Tag Archives: how to solo over chord changes guitar

How To Solo Over Chords – Think Like A Pro!

The “Random Phrases” Solo

A big part of why a solo sounds great is the flow. (example 1) But it can be difficult to get that right and very often you feel like you are trying the best you can but there is no flow at all and nothing fits together

The real problem is how you think about your soloing. To fix it, you need to go pretty far back, but once you do, you will not only become much better at making solos sound more natural over the chords, but you will also start to hear the chords better and hear how your favorite Jazz artists also think and hear phrases in the same way, I’ll show you!

A Better Way Of Thinking

I certainly remember finding myself in this situation: Whenever I was practicing at home, trying to play a solo I was so busy keeping up with each chord and figuring out what to play that I could not get anything to make sense. Especially when it came to songs with many chords, which is most Jazz songs.

That was also the question I took to my teacher in Copenhagen: “I know what notes fit, the arpeggios, and the scales but I can’t get it to make sense when I am improvising”, and luckily he had a way to fix that.

Improvising over changes is a bit like walking. – You never think about what you are doing when you walk. You think about where you want to go, not about moving your legs and lifting your feet, or how difficult it is to walk on stairs. – But keep in mind that walking is complicated and we are still trying to create machines that can walk and the best ones are so impressive that they go viral and get millions of views!

That is also how you want to approach your solo: think about where you want to go and get used to playing melodies that go there in a logical way.

Making Soloing Easier

Let’s start by making it a bit more practical, if you have watched my videos before you know that I often say that “in Music context is everything” and here, that is also what I was missing just thinking of each chord.

If you are soloing over chords then you want to play something that first that chord, so you are trying to find interesting melodies with whatever licks, scales, and arpeggios you know. That part all makes sense, and in a way, it only takes one note to fix this! The problem is that you are throwing away the context. It is not just an isolated Dm7, it is a Dm7 that continues to a G7, and when you solo over it then you need to play towards that G7.

I remember being in a Kurt Rosenwinkel masterclass when I was studying, and he talked about how he wanted to play better lines on m7b5 chords so he practiced improvising over a m7(b5) chord for 10 hours only to realize at the jam session the next day that the m7(b5) chord only came by for 1.5 second.

So if you don’t think about where you are going and just try to play something then it sounds like this:

But you want it to flow and sound more like this:

All it takes is that you decide on a note on the G7 that your Dm7 line should end on. You give your Dm7 line a direction by deciding where it needs to go.

This is what is called a target note, and it is an amazing way to create naturally flowing lines, how do you think Bach’s music works. Let’s boil it down to a simple exercise to start hearing it.

Making it REALLY Simple (one note)

To get started with this you want to reduce it to something very simple. Don’t start with a whole song, or 3 or 4 chords with all the chord tones, that way you are too busy trying to choose which note to target on each chord, it’s way too much!

Instead, take one chord change, let’s do Dm7 to G7 and one specific target note in a position that you already know. Let’s say this B (DIAGRAM) I(‘ll talk about choosing target notes in a bit)

So you have this scale which is C major: Diagram, and the two chords are Dm7 (arpeggio) and G7(arpeggio) but for now you only need to think of the G7 as this note.

and then start to practice composing lines on Dm7 that end on that B. Start simple, basic arpeggio or scale:

or something like

and gradually you start to hear how that flow works and you can go a lot further:

Later in the video, Ill break down longer examples like this. Already with these examples, you can hear how this has a natural sound and how it adds that sense of flow to your solos. Hearing the chord change and feeling the time is a huge part of what you want to get into your system, and to get that right then let’s talk a bit about how to choose target notes and I’ll show you some examples of famous soloists playing towards target notes.

What Are The GOOD notes?

The examples you heard until now were made to make it really simple and easy to hear, but in the end any note you can hear as a melody on the chord could be a target note. When it comes to choosing target notes then the recipe for a clear target note could be described as:

  1. A note that was not a chord tone in the previous chord, so in this example on G7 F is not the clearest target note because it is the 3rd of Dm7
  2. A note that is a defining part of the color of the chord. This is a bit vague, but for example, targeting a b9 or a b13 on a dominant will often be very clear in the context

`

You can return to this later. Let’s start with the easiest, most common, and clearest target notes: the 3rd of the chord.

For the II V I that would give you this:

And you can play a line like this hitting the target note on beat one of each bar:

As you can tell then they are clear and easy to hear.

Start To Hear It!

As I already mentioned, a great exercise, which is great for many other things in your playing, is composing lines. I’ll show you some places where you can get some inspiration, but make sure to spend some time composing simple lines that move to the next chord, in the beginning, make it short 4-note melodies taking you from Dm7 to G7 or something similar that is very common.

