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:
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:
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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