Tag Archives: jazz guitar scales

The 3 Guitarists I Wish I Checked Out As A Jazz Beginner

There is a downside to how we teach Jazz now, on one hand, it is very efficient and helps internalize important skills, but on the other hand, it is often very focused not taught using real music and teaching how others played which helps you understand the music in a broader way and also teach you other important things at the same time. There are a few guitarists that I was not really aware of while I was learning and didn’t discover until much later, but I think they could really have taught me some useful things and made learning Jazz easier. The 3 guitarists are sort of split into periods: one that is mostly before Bebop, one that is in the creation, and one that plays Bebop. I’ll talk about how one of them in a way is a bit like Van Halen 😁

#1 The Father of Bebop?

When I started out playing Jazz guitar, I was still studying Mathematics at the University of Århus. I was actually pretty lucky to get some pretty solid recommendations from my classical guitar teacher Morten Skott. This meant that I was not only listening to Charlie Parker who I had just discovered, but also had cheap compilation cd’s with Wes Montgomery and Charlie Christian. And even though I am talking about people that I didn’t really check out in this video, then I did actually learn some Charlie Christian solos by ear from that compilation cd, the problem with that was that while I could figure out some of his phrases and a few entire solos, at least I hope I got it right since I don’t really remember what I checked out, then I had no idea what the songs were or how to play them, and my theory was not good enough to tell me anything, so they were just solos and phrases I could play not even really knowing what key I was in.

My favorite from that album was Seven Come Eleven which is a really typical swing riff composition.

The main theme is:

So very rhythmic, repetitive, and only a few notes.

PLAY

I probably liked this because it was easier to understand and made more sense to me than some of the other tracks which had really interesting phrases with shifting dim runs like “Good Enough To Keep” Which has phrases like:

Of course, that is not really THAT complicated, but it was very far away from Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Rage Against The Machine which is where I was coming from.

The Solo from Seven Come Eleven is a great example of what I later felt I had missed:

As I already showed you then there are more complicated and dense phrases in Charlie Christian solos, but I really think that this lighter more sparse playing is something that really helps you get the rhythms to sound right, also later when you start playing longer bop lines.

All this stuff where it is just a few or even one note that is interesting because of the rhythm

And this is really just one area of the neck and strong basic Ab or Ab7 vocabulary to learn.

You can get so much from checking this out; I have also often used it with students.

The People who came after Charlie Christian

Charlie Christian was a huge influence on all of Jazz guitar, and when I listen to him now then I really hear how Barney Kessel was influenced by him, I believe they also met at one point, but I am not sure if that is true.

Let’s check out another guitarist that is criminally overlooked!

#2 Sideman of A Giant

I guess sometimes when you work with really famous artists as a sideman you end up standing in the shadow of them and not getting noticed. I think that sort of happened to Oscar Moore who is probably best known as “the guitarist of Nat King Cole” maybe a bit like George Martin being the 5th Beatle, but that is hard to say.

The Nat King Cole Trio stuff with Oscar Moore is from the mid-40s until the beginning of the 50s and since Nat King Cole was both an amazing musician and a commercial success, then a lot of the songs are short takes with a single or a half chorus of solo for the guitar.

This makes them fairly easy to learn, and Oscar Moore solos always have a lot of solid lines, but also some interesting phrasing. Check out this solo from Sweet Lorraine:

I sometimes feel that these shorter solos are really more similar to a solo that you might find in a pop or rock song, which I guess the song also was when it was released in 1940-something.

There are some solid simple melodies in this, and actually a fair amount of blues,

but also some stuff that is really a lot more about effects and surprising sounds. In this case by being very intervallic,

He also used long slides, bends, tremolo picking, and stuff like that to have different sounds.

That part of it pretty much disappeared when Jazz became more serious with Bebop and was supposed to be real art. Here it almost reminds me of stuff you might hear in a Van Halen or Steve Vai solo, where the sound is sometimes as important as the notes.

It’s more about sounds than about a longer melody, and since I am anyway making this a hottake then maybe Ellington’s saxophone player, Johnny Hodges also is an example of someone using phrasing and effects like that.

Keep in mind that I am not really saying anything about whether this is good or bad music, I am just showing you an aspect of their playing where they are similar. You can get rid of your anger in the comment section if it offends you that Johnny Hodges and Van Halen are similar.

In the case of Oscar Moore, it sort of makes some of his material more modern, and less Bebop because Bebop is much more about flow, and some of his phrases are intervallic and sort of the opposite of flowing, probably also because he wanted to not sound like the melody that had just been sung.

