Tag Archives: how to play jazz

Why Their Jazz Blues Solos Always Sound Better Than Yours

Jazz Blues is surprisingly simple. The Lines are a lot simpler than you might think and probably stuff you already know, you just need to learn how to get it to sound right, and that is also easier than you might think!

Let me show you some amazing examples from what are probably also your favorite Jazz artists, they all play unbelievable Jazz blues solos and also give you some ways to make your own solid Jazz blues licks.

The sound of Jazz Blues is different than the sound of Jazz, the lines are related to Bebop lines, but they are different in quite a few ways, and that is probably what I like about them. Of course, the same is true if you compare Jazz Blues to what you might consider “straight blues playing” like this

In this video, I want to take a look at what that difference is, because if you know that then you also have an easier time getting the sound right in your playing.

Is This Overlooked When It Comes To Blues?

The first aspect of Jazz Blues is actually not as much about note choice or rhythm, it is about something that is at the core of the Blues sound. Try to listen to this part of George Benson’s solo on Bille’s Bounce. Notice how he is not just weaving through the changes, he is doing something else.

The scale that he is using here is often also a bit misunderstood, calling it Dorian is, I think, a bit misleading, but I will return to that part of it later. What you probably noticed is that he is repeating phrases, and he is also playing fairly short phrases. Obviously, motivic development is a massive part of most excellent jazz musicians’ toolbox, but here it is also related to Blues since the form of a 12-bar traditional Blues is about repeating and developing a motif through the form (Blues Progression diagram with phrases) In this case, the motif is a pretty simple descending melody and Benson is also moving the motif around rhythmically a bit, which is less common with blues but it is still clearly connected to Blues.

One thing that you want to be able to do is to play short phrases and find ways to repeat them through the form.

If you start to listen to it then you will hear this all over the place in the solos of Wes Montgomery, George Benson, and Charlie Parker, in fact, you will see quite a few examples of it in this video.  Let’s look at some rhythms

Stop Playing Bebop All The Time!

Another thing that is different from more straight Jazz or Bebop is how many notes you are playing and what rhythms. Again George Benson is a great example, so I’ll start with him and then move on to Wes. Check out how this phrase sounds amazing but certainly isn’t a Bebop line:

There are several reasons that this isn’t a Bebop line, but mostly the fact that he is playing quarter notes more than 8th notes is a big part of it.

Having simpler and more grounded rhythms is in fact also a part of the Blues sound where Bebop uses more syncopated rhythms in accents in longer lines.

Like Benson, Wes can do amazing things with this, and you want to notice that both the previous 2 and this next example are really only the same notes over the Blues, which is also important to learn. You could reduce it to a scale, but that might really help you as much as you think. You can also hear some of the other things I already talked about

As you probably noticed then, Wes is also repeating a phrase and developing it, just like George Benson was in the first example.

He also relies mostly on quarter note rhythms and not a Bebop 8th note flow,

and I think sometimes people forget that if you want to be able to play phrases and rhythms like this then you need to work on that. If you only practice playing 8th note lines through changes all the time, then you won’t get there. A part of the Jazz Blues sound with both Wes and Benson examples here, and this is true for these examples but also quite common in general in the solos I have checked out, is that the phrases seem to emphasize two notes: the 6th of the key, in F major which is a D, and the Ab,  the minor 3rd.

If you look at the Wes motif then it has the D as the outer note and the Ab is the other note that stands out:

And the first example with Benson sort of does the same:

Play the 2nd Benson motif where the D is also the outer notes of the scale.

Of course, that is not going to be true for all phrases, but it comes back more often than you might think, and it can be fun to mess around with. Let’s go a bit deeper with the note choices and figure out if there is a “Jazz Blues Scale”.

Is There A Jazz Blues Scale?

You may remember that I said these first 3 examples could be seen as using the same scale. To me, they don’t immediately sound like it though, so maybe it is a bit of a stretch, but check this out:

The 2nd George Benson example is clearly using the major blues scale,

so the major pentatonic with an added minor 3rd: F G Ab A C D F

And, the 1st George Benson example uses the same note set but doesn’t really use the A (except for the pickup);

if you look at the Wes example then that is also using that note set:

“The Scale Is NOT The Answer”

So all of the examples would be covered by the Major blues scale, and that is an important building block, but something that I find myself saying more and more often to people, and which seems more and more true every time I think about it:

If I am trying to understand a phrase and learn from it then the answer is almost never a scale. It is not just a set of notes that makes something music. We are all using mostly the same notes, There are Amazing Bebop phrases – and – very Boring Heavy Metal scale sequences that use the same major scale.

But at the same time, the major blues scale is a very useful resource to explore and is probably used a lot more than you’d expect in Jazz Blues, also in some pretty creative ways when it comes to double stops which you will see later in the video.

But if there isn’t really a Blues scale then there is another way to think about it.

The Mighty Triad (and a few other tricks)

Like any style of music, there isn’t a single approach that describes everything that is possible, which is probably also better because if it was a formula like that then the music would probably be boring. Still, there are some things you can do that work really well and are used often.

Notice how Parker uses motifs, or maybe riffs is a better word for it, and also how he gets from the I to the IV chord in this example from Now’s The Time:

The motif in this example is built around an F major triad on the F7

and then he changes it to Fm when the song moves to Bb7 to spell out that chord change and still connect the phrases.

In thiscase, Parker doesn’t use the major pentatonic scale, a better description is probably that he is adding notes around an F major triad, and there are some really great and fairly famous lines of his that follow that recipe, like this one from the opening of the Now’s The Time solos.

The first part is really just an F major triad with some chromatic approach notes:

Phrasing Without Bends

But you can also go more for more of a major pentatonic phrase like this Wes line from his solo on Fried Pies, and notice how Wes is really relying on slides as a part of his phrasing, you could say that he uses those instead of bends in the phrase, and the slides are mostly targeting the major 3rd, A. Something that is very common for this sound:

In general, slides, hammer-on and pull-offs are often the preferred techniques in Jazz blues over bending, probably because people like Wes had very heavy strings and not a lot of sustain, but you can find examples of bending, they are just less common. What you want to explore is using slides and hammer-ons to get to the 3rd of the chord:

You had George Bensons pick up in the first example –

But you also have a sort of enclosure like this:

 

or using a hammer on like this

Without bending there are other things that Jazz guitarists get very creative with: Double Stops.

