Tag Archives: jazz guitar licks lesson

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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