Tag Archives: jazz arpeggio licks

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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A Simple Jazz Blues Approach That Makes You Sound Better

You already know it: It is not nearly as important what notes you play compared to how you play them. That is what I am going to use in this video because you can just take some really basic notes and then work on playing them in a way that sounds better. Once I started thinking more like that I really started to feel a difference in what I played, and it really lifted the solos and made them sound much more like “Real Jazz” (if that is actually a thing)

We can start with a basic C7:

And then use this simple one-octave version of the arpeggio for a C7:

Phrasing And A Little Rhythm

Now you can start working playing these notes and get them to sound like a Jazz Blues phrase. This is really about imagining a slow medium groove and just see if you can make some simple melodies, something like this:

So simple short phrases in the groove, think Wes Montgomery or Grant Green, and just try experimenting with coming up with some melodies.

You can actually get them to sound even better by adding this:

All that is changing is that you slide into the notes, which is sort of the Jazz version of bending strings.

Before you move on to another technique you probably also want to start to make longer phrases as well:

Here you want to notice that the longer phrases is really just two phrases put together and that one phrase works as a call (play) and the other as a response.

You can practice this by just playing a phrase then stop and try to imagine what you think should come after it, is it an ascending or descending phrase? A lot of notes or a few etc. Try to start getting used to hearing phrases and listen to what you hear inside

The Power of Legato Dynamics

Often when you practice legato technique then you are probably working on getting notes to sound equally loud so that there is no real difference between the picked notes and the ones you play with hammer-on/pull-offs

but they do have a different quality of tone, and this is something you can use to make your solos much more expressive and add some dynamics to your lines, which is a really important part of Jazz lines.

First, you can add the rest of the position around the one-octave arpeggio

This is just to have more places with two notes on one string so that you can use legato.

Now you can start creating lines like this:

And the fact that some notes are louder than others really helps make the whole thing much more interesting, so it is also something you can incorporate in your music as a dynamic quality. In fact, the is what you will hear with a lot of players like Grant Green, Wes, and more modern guys like Pat Metheny.

Adding A Little Color

Because you start with the basic chord tones then everything you play will sound good, but also very safe and maybe even a little bit boring. Besides working with phrasing techniques you can start to add in some more colors by surrounding the arpeggio with the rest of the scale. So let’s do that and then move on to some double stops.

So you go from this:

And then you place that in the scale:

The best strategy is probably to start by just adding notes in between the notes of the arpeggio:

Here you have the A before the 7th but notice that you can still use the slide to add another sound and the F is inserted to lead to the E.

And you are using scale notes to lead into the arpeggio. here’s another example:

Notice how the slide takes an incredibly simple melody adds a more bluesy character.

So the difference between the two bars below:

Double-stops and Pedal-tones

Double stops are often associated with Blues and work great for the sound. But there is another polyphonic technique that is also really great that you use which I will cover after this.

You can use double stops as a sort of emphasis on a chord tone, like this:

Here the double-stop is the important part of the phrase, and then the descending melody ending on the b7 drives home the blues feel. This is btw something you will hear Parker do very often: ending phrases on the 7th in a blues, especially just before moving to the IV chord.

Another great way to use double-stops could be this:

Example 13

The tritone is a great choice for a double stop that also really nails the sound of the chord.

Another way to use several voices that Kenny Burrell also uses quite often works like this:

Example 14

Using Pedal notes is a great sound, and it is a little overlooked, but still something you will hear in Stevie Ray Vaughn’s playing quite frequently.

 

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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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Which Jazz Skills Do You Need To Play a (GREAT) Solo? (beginner To Advanced)

I always dreamt about getting to that point where you are free to improvise a great jazz solo over a chord progression. You know what I mean: You can play the things that you want, the notes are right there and the lines sound great. You are just making music.

That freedom is coming out of having specific skills in place for the solo, and that is what I want to talk about in this video so if you want to move beyond thinking a lot and being locked down by the progression then check out this video.

Level #1 Play The Chords, The Key, Scales, and the Arpeggios

This first level is just some very basic technique that you want to have covered, it is the foundation for all the other things, so it has to be pretty solid, and it is important that have this covered.

#1 Play The Chords

You want to be able to play the chords so that you can hear what the progression sounds like.

In this case, I am using a basic turnaround in C: Cmaj7, A7(b9), Dm7, G7(b9)

#2 Understand What Is Going On

You also want to be aware of the key it is in and the scales.

In this case, Cmaj7 and Dm7 are found in the C major scale, A7 is a secondary dominant resolving to Dm7 so you use D harmonic minor on that. G7(b9) is borrowed from the key of C minor so that also takes C harmonic minor.

