Tag Archives: how to play jazz licks on guitar

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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My 7 Best Jazz Licks with Only Four Notes

You are probably thinking 4-Note Jazz Licks! That doesn’t make any sense!

But actually, those 4-note licks are very important! They are the flexible building blocks that you put together as phrases in your solo.

Think of a solo phrase as a sentence (example 1 + text ) and these building blocks are the words, they are how you say something, and you need great building blocks for great solos and as you will see, just naming it with an arpeggio or a scale is nowhere near enough.

Let’s first look at one that is like adding instant Bebop to your solo.

Lick #1 – A Beautiful 6th Interval

This is so simple, but it sounds fantastic in a line, and it isn’t just an arpeggio or a triad.

You can at most call it a scale run with an inserted interval skip, and that is also not much of a description.

If you use it on a m7 chord you get this:

but it is equally great on a maj7 chord

With The Next One, you will see an example where it is pretty clear that just a chord name is not really a description

Lick #2 – Minor Triad With Extras

This is sort of an Am triad with an added B,

 

 

 

 

 

 

or you can think of it as a Cmaj7 shell-voicing with an added A.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is great for altered dominants like this G7alt:

or over an F# half-diminished chord like this:

And I think you will agree that calling it an Am triad or Am(add9) is not really describing it.

An Arpeggio Is Just A Set Of Notes

So you can see how this isn’t just an arpeggio or a scale, and that is what makes it great. You can again think of these building blocks as being like words. it is not enough to have an analytical term for a set of notes like maj7 arpeggio, Diminished triad, because it is just as important what melody you make with those notes.

Similar to what word you use in a sentence there are options and they feel different even if they are sort of the same thing. The 3 examples below are all Cmaj7 arpeggios, but as you can see the melody is very different from example to example:

So you need to know what set of notes but also need to have some ideas on how you get them to sound great. Sometimes the arpeggio is enough, but you want to be more creative with your melodies than that.

Ironically, the next two examples are arpeggios and sound amazing.

Lick #3 – A Hidden Arpeggio

This arpeggio is not strictly a diatonic arpeggio in C even if the notes are all in that scale, it is an Fmaj7 with a B instead of a C

The fact that I call it a maj7(b5) arpeggio is also something that can get the comment section all fired up because some people will insist that it is a #11

But: an Fmaj7(#11) is a chord with 6 notes: F A C E G B and it seems a bit silly to call it an Fmaj7(omit5, add#11). Calling it Fmaj7(b5) makes it very clear that the arpeggio only has 4 notes and especially that there is no C in there which is important for how you use it.

Of course, there is plenty of room in the comments if this really offends you. Go right ahead!

This is a great sound for an altered dominant or a backdoor dominant like this:

You can also use this as a voicing and that sounds amazing as well.

If you have Fmaj7 here, then you create Fmaj7(b5) by moving down the 5th a half step:

And listen to this:

That sounds really great!

The next one is pretty simple but is also so good for really nailing a sound!

Lick #4 – Almost Obvious Arpeggio

So this is a basic m7b5 arpeggio, and I am starting with an Fm7(b5) here because I want to show you how great that sounds on a G7 altered, really nailing the sound and resolving so nicely!

Example 16

Before we get back to some examples that are more melodic techniques than great sounds on a chord, then I want to just show you how you find blocks like this in the solos you transcribe or analyze, because these are really the things you want to search for and try to work into your playing.

Finding the blocks

 

Just to give you a quick impression of how you can isolate some blocks then look at this part of Pat Martino’s solo on Just Friends.

Of course, not everything is a neat 4-note phrase, so the first phrase is a 1-bar phrase with some rhythm in there.

Then you get a pick up followed by a scale melody, a Coltrane pattern, another scale melody with a 16th note turn, descending scale, and then a Bbm triad with an added C. A different version of what I cover as the 2nd lick.

So that is how you can start to find things you want to get into your playing.

Here is another Bebop classic that you definitely need to know.

Lick #5 – The Bebop Arpeggio Melody

There is a fair chance you have heard me talk about this Bebop phrase before. Playing a maj7 arpeggio with octave displacement is a great sound for a lot of chords, and it is in so many Bebop and Hardbop solos. Here it is on a m7 chord:

This list would not be complete without a chromatic enclosure. The next one is one I took from a Michael Brecker solo

Lick #6 – A Great Enclosure

This is one that I picked up from Michael Brecker, but later I actually realized later that he probably got it from Charlie Parker.

