Tag Archives: jazz guitar phrasing

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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Jazz Phrasing – The 3 Simple Things That Will Make You Sound Better

I am sure you know this feeling: You are playing the right notes, the arpeggios, chromatic passing notes but it still doesn’t sound like Jazz even when you play a lick you transcribed from one of your favorite jazz guitarists.

The 3 things I am covering in this video and especially how they tie together with the last exercise are things you need to develop if you want to learn to sound like Jazz when you improvise.

Take Control of the Note

When I am giving feedback to the students in my course “The Jazz Guitar Roadmap” then this is one of the most common things that I have to point out, but It is also a thing that you can easily fix and very quickly makes you sound a lot better, and almost nobody talks about this.

Jazz is about rhythm and what most people don’t think about is that when you solo, then each note has two points of rhythm, and they are both important.

What I mean is that a note is placed somewhere in the bar, that is the first rhythm but the other part of the rhythm is also going to make or break how it sounds: Where does it end? How long is that note?

When you are playing a Jazz solo then this is especially important at the end of the phrase, and most guitar players have a very bad habit: You ALWAYS end on long notes. Mainly because you spent a lot of time practicing playing legato and having a beautiful sustain, and once you can then you don’t think about it. And that sounds like this:

And if you compare that to this:

Then I am sure you can hear the difference.

And this is really easy to fix:

  • Take a song that you know really well and start soloing keeping it simple and easy 
  • Focus on not letting notes ring at the end of the phrase and tighten it up.

Of course, there are many times that you want to let a note ring at the end of a phrase, but you should train yourself to hear the phrase and whether it should be a long note or a short note, it should be a choice, not just the habit of letting notes ring.

Practicing like this will break the bad habit!

There is also another way of getting this skill into your playing but I will return to that later in the video.

This Is Why It Is Called Bebop

“It is impossible to play rhythms like that when I have to think about the arpeggios and chromatic notes!”

This is a response that I have gotten quite often from students, in real lessons, and online. And it is true that when you are using a lot of energy to come up with the line you want to play then it is very difficult to also worry about the rhythm. But you can develop that skill if you approach it in the right way, and it is both not that difficult and something that really will improve how your solos sound.

What I am talking about here is ending phrases on the offbeat, which is in fact where we got the name Bebop.

Naturally, you are probably more inclined to end a phrase on a heavy beat, so this often takes some training, but you can work on it. Another similar part of phrasing is a little more complicated, but I will also give you some really good exercises for that right after this.

3 Exercises To Help You Play “Bebop”

There are a 3 different ways you can work on ending phrases like this:

#1 Start with a simple song or progression that you know very well, maybe a blues or an easy standard. Then practice playing short phrases that end on the offbeat. Keep it simple and short so that you can focus on the rhythm

#2 Learn some Bebop Themes and try to take over rhythms from them. You can turn most Bop themes into great exercises for rhythm in this way and they are anyway very useful to check out for a lot of other reasons.

Let’s take the beginning of Au Privave as an example

And you can take that and use it as a motif in a solo like this:

 

#3 Take a lick that is a short and clear example and work on making variations on that, like this Wes Lick:

Now, Wes is great for this because he often plays shorter phrases and is very motivic and has excellent taste in rhythm.

You can move this around on a Blues as well, and like the other exercises, this will teach you how to hear the right type of phrases and in that way, it will begin to become a part of how you play.

The Secret To Great 8th Note Lines

Before I got into Jazz, I remember one night when I was a kid, going from channel to channel on the TV and ending up watching some random Jazz guitar concert on TV, and it sounded like endless rows of 8th notes weaving through the song

I have no idea what or who I was watching that time, but I found it fascinating that anybody wanted to play like that and I was also really aware that they really wanted it to be like that. But there is a lot more to a great jazz solo than just playing long 8th note lines.

Not all 8th notes are created equal, and not all melodies are created to be great Jazz lines.

One of the most difficult things to learn in Jazz is to learn to phrase 8th-note lines and especially learn to improvise lines that allow you to get the right rhythms in there by accenting some of the notes. My old teacher, Eef Albers, used to refer to it as making the lines dance.

So how do you learn this?

