Tag Archives: jazz guitar lesson advanced

5 Jazz Guitar “Rules” That You Should Break (The Pros Do)

Jazz Rules!

Are there rules for Jazz? When you are learning something then it is nice to have simple and clear rules so that you can evaluate and practice towards something that fits the rules. Unfortunately, rules are rarely a good description for learning to play music,  as you will see in this video. There are a lot of very common “rules” that you should be breaking as soon as you can,  they will only waste your practice time and keep you from learning.

Rule #1 – Chromatic Notes

Let’s start with a very practical one, and then move on to some techniques and practice stuff that are bad advice.

A big part of Jazz vocabulary is the sound of chromatic enclosures and passing notes, and this rule is about that:

Chromatic Passing Notes Should Never Be On The Downbeat.

So why is this not a rule? The point of a chromatic leading note is to create tension that then resolves to a chord or scale note, and it does that whether you place it on a downbeat or an upbeat.

 

Placing it on a downbeat will only create more tension, but that is also something that works as a sound, like this:

You want to learn to use that creatively, and it is pretty easy to find examples here’s Charlie Parker’s Billie’s Bounce:

And he also uses it in Moose The Mooche

So you can put leading notes wherever you want, just like Parker. Let’s take another very common misunderstanding with notes, but this time the notes in the scale:

Rule #2 – Avoid Notes

Many questionable choices have been made in the name of “Avoid notes“. I imagine it is mostly just because the name is too short and unclear so it is easy to abuse or get wrong.

An avoid note over a chord is a note that is dissonant, the usual example is the 4th or 11th over a major chord, so an F over a Cmaj7. Listen to how the b9 interval between then E and the F really begs to resolve:

But just because you should not emphasize or sit on a note, that doesn’t mean that you should spend too much time worrying about not hitting it.

In general, it is better to focus on what you want to play, and not what you shouldn’t play, and there is no need to try to choose scales that have no avoid notes or only practice not using them in your lines, they are there to be used in the music, and the music is probably boring without them.

Check out how you can use it in your lines as a tension that resolves. Here I am playing the avoid note on beat 1 of bar 2:

Rule #3 – Bending

Once in a while, you will hear people insisting that certain techniques are not allowed in certain styles of music, so there is no tapping in Blues unless Billy Gibbons does it and there is no bending in Jazz.

But, of course, that is not really true, there is quite a lot of bending in Jazz even if there are also complete albums without any, and many guitarists that never use it.

Often this is connected to Blues phrases like this Barney Kessel example:

but there are also Jazz guitarists who have made it a part of their expressive vocabulary outside of Blues phrasing. My favorite for this is probably Pat Metheny:

I made a longer video on this a few years ago, and to me, it was always a bit surprising that this was such a sensitive topic, it is just a technique after all, and you don’t have to use all techniques all the time, surely there is no outrage that people don’t play sweep arpeggios in Blues. I don’t think I ever thought of this as a rule. You probably won’t find a lot of bends in Bop lines, because the effect of this technique really comes across better with long notes, something that there are not a lot of in Bebop, but it is up to you to figure out how it fits in your playing.

This might offend a few people, but I always imagined that it came from guitarists going to Jam sessions and then playing their blues clichés over jazz pieces without ever really sounding like Jazz, connecting to the song or the groove, but I don’t think I ever saw that at a session.

My personal favorites with this are probably Scofield and Metheny. Let’s go to what is probably the biggest waste of time for beginning Jazz guitarists

Rule #4 – Always Practice Everything In All Keys And All Positions

This rule will help you waste a LOT of time, so feel free to ignore it!

“You Need To Practice Everything In All Keys And All Positions”

There is a good reason for eventually taking some things and working through that in all keys and all positions, but this is probably more a few very fundamental things like the 3 basic scales: major, harmonic minor, and melodic minor. Diatonic arpeggios, triads, and that sort of basic foundational vocabulary.

Let me show you how easy it is to overload yourself with work like this very quickly:

This is a great basic line, consisting of an enclosure and an arpeggio

It’s a simple melody so you should check it out for all the diatonic chords in C major, in other positions, in other keys, do all 12, and it probably also works in Harmonic minor:

Or is it maybe more useful to work on using it in your solos?

You can take the lick and then add another ending:

Maybe it is nice with some more chromatic stuff and a leading note on the downbeat:

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Or you could be leading into it with a Coltrane Pattern;

Of course, you might have time to do both, but do you have time to do both for all variations in all keys, scales, and positions? You need to be realistic with what you get out of it.

Working like this is great for exploring but it should not be the way you always do everything. Ask yourself how common 7th-chord arpeggio inversions are in Bop lines? Are they common enough to spend hours practicing that? Or a similar thing: It’s good to sometimes take a song through all 12 keys, and it can also be fun. But it is not always the way to do, maybe it is better to get really good at it in the key you need to play it in?

Rule #5 – You Need A Foundation in Technique and Theory

A very similar Rule that people think is part of Jazz is that you need to have a foundation in Theory and Technique to play it. That is also not true. You could get started with a lot less, even no theory at all, and just start learning solos by ear and other vocabulary only to learn the theory as you work on the vocabulary.

If you are starting with some not-too-modern bop-inspired stuff then most of that is going to be major scale, a few chromatic notes, and the odd blues phrase here and there. You can get very far with that. Don’t get lost in modes, and different minor scales right away, you can better focus on learning to improvise, getting the right vocabulary, and learning to play songs.

Getting those things down will get you to play music and really, and it is probably also closer to why you are interested in Jazz in the first place. I am sure you did not start playing Jazz just to learn how to play melodic minor.

My Jazz Guitar Roadmap course is built around that as well, a major scale, some arpeggios, a song, and figuring out how to play solos, using rhythm, phrasing, and chromatic stuff to make it sound right. It really doesn’t have to be that complicated!

Check it out here: The Jazz Guitar Roadmap

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This Guy Doesn’t Need a “REAL” Jazz Guitar To Sound Amazing!

Overlooked But Incredible Guitarist

Whenever the topic of “real jazz guitars” and “jazz tone” comes up, then I always have to think of this guy.

There is almost nobody I can think of who:

#1 Has a great tone using a bit unusual and sort of cheap equipment.

#2 Plays This Melodic, both with chord solos and single note lines.

#3 Gets Recommended By Jim Hall.

Of course, I am talking about Ed Bickert, who is certainly one of my favorite guitarists, and this solo demonstrates why in quite a few ways with him playing a lot of Blues on a standard, using amazing chord voicings in chord solos, and also being really creative with the melody in the solo. I don’t know if it is because he is from Canada that he is a little overlooked, but if you don’t know his playing then you are really missing out! I have REALLY been looking forward to making this video.

The fact that he is not using a large hollow body guitar is something we will return to later, but if you feel tempted to comment about Real Jazz guitars with natural resonance and vintage wood air, then you might want to wait until you have listened to Ed Bickerts playing!

The Song And The Blues

 

The Solo is on Just Squeeze me off the Paul Desmond Album “Pure Desmond” with Paul Desmond on sax, Ron Carter on bass and Connie Kay on drums, and of course, Ed Bickert on guitar.

There are 3 things that this solo illustrates very well about Ed Bickerts playing, but a part of what is genius about this specific solo is also that it is an incredibly simple song in a medium tempo.

They play the song in Eb and it is an AABA

with an A-part that mostly stays around the tonic, just moving up and down in diatonic chords. You’ll see Ed Bickert interpret the harmony very freely here.

The B-part is what is usually called an Ellington bridge, so a II V to IV and then V of V continuing to a II V back to I.

Something you’ll find in lots of songs like Honeysuckle Rose, So Danco Samba, Sunny Side Of The Street. It is a very common bridge progression, and therefore good to know.

Ed starts out his solo with a chord and then immediately goes for some solid blues licks:

So really basic Eb major pentatonic and blues with a motif that is first stated,

and then developedÆ

Then he rounds off with another blues phrase and a really nice polyphonic turnaround:

And you can tell that he is really thinking of two independent layers in the turnaround: Having the sustained Eb in the melody and then the chords moving from C7 to F7 to Bb7, where the Eb is of course really clashing with the Bb7 chord.

The Melody But Now With Blues

There are two places where Ed Bickert references the melody in the solo, this first one is a really creative way to add a bit of Blues sound to the melody and then let that flow into another Jazz blues lick:

Two cameras

It is pretty simple, first harmonizing the melody with a 3rd above, but sliding into the G and then moving up and using a Db above the Bb to create more of a Bluesy Eb7 sound.

A nice detail is how he then keeps that idea in there by playing a single note line but still emphasizing the Db in the 2nd of the two bars which sort of works like an echo of the 3rd interval idea.

Later, there is also an example where he uses the melody of the song, but with some unusual but really beautiful open chord-voicings. They remind me a bit of Bill Evans, but first let’s look at a really nice line that isn’t Bebop and sort of reminds me of Jim Hall.

Did He Get This From Jim Hall?