I felt that I learned a lot from how Oscar Moore mixes the different things in these short solos and Nat King Cole is fantastic both as a piano player and a vocalist! Another thing worth mentioning is that if you check out later Oscar Moore stuff then you really hear him develop with the times and start playing altered scale and more Bebop-influenced lines, similar to the next guitarist.

#3 The Shortcut To Bebop

This solo actually always makes me happy. Grant Green is probably the one of the 3 that I ended up spending the most time with, mainly because I have given his solos to a lot of students for them to learn Bebop vocabulary, and that is also how I heard this solo the first time, and how I discovered the standards album that he made. For guitarists then there probably is no better place to learn Bebop than Grant Green, his lines are absolutely incredibly melodic and his vocabulary is solid Bebop, and I am saying that while I still don’t like his tone on this album, but you can complain about that in the comments, first, check this out:

Within these 8 bars you have so many great things!

3 variations of  using the arpeggio from the 3rd of the chord: Ebmaj7 over Cm7:

Bdim over G7:

and on Aø over F7:

A great pivot arpeggio with some chromaticism on Bbmaj7:

A line cliche turned into a bebop lick in the 2nd line with some really nice phrasing embellishments:

 

 

The King Of Bebop Guitar

And this is in 8-bars, and there are several places like this in the solo. The greatest thing about this is that he manages to make Bebop lines playable on guitar and still makes great music. If you want to develop that side of your playing then he is where you need to go next.  Especially how he mastered adding pivot arpeggios and large intervals to his playing and in that way not sounding like he is just running up and down scales, there are techniques for this that you can start using. 4 of the most common variations are all in the solo that I talk about in this video and that can really breathe new life into your Bop vocabulary and give you some fresh melodic ideas. The solo is on another standard: You Stepped Out Of A Dream

I Wish I Had Checked Out This Guy! His Solos Are Jazz 101 On Guitar

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I Wish Every Jazz Beginner Could Watch This!

You Are Practicing Arpeggios Wrong

Everyone on the internet and every guitar teacher you ever met probably told you to practice arpeggios.

But I remember spending hours practicing arpeggios and not really being able to do anything with them. Being able to play them doesn’t mean that you get them to sound great in my solos. It feels like you might be wasting your time

Luckily that isn’t too difficult to fix, and I’ll show you 7 ways you can turn any arpeggio into a solid Jazz line!  It is not super difficult, and really more about how you think about the arpeggios.

You can build all of this around a single exercise, because when you are starting out with Jazz then there is a right and a wrong way to practice arpeggios, and I would also suggest that you skip inversions for now but I will explain that later.

In Jazz, you mostly use arpeggios that are one octave, so it doesn’t really make a ton of sense to spend a lot of time practicing complete positions, instead,  you will be more efficient practicing them in a scale position as diatonic arpeggios.

That is the way you will hear them used the most in Jazz solos, and it is also a way to connect them to the scale and the other notes that they work together with, it covers a lot of stuff you will need along the way. I learned this exercise from Barry Harris and that is one of the most practical things to get right in the beginning.

Diatonic Arpeggios:

The focus is on turning these arpeggios into music, and I will show you how you add phrasing, notes, and rhythm to them because that is how they become Jazz lines, but first let’s keep it really simple and just improvise with the arpeggio because that will teach you some other important things as well.

#1 Arpeggios Are Enough If You Do It Right

Let’s say you want to solo over a II V I in C major, so Dm7 G7 to Cmaj7.

You need those arpeggios to play a solo over the progression, and luckily you already practiced them in the exercise.

It is a II V I, so in C major, we need the arpeggio from the 2nd note of the scale: Dm7, then from the 5th that is a G7 and then you can do this Cmaj7.

Connect that to the music and practice that on the II V I:

The first thing to do is to practice soloing with this, just try to come up with some lines, use rhythm and maybe compose or play rubato, notice how I am really careful in getting from one chord to the next.

And then after some time, you develop better rhythmical ideas and melodies and you can start making lines like this:

This is great for nailing the changes and developing some solid rhythms in your playing, but let’s open up the arpeggio with a few extra notes, that’s where it starts to get really fun!

#2 The First Thing To Add

The exercise I gave you connects the arpeggios and the scale, so if we look at a Cmaj7 arpeggio:

You can add scale notes to the mix in between the notes in the arpeggio.

That could give you a line like this.