It is like a standard enclosure with a leading note for the leading note.

But you also want some more modern sounding melodies, and the next one is one of my favourites, and one that is really underused in my opinion

Lick #7- My Secret Weapon

This Quartal arpeggio with a tritone is a great sound. It works for so many things, tonic minor, altered dominants, but also diminished scale sounds.

I have written it out so that it is the top part of a G7(#9) chord:

         

and you can use it in an altered line like this:

but it also works great with a diminished scale sound:

Finding Truly Great Phrases

When you start searching for blocks like this then I think the best place to do that is probably in the music that inspires you, so the solos that you think are amazing are also more likely to give you this material. This is also why I referenced Pat Martino’s solo on Just Friends. Learning solos and analyzing phrases is incredibly useful for this, and if you want to check out some of the phrases that I think are must-know vocabulary then check out this lesson:

The 3 Bebop Licks You Need To Know

The other way is to mess around with material and try out things to see if you come across something that you like. This is also a lot of fun but can be very time-consuming.

 

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10 Classic Charlie Parker Licks That Will Make You A Better Player

If you want to learn to play Jazz, then nothing is more useful than checking out Charlie Parker, but you can learn a lot more than just where to add a chromatic note or which arpeggio to use. The 10 examples in this video will show you that but also some great ideas you can use for making better licks which is probably the real genius of Charlie Parker!

#1 Classic Parker With Odd Note Groupings

This example is one that you will find in a lot of Parker solos., and there are a few things to pick up here.

  1. Triplet arpeggios are great! Here it is a Gm7 arpeggio over the C7 chord with an F# leading note.
  2. The main thing here is the groups of 3-notes are a nice way to create an interesting flow on top of the changes. He is playing this with the chromatic phrases, but it can also work with a lot of other things like diatonic triads

Here you have a line using Dm, C and Bb triads as 3-note groupings on the C7

#2 Voice-leading Creates Beautiful Melodies

Another thing that Parker uses very frequently, especially in BLues is to play relatively simple melodies and then just lead the voice-leading turn it into beautiful music

 

So he is nailing the changes AND telling a story by just changing one note from D to Db which turns it into a great example of motivic development.

You can also add some extra chords in your solo to get more movement in the lines:

#3 Embellish The Chords

 

This line is from the solo on Billie’s Bounce, and Parker turns Gm7 C7 into Gm GmMaj7 Gm7 C7 and even adds this nice wide trill to the first Gm triad.

In fact, he uses the same technique in the theme, but with a different melody. It is also worth noticing how he changes up the sound by following up this fairly dense line with a really basic F blues lick with a lot of repeated notes.

#4 Don’t Be Afraid Of Chromatic Passing Chords

Another example of using more dense harmony is this part of a Rhythm Changes solo:

Using chromatic passing chords is something that didn’t really become that common in Jazz until after Bebop, but Parker was ahead of his time. Here he is turning Dm7 G7 Cm7 F7 into Dm7 Dbm7 Cm7 F7.

He probably thought: As long as you get to the right place then it doesn’t matter what route you take.

This next example is a great example of taking a very simple one-bar idea and then creating a 10-12 bar story with it.

#5 Arpeggios And Rhythm!

 

This is amazing! He is playing a very simple arpeggio melody, repeating it, and then developing it. This is a great example of how to develop a simple descending arpeggio with rhythm! That you can make a million variations of!

Let’s check out another real strong use of an essential melodic technique

#6 Motivic Development – Simple But Effective

 

The line on this Bb7 is really just using a Dø arpeggio, but then making the main motif a little more interesting with some 16th notes and moving around where it is played so that it is first on beat 3 (with an upbeat) and then on beat 2.

Changing the last note also gives it a typical blues call-response sound.

#7 Triad Inversions Are Bebop Gold

Chances are that you are not practicing your diatonic triad inversions. Most people don’t get beyond the root position triads, and that is a pity because you can make some great lines with them:

 

Here is a fairly simple short example of Parker using a 2nd inversion C minor triad, and in general you will find a lot of triad inversions in his solos, so just go practice that! You can thank me later!

Here is another example with a Bb major triad in 2nd inversion:

#8 Scale Runs Made Beautiful

The next example will show you two very common Bebop devices.