The Power of Double Stops

This first one is a great example of how Jazz Blues should not always go with the changes in the way Bebop usually does, because in this chorus from Wes’s solo, he just sticks to the same 2 bar riff, but what you want to notice besides the double-stops is also how that really creates some tension and drives the whole thing forward. And pay attention to what type of double stop this is.

This type of double stop is a sort of pedal point where the high D note is ringing through and then you have a G that is sometimes turned into a short blues phrase.

A great variation on this double stop you can hear in Wes’ solo on Fried Pies. The high D is still a pedal point but it is now becoming a part of a call-response phrase and I think this double stop is a lot less common outside Jazz:

You want to listen to this solo for how he develops phrases and connects from one phrase to the next, it is pretty amazing!

Chord Solos in Jazz Blues

Another important part of Jazz Blues is combining Jazz chords with Blues licks, which is an amazing sound, and here Joe Pass is absolutely mind-blowing. If you want to explore how he does this and also how he approaches Jazz Blues in general, then check out this video which has some of the most solid Jazz Blues you will ever hear!

This Jazz Blues Solo is Perfect And Nobody Is Talking About It

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This BEST Jazz Blues Solo For Bebop, Blues and Brilliant Phrasing

It’s George Benson, so it is usually pretty solid! This solo is certainly no exception, and it is from probably my favorite period of Benson with a lot of Bebop, high energy, amazing phrasing, and some really solid Blues!

Jazz guitar probably wouldn’t be Jazz guitar without this era of Bensons playing, but I think that will be clear from this. It seems hard to believe that I nearly walked out of a concert the first time I heard him play, I’ll tell you about that later.

Benny’s Back

The song is a fairly basic Blues in C with one twist in the harmony, and Benson’s solo is mind-blowing, it even has a phrase that I can’t analyze or really make sense of but it still sounds great!

The theme is sort of built around a sound that I used to call “Expensive” or “Sophisticated” Blues.

The Best Period For George Benson?

Before we get into the solo and the mysterious phrases that I can’t analyze let me just recommend this album! The track is off the George Benson Cookbook

which is one of my favorites. This album and the one before it called “It’s Uptown” are the same core band and are great examples of what George Benson did as a sideman before really launching into a solo career. Both are great albums that you want to check out!

There is a lot to talk about already with the theme, even if it isn’t complicated then it is doing the simple things right to make it work, both with the rhythm, the melody and the harmony. This is on quite a few levels actually.

Let’s start with the main riff:

What I used to call Expensive Blues was when I had solos that used the 6th or 13th together with the minor 3rd, this is from before I started playing Jazz. A trill with the blue note and a descending run that ends on the 6th.

What makes this really work is that it is repeated, but it is repeated so that it is not the same rhythm since the first one starts on beat one and then the 2nd time it is on beat 4.

In fact, the 2-bar riff splits the two bars into 3-3-2 beat groups, so it has a sort of 3-2 clave feel as well, not unlike New Orleans grooves or what you may know from Bo Diddley.

The tag in this riff is C major pentatonic, something that you will see Benson use quite a lot in his solo as well.

The progression is a 12-bar blues, except for bars 9 and 10 where they play Ab7 to G7. It is also worth mentioning that they use these chords in the theme, but it is not in the solo where Benson plays either Dm7 G7 or D7 G7.

You will actually come across this in more songs where the theme has complicated harmony and then it is made simpler and more open when you solo.

I think this song illustrates in so many ways: Keeping it simple but strong really works, the pickup for the solo also shows this:

Setting it Up With Some Bebop (pickup)

 

Benson has a 1 bar break and is coming out of all the syncopated notes so the energy is already really high, and he matches that with the first phrase.

But it is really simple, an Altered dominant and a simple enclosure taking us to the 3rd of C on beat one, and it also really works! Jazz doesn’t have to be complicated all the time!

And he continues with a very basic triadic C melody which is sort of a major blues cliché

I am saying this is simple, but as you will see then it is not just him running scales, he is really playing phrases or melodies, all the time. The next phrase is very complicated, but I am not 100% that it is on purpose.

What Is This Now?

That’s a LOT of half-steps and a really weird interval in the middle.

It starts as a blues phrase and it ends as a blues phrase and then the middle part is really unclear. I could overanalyze it as super-imposing a dominant or using Barry Harris’ 6th dim with a million leading notes, but that doesn’t really make sense to me.

It is not the first time I have had phrases in a solo that I couldn’t really explain but sounds fine when I listen to the solo. I suspect this might just be a few wrong notes. One thing that is on point is the timing of the phrase and later there are some really solid rhythmical examples, a phrasing thing that is done with picking (I think), and of course some Bebop.

I forgot to mention that this piece is probably dedicated to the Trombone player Bennie Green who is also a featured guest soloist on the track.

Super Simple but Super Solid!

Here’s some super solid Bebop, but it is again very simple, and notice how relative short the phrases are for Bop stuff.

I think it is interesting because I know he was inspired by Pat Martino, and to me, this does sort of have a Pat Martino vibe or Pat Martino energy, but at the same time the material is much simpler and the lines are shorter with more emphasis on rhythm. One thing that you can really hear in this solo, which I have to tell students very often is that there are not a lot of phrases ending with long notes, in fact, it is mostly ending staccato, so very short.

A lot of basic stuff, notice the line on the Eø A7 because he uses a variation of this later.

Again just really spelling out the changes, targeting the 3rd of A on beat 3:

He is using an Fmaj9 arpeggio over Dm7 and changing up the sound with slides in the turnaround.

So a different way of playing the notes and short phrases and more rhythm!

