Tag Archives: jazz guitar improvisation

No Bending In Jazz, Please!

I guess this might be a hot take on the topic of bending in Jazz, but this is a really common question, and that was sort of surprising to me because I never really thought about it like that but I will try to explain that later.

I get a lot of comments about this ranging from “why is there no bending” or the more frustrated ones that are “Bending isn’t allowed” and of course my favorite which is to blame it on me. which is always fun.

But why isn’t bending a part of Jazz Guitar? And actually, I think there are quite a few reasons for this.

Is Bending Overrated?

Maybe sometimes string bending gets a bit overrated?  The main reason you would ask why Jazz doesn’t use string bending is usually that you come from playing genres where that is a common part of phrasing and playing. That would probably be Blues, Classic Rock, and Metal? In those genres bending has almost become synonymous with demonstrating good taste, emotion, and not over-playing in a solo. Usually, David Gilmour from Pink Floyd is the typical hero of this way of playing almost to the point of it almost becoming a joke.

Some of the comments I get on YouTube will explain to me that “bending is the BEST phrasing” and that is used to argue that Jazz is lacking emotion or expression, but maybe it is worthwhile to point out that there are a lot of genres of guitar music where bending is not a standard part of the phrasing. Unless you also want to write off Flamenco, Bluegrass, and Classical music as lacking emotion as well.

It is not that Jazz fans are really any better, you can easily find examples of Jazz used in the same way to dismiss chord progressions that don’t have extensions as boring which obviously is just as silly.

But, while you are learning Jazz then there is a reason why I often tell people to avoid to play in a way that makes it a lot less effective to play boomer bends as a way of phrasing.

There Are Jazz Players That Use Bending

Of course, there are Jazz Guitarists that DO use bends, let’s start with a modern example and then add some of the more classic guys!

John Scofield was one of the first Jazz guitarists I listened to a lot, and in many ways, he is also one of the people to use bending in phrases that are not just Blues phrases. You can hear it in this example where he is using quite a few bends in the theme of the Gershwin ballad “Someone To Watch Over Me”.

Scofield always had this a part of his sound. It is certainly a part of his style, but you can actually find examples of most Jazz players using bends, it is just not as big a part of their vocabulary and not something that happens every other phrase.

As I mentioned earlier then you most commonly hear this in Blues phrases, like this example with Barney Kessel –  BARNEY EXAMPLE  or here with Kenny Burrell – BARNEY EXAMPLE

Both are soloing on a Blues and using blues vocabulary which of course is a part of Jazz.

So it is in there and it always was, but it is not something you use all the time. I think there are 3 possible reasons why bending is not so common in Jazz.

#1 Jazz Melodies Are Different!

You want to keep in mind that string bending is primarily used in blues phrases, and it is not a technique you would use for the Bebop lines, let me show you what I mean:

In the Blues, bends are used more on sustained notes or when notes are repeated.

But Bebop vocabulary is not about long notes or repeated notes so the effect of bending is not as powerful. The point is that you want to clearly hear that gradual move in pitch. Another thing is that for Jazz lines, connecting and locking in with the groove is more important where Blues melodies often will float more freely on top of a very clear groove.

Example of floating Blues Lick?

Try to listen to this short phrase where you can hear that the melody uses more notes, has more direction and tension, and is a lot lighter with a more syncopated rhythm.

It is a completely different type of melody, and playing syncopated rhythms more freely floating just means that you lose what is nice about them being syncopated.

I don’t know if I need to mention this, but the difference between Jazz and Blues is not really about one being better than the other, this is just that they are different and what makes Jazz Jazz and Blues Blues.

It Is Bending Too Slow For Bebop?

If you were to try to add bends to an 8th note line then it is fairly clear that bending is not a very efficient way to produce a note compared to legato, slides, and the other techniques used in a phrase, and for Bebop then speed and efficiency is certainly a factor.