As you can see, you do want to have some understanding of what is going on in the progression to help you play better solos. That is going to make it easier to find something to play and later it will help you find more options and give you more interesting things to experiment with and get into your playing.

#3 The Melodic Version Of The Chords

You also want to be able to play the arpeggios of the chords so that you are able to play the chord tones in time through the progression, simply because those are the notes you need when you start soloing and if you can’t find them like that then soloing with them is going to very difficult. Next, you want to start turning this raw material into a solo, but first, let’s just talk about one thing to keep in mind if you are new to improvising over Jazz progressions, so you don’t crash your progress by practicing the wrong way.

Don’t Drown in Exercises

A very common mistake when trying to learn to improvise over chord changes is to think that you first need to know all the scales and arpeggios in all positions. Of course, you want to be able to do that eventually, but you are better off not drowning yourself in exercises and also give priority to actually using the material you practice. Making music is what you want to be good at, that is the goal, so if you are new to some of the material then try to figure out how to play all arpeggios and scales in one position so that you can make music with that.

Level #2 Spell Out The Changes And Give It A Flow

Once you have the foundation of scales, arpeggios and know what the progression sounds like then you can start working on soloing and also really nailing the changes.

One of the best ways to work on playing solos is to practice writing them, so it can be really useful, for example, to take the arpeggio and the scale and then try to write some line that you can use in your solo. The advantage here is that when you are working on writing lines then you are improvising over the chord progression, but you have time to make sure that it sounds good and you can improve the lines you come up with. In that way, you can start building your vocabulary and your ability to play stronger solo lines.

Here I am actually writing out the lines, and that can be a good exercise, but you don’t always need to do that.

When it comes really connecting the solo to the chords under it then the first approach I would suggest you use is target notes, so that you choose specific clear notes that really connect to the chord and then place those at the beginning of the bar so that it is obvious that the chord changes.

I am not going to cover this in too much detail, but there is a link to a video in the description where I discuss this solid strategy for playing chord changes in a solo.

Level #3 What About The Rhythm?

There are many things you can check out with rhythm, and a lot of them are complicated and often students underestimate how demanding they are technically.

But you don’t have to make it that complicated, in fact, the best thing to do is to make it simpler!

Instead of adding fast runs and subdivisions or difficult polyrhythms then the place to start is probably to make it easier to focus on the rhythm and become more creative.

If you limit the notes you use then you will force yourself to make the rhythms interesting. In this example, I am using only 2 notes per chord, and that is forcing me to think differently which I can then try to take with me when I start soloing without that restriction.

Other things that I have found very useful were learning some of the easier themes that had great rhythms like Bernie’s Tune or Lady Bird. This coupled with listening for rhythm and maybe even transcribing some solos, is really what you want to work on.

Practicing Things In The Right Order

What you may be realizing with this video is that in the end, you start to mix up the order that you work on it. It is not first the scales and arpeggios and then the rhythm, or then soloing it is back and forth and these skills you can zoom in on and develop further again and again.

In what order would you work with these levels? let me know in the comments.

The next two levels I would suggest that you save for a little bit later, but maybe you don’t think so.

Level #4 Make Your Solo A Story!

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Now you know how to play the changes and the lines make sense, but everything is still a bit “something on this chord and then something else on this chord” If you listen to great soloists then you can hear them really have a longer story going in the solo, and there are ways to work on that and skills you can develop.

Turning Phrases Into Stories

The first thing that I would try to work on is developing the melodies you play and in that way use what you just played to come up with the next thing to play. One way to think about that is motivic development where you take the phrase you play and then try to repeat it, but change it a little. That way it sounds both new and familiar to the listener.

Like this way of moving a melody from Cmaj7 to A7

You can practice this by just playing a short melody on the first chord, stop, and then from what you played, try to make a line that works on the next chord. In that way, there is a clear connection and a sense of development in your solo. First, practice that rubato, and then later you can work on it in time.

Turning Phrases Into A Conversation

A variation of this way of thinking is to think about your solo as phrases that are a part of a conversation, so using call-response to create melodies. You probably know about this from Blues.

Something like this:

first a statement and then as an answer to the ascending phrase, a descending phrase. And you can keep this type of conversation going through the entire progression.

For me, this is where you really start to make music. This is what I aim for and what I want to feel able to do when I practice pieces. Trying to come up with a way to tell a story on top of the song is such an essential part of making music, and you hear this with so many great players from Parker to Getz to Pat Metheny.

Let’s have a look at how you can start creating completely different sounds by starting to not only improvise notes on chord progression but also improvise with the chord progression!