The next phrase has a lot of notes and only a few different notes at the same time, but it is really about rhythm and phrasing.

A Picking Trick

This is just repeating a note and making it sound different by using different strings. He is really playing around with the 3-note groupings on top of the song,

and he is sort of just spelling out F7, F#dim to C7 which is a common set of changes for a blues in C.

Let’s check out a variation of the Eø A7 that I mentioned earlier:

Octave Displacement And An Extra Dom7th

On the Eø A7 you have essentially the same phrase as before:

but now it is with octave displacement so that he skips up to the Bb.

In fact, he does a lot of great interval skips in this solo which really makes it more melodic.

You can also see that he comes out on a D7 this time, really playing D major pentatonic

before moving into some C blues over the G7 (play), which is also a way to create tension on that dominant.

Again not filling it up with 8th notes, and making the rhythm interesting without it being overly complicated.

`And that is a choice, as you can see from this phrase which is some solid syncopation.

Benson Blues

But first, as I mentioned that I nearly walked out of a George Benson concert. I was always completely blown away by Benson on stuff like this, or his solo on Billie’s Bounce I also made a video on it, and his straight-ahead playing is so incredible. But obviously, he is, by now, much more popular as a singer and sits more in pop and smooth jazz, which is not really my thing. The first time I heard him live, he was playing at the North Sea Jazz Festival. I was in my 2nd year of conservatory, and we had just played at the festival with the conservatory big band conducted by Jim McNeely. I had been listening to a LOT to this album that year, so I was really looking forward to seeing him play. He was in the big hall at the festival, and we went there. Of course, it was completely packed so we had to stand far back in the hall. I have to admit that in the concert, I was completely baffled and pretty disappointed that he didn’t play guitar at all in the concert, he was only singing. After 30 minutes, I gave up and I was already beginning to make my way to the exit to see something else when he finally picked up the guitar and played an amazing instrumental Blues, and The next and last song luckily also had a guitar solo as well. It was so good that it was actually worth waiting for.

Syncopated Blues Cliche

This is really just a syncopated version of the A-train ending (play) but like this, it has a lot more energy, and at this tempo, it is also tricky to nail it, but I am, again, really impressed with how simple it really is.

What makes all of this work is the execution, the phrasing, and energy that George Benson just nails in the solo.

A Better Tempo For Jazz Blues

That is the real challenge, because if you don’t have that then no amount of scales or complicated arpeggios will save you. But maybe this tempo is a bit fast to get started with this, and there is another Jazz blues solo that is in a much slower tempo but which also is full of perfect phrases, most of which are pretty simple, and that this Joe Pass solo that is off my favorite Joe Pass album.

This Jazz Blues Solo is Perfect And Nobody Is Talking About It

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This Jazz Blues Solo is Perfect And Nobody Is Talking About It

Like me, you probably transitioned from playing some sort of Blues or Rock into playing Jazz, and often one of the first things that you “get” when listening to Jazz and that makes you explore the genre more is Jazz Blues. For getting that sort of crossover sound then I think this solo is the best there is, the perfect storm, and I never hear people talk about it which I find super weird.  It is the perfect mix of Bebop lines and Blues Licks and it is much more dynamic than most Jazz, but I’ll explain that along the way.

I was talking about this with one of the students in the Roadmap course the other day, and that made me think of this solo which really nails what Jazz Blues as a sound is and it is an Amazing solo! Certainly one of my favorite Jazz guitar solos of all time, and probably my favorite Joe Pass solo. It is a great song to demonstrate what is Blues and What is Jazz because it has clear elements from both and Joe Pass mixes that up and uses it in an amazing and creative way while also demonstrating just how incredible his range is with the music both in tempo, technique, sound, and harmony. Some of it is about the notes, but there is a LOT more going on.

There is a lot of real blues in this, with minor pentatonic stuff already from the rubato intro:

This is really all Blues scale stuff and using that sound. But he goes into some bop lines quite fast afterwards. Side note: I think the first part he is playing with his fingers and not with a pick, it is a little bit like you can hear the finger mute the string before it sounds which is different from playing with a pick, with a pick it is faster, almost instant.

Joe’s Blues & The Album

The song is off the “Intercontinental” album from 1970 which has Joe playing in a trio with drummer Kenny Clare and bass player Eberhard Weber.

Weber, is for me, much more associated with modern ECM stuff, so to hear him in this setting playing on an album of mostly standards is a bit funny, but he plays great on it! I have talked about how this is one of my favorite Joe Pass albums, if not just my favorite album. As far as I can tell, they didn’t rehearse anything and just spend a day in the studio with Joe calling tunes, which makes this album even more mind-blowing.

B-roll: Viking guitar teacher – “Learn Joe Pass” “go practice” + tape with Joe’s Blues

I was introduced to this song as homework, which was sort of scary. My teacher copied a tape of it and told me to go learn it. At the time I hadn’t really been listening to Joe Pass that much, I had been checking out Wes, Ulf Wakenius, Scofield, and Pat Martino,  not so much a choice on my part, it was just what people told me to listen to, since this was before the internet, so I couldn’t google it

This solo was really different from the other Jazz Blues things I had heard.

Most of the time when I had heard Jazz Blues then it was a LOT faster and a lot denser, more 8th note based, like Parker playing Au Privave.

And at those tempos then the solos are much more bebop lines and most of the time the emphasis is really on the Jazz side of things with phrases weaving through the changes.

That is not how Joe’s blues works though, there’s a lot more space in there.

The Sound – Archtop and Polytone?

But first, let’s talk a little bit about the sound, I think Joe’s sound on this album is a great traditional Jazz guitar sound. I always imagined that he used his ES175 into a polytone on this album, but I don’t know if it was that guitar and what amp was there, though it does have a polytone vibe to me, it could just as easily be fender tube amp or a music man. I am not even sure if Polytone amps existed in 1970?