Maybe you can see that from the opening phrase of Donna Lee. You could choose to play the trill in the beginning of the melody with a bend:

But it is a lot of extra motion for the left hand so it is not very efficient to get to work in a Bebop line compared to a normal legato trill.

Another thing that is also worth mentioning is the guitars and I am sure they were certainly also a factor.

#2 The Guitars and Pickups

Evolution of sound: Acoustic, Jazz Guitar + Amp – Solidbody with effects – Guitar into Laptop

If you think of how Jazz guitar sits in the history and development of Jazz then it was mainly used from Bebop and on, and the instruments that were used at that point were archtop guitars with fairly heavy strings and some sort of early single coil pickup like a p90 or a Charlie Christian pickup.

This type of guitar sounds great but, similar to an acoustic guitar, does not have a lot of sustain, which again fights a bit against a technique like bending that works better if the note keeps ringing and doesn’t fade out before you have hit the pitch you want.

I think you can also sort of hear this in how T-bone walker, who also played a hollow body guitar, often repeats notes when bending almost like he tries to find a way to compensate for that.

Again, it makes sense to compare Jazz to Bluegrass where the acoustic guitars have a similar sound without a lot of sustain. In Bluegrass, the soloing style is also relying on more dense and active melodies weaving through the changes and not long notes with vibrato. The gear really does often shape the style of music, by now modern styles of guitar music really incorporates recording and studio effects as much as real gear like amps and effects to shape the sound. In a way, it is an evolution from acoustic to adding more and more ways to shape the basic sound.

There was another thing that we don’t talk about that much, but it most likely also played a fairly big role besides the guitar though.

#3 You Don’t Want Feedback

You might be thinking that even with a single coil pickup you can get more sustain, which is certainly true for a tele or a les paul with p90s where you can turn up the amp to get more compression and therefore also more sustain, but If you have ever played a hollow body with a p90 like this one, then you also know how much trouble you can get with feedback which can get completely out of control. In the 40s and 50s when the basic Jazz guitar style was evolved then most amps just had a volume knob and some sort of simple EQ. This limits how loud you can go with an instrument like that and if you want to play the amp so loud that it starts compressing and gives you more sustain then you are most likely going to be at a volume where you are spending more time trying to mute the strings and keeping the guitar in a direction away from the amp so it doesn’t go crazy with feedback.

I am curious about which reason you think was more important, maybe it is something I didn’t mention at all? You can let me know in the comments.

It Is Not Jazz, It is You!

A completely different reason for why it feels like bends are not allowed in Jazz has nothing to do with Jazz, because it could also be that you show up to a Jazz Jam session and want to play the blues licks you have in your fingers over the standards, which I imagine will not go down too well.

Before I start explaining why the way I teach Jazz sort of leads away from string bending there is something else that is maybe also worth understanding, especially if you were one of the people asking the question.

Does AC/DC Need Synthbass?

The first few times that I had students or people on the internet asking me about this then I was pretty surprised by the question, simply because it wasn’t something I had ever thought about. I guess that also has to do with how you approach the music.

When I got into Jazz then the main thing that drove it all was that I liked the music that I heard, and I was very curious about how to sound like that. That also means that I was not really concerned with what they didn’t do, only in figuring out what they were doing so that I could do that as well. If there was no tapping, bending, or delays then that didn’t matter. What interested me was how to sound like the music I heard. I especially remember this from hearing El Hombre, Pat Martino’s debut album.

The reason I mention this is because I suspect you will get that reaction more often, and it feels a bit like asking why there is no synth in AC/DC or BB king tapping licks. The music is fine as it is, and we can’t go back in time and change it.

Beginning Jazz Phrasing

When it comes to Jazz phrasing, and especially Bebop phrasing, then the fact that the vocabulary is about rhythm and syncopation also means that you start by letting people play shorter notes. That is also what you hear if you go back to the phrasing of swing which is the origin of Bebop.