Level #5 Improvise With The Chords

Until now the way you improvised was by figuring out what to play over the chord progression, but actually, that is not really how it works in Jazz.

You are allowed to change the chords! (Dramatic pause, WHAAAT!)

This chord progression is really just a way to go from C and then back to C, and you are pretty free to take another way there. As long as you can find a logical way to get back home.

You may be thinking that this is only for weird modern incomprehensible Jazz, but actually, you can find examples of this all the way back in history to Charlie Parker, and it is just one more thing to make music with.

You can experiment with this, by just changing one or two chords. An example would be to use altered dominants that don’t really belong in there, but this is so common that we don’t think of it as a reharmonization, even though it is most of the time.

For this progression, a simple example could be to use a lot of parallel chromatic movement.

Or you can choose some unexpected chord sounds:

And of course, creating suspensions when the listener expects a resolution like the final G7 to C is a great effect:

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What Really Makes Your Jazz Solo Sound A Lot Better

Sometimes everything you play sounds the same and it is uninspired and predictable. There are only so many arpeggios and scales, so chasing after that is not the answer. Instead, you want to become better at making the lines interesting. You want to use stronger melodies and develop your melodic skills.

In this video, I am going to show you a few different ways to look at your solo lines and give you an easy way to add some new melodic ideas to your playing. I am not happy to admit it, but these strategies took me years to figure out but you can just check out this video.

The Jazz Turnaround

I am going to use a basic Jazz turnaround in C major, Cmaj7 – A7(b9) – Dm7 – G7(b9), It is not that important what the progression is, but here you can easily hear how powerful this is and how it will improve your playing.

The first melodic approach is to add a lot of forward motion to the lines and then later I will show you some other very strong strategies to also start using.

The Strongest Type Of Connected Melody

This example is, what I would consider, a basic strong Jazz line with a natural flow, I’ll show you an example with a more interesting rhythm in a bit. The concept here is that you create lines that are moving to the target note on the next chord which really makes the chords clear and makes the melody flow in a natural way.

In this example, the C and D on Cmaj7 are taking us to the C# on the A7. In a similar way, the G G# A has a strong pull towards the final A, the 5th of Dm7. In this type of progression, you can really see the melodies as 4-note patterns ending on beat 1 or beat 3 (highlight)

Like this, the lines are a bit dense and fill up the bar, but if you open up the rhythm with the same strategy then it still works:

Now you have a more syncopated and interesting rhythm, but the target notes are still “contact-points” with the harmony. (highlight target notes in the example)

In this example, The C# on A7 is now anticipated and placed on 2& instead of 3, and the melodies in the 2nd bar are leaving more space and use more offbeats.

This is of course, great but not enough on its own. Let’s have a look at lines that use what is probably the strongest and most used approach to creating longer melodic phrases that really tell stories

Melodic Voice-leading

The technique I am talking about is, of course, motivic development. The foundation of a lot of storytelling in music. This is the reason that when you hear this the Imperial March in a Star Wars movie, then you already know who is coming down the ramp. He has a motif that is repeated and used whenever he appears. And this is something you want to use in your solos to tie the whole thing together.

A very clear example of motifs, without suggesting that Barney Kessel is like Darth Vader would be this part of his solo on Satin Doll.

First the large motif that is repeated and then the shorter motif that is repeated and then developed to end the phrase.

The way Kessel moves the motifs is by following the harmony and voice-leading the melody, just making slight variations to the rhythm.

Making you own motivic licks

Working on doing this through changes is a very useful exercise. For the Turnaround that could give you something like this:

Here the melodies are voice-leading very closely until the G7. That is a little freer to not be too predictable and also round off the phrase in a more natural way.

Whenever you work on stuff like this then try to make it into music.

A similar way to do this but then being a bit freer with the melodic direction could be something like this:

The concept here is to move down Coltrane Patterns through the progression, C major, Bbm, Am, Abm and there is a clear connection between each group because it is moving down similar melodies in a stepwise manner.

Of course, you can do the same thing with a simple two-note motif and in that way have room to make the rhythm more interesting. Moving motifs with rhythm are perhaps the technique that is the most powerful in Jazz solos. Just listen to Keith Jarrett or John Scofield.

There are other variations of motivic development that also are great ways to tie things together, let’s check one more out.

Sticky Notes

A pedal point is a static note that remains part of the melody or harmony through the progression. In the previous example, I was using a G since that is a note that works well through this progression which is in C major. The G is placed at the beginning of each phrase with a little bit of variation in the rhythm.

