now?

Is it easier to learn Jazz now? I am really curious what you think. I guess that I think it is, but you are faced with a lot of other problems that are often disguised as advantages because we underestimate information overload and how much it takes to choose the right thing to work on. Few things are as useful and efficient as having real lessons. It is hard to beat having a teacher as your main source of information and as your guide in what to practice and what to focus on. But it does have to be a teacher that fits to you and is available. Did it get easier to learn Jazz? Let me know what you think in the comments!

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The Mistake Everyone Makes Learning Jazz Guitar

A problem that comes up all the time with my students and Patreon supporters, and certainly also something remember from learning myself is that after a LOT of practice then you find yourself at a point where you know the scales and arpeggios, and you understand how that fits with the progression, but your solos still sound horrible!

But if focusing on playing the right notes is a mistake, then how do you fix this?

Clearly, something is missing,  and you don’t want to only focus on the dry theory stuff, so in this video you can take a closer look at what great players like Barry Harris and Charlie Parker are doing, because then you can get started working on making it sound right, because some it is not about the notes.

#1 Bebop Energy

Good Jazz lines have a certain energy, this really comes from Bebop where there is a LOT of forward motion

Take a lick like this Barry Harris Line from his solo on  “I’ll Remember April”:

It is pretty easy to hear that he is really playing from one chord to the next and has lines that move to a target note in the next chord.

In this case, I took an example where the targets are placed conveniently clear on the heavy beats of the bar. But you can open that up later.

This is from Live in Tokyo album which is really worth checking out. His playing is fantastic on this.

What you want to avoid is that your melodies have a lot of notes but are not going anywhere.

This is not a fantastic bebop line:

It doesn’t work because there is no direction, it is just moving back and forth and not really locking in with the flow of the chords.

You want to be able to make lines that move forward. You want to feel that the melody is going to hit the target note on the next chord.  Your solo lines should feel like they are saying: “we’re on a mission from god” (Blues Brothers)

What do you need: If we take Barry’s II V I lick as an example then you can see that he is hitting chord tones on the heavy beat, and that is an easy way to get started.  (Bring up his example with high lights)

The other thing that you need to get used to is knowing where the melody is ending and play towards that note.

Let’s say that you have a quick II V in C major and these target notes:

Now you want to make lines that go towards that note.

Dm7 to G7: You can run down the scale, super easy, barely an inconvenience!

To change things up a bit on the G7, we have 3 notes to get to  Cmaj7 and you can do that by playing a Dm triad that naturally resolves down to the G on Cmaj7.

Then you have:

If you start practicing making lines that do this, then you will start to get more of that Bebop energy or momentum into your solos. Think of where you want to go, and play a line that gets you there.

#2 Notes With More Bebop Energy

The first thing to work on is  something that I sort of skipped over the Barry Harris example. Notice how he uses chromatic notes to get more tension and in that way pull the melody forward. (Example with highlights?)

This can really help with the energy, and is a key part of the sound, I’ll show you more concepts like this later in the video.

Again it is something you probably want to mostly think of as moving to a specific note, and usually, that will also be a note in the chord at that point.

Check out how this Charlie Parker Lick from his solo on Cherokee is really pushing through to the resolution and has some great chromatic phrases as well:

It mostly makes sense to split these in two types: Single approach notes like these

The other type is a longer chromatic melody usually approaching the target note from above and below, which are called chromatic enclosures.

Adding this to your playing is really about learning to add chromatic notes and learning some chromatic enclosures that you then start to add to your lines, and the target notes for the chromatic phrases are often the chord tones that you would use as target notes in the line anyway.

An example of how you can do this with an enclosure on the Dm7 and two passing notes on the G7 sounds like this:

How Do You Practice Making Better Lines?

As you can tell by now, then I am showing you the concepts that are being used by Parker and Barry Harris. But how do you get those into your playing? If you want to play better lines or if you want to add a specific type of phrase into your playing, then you should work on writing lines.

This is not something that I made up, if you study Parker’s solos then he clearly has phrases that he uses a lot, and the Barry Harris masterclasses are really mostly about him showing the students how he composes solo phrases while breaking down the concepts he uses.