This example is an 8th note line, but it is not a Bebop line, it is another logic behind the melody, and it continues into a really beautiful II V with an altered dominant and a lot of offbeats which is also quite typical for Ed Bickerts playing. After that, I’ll talk a bit about his guitar and amp.

You have probably heard me talk about Bebop lines and how they flow and move through the harmony and have a lot of direction and forward motion, and this line starts off like that with essentially another blues line, but then goes into a line with a Pedal G note and then moving from the #11 of the F7 down to the 3rd in half steps.

From there he goes into an Fm7 Bb7 line that is pretty much all off beats, first an Fm7 arpeggio and then an E major pentatonic lick, that really works well to get the Bb7alt across.

And this is a great example of creating rhythmic tension just before the end of a section of the song, so that you really feel when it goes back to the A-part.

The Telephant In The Room

What, I think, often is a topic with Ed Bickert, even to the point of it overshadowing his playing, is that he primarily played a Telecaster and was one of the earliest mainstream Jazz guitarists to have that as his main instrument. In interviews, he said that he got it because he needed it for studio work and kept using it because it was in tune and easier to travel with. Ironically, he also said in an interview with Guitar Player, that he found it difficult to get a useful tone out of it and that he disliked how it quickly became muddy comparing it to what he considered the ideal tone with players like Jim Hall or George Benson.

By now, with Bill Frisell, Ted Greene, and Julian Lage we are used to telecasters as Jazz guitars.

What is maybe a bit more surprising is his choice of amp. From what I have been able to find then he often used a Roland Cube 60 as an amp. These old orange amps are solid-state amps, and while they have a sound pretty similar to a polytone they do sound really good. I have an older video on amps where I tested one together with Joram Pinxteren if you want to hear one. They do sound great, they don’t weigh a lot and they are also not super directional which is actually very nice when you play live.

Fender amps are often very directional and throw a lot of low frequencies out of the open back of the amp which just gets in the way of the bass and drums, I love the sound of Fender tube amps, but that aspect of the design is really horrible to me. Let’s get t some chord soloing!

Beautiful But Unusual Voicings

These voicings are really beautiful, and I don’t think I have heard others do this in a chord solo, it is pretty unique and sounds amazing, and after this, I’ll show you how he uses dominant voicings from the diminished scale as a practical way to sound bluesy!  Ed Bickert is in this example again quoting the theme. This time quite high on the neck, probably an example of one of the advantages of a telecaster because it can stay in tune this high. But it is pretty amazing:

The voicings here are pretty open and very high register, my guitar is struggling to be in tune so far up the neck. The Gm/C bass note voicing is used over an Ebmaj7 and gives you an Ebmaj7(13) it just sounds so great. He is harmonizing the G in the melody and uses the same voicing for the Ab and then this voicing for the Bb. This is pretty practical and not too difficult to play while also sounding great and a lot more open compared to most chord solos which use Drop2 or triad-based chords most of the time. This somehow reminds me of Bill Evans but I can’t really give you a specific example of where I heard it. Let me know if you have any idea about who he checked out for this.

He also uses more standard chord voicings but then creates a different more bluesy sound.

Beautiful But Unusual Sounds

Notice how he  relies on the same 3-note quartal voicing and the same rhythm to tie this together while playing some pretty out-there sounds,

and still getting some Blues in there:

So the rhythm makes this a riff, and makes it all fit together.

He is sort of going Eb7 Bb7 most of the time going from this Eb7(#9) to this Bb7(13),

This is what creates the Blues sound and still sort of fits with the original chords that move up and down the scale in steps(play),

but then he is also adding notes on top and then shifting to other variations of the 3-note voicing to get a D7(13#9) that moves to a G7(13#9) and finally a C7#9 to Fm7. It is actually pretty easy to play, and if I remember correctly then Lorne Lofsky does something very similar in his solo on “It Could Happen To You”, I am guessing he got that from Ed.

A Personal Way Interpretation Of Harmony

I really love how Ed Bickert is working with the harmony and improvising by changing chords as well as the solo lines he is playing, and this is just a 2-chorus solo on a very medium swing jazz standard. Even if this is not what most beginners are working on then it is an important part of playing Jazz, and something that you want to explore. Another guitarist that has a beautiful and personal take on harmony is a guitarist who also plays a solid-body guitar, and has a beautiful version of Days of Wine and Roses with a lot of amazing sounds.

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The Real Reason You Are Not Getting Better At Jazz

You don’t want to only play other people’s licks in your solos. You want to improvise, that is the point of Jazz!

But at the same time, maybe your solos don’t sound right, maybe they don’t even sound like Jazz.

If are you already practicing scales and arpeggios, then this video is about the next thing you need to learn, which was probably also how people like Joe Pass and Wes learned to play Jazz.

Learning solos by ear is a part of this, but it’s not the only thing. For a really long time, when I was studying then I felt that I didn’t learn a lot from transcribing solos, and that made me think that it should not be a big priority for my study, but in hindsight, that was completely wrong and not even how I was actually studying, but I’ll get back to that.

The Answer Is Not A Scale!

Let’s start with something that is so often presented wrong in lessons and probably also the reason you are watching this video.

Try to imagine that you are listening to your favorite part of one of your favorite solos. I am sure you can see how the answer to understanding why that phrase in a solo sounds great is not just a scale name.

You can’t listen to a Wes Montgomery solo, stop somewhere in the middle and go “Dorian” and then your solos start sounding amazing.

That’s obviously not how it works, and that is because when you are playing music then you are not thinking about a scale or an arpeggio. When I am playing solo then I am thinking about phrases that fit the music, the other stuff is too many steps from being something I can play. So you want to learn phrases and be able to play phrases, not just notes and scales.

And this is where the food analogy is a good description of a Jazz phrase:

A Jazz phrase is like a recipe for something that tastes great.

The scale and arpeggios, chromatic phrases are all ingredients, but it is as important that you know how to turn them into the dish.

I am sure you can imagine that even if you have all the ingredients for a burger then mixing the stuff up in random order is not likely to yield a delicious meal.

Jazz phrases are the same, it is only a part of the picture to know what the ingredients are, and only studying that won’t really get you very far, because it is like just knowing a lot of stuff that can be ingredients in food but clearly, that doesn’t mean you can cook something great.

So you have to not only memorize the ingredients but also learn how you put them together, that is the core of the recipe.

Where Do You Learn The Recipe

And there are some skills needed to understand the recipe for a jazz lick.

As I mentioned, then for a very long time I felt like I wasn’t really learning anything from transcribing entire solos. In the beginning, I was doing that really a lot, because that was what people around me suggested that should do, and especially when I did not have a teacher that was the only thing I could do to learn something new. But I sort of stopped when that didn’t seem as useful as a lot of the other things that I was working on, stuff I had picked up from Barry Harris and the material I was given by my teachers. But maybe that was more how I saw it at the time and not really what was going on, because next to this I was also starting to build other skills that would help me get so much more out of what I transcribed.

In the beginning when I was learning solos then I could at most just repeat what I had transcribed and hopefully connect it to my own vocabulary. That already makes it useful, but it is also far from taking the material to the level where you can use it freely in your own playing. Let’s say that I transcribed this part of a phrase from Grant Green:

One thing is learning the solo by ear and playing it along with Grant. That is incredibly valuable for phrasing and timing and a lot of other things, but now I want to use it to become better at making my own Jazz lines. And I took this phrase because, as you will see, it is an example of something that you want to understand and recognize and learn how to use in your own lines. Grant Green is also a very clear example of someone who checked out Charlie Parker, which is also important, but I will return to that later.

You can look at this phrase at different levels.

#1 The Notes

On the surface: If I look at the notes being used over Gm7 then I have the G, in the bass, and then 5 more notes: Bb C D F, and A.

So if I have to attach a scale to it then it could be G Natural minor, or Aeolian, or it could be a Gm7 chord in F major.  In this case, the Gm7 is a part of a II V I in F major so it makes sense to go with that. Music is about context.

But just knowing the scale would NEVER help you play a line like this, there is a lot more going on.

#2 The Harmony and Arpeggios

It is a Gm7 chord, you can see a Dm triad here (highlight),

even if that isn’t really the best way to understand that. You can also see that he is playing the 5th on the 4& so as an anticipated beat 1,

and the Bb is on beat 3 so he is really connecting to the chord tones on the heavy beats.

The two notes before Bb are an enclosure, so he is playing towards the note on beat 3, making that a target note.

 

This is already getting you closer to being able to create something that will sound right and not just throw random notes at the chords, because there is a direction and some notes need to go in certain places.

You can probably also tell that this takes some experience with both analyzing and listening to the music, but that is definitely something you want to learn.

I said that it wasn’t really a Dm triad, so let’s look at that because that is really important here.

#3 Melody

I already pointed out that it is not enough to just look at what notes are being played, you need to understand how they work in the line to understand what is going on.

