Tag Archives: jazz guitar lesson advanced

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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Minor II V I – 3 Levels You Want To Know

When you learn chords, and especially jazz chords where there are so many variations and options, it is important that you check them out in the right order and use a strong foundation to explore all the great sounds in there. In this video, I am going to take a basic minor II V, that you probably already know, I and show you how you, step by step, can open that up and turn it into a flexible set of chords that you can use for comping and even chord soloing.

This video is going to get you beyond just playing grips, it is time that we end that once and for all, the campfire era is over.

Level 1 – The Basic Chords

If you know your basic Jazz chords then you probably know this way of playing a minor II V I with it’s somewhat awkward II chord:

The great thing about playing chords like this is that you get to hear what the harmony sounds like and that is very useful for learning a song and getting it into your ear.

This is of course very important if you want to improvise over the progression, so using these chords to become familiar with the sound, the movement of the harmony and the bass line is really useful.

If you are getting into these then make sure to also checking out how to treat them as 2 layers in comping, a bass note, and a chord. This is great for duo playing.

You can think of how you play as accents played on the drums with bass and snare which is mostly how drummers comp in a swing groove, and also what you want to lock in with when you play.

Level 2 – Rootless Chords

The basic chords are great for getting the harmony into your ears, but if you are playing in a band then it is better to leave the bass notes alone and not be exposed to angry bass players

Dave Holland 16:04 + text – Stupid Guitar Voicings with bass notes (busy two-layer comping)

Dave Holland 17:34 + text – Finally some rootless voicings!

While I may be using Dave Holland to joke around, this is an amazing band and one of my all-time favorites you can check out this concert with the link in the description: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uvG8B39_Alc

This is really easy because you can just think about the voicings from example 1 but only play the top part like this:

When you play the chords like this then you have quite a few more options to change the notes and create some more interesting melodies and voice-movements. You are not stuck with a fairly static chord that is “just a grip”

An example of how you can add melody would be something like this:

And of course, when you really use this it will be with a bit more rhythm, something like this:

Where there is a lot more happening than “Example 2”

and we can take this even further by adding more color to the chords

Level 3 – Bigger Chords and More Color

Since we started with 4-note chords and turned them into 3-note chords then it is worth exploring what happens if we add notes on top of these. To me, this was always about being practical so looking at what is there but only use what is easy to play and then be creative with that.

This is btw something I think is very efficient in most aspects of practicing and playing, but that is another discussion

If we take a look at what is available for the Bø you get something like this:

And for E7

and finally Am6

The way I use this is that I check out what is there and I try to get an overview of what is easy to play and then that is what I will use. You can try to expand options, but watch out that you don’t get lost in trying to check out too many chord voicings, which  is often taking up a lot of time without helping you play better.

Using these voicings to comp the minor II V I could be something like this

 

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Simple Ideas That Make Your Solo Better

You know the feeling: You are practicing and in your jazz guitar solo you are using the right notes, the right scale, and arpeggios but it is also really boring. In this lesson, I am going to go over some of the things I like to mess around with and try to change things up a bit with different arpeggios, rhythms, and melodic ideas. It should give you some inspiration and a way to change things up a bit in your own playing.

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Content:

0:00 Intro

0:44 #1 How to not sound like scales and arpeggios – with (Secret) Arpeggios

2:18 #2 How to not sound like scales and arpeggios – with Scales

3:48 #3 How to not sound like scales and arpeggios – Wrong Scales and Arpeggios

4:57 #4 8th-notes in groups of 3 notes

6:01 #5 Triplets in Groups of 4 notes

7:21 Triads – The Strongest Melody we have!

7:40 Like the video? Check out My Patreon Page

Expanding your solo vocabulary

Lady Bird – Arpeggios & Pentatonic Scales

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How To Listen To Your Solos And Really Learn Something

You are practice playing jazz guitar solos because you want to get better at it, and you probably also discovered that it really helps to record yourself and listen to how the solo sounds because you don’t really have time to listen if you are playing the guitar.

But what do you listen for, and how do you figure out what to improve your jazz guitar skills? In this video, I am going over some of the things you can learn from recording your own solos.

Content:

0:00 Intro

0:17 Recording Your Solos – But what to learn from them?

0:52 Get the most out of your practice (also the easy things)

1:18 It is Hard to listen to Your Own Playing

1:49 Ear-training (but not just chords and scales)

2:48 Lost in the Zoom – Don’t only check out details

3:46 What to listen for and work on

4:34 Things for the list of stuff to check out

6:48 Do you record your own solos?

7:14 Like the video? Check out my Patreon page

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