Tag Archives: jazz guitar lesson beginner

Jazz Beginner – 5 Myths That Waste Your Time

There are a lot of things that you need to learn as a beginner with jazz guitar, but sometimes you come across a myth that promises to be a magic solution for all your problems, and I think we should talk about a few of those because they can make you waste a lot of time and you end up working on wrong things while ignoring important skills.

In fact, a lot of these are about trying to avoid learning something that is actually very useful.

I Don’t Need To Learn Songs If I Can Hear Everything

One of the worst things to use instead of a rehearsal is this sentence: “don’t worry, you’ll hear it” And it was also this sentence that began what was probably one of the most stressful moments in my life.

I was subbing for my teacher in a band that was playing a jazz festival, it was a quartet with horn, guitar, bass, and drums. We didn’t rehearse, and just before starting Body and Soul, the band-leader told me that he wanted to do the verse in a duo with me before the theme. I told him that I didn’t know the verse so that would be a terrible idea, and his answer was “don’t worry, you’ll hear it”

What followed felt like the longest 2-3 hours of my life while I was completely clueless and trying to harmonize what he was playing in front of a hall full of people. Of course, In reality, It was probably less than a minute. There are times where you can get away with winging something like this, but with this melody, that is practically impossible. You can really hear the changes and modulations from just hearing that melody. Needless to say, I felt extremely bad messing this up in a band with people I did not know.

But, sometimes you don’t have a chance and not even the greatest ear would be able to tell what is going on. I took comfort in a story pianist Jim McNeely told us when he was a guest conductor in the conservatory big band. He was touring with Sonny Stitt and they had agreed that Stitt could not just begin songs without asking the band if they knew it, for obvious reasons. But one night Stitt just started a song, and McNeely didn’t know it, so he looked at the bass player, who also didn’t know it. And after playing for a while the only thing he knew was that the first chord was Eb and the last chord was Eb. This happens to everybody, and you can’t do everything by ear.

Sometimes I hear students saying:

“I want to practice ear training so that I can instantly hear all songs”.

I guess this seems easier, you just do ear training and play everything by ear.

Now, Don’t get me wrong here, you should train your ears as much as possible, but that comment is really just coming from ignorance or at least inexperience, because what is one of the best ways to train your ears? Learn a lot of songs by ear, and use the songs you know to teach you the songs you are learning, by ear. So really, combing this with theory is only going to help you even more. If you know that the song is in C major then you can probably hear that the chord before that C major is a G7. It helps to have an idea about what you might expect and also whether it sounds like what you expect.

And what will you do if you have to play a song that you don’t know and you have to play the chords? Imagine that with One Note Samba. If you don’t know it then the first 8 bars could be all tonic or a ton of other things.

Of course, sometimes you will have to do some songs by ear that you don’t know, not in the horror scenario that I described and it is useful to be able to do that, but it isn’t something you need to do very often, and your solos are a lot better if you already know that song, so that option is just always what you want to go for.

Theory Well Ruin Your Creativity

“Wes Montgomery didn’t know theory so why should I”

It is probably true that a lot of, especially early great artists, didn’t know a lot of theory, but that doesn’t mean that the best and most efficient way to learn to play Jazz is to not understand what is going on. In fact, a lot of things get a lot easier if you know a little theory.

Let me give you an example:

If you transcribe a great lick like this

Example 1a then that works great on a tonic chord, but if you can see the blocks that it contains then you can also make a G7 version of it

and you can even make a version with a dominant triad for a Gm7 like this:

I am sure you can see how that is useful, and this is just a single example of using very basic theory. The theory will help you learn and understand a lot of things a lot faster, and while it does not help you with everything then there is no real reason to avoid it.

I Want To REALLY Improvise, Not Play Licks Or Arpeggios

“I Want To REALLY Improvise, Not Play Licks Or Arpeggios Like Everybody Else!”

I come across comments like this at least once every week. Usually, the thought behind it is that You don’t want to sound like other people, so you won’t play or practice things that they play.

I sort of get the idea, but a few things to keep in mind here. First, how restricted are you by studying arpeggios?