Which turns into a lick like this:

Or a descending version like this:

Super easy! Barely an inconvenience. It is mostly about seeing the notes around the arpeggio and using them to move to a note in the arpeggio.

In these two lines that is how I think about the notes: something around the arpeggio.

Let’s add some notes that are a bit more exciting!

#3 The Jazz Thing To Add

I am talking about adding chromatic passing notes since you already have the diatonic notes from the scale.

You can do a LOT of things with chromatic passing notes, and there are systems that help with that, but for now, essentially you can do whatever you want as long as you resolve it to a chord tone. That is what I am doing in this example, check this out:

and just mixing chromatic and diatonic notes with the arpeggio can already give you this:

Of course, when you practice this then work on composing lines and find things that you like the sound of. One thing that can make them sound more like Jazz is by having the high note of the phrase on an off-beat like you heard the B in the last example on the 1&.

There is a way to make it easier to do that in your Jazz lines, that is the next level, but keep in mind that you can actually go through this video and just pick one of the topics to explore, write some lines, and work on getting that into your playing. It doesn’t have to be in this order.

#4 Going Around The Chord Tones

Instead of adding a single note here and there then you can also add small melodies that move to a chord tone from above and below, these are called enclosures. Let me show you these and then we can add some rhythm to the arpeggios.

A simple example of an enclosure could be a diatonic note above and a chromatic note below which for Cmaj7 could be something like this:

Remember that you are still seeing the Cmaj7 in the scale as well, and now you can create something like this, and try to compare how far this is from just playing the arpeggio:

And it is incredibly simple to create solid vocabulary here is one with an enclosure around the root and around the 5th:

With these enclosures:

#5 The Mighty Triplet

There is one way of playing arpeggios that is pretty much instant Bebop. When you hear it I am sure you will recognize it:

So I am playing the arpeggio as an 8th-note triplet and I am adding a leading note before the arpeggio. Now check out how this sounds when you add a few enclosures:

Or this example which is one of George Benson’s favorite licks that he probably learned from Charlie Parker:

I said that inversions are not so useful for Jazz lines, let me show you what you can do instead, and then I’ll show you some phrasing tricks.

#6 The Melodic Inversion

Similar to the triplet, then this is really a great technique for making your lines sound better, and not be too predictable. I mentioned in the beginning of the video that Inversions are not that useful for Jazz, this is mostly from observing vocabulary of Bop and a lot of later stuff, where inversions are not that common in lines when it comes to 7th chord arpeggios. Triads are a different story, there are Triads inversions all over the place.

Instead, this is a much nicer option: The Pivot arpeggio.

What I am doing here is taking the arpeggio:

But I play the root and then move the rest an octave down, so you still get the same order of notes but the last part is moved down an octave:

Using this and a bit of chromatic magic will give you a great line like this with the pivot arpeggio:

And you can of course use this on the higher octave as well and throw in an enclosure:

 

But one thing is changing the melody and the rhythm. You can also tweak how you play the notes on the instrument, the phrasing.

#7 It’s The Phrasing

Let’s start by sliding into a note, here it is the top note in the phrase:

You can add a slide later as well:

Another useful tool for phrasing is adding trills like this one:

Which sounds great like this:

Adding Chromatic Notes With Barry Harris’ system

In my experience, the best way to learn to use chromatic passing notes in your solos is using Barry Harris Chromatic Scale. But there is a lot more in there than you might think!

Why Barry Harris has the Best Method for Chromatic Notes

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5 Concepts Jazz Guitar Beginners Must Understand To Learn Faster

I think you should learn from my mistakes, so in this video I am going to go over 5 things that really slowed me down in learning Jazz, and that I now help students overcome so that they don’t get stuck along the way. When I look at how my students are progressing then it is easy to see that they get there a lot easier and a lot faster, and I am sure I would have too, so you want to get this right.

#1 Exercises Are Not Music

A lot of us come to Jazz when we already play the instrument and have experience with other styles of music, and since Jazz comes across as being difficult or complex (rocket science/music theory meme) then we often choose to be “a good student” and try to do all the exercises and put in the work. I really didn’t get this right in the beginning and spent way too much time thinking about what scale to play over which  chord, and end up using it on a progression that was completely abstract to me, something that didn’t have a melody, that wasn’t a song, but this is something you can fix. (abstract progression + me thinking? like a II V I that turns into an equation?)

You already know that just playing a scale or an arpeggio is not a solo phrase. The same goes for chords, you are not learning to comp by just learning a lot of inversions.