An example of this could be this excerpt of a George Benson line which is also on a Gm7 chord in a II V I in F major:

If you don’t realize that the C# and the F# are chromatic leading notes

then you are going to end up thinking that this is a very weird scale, probably with 9 or more notes. And you realize that by noticing where the C# and F# are going. (show resolutions in sheet music))

This is also happening in the Grant Green example:

The A and C are an enclosure pulling towards the Bb on beat 3.

You also want to notice that the melody moves down from D to Bb but the enclosure is placed so that it skips down to A and then moves up to C, so it is in the opposite direction.

In fact, Benson does the same thing, the melody is moving up from D to G, but the enclosure is moving down from A to F# (highlight)

So that is something to keep in mind if you are making lines with chromatic enclosures: If the melody moves up then try to let the enclosure move down and vice versa.

The Triad That Isn’t A Triad

Let’s demystify The Dm triad that isnt a Dm triad. You want to see this as a part of another melody: A Bbmaj7 Pivot Arpeggio.

So, a Pivot arpeggio is an arpeggio where instead of playing the ascending arpeggio like this:

then you play the first note and move the rest down an octave to create this beautiful melody with a large interval skip:

And this can be hard to recognize until you have transcribed a few solos and seen this happen often, but that is why you keep learning solos by ear and get more familiar with the language.

Analyzing Solos For Recipes

I never did an analysis like this on an entire solo, but I did do it every time I had a spot that I thought was really good, so that I could not only learn the lick but also learn the concept or the recipe. In many ways that is also what Barry Harris teaches, it is not only what to play but also how to put it together, how to turn it into music. That is why he invented concepts like pivot arpeggios and why he is such a valuable resource when you are trying to learn.

This also brings me back to my story about how I wasn’t transcribing complete solos a lot for some time because what I was still doing was figuring out all the “good bits” so I would have solos that I listened to and they would have parts that I liked and that I didn’t understand, but I wanted to have in my playing, those I kept going for, and that still makes me figure things out. Later I realized that my phrasing and swing feel really benefitted from learning solos by ear and then I got back into working on entire solos, which I still do regularly.

Learn Like The Masters = Learn From The Masters

Of course, learning the solos is only a part of it, another activity is as important when it comes to getting this into your playing, but first, I already mentioned how I hear Grant Green (and actually also George Benson) as coming straight from Charlie Parker when it comes to vocabulary. This is really just about recognizing parts of phrases and melodic techniques that are similar to Parker. You can also find examples here and there of Wes playing Parker licks.

To give you an example then check out this phrase from Wes Montgomery’s Solo on, The Parker F-Blues, Au Privave:

This sounded very familiar to me, and Wes probably got that from this part of  Parkers solo on Now’s The Time, which is essentially the same phrase at the same place in the form since both songs are 12-bar blues progressions in F.

Connecting all of this across songs and artists is really about listening to a lot of music, and listening more than once. Something that is often worthwhile is listening together with other people and talking about the music you are listening to. Hanging out can be as useful as a lesson!

 

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I Wish I Had Checked Out This Guy! His Solos Are Jazz 101 On Guitar

This is one of the best people to check out if you want to develop pretty much everything you need to learn when starting out with Jazz: Phrasing, Vocabulary, Rhythm and most importantly these solos are pretty easy to figure out and play. I have given them to students to learn by ear many times, and they always learn a TON from it! Which makes me almost want to submit a complaint with my former teachers because nobody told me to check him out, but I’ll get back to that later.

The guitarist I am talking about here is Grant Green, someone who was a massive influence on a LOT of people, from Benson, to Pat Metheny, Peter Bernstein and Kurt Rosenwinkel. Super important figure in Jazz Guitar history!

3 Eras for Grant Green

To me, there are sort of 3 periods for Grant Green’s playing.

His early Bebop/Hardbop period, which is what I will focus on in this video. A lot of Organ trio stuff and also this guitar trio album simply called “Standards”.

then a true Hardbop era, with more modal Jazz and albums with Coltrane’s rhythm section, “Solid” is an amazing album from this period

and finally the Funk and Soul period where you have “Green Is Beautiful”

But the stuff that is so incredibly valuable for beginners learning Jazz is mostly the early stuff, and I think you will see why. And just to warn you: I will also talk about why I don’t like his tone that much on these albums, but you can of course start complaining about that already now in the comments.

Let’s get to the first example which is the pickup and the beginning of the solo, and it demonstrates 3 things that you definetely want to have in your playing, probably a more..

Bebop On Guitar, But Done Right

I should probably mention that the song is You Stepped Out Of A Dream, off the album called “Standards”. The whole album is a guitar trio, and Green doesn’t play any chords in this song at all, same goes for the other songs on the album, but it is an incredible album to check out, his playing is so solid and the lines are so strong.

The pick up is a long G7 line, even if I just write C6 since it is the end of themelody. It is a great example of how you can use trills in your playing to change up the flow a bit and make the whole thing come alive so it isn’t just 8th note lines all the time.

And it is really just a G7 out of C harmonic minor:

The first 4 bars of the solo shows some really useful examples of motivic development with 3 phrases that link in motifs:

First two phrases on the Cmaj7 are descending arpeggio melodies

and then the he connects the 2nd phrase of Cmaj7 with the phrase on Dbmaj7, using the same beginning notes over the chord.

Another thing that you want to notice is the large interval skip that Grant Green uses on the Dbmaj7 chord, inserting a low F between Db and C.

This is instant Bebop, and you will see 3 more variations of this later in the solo, and if that is all you learn from this solo then it is still worth the effort! As you will see, then this works on a lot of chords and is a great way to change things up so that your lines are not always running up and down scales or arpeggios but also surprising the listener a bit.

The II V I to Ab major that follows is also a great line, but later you also have a perfect II V I line! This one has what you could call a Dbmaj7(9) arpeggio,

Something you will see him play a few variations of as well in the solo. On The Eb7 there is another great interval skip that I always associate with Wes: You encircle the 3rd of the dominant and then skip up to the root, Wes does this a few time in 4 on 6.

Let’s take a look at that Perfect II V I

The Perfect II V I

Grant Green is a great example of how to be practical about taking Charlie Parker Bebop licks, that are often difficult to play on guitar,

and then make them into really playable and very solid Bebop material for Guitar. This, coupled with how he usually plays fairly relaxed tempos, makes these solos a lot easier to play and it is still really good music.

Check out this line and then I’ll talk about how it is a perfect example of a II V I bebop lick

You can hear that it has it all: syncopation, trills, interval skips and triplets. The funny thing about this is that you can see it as an embellishment of a very simple skeleton, like this:

Explainer: First you get the syncopation and the enclosure (From D to Bb) This is followed with the 2nd way to introduce interval skips:

 

The Pivot arpeggio that takes you to G on C7 (Pivot arp to G) We still have 2 variations of these in the solo though.

From here, he then adds a trill and an enclosure to resolve to the 3rd of F: A (C7 line to Fmaj7)

 

One thing you want to notice is that at the very beginning when he has the enclosure taking us to Bb then he is playing the enclosure in the opposite direction, so the melody moves down from D to Bb, but he plays the enclosure up from A to C. Again this is a much more interesting melody, also without the syncopation.

Everything moving down sounds like this

compared to the “flipped enclosure”

This is also a thing that Parker does really a lot, so he probably got it there. We still have two more variations of those large interval strategies so let’s get to the next example

Two Great Examples of Chromatic Notes

There is a really cool trick with enclosure at the end of this example, but let’s start with the phrase on the Dbmaj7, where he is really laying back in the time. Again he is adding a low F between Db and C, but this time he is adding a leading note to that lower note which is a great way to amplify the effect of the interval skip, because you are skipping down to a funny note that needs to resolve:

On the II V in Ab that follows he uses the Dbmaj7(9) arepggio that I talked about earlier, but adding a trill and going in to two enclosures next to each other that sound really great:

Here you have a melody which is first an enclosure of Bb and then on of G

This is very similar to how George Benson creates some great lines on Billie’s Bounce, no scales, just using triads and enclosures. Let me know if you want a link to the video where I talk about that.

How I discovered Grant Green

As I mentioned in the beginning then I was never told to check out Grant Green, which is probably just a coincidence. I had actually checked out some of his later stuff before getting into Jazz, but I did not think to look for more standard material by him. It wasn’t really until I started looking for material that I could use for teaching that I discovered him, mainly because his solos are not too long and not too fast plus that they are often on a 12-bar blues or on a common jazz standard, which makes them great for learning Jazz. This led me to checking out quite a few solos and using them really a lot in lessons and I really like a lot of his albums, especially Solid is a favorite of mine where Joe Henderson is also really amazing! B-roll: Joe Henderson Photo or VIdeo

The Tone And All That Reverb

Grant Green clearly doesn’t fit the typical myth about Jazz tone, with the tone rolled down and bass turned up on the amp, but of course that is also a myth. If you have watched any of my other videos on my guitars and how I think about tone, then you might be able to guess that I am not a massive fan of how Grant Green sounds on these early recordings where I think he is using an ES330 which is a completely hollow version of a 335 with p90 pickups. According to George Benson then Grant Green set up his amp by turning down treble ad bass and turning up the mids, which actually is not that different from how I set up my amp. When I talked about not liking the attack on my ES175 in the video on that guitar, then that is exactly what you hear in this recording of Grant Green. Of course, I think it is fine for him, but it is not what I want to sound like. I have similar thoughts on the spring reverb that is very present on this album, when I listen now I do wonder if it is not a studio spring reverb instead of the amp, but it is hard for me to tell. Remember that it is quite possible to like how somebody plays without wanting to have the same tone, and for the rest feel free to “open up emotionally” in the comment section.