You can get a D7 arpeggio to sound like this: Mozart Eine Kleine Nacht Musik

and you can also get it to sound like this:

So learning a D7 arpeggio is not really going to limit your style or how much you sound like you.

And secondly, the same goes for studying solos and licks, if you want to write a great book then it might be a good idea to read some books to figure out how. Just learning the alphabet is not going to cut it.

You Need To Know All Scales And Arpeggios To Play Jazz

“I Am Going To Spend Two Years Learning All The Scales And All The Arpeggios And THEN I Am Going To Learn To Play Jazz”

This is another comment that I see quite often, some even go even further and say that you first need to learn music theory and voice-leading before you even try to play Jazz.

Again there is nothing wrong with learning scales, arpeggios, harmony, and theory. It is useful for playing Jazz, but it is not where it starts, they are just skills and not really the music.

When I sat down to learn solos by ear or struggled for weeks to learn the first few standards then I was not first learning to play all diatonic arpeggios of melodic minor in all keys. That came a lot later. And the same goes for all the students I have ever taught, there is no reason to first spend years learning abstract exercises before you start playing music. It is like suggesting that you need a PH.D in grammar before you try to write a story.

I Just Need To Play What I Hear

“If I Just Learn To Play What I Hear, Then I Can Play Great Solos And I Don’t Need To Practice Licks Or Check Out Solos”

While you do want to learn to hear Jazz melodies that you can play, and you want to work on having a connection from your ear to your instrument, then don’t think that this skill is a shortcut that means that you don’t need to learn to actually hear those melodies. That is a part of it as well and it takes some work to get them in there. Usually, statements like this are because you probably don’t know what it means to hear something and then play it.

Hal Galper talks about it in one of his masterclasses:

And you need to teach yourself to hear the things you play.

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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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5 Jazz Guitar Tips That Will Save You Years Of Practice

In this video, I will go over 5 things that were game-changing for how I learned Jazz so that you can use those as well.

When you are in the process of learning something, like playing Jazz, then there is a part that is just hard work for a long time, and then there are moments that really change the way you think about something and help you progress a lot faster by practicing in the right way.

#1 Think Ahead

When I started playing Jazz, I spent months practicing before I finally could play a solo on 2 Jazz Standards. I chose to start with Stella By Starlight and There Is No Greater Love, and both of those are pretty horrible choices for a beginner with way too many chords and complicated progressions, but luckily I was pretty stubborn so I just kept going until I could make my way through the song.

This was years before mobile phones when Grunge was still hip, so there are no videos, you will have to settle for a dramatic re-enactment

At this point in time, I was barely able to improvise over the chords, and I had to work hard to find something to play on each of the chords which is what I focused on, and that had a very bad effect on how the solos sounded.

Phrases didn’t really connect or have a longer story to it.

This actually remained a problem for quite a long time. I did not find a way to fix it until more than a year later when I was taught to play changes so that you were thinking of where you need to go, what target note to play towards. This way of thinking made the solos have a much more natural flow and made the melodies a lot stronger.

And that is something that is very important with most things in music: Think Ahead, make sure you are ahead of what you are playing. So play towards target notes, see the voice-leading taking you to the next chord, or learn to read ahead if you are sight-reading.

It will make your life easier and make you sound better, especially in terms of soloing if you combine it with the next tip.

I have a video on how I apply this to playing chord changes that you can check out here:

#2 Arpeggios and Scales – The Right Way

While I was studying in Copenhagen and playing Jazz Standards in the streets, I also had the luck to go to a week-long Barry Harris workshop in The Hague, and one of the things that I took away from that is also a cornerstone in how I teach and one thing that is really overlooked in learning Jazz on the guitar.

Usually, when we think about arpeggios, these position boxes show all the notes of a m7 arpeggio in a given position. This way of learning them is good for being able to see the notes on the fretboard, but it almost completely fails at helping you learn how to incorporate them into your playing, and there is a much better way to practice them.

The exercise that Barry told me to practice, was to play all the arpeggios in the scale, not as separate boxes that don’t naturally connect to the rest of what you use when you play.

Most of the time, the chords will change, but the scale stays the same and when you make lines, you are not only using arpeggios all the time, so having the arpeggio placed in the context of the scale will make a lot more sense.

