You should always try to learn new melodies that you can use in your solos. And in Jazz, Arpeggios are a great place to start.
In this video I will go over 6 different types of 3-Note Arpeggios which are really useful because they are 3 notes, so they are easy to study and also very easy to use in solos giving you a lot of material that you can use when improvising over a song.
An Arpeggio is a Melody and a Great Building Block
What a lot of people miss is that an arpeggio is really just a short melody. We think about what the notes are and what alterations and extensions it is over the chord, but you often forget to listen to it and just realize that knowing this arpeggio is really knowing a very strong melody that you can use in your solos.
If you play jazz and especially more modern jazz then knowing these structures is really something you need as a part of your vocabulary and you will find it everywhere in the playing of people like Kurt Rosenwinkel, Jonathan Kreisberg and Lage Lund.
The way I made this video is that I played a short solo on minor blues that I will take apart and talk about all the different arpeggios, give you some exercises and ideas on how to use it.
This video is an overview of different types of arpeggios and how they sound. The Arpeggios are demonstrated in 7 different licks to give you an idea about how they could be used.
Are you an Arpeggio master? Do you know all the different types of arpeggios and how to use them in your playing? The Arpeggio is a very important tool when it comes to jazz and jazz guitar.
Demonstrating arpeggios in a musical context
This video is going over a lot of different types of arpeggios. Showing how you might using them in different licks. Applying the arpeggios in a musical context is a much stronger way to apply them in my opinion.
We spend a lot of time practicing and learning Arpeggios, so it makes a lot of sense to have several ways to use them in our playing. In this lesson I will show you 3 ways you can add arpeggios to your lines so that they help you create more interesting licks and you get more out of the time you have spend practicing.
The examples in this lesson are all on a II V I in Eb major, so Fm7, Bb7 to Ebmaj7.
Emphasizing a Target note
Really bringing out interesting extensions and alterations is a great way to use arpeggios.
In the example below the target note G, the 9th, is given an extra emphasis because it is the top note in an arpeggio. The note is given even more energy by the fact that the arpeggio is played as an 8th note triplet. This heightens the velocity towards it and makes it sound more like a resolution. The fact that the G is on a heavy beat also helps give it more emphasis.
Learn from Charlie Parker and Wes Montgomery
Playing arpeggios and using the top note as a target is something that has been common in Jazz since Charlie Parker. Wes Montgomery also uses 5 or 6 note arpeggios to bring out specific targets in his solo. A recent video I did on his playing talked about his use of this to emphasize the 11th over a minor chord.
Moving this to the Eb major II V I then that would be:
In the example above the Ab major triad is used to target the Bb on beat 3. The arpeggio is really useful and the technique of summing up your lines in the important target notes can be useful to realize this and also for a lot of other things in the line.
Changing direction and adding large intervals
Playing lines that consist of melodies that only move in one direction can become boring and predictable for the listener. Arpeggios and especially arpeggio inversions can help doing this really well. If you look at the general movement from Fm7 to Bb it is a scale run from C to F and then moving from Eb to D on the Bb7.
The arpeggio is here used to introduce a skip from F down to Ab. From there it moves back up to then return to the D.
Change direction on Chord tones
The strong place to do this is to use it when you are on a chord tone. In the example above it was on the root (F). Below I am using the same technique but now the arpeggio is inserted on the 3rd(Ab). The arpeggio I use is a 1st inversion Abmaj7 arpeggio.
Coltrane and his descending Arpeggio Cascades
The previous technique used the arpeggio to introduce a large interval skip which is then resolved by the rest of the arpeggio. In the example below I am using a quote from John Coltrane’s Cousin Mary Solo, a song off “Giant Steps”
One way to summarize the Fm7 bar is to see it as a three note descending scale run: Bb, Ab, G with two arpeggios inserted after the last two notes. The arbeggios are an Fm 2nd inversion triad and an Abmaj7.
This melody is more radical but therefore also more dramatic and surprising. This probably has to do with the fact that the large interval skip is at the end of the arpeggio and not at the beginning. At the same time the dramatic cascade effect is a great way to shake things up a little.
For me personally this is a great example of how powerful Coltrane’s melodic concept was!
Use what you Practice and explore what is possible!
Exploring how to use the things we practice is almost as important as practicing them in the first place. Of course there are many ways we can do this, both by composing and experimenting but certainly also by transcribing and analyzing.
This lesson demonstrates both transcribing and composing as examples, and for me those are the two main sources of inspiration and knowledge when it comes to applying what I practice.
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Autumn Leaves is a great chord progression to start improvising following the harmony. It’s a well known tune and it still covers a lot of important cadences in a key. In this lesson I will go over a set of Jazz Guiat arpeggios in one position, some exercises, target notes and strategies for making solos where you can hear the harmony in the improvisation.