How it sounds

How you want it to sound

What is playable

And that is what you should do. If you want to become better at using F major triads over a Dm7 chord then write 50 II V I licks in C major that uses that triad. Then you cover the 3 most important parts of getting that into your playing: how it sounds and getting it into your ears, how you want it to sound, and what is playable. That way you can get it into your playing. You don’t need to always write it down, but it can be a good idea, especially if you want to figure out why something sounds good, or maybe if it sounds bad. I’ll show you how I do this later in the video.

#3 Arpeggio Motion

Now you have a better idea about how to create lines that move forward, but there are other ways to make your solo lines more alive, and they are actually easy to start using.

One way is to play arpeggios as triplets to add short rapid phrases to lines that are for the rest mostly 8th notes, this is really just about changing up the flow and create variation

Check out this Joe Pass line that does that in two ways:

Joe Pass is playing the arpeggios as 8th-note triplets, and here you have a Bbmaj7 arpeggio with a leading note, which leads nicely into an enclosure,

and later also an Am7 arpeggio that he plays as a triplet and use to target the note F.

 

Both techniques are very common ways to use triplets and can be applied to all chords. They are a great way to change up the flow and get to a target note. You also see Barry Harris using this in the example on the Gmaj7 chord, both using Bm7 and Gmaj7 arpeggios.

Practice playing your scales in diatonic arpeggios using these two recipes and then start using that in your solos.

But there is also another great device in this example that can help you break up the 8th note flow, especially if you have too many scale runs in your solos.

#4 Trills

If you listen to the first part of the line then in the 2nd bar, Joe Pass plays a trill

which breaks up what is going on and stops it from just being a scale run, without it then you have this:

Joe Pass love using these, also often several after each, these are the kind of thing that you want to add to solos in the places where they are easy to play, simply because they are pretty fast and usually sounds the best if you can execute them with legato technique.

Barry uses them as well:

Here you have the trill leading into the root of F7, and this example illustrates another really powerful technique that I will get to in a bit as well, and I can use that to show how I compose lines to get something into my playing.

#5 Twist and Shout!

What I am talking about here is the first arpeggio in the line which is a pivot arpeggio, something that can really solve a lot of problems if your solo lines are very predictable and tend to just run up and down scales and arpeggios.

In this case it is an Ebmaj7 arpeggio over a Cm7 chord, so using the arpeggio from the 3rd of the chord.

The pivot arpeggio is constructed by taking an arpeggio:

You play the root and then move down the rest of the arpeggio an octave to get this much more interesting melody with a large interval skip: 

And don’t underestimate how powerful it is to have a way to make large intervals melodic, because they can sound really unnatural in a line.

How You Improve Your Vocabulary

When you want to get better at using something like a pivot arpeggio then try to keep it simple when you are composing lines.

One Phrase (or arpeggio in this case)

One Chord to apply it to

One  Way of playing it

You can so easily get lost in possible options, and it is not going to be nearly as useful if you do so.

If I use the Ebmaj7 pivot arpeggio and try to make a line that takes me from Cm7 to F7.

Try to get to A, as a target note on F7:

You could also target the high A by combining it with a Cm7 arpeggio

Maybe adding a trill to get to the F7

Or a chromatic enclosure:

The point is to play the pivot arpeggio and then see how you can put it together with the other stuff you know and turn that into a phrase that you like, essentially that is what Barry was doing in his soloing masterclasses by constructing great solos on songs. From there you can gradually start using it when you solo.

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3 Goals That Block Your Progress Learning Jazz Guitar

Like me, you probably played guitar for some time before you became interested in learning Jazz. In a way that should make it easier to learn since you can already play and know a lot of things, but often that experience can also be what gets in the way of learning.

The advantage to learning Jazz when you are already used to learning guitar is that you can recognize a lot of the skills you need and come up with exercises to develop those skills, but that is actually also often where it starts to go wrong.

Consistent Practice = Massive Boost

One of the first times I encountered this was when I had just figured out how valuable it was to be consistent, and especially being consistent with practicing technique. This was before I decided to pursue guitar as a profession, and I was jamming with one of the bands I was in next to studying mathematics and computer science at the university.

Since I had just started practicing scales and arpeggios then the boost that gave my ability to improvise was pretty massive, but of course, going from zero to something is a huge difference.

Starting to be able to find notes on the neck and play the notes of the chord was giving me all these options and pretty much everything sounded new and exciting so this seemed like the way to go.

My goal in this was of course to get a better overview of the Fretboard so that I knew where to find arpeggios of the chords and how to play the scales I wanted to use.