Learning Jazz is learning a musical language, and that you can’t learn with exercises just like you won’t learn Spanish by just reading a dictionary (Que)

If You want to learn how to improvise the you have to also actually improvise. And it is more than just the notes, you also need to know how to play phrases that sit right in the groove, and express something that fits with the music, know the song and know where you are in the song.

This:

Will never magically lead to this: Bebop line.

I think that is pretty obvious. And it means that you also need to learn some songs and some real music that you can play, because an arpeggio or any other exercise is not useful until you make it a part of the music, and you need to develop that skill as well.

None of this will work if you just do exercises and actually the worst plan I have ever heard from students, and I have heard it quite often, is “Before I start improvising I first I need to learn” and then insert:

#1 All scales in all keys or positions

#2 All Arpeggios in all keys

#3 All Chords in all inversions

That NEVER works.

The Most Important Song To Learn.

I think you could say that the most important song to learn is the first song that you REALLY learn.

When I started out then I wasn’t told to really learn songs so that I could easily play them by heart and use them to develop my improvisation skills, and that really slows you down. That is also why my course is a step-by-step guide teaching you that first song and so that you learn how to make music while you are improvising solos. Besides learning songs and soloing over them then there is one overlooked approach that is also incredibly useful…

#2 This Is How To Practice Improvisation

I am amazed at how rare it is to see this method is suggested for people who want to improve their vocabulary and learn how to play better Jazz lines with better phrasing, and speaking of phrasing I have a few quick fixes later in the video for that as well.

As a student, you are always told to practice slowly, and that is not any different for learning to improvise Jazz solos, but the problem that we all run into is that songs are not played that slow, and you can’t slow them down and still get it to make sense, so how do you practice improvisation slowly?

The answer to that is composition, which is essentially also how Barry Harris taught his masterclasses: composing bebop solos. If it is a good enough method for him then it is probably also an ok exercise for you. Let me demonstrate this with a practical example, and just to be clear, I still do this when I want to improve my solo lines, which is most days in the week.

Let’s say that I want to get better at using this chromatic enclosure:

For now I want to use it on a Cmaj7 chord, you can use it on a lot of things, but let’s start there. In the beginning, you just want to hear what it sounds like when you put it into lines.

Obviously, you can combine it with a Cmaj7:

So this is already fine, but let’s add a tail to it to make it a phrase:

Maybe it works with a descending Cmaj7 arpeggio

Of course, you need to spend some time experimenting and exploring how this all works, but that process really gets the sound of the enclosure into your ears and you find ways of creating playable lines that you can work on getting into your own playing.

This works really well in combination with solos you have learned by ear if you take your favorite phrases and try to make your own version of them. Sometimes it can be useful to write down what you come up with, but you don’t always have to. I think the biggest benefit is the process, not the licks you end up with, simply because you learn how to fit things together and they will come out in your solos.

It also really makes sense to watch Barry Harris teach and think of it as how to practice composing lines. You will learn a lot more and get a lot more options from that.

When learning Jazz then there are things that are more important than what notes you play in a solo I’ll get to that, but first let’s look at how you figure out how good (or bad) you are.

#3 How Do You Give Yourself Useful Feedback

One thing that I have to tell students all the time is that they can’t play a solo and at the same time tell how they are doing. And you can take my word for it, I record myself playing for a living and I have made ALL the mistakes that you can make while playing by now. (I have made a huge mistake)

If you want to know how YOU sound (and trust me, you do) then you have to record yourself playing and listen back!

This is incredibly useful for anyone trying to learn, but it is especially important if you are trying to teach yourself Jazz guitar. To make it more effective then there are a few things that you can keep in mind so that you don’t get distracted by your own brain when you listen, because listening to yourself can be a bit weird and difficult. (b-roll: me + headphones and me soloing)

#1 Record yourself often!

You get used to this, so the first few times it is weird and you get stressed out by all sorts of things, but that goes away with time.

#2 Decide what you are working on and listen for that.

This is simple: If you are working on phrasing or rhythm then don’t get lost in which arpeggios you use on altered dominants. Focus on what you are working on.

#3 Don’t Listen Right Away

Often when you just played something then you still remember what it felt like when you played it and you are not really listening but just reliving how it felt which is not helping you at all.

And it is when you start recording yourself that you probably discover the next thing you need to pay attention to, but I have a few quick fixes!

#4 Not The Notes You Play

This is often considered very difficult and vague, but it really doesn’t have to be. I am of course, talking about Jazz phrasing.

You may already have run into this, and I certainly remember when I felt like I was hitting a wall with phrasing: I know all the scales and arpeggios but my solos and what I play doesn’t sound the right way.