You can quickly start to use other target notes as well but start with the 3rds. It will help you start to hear those melodies and help you think ahead towards the next chord, both are incredibly important!

But to give you an example of another target note and one that is less clear, here’s an example going to the 5th of G7 which is, of course, the root of Dm7.

And notice how you don’t have to fill up the bars completely all the time as well:

I will get to how you can open up this approach in a bit, but first a few places where you hear this in action.

Pass & Parker’s On Target Too!

The person who is most famous for teaching this is probably Hal Galper, but it is all over Bebop, and if you have the Joe Pass guitar-style book that I also made a video on. That is a great place to hear this in action.

I am going to play this in a way that makes that clear but then it is not really in time:

I think you can hear what I mean even if I am messing up the time by playing it like this! Another place to check out is this part of Charlie Parkers solo on Au Privave where you can also hear the line go from target note to target note:

Don’t Be Square!

This method gives you strong and clear lines but since you always connect with the changes on beats 1 and 3 then it might get a bit boring, but there are ways to open that up as well, and here are a few examples, to make it easy I am sticking with the 3rd as a target note:

So here I am delaying the target note on the Dm7 and the Cmaj7 with chromatic enclosures.`

and I am anticipating the G7 by playing that target note on the 4& It is not set in stone that you have to hit the target note on beat 1 or beat 3, that is just the easiest place to start.

You can start working with these strategies to open up target notes and make it rhythmically more varied and there are more options than these. Making a specific place in the bar a rhythmical target note can be a great approach, so maybe practice hitting target notes on the 4&.

But the best place to start is closer to Bebop, and learning to use chromatic phrases for this. Passing notes and enclosures now also have a much more interesting function where they surprise the listener, and the one you need to check out for this is definitely Barry Harris, I talk about that in this video and his system is so much better than Bebop scales, which I find pretty useless, check it out! I talk about it in the video.

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

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3 Important Exercises for Jazz Guitar Beginners To Get Started

You need many skills if you want to play Jazz, and some of them can be hard to find good exercises for, or even realize that you need to work on them. In this video, I am going to go over 3 Easy exercises that will help you play better solos and develop skills that are difficult to fix by just practicing scales, arpeggios, or chords.

#1 Playing Changes – A Little Easier

Hope you are having a great day playing some Jazz! This video should help you develop your melodies, your rhythm and your phrasing.

This is something you get hit by very hard the first few times you try to improvise over a jazz standard. I know I certainly did, thinking that it must be impossible to follow the chords that move so fast! When you try to play a solo, chords are flying at you left and right and it seems like you have to be a math genius or a computer to figure out what to play and where to play it.

But improvising over chord changes is a part of Jazz and you want to be able to not only follow the chords but also play melodies that make sense.

This first exercise makes that a lot easier, and mastering this and the next exercise will already make you sound really good when you solo.

Let’s use a bit of the Standard How High The Moon:

The chords are:

The Trick is to do the “calculations” beforehand because eventually, you can get by without having to solve crazy equations whenever you see a chord progression, that is mostly a matter of experience. If you practice like this then you build that skill and it becomes something you can quite easily get into your playing (B-roll on top: complex equation overlay on How High The Moon)

I am not going to cover how you find chord tones, diatonic arpeggios and how to analyze chord progressions in this video. I want to focus on how you practice soloing, but if you want to dig into that then check out the playlist I link to in the description with videos that help you get started with that:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLWYuNvZPqqcHYOlEVg5uHPBy_AudysODz

Of course, you want to play something on the chord progression that makes sense and has a natural flow. The best way to do that is to play phrases that begin on one chord and end on the chord change.

So in the song, when you move from Gmaj7 to Gm7 then the chords sound like this:

and a clear line going from Gmaj7 to Gm7 could sound like this:

So you play towards a very clear note in the next chord often a chord tone, and you can hear how it gives you a natural-sounding melody and also makes the change of chord very clear.

With How High The Moon:

Essentially this is two bars of G major, the key of the piece followed by a II V I in F major.

The simple thing you can do is to target the 3rd of the chord, but you should also check how well the 5th might work because that is a very strong melodic note, the 7th is for solos often not a very strong target note. If you play like this then that could give you:

So when you want to develop this skill then take the chord progression and

1 – Find target notes (especially 3rd and 5th)

2 – Make sure Target Notes are in the same area of the neck

3 – Practice playing short phrases to hit each target note

To develop this keep it simple, in one position and one target note at a time. If you develop a skill like this you can expand on it later.

You also want to give yourself time to think ahead, so just stop on the target note and think about making a melody to the next target note. Later you can open this up and become much freer and also not only play to target notes on beats one and three.

This approach is one of the best ways to develop a natural flow when you improvise over changes and learning to think ahead is incredibly important for so many things in Music, not just playing solos over chord changes.