There is nothing wrong with the goal in itself, you DO want to have an overview of all the arpeggios, scales, and so on but what often happens is that it starts to overshadow learning to play, and that gets very tricky very fast.

Myth #1 – Fretboard Overview

“I first want to learn all my scales and arpeggios in all keys and all over the neck, and THEN I want to start improvising”

Then you are probably setting yourself up to fail, simply because when it comes to learning Jazz, or any other kind of music, then knowing where the notes are doesn’t mean that you magically know how to play the right melodies, use the right phrasing or how to put those phrases together in a solo, if you think about it then it is sort of obvious. Joe Pass would not be great in Van Halen,

and Eddy Van Halen would not sound amazing doing chord melody.

The other skills required for that style of music have to be there as well, and they are much harder to learn because there are no scale exercises or arpeggios that will teach you that. That is about playing music, not exercises.

And this was also close to how I felt after a year of trying to play Jazz. I had practiced technique and was able to play a lot of it over most of the neck, but  I wasn’t really told to learn something that made what I played to sound like Jazz, there was no vocabulary it was more scales and arpeggios, but not with a way to get it to sound right, not how to play it. At this point, I had finished University and had decided that I needed to figure this Jazz thing out and maybe do that for a living. I wanted to be able to improvise in that style and play those types of melodies that I heard especially with Charlie Parker. I listened to other things like Scofield and Metheny as well, but I could tell that they were playing different things, and the Parker stuff was what really fascinated me.

The way I started to solve this was not the easiest way, and also not how I teach this, which I will get to. As I kept listening and trying to figure some Parker stuff out by ear while mostly failing pretty badly then I started to look for solos that were closer to Parker and easier to figure out. I ended up with some Ulf Wakenius solos and finally Pat Martino’s solo on Just Friends which really helped a lot. I was also listening to Wes, but the stuff I had was more of the commercial stuff so it was mostly octaves and chords all the time. in the late 90s, you were stuck with CDs and no internet which, in hindsight, was a pretty limiting factor. Once I moved to Copenhagen then I also started to have lessons with teachers who gave me a lot of vocabulary to learn,  jazz licks and easy example solos to play so that I started to get the language into my ears and also into my fingers. THAT made a huge difference and really helped me sound a lot better.

What should you do instead

In my opinion, it makes a lot more sense to have a more balanced approach to your practice so that you are not only developing some of the skills you need. Only working on technique and fretboard overview without actually learning to play music is almost like making a decision to only work on your alternate picking technique without ever learning anything that is really music, and it is not so that you have to learn all positions and variations in all keys of everything to play music. You CAN start working on songs and developing those skills almost immediately, which is also how I teach in my online course and how I have taught 100s of students.

The recipe is not rocket science:

Find an easy song where you need a few scales, learn the chords, learn the melody

Figure out what the key is and a place to play all of that in the same area of the neck,

Start playing music.

If you can couple this with learning some vocabulary then you are working on taking the things you practice to the place where you can make it into music, and you can expand your fretboard knowledge along the way.

In the end, you did not start exploring Jazz to learn to play scales or find notes on the neck, you want to use that to make music and that part of it is just as important as practicing scales if not more important. I can promise you that Wes and George Benson did not only practice scales, they probably spent more time playing music

And you see the same type of problem with chords, but luckily people like Ted Greene did understand this.

Myth #2 – Chords

“I can’t start learning songs, I first need to learn all my Drop2 and Drop3 chord inversions”

The idea that the more chord voicings you know, the better you are at comping, is something that I come across very often online. And that is definitely not true, it is almost so that those two things have nothing to do with each other. Let me show you:

When is comping good? It has to:

  1. Fit the music – so the right type of sound for the song and how the band is playing
  2. Make the Groove and the Harmony Clear – So you need to state where the time is and what the chords is (as much as is needed in the band)
  3. Be a part of the music – What you play should be a story, it has dynamics, development and makes sense beyond being a robot playing a chord with some extensions.

And these skills don’t really depend that much on knowing all your drop2 or drop3 inversions. Again, it is not so that you will not benefit from learning inversions, but at the same time, you won’t learn to make music by just playing a bunch of inversions. You need to take the time to learn to make them into music, and often that process is approached in a different way, which moves across voicings and you will end up thinking more about melody and rhythm than about the chord.