There is also quite a bit of reverb on the guitar, and, to me, that sounds like a plate reverb, not an amp spring reverb, which you may already know that I don’t really like. As far as I know, most Polytones don’t have a reverb, so it is likely that it was a plate reverb given that it was recorded in 1970 before digital reverbs.

I am curious what you think he used, and you can hear it all quite clearly in the intro before the rhythm section comes in. Let me know if you have a suggestion, or maybe you know what he used.

Leave a comment to let me know!

Jazz Guitar Has NO Dynamics

Jazz guitar as an instrument actually suffers a bit from not having a very wide dynamic range, compared to drums or a trumpet. In this song, then the rhythm section is really playing as if they are in your living room, so the bass is really loud in the mix, and the drums playing only brushes is really just supplying a clear groove for Joe Pass to lock in with and float over, and because the drums are very soft then Joe Pass has an easier time using the dynamics of the guitar to the full extent.

I don’t know if you have thought about that, but traditionally,  Jazz guitar trios were often softer than bands with horns, and you can tell that they often are still a bit more in the chamber ensemble corner when they play. Like if you listen to Julian Lage trio, or Gilad Hekselman

Both, modern guitarists, who really embrace this and are very good at using dynamics and colors in their playing, while also being really different.

If you listen to Julian Lage on Nocturne then you can probably hear that if the band was louder then his soft call-response would just disappear, or have to be so loud that it wouldn’t come across as comping the melody.

And that is also how the rhythm section works behind Joe Pass giving him room to really get the contrast out between loud and soft and using chords and single-note lines. Let’s look at some of those types of phrases he is using, and how that is as much about rhythm.

Mixing Up Blues and Bebop

Most Jazz solos will stick to the subdivision of the groove, which is usually 8th notes, but for a slow blues like this that really is more like a ballad then you can do a LOT more and Joe Pass almost uses all the options!

He has phrases that are using 8th notes as this part from the beginning:

But since Blues is more fluid on top of the groove he also uses that in some of the phrases mixing 16th notes and triplets into it, more open but also sort of going for the Blues feel.

And then a few beats later he plays double time phrases:

And we didn’t even get to the IV chord in bar 5 yet!

Another really nice harmonic trick that he uses a few times is to turn the Am7 in bar 9 into an A7, and then us notes from the G blues scale to make it sort of an altered sound and then stick to the blues sound on the D7 that follows.

That is really giving you an A7 with a b9 and a #9 when he uses C and Bb over the A7 it is like a phrase you can hear in two ways at the same time.

Another nice variation with the rhythm is where he uses straight 8th notes on top of the swing groove

Harmonizing Blues Licks

Of course, there are also some really great phrases, harmonizing melodies, and mixing chords with single-note lines.

A great example is this really simple 3-note Blues phrase that is harmonized on a G7:

and then repeated on a C7

First using G7 and Ab7 chords and then the same notes but now using C7 and Db7 chords and he is using some of the same chords and a G pedal note for this simple but very effective part of the solo

 

Wes Montgomery!

Another guitarist with incredibly strong melodic ideas who is a a master of using chords in his solos is Wes Montgomery. If you want to know more about his playing, then check out this video that talks about both his singl note lines and his chord solos.

3 Reasons Wes Montgomery Is Amazing And Worth Checking Out

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTOTO4CGrzs&list=PLWYuNvZPqqcGmFEa5n98zh0m46GcARyUh&index=1

 

 

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The Truth About Avoid Notes and Target Notes

There seems to be some confusion about what avoid notes and what target notes are when it comes to improvisation even mixing them up, so I thought it would be a good idea to show you which one is incredibly useful and which one really isn’t, because in a way, they are the opposite of each other.

When I was starting to learn Jazz, I was taught both along the way, and for me, one helped me build an essential skill for Jazz while the other one was something that I knew but it never really made any sense to me.

Avoid Avoid Notes

Usually, avoid notes are defined as the notes that create tension against the underlying chord. So the most common example would be playing an F over a Cmaj7

Here the F and the E and also the F and B clashes quite a bit.

But really any note that creates tension would be an avoid note.

It is probably clear that I don’t think in avoid-notes and thinking about avoid-notes is very useful. The reasons for this are quite simple when it comes to improving your playing. There are some essential things missing:

#1 It doesn’t tell you anything about what to play.

If you take the common example F as an avoid note over a Cmaj7 chord, then the only thing that tells you is to NOT play an F, which is not really useful information when you want to solo. You are much better off thinking about what you SHOULD play. You also don’t drive a car thinking about NOT hitting something.

#2 It doesn’t describe the music

If avoid notes make sense then surely nobody uses the avoid notes in their solos. But at the same time, I was given a ton of examples and transcribing solos and it doesn’t matter if it is Joe Pass, Charlie Parker, or Pat Martino. They all use avoid notes in their solos, even if they don’t often really sit on them. So that never made any sense to me. It was not only a rule that I couldn’t use to make music it also seemed like it wasn’t actually true.

Bad Teaching vs Good Teaching

To me, avoid notes is the same as teaching people not to use a hammer because that isn’t the right tool instead of teaching them how to use a screwdriver which would be the right tool when they are putting together something they bought at Ikea.

And it is really obvious that you benefit more from thinking about what to play instead of thinking about what not to play.

So focus on playing notes that sound good and making melodies that work with for example the arpeggio of a chord rather than thinking about not hitting a specific note in a scale. It is almost like telling you “don’t think about a pigeon.”

What Are Target Notes

The strange thing about target notes is that it isn’t really about the notes, it is about playing towards them. Anything can be a target note, that is really up to you.

You can even make an avoid note the target note, and sometimes that is a great thing to do…. 

I’ll show you that later in the lesson

In general, we often hear music as movement so there is a flow and there is a direction.

You can hear how this works with Bach:

Where the melody is moving forward and aiming for the target notes repeating a similar structure or motif to make it clear when you hit the target note on beat 1 of the bar.

And This is one of the things that really link Bebop and Bach: playing the movement and linking to the chord.