Working on this exercise also gives you something that is much closer to the way arpeggios are used typically used in Bop-inspired lines, which is not often using several octaves of one arpeggio, but mostly just one-octave melodies in the middle of a line.

My most viewed video on the channel digs into this and how you use it to make some great bebop-inspired lines, and last tip in this video is probably the advice that I give the most as an answer online.

You can check out the video on practicing arpeggios and making lines here:

#3 Keep it Simple

— Play a solo then stop and start talking?

It is actually pretty simple, and you don’t want to make it too complicated. In a way, I was lucky that I could read sheet music because of my classical lessons, because it helped me figure out some things from reading transcriptions that I would have had a much harder time learning by ear.

One of the things that really fascinated me when I first started to listen to Charlie Parker was how the solo would sound different from moment to moment. This was very different from what I was used to with most of the blues and rock solos that I was listening to where most of the time everything stayed in one scale across the chords not really playing melodies that were following the changes that closely.

That sounds complicated, but if you check out jazz solos then most of the time the way the phrases follow the changes is actually pretty simple. It is just about hitting the chord tones on the important notes of the melody and usually also somehow connected to the heavy beats, give or take a suspension or rhythmic variation.

In the beginning, playing simple and clear solos will help you really get that connection. And that may seem different from how you think about “complicated Jazz” with extensions, alterations, and upper-structure triads, but you want to hit those 3rds and 5ths and get that to make sense so that you later can choose to be vague and clear and use that in your solos.

So keep it simple and make sure you can hear the chords in your solo.

#4 Jazz Chords Done The Wrong Way

The people I checked out before getting into Jazz probably offered me a shortcut when it came to this. When you first start out learning chords on the guitar then everything is based on grips which is a practical and visual way to learn chords, but when it comes to playing Jazz harmony then that approach is not that useful. In Jazz, connecting the chords across the bar line with both melody and voice-leading is much more important. And you will realize that the chord voicings are something that you can change and mess around with. Something you can use creatively and get to fit together, turning them into beautiful music. This will open up your comping and your fretboard to a sea of possibilities and not just a few grips.

Before I got into Jazz I was checking out a lot of Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan and both of these have more of an open way to work with chords which include improvising with them and not playing the same voicings all the time, and in that respect, I already thought of chords as something you could change and move around which in hindsight made the transition to Jazz comping a lot easier since that works exactly the same.

The last tip is probably the advice I give the most as an answer online and also the most effective way to learn Jazz.

What Was A Shortcut That Helped You?

Maybe you have another tip that really changed things for your playing or you don’t agree with any of this? then let me know about that in the comments

#5 The Thing That Ties It All Together

At the beginning of the video, I talked about how I spent a long time learning two songs that were actually a bit too difficult and that in hindsight being stubborn and powering through to get those two songs down, even if it sounded pretty badly was very useful. The same can certainly be said for building a repertoire while playing in the streets of Copenhagen. One thing that I see very often, especially now that there is so more jazz educational material available, is that it stays too superficial, you practice some licks and exercises but it does not become a part of your playing and maybe you don’t even really focus on learning songs. That is a huge mistake.

Think of it like this:

if you only learn a few new things but make sure to be able to use them on all the songs you know then you will sound better and play great solos on all those songs, which is pretty much everything you can play.

If you learn something that you can’t put to use on any songs then what are you really spending time on?

For me, learning those two songs and later spending a lot of time playing songs in the streets of Copenhagen was a huge help in getting to use everything and in that way really getting better, so that first song is worth really pushing through. Of course, if you want some help in getting through that then you can check out the Jazz Guitar Roadmap which is about exactly that process of really getting a song down.

Check out the Jazz Guitar Roadmap

Bonus Tip: A Bit Of Healthy Realism

With all the exercises that you are told to do and ways of learning very specific things then it can mean that you get a little detached from the actual music.

Just like playing songs is the way to learn to use what you practice then often it is a very good idea to also find the things to start practicing in the music that already exists.

And of course, the way you do that is by transcribing solos, that way you get insight into what arpeggios go where, how they sound and how to use them.