I mentioned Ted Greene earlier in the video, and I think that is a good example of material that is trying to teach not only some chords to play, but also how they fit together and become music, simply because he teaches the chords in the context of a progression so that it is not empty knowledge.

The more I teach harmony and comping then I also start to think that maybe it is very important to learn to understand chord symbols as options and think of groups of chord voicings instead of learning separate chords, especially since we use them together all the time.

Learning the connection between the voicings is as important as learning the voicing. I doubt if Joe Pass spent most of his time learning inversions, I am pretty sure he spent more time learning songs.

At one point, I had some lessons with a guitarist who insisted that I also buy his books on chord voicings, which were in fact just books with all drop2 chords, first maj7 then m7  then dom7th, and then the same for drop3 and drop2&4. The books didn’t contain any examples of how the material could be used, it was just a lot of diagrams. I did practice that a bit, but as I was practicing then it occurred to me that it was better to just make the inversions myself because then they were easier to remember and I knew the chords a lot better.

On guitar it is fairly simple to make inversions along the neck for any chord: Let’s take this Cm7 chord. First, you find all the notes in the chord and then you order them in pitch:

C G Bb Eb – order in pitch would just be C Eb G Bb. Now you just look at the chord and see that

C goes to Eb

G goes to Bb

Bb goes to C

Eb goes to G

And then you can keep on going moving each note in the chord. And essentially this works for any chord,

but sometimes the inversions are pretty unplayable

What should you do instead

Again, I think you want to learn to comp on songs, so take an easy song and try to play the chords just using basic shell voicings. Pent Up House is a nice and simple song.

From there you can develop your options by finding notes that work on top of the chord, so that you can play melodies and create something that flows from chord to chord.

Like this, you can start developing your ability to improvise while also playing the chords, learn how to repeat rhythms, and have melodies across a chord progression.

It is about turning chord symbols into music, not turning them into diagrams of chords.

Myth 3 – Pentatonic Scales

“I don’t want to learn music theory and scales, I want to play Jazz just using Pentatonics.”

I guess this is the most guitar-specific example in this video, and it is actually very common that I get that statement followed by the a question of what video to watch first.

There are two ways that this falls apart, the first one is a bit more subtle for beginners. For most people then the sound of Jazz is not pentatonic, there are pentatonic things in there here and there, but if people think about jazz solos then usually it is about arpeggios, chromaticism and more dense lines, and that is not really what you get from a pentatonic scales. Even if I don’t really like Bebop scales, then it says a lot that they are created by adding notes to 7-note scale, not taking them away.

See if you can hear it:

A Bebop phrase on an Am7 chord sounds like this:

And an Am7 phrase using Am pentatonic scale sounds like this:

What you maybe can hear, is that If you want to learn to play Jazz then you need to use the melodies and structures that fit in that style because they are a part of the sound, just like you don’t try to learn to play Blues using the chromatic scale and not learning the pentatonic scale.

The other part of where this gets very difficult is that you need to be able to figure out which pentatonic scale goes where.

it is fairly common to superimpose pentatonic scales in Jazz, that is how they are mostly used, and the way you do that is by figuring out if a pentatonic scale works over a chord and if it gives you the notes that you want to use there. Then you can improvise using the “pentatonic sounding” melodies over the chord.

If you want to do this then you need to have a fairly good overview of what pentatonic scales are found in the scale that fits the chord, so you do need some theory.

Let’s say that you are improvising over Cmaj7(#11) and you want to use pentatonic scales.

If you want to find a pentatonic scale that works then you need to be able to find a scale that has the important chord tones which would be E and B, the 3rd and the 7th and you probably also want the #11 in there, the F#.

Instead of just trying to construct something at random with those notes in there, then you can also look at the scale where the chord is found and what pentatonic scales are in there.

They all can work over a Cmaj7 chord, there are no strange notes in there:

But only one of those scales has the F#: Bm pentatonic and luckily that has the E and the B as well, so that works.

Figuring all of this out does take a fair amount of theory, and it is actually very useful to be able to easily figure out what a set of notes like a pentatonic scale,  triad, or arpeggio will give you against a chord since you can get a lot of options from that both with what notes to play and what types of melodies you can make.

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The Best Advice I Ever Had For Playing Fast Tempos

Playing fast tempos is always a huge challenge on guitar!

Technique is probably the first thing that hits you as impossible to master, but maybe that is not even the biggest problem, and you can get a lot out of changing how you think to get better at up-tempo playing.

