Tag Archives: jazz guitar lesson

3 Music Theory Exercises That Actually Help You Play Better

The worst thing that you can have when it comes to music theory is that you have your music theory knowledge over here and then you have the music that you play over here, and the two are not really connected.

Music theory is there to describe what you hear, and what you play:

It is NOT:

  1. A set of rules for what notes are allowed in your solo
  2. A formula for melodies or chord progressions
  3. Something you think about when you are playing

But as you will see in this video, then it is incredibly powerful to have some very basic theory that you know really well and that fits with the music and the songs that you play. With that approach, then learning music theory is easier and it is much more useful, even though you don’t think about it when you solo.

The Most Important Theory Knowledge

Maybe the biggest question about this is not the knowledge itself, but how you want to think about it or visualize it. You’ll see what I mean along the way.

When you are improvising then you are playing over chords that are in a scale, so you want to have a solid overview of that information and see how the notes of the chord connect with the scale.

For that to be easy, then you want to be used to thinking about scales and diatonic chords knowing what goes where and contains which notes.

As an exercise, It can actually make a lot of sense to also work on this away from the instrument and treat it a bit more as a puzzle, but, of course, you eventually also want to have it down on the instrument if it is going to be useful for you.

It really pays off to just try to go over how to construct chords in a scale and be aware of what types of chords are wherein the scale that you use.

Here I am writing it out as letters, but it works equally well using music notation, which is how I probably learned in theory classes.

While I know how to play these things and how they sound, then I am not sure I really think this on the guitar as tabs or diagrams, but that may be different for you, and I am a bit curious about that so let me know in the comments.

In Music, there are no wrong notes, but some are closer to home than others, and often it is more useful to understand things by knowing how they work in the context.

Pineapple is great, but should it be on a pizza?

For soloing, you can think of it as layers of notes almost like a pyramid:

, and here it also makes sense to see it as highlights on a diagram of the neck:

And working on this is about getting that overview that will open up how you understand things you transcribe or even what you are playing.

Spending time writing out the scale, constructing the chords, and learning the diatonic harmony is very useful. Start with major scales but move on to harmonic and melodic minor as well, since you will need these scales when you are playing Jazz. But if you want to connect more information than just knowing the chords and the scale, let’s take a look at that.

Triads That Go Together And More

When you solo over a chord then you have the arpeggio of the chord and you have the scale that sort of sits around that arpeggio, but there are actually more ways you should be looking at notes that work over the chord and explore other melodies that you can use than just the scale and the arpeggio.

If you start with a very simple observation then you have the four notes of the chord, if we take Cmaj7: C E G B, but you can also view that chord as two triads: C E G and E G B. So for a Cmaj7 chord then the C major triad works and so does the Em triad.

If you take that a bit further then you can look at a Cmaj7(9)

Again this is probably easier to work with writing it out in some form, and you want to keep track of what the notes are against the root of the chord which in the end is actually a description of how it sounds when you use it.

The goal of exploring this is to get used to taking a group of notes and be able to see what they are against a chord, so that you have more options for your solos, and you want to also explore how to use this in solos.

When you improvise and make melodies then you don’t think in single notes, you group them together and hear melodies that are described in different ways, similar to how you hear the theme of “in the mood” as a 1st inversion triad.

So as you develop your vocabulary then you add more options in terms of triads, arpeggios, and other groups of notes that fit over a chord.

And the better you get at this the deeper you can dig into it and add quartal arpeggios and superimposed pentatonics to your lines and get them to work in your solos.

Connect It To The Music

Until now the way that you work on using music theory was based on you practicing exercises like diatonic triads and arpeggios and then figuring out how to use those, but you also want to explore the music you are trying to learn from, both solos and the songs themselves.

Let’s start with the songs:

A simple exercise is to look at what notes are in the melody relative to the chord. This is useful for developing your chord melody skills because it makes it easier to put chords under the melody.

And if you start analyzing Jazz standards you will see that they often have the same notes in the melody over specific chords, for example, #IV diminished chords or reharmonizations of them will have the 7th of the scale in the melody.

As you can see in “I Remember You”, “Someday My Prince Will Come”, “All The Things You Are”. Which also makes it easier to hear and recognize changes by ear.

Solos and Vocabulary

Of course, analyzing solos that you have transcribed is also incredibly useful, that is where you start to take apart vocabulary and improve your own lines. The place where you start to unlock how the melodies work and turn that into a flexible part of your playing.

This is an incredibly powerful tool. Let’s take this simple Pat Martino Lick use that to easily create 3 more licks on other chords.

The Pat Martino line from Lazy bird sounds like this:

Essentially this is a melody using a Cmaj7 arpeggio and a chromatic run.

Now that you know what is being played then you can see that it also fits over a Cmaj7 chord for example the beginning of Yardbird Suite:

But you can go a lot further, because If this works on Cmaj7 and is using a Cmaj7 arpeggio, then you can also try and move the arpeggio up to the 3rd of the chord and use the same construction:

C D E F G A B C D → C D E F G A B C D

You just need to apply a little Barry Harris magic to the chromatic part of the lick, and then you get this:

Another way to get more out of the lick is to move it to another chord. The original is using the arpeggio from the 3rd of Am7, so you can do the same with a G7 where the arpeggio from the 3rd is a Bø and that gives you this:

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10 Levels of Turnarounds – Unlock Amazing Jazz Chord Progressions

Jazz harmony is a huge topic, and learning to understand and analyze chord progressions can seem like an impossible task, but if you understand a few of the techniques involved you can both create beautiful chord progressions and have an easier time figuring out how to solo over them, and you can see these techniques in action on a very simple progression that you already know.

