Tag Archives: jazz guitar licks and tricks

An Amazing Recipe For Jazz Guitar Licks Everyone Should Know

Jazz is often made more complicated than it needs to be. And whether you are setting out on a journey to explore Jazz guitar or just want a different sound to use in your solos, you can get incredible sounding Jazz licks with some very basic Bebop building blocks.

In this video, I am going to show you how to use 2 ingredients to create some great sound Jazz licks, as you will see, a process you can apply to pretty much any song or chord.

Most Important Bebop Ingredients

Voiceover Illustration of extras example 1 maybe with screen capture of writing it? play the line, then play the line slowly with chords on the chord change

A huge part of what makes a Jazz solo sound like Jazz is that the solo follows the chords and in that way spell out the different colors of what is going on in the harmony.

Like this line:

And with the chords, you hear how it connects

The simple way of following the harmony is just to use the arpeggios of the chords that you solo over so that what you play in your solo matches what is being played in the chords.

So the first ingredient is an arpeggio, like this Cmaj7 arpeggio:

Another important part of especially the Bebop sound is using chromatic phrases like:

Approach notes:

Short Enclosures:

Long Enclosures:

And already combining arpeggios with chromatic phrases like these, you can quite easily make some very solid Jazz lines!

Easy Licks

Let’s start with the Cmaj7:

A simple place to start is to play it as a triplet and add a leading note before the arpeggio. You can add more dense and complicated chromatic phrases which will give you some pretty advanced sounding lines, but that will come later in the video. This simple version is actually Bebop gold:

As you can tell, this already starts to sound like Bebop and it is something you can move around to pretty much any chord or arpeggio that you can think of, not only 7th chords, it also sounds beautiful on a for instance a m7(9) like this:

Right now, you are only using a single chromatic leading note before the arpeggio, so let’s add some more chromaticism by at the end of the arpeggio. For the Cmaj7 this gives you a lick that is a favorite of Charlie Parker and that I am pretty sure George Benson transcribed from him because he plays it all the time as well.

Really all that is happening here is that the arpeggio is followed by a chromatic phrase connecting the 7th to the 5th, which is just going down the scale and adding some leading notes.

Let’s look at how you can make this a bit longer with a chromatic enclosure

Getting More Serious

This example is using an Am7 arpeggio, and the melody leading into it is a short enclosure.

Play slow

The formula for this first enclosure is diatonic above, chromatic below, so the target note is A and the note above that in the scale is a B. The chromatic note below is a G# This is a very useful way to create some chromatic movement and still have melodies that sound natural and make sense.

For an Am7 arpeggio that would give you this exercise:

At the end of the lick, you also have a chromatic enclosure like this.

The Arpeggio runs up to the 7th and from there moves down in half-steps to F which is then a part of an enclosure of the 5th of Am.

But you can do even more with some of the longer chromatic phrases like this:

“Real” Chromatic Enclosures

Adding a more extensive chromatic phrase like this is a great way to lead into the arpeggio and it makes the line more surprising and moving before really connecting to the chord, which is really what we use chromatic phrases for small bits of outside melody. In this example, the lick with a short enclosure around the 5th, before the last note, the 3rd, on the 1&

You can also use chromatic phrases like this on the high note of the arpeggio and that can give you some other great effects in the licks:

This example adds a leading note before the arpeggio and then tags it with a more extensive chromatic phrase to the last note. The way this is done then it adds a nice large 5th interval skip to the line.

Until now the chromatic phrases are before or after the phrase, but of course, you can also add them inside the arpeggio which will make the line be less obvious but still give it a natural flow.

Open Up The Arpeggio

This example is built around the Am7 arpeggio using leading notes for the root, and a short enclosure for the 3rd and the 5th.

But you can also get great sounds with longer chromatic phrases:

Now the next thing you can explore is to also use inversions of the arpeggios and get a completely new set of melodies:

Turning It Upside Down

Here you have an inversion of G7:

the lick is built around this descending G7 1st inversion:

First a leading note for the 7th and then a short enclosure of the 3rd before it skips up to the root.


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Great And Simple Way To Make New Jazz Licks

I think we all know how it is: You are improvising over a song and there is a place or one chord where you always feel like you are playing the Old Jazz Guitar Licks.

One of the ways that I go about finding some new material that I like is actually pretty simple and that is what I am going to show you in this lesson.

In my experience, you are better off working on taking the things that you already know and get better at using them instead of trying to learn a million Star Trek scales that
you can’t make music, so this is actually pretty down to earth.

Very often when I listen to the jazz guitar solos that I love, like Wes on Four on Six or maybe a Kurt Rosenwinkel, then some places really stand out to me, and when I transcribed those passages they were always using very basic things but just creating great melodies with that.