I managed to run into probably every possible problem when I took a deep dive into getting better at playing faster and improving my technique, which is sort of how this started.

How I Practiced To Improve My Technique

When I was in the 4th year of my conservatory study, I decided that I really wanted to get better at playing faster tempos and faster lines, and I set up a practice routine to help me do that.

My inspiration for this approach was maybe less than obvious since it was inspired by a video clip that a student of mine had shared with me.

Essentially what John Petrucci was doing was to take a simple exercise and then speed it up from very slow —  to as fast as you can, and that process I took to my own exercises and repeated every day while slowly getting a bit faster. The way I did it was to take scale positions, but you can also start by working on smaller fragments and then expand that into longer exercises. It wasn’t only scales, I also worked on speeding up other exercises in the scales like intervals, triads, and diatonic arpeggios, because that is the stuff I want to play. Since I was focused on alternate picking, I was also practicing some Steve Morse-inspired exercises which I really enjoyed. I have some old videos with those.

The most important part of this is to be precise when you play slow so that your technique does not fall apart when you start speeding it up, something I still have to remind myself of all the time, and frequently get confronted with when I record myself improvising.

This really helped me develop my alternate picking and after some time I could play a lot of stuff pretty fast, but also I quickly started to realize that other problems were starting to turn up and that I needed to address those to play better up-tempo solos.

Getting The Practice Tempo Right

One thing that I discovered once I was able to play the exercises fast was that it did not immediately translate to being able to play solos, I didn’t want to only play scale runs when I was playing uptempo and there were other skills I also needed to develop.

I needed to start developing more vocabulary that was useable in higher tempos, which means more efficient and often more 8th note based so that I wouldn’t have triplet or 16th note passages in the middle that I could not play fast.

This reminded me of something one of my teachers in Denmark, Bjarne Roupe had taught me about not playing too slow: If you want to get better at playing fast and develop your ability to go through the changes then you should practice in a medium-tempo where you can easily play the lines and still have some freedom, but you should not play so slow that you start doing double time or triples, instead, you want to be disciplined and keep in mind that you need to be able to play this faster while you are practicing to become freer and develop more vocabulary

On a side note, the lesson where he gave me this advice was when I brought in Moments Notice. Because my combo teacher at the time had decided that since we could almost make it through a medium-tempo Just Friends then this Coltrane song was a logical next step.

Finding the right medium practice tempo and then working on playing like that is a great way to develop your playing, and it also enables you to sometimes try to practice soloing on a song similar to how I was practicing technique, so gradually speeding things up.

If you start working on this then I can also very much recommend learning to play towards target notes which will help you manage another thing that is incredibly important for faster tempos.

You also need to deal with the issue of getting stressed by the tempo.

Think Slow

One thing that can get very stressful in higher tempos is the tempo itself. You start playing the song but it seems like you are in hyperspace and there are 250 chords every second.

Coupled with that you are trying to feel the beat and stomping your foot 250 times per minute for the entire 12 minutes of the song and your foot is getting tired, in fact, your leg feels like it is going to fall off.

Instead of doing this, you need to start feeling the tempo slower. This is also what I heard from a lot of teachers like Barry Harris or my guitar teacher at the conservatory Eef Albers.

Depending on what you find easier then it makes sense to start feeling either half or even a quarter of the tempo, so just the half notes or even just feel a bar as a beat. That way you make sure that you don’t have to spend energy on counting or tapping your foot. At tempos like this then the beat becomes a subdivision and you want to feel it like that as well, also because it makes you a lot more flexible in terms of playing quarter note triplets or just floating on top of the groove without getting lost.

It is fairly easy to realize that it is less effort. If you hear all the beats it is this: (play all 4) compared to hearing it like this (play on 1)   (8 bars of Cherokee)

And you can start doing this by just listening to fast pieces and try to feel them in 1 or in half. This way you don’t get stressed by the tempo itself, but of course, you want to not get stressed by the changes as well.

Think Ahead

It is important that you are thinking about where the music is going and that you are ahead of where it is now so that you are not falling behind, you don’t really have time to think about what scale or arpeggio to play on the chord that is happening now, then you will be too late.

This means that you need to really know the song, and you need to be aware of what the next chord will be.