Pat Martino playing the Benny Goodman piece, Seven come eleven is also an example of this. Phrases end are ending on an off-beat and the last note is short to make it clear that it is syncopated. Often when you come from especially Blues then it is less important to stop the notes and you let every note in the melody ring out. When you start playing Jazz then you need to learn to take control of the length of the note and really choose when to play long notes. Bending is just not that effective if you play a lot of fast short notes.

Get the PDF and GuitarPro on Patreon:

You can get the PDF and GuitarPro files on Patreon here:    

 

Get the PDF!

You can also download the PDF of my examples here:

Get a free E-book

If you want to download a Free E-book of 15 II Valt I licks then subscribe to my newsletter:

Sign up for my newsletter – Get the II V I Ebook

 

Jazz Guitar Insiders Facebook Group

Join 7500+ Other Jazz Guitarists 🎸Join us in the Facebook Jazz Guitar Group Community: http://bit.ly/InsidersFBGroup

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for topics then, please let me know. Leave a comment 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 are searching for.

Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Instagram, Twitter Google+, or Facebook to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts, and releases.

Is This Jazz Guitar Method Fantastic and Terrible At The Same Time

Jazz solos are not improvising every single note, we use building blocks to construct phrases, similar to how words are used to form sentences and you don’t spell each word in the sentence, you just put them together to make a statement, and that is also how you want to improvise.

When it comes to learning some really solid building blocks fro Bebop vocabulary, then one of the best books that I know is “Joe Pass guitar style“, and I am far from the only one to recommend it, both John Scofield and Mike Stern have mentioned studying it and when I was studying then most of my teachers gave me homework from that book.

Building Blocks

Jazz Lick:

But it does have a problem and maybe not the one that I hear people mention all the time, and that is what I want to talk about in this video.

The Method

The part of the book that I worked on and that I also use with my students is the 2nd half of the book that has some written-out solos that you can work on playing.

Playing these solos will give you some great examples of super-strong basic Bebop vocabulary and teach you a lot about improvising over chord changes, using chromatic phrases and Bebop melodies.

And, of course, it is also good for your reading, technique, and fretboard knowledge.

So lots of stuff to learn.

Joe Pass is obviously an expert when it comes to Bebop on guitar, and the solos are filled with great phrases that are clear and sound logical without being predictable or formulaic.

So what is the problem with the book?

As you can see, the solos are very dense:

They are mostly just streams of 8th notes. One of the two complaints I hear the most often is, of course, “There are no tabs” which is true. But even if you have to spend some time deciphering where to play these solos without tabs then they are actually worthwhile, and almost a reason to learn to read.

This book was just made before tabs were really something that was common.

When it comes to the dense 8th note lines then Joe Pass explains it with this:

“These solos are in straight 8th-notes. By eliminating rhythmic variety, you force the ear into building better melodies. 8th-note studies also tend to avoid the practice of playing memorized licks.

Chord symbols are for your analysis, not necessarily for accompaniment.”

My interpretation of this is that he is saying that playing continuous 8th-notes forces you to play the changes clearer with more logical melodies and that it is more difficult to rely on licks you already know. I think that makes sense. I don’t think that he means straight 8th notes as opposed to swing 8th notes, just that it is one long stream of 8th notes. It also sounds like he is suggesting that you actually practice improvising like this as much as you play his solos, which is not how I hear most people use this. But that can certainly be a great exercise to work on.

On a side note: the chord symbols are sometimes really off and not a very strong analysis in my opinion, but that is not so important for this video.

Playing these dense 8th note solos is technically more demanding and if you are performing then that is probably not how you want your solo to sound since it has no rests, no room to breathe.

And yet, almost any Jazz guitarist will tell you that this is great material to study and most certainly worth your time, so let’s look at how you can work with these phrases?

The Building Blocks

Besides playing the exercises and getting these types of melodies into your fingers and ears, which is already a great exercise in itself, then there is a lot more you can use this material for.