Again it pays off to explore melodies like this but with more accent on the rhythm. Something like this:

Some Great Tricks Using Direction Of Melody

This was something that took me a long time to figure out, and I don’t think I ever heard anybody talk about it in a lesson: You don’t want to have lines that always move in the same direction it becomes predictable and that makes the whole thing boring. So let’s take a look at a few ways to change that up. This example is moving to the target notes, but it is always changing direction on the heavy beats and that makes it a little too heavy, especially if you do this all the time.

All The Way Up!

It can be really cool and also create some tension and excitement to play a line that moves in the same direction throughout the progression like this:

And especially with the ascending lines, you get the effect of “melodic tension” which is a really cool way to change things up. But you can get the same effect moving down as well:

All The Way Down!

But the real trick is of course to change direction more often and have more surprising skips in your lines. You can do this with cascading lines with a more energetic rhythm like this:

Impressive Arpeggios

Melodic Triads

But a lot of it is also about adding some larger intervals into the lines and there are two ways that are easy to do that and still have melodic lines. The first one is to use some sort of pattern with arpeggios and let the arpeggio pull it all together:

And here as well you can open up the rhythm to add some nice syncopation to the mix:

The Bebop Way

Another fantastic way to get some larger intervals into your lines is this Bebop trick that they actually sort of stole from Bach: Octave displacement. This gives you lines like this:

Here you have octave displacement on the Em7 arpeggio over Cmaj7 and with the Fmaj7 arpeggio that I am playing over the Dm7 chord.

If you removed the octave displacement or reverse engineered the line then you could get something like this:

This sounds fine, but the movement in the previous example is more surprising and exciting.

If you want to explore more examples of what you can do with octave displacement then check out this lesson:

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

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An Amazing Recipe For Jazz Guitar Licks Everyone Should Know

Jazz is often made more complicated than it needs to be. And whether you are setting out on a journey to explore Jazz guitar or just want a different sound to use in your solos, you can get incredible sounding Jazz licks with some very basic Bebop building blocks.

In this video, I am going to show you how to use 2 ingredients to create some great sound Jazz licks, as you will see, a process you can apply to pretty much any song or chord.

Most Important Bebop Ingredients

Voiceover Illustration of extras example 1 maybe with screen capture of writing it? play the line, then play the line slowly with chords on the chord change

A huge part of what makes a Jazz solo sound like Jazz is that the solo follows the chords and in that way spell out the different colors of what is going on in the harmony.

Like this line:

And with the chords, you hear how it connects

The simple way of following the harmony is just to use the arpeggios of the chords that you solo over so that what you play in your solo matches what is being played in the chords.

So the first ingredient is an arpeggio, like this Cmaj7 arpeggio:

Another important part of especially the Bebop sound is using chromatic phrases like:

Approach notes:

Short Enclosures:

Long Enclosures:

And already combining arpeggios with chromatic phrases like these, you can quite easily make some very solid Jazz lines!

Easy Licks

Let’s start with the Cmaj7:

A simple place to start is to play it as a triplet and add a leading note before the arpeggio. You can add more dense and complicated chromatic phrases which will give you some pretty advanced sounding lines, but that will come later in the video. This simple version is actually Bebop gold:

As you can tell, this already starts to sound like Bebop and it is something you can move around to pretty much any chord or arpeggio that you can think of, not only 7th chords, it also sounds beautiful on a for instance a m7(9) like this:

Right now, you are only using a single chromatic leading note before the arpeggio, so let’s add some more chromaticism by at the end of the arpeggio. For the Cmaj7 this gives you a lick that is a favorite of Charlie Parker and that I am pretty sure George Benson transcribed from him because he plays it all the time as well.

Really all that is happening here is that the arpeggio is followed by a chromatic phrase connecting the 7th to the 5th, which is just going down the scale and adding some leading notes.

Let’s look at how you can make this a bit longer with a chromatic enclosure

Getting More Serious

This example is using an Am7 arpeggio, and the melody leading into it is a short enclosure.

Play slow

The formula for this first enclosure is diatonic above, chromatic below, so the target note is A and the note above that in the scale is a B. The chromatic note below is a G# This is a very useful way to create some chromatic movement and still have melodies that sound natural and make sense.

For an Am7 arpeggio that would give you this exercise:

At the end of the lick, you also have a chromatic enclosure like this.

The Arpeggio runs up to the 7th and from there moves down in half-steps to F which is then a part of an enclosure of the 5th of Am.