If you want to test that then just put on giant steps and try to say the chords as they are played

When I do that then I need to think about the chords in that tempo, and that is just too fast, it needs to be already in your system so that you can improvise over it and you probably do that playing chunks that you can connect, which is also clear how Coltrane’s solo on this works.

Whether putting together phrases like this is actually improvising is sometimes up for discussion, I remember seeing a Twitter thread from Ethan Iverson about this a few weeks ago. If you are on Twitter you should consider following him, because he posts some really interesting observations here and there!

If you are used to playing towards target notes then that is a huge help here because you are naturally training to think about the next chord, and you are less likely to get stuck with a chord where you have to think about what to play. As I said In this tempo that is – always – too – late.

A Strange side effect

While I was getting better and better at playing lines with alternate picking, I started to notice that I was not really happy with how my phrasing sounded. Everything was clear and articulated, but it was lacking some dynamics within the lines. I missed hearing some notes pop out of the lines. It took quite some time to figure this out.

I was also checking out a lot of Wes Montgomery and Scofield solos at the time, and I started to notice that they both used a lot of legato in their playing. This was not only to be able to play faster phrases, even if that was also a part of the reason, it was also something that was a part of the phrasing, so a part of how their lines sounded. I wanted to get more of that into my playing, and I realized that I needed to focus less on only using alternate picking all the time, and instead try to find a different way of executing the phrasing I wanted, mixing in especially legato techniques. The way I have mostly approached this has been about listening to how I hear a phrase and then try to play it with a technique that gives me that sound.

for example, If you listen to this phrase:

and compare it to this

Ex legato

you can hear that even if I make the G very soft with alternate picking then it is a different sound compared to playing it with a pull-off because the difference is not only volume, it is also the attack and the quality of the tone, and a bonus is that playing the phrase using the pull-off makes it a LOT easier for your right hand.

This combination of phrasing and technique can be a bit of a puzzle, but it is both effective and, for me, sounds much closer to what I want it to sound like

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The Real Secret About Chromatic Phrases And Great Jazz Licks

Chromatic Passing Notes are such a powerful part of the Jazz sound!

One of the few times that I had a guitar lesson that really blew my mind and opened up how I thought about music was before I was even interested in learning to play Jazz. In the lesson, my teacher showed me a way to use chromatic notes when I was improvising and that felt like I had just been given the secret power to use all the wrong notes, and still sound great! (EXPLOSION?)

Chromatic Phrases in Jazz

For Bebop-inspired Jazz, chromatic phrases and using chromatic notes is a huge part of the style, and, as you will see, it is one of the easiest ways to start getting that sound into your playing

The phrase he showed me was this:

Which is a great chromatic enclosure, and probably you are now asking what is a chromatic enclosure?

When it comes to using chromatic notes in your solos then there are two main ways you can do that.

Passing notes, which is a way to have a single chromatic note that resolves to a note in the scale or a chord tone

or longer chromatic phrases that approach a target note from above and below which is what we call Chromatic enclosures

Chromatic enclosures are great as short licks that you can combine with the scales and arpeggios in your solo to play lines that have a surprising element and really move forward.

They actually have an advantage over just adding chromatic notes, but I will get back to that later.

Let’s first check out some solid chromatic enclosures that you can easily add to your playing so that you can hear how powerful a tool they are for Bebop lines!

#1 Pat Martino

All enclosures have a target note, so the phrase is moving toward that note. (Pat Martino Enclosure) This enclosure is using a half step below and works better if you have a diatonic note a whole-step above the target.

When I was taught this I was told that it was from Pat Martino, but I don’t think I have ever heard it in any of his solos? But feel free to let me know in the comments if you know of a place where he uses it.

You can create a great line by combining it with an Am7 arpeggio:

And combining enclosures with arpeggios is a very solid strategy for making lines sound like Jazz!

You can also use the 3rd of the chord, C, as the target note and play that arpeggio giving you this:

I am sure you can hear how this is a fairly simple way to create some Bop lines that really work!

 

#2 Michael Brecker

Michael Brecker has some great chromatic phrases as well. This is a variation on one I took from one of his solos, and it is a great way to use a very dissonant note right on beat 1. I am combining the enclosure with the arpeggio from the 3rd of the chord.

So if people tell you that you can’t put chromatic leading notes on the beat then play them this example. (Michael Brecker Enclosure) It is interesting that like this, the enclosure actually only has one chromatic note. but of course, in the end, a bebop line is about creating movement.