One thing that is worth noticing about the solos is that Joe Pass is constructing lines with building blocks that are mostly a few notes with a direction to a target note. This keeps the entire solo moving forward and since the target note is almost always a chord tone it also really helps with connecting the melody to the chord progression, so nailing the changes

These building blocks are what you want to get into your own playing and doing that is perhaps one of the best things you can take away from the book. Something that will really help you sound like Jazz when you improvise.

One way to do that is to take a single phrase and then start composing lines using that phrase and in that way get it to fit into your vocabulary.

So if you start with a phrase like this:

That can work on a Gm7 chord to create a solid bebop line like this:

 

And you can of course also put it to use on the C7, add a triplet and some octave displacement, and then you have a great line like this:

Is Building Blocks Cheating?

As I mentioned earlier, sometimes I get comments from people who insist that the ideal is that you improvise each note of a phrase and never study licks or how to use them, even going as far as dismissing arpeggios and triads as being clichés. I often wonder who they listen to? Because most people I have listened to use phrases that they clearly got from others and they all use arpeggios and triads. And, I never felt that it makes them sound bad, at least not to me anyway. Like Grant Green, who, like George Benson, uses a ton of Parker lines, and in another style, Stevie Ray Vaughan Playing like Albert King.

So using building blocks is a practical way to learn to play in a style, it is how the people you listen to learn, and it is a part of learning the language. But You want to be as flexible as possible with the material because that makes it easier to use in a solo. So in that respect, this book is full of useful information for you to internalize.

The fact that the lines are constructed from blocks actually also makes it easier to learn.

The Blocks Help You Learn The Solo

If you are trying to learn a new language then you don’t first try to memorize a whole story and then figure out what each word means. You use the words to help you learn the story, and that is also how you should be learning solos like this as well.

It may look like there are no individual phrases, but, as you have seen, there is a logical way to split it up in blocks, and if you do that you can think in smaller phrases each a few notes long. This will help you learn because what you are playing makes more sense and you will have an easier time learning how to play the whole thing without feeling like you are trying to memorize all the letters in a book!

The Problem

Until now, it was about all the great things you can learn from these solos, but of course, this is a specific exercise and there are things that it probably won’t teach you.

The other complaint that I get about this material, both in comments and from students, is that there is no rhythm in the solo, it is all 8th notes, and that is unrealistic. You don’t want to play like that if you are performing.

There is actually rhythm and syncopation in the solo. I’ll show you that in a bit, but for the rest it is true that if you listen to Joe Pass on recordings then he certainly does not play like this.

The emphasis in the solo and in practicing like this is on flow, forward motion, and strong melodies, so if you play these solos and improvise like this, as Joe Pass suggests, then that is something you will develop. You won’t develop more open phrasing focused on syncopated rhythms, or playing riff-like material similar to what you might find in a Lester Young or Charlie Christian solo. But then again that is also not really what you are trying to develop with this material, and you can work on that elsewhere. The idea that you should learn everything at once from one source is anyway a bit silly.

It is, however, good to be aware of that the lines will teach you to be clear and always play from one heavy beat (so beat 1 or beat 3) to the next heavy beat, and only phrasing like that can be a problem down the road.

Just like you have chord tones as target notes in these Joe Pass solos, then you probably also want to develop rhythmical target notes so that you can play strong melodies to 4& and 1& as well as just beat 1. A big part of Bebop phrasing is also about doing those types of syncopations which is what makes Bebop sound playful and light, not just a machine working its way from downbeat to downbeat.

Rhythmical Target Notes

But I also said that there actually is syncopation in the solo, even if it is just all 8th-notes. Let’s have a look at that.

There is Rhythm, You Just Don’t Recognize It

Dismissing the solos as not having any rhythm or syncopation is actually wrong. I understand why it might look like that, but if you play them and know just a little bit about Bebop phrasing then you can also see how there are some syncopated accents in there.

