Tag Archives: jazz guitar phrasing exercises

5 Lazy Ways To Make Your Jazz Solo Sound 10x Better (In 8 minutes)

Imagine if there were 5 short licks that you can already play that would make your solos sound 10x better!

If you are trying to sound more like Jazz when you solo then you have probably run into this problem:

You can play an arpeggio:

and you can play a scale:

and you can put it together to a lick that fits the chords but…

It doesn’t sound right, even though the notes are all “perfect” and “correct”, Now what? Let me show you!

#1 Make Your Arpeggios Swing!

This is about rhythm even with examples like this that are all 8th notes. And you need the right melody to get the right rhythm. It also turns out that another major part of it is surprisingly enough technique.

other cam:

I have to admit that I wish my teachers had given me stuff like this when I was starting, that could have made phrasing so much easier.

back:

The first lick I want you to use is the first half of the bar, which is just an Em7 arpeggio:

Lazy Lick #1

You can play any arpeggio like this, and it will always sound great! Here’s a G7 arpeggio with a resolution:

Or maybe a C6 arpeggio, it doesn’t really matter:

It’s just a way to play an arpeggio, it’s lazy and doesn’t take a lot of work. Notice that you use legato-technique, the pull-off, and this exact melody to get an accent on the 2nd note of the arpeggio which makes it pop and sound a lot better.

And that is part of getting your solos to sound like Jazz: You want to have high notes on offbeats that get an accent. In the beginning when you are just learning arpeggios and soloing then you end up sounding like this:

You can tell how that is kinda heavy, but adding this way of playing arpeggios to your solos can lighten that up.

Let’s use that on a complete II V I just to hear it in action. I am using it in two places but the last one is making a variation of the rhythm as well.

For me, a few clear examples like this and some guidance on how to phrase them plus maybe some Grant Green solos as homework could have done a LOT for my phrasing early on, but don’t get me wrong I am very grateful to my teachers for all the stuff I learned, but this one thing, that wasn’t really there….

Let’s go to another similar trick that is even easier to play!

#2 Make Your Arpeggios Swing More!

So it is about having that high-note on an off-beat which you then can give an accent. Here’s the 2nd lazy way to do that, it is super simple! I’m using an Fmaj7 arpeggio:

Lazy Lick #2

I am playing this one with legato as well, but you don’t have to. In a way, it is funny that this is about using that a pull-off is naturally softer than a picked note(play the pull off) so we pick the note on the offbeat and the technique makes the following note softer which makes the phrasing better.

For me, that is the opposite of what I try to achieve with legato playing , since I try to get everything as even as possible.

This lick is easy to use and gives your lines a nice natural flow, I am using the Fmaj7 over a Dm7 chord, so the arpeggio from the 3rd:

Let me explain the arpeggio from the 3rd with this chart, it is incredibly useful:

Notice that I am using a pull-off to give the chromatic note on the G7 an accent. This arpeggio building block is also great for moving from one chord to the next which makes it very easy to use in a lot of songs. Check out how the Bø arpeggio resolves to Cmaj7 in the next example and how I am using the Am7 arpeggio on the Dm7 chord to add dynamics in that bar:

Let me know how you feel about this, for me, just being aware of this already started to fix a lot of heavy phrasing in my playing, and made me able to hear it much more clearly when I am listening to solos which is maybe just as important! Lazy learning is just always a bonus! Let’s explore some triad tricks!

#3 Triads + Secret Ingredient

Start with a basic triad like this Dm triad:

Now let’s make that sound about 100x more like a Jazz lick:

And if you play that then this next part almost naturally falls out of your hands!

And here you have the same phrase sounding great with the C major triad on the Cmaj7 chord

The next phrase is really simple but also very effective!

#4 Scale and A Half-step

Lazy solutions are nice! We’re just trying to create a short phrase with a high note on ether 1& or 2&, so why not just use a scale melody? Maybe with a leading note just to spice it up a bit!

The accent is easy enough, and you can of course move this around to other chords, but maybe the Bø is a bit awkward:

It is pretty easy to make a line with this, I’m adding a triplet on the G7 just for a bit of variation as well:

And check out how this next one uses the F and C versions of this scale phrase (play) plus some of the previous 7th chord arpeggio tricks

First the Scale phrase from F, then the ascending Fmaj7 arpeggio which gives you the accent on 4& but also leads to the G7 phrase which is now starting on the 5th. On the resolution to Cmaj7 you have the scale phrase from C with added A to just round it off in a nice way.

Let’s take a look at an easy way to play “the most Bebop sounding arpeggio” which, of course, also has a nice phrasing accent in there!

#5 The Easy Pivot Arpeggio

You might know this from other videos that I have made, this melody:

is an Fmaj7 pivot arpeggio. It is a Bebop Superpower! The term pivot arpeggio is something that I learned from Barry Harris.