This also helps you not going down strange rabbit holes like using all the diatonic arpeggio on each chord and other strange time-consuming unrealistic goals that I have seen people waste time on.

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The 5 Reasons You Are Not Getting Better At Jazz Guitar

A part of playing what is fun about Jazz is that you keep getting better at it and enjoy the new things you learn.

But sometimes you feel like you are not getting anywhere and it gets harder and harder to keep going and stay motivated and that is what I want to talk about using my Jazz guitar practice habits and horror stories as examples.

#1 Don’t Practice

If you are not practicing you are not going to get better fast. For me, it is easier to practice if I have a steady time to do so, and usually, that is in the morning after maybe bringing the kids to school and shopping. Then I can sit down with my guitar and a cup of coffee to get started with some technique. I try to have some things that I do every day and then a lot of things that I can change and vary to keep my mind, my ears, and fingers awake.

You might be in a period where it is difficult to find a regular time or to practice or maybe just time at all, and if it is difficult to be motivated to practice then make sure to focus on the fun things first so that you are playing. Once you build habits then you can become more focused on covering everything you want to practice while also allowing you to have fun.

Lately, I realized that I don’t spend too much time on chords in my practice, probably that was not a problem until COVID because I was anyway comping for several hours every week on different gigs, but now I started to add some chords in there because it felt like that was slipping away.

My point with that is that a practice routine should not be static you want to adjust it according to how things are going, something that I will talk more about later in this video.

#2 Not Getting Far Enough

Maybe, like me, you have the discipline to go through some sort of regular schedule and you are used to practicing, but then you can get stuck by falling into another trap.

If everything you practice is only played as an exercise and not really put to use in the music you play, or maybe you don’t even practice playing music regularly, you may be wasting quite a lot of time.

If you think about it it is pretty obvious, just learning to play up and down the pentatonic scale doesn’t make you the next Stevie Ray Vaughan. You need to learn how to make it sound good as well, and that part does not come by itself. It is a part of what you need to practice.

Improvising over an altered dominant is not that different. You need to do more than just practice the melodic minor scale.

In my practice this is mostly about doing two things: 1 – writing lines with what I practice or what I want to add to my vocabulary and 2 – Making sure I can use to use this while soloing on a song. I think you need both of these steps, and you should always look at whether you can use the material you practice in solos, otherwise, why are you practicing it?

If you want some general ideas for beginning Jazz, then check out this post:

How To Learn Jazz Guitar – Suggestions To Begin Studying

Another aspect of getting things far enough is that you also need to practice making music and not just sounding like an exercise, so that you can sometimes play with more space, vocal-like melodies, and not always just spell out all the changes and try to play the “correct” arpeggio.

#3 Always Playing The Same Things

A thing that I have found myself doing is getting stuck with the same things, these can be the same exercises that you don’t improve on or it can be always playing the same song, not challenging yourself to expand your vocabulary, places where you can use that vocabulary. It can be in terms of tempo but it can also be in terms of songs, keys, chord progressions.

This is something I try to catch whenever I can, and it can be tricky to figure out if you need to go to another song or break up the technique schedule that you are really used to, but doing so every now and again is very healthy for your playing and always doing the same things can be very inefficient even though they are nicely automatic and doesn’t require much effort.

So if you are only practicing one song, like a blues, or like me playing Out Of Nowhere way too often then it is time to change things up and make sure that your musical diet is healthy and varied.

#4 Don’t Know Enough Songs

The easiest way to learn to improvise freely on harmony is to learn a lot of songs.

I have talked about this quite often, and it ties together all the things I already talked about in this video. Studying songs is where you put it all to use, you learn how to play over the important chord progressions, harmonizing melodies, using chord voicings with the right extensions, and also tying it all together in a story, when to play a vocal melody, a bebop line or something more abstract and modern.

Learning songs and playing songs is where everything you practice comes together and where your artistic and personal take on the music is created, don’t rob yourself of that.

For me, it is about sitting down and playing a song from start to finish and really get the whole thing to make sense as if I am playing in a band. I sometimes find it difficult to practice like that but it is also the place where you are really in the zone and new things can happen.