There are no really strict rules for accents, but some obvious places in this line would be something like this

So you can see how the accents add a layer of syncopation that you don’t immediately see when you just look at the long row of 8th notes, and that is something you don’t want to miss and a huge part of learning jazz phrasing

If you want to get the Joe Pass Guitar Style book then it is available here:

https://geni.us/nTYWH (affiliate link)

Get the PDF and GuitarPro on Patreon:

You can get the PDF and GuitarPro files on Patreon here:    

https://www.patreon.com/posts/is-this-jazz-and-64157847

Get a free E-book

If you want to download a Free E-book of 15 II Valt I licks then subscribe to my newsletter:

Sign up for my newsletter – Get the II V I Ebook

Get the PDF!

You can also download the PDF of my examples here:

Jazz Guitar Insiders Facebook Group

Join 7500+ Other Jazz Guitarists 🎸Join us in the Facebook Jazz Guitar Group Community: http://bit.ly/InsidersFBGroup

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for topics then, please let me know. Leave a comment 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 are searching for.

Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Instagram, Twitter Google+, or Facebook to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts, and releases.

One Thing That Will Make Your Solos A Lot Better

There is a trap that you can fall into when it comes to practicing. Usually, we spend a lot of time learning songs and trying to hit the right notes in your jazz solo, but it can be very a huge problem if you only take your playing to that stage. That is not where the music is, there is a lot more that you need to develop to sound great when you are improvising, but most of it is fairly easy to improve if you are aware of it and focus on it in your practice routine, as you will see in this jazz guitar lesson.

Get the PDF on Patreon:

You can get the PDF and GuitarPro files on Patreon here:    

https://www.patreon.com/posts/one-thing-that-41522159

Content:

00:00 Intro

01:02 Metheny Practicing

03:07 Parker Thinks The Same

05:07 Practice Practice Practice

06:03 Telling Better Stories in Your Solos

06:30 Use Different Building Blocks

08:30 This video didn’t teach you anything

08:57 How to Connect Phrases 

10:09 Develop your skills

10:16 Like the video? Check out my Patreon Page

 

Get a free E-book

If you want to download a Free E-book of 15 II Valt I licks then subscribe to my newsletter:

Sign up for my newsletter – Get the II V I Ebook

Get the PDF!

The PDF for this lesson is available through Patreon in the Patreon FB group. By joining the Patreon Community you are in the company of 500 others supporting and helping shape the content on my YouTube channel.

Jazz Guitar Insiders Facebook Group

Join 6000+ Other Jazz Guitarists 🎸Join us in the Facebook Jazz Guitar Group Community: http://bit.ly/InsidersFBGroup

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics then, please let me know. Leave a comment 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 are searching for.

Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Instagram, Twitter Google+ or Facebook to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases. 

 

Jazz Guitar Solo – This Is What I Think About

What do I think in a Guitar Solo? A Jazz Guitar Solo is not as much thinking as you may assume. In this video I improvised a solo, transcribed it and then I go over the solo discussing what I thought or about or what I might have thought about when playing the solo.

This should give you some insight into how I improvise and also maybe what you should not worry about when playing a song. Jazz is a genre of music that lends itself to over-thinking.

Some of the topics I go over is how and why I think certain things like altered dominants or motifs. I also talk about the construction and thought process behind double-time lines and some polyrhythmic ideas.

Content of the video

 0:00 Intro – What I think about in a solo

0:20 The Driving a Car Analogy

0:42 Solo and Transcription.

1:17 Out Of Nowhere – The Song and the Form

1:48 The Solo

2:43 The Beginning – How to start a solo

4:04 How Target notes are a part of my playing

5:18 Ab Blues in G major?

5:49 The Added C7(#11) chord

6:33 The Gmaj7 Gm6 trick

7:09 Bm7 E7 – Thinking an Altered Dominant

8:39 I am not Pat Martino (surprised?)