Take this Barry Harris lick, Where is clearly aiming for the 5th of Cm7 and uses the Bdim to really add momentum on the G7 that resolves to that Cm7 and in fact does the same to moving from Cm7 to F7 targeting the A.

So when you talk about target notes then you are talking about something that you can find in the music, which, as you may or may not know, is how I usually like to think about valid music theory: Something that describes the music that we play.

And it is also a way to develop your playing. Whatever target note you choose, you can sit down and practice to make lines that hit that target note, gradually moving from composing lines to improvising them and in that way internalizing the skill.

Examples of lines resolving to the 9th of Dm7: E.

This is important to be able to do. so let’s go over a basic example of how that works.

Practicing Target Notes

I’ll demonstrate this the way I learned to use target notes from my teacher, but actually, Hal Galper wrote a book on the topic that is worth checking out it is called Forward motion. I am just using the approach that I learned because that worked for me and has also worked very well for my students.

Target notes as a strategy works because you play melodies that are actually going somewhere. You are not just playing another note into the void (b-roll into the void) As you heard with Bach or the example from Barry or actually any other Bebop solo, there is an energy that drives it forward.

The first thing is to choose a target note, and if you are new to improvising over changes then you want to take notes that are very clear and easy to hear. This is just because that makes everything easier to learn and also helps you hear how the chords are moving, but as I already mentioned, you can really target any note you want to (which often ends up being any note you can hear anyway because otherwise you probably can’t make any lines that make sense).

For a II V I, the easiest place to start is just to use the 3rd of each chord: Clear notes that define the color of the chord:

So for a II V I in C major you have these chords:

And if you take the 3rd as a target note for each chord then you have these notes:

Now you can practice composing simple melodies that take you from one target note to the next:

And I am sure you can imagine that you have lots of options in terms of melodies for these target notes here’s another basic one:

If you start to be able to do this then You can also start to use the same target notes in other octaves, again because you build on what you can hear and use that to expand.

And then you can start opening up which notes you use, after the 3rd then the 5th is a great option, here I use that on the Cmaj7 chord:

And from here you can gradually start to learn to use other notes, see what you think works and give your ears time to get used to the sound. You can also gradually start to add things like other sounds on the dominant and extra chords. Having the direction in your lines will make a lot of things easier to get to work.

Target Avoid Notes

As I mentioned earlier, then you can take any note as a target note also a target note like the F over a Cmaj7. A basic way to do this could be this:

As you can hear then I treat the F as a suspension and resolve it to an E later in the bar. And that is simply just because the F sounds the way it does, and the most common way you will see the note in a melody would be like this, so a tension that is resolving later. Which is a great effect used in many melodies, and keep in mind that if you thought of it as an avoid note then you couldn’t do stuff like this.

Target Notes Are Not Everything

As you might have realized then there is a specific drive or type of sound to this type of melody, and that is a huge part of especially Bebop-inspired music, but it is not the only type of melody that you want to be able to play, so while this is a great way to get started playing over chord changes then it is not the only way you want to work on creating melodies. You want to also work on melodic techniques like Motivic development and Call-response. If you want to explore these techniques that are amazing for getting more of a story into your solos because phrases are more connected then check out this video that builds that up step-by-step.

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5 Habits To Help You Learn Jazz Faster

You don’t learn to play Jazz Guitar in 20 minutes, it is a process and a set of skills that you build over time through practice. That is why you want to get used to doing things the right way, build the habits that help you progress faster so you are not wasting your time.

In this video, I want to discuss some of those habits that can help you level up your playing a lot faster because some of these are not obvious but they are all incredibly effective!

Practice Consistently

When I was studying mathematics at the university in Århus there was a summer where I decided that now I REALLY needed to start practicing every day, something my teachers had been telling me forever. And I still remember going to practice with my band for the first time after practicing daily for a few weeks. The instrument had just opened up for me, and I could play all these new things that I had never been able to play before, which felt amazing!

To be honest, I never had that again, but I immediately learned the lesson of consistent practice and what it could do. Which is maybe one of the most important things I have learned?

But it is more than just playing every day. If you want to improve something then you need to work at it until it really gets in there, and that often takes fairly long, like weeks or months.

The main thing to keep in mind with this is that you want to keep working on the same exercises for some time and track how you are progressing.

Here you keep playing the exercises to get better, and you track your progress to stay motivated. What you want to avoid is that you just scratch the surface and practice something new every day without really getting better. That is a lot less efficient.

This has often been a part of how I have worked when I have really improved my playing, especially with technique and speed but also with other things like improvising over difficult chord changes.

It is useful to often remind yourself that nothing will suddenly be something you can just do, you always have to practice, but you will see that later in the video as well.

Evaluate Your Practice

“Insanity Is Doing the Same Thing Over and Over Again and Expecting Different Results”

This is often put forward as an Albert Einstein quote, but it probably isn’t.

While Jazz Guitar may qualify as some type of mental illness, then what this will teach us is something else. You need to check if what you practice also helps you get better at the skills you want to improve.

If you are following the advice of practicing consistently then you also need to look at what you practice and compare that to what is improving in your playing, and maybe look at what you want to get better at and change or come up with exercises that focus on that skill.

You can do this by trying to have a list of goals that you want to improve. That is anyway a good exercise, because the more specific you can be about what you want to learn, the easier it will be to learn it. It is amazing how much time is wasted fumbling around in the dark. You won’t learn to improvise over a Jazz Blues by practicing scales or get better at comping by just practicing chord voicings.

This is very important so that you don’t spend hours working on something that won’t help you get better at the things you want to level up, and one of the main things to have in there is the next habit:

Use What You Practice

I say this very often in my videos, and it is something that I have to remind students of all the time!

“Work on using the things that you practice if you want them as a part of your playing!”

And this goes for diatonic arpeggios, drop2 voicings, or pretty much anything else. If you don’t have a strategy for getting it into your playing then you are probably wasting practice time.

Building this habit often means that you have to find a way to go from a basic technical exercise into something you use while playing, and often the missing link here is to use some form of composition and explore how you can connect the new material with all the other things you already have in your vocabulary.