So this is more about getting great melodies or licks out of basic things and that is what I am going to show you a way of exploring in this video because you can make 1000s of great licks with stuff you already know.

For this lesson I am going to take a C7 and the scale that it belongs to which will be an F major scale, so the basic framework is

And it is important to see the Arpeggio or the chord in the context of the scale (Neck Diagrams) Making music is about connecting things, not playing separate ideas one after the other.

We are making licks for a C7 so let’s first try to make some melodies just with the arpeggio and then add in the rest.

The Arpeggio works really well, but for a melody to be interesting then it probably needs to be a little less predictable than just the arpeggio.

#1 Change the order of the notes

The first two suggestions for making licks is really about knowing the arpeggio better and being freer to improvise with it. And this is what you need to work on to do that:

And you can put the 2nd bar from the example above to work on the beginning of a Blues in C:

You don’t always have to play the notes in the same order, we think of them as 1 3 5 7 but when you improvise you can play a lot of other melodies with the same notes in different orders.

#2 Inversions = New Melodies

Just like chords, there are ways you can also change the octave of some of the notes and in that way create inversions which are really just more solid melodies with the same notes.

#3 Repeating Notes

A lot of Great melodies use only arpeggios and one thing that they mostly do is that they also repeat the notes in the arpeggio, Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nacht Musik comes to mind.

In general you can just explore diffierent ways to make patterns by repeating notes as shown here below:

And if you put this to use on a Blues you have this:

#4 Add The Scale Notes

Until now, everything was done using only the arpeggio but we can also add the rest of the scale and create this exercise, which I usually refer to as the Barry Harris exercise:

If we take a few arpeggio patterns to add scale notes to then they could look like this:

And adding the scale could yield an example like this:

The 3 Things You Need To Add To A Lick To Make It Sound Like Jazz

What are the key ingredients of a Jazz Lick? What do you need to figure out to get something to sound more like Jazz?

In this video, I am going to start with a simple Pentatonic lick and then gradually add things to it to make it sound like a Jazz or Bebop line. This is useful if you want to experiment with adding some jazz ideas to your playing or if you want to check out how good you are at using some of the key Jazz Skills.

The Lick

Here’s a simple lick over a Dm7 chord using a very basic Dm pentatonic scale.
It doesn’t sound wrong, but it is also not really there as a jazz lick.

The lick is using the basic Dm pentatonic scale box 1:

#1 Arpeggios

In Jazz, and especially Bebop, the melody follows the chord progression. One way of doing that is to use the arpeggio of the chord.
When you start to work with this it quickly becomes a lot easier not to think too much in Pentatonic scales, but more in 7 note scales. In this case, I am going to use a C major scale for my D minor chord.

We are playing over a Dm7 chord so we can use that arpeggio (play the Dm7 arpeggio) and another great arpeggio is the one from the 3rd of the chord. The 3rd of Dm7 is F and the arpeggio we have there is an Fmaj7.

If we add the arpeggio then we have a lick that could sound like this:

Practicing Arpeggios

When you want to use arpeggios in your lines it is a good idea to learn them in the scale that you are playing. For this Dm7 I am using a C major scale:

And then practicing the diatonic arpeggios in that scale will be this exercise:


Another very typical Jazz thing is to use chromatic notes. You use chromatic notes that are either between two scale notes, these are called passing notes.  (play the E. Eb D fragment)
Another option is a short melody that points towards a target note. These are called enclosures. (play the enclosure

If we add those to the line then we have this :

Practicing Chromaticism and Chromatic Enclosures

There are two main ways of working with Chromaticism in lines like this one. In general, there are two types: diatonic passing notes and chromatic enclosure. Most of the time you use both types to target chord tones.

Chromatic Passing notes.

In the exercise below Iam playing diatonic approach notes to the chord tones of the Dm triad. It is a simple way to practice using leading or passing notes.

Chromatic Enclosures

Another, slightly more complicated, way to use chromaticism is to make enclosures. An Enclosure is a small melody that targets a note. Again, I am using this to target chord tones of the Dm triad.

#3 Rhythm – What Jazz Is Really About!

I think The most important part of Jazz is actually rhythm. There are many things to get right about the rhythm, but one thing to work on is to add some upbeats and upbeat accents to the melodies you play.

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Triads – How To Make Jazz Licks and what to Practice

Triads are one of the strongest melodies that we have and in this video I am going to show you some triad exercises and how you can use them to make strong and more interesting triad jazz lines. Triads are used all the time in jazz by people from Wes Montgomery to Kurt Rosenwinkel and Lage Lund and everybody else.

Every scale exercise you play should be something that is a melodic building block. It is important to remember that besides playing the right notes you also have to create strong melodies to play a good solo. 