Level 1 – The Basic Turnaround

For this video, I will use this turnaround and show you how you can create some nice surprising sounds using that.

What is important to understand with the basic turnaround is that it is just an embellished version of a I V progression, which you might know if you have followed some Barry Harris videos.

The first thing to add is to turn the V into a II V which is really just a glorified version of a G7sus4 to G7

Then to add some extra movement then Am is added to have a little variation in the bar with the I chord.

This is the basic progression, now you can start making variations to it. Along the way you also want to realize that I don’t really think in substitutions that much, simply because that is not a very useful way to use or understand harmony.

Level 2 – A Secondary Dominant

The first variation that you want to add to the progression is a secondary dominant. In this case, a way to get the progression to flow a bit more towards the Dm7 chord:

 

The turnaround is in the key of C major, and the A7 is not the dominant in that key, that is G7. Like this, you are using the A7 to create a pull towards the Dm7 and add movement to the chord progression. When the A7 appears like this then it is described as a secondary dominant, so a dominant resolving to something else than the tonic of the key. Since the A7 is resolving to Dm7 then you can treat it as an A7 in D minor and the logical scale choice is then D harmonic minor making it an A7(b9b13)

Written out Dm harmonic highlighting A7(b9b13) – D E F G A Bb C# D E F G A Bb C# D E F

You could also use the same principle to have a D7 resolving to G7.

Can you see why the D7 is not a D7(b9b13)?

Level 3 – The “Easy” Diminished Chord

You can also take the secondary dominant and turn it into the “easy” diminished chord:

Here the A7(b9) is turned into a diminished chord. Also sometimes referred to as a secondary dominant diminished. This is really just an A7(b9) with a C# in the bass, and you will solo on it using the same material that you use on the A7 chord, so D harmonic minor.

On-screen comparison of A7(b9) and C#dim: A C# E G Bb – C# E G Bb

The reason for using the diminished chord is usually just to have a different type of bass melody.

Later in the video, you will also see an example of the “difficult” diminished chord which is a great example of where thinking substitutions is going to make things more difficult.

Level 4 – Doesn’t Have To Be THE tonic chord

Of course, you can also start on a different chord than the Cmaj7, other chords in the key have a tonic function and the III chord is a beautiful option that also highlights that the progression is still moving not standing still:

You also want to notice that it sounds great to use a G7 that is borrowed from minor, so a G7(b9b13). The b9 and b13 become chromatic leading notes that help pull stronger towards the resolution to Cmaj7.

Let’s have a look at the difficult diminished chord.

Level 5 – The “Difficult” Diminished Chord

The basic progression was Cmaj7 Am7 Dm7 G7, and then you can add more momentum by playing an A7 or a C#dim chord in the second half of the first bar.

I already mentioned that this was not a substitution, what does that mean?

When you talk about substitutions then it is about taking one chord and replacing it with a related chord, but there is not really a connection between Am7 and A7(b9) in this progression, It makes more sense to just view that progression as a different route when moving from Cmaj7 to Dm7 and that is also what you have in this example:

The star of this example is the Ebdim chord. This diminished chord is an altered subdominant chord that resolves back to the more regular subdominant chord Dm7. I have some older videos on this type of diminished chord if you want to dig deeper into that. I often come across people trying to turn these dim chords into dominants that don’t resolve, personally, I don’t think that really helps me hear how the progression moves so I like this analysis a lot better.

Since it is a subdominant chord then it is usually written as derived from the IV in the scale, and in this case the #IVdim.

Let’s get rid of the tonic chord so that it doesn’t even sound like a turnaround in C.

Level 6 – Where Did The Tonic Chord Go?

As you can see then quite a few things have happened compared to the I VI II V that we started with.

There are two main things happening here: The first is extending how much is borrowed from C minor, so now you have the entire II V coming out of C minor, but probably the most curious one is the first chord which until now was reserved for a tonic chord like Cmaj7 or Em7, but now it is a secondary dominant, namely E7 resolving to another secondary dominant: A7 and then the minor II V before resolving to Cmaj7. The E7 is a secondary dominant that would resolve to Am in the key so you would use A harmonic minor when soloing over it and it has a b9 and a b13.

Choosing this as a turnaround is a way to emphasize movement, so it is not so important to have the tonic clear, but instead, it is important to keep the song going for example at the end of an A-part going to the next A-part. You will see an even more radical version of this later in the video.

Level 7 – Altered Dominants & Tritone Substitution

I have of course talked a bit about why substitutions aren’t the best way to approach harmony, but this example has two clear examples of just substituting chords with similar functions.

Here you have the secondary dominant in bar 1, A7, being substituted with an Eb7, which is the dominant that shares the same tritone interval as the core notes: C# and G

The other substitution is using an altered dominant for the G7 which is a sound that is a bit further away than borrowing from minor, and actually also related to tritone substitutions. It is a great sound to create a lot of tension and movement toward the resolution to the I chord.