This is something you want to keep in mind with your evaluation of your practice routines and pay attention to so that you make sure that you get the most out of all the exercises you do and that you are not wasting time on stuff that you can’t use.

It is also something that you want to think about when you come up with exercises, if you practice something that you have no idea how to use then you should wonder if it is really what you should be practicing.

Borrow Other Peoples Ears

I guess I am old-fashioned with this, but I am pretty sure that the most efficient way to learn is to take lessons with a good teacher. You can always disagree in the comments.

The important thing to realize is that if you are learning something new then you have to rely on your own ear to figure out if it is good enough or what is wrong, and sometimes we forget that you need a trained ear to recognize things like phrasing problems, swing-feel or even just how melodies lock in with the changes.

That is the biggest part of why you take lessons to get access to an experienced listener that will tell you what to work on. That is also why I use the community in my online course to give feedback on how the students are doing, which even helps with things that I don’t always talk about in the course.

If you don’t have access to a teacher in some form then you can also find people to practice with or even use Facebook groups like my Jazz Guitar Insiders group. Posting a video and saying what you are working on can give you a ton of useful feedback. With posting videos on the internet you do want to be aware of the amount of nonsense you can also get, so it pays to know who is commenting so that you know who to listen to and who to ignore

Play With Other People

Jazz is not a solo art form. It was developed in bands and it is about making music together and communicating with each other while improvising, but there are more reasons why it is very useful to make music with other people.

For me, this was always the most fun part of playing Jazz; Making music with others, and that is also clear from the fact that I learned a huge chunk of my repertoire playing in the streets of Copenhagen with a bass player before I started studying in the Hague.

What I see as the most important advantage is that you

  1. Are forced to play and make things work
  2. Have to take everything to where you can use it
  3. Have more fun and stay motivated.

And these are all 3 more important than you might think when it comes to learning, so if you don’t play with other people and you want to play better Jazz, then seek out the opportunities and find people to play some songs with and both learn and enjoy that experience.

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Why You Need To Learn Bebop Themes If You Want To Play Jazz

Learning Jazz Guitar you probably already discovered that some skills are a lot more difficult to internalize and also hard to improve with exercises in the way that you can practice scales and arpeggios. The things that I am talking about here are skills like rhythm, phrasing, and vocabulary. These topics require a lot of work, but one very effective way to get improvement is to start learning Bebop themes and let those Bebop themes teach you, to paraphrase a famous jazz guitarist.

What is a Bebop Theme Anyway?

When I am talking about Bebop themes in this video, then I am referring to the types of melodies that you find in pieces by people like Charlie Parker, John Lewis, Bud Powell, and others. Usually, they are written using standard progressions, and especially often on Blues and Rhythm Changes. To name a few famous examples, Donna Lee which is probably by Miles Davis, or Parker’s Anthropology, or Dizzy Gillespie’s Groovin High.

What is great about bebop themes is that essentially they are melodies that are written out Bebop solos, so the melody in a Bebop Theme is similar to a bebop solo and not a vocal melody as you find on a great American songbook Jazz standard like the one shown below:

A Quick Win And A Stepping Stone

The immediate bonus here is that when you learn a Bop theme then you are studying a solo and really getting that type of melody and phrasing into your ears and fingers.

One of the best ways to improve phrasing and vocabulary is to learn solos by ear. You have probably heard me and a lot of others say that often. The problem with this is that solos are long, they don’t repeat that many things and they are difficult to both learn and remember.

Since Bebop themes are complicated melodies similar to Bebop solos then they are not as easy to memorize or play like a “normal” Jazz Standard melody, but the fact that the theme is a lot shorter and also often has more repetition means that learning Bop themes is a bit like a fast-food version of transcribing, and unlike most fast food it is actually good for you.

So if you are new to learning Jazz solos by ear, what we call transcribing even though there is not necessarily any writing involved, then an easy way to get started is to learn some bebop themes by ear.

What Will You Learn?

There are quite a few things that you develop by playing Bebop themes. Let’s have a look at some of the benefits:

Technique and Fretboard Knowledge

When you are playing this type of vocabulary then you have to figure out how to execute some pretty difficult music, and obviously, that is good for your technique and while figuring out how you can play the phrases then you are most likely going to move around a bit and find a practical place on the neck where you can play it, so in that way it is also a useful exercise for your fretboard knowledge.

Phrasing and Rhythm

Studying and learning Bebop lines, and especially when you also (of course) checking out recordings of the song, is going to develop your phrasing. Playing along with a recording and really listening to how a piece of music is phrased is probably the most efficient way to learn to phrase, and I have used Bop themes for myself but certainly also for my students with great success when it comes to improving phrasing. Another exercise that I also see work really well is to write easy solos for students and teach them to play it along with a recording of it. This is also a major part of what people learn in my course the Jazz Guitar Roadmap. One thing is to understand what to play, but it is much more useful to hear it and to experience how it feels to play it with good phrasing.

Vocabulary

My friends over at the Guitar Hour Podcast are often finding themselves discussing what studying vocabulary and language actually is, and it is a term that does not always mean the same thing from lesson to lesson or teacher to teacher. So to me, the point of developing your vocabulary is that you can create and play lines or melodies that sound in-style for a specific genre, in this case, Bebop. So when you are working on vocabulary, then you are, hopefully, taking melodies or licks and using them to help you get better at improvising in the same style. That does not have to mean playing licks all the time, but it is more about learning the language or style by example, which is not that far from how we learn actual languages.

From this point of view then playing Bebop themes are exposing you to those phrases and you internalize examples of how those melodies sound, and how they work which will help you hear phrases like that internally, something that is a part of being able to play solos in that style, but not the only thing you need to do. If you stick with the language analogy then I would describe this as being able to listen to a language and understand it, but not being able to speak it. In fact, that is how I learned Dutch, with an odd period where I understood most things but never could take part in a conversation because it was all passive.