Working like this you can end up with some very heavy phrasing that doesn’t really sound like Jazz which is why you want to check out the next exercise.

#2 The Most Important Part Of Jazz

The most important ingredient in Jazz is rhythm, but it can be difficult to develop mainly because you forget it when you focus on the chord changes and that can really ruin how you sound.

In general, a great way to develop a skill is to reduce your freedom with other things so that you are forced to focus on training and developing that skill.

When it comes to rhythm, then a very useful exercise is to limit your note choice so that you only have two notes and have to focus on being creative with rhythm to get what you play to work, and if you try this exercise then you will probably be surprised how much you can learn. Let’s check out an example and then talk about what you need to focus on to really develop your rhythm.

You Stepped Out Of A Dream

When you set up this exercise for yourself:

1 – Try to choose notes that are mostly chord tones and close to each other across chords so that you have an easier time connecting.

2 – Explore how to use a lot of off-beats especially ending phrases on an off-beat

(this is the sound of bebop phrasing and will help your solos sound 10x better)

3 – Try to play melodies with quarter notes

You always focus on learning to play 8th note lines and forget how great it can sound to play quarter-note rhythms

#3 Passing Notes – Grown Up Jazz Licks

When you can already play a solo over the harmony and you are beginning to use some more interesting rhythms

Maybe cut in: “I mean that you are working on exercise one and two from this video…”

Then you can start working on making the melodies more surprising and more complicated, and you do that by playing a lot of wrong notes and then resolving them to some right notes.

Obviously, this is a HUGE topic, but an easy way to get started is to do two really simple things:

1 Add a chromatic note before the start of a phrase like an arpeggio

2 Add a chromatic note between two notes in the scale.

And if you if put that to use over Ladybird then that sounds like this:

In the beginning, you want to resolve to chord tones and have the resolution on the beat, as you see here where:

The first Cmaj7 bar starts with adding a chromatic passing note between D and C, and later between A and G

on the Fm7 I am adding a chromatic leading note before the Fm7 and making the arpeggio an 8th note triplet which is a great Bebop sound.

The Bb7 has a passing note between the C and the Bb, and transitions back to the Cmaj7 by moving up from the 5 to the G on Cmaj7

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3 ways to Solo over Chord Changes – Important Jazz Strategies

You want to Solo over Chord Changes and still play melodies that makes sense. This can be extremely difficult in the beginning. Most of us quickly realize that it is not just about hitting the right notes, it is also about the melodies that we make with those notes.

In this video I am going to go over some different strategies for making melodies over chord changes that I think you should work on and get into your playing. They will help you be much more free when you are soloing and also give you ways to practice playing over chord changes and still sound play a melodic solo.

Solo Over Chord Changes

Table of Contents

0:00 Intro – Solo Over Chord Changes

0:09 Playing Over Chords and sounding Melodic

0:29 The Three Strategies

1:20 #1 Transposing Motifs – What it is, What it helps you do

2:05 The Cliché example of this

2:28 How It Is Used In Compositions

3:00 What Transposing Motifs does not do

3:26 #2 Target Notes – How It Works and adds Forward Motion

3:54 Choosing Target Notes

4:13 Example of Line Using Target Notes

4:48 Another Set of Target Notes for the dominant

5:24 Pros and Cons of Target Notes

6:06 #3 Melodic Voice-Leading

6:51 A Basic example on a II V I

7:41 How To Practice and Use Melodic Voice-Leading

8:41 Two Examples of how it can work in a II V I line

9:33 All Three Techniques Are Useful

9:55 Like The Video? Check out My Patreon Page!

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How To Solo Over Fast Moving Chord Changes – Jazz Guitar

It is difficult to Solo Over Chord Changes, and especially if you are also playing a song with a lot of chord changes and a high tempo.

In this video I am going to discuss 4 things to keep in mind and how to practice so that you get better at improvising over chord changes. These are all important things that you need if you want to know how to solo over chord changes and play more difficult songs like Rhythm Changes, Giant Steps, Very Early etc.

Table Of Contents

0:00 Intro – Improvising over Fast Chord Changes

0:42 Splitting it up into smaller goals or topics

1:15 #1 – Technique

1:48 The Double Time Mistake

2:09 Practice Technique towards playing fast

3:02 #2 Know The Song Extremely Well

3:43 Checking if you do and working out the problems

3:56 #3 The Right Way To Practice

4:20 The right Tempo and the right type of playing

5:19 #4 Think Ahead

5:49 A Solid Method to work with this: Target Notes

6:21 Other Approaches to Train Thinking Ahead

7:09 Want to learn Giant Steps?

7:17 Like The Video? Check out my Patreon Page

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