No Chords, Just Fills

I want to add a short side-note on the harmony Grant Green uses on this song and how he doesn’t use any chords, which is not very common for jazz guitar trios, but I think it is clever how Grant Green uses fills to spell out the harmony next to the melody. This is especially clear on the maj7 chords in the beginning. where you have the 3rd in the melody and then Grant Green plays a riff spelling out movement from the 7th to the 6th which both gives you the chord and suggests some harmonic movement.

He probably got that from the trombone part on the Sonny Rollins version, EXAMPLE And I say that because he also plays the same reharmonization and also the same wrong note in the melody that Sonny plays. The next example is on top of that reharmonization.

Pivot Arpeggio 2.0

The reharmonization here is that you usually don’t go from Fmaj7 to Fm7, but instead it goes from Fmaj7 to Am7 D7, so V of V. Both sets of changes fit the melody which is just a C.

What I want to highlight here is the 4th variation of those Bebop interval skips, because here you have an Abmaj7 pivot arpeggio on top of the Fm7, but Grant Green adds two nice variations to it. You get a leading note to the low C, and there is a trill on the G when he gets back up

The other thing that I want to point out here is how he also uses the enclosure and interval skip on Bb7 to get that nice interval at the end of the line:

Which is similar to what he did on the Eb7 in the first example.

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If I started Jazz Guitar In 2023 then this is what I would practice

The problem with learning Jazz Guitar is not finding the information, you can find everything explained and almost everything written out on the internet, but where do you start? What is important to learn and what should you practice?

In this video, I will talk about how to keep it practical and what goals to aim for, but also highlight how we now have things available that make it easier, things I didn’t have access to back in 1996 or 7 when I started playing Jazz, and maybe they are not all great..

 

Let’s see if it really is easier to learn Jazz now than it used to be.

#1 Play Music – The Most Important Goal

Getting started without taking lessons is pretty difficult.  When I was first trying to learn a Jazz Standard, then I picked one that I thought sounded cool and tried to solo over it.  But at that time, I didn’t have a Jazz teacher, and working it out on my own was a complete disaster.

Even with all the mistakes and skills I didn’t have, I did get one thing right with that.  If you want to learn Jazz then you want to learn some music to play, that is the big goal around everything:

playing music, and you want to built the rest in a practical way around that. I’ll get to some basics on how to learn a song in a bit, but first you need to understand why it is important that you focus on learning songs.

Why You Want To Learn Jazz Songs

Anything you practice you want to learn to use when you make music, so you actually need to practice to use it, which is almost always missing in the equation, and that is what the songs are for: They are what you play when you make music.

They become the place where you take everything you work on whether it is a lick, an arpeggio or a chord voicing, and learn how to actually make music with it. Some students think that you just need to practice scales or arpeggios and then they magically become great licks in your solos, and that NEVER ends well…..

How You Learn Songs – It is pretty easy now!

There are a few very useful tools to learn songs that were not around when I learned Jazz. In the long run, you want to focus on learning songs by ear. In the beginning, then the chords are difficult to do by ear, so I would suggest always trying to learn the melody by ear first, and here it is a lot easier that we have things like Spotify, or YouTube and don’t need to buy cds or records of the songs, or even figure out what album a song is on. Everything is pretty easy to find on the internet and you can check out different versions and use those to learn the melody. This is great ear training and will also help you develop important skills that I’ll get to later in the video.

You should have a decent shot at learning the melody, and If you can, then check out the chords as well, but otherwise we have things like iReal, or Google to help with that, and of course the trusted old RealBook, but of course, those have been around for a long time! (as you can tell from the coffee stains and tape holding it together.

The Short list of things to focus on when learning a song for jazz soloing would be to:

Learn the melody

Because it will help you hear the harmony, understanding the form something to tie it all together.

Learn the chords

We mostly improvise over chords and if you know the chords and the arpeggios + the key of the song then you are already pretty far in terms of what you need to solo. Playing the chords in time helps you hear the harmony and the flow of the song, which makes it easier to improvise a solo.

Start soloing

Practice the scales and arpeggios in one (or more) positions so that you can solo over the song without having to skip around the neck at random.

And Don’t try to do the entire neck at once if you are new to it, just keep it simple, that is a super common mistake, and nobody learned anything from only practicing scales, except may to not only practice scales…

#2 Scales and Exercises

With learning songs there are a lot of tools that can help you learn faster, with scales and exercises then that is a bit more down to you to put in the work, and make the right choices

I think it is important to not get lost in working on too many things here, so just start with major scales, maybe don’t do all positions, but instead focus on what you need in the songs you play, and work on some exercises in those scale positions that help you solo better.

So here I am talking about learning basic exercises like diatonic triads and 7th chord arpeggios, triad inversions and add leading notes to arpeggios. The things you need for playing Jazz lines,

remember that there should be a connection of some sort. Then you can add more positions and more scales along the way, but again focus on what you need when you solo and try to practice so you improve that, don’t practice scales that you have never heard being used or that you won’t use for another few years. In fact, this is important for any exercise.

The same goes for chords, be careful with massive systems, inversions and permutations because they will eat up your practice time and instead keep it simple and build a vocabulary of chords that you can actually use when you play. I have other videos that give you a more practical approach for that. Let me know if you want a link.

I think this is mostly about working with a metronome, practicing the exercises and I don’t think there are that many differences between now and when I started out. But one thing is knowing all the technical parts of this, putting it together so that it sounds like a Jazz solo is something else entirely, and again it is a lot easier to come by information than it used to be, maybe  even too easy?

#3 Learn The Language

All the scales and arpeggios: someone with a lot of books or practicing with list of scales and chords popping in?

When I started out learning Jazz then I was already listening to a people like Charlie Parker, John Scofield and Pat Martino, but I also tried to find some books in the library that could help me learn, and at the time there was not a lot I could use. The only books I found were on Bebop and the material in there was a lot of boring exercises with lines that did not use songs and did not sound like the stuff I heard when I listened to the music, so I quickly dropped using them, and kept going figuring out bits and pieces by ear, because that was the best I had.

You can know all the scales and arpeggios in the world and still not know how to get anything to sound like a Jazz phrase. Like any style of music, Jazz needs a certain flow and the right notes need to be in the right place. There are a few ways you can study this, and not studying the language and just inventing your own melodies will often mean that you don’t REALLY sound like Jazz when you improvise, at the same time, that is also a question of taste, so feel free to leave angry comments on personal expression and artistic freedom below, maybe Wes is too clinical for you, Metheny is artificial or Joe Pass is boring. It is a sensitive topic.

The David Baker book that I checked out didn’t appeal to me, but in hindsight maybe a big part of why it didn’t do that was that I had to read the music to hear what it sounded like and I didn’t know how to phrase Jazz lines, so the examples were not really Jazz when I played them. So at the time it probably sounded like this,

But now you can find many lessons with both audio and video examples so that you can hear how the vocabulary you are trying to learn actually should sound, both examples from famous solos and stuff that people on the internet come up with. The important thing is to learn to make your own licks using that language and that takes time, but it is essential that you learn to understand how the lines work, that may be one of the most important reasons why Barry Harris and his approach is such an incredible resource, a resource where you no longer need to be in the room with him since his masterclasses are on YouTube and there are channels dedicated to how he teaches.. Another way to learn vocabulary is the next topic which is also one of the best ways to improve almost everything about your playing.

#4 Phrasing and Ear training

This is SO important for learning to actually sound like Jazz and being able to play in style. When it comes to learning Jazz then it is fairly easy to learn the big rough building blocks, so the scales, arpeggios, analyzing chords and playing licks.

But it is much much more difficult to learn all the subtle things in the phrasing like how much distance is there between 8th notes (because that is much more important than you might think). When should you play behind the beat, what notes should have subtle accents, which ones shouldn’t.

 

And it turns out that for most people those are things that are very difficult to learn by analyzing and explaining them compared to learning solos by ear and getting them into your ear and into your playing without having to analyze it.

Getting started with learning solos by ear can be very difficult, but it is worth the effort, because you will learn A LOT from it. I think this is one thing where it has become so much easier with YouTube, Spotify and having a lot of music available, plus that you can slow down music with the help of programs like Transcribe!

or even work within YouTube using things like the Vidami pedal that really makes it so much easier to check things out by ear.