It doesn’t immediately look like an Fmaj7 arpeggio which would be:

But the concept is that you play the first note, the F and then you move the rest of the arpeggio down an octave which gives you:

And if you follow the counterpoint rules then after the ascending arpeggio part you want to continue with a descending stepwise motion, so in this case from E down to D. Which gives you that high note on 2& and an accent and it is also just a beautiful melody and great example of octave displacement:

Barry taught this exercise by playing both the normal arpeggio with that resolution and then the pivot through the scale:

But to keep it easy, or lazy, then just focus on the maj7 arpeggio which is both the one that is used the most and which is pretty easy to play if you do it like this on two strings. And this gives you some of the most melodic bebop lines:

But as you know then there are two maj7 chords in C major: Fmaj7 and Cmaj7 so you can also use the Cmaj7 pivot arpeggio on that chord. That could give you this much more syncopated example:

Study Barry Harris to Learn Bebop!

As you can tell, Barry Harris is a great place to level up your Bebop and not only learn scales and arpeggios but also learn how to turn that into beautiful vocabulary that you can use in your solos. One of the most powerful things that he teaches which has really transformed my playing and is also another shortcut for better phrasing is how he adds chromatic passing notes to phrases. I talk about that in this video and it is easily 100x better than Bebop scales, which I anyway really don’t like, I explain why in the video, check it out. Learn Jazz Make Music!

Why Barry Harris’ Approach Is So Much Better Than Bebop Scales!

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5 Things That Ruin ALL Jazz Beginner Solos

The Roadblock

This is such a common roadblock when you are just getting started with Jazz:

You are practicing scales and arpeggios, but getting that to sound right in a solo is very difficult, and the only help you can find is adding more complicated and weird things which doesn’t really solve the problem and just gives you more scales and arpeggios to practice.

Avoid Scale Solos

Most of the time, The problem is that your solos sound too much like you are just running up and down scales, which is maybe “correct” but also pretty boring and predictable

B-roll: list over “I will show you some simple…” Arpeggios, Interval Skips, Rhythm, Phrasing”

As you can hear, everything is moving stepwise and nothing is really happening. To fix this you need to get better at using scales and arpeggios more creatively. I will show you some simple strategies for that in this video, without throwing scales, chromatic passing chords, and super-imposed pentatonics at you. (Tony Stark eye roll)

#1 Arpeggios Can Be Nice (but use them the right way)

The first thing to add is arpeggios, since the previous example didn’t have any arpeggios, and they already help to break up lines that are only scale movement, but you want to use them in the right way.

A “rule” that I see quite often online for Jazz is arpeggio up, scale down.

That is very similar to a counterpoint rule for melodic tension which says that a leap in one direction is resolved by motion in the opposite direction. (show example with arrows or lines) That counterpoint rule is a good one for a stable melody, but later I’ll show you some examples where great Jazz lines break some of the counterpoint rules.

Arpeggio up/scale down is pretty easy to play, just watch out that it isn’t the only thing you do with arpeggios. Here I am using it going from Dm7 to G7:

But you can also change things up by inserting a descending arpeggio and treat it as a “break” from a scale run. You play the arpeggio and then go back up to the note below the note you started on. Here I am using that over the Dm7 chord and using another useful trick: the arpeggio from the 3r, in this case that’s an Fmaj7 arpeggio. Just to quickly explain that. If you look at the notes of Dm7 and Fmaj7 you can see that 3 of the notes are the same and the only difference is the E which is a 9th against Dm7, which sounds great.

You can do this with most chords, and it just means that you have several arpeggios available for any chord you solo over.

You may have noticed that I sometimes have other ways of not playing scale runs in the last two examples, I’ll get to those later as well. Another way to use an arpeggio is to play it as a triplet which is a great way to change up the flow with rhythm. In this example you also want to notice how I am using the descending arpeggio melody that I just showed you but now with the arpeggio from the 3rd of G7, Bø:

#2 Simple, Flexible and Incredibly Powerful

Before we get to the very simple melodic technique that breaks the counterpoint rule then I want to show you what I used at the beginning of the 2nd example to create this:

and a sneaky variation of it is also what I am using in the 3rd example going from Dm7 to G7

One of the most important parts of the sound of good Bop-inspired Jazz lines, is that they have surprising twists and turns but they also have direction, and that is what I am using here: Enclosures, which is an incredibly deep topic, and something that helps you create great lines on scale melodies, arpeggios and triads!

On the Dm7 line, I start on the A and then instead of moving directly down to F which would be the next note in the arpeggio there are two notes placed around the F, E under it, and G above it. PLAY and what makes it even more powerful is that the enclosure moves up from E to G while the melody is moving from A down to F, so it has both the forward motion and a surprising change of direction.

The easiest way to work on this is to use 2-note chromatic enclosures on the arpeggio, because they are the most flexible and the easiest to play. The concept is simple: a diatonic note above the chord tone and a chromatic note below, so for a Dm7 arpeggio, E above & C# below, resolving to D. G above and E below, resolving to F and so on.

The entire exercise is this:

and you can play it descending as well:

And just using this on the arpeggio gives you solid lines that are anything but boring. Here I am using the enclosure around F and D on Dm7 and also around the B on G7

Let’s have a look at how Bebop breaks some counterpoint rules, and then start talking about how you get this information into your playing because that may not be obvious.