When I was starting out learning Jazz then the first problem I was confronted with was that I could not follow the chords and play a lot of wrong notes. It isn’t strange that I then focused on learning to play “the right” notes, but my focus on that came at a cost: I was not listening to how the phrases sounded nearly as much as what notes I was playing. So it really makes sense to become more aware of this early on.

There are a few ways to work on this, and some of them are really easy:

#1 End on a short note

I say this at least 3 times a week in the Roadmap community when I give feedback. Bebop is called Bebop because that is how the typical solo phrase ends, and that means it is a short note, Bebop On Guitar it is very difficult to play long notes so we learn that and make that the habit, but you need to take control of the notes and only play long notes when it makes sense.

#2 Play solos with fewer notes

The easiest way to develop phrasing and rhythm is to take away the other variables so that you have to focus on them. It can be super useful to voice-lead one or two notes through a song and then spend some time practicing soloing where you have to only use those notes. That will help you get more creative with, phrasing, rhythm and dynamics.

#3 Learn Solos By Ear

If you want to “hear” better phrases then learn some solid phrases by ear. Often the easier solos to learn like Charlie Christian and Grant Green are also great for learning to hear good phrasing and creative rhythms, and the next topic will help you get a lot more out of what you learn by ear and what you come up with when composing lines.

#5 So Little Theory, So Much Benefit

You have to stop being afraid of the holes, and you also have to remember to wonder. When you are starting out learning Jazz then it is easy to try to learn a crazy amount of theory, but what you really want to learn is actually pretty simple, and if you know that then it will teach you the rest, plus that you can learn it in a much more natural way.

When I learned Stella By Starlight and There’s No Greater Love, the first songs I learned, then I couldn’t analyze them. But I still learned to play them, even if I only understood some of what was going on and played some wrong notes here and there. That was one of the things I did right.

Start with really knowing your basic scales, and just start with major. Then make sure that you also know the diatonic chords. Then you can start to recognize things in the songs you play like if you take There Will Never Be Another You.

First, you just look at what the key is and what makes sense just using that (fill that in one by one)

Then maybe you learn what a secondary dominant or a secondary II V is and then there are less gaps, and actually only a few more tricks to learn.

And that is also the best way to learn theory: Have it describe the music that you are already playing!

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The Real Reason You Are Not Getting Better At Jazz

You don’t want to only play other people’s licks in your solos. You want to improvise, that is the point of Jazz!

But at the same time, maybe your solos don’t sound right, maybe they don’t even sound like Jazz.

If are you already practicing scales and arpeggios, then this video is about the next thing you need to learn, which was probably also how people like Joe Pass and Wes learned to play Jazz.

Learning solos by ear is a part of this, but it’s not the only thing. For a really long time, when I was studying then I felt that I didn’t learn a lot from transcribing solos, and that made me think that it should not be a big priority for my study, but in hindsight, that was completely wrong and not even how I was actually studying, but I’ll get back to that.

The Answer Is Not A Scale!

Let’s start with something that is so often presented wrong in lessons and probably also the reason you are watching this video.

Try to imagine that you are listening to your favorite part of one of your favorite solos. I am sure you can see how the answer to understanding why that phrase in a solo sounds great is not just a scale name.

You can’t listen to a Wes Montgomery solo, stop somewhere in the middle and go “Dorian” and then your solos start sounding amazing.

That’s obviously not how it works, and that is because when you are playing music then you are not thinking about a scale or an arpeggio. When I am playing solo then I am thinking about phrases that fit the music, the other stuff is too many steps from being something I can play. So you want to learn phrases and be able to play phrases, not just notes and scales.

And this is where the food analogy is a good description of a Jazz phrase:

A Jazz phrase is like a recipe for something that tastes great.

The scale and arpeggios, chromatic phrases are all ingredients, but it is as important that you know how to turn them into the dish.

I am sure you can imagine that even if you have all the ingredients for a burger then mixing the stuff up in random order is not likely to yield a delicious meal.

Jazz phrases are the same, it is only a part of the picture to know what the ingredients are, and only studying that won’t really get you very far, because it is like just knowing a lot of stuff that can be ingredients in food but clearly, that doesn’t mean you can cook something great.

So you have to not only memorize the ingredients but also learn how you put them together, that is the core of the recipe.

Where Do You Learn The Recipe

And there are some skills needed to understand the recipe for a jazz lick.