The only thing missing is some advice on what great beginner solos to check out, and that can really mean the difference between impossible and super easy, barely an inconvienience, which also relates to the next part of learning Jazz.

#5 Learning Path and Information Overload

What should you work on? This is a common issue especially if you are trying to teach yourself jazz guitar using online materials. If you don’t know what is missing in your playing then it is also incredibly difficult to figure out what to work on next and how to learn that. On the internet then there are usually 100 different suggestions, but how do you choose what fits you and helps you the most?

I think the obvious solution here is to find a good teacher who has more experienced ears and a better overview of what you need to learn. I have had a lot of really good teachers, which is probably the easiest way to speed up your learning process. But, of course it is not always possible to find a teacher that fits you or that is available when you are, so if you want my take on getting started learning Jazz in a step-by-step process then check out my Jazz Guitar Roadmap course, where you can also get some feedback on your progress by posting videos in the course community, and that helps catching things that are specific to you and that you maybe can’t hear yourself.

Is it easier to learn Jazz now?

Is it easier to learn Jazz now? I am really curious what you think. I guess that I think it is, but you are faced with a lot of other problems that are often disguised as advantages because we underestimate information overload and how much it takes to choose the right thing to work on. Few things are as useful and efficient as having real lessons. It is hard to beat having a teacher as your main source of information and as your guide in what to practice and what to focus on. But it does have to be a teacher that fits to you and is available. Did it get easier to learn Jazz? Let me know what you think in the comments!

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The Mistake Everyone Makes Learning Jazz Guitar

A problem that comes up all the time with my students and Patreon supporters, and certainly also something remember from learning myself is that after a LOT of practice then you find yourself at a point where you know the scales and arpeggios, and you understand how that fits with the progression, but your solos still sound horrible!

But if focusing on playing the right notes is a mistake, then how do you fix this?

Clearly, something is missing,  and you don’t want to only focus on the dry theory stuff, so in this video you can take a closer look at what great players like Barry Harris and Charlie Parker are doing, because then you can get started working on making it sound right, because some it is not about the notes.

#1 Bebop Energy

Good Jazz lines have a certain energy, this really comes from Bebop where there is a LOT of forward motion

Take a lick like this Barry Harris Line from his solo on  “I’ll Remember April”:

It is pretty easy to hear that he is really playing from one chord to the next and has lines that move to a target note in the next chord.

In this case, I took an example where the targets are placed conveniently clear on the heavy beats of the bar. But you can open that up later.

This is from Live in Tokyo album which is really worth checking out. His playing is fantastic on this.

What you want to avoid is that your melodies have a lot of notes but are not going anywhere.

This is not a fantastic bebop line:

It doesn’t work because there is no direction, it is just moving back and forth and not really locking in with the flow of the chords.

You want to be able to make lines that move forward. You want to feel that the melody is going to hit the target note on the next chord.  Your solo lines should feel like they are saying: “we’re on a mission from god” (Blues Brothers)

What do you need: If we take Barry’s II V I lick as an example then you can see that he is hitting chord tones on the heavy beat, and that is an easy way to get started.  (Bring up his example with high lights)

The other thing that you need to get used to is knowing where the melody is ending and play towards that note.

Let’s say that you have a quick II V in C major and these target notes:

Now you want to make lines that go towards that note.

Dm7 to G7: You can run down the scale, super easy, barely an inconvenience!

To change things up a bit on the G7, we have 3 notes to get to  Cmaj7 and you can do that by playing a Dm triad that naturally resolves down to the G on Cmaj7.

Then you have:

If you start practicing making lines that do this, then you will start to get more of that Bebop energy or momentum into your solos. Think of where you want to go, and play a line that gets you there.

#2 Notes With More Bebop Energy

The first thing to work on is  something that I sort of skipped over the Barry Harris example. Notice how he uses chromatic notes to get more tension and in that way pull the melody forward. (Example with highlights?)

This can really help with the energy, and is a key part of the sound, I’ll show you more concepts like this later in the video.

Again it is something you probably want to mostly think of as moving to a specific note, and usually, that will also be a note in the chord at that point.

Check out how this Charlie Parker Lick from his solo on Cherokee is really pushing through to the resolution and has some great chromatic phrases as well:

It mostly makes sense to split these in two types: Single approach notes like these

The other type is a longer chromatic melody usually approaching the target note from above and below, which are called chromatic enclosures.

Adding this to your playing is really about learning to add chromatic notes and learning some chromatic enclosures that you then start to add to your lines, and the target notes for the chromatic phrases are often the chord tones that you would use as target notes in the line anyway.

An example of how you can do this with an enclosure on the Dm7 and two passing notes on the G7 sounds like this:

How Do You Practice Making Better Lines?

As you can tell by now, then I am showing you the concepts that are being used by Parker and Barry Harris. But how do you get those into your playing? If you want to play better lines or if you want to add a specific type of phrase into your playing, then you should work on writing lines.

This is not something that I made up, if you study Parker’s solos then he clearly has phrases that he uses a lot, and the Barry Harris masterclasses are really mostly about him showing the students how he composes solo phrases while breaking down the concepts he uses.

How it sounds

How you want it to sound

What is playable

And that is what you should do. If you want to become better at using F major triads over a Dm7 chord then write 50 II V I licks in C major that uses that triad. Then you cover the 3 most important parts of getting that into your playing: how it sounds and getting it into your ears, how you want it to sound, and what is playable. That way you can get it into your playing. You don’t need to always write it down, but it can be a good idea, especially if you want to figure out why something sounds good, or maybe if it sounds bad. I’ll show you how I do this later in the video.

#3 Arpeggio Motion

Now you have a better idea about how to create lines that move forward, but there are other ways to make your solo lines more alive, and they are actually easy to start using.

One way is to play arpeggios as triplets to add short rapid phrases to lines that are for the rest mostly 8th notes, this is really just about changing up the flow and create variation

Check out this Joe Pass line that does that in two ways:

Joe Pass is playing the arpeggios as 8th-note triplets, and here you have a Bbmaj7 arpeggio with a leading note, which leads nicely into an enclosure,

and later also an Am7 arpeggio that he plays as a triplet and use to target the note F.

 

Both techniques are very common ways to use triplets and can be applied to all chords. They are a great way to change up the flow and get to a target note. You also see Barry Harris using this in the example on the Gmaj7 chord, both using Bm7 and Gmaj7 arpeggios.

Practice playing your scales in diatonic arpeggios using these two recipes and then start using that in your solos.

But there is also another great device in this example that can help you break up the 8th note flow, especially if you have too many scale runs in your solos.

#4 Trills

If you listen to the first part of the line then in the 2nd bar, Joe Pass plays a trill

which breaks up what is going on and stops it from just being a scale run, without it then you have this:

Joe Pass love using these, also often several after each, these are the kind of thing that you want to add to solos in the places where they are easy to play, simply because they are pretty fast and usually sounds the best if you can execute them with legato technique.

Barry uses them as well:

Here you have the trill leading into the root of F7, and this example illustrates another really powerful technique that I will get to in a bit as well, and I can use that to show how I compose lines to get something into my playing.

#5 Twist and Shout!

What I am talking about here is the first arpeggio in the line which is a pivot arpeggio, something that can really solve a lot of problems if your solo lines are very predictable and tend to just run up and down scales and arpeggios.

In this case it is an Ebmaj7 arpeggio over a Cm7 chord, so using the arpeggio from the 3rd of the chord.

The pivot arpeggio is constructed by taking an arpeggio:

You play the root and then move down the rest of the arpeggio an octave to get this much more interesting melody with a large interval skip: 

And don’t underestimate how powerful it is to have a way to make large intervals melodic, because they can sound really unnatural in a line.

How You Improve Your Vocabulary

When you want to get better at using something like a pivot arpeggio then try to keep it simple when you are composing lines.

One Phrase (or arpeggio in this case)

One Chord to apply it to

One  Way of playing it

You can so easily get lost in possible options, and it is not going to be nearly as useful if you do so.

If I use the Ebmaj7 pivot arpeggio and try to make a line that takes me from Cm7 to F7.

Try to get to A, as a target note on F7:

You could also target the high A by combining it with a Cm7 arpeggio

Maybe adding a trill to get to the F7

Or a chromatic enclosure:

The point is to play the pivot arpeggio and then see how you can put it together with the other stuff you know and turn that into a phrase that you like, essentially that is what Barry was doing in his soloing masterclasses by constructing great solos on songs. From there you can gradually start using it when you solo.

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How To Use Outside Playing – A Few Secrets And Some Important Advice

Sometimes you have to solo on a single chord for a longer time, and it can be hard to keep things interesting, so having the option of using some outside material to change things up can make your solo a lot better if you can get it to sound right.

The point of using outside material is to make it sound wrong.

Because you want the listener to feel the tension that needs to resolve and that helps make the solo interesting and gives it a story.

Playing notes that don’t fit the chord is pretty easy, but playing something that moves away and comes back so that it still sounds like the music is MUCH more difficult, but as you will see it is far from impossible, and there are a few ways to do so.