But you can do even more with some of the longer chromatic phrases like this:

“Real” Chromatic Enclosures

Adding a more extensive chromatic phrase like this is a great way to lead into the arpeggio and it makes the line more surprising and moving before really connecting to the chord, which is really what we use chromatic phrases for small bits of outside melody. In this example, the lick with a short enclosure around the 5th, before the last note, the 3rd, on the 1&

You can also use chromatic phrases like this on the high note of the arpeggio and that can give you some other great effects in the licks:

This example adds a leading note before the arpeggio and then tags it with a more extensive chromatic phrase to the last note. The way this is done then it adds a nice large 5th interval skip to the line.

Until now the chromatic phrases are before or after the phrase, but of course, you can also add them inside the arpeggio which will make the line be less obvious but still give it a natural flow.

Open Up The Arpeggio

This example is built around the Am7 arpeggio using leading notes for the root, and a short enclosure for the 3rd and the 5th.

But you can also get great sounds with longer chromatic phrases:

Now the next thing you can explore is to also use inversions of the arpeggios and get a completely new set of melodies:

Turning It Upside Down

Here you have an inversion of G7:

the lick is built around this descending G7 1st inversion:

First a leading note for the 7th and then a short enclosure of the 3rd before it skips up to the root.

 

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Stay Inspired In Your Practice – A Solid Jazz Solo Survival Guide

If you check out the solos by great Jazz players then you will probably find that they don’t really play other scales or notes than you do, simply because it is not about the notes you play, it is about what you play with them. So you don’t need new scales or arpeggios, you need to become better at making music with the ones you already know.

If you feel stuck and always playing the same things then this video will give you a straightforward way to deal with that and also a way to develop new things in your playing.

The Problem with Scales and Arpeggios

The problem is that you need to do more than just run up and down the scale to make the solo interesting, and it is difficult to be inspired with just an arpeggio and a scale.

So let’s say you are playing over a Dm7 chord in C major. You have the Dm7 arpeggio and also the scale that goes with it.

And you can make some solid lines with that as you can see here below:

But quickly things start to sound similar and it gets a bit boring and not so fun to play.

Checklist approach to inspiration

In this video, I am going to give you a checklist approach and show you how that can help you create a lot of new stuff, and also test and improve your abilities to create your own lines.

For all the chords you have to improvise over you have melodic tools or types of building blocks that you can use to create the melodies, and if you start thinking about it like that then you will help yourself come up with new and better material. And you can make that into a checklist and one of the first things you want to put on it would what I will cover next:

More Arpeggios

An obvious and practical place to start is to go a little beyond the basic arpeggio. So you can try other arpeggios or changing the rhythm of how you play the arpeggio

For example, turning it into a triplet works well for getting a Bebop sound:

but then try to see if you can use the one from the 3rd (play Fmaj7) and maybe play it as a triplet:

You could also see if the arpeggio from the 5th is an option, in this case, you have an Am7and then try to see if you can use that in a line:

The way you use this to add to your vocabulary is of course that if you can’t immediately use this in a line then you can sit down and work on composing a few examples and in that way start to get it into your playing and add to your vocabulary

But maybe you don’t feel like using arpeggios, then try using something else from the checklist:

Chromatic Melodies

Chromaticism is an important part of the Jazz sound, and there are many ways you can use this in your solos. Often a chromatic enclosure targeting a chord tone is a great idea:

Or some shorter enclosures and a few leading notes

The important thing is that if you feel stuck on a chord and you have this type of checklist it can help you come up with something to try, or prompt you to use this to create something new. This is not for stuff that you practice all variations of, it is for reminding you of things that you think sound great and that you want to use.

Let’s add another option that is a little less specific but really useful.

Bebop Tricks

This is hardly a very precise term, but for a list like this then the names don’t have to be theoretically correct, it is more important that it resonates with you, so if you think of Bebop tricks then that may be Parker inspired chromaticism *EXAMPLE

or it can be octave displacement.

It is about kick-starting your imagination after all.

Pentatonics

For a m7 chord then the pentatonic scale sounds like a pretty boring set of notes that you already have in the scale that you are using, but if you have some nice Pentatonic patterns then you can hear how it is a different sound that you can give to the things you play.

Maybe it will fit with what you are hearing, maybe it won’t, it could be that the Bebop inspiration is better here, but it is still useful to have on the list and it only takes a second to decide that it is not what you want.

What would you put on a list like this?

Since these concepts or tools that I am listing here are just general sounds that I use then maybe you have other ideas that you would like to add, leave a comment if you have a suggestion that I didn’t talk about since this can help spark a lot of useful ideas for others.

Outside

Another option that you can mess around with is to add some outside phrases in there, often a short side-slip or a super-imposed chord can be a great way to add some new sounds to this place in a song.

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