And if you like podcasts then check out the Guitar Hour Podcast for some interesting discussions about pretty much everything guitar-related. They are often what I spend time doing when I am driving long trips, and I am not only saying that because I won the quiz they had at the end of the year.

You can check it out here: https://theguitarhour.libsyn.com/

How Should You Study?

A huge part of what is practical about Bebop themes is that they are shorter than solos and generally also more repetitive. This means that they are simply less information to learn, but they still have important and very useful information.

You will probably benefit from learning and practicing them in any possible way, but there are a few things I would suggest you consider:

Learning by Ear

If you learn the theme by ear then you don’t have to worry about mistakes in a real book or Omnibook, and while it may seem more difficult in the beginning, then the time you need to spend listening to it to figure it out will probably mean that actually learning to play it will take less than half the time because you already know what it sounds like. Using the ability to slow down recordings can be very helpful, but watch out that you don’t overdo it so that you only hear a note and not the phrase.

This is also often overlooked when it comes to checking out transcriptions vs learning solos by ear. If you learn it by ear then you don’t have to worry that much about learning to play it.

If you want to check out some solos to train your ear then have a look at this post:

The Solos You Want To Learn By Ear To Play Better Jazz Guitar

Playing along with recordings

The most efficient way to learn phrasing from studying Bebop themes is to really dig into the way it is played and try to learn the phrasing of somebody performing it. By really experiencing how the melody sounds and how the phrases are played you can develop your own ability to hear and play lines with that type of phrasing.

Of course, this is a lot easier if you also check it out by ear, because you then have already listened to the melody a lot and probably already know how it is phrased, that aspect is already in there.

It is a lot more difficult if you are reading the melody and have to internalize the phrasing from a much more abstract medium like sheet music (of some form).

That said, learning bebop themes and playing them with the recording is never a waste of time, and often also a fun challenge.

What More Can You Get Out Of It?

Now you already know how studying bebop themes will help your phrasing, technique, and ear-training. But of course, it can also be put to use to develop your vocabulary.

The melody is a bebop solo used as a theme so analyzing, studying, and using it as licks can be very useful. Especially if you can find small fragments that you can make variations of and turn into new vocabulary, rather than just quoting the theme. It can also be very useful to start analyzing the melody and understand some of the melodic techniques used since there are quite a few things that are very typical to Bebop that you can check out and use as a way to create your own licks.

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5 Quick Tips When You Are Stuck In A Jazz Solo

We all get stuck in solos, even though you know the song, the chord or the scale. You still don’t know what to play. This video will give you some jazz guitar tips that you can use to get past this.

The 5 tricks are about looking at things differently or taking a step back and finding more options, but working on them will make you a better jazz improviser and improve how you make music.

More tips on improving your Jazz Guitar Solos

The Scale is NOT That Important – This is!

More Melodic Guitar Solos – Three Critical Techniques without Arpeggios and Scales

Content:

0:00 Intro

0:42  You Know The Song, but still..

1:51 #1 Play The Melody  

2:59 #2 Play The Chord

3:43 #3 What Do You Hear? Nothing? Then Play That! (Jim Hall!!)

4:54 #4 What Did You Play Right Before

5:34 How This Sounds on A Song

7:36 #5 Check Available Triads, Arpeggios, Pentatonics

7:52 Share your list

8:12 A Part of My List

9:10 Like The Video? Check out my Patreon Page

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2 5 1 – How To Solo with Diatonic Arpeggios (the most important approach)

You Need to be able to improvise over a II V I or 2 5 1 in Jazz. In this video, I am going to show you how you can get started improvising over this progression using the scale and the diatonic arpeggios in that scale.

The examples are a 2 5 1 in C major, a scale position and the diatonic arpeggios in that position. Then I am going to give you some examples of lines using the basic arpeggios of the chords but also a few other very useful suggestions. Then I am going to add the triads in there, and in the end, you have a lot of material to work with from this very basic approach.

This is the most important part of how I improvise. Having a set of arpeggios that work for a chord in a progression is a great way to have lots of options when you improvise. So you learn to think the chord but you have 8 or 9 different arpeggios that you can use when you are improvising.

The 2 5 1 chords and scale

One of the most important and common chord progressions is the 2 5 1, sometimes written with Roman numerals as II V I.

In this lesson I am going to focus on how to improvise over this progression in the key of C major.

First let us look at how t play the C major scale and then the chords contained in there.

Building Diatonic Chords in C major

If you build diatonic chords in a scale then you stack thirds in the scale. In C major that would be:

C major : C D E F G A B C

Stacking 3rds:

1 C E G B = Cmaj7

2 D F A C = Dm7

3 E G B D = Em7

4 F A C E = Fmaj7

5 G B D F = G7

6 A C E G = Am7

7 B D F A = Bø

How to play these chords is shown here below

As you can see I have added numbers to each of the chord signifying the degree in the scale.

This is how to understand the 2 5 1 progression. A 2 51 in C major is shown below:

Practicing and Playing Diatonic Arpeggios

The next thing to check out how to play the arpeggios of all the chords in the scale. Playing each of the chords within the scale is shown here below.

Of course there are now more chords and arpeggios than we need, but that will become very useful later.

Putting the arpeggios in the Progression

The first logical thing to practice now is to take the arpeggios throught the progression. That is what is shown here below:

Making Great Licks with Basic Arpeggios

Already just using the arpeggios, so the basic chord tones of each chord. You can make some great licks:

Really using Arpeggios (so not just playing the arpeggios..)

When you check out solos from famous Jazz Artists you will notice that their lines are not only consisting of the arpeggios. The melodies are a mic of scale notes and arpeggios, but the arpeggios are on the heavy beats and work as a frame to hold the melody together.

An example of this is shown here below:

The most important Other arpeggio

Now that you know the arpeggio for each chord and can work on incorporation it in lines that also mix it with the scale. We can haveea look at the next arpeggio to check out which wil almost always work in a line: The arpeggio from the 3rd of the chord

For the progression we have these arpeggios:

Dm7: Arpeggio Fmaj7

G7: Arpeggio – Bø

Cmaj7: Arpeggio Em7

Practicing this on the progression becomes this exercise:

Making lines with the Arpeggios from the 3rd.