There is one rule which isn’t really a rule it is more of a guideline, and you can use that to find candidates for some of those accents.

A note can get an accent if it is:

  • Not on the beat and,
  • Higher than the next note in the line

So you want to learn to make melodies that have high notes on the offbeat.

A consequence of the guideline is also that if you play a descending line then you can pretty much choose whatever note you want to and give that an accent.

Before you start turning your solos into real-time sudoku solving then you could also just ease into it by going through some simple exercises that help you hear phrases like that and then start making variations on those keeping in mind how they need to be phrased.

You can use these exercises as blueprints and try to make different versions and fit them on other chords, especially the last one which is also a must-know melodic technique for playing Bebop.

Exercise 1 – This is a basic arpeggio melody. I am using the arpeggio from the 3rd, Em7, but it will work for the Cmaj7 arpeggio too. This way of playing the arpeggio gives you a natural accent on the 1&

Exercise 2 – Here I am is using a descending C major triad and then adding a scale note above the 5th to get a note that you can accent

 

The Triad from the 3rd can also be played so that it creates a nice accent on the 2& like this:

And of course, a lesson on Jazz and Bebop phrasing would not be complete without an example of octave-displacement:

This honeysuckle rose or octave-displaced Cmaj7 arpeggio in this exercise gives you a great accent and change of direction on the 2& which makes the line much more interesting as a melody.

What You Should Really Learn From The Masters

The thing that you must develop to improve your phrasing is to hear the right melodies that can be phrased in the right way. Now, besides these exercises then a great way to really dive into that is to learn solos by ear, and that is simply because when you work on learning a solo then you really listen intensely to the phrases and you start absorbing not only the lines but also the phrasing and timing, so working on that is also a great way to improve your phrasing.

The Bebop Secret

The most important thing to take away from this is that the phrasing is depending on the melody, and you need to learn to play the right type of melodies in your solos if you want to play with better phrasing. Bebop is one of the clearest examples of this and if you want to play better bebop melodies and really nail that beautiful Jazz phrasing then check out this video on the Bebop Secret which will teach you how to use octave displacement in your solos in many different ways that all work great for your phrasing.

Bebop Magic – One Of The Best And Most Difficult Things About Jazz

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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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Jazz Phrasing Techniques – How To Get A Better Jazz Flow

Jazz is a musical language, we talk about learning vocabulary and learning phrasing all the time. But I do see a lot of students only
practicing what notes to play and really missing out on how to learn to phrase so it sounds like jazz.

So let’s say that you can make a line like this one:

It sounds good, but it sounds a lot better if you play it like this:

That’s what I want to talk about in this lesson!

Listen for the phrasing and the techniques used

First I am going to give you some examples of the different techniques you can use and then I am going to go over how you can start using it in your own playing for arpeggios, jazz blues and making scale runs much more interesting.

In a way this is a video on legato technique, but it is really more about how you use it make better lines.

How does it make it sound better?

In the example below I am using a slide to move from the chromatic leading note to the root. This brings out the more interesting chromatic note that “doesn’t fit” and it makes the resolution more subtle.

At the end of the 1st bar you can see a 3 note grouping starting on G. The pull-off gives the G an accent which sits well in the groove. The next phrase is the same phrase that is move down a half step and executed in the same way. This shifts the 3-note group but also ties together the line across the two chords.

The trill on beat 3 of the 2nd bar is also a way to add movement in the 8th note line.

More rhythm, more phrasing!

The example here below uses some of the same techniques but is a lot less dense.

The G# leading note is sliding up to the A, again using the concept of bringing out the “interesting” chromatic note and not the resolution. This is also what happens at the end of the line going to G.

The pull-off in the triplet is here more functioning as a way to make the melody more playable.

How do you get this into your own playing

For you to start working with this type of phrasing and techniques you should start looking at the lines you make and spot how you can add to the phrasing.

Example 4a here below is a really basic Gm7:

This can be embellished with a leading note as shown in 4b which makes it sound a lot better:

Adding Dynamics to spice it up

Legato is a great way to add some dynamics and make a lick less monotonous.