#1 – Ab7 – Side Stepping Up

The first approach is to move up a half step from the chord you are soloing over. For this video, I am using a static G7 chord,

in fact it is a really nice backing track from Quist, there’s a link in the description. If you move up from G7 then you, of course, have an Ab7 chord. Almost all the notes in the scale will sound outside, and in fact the Ab7 works as a tritone substitute for the dominant D7, so there is also a harmonic connecting, but that is not really what I am using in the solo.

Instead, I am moving from the “normal” solo into the outside material by repeating a phrase or a part of a phrase and give the listener something to hold on to when things get weird.

Here it is this section

And then that short phrase is shifted up and I can keep on improvising using Ab7 material.

Another thing you should notice is how I play long notes to really drive home the tension they create before resolving with a short phrase that moves back into the G7 chord

Here’s the complete solo:

The next one is also using another chord as a way of thinking about the outside solo, but then we get into using some exotic scales as a diffrent approach, and rely more on structures like triads.

#2 F#7 – Side Stepping Down

Another option for side-slipping or side-stepping is to move down a half step, which sometimes is a bit nice because it sounds less like a dominant and therefore a little bit more mysterious.

This solo also uses the motivic way of getting to the outside section, but here the motif is also placed differently in the rhythm as well.

It is about giving the listener the idea that they get the melody but then because it is shifted away they at the same time are surprised about the sound.

And the same type of motivic development is used with a basic F# triad melody to go back up to G7.

A later example will also use voice-leading as a way of resolving which is a more abstract motivic technique.

The F#7 Solo is written out here:

#3 Augmented Scale

So, let’s try a funny scale that doesn’t really fit the chord, but also almost does.

The augmented scale is a 6-note scale which you can see as constructed either of 3 major triads a major 3rd apart, in this case G B and Eb major.

A

or it is the sum of two augmented triads a half-step apart, here I am using B and Bb, but you could also call it F# and G,

Since the chord is a G7 then some of the notes in the scale work pretty well and others are pretty far out.

As you will hear I am really focusing on using the major triads as a way to create melodies. This creates melodies where sometimes it is inside and sometimes outside the G7 sound, but it still works because the triads are strong enough melodies to carry it.

The transition is a bit more abrupt with taking a pause before starting the augmented lick, sort of a shock effect, and then you can use the G major triad to return smoothly back home.

The entire solo is written out here:

You Need To Get This Right!

The trick to getting outside playing to work is to make sure that what you play as outside phrases still makes sense. It still has to be a melody. The two strategies that I am using for this have been either:

#1 Think another chord

So that you can use that chord to create melodies with arpeggios and licks that you already know, even though you still need to get used to how weird it sounds on top of the chord in the music. Sometimes I am also using a chord that I naturally can resolve back to the music like a dominant, and sometimes I don’t that is really something you have to experiment with yourself to figure out what you like. Just make sure that you are playing melodies that you really think sound like melodies, otherwise it falls completely apart.

#2 Think in Melodic structures 

This is a bit more abstract and you probably need to develop this a bit by in your playing. But it is about relying on structures like triads and then put those together. You can work on this by sitting down and making melodies with the triads to get that sound into your ears.

And Luckily that skill is useful for a lot more than augmented scale stuff on a G7, as you will see already in the next example which also has a bit of quartal harmony.

#4 The Wrong Dominant Diminished’

B-roll Cleaning? Sweeping away alterations b9, #9, b5, b13

Sometimes you want to resolve the melody as if it is a chord, so you want to resolve several notes in one phrase down to other notes in the next phrase.

This is subtle but it actually really makes a difference, and It is a little bit like going back and cleaning up the mess you left unresolved

You can use D7 diminished or what I would actually refer to as F# diminished, as a great tension over G7, and it lets you play a sort of dominant sound that resolves back to the G7,

but here I am more focused on using triads and quartal arpeggios.

Let’s first look at the scale:

If you write it from D then it would be these notes:

D Eb F F# Ab A B C D Eb F F#

And the first structure that I am using is a quartal arpeggio from C: C F# B which you could also see as the upper part of a D7(13) chord.

This scale also contains 4 major triads a minor 3rd apart.

D F# A – D major

F A C – F major

Ab C Eb – Ab major

B Eb F# – B major

This example also jumps more or less abruptly out of the harmony, using the quartal arpeggio and following it up with a wide-range melody with the B major and Ab major triads, landing on the high Ab which of course is very dissonant over the G7.

The resolution, in this case, is first running down the scale to resolve to D, the 5th of G7 and then back up to A as a resolution to the Ab which is in a way voice-leading the resolution, and also taking care of resolving that long Ab that was just there.

 

The solo is here:

#5 Altered, But Wrong

The point of playing altered is usually that you want to create some tension that you can resolve moving to a I chord. But in this case, the chord doesn’t go anywhere, and you can still change things up and create a lot of tension using the altered scale.

The outside line starts with a G7(#5) arpeggio which begins by sounding like it is just chord tones but then the Eb makes it clear that something else is going on.

That arpeggio also contains the augmented triad, G B Eb which really helps getting the outside sound across.  From there the line continues up to an Abm lick that is shifted up as a sequence to Am and then Bdim which helps it get back to the chord as a resolution.

The Altered Scale solo:

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3 Goals That Block Your Progress Learning Jazz Guitar

Like me, you probably played guitar for some time before you became interested in learning Jazz. In a way that should make it easier to learn since you can already play and know a lot of things, but often that experience can also be what gets in the way of learning.

The advantage to learning Jazz when you are already used to learning guitar is that you can recognize a lot of the skills you need and come up with exercises to develop those skills, but that is actually also often where it starts to go wrong.

Consistent Practice = Massive Boost

One of the first times I encountered this was when I had just figured out how valuable it was to be consistent, and especially being consistent with practicing technique. This was before I decided to pursue guitar as a profession, and I was jamming with one of the bands I was in next to studying mathematics and computer science at the university.

Since I had just started practicing scales and arpeggios then the boost that gave my ability to improvise was pretty massive, but of course, going from zero to something is a huge difference.

Starting to be able to find notes on the neck and play the notes of the chord was giving me all these options and pretty much everything sounded new and exciting so this seemed like the way to go.

My goal in this was of course to get a better overview of the Fretboard so that I knew where to find arpeggios of the chords and how to play the scales I wanted to use.

There is nothing wrong with the goal in itself, you DO want to have an overview of all the arpeggios, scales, and so on but what often happens is that it starts to overshadow learning to play, and that gets very tricky very fast.

Myth #1 – Fretboard Overview

“I first want to learn all my scales and arpeggios in all keys and all over the neck, and THEN I want to start improvising”

Then you are probably setting yourself up to fail, simply because when it comes to learning Jazz, or any other kind of music, then knowing where the notes are doesn’t mean that you magically know how to play the right melodies, use the right phrasing or how to put those phrases together in a solo, if you think about it then it is sort of obvious. Joe Pass would not be great in Van Halen,

and Eddy Van Halen would not sound amazing doing chord melody.

The other skills required for that style of music have to be there as well, and they are much harder to learn because there are no scale exercises or arpeggios that will teach you that. That is about playing music, not exercises.

And this was also close to how I felt after a year of trying to play Jazz. I had practiced technique and was able to play a lot of it over most of the neck, but  I wasn’t really told to learn something that made what I played to sound like Jazz, there was no vocabulary it was more scales and arpeggios, but not with a way to get it to sound right, not how to play it. At this point, I had finished University and had decided that I needed to figure this Jazz thing out and maybe do that for a living. I wanted to be able to improvise in that style and play those types of melodies that I heard especially with Charlie Parker. I listened to other things like Scofield and Metheny as well, but I could tell that they were playing different things, and the Parker stuff was what really fascinated me.

The way I started to solve this was not the easiest way, and also not how I teach this, which I will get to. As I kept listening and trying to figure some Parker stuff out by ear while mostly failing pretty badly then I started to look for solos that were closer to Parker and easier to figure out. I ended up with some Ulf Wakenius solos and finally Pat Martino’s solo on Just Friends which really helped a lot. I was also listening to Wes, but the stuff I had was more of the commercial stuff so it was mostly octaves and chords all the time. in the late 90s, you were stuck with CDs and no internet which, in hindsight, was a pretty limiting factor. Once I moved to Copenhagen then I also started to have lessons with teachers who gave me a lot of vocabulary to learn,  jazz licks and easy example solos to play so that I started to get the language into my ears and also into my fingers. THAT made a huge difference and really helped me sound a lot better.

What should you do instead

In my opinion, it makes a lot more sense to have a more balanced approach to your practice so that you are not only developing some of the skills you need. Only working on technique and fretboard overview without actually learning to play music is almost like making a decision to only work on your alternate picking technique without ever learning anything that is really music, and it is not so that you have to learn all positions and variations in all keys of everything to play music. You CAN start working on songs and developing those skills almost immediately, which is also how I teach in my online course and how I have taught 100s of students.

