Tag Archives: jazz guitar beginner lesson

3 Important Exercises for Jazz Guitar Beginners To Get Started

You need many skills if you want to play Jazz, and some of them can be hard to find good exercises for, or even realize that you need to work on them. In this video, I am going to go over 3 Easy exercises that will help you play better solos and develop skills that are difficult to fix by just practicing scales, arpeggios, or chords.

#1 Playing Changes – A Little Easier

Hope you are having a great day playing some Jazz! This video should help you develop your melodies, your rhythm and your phrasing.

This is something you get hit by very hard the first few times you try to improvise over a jazz standard. I know I certainly did, thinking that it must be impossible to follow the chords that move so fast! When you try to play a solo, chords are flying at you left and right and it seems like you have to be a math genius or a computer to figure out what to play and where to play it.

But improvising over chord changes is a part of Jazz and you want to be able to not only follow the chords but also play melodies that make sense.

This first exercise makes that a lot easier, and mastering this and the next exercise will already make you sound really good when you solo.

Let’s use a bit of the Standard How High The Moon:

The chords are:

The Trick is to do the “calculations” beforehand because eventually, you can get by without having to solve crazy equations whenever you see a chord progression, that is mostly a matter of experience. If you practice like this then you build that skill and it becomes something you can quite easily get into your playing (B-roll on top: complex equation overlay on How High The Moon)

I am not going to cover how you find chord tones, diatonic arpeggios and how to analyze chord progressions in this video. I want to focus on how you practice soloing, but if you want to dig into that then check out the playlist I link to in the description with videos that help you get started with that:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLWYuNvZPqqcHYOlEVg5uHPBy_AudysODz

Of course, you want to play something on the chord progression that makes sense and has a natural flow. The best way to do that is to play phrases that begin on one chord and end on the chord change.

So in the song, when you move from Gmaj7 to Gm7 then the chords sound like this:

and a clear line going from Gmaj7 to Gm7 could sound like this:

So you play towards a very clear note in the next chord often a chord tone, and you can hear how it gives you a natural-sounding melody and also makes the change of chord very clear.

With How High The Moon:

Essentially this is two bars of G major, the key of the piece followed by a II V I in F major.

The simple thing you can do is to target the 3rd of the chord, but you should also check how well the 5th might work because that is a very strong melodic note, the 7th is for solos often not a very strong target note. If you play like this then that could give you:

So when you want to develop this skill then take the chord progression and

1 – Find target notes (especially 3rd and 5th)

2 – Make sure Target Notes are in the same area of the neck

3 – Practice playing short phrases to hit each target note

To develop this keep it simple, in one position and one target note at a time. If you develop a skill like this you can expand on it later.

You also want to give yourself time to think ahead, so just stop on the target note and think about making a melody to the next target note. Later you can open this up and become much freer and also not only play to target notes on beats one and three.

This approach is one of the best ways to develop a natural flow when you improvise over changes and learning to think ahead is incredibly important for so many things in Music, not just playing solos over chord changes.

Working like this you can end up with some very heavy phrasing that doesn’t really sound like Jazz which is why you want to check out the next exercise.

#2 The Most Important Part Of Jazz

The most important ingredient in Jazz is rhythm, but it can be difficult to develop mainly because you forget it when you focus on the chord changes and that can really ruin how you sound.

In general, a great way to develop a skill is to reduce your freedom with other things so that you are forced to focus on training and developing that skill.

When it comes to rhythm, then a very useful exercise is to limit your note choice so that you only have two notes and have to focus on being creative with rhythm to get what you play to work, and if you try this exercise then you will probably be surprised how much you can learn. Let’s check out an example and then talk about what you need to focus on to really develop your rhythm.

You Stepped Out Of A Dream

When you set up this exercise for yourself:

1 – Try to choose notes that are mostly chord tones and close to each other across chords so that you have an easier time connecting.

2 – Explore how to use a lot of off-beats especially ending phrases on an off-beat

(this is the sound of bebop phrasing and will help your solos sound 10x better)

3 – Try to play melodies with quarter notes

You always focus on learning to play 8th note lines and forget how great it can sound to play quarter-note rhythms

#3 Passing Notes – Grown Up Jazz Licks

When you can already play a solo over the harmony and you are beginning to use some more interesting rhythms

Maybe cut in: “I mean that you are working on exercise one and two from this video…”

Then you can start working on making the melodies more surprising and more complicated, and you do that by playing a lot of wrong notes and then resolving them to some right notes.

Obviously, this is a HUGE topic, but an easy way to get started is to do two really simple things:

1 Add a chromatic note before the start of a phrase like an arpeggio

2 Add a chromatic note between two notes in the scale.

And if you if put that to use over Ladybird then that sounds like this:

In the beginning, you want to resolve to chord tones and have the resolution on the beat, as you see here where:

The first Cmaj7 bar starts with adding a chromatic passing note between D and C, and later between A and G

on the Fm7 I am adding a chromatic leading note before the Fm7 and making the arpeggio an 8th note triplet which is a great Bebop sound.

The Bb7 has a passing note between the C and the Bb, and transitions back to the Cmaj7 by moving up from the 5 to the G on Cmaj7

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Jazz Beginner Mistakes – How To Learn Scales

When I started playing Jazz then I came from improvising mostly with the pentatonic scale, playing phrases, and licks in the scale without really worrying about what I was playing and especially what notes.

Once I got interested in Jazz, in fact, mostly in Charlie Parker solos, then I realized that I needed to use 7 note scales, and that was a lot more tricky to get to sound right and especially to get to sound like great jazz lines

Just practicing the scale, up and down doesn’t teach you how to do that and there is a much better way to practice the scales, one that helps you learn to play Jazz faster and sound in the right way.