If you are looking for songs to explore I will link to a list of 50 Jazz Standards that are really useful to have in your repertoire, and Misty is not on that list.

#5 Information Overload

When I was starting out trying to learn Jazz, I didn’t have internet and the library only had David Baker books on Jazz that I didn’t like and also were not useful for me. Most of the music came from borrowing the few LP’s and CDs available at the library. At the same time, compared to my teachers I actually had a ton of information available, they were wearing out singles and using the radio.

I also remember seeing David Liebman’s “A chromatic approach to jazz harmony” and buying that because Pat Metheny recommended it, even though at that time I couldn’t even play a solo on Autumn Leaves, and that is also a good description of how useful that was at that moment.

Today you have everything a few google searches away and can pretty much find information about anything about Jazz at all levels, but we end up with another problem, overload. It is impossible to choose and you never know who to trust and what fits together. Even on my channel the amount of videos is so immense that it is hard to navigate.

The important thing is probably to try to stick with songs as smaller end goals because they are practical and will help you gradually develop and use your skills. I have a post where I talk about this on my website, I will link to it in the video description.

That is also one of the reasons I decided to create my course the Jazz Guitar Roadmap because in that type of content you can go step-by-step for a longer period of time something that would never work on YouTube where nobody watches part 2 of anything, and certainly not part 43 of 67 videos.

The Jazz Standards You Want To Know

It is important that you develop your skills for soloing over chord changes and if you check out this video then you can learn to nail the changes and have an easier time learning songs, which will really boost the development of your skills as a Jazz guitarist, or musician, would that be Jazz guitarist AND musician? I don’t know…

50 Jazz Standards – The Songs You Need To Know

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How To Go From Scales to Great Jazz Phrases

You are practicing scales so that you know what to play in your solos, but, like me, I am sure that you are quickly realizing that running up and down the scale is a pretty boring solo. Scales is just not music. You need to learn how to take the raw material of the scale and turn that into musical phrases that you can actually use in a solo.

Scales Are Boring

This is about how you think about what you are playing, and realizing that Jazz is a language that you need to learn to speak on your instrument, but, as you will see, once you get used to that thought then that can also help practice in a much more efficient way and get to enjoy your own playing more.

You already know your scales and hopefully, you also checked out some of the essential exercises like the diatonic triads and 7th chord arpeggios in there since those are very useful for not sounding like you are just running up and down a row of notes.

 

If you don’t know those exercises then check out this lesson on practicing scales.

Jazz Beginner Mistakes – How To Learn Scales

You want to avoid playing solos that just sound like you are running up and down the scale without any direction, completely at random.

Which doesn’t really sound like something that works in a solo.

How To Play A Jazz Phrase on a Cmaj7

So how do you solve this? You need to find a way to construct lines that are not just using random scale notes and that also make sense as an interesting melody and sounds like Jazz.

To keep it simple, let’s just say that you are improvising over a Cmaj7 chord and then I will show you how to start making lines that actually work.

Instead of playing random notes then you want to play something that connects with that chord. A Cmaj7 is C E G B (chord with diagram, right side) and if we play those notes then that will work really well with the chord.

With this you can already start to make something that sounds like music:

The difference is that it is not just running up and down the arpeggio, but instead, you try to hear a melody with the notes, adding some rhythm and hearing where it ends. But it is still pretty limited, so let’s add in some more notes in there, which is easy because there are 3 more notes in the scale.

Scale Notes and Phrases

If you make a line with the arpeggio notes and then start to add in the scale notes around it then you can create something like this:

As you can see the most of the notes are still the chord tones, and the way they are placed in the melody then they still help us connect to, or hear the chord, in fact, you can remove the scale notes and still have a great sounding line:

Sounding Like Jazz – Rhythms and Accents

One of the most important parts of getting a phrase to sound like Jazz is to get some syncopated rhythm in there. You can do this by either using syncopated rhythms like this:

Or by accenting notes so that the accents give you a syncopated rhythm

You get those accented notes by having a high note on an off-beat. In the beginning, you probably need to practice making and hearing melodies like that, but then it gradually becomes a natural part of how you hear melodies and how you improvise.