The recipe is not rocket science:

Find an easy song where you need a few scales, learn the chords, learn the melody

Figure out what the key is and a place to play all of that in the same area of the neck,

Start playing music.

If you can couple this with learning some vocabulary then you are working on taking the things you practice to the place where you can make it into music, and you can expand your fretboard knowledge along the way.

In the end, you did not start exploring Jazz to learn to play scales or find notes on the neck, you want to use that to make music and that part of it is just as important as practicing scales if not more important. I can promise you that Wes and George Benson did not only practice scales, they probably spent more time playing music

And you see the same type of problem with chords, but luckily people like Ted Greene did understand this.

Myth #2 – Chords

“I can’t start learning songs, I first need to learn all my Drop2 and Drop3 chord inversions”

The idea that the more chord voicings you know, the better you are at comping, is something that I come across very often online. And that is definitely not true, it is almost so that those two things have nothing to do with each other. Let me show you:

When is comping good? It has to:

  1. Fit the music – so the right type of sound for the song and how the band is playing
  2. Make the Groove and the Harmony Clear – So you need to state where the time is and what the chords is (as much as is needed in the band)
  3. Be a part of the music – What you play should be a story, it has dynamics, development and makes sense beyond being a robot playing a chord with some extensions.

And these skills don’t really depend that much on knowing all your drop2 or drop3 inversions. Again, it is not so that you will not benefit from learning inversions, but at the same time, you won’t learn to make music by just playing a bunch of inversions. You need to take the time to learn to make them into music, and often that process is approached in a different way, which moves across voicings and you will end up thinking more about melody and rhythm than about the chord.

I mentioned Ted Greene earlier in the video, and I think that is a good example of material that is trying to teach not only some chords to play, but also how they fit together and become music, simply because he teaches the chords in the context of a progression so that it is not empty knowledge.

The more I teach harmony and comping then I also start to think that maybe it is very important to learn to understand chord symbols as options and think of groups of chord voicings instead of learning separate chords, especially since we use them together all the time.

Learning the connection between the voicings is as important as learning the voicing. I doubt if Joe Pass spent most of his time learning inversions, I am pretty sure he spent more time learning songs.

At one point, I had some lessons with a guitarist who insisted that I also buy his books on chord voicings, which were in fact just books with all drop2 chords, first maj7 then m7  then dom7th, and then the same for drop3 and drop2&4. The books didn’t contain any examples of how the material could be used, it was just a lot of diagrams. I did practice that a bit, but as I was practicing then it occurred to me that it was better to just make the inversions myself because then they were easier to remember and I knew the chords a lot better.

On guitar it is fairly simple to make inversions along the neck for any chord: Let’s take this Cm7 chord. First, you find all the notes in the chord and then you order them in pitch:

C G Bb Eb – order in pitch would just be C Eb G Bb. Now you just look at the chord and see that

C goes to Eb

G goes to Bb

Bb goes to C

Eb goes to G

And then you can keep on going moving each note in the chord. And essentially this works for any chord,

but sometimes the inversions are pretty unplayable

What should you do instead

Again, I think you want to learn to comp on songs, so take an easy song and try to play the chords just using basic shell voicings. Pent Up House is a nice and simple song.

From there you can develop your options by finding notes that work on top of the chord, so that you can play melodies and create something that flows from chord to chord.

Like this, you can start developing your ability to improvise while also playing the chords, learn how to repeat rhythms, and have melodies across a chord progression.

It is about turning chord symbols into music, not turning them into diagrams of chords.

Myth 3 – Pentatonic Scales

“I don’t want to learn music theory and scales, I want to play Jazz just using Pentatonics.”

I guess this is the most guitar-specific example in this video, and it is actually very common that I get that statement followed by the a question of what video to watch first.

There are two ways that this falls apart, the first one is a bit more subtle for beginners. For most people then the sound of Jazz is not pentatonic, there are pentatonic things in there here and there, but if people think about jazz solos then usually it is about arpeggios, chromaticism and more dense lines, and that is not really what you get from a pentatonic scales. Even if I don’t really like Bebop scales, then it says a lot that they are created by adding notes to 7-note scale, not taking them away.

See if you can hear it:

A Bebop phrase on an Am7 chord sounds like this:

And an Am7 phrase using Am pentatonic scale sounds like this:

What you maybe can hear, is that If you want to learn to play Jazz then you need to use the melodies and structures that fit in that style because they are a part of the sound, just like you don’t try to learn to play Blues using the chromatic scale and not learning the pentatonic scale.

The other part of where this gets very difficult is that you need to be able to figure out which pentatonic scale goes where.

it is fairly common to superimpose pentatonic scales in Jazz, that is how they are mostly used, and the way you do that is by figuring out if a pentatonic scale works over a chord and if it gives you the notes that you want to use there. Then you can improvise using the “pentatonic sounding” melodies over the chord.

If you want to do this then you need to have a fairly good overview of what pentatonic scales are found in the scale that fits the chord, so you do need some theory.

Let’s say that you are improvising over Cmaj7(#11) and you want to use pentatonic scales.

If you want to find a pentatonic scale that works then you need to be able to find a scale that has the important chord tones which would be E and B, the 3rd and the 7th and you probably also want the #11 in there, the F#.

Instead of just trying to construct something at random with those notes in there, then you can also look at the scale where the chord is found and what pentatonic scales are in there.

They all can work over a Cmaj7 chord, there are no strange notes in there:

But only one of those scales has the F#: Bm pentatonic and luckily that has the E and the B as well, so that works.

Figuring all of this out does take a fair amount of theory, and it is actually very useful to be able to easily figure out what a set of notes like a pentatonic scale,  triad, or arpeggio will give you against a chord since you can get a lot of options from that both with what notes to play and what types of melodies you can make.

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Which Jazz Skills Do You Need To Play a (GREAT) Solo? (beginner To Advanced)

I always dreamt about getting to that point where you are free to improvise a great jazz solo over a chord progression. You know what I mean: You can play the things that you want, the notes are right there and the lines sound great. You are just making music.

That freedom is coming out of having specific skills in place for the solo, and that is what I want to talk about in this video so if you want to move beyond thinking a lot and being locked down by the progression then check out this video.

Level #1 Play The Chords, The Key, Scales, and the Arpeggios

This first level is just some very basic technique that you want to have covered, it is the foundation for all the other things, so it has to be pretty solid, and it is important that have this covered.

#1 Play The Chords

You want to be able to play the chords so that you can hear what the progression sounds like.

In this case, I am using a basic turnaround in C: Cmaj7, A7(b9), Dm7, G7(b9)

#2 Understand What Is Going On

You also want to be aware of the key it is in and the scales.

In this case, Cmaj7 and Dm7 are found in the C major scale, A7 is a secondary dominant resolving to Dm7 so you use D harmonic minor on that. G7(b9) is borrowed from the key of C minor so that also takes C harmonic minor.

As you can see, you do want to have some understanding of what is going on in the progression to help you play better solos. That is going to make it easier to find something to play and later it will help you find more options and give you more interesting things to experiment with and get into your playing.

#3 The Melodic Version Of The Chords

You also want to be able to play the arpeggios of the chords so that you are able to play the chord tones in time through the progression, simply because those are the notes you need when you start soloing and if you can’t find them like that then soloing with them is going to very difficult. Next, you want to start turning this raw material into a solo, but first, let’s just talk about one thing to keep in mind if you are new to improvising over Jazz progressions, so you don’t crash your progress by practicing the wrong way.

Don’t Drown in Exercises

A very common mistake when trying to learn to improvise over chord changes is to think that you first need to know all the scales and arpeggios in all positions. Of course, you want to be able to do that eventually, but you are better off not drowning yourself in exercises and also give priority to actually using the material you practice. Making music is what you want to be good at, that is the goal, so if you are new to some of the material then try to figure out how to play all arpeggios and scales in one position so that you can make music with that.

Level #2 Spell Out The Changes And Give It A Flow

Once you have the foundation of scales, arpeggios and know what the progression sounds like then you can start working on soloing and also really nailing the changes.

One of the best ways to work on playing solos is to practice writing them, so it can be really useful, for example, to take the arpeggio and the scale and then try to write some line that you can use in your solo. The advantage here is that when you are working on writing lines then you are improvising over the chord progression, but you have time to make sure that it sounds good and you can improve the lines you come up with. In that way, you can start building your vocabulary and your ability to play stronger solo lines.

Here I am actually writing out the lines, and that can be a good exercise, but you don’t always need to do that.

When it comes really connecting the solo to the chords under it then the first approach I would suggest you use is target notes, so that you choose specific clear notes that really connect to the chord and then place those at the beginning of the bar so that it is obvious that the chord changes.

I am not going to cover this in too much detail, but there is a link to a video in the description where I discuss this solid strategy for playing chord changes in a solo.

Level #3 What About The Rhythm?

There are many things you can check out with rhythm, and a lot of them are complicated and often students underestimate how demanding they are technically.