Level 8 – My Favorite Turnaround

This turnaround variation is a great way to incorporate Minor subdominants and Coltrane changes into a turnaround

Here you have the first 3 chords as being straight out of a Coltrane cycle in C: Cmaj7 Eb7 Abmaj7  B7 Emaj7 G7 Cmaj7

Another way to look at this, and probably the reason why it sounds so great is that it involves a beautiful minor subdominant chord: Abmaj7

The first two chords are similar to the previous example and sound similar to what we pretty much expect in a turnaround, but the Eb7 resolves as a V chord and not a tritone substitution which takes us to Abmaj7,  a nice but still satisfying detour.

Using the Db7, the tritone substitute of the G7 makes it easier to move from the Abmaj7 back to Cmaj7.

This turnaround is often referred to as a Ladybird or Tadd Dameron turnaround, but not everybody agrees on what that is, so it is a good idea to check. In emergencies, the Blues always works 🙂

Level 9 – Chromatic Passing Chords

Let’s step it up and add some chromatic chords. This one probably came from the diminished chord progression that I talked about earlier, just stepping out of the key and approaching the Dm7 from a half-step above:

Here you have the Ebm7 that just quickly jumps out of the key to slide back in on the Dm7. You will quite often hear people like Bill Evans, Jim Hall, and Keith Jarret reharmonize dim chords to parallel minor chords and even Parker does it sometimes so it may be coming from that. Again calling it a substitution for a dim chord is really a stretch though.

Level 10 – What?!

Having a turnaround where the first chord is not at all what you expect is great, and this example uses a chord that does that, but still really works in with the progression.

When the ear expects a Cmaj7 and gets a Bb7 then that still is acceptable because the Bb7 moves on to an A7 and then continues in the turnaround. The Bb7 is there as a tritone substitute for the E7, the secondary dominant for A7.

I don’t think this one is that common, but it does sound really great so you should give it a try in a Jazz standard as a reharmonization.

Put It To Use In Chord Melody

You can create amazing things by taking songs and adding chords to them while also exploring different sounds and options with the chord progression. If you want to explore how to make your own chord melodies then check out this video.

It is a great way to build your knowledge and skills with jazz chords and in the process get started making some beautiful Chord Melody arrangements.

An Amazing Exercise For Jazz Chords (And Your Playing In General)

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How to Make Jazz Chords Sound Great For Any Progression

I am sure you have looked at a chart with jazz chords and asked yourself, why do they play a m7(11) chord or how come that is a (b9b13) dominant? And if you ask, you get an answer which is very often a scale, like altered dominant or diminished scale, so no information that tells you that much about the choice of chord.

How do you get to that point where you can take a basic chord progression and then turn it into a piece of music with a flow of beautiful harmony? You hear it all the time but if you look at transcriptions then you are probably left wondering why is that m7(11) or how come that is dominant with a b13, and if you try to play that then it doesn’t fit together.

Instead of solving difficult music theory equations then you need to work on something else, let’s look at that process.

Get The Basic Harmony Down

For this I am going to use the beginning of All The Things You Are As An Example and built it up from the foundation.

The first thing you want to do is to just get the basic chords into your system, into your ears, and you can add a bit of rhythm to it. In the end, that is anyway more important than the notes:

I am keeping the chords sort of close to each other so it doesn’t sound like a huge jump moving from one chord to the next.

These are all pretty basic chords, and you probably know them already, so we want to start doing more to them in terms of adding color and also making the voicings fit together and tell a story.

Advanced Harmony: The First Step

Next, you want to turn them into rootless voicings. That way the voicings become a lot more flexible and you have more room to change things around, add notes and play melodies.

Melody Is More Important Than Harmony

As you will see, the secret to getting comping to sound great is not knowing the most difficult exotic voicings, it is about being able to make music with them, and already with these 3-note voicings that actually becomes a lot easier.

The big difference here is that it is not about thinking vertical chords, it is about tying the whole thing together with melody making how you play the chords into something that is a musical statement and not a bunch of notes next to another bunch of notes, because that is not how music works.

So you can practice making simple step-wise melodies like this and use different voicings to get it to work

And with this then you can hear other colors in the chords, but the whole thing works because the chords connect with a melody.

Practicing playing through chord progressions and making these simple stepwise top-note melodies is one of the best ways to explore harmony and make it into something practical that you can use because you are working on a song

I am sure you also recognize these chords as rootless versions of chords you already know:

First, you want to open up how you use the melody, and then we can go over some more advanced approaches to make the way you play chords more interesting.

Let The Melody Lead It

If you start thinking of the way you play chords as a slow chord solo or chord melody and not worry too much about extensions then it is easier to get the whole thing to sound good and you will anyway start finding the extensions but you can get them into your playing much more naturally.

For the first Fm7 chord it is already reduced to the Ab major triad, and you can add a lot of sounds and easily play melodies by just grabbing the notes around it that work with the chord, so more chord tones, and common extensions. In fact, you can just try stuff out and see what your ear tells you and then figure out what it is later.

and you can do the same for the Bbm7:

And don’t think about the Fm7 or Bbm7 variations as separate chords, you should think of them as stuff you can use when you want to use the basic Fm7 or Bbm7 voicing.

So if it says Fm7 Bbm7 you can play melodies like this:

or maybe even hint at another song:

This is about connecting material and making it flexible not about learning a bunch of chords that you can’t put together.

With this approach and an extra trick that I will get to, you can already do something like this:

You want to notice that I am using the techniques that I just covered and then there are two places where I add some extra chord voicings:

On the Eb7 the first chord is this triad voicing which is a very smooth transition coming from the Bbm7, and on the Abmaj7 I am also adding this shell voicing to transition to Dbmaj7.