Adding Some Beautiful Wrong Notes

Another thing that you hear in something like a Wes Montgomery, George Benson or a Charlie Parker solo is chromaticism, which essentially means using wrong notes to create some tension that resolves to a right note. If you just play the “right” notes then it is as if you are missing something, and if you just play the chromatic notes then that sounds like you are just playing something wrong.

It has to make sense in the melody and resolve in the right way.

In this example, you have two types of chromatic phrases. Passing notes that resolve to chord tones, like this:

You can create chromatic phrases that resolve to a chord tone. Here it is connecting 7th to the 5th, G in half-steps. You can also have chromatic phrases that move around the resolution like this:

The enclosures you have here are targeting chord tones, first the 5th and then the 3rd: l (isolate enclosure of G and E)

And of course you want to end up with phrases that combine the two like this:

How You Practice Making Phrases

What you have seen until now are different options for building blocks, so small fragments that you use to build phrases with like the arpeggio, the scale, and two types of chromatic phrases. If you want to work on playing better lines then you should work on putting together phrases, but you can also learn a lot from studying how your favorite soloist plays. The way you do this is by analyzing the solo and try to figure out what building blocks are used and how the different blocks are put together.

Transcribing and analyzing phrases is really powerful because it comes from music that inspires us, and you start with what you hear.

This is not the only option, you can also work with making variations of building blocks by moving them around the scale, onto other chords or using rules not unlike what you find Barry Harris doing in his workshops.

In this video, I was only talking about using the arpeggio of a single chord, but there are many other options that you can work on. If you want to explore how you can start using different arpeggios for a chord and also how you make bebop inspired lines with them then check out this lesson on: “the most important scale exercise in Jazz”

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Jazz Chords – A Simple But Amazing Solution You Want To Know

One of the great things about Jazz Chords is that if you learn even just a few basic jazz chords then you can open them up and add things to them in ways that sound really great. This video will show you two simple but important chord exercises and some of the ways that you can turn that into beautiful sounding chords, and I am going to use some real songs to demonstrate it because you need those as well.

Diatonic Chords and Shell-Voicings

I am going to build this on Shell-voicings which is a very solid set of chords to learn because you can turn them into a lot of other things along the way, which you will also see in this video.

Instead of just practicing chords separately then it makes a lot more sense to practice them together in the groups where you need them, for example as all the diatonic chords of a scale.

Here are the diatonic shell voicings of C major with the root on the 5th string:

Diatonic C major Shells

And you want to know the shell-voicings for the 6th string as well, and for F major that gives you these chords:

Diatonic F major Shells

Practicing stuff like this in all keys will teach you a lot about the keys and help you develop your fretboard knowledge.

Basic chords and a little beyond

Already with these chords, you can play most songs, so let’s try that on the standard Ladybird. This will also show you some of the rhythms that are, of course, also important to comping Jazz. I’ll start with the basic chords and then change things up by adding more melody notes in the 2nd half.

Ladybird Chorus

So as you can tell the rhythms are what holds this together, and I am adding a little extra by using different top notes over the chords, just grabbing what is easy to play and then make melodies with it.

so for Cmaj7 you have this shell voicing and then you can add the 5th, G, as a melody note or the 13th or 6th , the A

Walking Bass on the Blues

Instead of changing the rhythms and the melodies you can also focus on bass lines, and with the shell-voicings that are only 3 notes, you can easily get into adding a complete walking bass under the chords which is a great sound on guitar:

Walking Bass Chorus

You might not think about it, but this sounds a lot better on a guitar than on a piano and later in the video, I will cover another thing is a lot easier on guitar.

Two Layers = More Rhythm

I love the sound of chords and walking bass, and it is great for comping in a duo setting. because you are laying down a complete groove, But sometimes it is also nice to not have to play a steady stream of quarter notes. Luckily Shell voicings are naturally split in two so that you have a root and a chord, and you can use these two layers to improvise with, similar to how a Jazz drummer improvises with snare and bass drum.