But you don’t have to make it that complicated, in fact, the best thing to do is to make it simpler!

Instead of adding fast runs and subdivisions or difficult polyrhythms then the place to start is probably to make it easier to focus on the rhythm and become more creative.

If you limit the notes you use then you will force yourself to make the rhythms interesting. In this example, I am using only 2 notes per chord, and that is forcing me to think differently which I can then try to take with me when I start soloing without that restriction.

Other things that I have found very useful were learning some of the easier themes that had great rhythms like Bernie’s Tune or Lady Bird. This coupled with listening for rhythm and maybe even transcribing some solos, is really what you want to work on.

Practicing Things In The Right Order

What you may be realizing with this video is that in the end, you start to mix up the order that you work on it. It is not first the scales and arpeggios and then the rhythm, or then soloing it is back and forth and these skills you can zoom in on and develop further again and again.

In what order would you work with these levels? let me know in the comments.

The next two levels I would suggest that you save for a little bit later, but maybe you don’t think so.

Level #4 Make Your Solo A Story!

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Now you know how to play the changes and the lines make sense, but everything is still a bit “something on this chord and then something else on this chord” If you listen to great soloists then you can hear them really have a longer story going in the solo, and there are ways to work on that and skills you can develop.

Turning Phrases Into Stories

The first thing that I would try to work on is developing the melodies you play and in that way use what you just played to come up with the next thing to play. One way to think about that is motivic development where you take the phrase you play and then try to repeat it, but change it a little. That way it sounds both new and familiar to the listener.

Like this way of moving a melody from Cmaj7 to A7

You can practice this by just playing a short melody on the first chord, stop, and then from what you played, try to make a line that works on the next chord. In that way, there is a clear connection and a sense of development in your solo. First, practice that rubato, and then later you can work on it in time.

Turning Phrases Into A Conversation

A variation of this way of thinking is to think about your solo as phrases that are a part of a conversation, so using call-response to create melodies. You probably know about this from Blues.

Something like this:

first a statement and then as an answer to the ascending phrase, a descending phrase. And you can keep this type of conversation going through the entire progression.

For me, this is where you really start to make music. This is what I aim for and what I want to feel able to do when I practice pieces. Trying to come up with a way to tell a story on top of the song is such an essential part of making music, and you hear this with so many great players from Parker to Getz to Pat Metheny.

Let’s have a look at how you can start creating completely different sounds by starting to not only improvise notes on chord progression but also improvise with the chord progression!

Level #5 Improvise With The Chords

Until now the way you improvised was by figuring out what to play over the chord progression, but actually, that is not really how it works in Jazz.

You are allowed to change the chords! (Dramatic pause, WHAAAT!)

This chord progression is really just a way to go from C and then back to C, and you are pretty free to take another way there. As long as you can find a logical way to get back home.

You may be thinking that this is only for weird modern incomprehensible Jazz, but actually, you can find examples of this all the way back in history to Charlie Parker, and it is just one more thing to make music with.

You can experiment with this, by just changing one or two chords. An example would be to use altered dominants that don’t really belong in there, but this is so common that we don’t think of it as a reharmonization, even though it is most of the time.

For this progression, a simple example could be to use a lot of parallel chromatic movement.

Or you can choose some unexpected chord sounds:

And of course, creating suspensions when the listener expects a resolution like the final G7 to C is a great effect:

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How To Play Outside – A Few Great Jazz Solo Secrets

This lesson will show you 5 different ways that you can play some beautiful outside things on a static m7 chord, not just what to play but also how to use it.

If you are soloing on a static chord then a great way to make your solo more interesting and surprising is to play something that really rubs against what the listener expects to hear.

But you can’t just play random notes, it still has to make sense and sound like a melody, and that is what you will learn with some different strategies in this video

#1 Half-step Below

The examples are all on a static minor 7 chord, and the first few examples use different chords on top of the harmony and then later I will cover some other strategies and how they sound.

A great place to start is by moving everything a half-step down, often referred to as side-slipping or side-stepping. This is easy to work with thinking wise and you can use the same position and material while still sounding great. First, let’s check out how that sounds, and then I will show you how to get the melodies to connect and make sense, both going into the outside section and also coming out of it. The backing is a static Cm7, so the side-slip will be a Bm7.

The first part of the solo is just using the Cm Dorian sound, just so that we have a sense of what home is, then I transition to Bm7 by using the parallel motion of the arpeggios, first I play Gm7 and Ebmaj7 arpeggios and then I use these as a motif to move down to a Dmaj7 arpeggio thinking Bm7. The solo really sits on the C# to create tension and then I go back to Cm7 by playing the Ebmaj7 arpeggio rounding it off with a blues phrase.

How and Why Superimposed Chords Work

So I am really treating it as a chord change and connecting across the chords with motivic development. In that way, the melody makes sense and is not random, I am using the same logic to make melodies with Bm7 as I do on Cm7 and it is practical that it is the same chord.

This is true for more of the examples in this video, but some can be used differently as well, like the next one.

The only thing you need to be careful with when you connect with motifs is that you don’t make the motifs too obvious, that sounds predictable and unnatural, but that is the same as when you use motifs in your solos on changes.

#2 Altered Dominant

You can also use altered dominant lines on top of the chord to make your solo sound more surprising. As you will hear, this creates tension and movement within the solo in a very natural way. For the Cm7 then the altered dominant is G7alt, and the G altered scale is the same set of notes as Ab melodic minor. There is a really big advantage to using the altered dominant for this and I will explain in a bit.

The advantage with G7 is that you are used to working on improvising lines that resolve to Cm, so it is a lot easier to make lines that resolve back into the sound of the chord because it is a connection you already know.

In this example, I first set up the Cm sound with some Dorian and Cm blues and then transition to the G altered scale and play a typical G7alt line using the diatonic arpeggios Fø and Bmaj7(#5). These are arpeggios I would normally use for that chord so you can use the material that you already know. The transition back is done by simply sliding down to resolve from Ab to a sustained G, ending with a Cm pentatonic phrase. If you are looking for more things to play on Altered dominants then I will link to a video on that in the description of this video.

Altered Dominant & Scale Melodies

For the altered dominant scale you can also get the melodies to work with more scale oriented melodies, which is a simpler way to make melodies and a nice addition to your playing:

Here I set up Cm quickly before moving into the G7alt line that is essentially just an ascending scale that then resolves back with the scale played in 3rds.

Next, let’s have a look at what is probably the most common outside suggestion you come across.

#3 Half-step above

Moving up a half-step is a common way to create some outside sounds, and similar to the first example, an easy way to get there and you can use the same material you are already playing. The example I am using here demonstrates another way to move smoothly into the outside part of the phrase: A Pivot note

The beginning of the example setting up the Cm7 is a little more extensive here, and with more rhythms. Moving up to Cm7 is done by using the Eb as a pivot note. A pivot note is a note that is in both chords, Cm7 and C#m7. It is the 3rd in Cm7 and the 9th on C#m7, and the melody starts out using it as the 3rd of Cm7, and then it turns into the top-note of a descending arpeggio on C#m7.

The solo goes back to the Cm7 by simply shifting down a 3-note scale fragment, so just C# D# E, first a basic version on C# and then a more embellished version on the Cm7.

Next, let’s have look at a completely different sound and approach to creating outside lines.

#4 Diminished Scale

There is a great trick to using C diminished as an outside sound on a Cm7 chord.

You have a connection with the Cm scale:

C D Eb F G A Bb C

C D Eb F F# Ab A B C

Because you have a lot of common notes, but you also have some “funny notes” like the F#, Ab, and the B.

Using  The Triads

The trick is that you can use the major triads of the diminished scale to improvise with and shift those around to create some strong and interesting melodies.

Scale:

C D Eb F F# Ab A B C

The 4 major triads:

D: D F# A

F: F A C

Ab: Ab C Eb

B: B Eb F#

in the scale, we have the 4 major triads: D, F Ab and B

All the triads contain very strong colorful notes on over Cm7 and since they are triads you can easily use them to create interesting melodies.

In example 4 I use the D, Ab and B triads together to create a melody which sounds like shifting colors on top of the Cm chord.

In this example the 4 triads don’t really “belong” in the sound of the chord, but we have another less common sound that can actually shift in and out of the chord sound in a similar way, that is the next thing to check out:

#5 Augmented Scale

The augmented scale is a 6-note scale:

Eb F# G Bb B D Eb

You can se it as either two augmented triads next to each other:

Eb augmented and D augmented

or, what is practical in this case, you can see it as 3 major triads in major 3rd distance:

Eb G Bb , G B D and B Eb F#

In this case, I am making a link to Cm7 by using the Eb major triad which is the upper structure of Cm7, and then create lines by mixing the 3 triads in different inversions:

In the example you hear how the line moves to the B major triad and then to the 2nd inversion G major triad, plays some more scale-based melodies before returning to Cm7 by resolving the F# to G.

Melodies like this are something you hear a lot in Michael Brecker solos.

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