You can use it where more of the notes are chromatic because that works equally well if you use the root, A, as a target note and then you get this:

And as you can see, this phrase is really just built around playing the enclosure: ENCLOSURE and then playing the arpeggio ARPEGGIO.

Since you know the basic recipe then you can also start to try other things with how you play arpeggios and where you can put the enclosure, because there are so many great sounding options for this.

EDITOR JENS: I took this phrase from his solo on Confirmation, and I just went back and checked, and he actually plays it a little differently moving the rhythm, but this also illustrates how you need to make these things something you can use and a part of your sound.

Let’s try to use the enclosure a little differently in the line.

#3 Sonny Stitt

The reason I thought of this topic for a video was actually that I came across that first enclosure in a Sonny Stitt solo and thought it was worth showing you. This is a pretty common line, I have already talked about it in my video Doug Raney as well.

The enclosure is this:

What makes this an appealing melody is actually the interval skip in the middle as much as it is the chromatic leading note under the A, but maybe that is only me?

Using this together with an Am7 arpeggio, which is now played as a triplet gives you:

What Is So Amazing About Enclosures?

Melodies that just move in one direction are not as interesting as melodies that change direction.

and adding a single passing note rarely changes the direction of a melody, but adding an enclosure does. In that way, enclosures make your lines more surprising and interesting.

Barry Harris has a whole system for chromatic notes, which actually offers some really nice things as well. Let me know if you think a video on that would be interesting?

NOT only on the off-beat

In some lessons, you will hear that the chromatic notes are supposed to be on the offbeat and chord tones should be on the downbeat so that the chord is clear. That is actually not true, you are free to put them anywhere you want, but you do, of course, need to make it into a melody that makes sense.

The chromatic notes are there to create tension that then resolves back into the key and if you put them on strong beats then they just become stronger tension. Charlie Parker actually did this quite often, if you look at a part of his solo on Anthropology there are two very clear examples with a C# on D7 and an F# on Bbmaj7.

If he uses that, then so can you, so let’s go over an example that does exactly that:

B-roll: Picture from Omnibook

#4 Double Chromatic Enclosure

This enclosure is approaching the target note in half steps from both sides:

Which is often called a double chromatic approach.

And to make the line even more interesting then let’s combine it with a Pivot arpeggio. And Let me quickly show you what that is using a Cmaj7 arpeggio. A pivot arpeggio is an arpeggio where you play the root and then move the rest of the arpeggio an octave down.

And that will give you something like this:

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5 Licks That Will Help You Understand Jazz Guitar

When I started listening to Jazz and trying to play it then a huge part of what I found exciting about it was that the lines were mysterious and complicated, and at the same time made sense and did not seem completely random.

This was what made me try to pick up phrases from Charlie Parker and John Scofield. I wanted to figure out how the music worked and how I could learn to play like that.

That turned out to be pretty difficult, but there are some basic things that you want to understand about Jazz licks or Jazz solos that will help you learn to play a lot faster. Things that I spent years figuring out, but that are an important part of what makes your solos sound like Jazz, and knowing that is going to speed up your learning process A LOT.

Dig Into The Chords

One of the things that make Jazz music challenging to play in the beginning is that the chords change quite fast. It doesn’t help that the harmony is fairly complicated, but this is also a description of how, especially Bebop-inspired Jazz, works: The lines you play in a solo will connect with the changes and often are so clear that you can pretty much tell what the chords are from just listening to the solo line.

This next example has a lot of chord tones in the melody, especially on beat 1 of the bar, so that when the new chord starts then there is a clear connection between the new chord and the note in the solo.

As you can hear, using chord tones and really hitting the clear chord tones when the chord changes give your solo that sound, that connection to the progression. (highlights)

The Most Important Chord Progression in Jazz

Here, the chord progression is a basic II V I in the key of C major (example chords) and this progression is, as you probably already know, one of the most common progressions in Jazz, and you will find that all over a lot of Jazz songs.

When you start improvising over the chords then you want to know the chord tones each chord, what you also call the arpeggio of the chord. One way you can practice this could be a simple exercise like this:

It is useful to also keep things in one position so that you can easily make a melody that moves smoothly from chord to chord without having to jump all over the neck, you can start doing that later(zoom?)

With this material, you can start making licks that really nail the changes, let’s check out how to make the licks stronger melodies.