About Autumn Leaves
In this lesson I have chosen to work on Autumn Leaves in the key of G minor. You will find a few versions in the key of E minor since it is printed in that key in the old Realbook, but the most common key is G minor.
The two main cadences in the song are II V I cadences, one to the major tonic (Bb) and one to the minor tonic (Gm). In this way you cover two of the most important harmonic movements in this key.
Learning the song
Besides knowing the arpeggios and the chords by heart you need to know the melody of the song you want to improvise on. In the end the melody is more important because the harmony may vary from version to version but the melody will stay the same. In this lesson (and for copyright reasons) I can’t go over the melody, but if you want some hints on how to do this you could check out this Q&A video where I talk about that: Q&A #3
The form of Autumn leaves is a bit uncommon for jazz since it is AAB where the B is 16 bars and the 8 bars. A good place to start is to just play the chords of the song. In example 1 I have written out chord voicings for the song. In the example I am using the material that I went over in the How to Play Jazz Chords lesson.
Since a lot of the examples I am using are over the whole form I am playing them a bit fast in the video. You can always go back and check or even play them at a slower speed if you have a place that is hard to follow. I ended up doing it like this because the video otherwise would be much too long.
I have written out the arpeggios in the 6th position of the neck. If you think in Bb major this is a very common Bb major scale position so you probably know it already.
Example 2 has the arppegios of the different chords written out. If you count the chords you’ll see that we have 10 different chords. Since the goal of this lesson is to improvise fluently with well connected melodies using the arpeggios, I have written out all the arpeggios around the 6th position. Shifting up and down the neck is going to make it much more difficult to play logical melodies and almost impossible to do some of the exercises.
Practising the arpeggios
First you should probably try to become familiar with the arpeggios in example 2 and then as fast as possible try to start using them on the song. Students often forget how important it is to practice using what you’ve learnt.
Besides just practising each arpeggio it is a very good idea to work on playing the arpeggios in different patterns. Playing them in groups of 3 or 4 notes, skipping notes etc are good ways to get more flexible with the arpeggio. You need the flexibility when you start improvising, and keep in mind that it is about flexibility and overview not about speed when working on this, so there’s no real need to play it fast.
The first exercise is to just play through the song with the arpeggios from example 2 in a one octave version. This will not only help practising the arpeggios but also build your sense of the form of the song and help you hear the chords moving and when they change. I tried to take the highest octave available of each arpeggios because that is probably the register you’ll need the most when you solo so you might as well start by working on a good overview of that.
Connecting the arpeggios
The next exercise is a very good way to gain a strong overview of the arpeggios and chords. It is also helping you to develop your ability to think ahead. The idea is to start playing the arpeggios over the progression and then when ever the chord changes to continue the movement with the note that is the closest in the next arpeggio. It’s quite tricky to get started with but very rewarding when you start getting the freedom while improvising.
When you start this then you probably don’t need to work on the whole form in the beginning. In example 4 I have written out the example I play in the video in rubato. In the video you can hear me pointing out whenever I change.
In the video I also demonstrate this on the first 8 bars and start in a different octave. As I talk about in the video it is about the proces not about the notes in this case so you should vary where you start in the arppegio to keep challenging yourself and your knowledge of the arpeggios in this position.
Putting it all together in improvising
As I demonstrate in the video the thinking behind making harmony clear in a solo line is to target certain notes of the strong beats (in this case the 1). The idea is that a strong and logical sounding line will be a line that has the direction towards a clear target note. I also discuss this way of making melodies in another lesson that you can check: Target Notes You will notice in the solo I improvise in the video that I am not too concerned with target notes unless the chord is changing.
The first target notes I’d suggest you use is in the song is the 3rd of each chord. There are two advantages to this. It very clearly targets the color of the chord and it also connects what you play with the melody since a lot of the sustained notes in the melody are in fact the 3rd of the chord.
In example 6 I have written out the 3rds of each chord played over the root of the chord.
Making lines with the arpeggios
Now that we have arpeggios and target notes for each of the chords we can start to work on coming up with lines over the song.
The way you start working on this is probably to practice rubato to make a line from one chord to the next. In example 7 I have shown a simple Cm7 melody that leads from Cm7 to F7.
In the video I also take the next step from working in rubato and demonstrate 8 bars in time as written out in example 8.
I hope you can use the arpeggios and techniques I went over here to get started playing strong clear lines over Autumn Leaves.
If you want to take this a step further then you can check out the WebStore lesson with a 50 minute video lesson I made on a 4 chorus solo. It goes over some basic ideas as shown hear and continues to more complicated concepts like reharmonization and different scale choices.
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics or how I can make the lessons better then please feel free to leave on the video or send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make them fit what you want to hear.