Which Scales Do You Need?

First, you need to figure out which scales you need.

Playing Jazz is associated with scales, and often also with a lot of scales with a lot of fancy names. But when you start then you are better off not drowning yourself in different scales, simply because it is more work to learn to use a scale than to learn to play it. Just start with the major scale, and if you are new to major scales then start in a single position

You can add to it later and knowing the scale well in one position will help you learn the others as well. Starting with 5 or 7 positions in one go and trying to be able to play and improvise in them all is not as efficient in the beginning, and you might get overwhelmed and lose the overview, and getting an overview is why you practice scales in the first place.

If you practice in the way that I outline later in this video, then learning other scales and being able to use them will become a lot easier because you can leverage what you already know.

CAGED, 3NPS, Berklee doesn’t matter

A discussion that sometimes appears at this point is what type of scale system should I use, and there are quite a few, CAGED, 3NPS, and Berklee being the big 3. This can sometimes lead to heated discussions, but In the end, it doesn’t matter too much, do what feels more natural to you, you can even change along the way.

Basic Exercises

How do you start? The first thing is to practice the scale, for example, this position of C major:

Try to play it slowly, evenly with alternate picking. Connect the notes, because otherwise, you are going to sound choppy when you have to play faster

Be aware of the notes you play, so first the root

You can even practice the scale while saying the notes you are playing.

The first technical exercise that you should do in the scale beyond playing it is to play it in 3rds.

Scale in 3rds

The reason for this is that when you play Jazz then you are using the notes of the chord, and chords are built in 3rds so you are preparing yourself for learning the diatonic arpeggios, triads, and 7th chords that are found in the scale.

What Do You Need To Play Jazz

What do you need to play jazz phrases? If you look at this fairly typical jazz lick

Jazz Lick – chromaticism arpeggio

Then you can see that it uses a 7th chord arpeggio, Cmaj7, and some chromaticism mixed in with scale notes.

Beyond practicing the scale itself then the things you want to practice are the things you need in your solo. Arpeggios seem like a very useful candidate, to begin with.

The Arpeggios Are In The Scales

When I was first taught arpeggios the I was told to practice them as separate positions. In that way, learn them as independent things, not connecting them to scales or anything else.

A few years later, when I was in a Barry Harris masterclass in the Hague, I learned from Barry Harris that I should know how to play the diatonic arpeggios of the scales, and he talked about how to use them.

If you practice the arpeggios like that you get something like this:

Diatonic Arpeggios

If you know how to play this exercise then you have material that you can use on a lot of chords that you come across in C major, and you see the arpeggios together with the other notes that you have available when you solo. It is already connected to the rest of the material you can use.

II V I lick with diatonic arpeggios

For me, this was really a gamechanger, when you connect the arpeggio to the scale like this it is much easier to play the arpeggio with an extra scale note and also to see how the notes move from one chord to the next, which makes it a lot easier to make strong lines that outline the chords. But there is a lot more you can get out of it, as you will see later in the video. (highlight voice-leading in a lick, overlay lick while talking)

Another thing that is worth noting is that most of the time when you come across arpeggios in Jazz solos, then they are one-octave arpeggios in the middle of a line or even with scale notes in between, so practicing them like this is much more efficient and closer to how you use them in Jazz. As you can see in this transcription (Parker solo transcription?)

How To Practice and Use Them

You can practice the arpeggios from each note in the scale like this (example 4) and again you want to play them cleanly, equal in volume, not too fast, and connecting the notes as much as possible. Another way of practicing them that is useful is to practice up one and down the next

This is actually a bit easier because you don’t have the large interval skip from one arpeggio to the next. In general, you want to practice different things to build flexibility and work towards being free when you improvise, so coming up with variations is something that will help you with that.

If you start thinking of the scales and the exercises like this, then you want to find out what you want to use in a solo and then practice that in your scales so that you learn all the useful variations building a vocabulary you can use in solos.

From Arpeggios to Lines

There are many ways that you can use these arpeggios, to get started it makes sense to just play the arpeggios on a chord progression

Example 7 (no backing)

To turn this into something you can use in a solo then you can use the notes around the arpeggios and add some nice rhythms as well.

For the Dm7, this is the arpeggio:

And you can turn that into a more interesting line by adding the E in between the first two notes:

In this way you can start to work on making lines like this:

Here I am using the Dm7 phrase, a triplet on the G7, and also adding an A to the Cmaj7 arpeggio.

The Mighty Triad

Another obvious one is to also check out the diatonic triads which as you will see we can easily connect to the chords and also are great for creating super-strong lines.

Going over the triads in the scale gives you an exercise like this:

And finding triads to use with a chord is very easy:

If you look at a Dm7 then that is D F A C

Here we already have two triads: Dm: D F A and F major F A C.

For the G7: G B D F – G B D and B diminished and Cmaj7: C major and Em

And using these to make lines could sound like this:

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5 Things Every Beginning Jazz Guitarist Should Know

There are so many people who seem to be focusing on the wrong things and slow down their progress when they want to learn Jazz. This video is going to give you some suggestions about how to think about what you are learning so that as a Jazz Guitar Beginner, You actually work towards learning Jazz and don’t drive yourself crazy practicing exotic scales.

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Content:

00:00 Intro

00:28 It is not only about Scales

01:35 Play Music Not Exercises

03:07 A Bebop Job Interview

03:37 Learn Songs

04:17 Listen to Jazz

05:20 Vocabulary – If you ever want to sound like Jazz

06:22 Jazz Chords – A Great Place To Start

06:30 Like the video? Check out my Patreon Page

 

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