The Solo Needs Energy And Direction

In the previous example, you saw that what you play in a solo is connecting to the chord, but just playing random chord tones doesn’t work.

It still has to make sense as a melody, and especially the transition from one chord to the next is important. This is often described as Forward motion, and when you play a solo then you play lines that aim for the target note on the next chord. Something like this:

With this lick, you can see how the descending melody on the Dm7 is going in an almost straight line to the B on G7. It is a bit more complicated on the G7 where you almost have two voices moving to the E on Cmaj7(highlight)

It is a good idea to practice composing lines and then work on choosing a specific target note on the next chord that you want to hit, doing a lot of that will help you start to hear melodies like that and that will become a natural part of your playing.

In these examples, I was mostly going for the 3rd of the chord. That is simply because that is one of the strongest and clearest notes. So in the beginning, this makes it easier for you to hear the chord change in your own solo line.

With all of this in mind then you can now start to learn some more building blocks for your Jazz solos.

Shortcut To Better Melodies

I already showed you how it pays off to use the chord tones in the melodies, but you can actually take that a bit further because the arpeggio is a great melody or building block that you can use in your lines in a few different ways, and there is more than one arpeggio per chord!

Here you have the Dm7 arpeggio on Dm7, but there are some other options for arpeggios on a chord. The arpeggio on the G7 chord is a Bø which is the arpeggio from the 3rd of the chord, and it is played as a triplet which is a nice way to change up the rhythm as well.

Just to quickly explain “The Science” behind the arpeggio from the 3rd:

If you look at a G7 arpeggio and a Bø together then you can see that they mostly contain the same notes and the difference is that you add a 9th to the sound when using the Bø instead of G7.

The same technique is used on the Cmaj7 where the arpeggio from the 3rd is Em7.

Until now everything was about the right notes, but let’s start to make it a bit more spicy with some wrong notes

Try Some Funny Notes

One of the things that often springs out when you both listen to a line or just look at a transcription is that there are a lot of chromatic notes in there.

Chromatic phrases are used in different ways and there are a few different types in this example:

Let’s first check out the complicated phrases and then get to the easy chromatic phrases.

The first chromatic phrase on the Dm7 arpeggio is actually used as a way to create some tension that helps you move to the G7. A phrase like this is called an enclosure, which is really just a short melody that moves to a target note. In this case, the B on the G7, and in that way, it is helping them transition from Dm7 to G7.

A shorter enclosure is used on the G7 in the exact same way to take us from G7 to Cmaj7. This type of enclosure is sometimes referred to as a diatonic above chromatic below enclosure, something that you can use in many ways in your playing and that you want to explore on different chords.

The final use of chromaticism is on the Cmaj7 chord where the F# is used as a chromatic passing note. Because you don’t need complete phrases, you can also experiment with adding chromatic notes here and there that resolve to a note in the scale, or what is often stronger: a note in the chord. In this case, the F# is resolving to the 5th of Cmaj7, G.

But you can improvise with more than notes, you can also start to change the sound of the chords, and that is an amazing effect to work with!

You Can Change The Chords To Create New Sounds

Besides improvising licks on the chord progression then you can also start improvising with the chords in the progression. If your progression is going from Dm7 to Cmaj7 then you have a lot of freedom with what chords you are using to get there.

A simple version of this, and probably the first one you want to explore is to use a b9 on the dominant, so making it a G7(b9).

Doing this will help you get a bit more dissonance and more flow towards the Cmaj7.

So what I am using here is first the arpeggio from the 3rd on Dm7, and a Dm triad.

On the G7(b9) I am using a B diminished arpeggio, and you can see how that is the arpeggio from the 3rd of the chord: G7 B D F Ab.

This is a concept you can take a lot further with altered dominants, harmonic minor, and a lot more, but just getting started using the b9 and the diminished arpeggios is a great way to ease into it.

Important Skills To Develop For Jazz

What also really makes a huge difference for how well your jazz solos sound will be phrasing and rhythm, that are really the two next ingredients or skills that you want to develop, and one of the ways that you can really get that into your ears and into your playing is to start learning some solos by ear. That might sound incredibly difficult, but it certainly doesn’t have to be. Just check out this video where I recommend some solos that are very useful and both easy and short to get you started learning Jazz by ear.

5 Easy Solos to Learn By Ear and Boost Your Jazz Guitar Skills

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