Now with two arpeggios for each chord you can make a lick like this:

And mixing it with the scale then something like this is possible

Adding the mighty Triad!

One of the strongest melodies we have is triads. The diatonic triads as arpeggios in the scale is shown here below.

Finding triads for the chords

There are several triads that fit with each chord.

For a Dm7 you can use the three below.

Notice that if you have a Dm7(9) arpeggio: D F A C E then you have all 5 notes that make up the 3 triads.

The same approach applied to G7 is yielding these 3 triads. So a triad from the root, 3rd and 5th.

And finally we have the C, Em and G for Cmaj7:

Using Triads in a 2 5 1 Lick

Putting some of the triads to use in a lick could give us something like this:

If you want to explore more ideas with Arpeggios and scales in the key of C major then check out this lesson based on a solo on the Strayhorn tune Take The A-train:

Take The A-Train – One Position Workout

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How to Learn to Play Jazz Chords – Study Guide

You want to learn how to play Jazz Chords. An important part of playing Jazz is to be able to interpret and play the rich chord language of the genre. This list of lessons is an ordered way to work your way through this from getting to know a basic vocabulary to have more freedom in comping with different types of chord voicings.

Your Feedback is very valuable

Remember that the guides are here to help you so if you have suggestions for this or other guides then let me know! I might have missed something or you have another idea for something that is important to check out! Feel free to send me an e-mail or message via social media.

I have also collected the videos in a Playlist on Youtube if you prefer that:

Playlist: How to Learn to Play Jazz Chords – Study Guide

Check out the other study guides here: Study Guides For Jazz Guitar

The Jazz Chord Survival Kit and vocabulary

The first three lessons deal with a basic chord vocabulary and how to use it when playing important chord progressions and jazz standards

Leaving out the root and getting used to upper-structures

Once you know some chords and can play a few songs you can start to expand your vocabulary.

There are two main topics you should add first: Triads as Jazz chord voicings and Drop2 voicings. These two are the foundation for most other voicings and you can build on this knowledge to really build an extensive chord vocabulary.

The Essential Drop2 Voicings

Drop2 chords form a huge chunk of all the voicings that are used in jazz. These lessons will take you through a lot of material using drop2 voicings. If you want to hear Drop2 chords in action then just put on a Wes Montgomery album, he used them extensively in his chord solos and comping.

Developing Comping skills beyond the chords

Playing Chords does require more than just knowing what chord to play where. Some of the other equally important skills are discussed in these lessons:

More Modern sounds

If we look beyond the triads and Drop2 voicings it is of course possible to start checking out more modern sounds that may not immediately be covered in the lessons I already included. These voicings are both more extreme with having large intervals or much more cluster-like with second intervals:

Allan Holdsworth Chord Series

One of my favorite players when it comes to modern jazz chords is Allan Holdsworth. Since I have made several lessons inspired by his chordal language I though it only right to include some of these lessons. 
I am a huge fan, but there is a lot to be learned from him and the chords are very beautiful and worthwhile checking out. Even if they are not all easy to play.

Chord Solos

One way of getting good at comping is to get good at playing chord solos. Being able to improvise solos with chords really helps develop your freedom and ability to play solid comping behind others. 

For that reason I have included a few of the lessons I have on chord soloing that you can dig into if you want to take this approach.

 

Comping skills on real songs

If you want to really get better at comping and work on improving how you make it all sound like music and beautiful progressions then check out this collection of lessons:

Comping – Putting It All Together

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the 3 jazz scales you need to know

Jazz Scales! The 3 You Need to practice and How You apply them to Jazz Chords

Jazz Scales can seem like a million options that you all need to learn in all positions and all chords, but there is a way to approach this that is a little easier than trying to learn all jazz scales in all modes. After all the Dorian mode is not as important as the Major or Minor key.

Learn from the Songs You Play

In this video I am going to take a practical look at the chord progressions you will encounter and what scales over what chords you are going to need. I am also going to discuss how you apply the scales to the chords and practice in a more general way towards being able to use a scale over any of it’s diatonic chords.

PDF overview of the progressions and analysis

If you want to download an overview of the material I cover then scroll down and sign up to my newsletter to get a PDF of that.

More videos on Similar Harmony

The 10 Types Of Difficult Chords In A Jazz Standard

Secret to play over Diminished Chords

List of content: 

0:00 Intro — a myriad of Jazz Scales

0:20 Practice efficiently

0:50 Finding the scales by looking at the progressions

0:59 The Major II V I Cadence: Dm7 G7 Cmaj7

1:15 The II V I and the other diatonic chords

1:44 The Major scale it’s all you need from So What to Giant Steps.

1:57 The Minor II V I Cadence: Bø E7(b9) Am6

2:09 Adding Harmonic minor and Melodic minor

2:34 Secondary dominants and cadences

2:51 Secondary cadence to IV in C major

3:07 Secondary cadence to III in C major

3:27 IV minor variations

4:26 Diminished Chords the two types

4:40 Dominant diminished chord

5:04 Subdominant diminished chord

5:44 What is covered so far

6:06 The tritone substitute: Dm7 Db7 Cmaj7

6:23 The Backdoor dominant: Fmaj7 Bb7 Cmaj7

6:48 Double diminished or German Augmented 6th: Fmaj7 Ab7 Cmaj7

7:23 Cadences with other dominant choices: Altered and Harmonic minor

8:11 The three scales and where we need them — cutting away what we don’t need.

8:55 Getting this into your practice routine!

9:12 Scale practice suggestions and knowing the scales

9:40 Example of what works and what doesn’t work when improvising over an Fmaj7 in C major

10:59 The Bonus from practicing like this!

11:20 Learning the rest of the scales

11:58 Do you work with this system or do you have a better one?

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