#3 Breaking The Counterpoint Rules

In many ways then Bebop and Jazz lines are closely related to the language of Bach, and the rule that I mentioned about resolving a leap in one direction by moving in the opposite direction does sound quite natural and fits a lot of Jazz lines. Think of the Ellington ending:

But the interval of a minor 6th is not allowed so it is, in that way, breaking the rules, and that descending minor 6th is a great sound for Jazz lines.

Jazz also doesn’t have a problem with parallel 5ths and a few other things but counterpoint was also created for polyphonic vocal music so that isn’t that surprising.

The descending 6th interval can be used as an incredible sound! A simple version of it is to insert it between the half-steps in the scale, in C major that would be between the C and the B, where you can place an E and between the F and the E where it is an A.

And these interval skips are great for Bebop and used all over the place! There are more options but for this I’ll stick with these two. Check out how I first use the interval skip and then two enclosures on Dm7 following that up with the descending arpeggio technique on G7:

The Practice Strategy

By now, you should be wondering how you internalize material like this. You probably noticed that I am not really giving you specific licks it is more like recipes for melodies that you can move around and use to create your own licks.

You could look at getting this into your playing as a 3-step process where the 2nd one is probably often left out, and the reason you won’t get it into your playing:

#1 Exercises

First, you need to take care of any exercises like practicing the scales, be able to play the arpeggios or enclosures

#2 Compose/internalize

Start composing lines with the topic you are working on, so take a single thing and start making lines.

You want to be able to play the lines you come up with in time, but the biggest focus should be on making a lot of lines. That is where you learn something and where you start to hear the melodies that you want to get into your playing.

Keep it simple and don’t try to do only new things because you want to connect the new things to what you already play so that it becomes a flexible and active part of your vocabulary, not something you have to think about.

#3 Put It To Practice

Take a song you know very well and start soloing while you focus on using the new melodic technique or piece of vocabulary that you want to get into your playing.

Most of the time, students underestimate the benefit of writing tons of licks and exploring the material in that way, so pay attention to that while you practice and be a little patient. Keep in mind that Barry Harris taught Bebop by writing licks and explaining the lines. Composing licks can also be great for developing your rhythm and your phrasing, let’s look at that.

#4 The Curse Of Heavy Beats

Keeping up with the changes is very difficult in the beginning, and often we try to hit target notes on beat one whenever the chords change to make it clear to ourselves that we are following the harmony. This is an important skill, but it is not really great for your rhythm so here are two things you should try to work on that helps lighten it up:

#1 don’t stop on beat 1

When you end the line, in this case that makes most sense on the Cmaj7, in the II V I, then continue into the bar and try to end on an offbeat like I do here, and see if you can spot all the other stuff from this video that I use:

This example actually uses the next thing when going from Dm7 to G7:

#2 Resolve on 4&

Try to resolve to the chord on 4& to anticipate the chord change,

again adding forward motion and energy to the line. This is something where it makes sense to spend time composing lines to get it into your ears and into your playing. And in the example, notice how the enclosure is used to help the transition from Dm7 to G7

#5 Technique for Dynamics

The Phrasing is where the music is, and when it comes to phrasing in Jazz then one of the most important parts is the dynamics in the line, and you can use technique to make that easier. This is probably also why so many Jazz guitarists mix a lot of different techniques when they play: It is the most efficient way to get the right phrasing.

For the dynamics then two techniques are great to incorporate: slides and legato.

Here’s an example without any phrasing:

and here it is with some added phrasing techniques, and notice that I tend to use techniques so that I pick a note on the offbeat and make that louder than the note that follows on a downbeat:

I am sure you can hear the difference. When you start working on this then try to find some simple licks where you have a high note on an off-beat, like this way of playing a Dm7 arpeggio:

Or using a pull-off from an offbeat in a descending scale run like this which also makes it easier to play for your right hand:

The Biggest Mistakes Learning Jazz

One of the most difficult moments I ever experienced on a stage in front of an audience is tied to a myth, something that people sometimes will say but that isn’t true. It is easy to waste practice time on stuff like that and you can better focus on actually learning how to play and building the skills you need. I tell the story of that failure on stage and some of the other concepts that you should not waste your time on in this video! Check it out!

Jazz Beginner – 5 Myths That Waste Your Time

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3 Jazz Phrasing Problems You Need To Fix In Your Playing

You probably already figured out that knowing scales, arpeggios, and Jazz chords is not really enough to be able to play a great Jazz Solo.

It can be frustrating and seem like magic when you listen to great jazz phrases like Wes or George Benson but there are ways to work on this, and it is not magic, it is just a bit of work.

But you will sound better if you fix it!

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Content:

00:00 Intro

00:23 The First Thing You (Anyway) Should Start Doing

01:09 How Swing 8th Notes Sound

02:33 Make Your Phrases And Phrasing More Interesting

04:34 Overdrive/Distortion in Jazz – Here’s the problem

04:48 Don’t End On The Beat All The Time

05:53 Ending On Long Notes.

06:54 The Types of Practice That Helps Phrasing

07:30 More Exercises for Phrasing and Swing-feel

07:37 Like the video? Check out my Patreon page!

 

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