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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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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