So once you start to explore different ways of playing the basic chord then it is also a good idea to be aware of the chords around it, because It is all about finding practical ways to play the chords.

You also want to notice that the melodies are there to sit behind a soloist so you mostly use step-wise movement and try not to steal the attention from the soloist, unless you want to get fired, then you can just bring out your spiciest reharmonizations, and you might be gone before the 2nd set.

Start Using MORE Chords

The next steps are not nearly as important for how well you play the chords, they are more like icing on the cake where you can add some extra chords to take you to the next chord

 

In this example the chords that are added are written out as secondary tritone substitutions, so to go from Fm7 to Bbm7 I add a B7, and an E7 is helping the transition to Eb7.

This is a great thing to mess around with, but you do need to watch out that it doesn’t start clashing too much with whoever you are playing behind.

Another way you can add passing chords is using chromatic chords like this:

Here you have Am7 as an approach to Bbm7, and Amaj7 taking you to Abmaj7.

Often just thinking in chromatic passing chords on the guitar is a lot easier because it can be done visually and you don’t have to overthink what is going on.

Move The Other Voices

You can also take the chords and not only use the melody but build it with more layers which can open up for some amazing things, but it does come at a cost

The feel of this type of playing works better if you are a little less active rhythmically and it works better with sustained chords which makes it a little less useful for getting the groove across, but it is a great sound for the beginning of a song or with a soloist that leaves a lot of space.

The Fm7 moves the lowest voice down to the Ab on the Bbm7 and I am also introducing an Eb7 altered that is resolved to a single Eb on the Abmaj7. Under the sustained Eb there is room to move the chords a bit and this concept is also used on both Dbmaj7 and Cmaj7.

An Amazing Exercise For Jazz Chords (And Your Playing In General)

It is incredibly important that you work with jazz chords on a song and get better at putting them together as music. Another way to work on this skill is to also work on making chord melody arrangements of songs, so taking a melody and turning it into a harmonized piece that you can play as a solo guitar piece. If you check out this video then you can see how this will teach you a lot not only about harmony but also about melody, and open up how you think about Jazz chords and how you use them in your playing!

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Triads – You Are Missing 3 Skills In Getting The Most Out Of Them

Triads are essential building blocks in the strongest solos and melodies, and you want to make sure that you not to miss some of the great ways they can be put to use.

You already know that even though Jazz is mostly using chords with a lot of notes and extensions then triad melodies are still incredibly strong and something that should be a core part of your playing.

It doesn’t matter if you look at a Parker Lick – Parker Billie’s bounce lick

Or classical music – Mozart or Beethoven

The triads are always in there and they should be in your playing as well.

Getting Your Triad Practice Right

There are probably two ways that you are practicing triads:

In positions, playing the triad across a position, hopefully visualizing or keeping in mind what scale it is found in (voice-over)

The other way that you want to practice triads is by playing diatonic triads

Positions + scales

This exercise will help you find all the triads in the scale and give you an overview of the harmony (voiceover)

Both of these are great ways to work on the material, but not directly help you use them in solos and what is more important: a lot of very useful triad melodies are also left out, so let’s fix that.

Practice All The Melodies

One of the most common triad melodies both in Bebop themes and solos is the 2nd inversion triad. You have clear examples of this in Anthropology, or Blue Bird (make room for the examples in speaking)

And the 1st inversion major triad is also great for solo lines like this:

So if you are not practicing those then you are leaving A LOT of great melodies out of your vocabulary.

It is not that difficult to get used to playing the inversion so that you can start incorporating them into your playing, and actually it is also a great exercise for your ear, and the connection between what you hear and what you play.

Incorporating the inversion into a triad position would mean playing it like this:

But working through the triad inversions in a scale position is a great exercise for quite a few things:

So of course, just playing these is already giving helping you be more flexible with what you can play in the scale, but it is also introducing some string skipping,

but maybe the most useful part of the exercise is that you take a predictable 3-note melody and then try to play that through the scale.

When I start working on this then I am not really thinking about which notes or which triad I am playing, as much as I am hearing a melody and then hearing it move up through the scale. This may sound a bit vague, but it is actually a great exercise that will help you become better at playing melodies by ear. If you have never tried this before then take 3rds through a scale, and notice how your ear will tell you if you are playing the right notes or not.

Now that you know the triad and the inversions then you want to start getting this into your playing.

The Power Of Simplicity

An important part of how we use triads in Jazz is as upper-structures, mainly because it ties together extensions in a strong sound and make the chord or melody make more sense, similar to this line and I will talk about how you can use triads like this later in the video, but this is not the strongest melodic tool when it comes to triads.

The first thing you want to do is to become better at making lines based on the basic triads and then really get good at using those in a creative way so that your skills are already in place when you move up into the thin air of more tricky extensions.

If you think about the Charlie Parker Lick from Billie’s Bounce that I used in the beginning then that is using an F major triad over an F7. Another way that Parker uses the F major triad is in the opening of the solo:

So, as you can see, it really pays off to start making lines that are using the basic root triad and also do more than just play it up and down, but use it as a skeleton for the melody you want to play.

For example, you can use scale notes as passing notes as I do on the Dm7 and the Cmaj7 here:

And because the triad is such a strong melody then you can also change the order of the notes and skip around more, as I do on the Dm7 here:

So if you find something that works, like the Dm triad melody here then try to explore using it in different ways like playing it backward:

Or explore how changing the order of the notes sound:

There are some great melodies in there for you to discover.