Try playing this line:

Instead of playing this by picking each note and make it pretty even you can add a lot of life to it and get it to sound a lot better:

A key ingredient of Jazz Blues

Using grace notes and slides are really what makes Blues work in Jazz lines. Try to listen to these two ways of playing the same melody, first with and then with out the embellishing phrasing:

And without:

Leading notes to arpeggios

A great and easy way to add some interesting phrasing is to use leading notes. This works especially well with arpeggios as shown in the example below, where I am adding an F# in front of the Gm7 arpeggio.

Keep it practical

If you want to practice this then you could explore exercises like this one. Notice how I am using slides in some places and hammer-ons in others. It really just depends on what is easier to use in each case.

Making your scale runs more fun to play

Scale runs can quickly become boring. In this section you have two licks with scale runs and I will shouw you how to make add some more movement with simple embellishments.

Example 7 has a scale run in the 1st half of the bar. This is turned into a triplet rhythm with a slide and hammer on/pull-off. What really helps here is also that the direction now changes within the run so it is less predictable.

Example 8a and 8b use a similar approach for the first part of the bar. Here the scale run also introduces a larger interval from D up to the G on beat 3.

Build your own phrasing!

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Jazz Phrasing – This is what you want to know

You problably know the feeling of trying to come up or with lines and then even though you know the notes are right it is impossible to get it to sound like jazz.

In this video I am going to show you some things that you need to be aware of when trying to come up with lines and which will help you jazz phrasing really a lot. One thing that is really interesting about this is that it is actually possible to write jazz licks that really are not possible to phrase well.
This is about how you play the notes and a little about which notes you play, and for me it was really a huge part of getting my bop lines to sound good.

How to learn good Jazz Phrasing

I am going to cover two things: First how to write lines like this and later I’ll talk about how to hear it in examples and get it into your system so that you don’t have to think about it, because that is what you eventually want to have. Phrasing is something you hear and feel not something you think about while you are playing.

The Lick that doesn’t swing

Have a look at this lick: Harmony is clear, the notes are mostly chord tones.  Target notes make sense but it sounds heavy.

This line has direction and it spells out the chords, but the melody sounds heavy because it asks for accents on the heavy beats: 1 and 3. There is no place where we have a not popping out to make it dance.

In short: That sounds more like Megadeth than Charlie Parker.

Writing better line with Better Phrasing

Luckily you probably already have a good idea about how a good jazz solo sounds. If you try to sing the phrasing of that then you get a much more.

If you pay attentiont to what you are singing and slow that down then you start to notice that the accents in the phrase are not on the beat, so accents are on the off-beat

In Jazz, or bebop, the accents are naturally on the off beats. The question is then how do you make melodies where you can create those accents.

Let’s look at an example:

In the example above the accents are the higher notes in the phrase, so the C on 1-and plus the A on the 3-and.

The rule you want to notice here is:

If a note is higher (in pitch) than the following note and not on the beat. Then you can give it an accent.

In the line above there are therefore two notes that can get an accent. 

Using your technique to make it easier to phrase

Very often the easiest way to accent something is not to play that note a lot louder but instead to play the surrounding notes a little softer. Using legato is a great way to naturally do that.

The way I use this is to pick the note that gets an accent and then use a pull-off to play the following (lower) notes.

Another example of a line where this strategy will give it a natural phrasing is shown below:

Bebop Phrasing on a II V I

Of course this way of thinking and using this rule can also be applied to a complete II V I lick as shown below.

You will notice that the accents are on 4-and in bar 1 and on 2-and in bar 2. The line also ends with a classic “bebop” phrase where the descending interval is the sound that gave the genre it’s name.

Learning to hear good phrasing

Besides writing lines it is also important to listen to great solos and it can be useful to analyze transcriptions to find places where there are accents in the solo.

Be sure to listen to bebop and hardbop artists to get the most out of this. You also want to keep in mind that even if you don’t analyze it then just hearing good phrasing in huge amounts will also help you a lot. 

How Wes Montgomery Gets it Right

As an example of an analysis of a solo let’s have a look at the opening phrase from Wes Montgomerys solo on Four on Six off the Smokin’ at the half note album.

The first part of the pickup is a sliding 5th interval which is on the beat. This is not a bebop 8th note line so or ideas about accents doesn’t really apply.