Here you have Parker inserting an arpeggio in a descending scale run. This way of breaking up scale runs to make them sound more interesting is all over Bebop, and in this case he is inserting an F major triad which is the triad from the 3rd of Dm7 which also adds the complete sound of the chord to a simple descending scale melody.

#9 How Grown-Ups Use Chromatic Passing Notes

You have jazz licks with chromatic passing notes, and then you have Parker licks with chromatic passing notes. Just check this out.

This is a lot more interesting and unpredictable than just adding a chromatic leading note before an arpeggio and he is really skipping around and adding leading notes in the middle of arpeggios. You really want to open up how you think about this!

#10 How The Pros Use Diatonic Triads And Arpeggios

You also want to be able to put together different diatonic triads and arpeggios to create more inspired melodies. Here Parker is doing that by playing the arpeggio from the 3rd, Dm7 as a triplet and then using that to transition into a Bb major triad adding scale runs in between to give it a great flow.

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For Any Jazz Lick You Need To Understand These 3 Things

In a lot of lessons on playing Jazz then chord progressions are reduced to scales and then that is the only way you try to understand what is being played. Obviously, that is important but you can learn so much more than this very basic understanding of what is happening, which is really just scratching the surface of the music and not really helping you make your own lines, which is probably why you are studying the licks in the first place.

Level #1

Even before I was playing Jazz, I was always more interested in trying to figure out how to make my own version of whatever lick or solo I came across. That is the real goal of checking it out.

So let’s say you have something like this:

Probably the things that you actually find great about the lick is not only going to be which notes are used or the scales for each chord.

If that was the case then you could just scramble the notes around, but that will mostly turn it into complete nonsense

I remember having problems with lines that I learned and could not turn into something of my own, I could only play THAT version of it and not get it to work in a different way, and that was really annoying. One of the first ones was this Parker Octave displacement line:

EXTRA example 1

And it was impossible to move it around and get it to work and I got licks that didn’t resolve right and just didn’t sound good.

Extra example 2+3 (voice-over)

And I could not figure out what I was missing but something was certainly missing….

Level #2

A Jazz lick is a melody, sometimes we forget that, maybe because we zoom in too much on the chord or the notes. Melodies are not just individual notes next to each other, they are a long story, and very often they have building blocks. This is true for Jazz melodies like “In The Mood” which is built on a 1st inversion major triad:

But this is also the case with songs like the Jazz Standard “All Of Me” which also uses a 1st inversion major triad, and in fact, continues with a root position triad as the next phrase.

Instead of just looking at the individual notes that are played in a solo then it can be really useful to recognize which structures are played, and how they sound similar to Charlie Parker loves to use the m7b5 arpeggio from the 3rd of a dominant chord. This can give you shorter melodies and sounds that you can use in your own playing. It can also help you find new melodies in another way which I’ll show you in a bit, let’s first just look at another example and start with identifying some harmonic structures:

 

Here we have on Gm7, Dm7, Bb major triad,

For the C7alt: Ab major and Db minor triads

And finally an Am7 arpeggio for the Fmaj7

But there are also other melodies that you want to recognize besides arpeggios and triads. You don’t have rules or the exact names for them, but that is not that important, since it is more important that you have a way to identify what you want to play. Whether you call something a Honeysuckle Rose arpeggio, a pivot arpeggio or octave displacement is not going to make a big difference for what you play.

This example uses a few different melody types that are very common in Jazz.

When you analyze lines then start with the things you can easily recognize. Here that would be the arpeggios

Bbmaj7 on Gm7 and an Emaj7(#5) on the C7

A few of the new types of melodies

Before the Bbmaj7 you have an enclosure of the Bb.

The phrase after the arpeggio on C7alt is a scale melody with a chromatic passing note and

on the Fmaj7 you have a scale run from A down to F with an inserted chord tone.

But this is still about what is being played and not why it sounds good. Let’s have a look at how you might describe the melody that you are playing, something that I think we don’t spend nearly enough time on in Jazz and Jazz education

Level #3

One thing is that you can make melodies and use arpeggios then you still need to connect the melody across the chords for it to be a great line. There has to be a bigger picture or larger story to what you are playing, so let’s look at that.

This isn’t taught very often, and I think we still miss the tools to describe it, but it is beginning to show up in education. Let’s start with some examples using techniques that you probably already know and then a few that are more, sort of my own way of describing melody.

This is a clear example of a basic motif that is moved from chord to chord using voice-leading. This is a great way to tie together, and as you can see, it doesn’t have to be obvious.