The easiest way to start doing this is to play the triad and then add a scale note between the notes in that inversion:

For the root position C major triad, you can add either a D or an F between the triad notes, for the first inversion then you can add the F between the E and the G, and for the 2nd inversion you would add the D between C and E.

This is just how you start, and in the end, you can, of course, do a lot more. The reason for starting here is just that it makes it easier to keep the sound of the triad in there.

But triads are also great for adding extensions and colors but also how it helps with some strong melodies.

Shifting Colors On Top

There are two levels to using upper structures. First, let’s look at how you can use a system to create shifting lines and the second is creating a flow of shifting colors on a single chord.

The best way to understand this is to look at the available triads over a Dm7. That is easy if you write out the scale in 3rds from D.

This gives you Dm F Am C triads, the rest are not directly useful for the sound of the chord.

You can build the same thing for G7 altered, for voice-leading purposes then I am starting on Db, but the result is as you will see, the same:

That gives you: Db Fdim Abm Baug Eb and Gdim and Bbm. For the G altered chord then pretty much everything will work, so there are more options.

In the line then you can see how I am using an Am triad over Dm7 and then moving that to Abm on G7 altered, so I am really just voice-leading or shifting the upper structure triad to create the lick.

You can even do this moving up from Am instead of down so you go to Bbm:

What is Better Than One Triad?

The previous example was using two triads on the G7 altered: Bbm and B augmented, and constructing melodies like this is a great way to create interesting lines and also often lines that span a larger range.

For the G7altered this is equal to the sound you get if you change several notes in the chord

The easiest way to get a triad pair like this is to just take two triads that are next to each other. Because, this works better if there are no common notes between the two triads, especially for the next approach to creating melodies.

A basic version of this type of lick using Abm and Bbm triads on G7altered could be something like this:

You can see how the Dm7 lick is also using an Am triad and that helps make that transition stronger.

Another way to make more adventurous lines is to work with melodies that connect inversions of the triads.

If you take B augmented and Db on the G7 altered then that could give you something like this:

Modern Jazz Sounds

An incredibly useful tool that, like triads, can really add something to your soloing is using pentatonics in your jazz lines. In this video, you can see how pentatonic scales can create completely different sounding melodies and how to put them to use on pretty much any type of chord. This approach is a great shortcut to a more modern sound in your playing.

7 Pentatonic Tricks That Will Make You Play Better Jazz Solos

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

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

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

Building Blocks

Jazz Lick:

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

The Method

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

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

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

So lots of stuff to learn.

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

So what is the problem with the book?

As you can see, the solos are very dense:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Building Blocks

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

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

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

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

So if you start with a phrase like this:

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

 

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

Is Building Blocks Cheating?

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

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

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

The Blocks Help You Learn The Solo

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

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

The Problem

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rhythmical Target Notes

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

There is Rhythm, You Just Don’t Recognize It

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

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

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

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An Amazing Exercise For Jazz Chords (And Your Playing In General)

Jazz Chords can seem like these mysterious grips with difficult names.

They sound beautiful but you don’t really know what is going on, and even if you can play this chord then there are so many other things that you hear people do with it, and you want to learn that too!

Of course, you need to practice playing the voicings, but somehow just running up and down diatonic chords and inversions is not really helping you play like that, so you need to go beyond this:

And this:

You need to really dig into the chords and learn how to use them, and there is one thing you want to work on that can help you do that, and it will teach you a lot of other great things at the same time about Jazz, about Harmony, Theory, and the guitar.

Chord Melody – Making Music Is The Exercise

The exercise I am talking about is not one of those exercises where you sit down every day with a metronome and go through your scales. What you want to work on is:

putting the chords that you practice to use, and you want to put the theory you know to use and in that process learn to play a song as a beautiful chord melody arrangement

How do you get started with this?

A basic recipe for a chord melody arrangement is to learn your shell-voicings, and then take the song that you want to turn into a chord melody

and figure out how to play the melody on the two highest strings.

Put those two together by adding a chord under the notes that are on the 1 of the bar

or if there is no melody then just play the chord. This way it is pretty simple to make your own harmonized version of that song.

This already works and is not too difficult if you start with an easy song and not a bebop theme but you can take it a lot further and when you do that then you start to develop a lot of useful skills.

Make It Your Sound

 Already with this basic arrangement, you can start to tweak it and add in other chord voicings that you might like better. Essentially you can just experiment with adding other voicings instead of what you first had. You are just refining the first version and adding some more colors — as I am doing here with a different Fmaj7 or adding the 9th on the Eb7.

This is about looking at what note is in the melody and then just trying different options for the chord with that melody note. For example, you could use these variations for the first chord:

Optional voice-over: Melody on shell-voicing, drop2 voicing, adding a 13th to the chord, or adding a 9th to the chord by shifting it up a position.

And there are many options and interesting colors you can check out.

When you are working on this then you are getting a much better understanding of what notes are in the chords and how those chords actually sound in context, which is incredibly useful, also when you improvise You might come across a place where you only know one option, but that only means that you can explore how to create some variations of that chord and learn some new things in that way.

But as you are probably already realizing then you want to do more than just play a chord here and there, you want to also add some movement to the arrangement within the chords, to give it a flow, especially when the melody isn’t moving.