For each of the triad ideas I will go over a lick using the inversion or pattern and I will also give you some exercises that will test your abilities with both triads and scales since some of them are really difficult to play.

Practicing Arpeggios The Right Way

One of the most effective ways to practice your arpeggios is to practice them in the scales as diatonic scale exercises. When you are improvising you are not only thinking of the arpeggio but also about the scale that surrounds, so learning the arpeggios in that context is very important.

Super-Impose Diatonic Triads

This first example is an jazz lick that demonstrates how you can super-impose diatonic triads over the chords in a II V I in C major.

On the Dm7 I am using an F major triad which is the top notes of a Dm7 chord. In general you want to check out what all the triads are against the different notes in the scale. That wil give you a lot of ideas for creating lines with this material.

The G7 bar is using the basic G triad which of course is also a great option for making lines.

Finally the Cmaj7 bar is made entirely out of super-imposed triads. Em followed by Am and finally a G major triad.

Exercises for Basic Diatonic Triads

There are two basic exercises to check out when it comes to triads. The triads in a scale position as shown here below:

And it is also very useful to practice the triads along the neck on a string set:

When playing these exercises then try to keep track of what triads you are playing.

1st Inversion Triads

A good melody to add to your vocabulary is 1st inversion triads. In this example I am using a 1st inversion Dm triad in beginning of the lick. This is followed by a 1st inversion Am triad later in that bar. Notice that the Am triad adds the 9th to the sound: Against D: Am – A(5th), C(b7), E(9th).

On the G7 the triads are coming out of the Altered scale. The first triad is a B augmented triad which is in root position. The next part of the line is a first inversion Db major triad.

For G altered (or Ab melodic minor) we have these diatonic triads:

Gdim, Abm, Bbm, Baug, Db, Eb, Fdim

On the Cmaj7 the line is using first a C major 1st inversion and then an Am first inversion triad.

1st Inversions Triad exercises

A good but also slightly difficult is to play 1st inversion triads through the scale. For me it was very difficult to think triads from the 3rd, but after a few times you also get really used to hearing the melody and the exercise becomes something you can do in the scale by ear.

The 2nd inversion Triad

The melody in example 6 relies heavily on shifting a 2nd inversion triad through first the major scale and then the harmonic minor scale.

I am using C harmonic minor on the G7, which yields a G7(b9,b13). The melodic idea starts on Dm7 with a 2nd inversion Dm triad and then I am adding a diatonic passing chord in the line by using a 2nd inversion Em triad. Adding chord movement in the melody like this can be very useful. Diatonic passing chords are great colours to have in your vocabulary

Inverted Diatonic Triads

Practicing the 2nd inversion triads in the scale position is really where you want to start with this. I always find that the beginning 4th interval in these inversions are great for a signal like sound in a jazz lick.

Melodic Patterns with Triads

As I talked about in the beginning of this lesson, it is important that you consider all these different triad ideas as different melodies. We too easily get caught up in a way of thinking that is only thinking of the colour they add to the harmony and not the melody.4

Therefore playing a triad as 3 1 5 is different from 1 3 5, and working with this will give you a lot of great options. A bonus feature is also that it makes sense as a melody but does not sound like a typical triad.

The first part of the Dm7 is again using the F major triad, but now in the 3 1 5 pattern. This is followed by a sus4 triad.

On the G7alt the line is using first an F and then a G diminished triad in 3 5 1 pattern. Notic how it does not really sound like a triad and has a lot of interesting skips because of the 5th interval from 5 to 1 in this pattern.

The Cmaj7 bar has an Am triad in a 3 1 5 pattern.

Practicing Melodic Patterns

Again it can be challenging to take a pattern like this through the scale, but it is a good exercise.

Picking Technique Challenge!

Spread triads or open voiced triads are a fantastic way to add larger intervals to your lines and still sound melodic. They are however a bit tricky to play since they consist of only large intervals. Spread Triads will work great both as arpeggios and as chords

The example starts with a Dm 1st inversion open voiced triad followed by a descending scale run.

The construction of the G7alt line is similar since it opens with an Eb 1st inversion spread triad. The Eb major triad is very colourful against the G7: Eb(b13), G(root), Bb(#9).

The Cmaj7 bar has a G major triad which is also played as a 1st inversion open-voiced or spread triad.

Triad Exercises from Hell!

Practicing Spread Triads is difficult for your right hand. I’d suggest you start by learning some basic inversions first:

And then also try to experiment with moving these through the scale like this:

Take Your Soloing to the next level

For me this was the best strategy to learn how to improvise over chord changes and really nail all the fast moving scales and chords. Using target notes was a huge help in thinking ahead and playing sensible melodies that move in a logical way to the next chord.

It is also the approach that has helped a lot of my students in getting this essential skill into their playing.

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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.

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