Another way to play a motivic melody is to use the same type of melodies:

Here the skipping arpeggio melody is continued through the line creating melodic tension as well as harmonic tension. This is then resolved on the Fmaj7.

You can also use shifting phrases as a type of motivic development:

Here the arpeggio melody on the Gm7 is shifted to an Ebm7 melody on the C7alt and in that way, there is a motif that is developed.

The other well-known type of Melodic development is call-response, which sounds something like this:

Here you have an ascending call on the Gm7 with a descending response on C7.

But call-response can also be seen as a sort of melodic tension and release so in a simplified way, and you can think of melodic or rhythmic tension which then resolves on the next chord.

This example is creating tension by having arpeggios and large intervals on Gm7 and then resolving that tension with more stepwise motion on the C7alt. Rhythm can be a way to work with this as well:

Here you have the syncopation on Gm7 creating tension that resolves on the C7, and this is what ties the two melodies together.

 

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A Simple Way To Make Amazing Jazz Licks On A Single Chord

Whether you are trying to add a little Jazz flavor to your solos or working on getting your Jazz solos to sound better then you are probably stuck with mechanical sounding lines that miss that great feel or phrasing. So you sound like

And you want to sound more like this:

The thing that you want to learn is to start hearing melodies that have this type of phrasing, and that may sound incredibly complicated and like you have to transcribe 150 Charlie Parker and John Coltrane solos, but there is actually another way that can get you started a lot faster and a lot easier.

For most Jazz licks there are two main ingredients, meat, and potatoes if you will: The Scale and The Arpeggio. You can let me know in the comments which is which 🙂

To keep it simple, I will use an Am7 chord as a II chord in G major, what you may also call The Dorian Scale or Mode something like this:

And you can play an Am7 arpeggio, which is the melodic version of the chord like this:

The way your playing sounds using the scales and arpeggios is probably like cooking without any spices, it is not interesting and there are no surprises, so let’s get started fixing that.

The Best Phrasing Building Block!

Let’s make it a little more interesting, with probably one of my favourite building blocks when it comes to phrasing:

So now something is happening, mainly because the line is not just running up and down the scale or arpeggio like this

What I am using is a short melody with 4 notes:

It is skipping around and also has a nice chromatic leading note which resolves in a great sounding way.

Try to play the D on the 1& a little louder that makes it feel better and sound more like Jazz. If you play all of the notes completely even then it sounds a bit boring.

This one is easiest to use if you have a place in the scale that is like this, so B C D, half step, whole step.

If you move it around you see how it doesn’t work as well and gets difficult to play

But the basic version is still great for a lot of licks

A Few 16th Notes Sound Great!

A similar but much more flexible little phrase is also still the easiest to play on one string:

The small phrase you can take from this is this one:

And again you want to accent the note on the 1& a little to make it a bit more syncopated.

This is a great phrase to move around on one string like this:

Which is also a good exercise for knowing the fretboard.

But this type of phrase also works if you don’t have all the notes on one string like this:

So now the pull-off on 1& is still getting an accent, but the last note is on the next string. It is followed by a little scale melody and then the Am7 arpeggio and a scale run to takes us up to the 9th of the chord B.

The one that I always found to be the master of these types of phrases would probably be Charlie Parker, and I actually did a video discussing this on Patreon using one of his solos, but you will also find great examples in the playing of Joe Pass.

Let’s have a look at another great way to make your lines sound like Jazz phrasing and also start to combine the different building blocks!

A few things are going on here. The main ingredient is this 16th note trill:

But as you can see I am also using an Em7 arpeggio over the Am7 chord,

and that has to do with how the notes are of Em7 are related to Am7:

Am7: A C E G

Cmaj7: C E G B

Em7: E G B D

So for Em7 the E and the G are chord tones and on Am7 the B and D are the 9th and 11th both notes that sound good on that chord, and as you can see Cmaj7 is also a great arpeggio to use on Am7.

Back to the Trill!

This is easiest to play if you have the notes on two strings, and actually, this trill is pretty easy to practice in a position like this

Let’s combine this with the first building block:

And of, course, you can also add in the 2nd building block.

As you can see then it really pays off to work on developing a vocabulary of building blocks. Those are the real licks that you want to pick out of Charlie Parker solos or other things you hear.

And when you find something like this then spend time practicing to use them and compose licks so that you become better at that and the new material becomes a part of your playing.

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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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