Fills & Creative Voice-Leading

In this next example, you will see how you can add some moving voices that help you get to the next chord, and there are also a few different fills that you can add to not just play the chord but also embellish it and make it more interesting:

A lot of this is about finding practical ways to move a voice so that it helps you get to the next chord or realizing that there is nothing happening in the melody so you have time to add an arpeggiated or more embellished version of the chord.

On the Eb7 I am also harmonizing each note of the melody to create a different sound, there are many options to explore and it is really just about trying things out and seeing what you like.

This is of course already giving you a ton of options that you can develop in your own arrangements, but you can go even further and start changing the song to make it surprising to the listener.

Getting Creative With The Chords

The most important thing to keep in mind when you reharmonize the song and change the chords is that you use that the listener expects to hear one thing and then you play something else. This sometimes means that it works better to introduce reharmonization as an embellishment when you have first played the “normal” changes.

But you can do a lot of fun things with this, let’s start simple:

Here the first chord basic Fmaj7 chord is turned into a more unstable and interesting Fmaj7(#5). The Aø chord is also embellished a bit with a 9th, and the D7 is played with diminished scale harmony again a different sound. These are pretty easy ways to reharmonize the song by just choosing other sounds for the chords than you might expect. On the Gm7 you can hear some added chords that work really well for keeping things moving along, so they are just there to add momentum to a long note in the melody.

A more radical version where the chords a used much more freely and just chosen to fit the melody and serve the bass movement with more or less random chords to make it fit the melody could be something like this:

Comping!

There are so many things to learn about chords and explore on the fretboard like this. The other important thing that you want to get started on for playing better Jazz is being able to turn chords into great sounding comping, and if you check out this video then you will see how that is maybe not as difficult as you might think, and what you need to pay attention to.

Comping A Jazz Standard – This Is How To Get Started

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This Is Ruining Your Jazz Solo – A Powerful Bebop Breakthrough

You have a problem if your Jazz solos sound too much like this:

In a way, this should work because a lot of things are right about this:

  1. It is nailing the changes
  2. There’s a place where you can add a nice Bebop accent
  3. It is actually also a motif that is being moved through the changes.

But it still doesn’t really sound ok, So what IS the problem?

“It is Jazz! It needs chromatic notes!!!”

Still not really working, let me show you why:

A great jazz line should surprise you, it should not only change direction on the heavy beats like this or even the previous one did.

Because that makes it sound heavy, the lines should have more life and more interesting rhythm, not just go from heavy beat to heavy beat like a lawnmower.

Instead, you want something that is more like this:

Of course, It isn’t so that you can never change direction on a heavy beat, but not all the time, and it pays to figure out how to make the line more surprising, so let’s look at some surprisingly easy strategies for that.

Flipping Chromatic Enclosures

A simple chromatic enclosure that you probably already know is a great hack for this!

So if you have a Dm triad

then you can add the enclosure around the notes like this:

These are called diatonic above chromatic below.

The great thing about these is that they have a direction, and can go both up and down:

And that is much more powerful than you think.

 

Let’s say that you are playing a Descending Dm7 arpeggio:

But you want to add a chromatic enclosure around the last note, the D. The arpeggio is descending, so if you also take a descending enclosure then you get:

But if you have the enclosure go against the descending melody then you get this:

I am sure you can hear how HUGE that difference is!

And this will help you create lines like this:

Throw In A Triad

Another useful tool is to use the diatonic triads like I am using the Am triad on Dm7 in this example:

The concept is pretty simple if you have a note  where you can dip down and take a triad that fits the chord,  then that will work as a way to skip around and still be a strong melody.

In example 10, I did this on the E adding an Am triad. But you could also just take the A and use the Dm triad:

That will work in a line like this where I also use it on a D diminished triad on the G7(b9):

Steal a Bebop Trick

B-roll: Illustration of the F and E -> add low A?

Often a fantastic solution is to get a large interval skip in there but that sometimes sounds very unnatural. Luckily, we can lean on the Bebop greats to give us some tricks for this!

If you are playing a melody in the scale with a half step apart, so for example F down to E on the Dm7 chord then you can throw in a lower chord tone like the 5th, A:

And this always sounds great, another place where you can use that is on the G7 between the b9 and the root adding a low B:

One of the most powerful places to learn this and also get a ton of inspiration is of course to study the Bebop Greats, and especially Charlie Parker. Check out this video, If you want to see what you can pick up from him and also how I use that in my practice and playing. I can promise you that it is worthwhile and a lot of fun!

 

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3 Things that Ruin Your Jazz Practice And Stops Your Progress

We all want to play fantastic lines in our solos!

But one of the worst things you can do if you want to play better lines is to practice songs at full speed and then just hope that it becomes better.

#1 Too Fast = No Control!

It won’t make your lines better, but it might make you bitter, and that is how a lot of people go about it, I have certainly done that myself quite often.

When you do that it is a bit like trying to learn Chinese by watching a Chinese movie with Chinese subtitles. You will probably get there but it is going to take a few years.

Setting up a better method

So, you should slow things down and really work on playing stronger lines by having time to really listen to them, and figure out how to make them better before you are blasting away at full speed.

The best way to work on your lines is by composing lines, and I am going to show you how I do that and talk about how you benefit from that and what to pay attention to so that you get the most out of it because this is about a lot more than just practicing slowly!

In the example below you can see how I composed an 8th-note line using different building blocks.

It starts with a chromatic enclosure and continues with an Fmaj7 arpeggio before ending with a descending Dm triad melody that also involves a chromatic enclosure.