The next phrase is a Gm pentatonic phrase an here Wes is playing 8th notes. The phrase is essentially a descending scale run and he does in fact accent the top note (a C).

The ascending arpeggio that follows does not allow any accents, but the descending Dm triad in bar 3 does, and here the first note does get an accent.

The way to better phrasing

For me it was a combination of knowing how to phrase bebop themes and lines, composing lines with the accents in the right place and certainly also training my ears by listening and playing along with great examples. 

I would suggest you find a way to mix in all of those approaches if you are working on your phrasing.

A short cut to improve your Bebop Phrasing

One way to speed up the process could be to check out this webstore lesson with analysis and examples of lines that are easy to play and have great phrasing.

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Economy Picking Licks – This is my solution to the Problems

Economy Picking is a great strategy if you play the phrases that are the most difficult on the guitar: 1 note per string structures like arpeggios.

You do however have to be careful with timing and phrasing when you work with this technique. It can really mess up the groove and does not really lend it self to good phrasing.

How To Learn Economy Picking

In this video I am going to go over some of the ways that I use Economy picking in my playing. I will go over 5 Economy Picking Licks, both Modal and II V I. For each lick I also have an exercise and some suggestions on how to achieve good phrasing and timing while working with this technique.

If you are familiar with my playing you will probably have seen how often I use economy picking in my playing and rely on it for cascading arpeggios, fast diatonic triad runs etc. All solid material that you want to have in your vocabulary.

Lick #1 Modal Cascading Arpeggios

The first example is on an Am7 chord using the Dorian sound. So the notes of the G major scale.

Three things to notice about this lick:

  • The Arpeggios are Em7, Cmaj7 and Am7 (so diatonic arpeggios in 3rds distance)
  • The Lick divides the bars in 2 beats, 3 and 3 beats
  • The first and highest note of each arpeggio is a down stroke (and an accented note)

Practicing Descending Arpeggios

In order to get this type of playing into your fingers it is useful to just take one simple arpeggio shape and work on getting that precise, well articulated and easy to play.

Practicing the exercise here below is a great way to work on this:

Here the repeated arpeggio and switching between alternate picking and economy let’s you develop the economy and always reference the clear articulation of alternate picking. 

Lick #2 – Forgotten 2-string Triads

Using sweeping or economy picking on two strings is something that is often overlooked, but it is a great approach to play patterns like this.

The lick below is using this technique to play diatonic D altered scale triads: Ab, Bb and Cdim. Really spelling out the altereations on the D7alt.

Notice how the alternate picking is turned around on the Em7 arpeggio in the first bar. While it is good to keep consistent with down strokes on down beats it is something that you will deviate from along the way whenever it is better for the phrasing and the execution of a phrase.

Practicing 2-string Triads

The exercise below is again taking a single triad and then working on getting that to be easy to play. Then you can move on to diatonic triads up the neck.

Once this is easy then try moving on to this exercise:

Lick #3 – Polyrhythmic ideas with Economy Picking

As you already saw in the previous examples arpeggios can be really useful in creating patterns that move on top of the beat. Both with 3 and 6 notes.

This example is using 4 notes but is changing the rhythm so that the arpeggio is 3 8th notes long. This gives the phrase a dotted quarter note effect that nicely breaks up the song.

The lick is using one arpeggio on the Am7 that is changing the top note. The two arpeggios are a first inverion Am7 and a Cmaj7. The arpeggio is voice-lead into a D7 altered (where it becomes a Cm7b5 arpeggio.

Lick #4 Quartal Harmony 

Another type of arpeggio that is a great addition to especially your modern jazz vocabulary. In this lick I am using descending 3-part quartal arpeggios on a II V I in Bb. Again making use of the 3 note groupings.

The Al Di Meola exercise

The technique I am using here is derived from a technique that a student of mine came with off an Al Di Meola video.

I don’t remember if it was the ascending or the descending version of it, but these two exercises demonstrates the principle for 3 string patterns.

Lick #5 Modal Pentatonic Patterns

Besides arpeggios Economy picking works really well for patterns in the pentatonic scale. Very often Pentatonic patterns consist of 1 note per string ideas which is ideal for sweeping or economy picking approaches.

In this case the pattern is 2 strings and the picking pattern is similar to the triads in Lick #2

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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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