Example All Of Me

Samba and Bossanova

Another great way to use the 2-layer nature of the shell-voicings is to play Sambas and Bossanova’s. An example of this could be Blue Bossa that you can play as a samba like this:

Example Blue Bossa

If you want to check out some more bossa nova and samba patterns then I have a video on that which you can check out here: Bossa Nova Guitar Patterns – 5 Levels You Need To Know

Easy on Guitar – Annoying on Piano

When it comes to chords then most things are easier on piano than on guitar, and you can also get away with playing a lot more notes if you want to, but there is one thing that is really practical about guitar chords: We can shift them up and down in half-steps really easily, and that is an amazing sound for playing jazz chords.

You can put that to use on a song like “There is no greater Love” like this:

Example #5 There is no greater love

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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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5 Basic Jazz Chord Exercises That You Want To Know

There is something special about how we play chords in Jazz. A part of that is the jazz chords themselves but another part that is just as important is how you play those chords. This video is going over 5 basic jazz guitar exercises that you can play and get started developing your Jazz chord skills. Some of them you probably know and some of them you can add to your playing.

I am using parts of songs to demonstrate this, so going through these exercises will also help you get started learning Jazz Standards which is another important part of learning Jazz.

#1 Shell-voicings – 6 chords in 30 seconds

First, we need some chords to play. To keep it simple I am going to quickly cover some voicings and then give you an example of how you can practice them on a song. To keep it simple I am going to start with easy 3-note voicings called shell voicings. A shell voicing is a simple chord that covers the basic sound of the chord and is very playable. They consist of a root, 3rd, and 7th (or 6th) Later I will start adding some notes to these to add a little color, but it is great to start playing music with these already. If you put these to use on a song like “Afternoon in Paris”, then you get something this: You can use this exercise to get the chords into your fingers, but you won’t really get them into your playing before you start playing other songs with them, so don’t forget to try that.

#2 Great basic rhythm – Charleston

Rhythm is more important than notes in Jazz, so the rest of these exercises are going to be more on rhythm and how to rhythms that sound like Jazz. The most basic and most important rhythm to know is probably the Charleston rhythm. You can practice that with Shell-voicings through 8-bars of Satin Doll like this: In this exercise, I play two chords per bar to make it a little more difficult, but it also helps you learn to anticipate a chord which is also important for Jazz phrasing.

#3 Two layers and a little more groove

Before we start adding notes to the voicings then you want to try to get the most out of them and actually, you can split up the shell-voicing in the bass note and the chord, and then you can play some rhythms with two layers. This is especially useful for giving it a little more groove and to keep things moving when you have more than one bar of one chord like this in Take The A Train:

#4 Bossa Nova

Another great groove to play is a Bossanova groove. In this example, I am using the first 8 bars of Girl From Ipanema. To change things up and make it a little more challenging I also add a note to each voicing for a little more color. The chords I use are: And then if we add this basic Bossanova pattern then you can play Girl From Ipanema like this: Like the other exercises in this video, this is just a basic example and you can do a lot more with both extensions and rhythms. You can check out links in the video description if you want to dig deeper into this.

#5 Simple Walking Bass

Another way to become more flexible and really lay down a swing groove is to play chords and walking bass. This works really well with Shell-voicings and could be something like this:

Playing Jazz Chords – What’s next?

If you want to explore more things with Jazz Chords and how to play them then check out this collection of lessons:

Comping – Putting It All Together

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This Is A Better Strategy For Jazz Guitar

Most jazz guitar lessons will tell you that you need to know your scales all over the neck, you need to know all the arpeggios and all the chords, understand all the theory. But what nobody seems to talk about is what order you should learn this in, and does learning jazz guitar mean that you first have to learn 3-5 scales in 7 positions with 7 diatonic arpeggios each?

Content:

0:00 Intro – Can you play Jazz without 2 years of scale practice?

0:34 How Most of us get into Jazz (me included)

1:16 Wes Montgomery Practicing Scales

1:36 Jazz is not a skill

1:56 Where does it go Wrong?

3:32 What Are You missing?

4:14 How To Fix It

4:46 A more simple approach

5:32 How It Works on a Song

5:58 Quick Analysis of the Chord Progression

7:07 The Scales we need

8:02 Making it a short compact amount of material to practice in 5-10 minutes,

8:45 Like the video? Check out my Patreon page.

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