Refining The Arpeggio Melody (stealing from Benson & Bird)

The next thing to add to the mix is a bit more energy with the rhythm. You can do this by playing the arpeggio as a triplet as you can see in the example below:

This is almost identical to a line that both Charlie Parker and George Benson use very often.

A More Original Idea

Let’s try to create a line that is a little more original and a little less like a transcription. Here the example is combining the Fmaj7 arpeggio with a scale melody that continues into a descending melody in the 2nd bar. The descending melody is in fact a pentatonic phrase with an added chromatic enclosure.

In the video, I talk a bit more about how important melodic direction can be for this.

What Are You Really Practicing

It is important to remember that in the end it is not really about composing the perfect lick, what you are working on is practicing to put things together so that you get better at doing that when you are soloing.

#2 It is NOT just the notes!

You need to focus on more than just playing the right notes. You can get a robot to play the right notes, but it won’t make it a great solo.

You want to develop your skills when it comes to taking those notes and turning them into a SOLID MELODY.

In the example below I am adding a note to the arpeggio because that is a great way to explore and find some good melodies.

The Power Of Pivot Arpeggios

Using Pivot Arpeggios and Octave Displacement is another way to get some more interesting melodies. In the example below I am doing that with the Fmaj7 arpeggio at the beginning of the line.

#3 Fix Your Phrasing!

Now that you are slowing down you practice then you can also start working on adding better phrasing to the lines.

The first thing to work with here is to get used to ending lines on the off beat. In the example below it is on the 4-and:

Another thing to work with is to add accents to the line. When you play a stream of 8th notes then what makes it rhythmically interesting is how you add accents to get the syncopation in there.

What you are looking for is a note that is on the off-beat and that is higher than the following note. In the example below the Eb is a great candidate, also because it is a chromatic leading note so it has some tension and therefore more energy:

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Jazz Chords And The Best Way To Think About Them

It is very important that you stop thinking in separate grips and start seeing how patterns are actually variations of the same chord.

You might wonder why that is important, but if you think about how you want to sound when you are playing chords.

Then you can hear that there is a lot happening, but the song only has one chord symbol.

And when you play like that you should NOT be thinking: C7 C7(13), C7, C7(9), C7(13)

Because that is way too complicated, you should just think C7!

So how do you do this?

Start Simple

You probably already know a lot of chords, but let’s start really simple and build it up.

Here is a C7 Shell voicing:

You probably also know this and also this C7 and this C7(13)

For this video, I will focus on comping in a band with a bass player so there is no need to play the root note, and then we have these 3 voicings:

This might seem like magic, but really I am just taking 3 chords that you already know, removing the bass note, and putting them next to each other.

The Great Thing About Using Only A Few Notes

Now we have 3 different ways to play C7 and we can use those 3 chords to make melodies:

And you want to think about these 3-note melodies as short blues phrases, that make it easier to come up with something. You can also think of it as a conversation, so using call-response:

To me, thinking of it as a blues helps make it easier to come up with rhythms which is, of course, pretty important for Jazz comping.

There are a few other things that really levels up your playing going from just playing chords to actually playing Jazz. I will show you but you first want to add some more of the voicings you already know to get a complete overview of everything that is available in this area of the neck. In the end, you can actually play melodies harmonized entirely with a C7.

Completing The Overview

I started with some basic shell and drop3 voicings and then reduced that to 2 and 3-note voicings, but you may also know some basic Drop2 voicings, and you want to connect those to the mix as well.

The basic candidate that you can get the rest from is this one:

And you can easily make variations of that either from what you already know about Drop2 voicings or just by adding notes that are close by on the neck.

That can give you a lot of options, but here is a set of practical ones:

So the basic C7, adding a 13th, adding a 9th as a melody note, and both 9 and 13 and finally a 13 voicing with the 3rd in the melody.

If you add this to the material that you already saw then there is an octave of material available from E to E:

This is way more notes that you need when you are comping unless it is never-ending C7 chord, but it is great to have an overview and to be able to play whatever you want.

Notice that I am skipping the F as a melody note. You can use it, but it would change the chord to a C7sus4 so I am just leaving it out for now.

Using all of this material then you can play something like this:

And these are all just a part of C7, you can take one of the chords out and look at it and say that’s a C7(13) or a C7(9), but they are all usable when the song says C7. You can create your own sound and tell your own story with the harmony.

Now we can add some tricks to the chords and get some Blues and some chromatic dissonance in there!

You Don’t Usually Do This With Chords

Legato is actually great for playing chords as well, even if it isn’t the first technique you think about with that. This goes for hammer on pull off and slide:

The thing you want to keep in mind is that you can often pick the notes, but you should take advantage of the different sound.

If I use legato then it just sounds different

There are a lot of nice things to be discovered with that!

The Blues Slur and the Chromatic Slide

The dominant chord, like the C7 you are working with here, is probably the one with the most options since you can easily add Blues to the sound, but you want to explore this for other chords as well.

If you combine it with some chromatic leading notes then you get something like this:

Here I am adding a complete passing chord by sliding into the C7 and also using legato to add a chromatic melody on top of the chord moving from the 13th down to the 5th.

It is also nice how the first part states the basic chord sound in a bluesy way and then the chromatic phrase follows that up.

Another bluesy example that you can also get to work on something that isn’t really a blues would be this legato move:

Here you have a hammer-on to approach the 3rd and that is a very typical blues melody which sounds great! The chromatic phrase that takes the 9th down to the root is also turned into a melody on top of the sustained chord which is another way of creating movement with the chords.

