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How To Make Your Own Bebop Licks

You already know that Jazz lines use arpeggios and chromatic phrases, but at the same time just knowing that doesn’t mean your lines sound like Bebop, and you don’t want to only play other peoples licks that you transcribed. You need to study phrases and learn how to create and hear those types of lines.

That is what I will show you how to do in this video.

Most of us already practice arpeggios and chromatic passing notes, but one thing is going over exercises another is to put it together and actually use it in your solos. As you will see in this video, One of the best ways to do that is to check out what makes up a strong lick and practice making lines with what you find. In this video, I am going to give you some examples and break them down so that you can take some things away and start using that to get some stolid bop lines into your vocabulary.

And when you strip down the lines then it is pretty amazing how simple they are!

Lick #1

Understanding How a Bebop Lick Works

This is a basic Bebop G7 lick, and it may seem very complicated, but it is really just built around a G7 and a Dm7 arpeggio:

Let’s break it down and then I will show you how you can start playing lines like this yourself:

The first part is a way of adding leading notes moving from F to D in the G7 arpeggio

You can see how the melody is moving from E via Eb down to D, and I am using the G as a chromatic note in between F and E. This is btw a Barry Harris trick.

So moving from F to D becomes F G E Eb D

The Eb to D is played with a pull-off because that gives and accent to the Eb leading note, that is more interesting, and the (boring) resolution is naturally a bit softer.

I am using the same principle between the B and C and inserting a D

Then you have the next part of the G7 arpeggio: G and F

From there the next part is a Dm7 arpeggio with an enclosure around the first note using a scale or diatonic note above and a chromatic note below, E and C#.

The lick ends on the B, adding a grace note.

Making Your Own Licks

Right now it might seem like there are a lot of things happening, and I think that if you want to work on making licks in this way then it makes more sense to just take a single thing and make variations on that, so, for example, take the first phrase and then try to use that together with a G7 or a Dm7 arpeggio

something like this line with G7:

or if you combine it with a Dm7 arpeggio:

And you can also just take the first part of the line and combine that with a Bø arpeggio like this:

Practicing With Material Like This

1 Be able to play the line.

2 to make a line with that chunk and combine it with the scales and arpeggios you use.

And if you work on it like that then you will start to hear melodies with it can come up with great sounding licks of your own that use this.

Let’s have a look at another example and go over some more things you can use in your playing plus see other ways of using what I already covered.

Lick #2

More about how the viewer recognizes the structure?

Maybe you can already begin to see the structure.

The first part is a G major triad in 2nd inversion, followed by a scale run, an Fmaj7 arepggio, and two G7 arpeggio notes.

The G major triad is played in the 2nd inversion with a leading note before the first note.

You can get a lot of interesting melodies by just adding a chromatic leading note before an arpeggio or triad, and practicing this as scale exercises and exploring melodies with it is very effective. Think of melodies like Well You Needn’t or Night in Tunesia

Adding a chromatic passing note to the scale run between A and G

The next part is a descending Fmaj7 arpeggio with an added trill on the first note:

And finally two notes from the G7 arpeggio.

Analyzing Licks for New Vocabulary

Now you are probably beginning to see how you can also transcribe some of your favourite phrases from Joe Pass or Parker and then really try to understand what is being used in there and use this method to get that into your playing.

A huge part of improving our playing is actually figuring out what it is we like and what we need to change, and that is very difficult when you are on the inside looking out.

So now whenever you find something you like in a transcription you can analyze what is going on, and instead of only having a single technique you can copy/paste, you can now start to make it a method for thousands of variations that you can use to develop your own bebop vocabulary.

Let’s check out another lick and get some more things to work with!

Lick #3

This lick is mostly coming from scale melodies, but then you can add a lot of interesting twists and turns to make those more interesting to listen to, but you can already now see that there are some new tools in there that you can use in your own playing.

So, as you can see, then removing the embellishments leaves 3 pretty simple building blocks:

Which is two scale melodies and two notes from the arpeggio

The first part is adding a trill and a leading note around the first D, using hammer-on pull-off to play the fast 16th note triplet and the fast notes really add a lot of energy to the line.

The next technique is one of my favourites, and it is great for making a scale run sound a lot better! Here I am first inserting a low A in between the F and the E, it is similar to the way I use the G in example 1, but adding this large interval below sounds great.

I follow it up with another chromatic leading note between E and D

The next scale run is another example of how you can get a great sound out of adding a lot of passing notes in a line. Here it is also really changing the direction of the line and making it much more playful and surprising.

Chromatic note from D to C, Chromatic note above between C and B, and an extra leading note below the B.

And then finally two arpeggio notes to still nail the sound of the chord

More Bebop Vocabulary

If you want to build your bebop vocabulary and play more interesting lines then check out some this download:

Take The A Train – Bebop Embellishments

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