8:50 A Tonic minor sound on the II chord

10:14 The Lydian Dom7th: Eb7

11:03 Double Time Line

12:31 Using Blues G Phrases in Medium Swing

14:22 A Simple Motif through a few bars

15:53 Bm Pentatonic to C7(13)

16:33 The Bm7 chord as a II chord not a III

17:25 4th note Triplet Poly Rhythm- Groups of 2 (displaced)

18:45 The Final turnaround and the ending

19:50 Blues in Medium Swing (Joe Pass)

20:54 How Not To Think About What I do

21:15 Like the video? Check out my Patreon Page

Get a free E-book

If you want to download a Free E-book of 15 II Valt I licks then subscribe to my newsletter:

Get the PDF!

The PDF with examples for this video is available through Patreon. You can check out my Patreon Page here: https://www.patreon.com/jenslarsen

Jazz Guitar Insiders Facebook Group

Join 1500+ Other Jazz Guitarists 🎸Join us in the Facebook Jazz Guitar Group Community: http://bit.ly/InsidersFBGroup

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics then please let me know. Leave a comment 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 are searching for.

Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts, and releases.


The 7 Questions You Need To Ask About A Solo You Love

We all have a jazz guitar solo that we really love and we dream of being able to play a solo like that. Often the advice that you get is to transcribe the solo and use that to learn to figure out what is going on, but that can also be a way for you to zoom in too much on the details. Often it isn’t that important if it is an E or and Eb, but it is much more important that he is developing a motif or only using short phrases or playing triplets in groups of 4.

In this video I am going to focus on what you can learn by listening to solos and focus on other things than what notes are being played, a lot of topics that are just as important and that we forget to talk about.

Hope you like it!

Content of the Video

0:00 Intro

0:12 The Problem with Transcribing

0:47 Focus on The Bigger Picture

1:22 How Long Are The Phrases?

1:37 John McLaughlin Vs Wes Montgomery

2:27 Using Phrase Length in Your Own Practice

2:44 What Is Happening With The Rhythm?

2:54 Pat Martino vs Herbie Hancock

3:27 Herbie going beyond the 8th note and in the groove phrasing

3:50 Intersesting ideas with 8th notes

4:00 Timing, Placement on the beat?

4:21 Is It Bebop Lines or Vocal-like Melodies?

4:50 Paul Desmond Vs. Pat Metheny

5:43 How Is The Development Of The Solo?

5:52 Mainstream Jazz and Dynamics?

6:05 Steve Vai vs Stan Getz

6:36 A Method for Solo Construction: Wes Montgomery

7:20 Is it In The Groove or Floating over it?

7:57 Joe Pass Vs Allan Holdsworth

8:31 Are The Phrases Connected, and How?

8:55 Wes Montgomery Vs Pat Martino

9:26 How Is The Soloist Using Space?

9:44 Use Space to Create Tension!

10:00 Like John Abercrombie!

10:28 Like The Video? Check out My Patreon Page!

Get a free E-book

If you want to download a Free E-book of 15 II Valt I licks then subscribe to my newsletter:

Get the PDF!

The PDF with examples for this video is available through Patreon. You can check out my Patreon Page here: https://www.patreon.com/jenslarsen

Jazz Guitar Insiders Facebook Group

Join 1500+ Other Jazz Guitarists 🎸Join us in the Facebook Jazz Guitar Group Community: http://bit.ly/InsidersFBGroup

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics then please let me know. Leave a comment 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 are searching for.

Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts, and releases.

Jazz Guitar Q&A #27 – Up tempo solos – Practice goals – Jazz and other genres

This weeks Q&A on Transcribing Chord progressions, Practice goals, Up tempo soloing and how to work towards it, and if Jazz skills translate directly to other genres.

In the video I talk about what and how you learn from transcribing and how you work with transcriptions in different ways. I also talk about how to incorporate licks and melodic material into your jazz guitar solos.

If you have any questions on guitars, effects, improvisation, technique or improvisation then leave a comment on my video or send me a message on Facebook or Instagram.

 

0:14 Intro
1:15 Learning tunes by ear
10:00 Practice goals, what to work towards?
13:15 Uptempo solos and how to practice that
20:16 Applying Jazz Skills to other genres
26:25 Outro + Questions?