You can create so many beautiful things with this, let’s get that sus4 sound in there as well because of course that can work too:

Level Up Your Comping

As you can see, it is not only voicings and notes you have to learn.

There are other things that you want to focus on that are a little less obvious. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t improve them. If you want to dig deeper into this then you can check out this video that covers a lot of important topics. And you want to fix this because otherwise, you are going to get fired….

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5 Habits To Help You Learn Jazz Faster

You don’t learn to play Jazz Guitar in 20 minutes, it is a process and a set of skills that you build over time through practice. That is why you want to get used to doing things the right way, build the habits that help you progress faster so you are not wasting your time.

In this video, I want to discuss some of those habits that can help you level up your playing a lot faster because some of these are not obvious but they are all incredibly effective!

Practice Consistently

When I was studying mathematics at the university in Århus there was a summer where I decided that now I REALLY needed to start practicing every day, something my teachers had been telling me forever. And I still remember going to practice with my band for the first time after practicing daily for a few weeks. The instrument had just opened up for me, and I could play all these new things that I had never been able to play before, which felt amazing!

To be honest, I never had that again, but I immediately learned the lesson of consistent practice and what it could do. Which is maybe one of the most important things I have learned?

But it is more than just playing every day. If you want to improve something then you need to work at it until it really gets in there, and that often takes fairly long, like weeks or months.

The main thing to keep in mind with this is that you want to keep working on the same exercises for some time and track how you are progressing.

Here you keep playing the exercises to get better, and you track your progress to stay motivated. What you want to avoid is that you just scratch the surface and practice something new every day without really getting better. That is a lot less efficient.

This has often been a part of how I have worked when I have really improved my playing, especially with technique and speed but also with other things like improvising over difficult chord changes.

It is useful to often remind yourself that nothing will suddenly be something you can just do, you always have to practice, but you will see that later in the video as well.

Evaluate Your Practice

“Insanity Is Doing the Same Thing Over and Over Again and Expecting Different Results”

This is often put forward as an Albert Einstein quote, but it probably isn’t.

While Jazz Guitar may qualify as some type of mental illness, then what this will teach us is something else. You need to check if what you practice also helps you get better at the skills you want to improve.

If you are following the advice of practicing consistently then you also need to look at what you practice and compare that to what is improving in your playing, and maybe look at what you want to get better at and change or come up with exercises that focus on that skill.

You can do this by trying to have a list of goals that you want to improve. That is anyway a good exercise, because the more specific you can be about what you want to learn, the easier it will be to learn it. It is amazing how much time is wasted fumbling around in the dark. You won’t learn to improvise over a Jazz Blues by practicing scales or get better at comping by just practicing chord voicings.

This is very important so that you don’t spend hours working on something that won’t help you get better at the things you want to level up, and one of the main things to have in there is the next habit:

Use What You Practice

I say this very often in my videos, and it is something that I have to remind students of all the time!

“Work on using the things that you practice if you want them as a part of your playing!”

And this goes for diatonic arpeggios, drop2 voicings, or pretty much anything else. If you don’t have a strategy for getting it into your playing then you are probably wasting practice time.

Building this habit often means that you have to find a way to go from a basic technical exercise into something you use while playing, and often the missing link here is to use some form of composition and explore how you can connect the new material with all the other things you already have in your vocabulary.

This is something you want to keep in mind with your evaluation of your practice routines and pay attention to so that you make sure that you get the most out of all the exercises you do and that you are not wasting time on stuff that you can’t use.

It is also something that you want to think about when you come up with exercises, if you practice something that you have no idea how to use then you should wonder if it is really what you should be practicing.

Borrow Other Peoples Ears

I guess I am old-fashioned with this, but I am pretty sure that the most efficient way to learn is to take lessons with a good teacher. You can always disagree in the comments.

The important thing to realize is that if you are learning something new then you have to rely on your own ear to figure out if it is good enough or what is wrong, and sometimes we forget that you need a trained ear to recognize things like phrasing problems, swing-feel or even just how melodies lock in with the changes.

That is the biggest part of why you take lessons to get access to an experienced listener that will tell you what to work on. That is also why I use the community in my online course to give feedback on how the students are doing, which even helps with things that I don’t always talk about in the course.

If you don’t have access to a teacher in some form then you can also find people to practice with or even use Facebook groups like my Jazz Guitar Insiders group. Posting a video and saying what you are working on can give you a ton of useful feedback. With posting videos on the internet you do want to be aware of the amount of nonsense you can also get, so it pays to know who is commenting so that you know who to listen to and who to ignore

Play With Other People

Jazz is not a solo art form. It was developed in bands and it is about making music together and communicating with each other while improvising, but there are more reasons why it is very useful to make music with other people.

For me, this was always the most fun part of playing Jazz; Making music with others, and that is also clear from the fact that I learned a huge chunk of my repertoire playing in the streets of Copenhagen with a bass player before I started studying in the Hague.

What I see as the most important advantage is that you

  1. Are forced to play and make things work
  2. Have to take everything to where you can use it
  3. Have more fun and stay motivated.

And these are all 3 more important than you might think when it comes to learning, so if you don’t play with other people and you want to play better Jazz, then seek out the opportunities and find people to play some songs with and both learn and enjoy that experience.

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

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for topics then, please let me know. Leave a comment on the video or send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make them fit what you are searching for.

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