As I mentioned, then for a very long time I felt like I wasn’t really learning anything from transcribing entire solos. In the beginning, I was doing that really a lot, because that was what people around me suggested that should do, and especially when I did not have a teacher that was the only thing I could do to learn something new. But I sort of stopped when that didn’t seem as useful as a lot of the other things that I was working on, stuff I had picked up from Barry Harris and the material I was given by my teachers. But maybe that was more how I saw it at the time and not really what was going on, because next to this I was also starting to build other skills that would help me get so much more out of what I transcribed.

In the beginning when I was learning solos then I could at most just repeat what I had transcribed and hopefully connect it to my own vocabulary. That already makes it useful, but it is also far from taking the material to the level where you can use it freely in your own playing. Let’s say that I transcribed this part of a phrase from Grant Green:

One thing is learning the solo by ear and playing it along with Grant. That is incredibly valuable for phrasing and timing and a lot of other things, but now I want to use it to become better at making my own Jazz lines. And I took this phrase because, as you will see, it is an example of something that you want to understand and recognize and learn how to use in your own lines. Grant Green is also a very clear example of someone who checked out Charlie Parker, which is also important, but I will return to that later.

You can look at this phrase at different levels.

#1 The Notes

On the surface: If I look at the notes being used over Gm7 then I have the G, in the bass, and then 5 more notes: Bb C D F, and A.

So if I have to attach a scale to it then it could be G Natural minor, or Aeolian, or it could be a Gm7 chord in F major.  In this case, the Gm7 is a part of a II V I in F major so it makes sense to go with that. Music is about context.

But just knowing the scale would NEVER help you play a line like this, there is a lot more going on.

#2 The Harmony and Arpeggios

It is a Gm7 chord, you can see a Dm triad here (highlight),

even if that isn’t really the best way to understand that. You can also see that he is playing the 5th on the 4& so as an anticipated beat 1,

and the Bb is on beat 3 so he is really connecting to the chord tones on the heavy beats.

The two notes before Bb are an enclosure, so he is playing towards the note on beat 3, making that a target note.

 

This is already getting you closer to being able to create something that will sound right and not just throw random notes at the chords, because there is a direction and some notes need to go in certain places.

You can probably also tell that this takes some experience with both analyzing and listening to the music, but that is definitely something you want to learn.

I said that it wasn’t really a Dm triad, so let’s look at that because that is really important here.

#3 Melody

I already pointed out that it is not enough to just look at what notes are being played, you need to understand how they work in the line to understand what is going on.

An example of this could be this excerpt of a George Benson line which is also on a Gm7 chord in a II V I in F major:

If you don’t realize that the C# and the F# are chromatic leading notes

then you are going to end up thinking that this is a very weird scale, probably with 9 or more notes. And you realize that by noticing where the C# and F# are going. (show resolutions in sheet music))

This is also happening in the Grant Green example:

The A and C are an enclosure pulling towards the Bb on beat 3.

You also want to notice that the melody moves down from D to Bb but the enclosure is placed so that it skips down to A and then moves up to C, so it is in the opposite direction.

In fact, Benson does the same thing, the melody is moving up from D to G, but the enclosure is moving down from A to F# (highlight)

So that is something to keep in mind if you are making lines with chromatic enclosures: If the melody moves up then try to let the enclosure move down and vice versa.

The Triad That Isn’t A Triad

Let’s demystify The Dm triad that isnt a Dm triad. You want to see this as a part of another melody: A Bbmaj7 Pivot Arpeggio.

So, a Pivot arpeggio is an arpeggio where instead of playing the ascending arpeggio like this:

then you play the first note and move the rest down an octave to create this beautiful melody with a large interval skip:

And this can be hard to recognize until you have transcribed a few solos and seen this happen often, but that is why you keep learning solos by ear and get more familiar with the language.

Analyzing Solos For Recipes

I never did an analysis like this on an entire solo, but I did do it every time I had a spot that I thought was really good, so that I could not only learn the lick but also learn the concept or the recipe. In many ways that is also what Barry Harris teaches, it is not only what to play but also how to put it together, how to turn it into music. That is why he invented concepts like pivot arpeggios and why he is such a valuable resource when you are trying to learn.

This also brings me back to my story about how I wasn’t transcribing complete solos a lot for some time because what I was still doing was figuring out all the “good bits” so I would have solos that I listened to and they would have parts that I liked and that I didn’t understand, but I wanted to have in my playing, those I kept going for, and that still makes me figure things out. Later I realized that my phrasing and swing feel really benefitted from learning solos by ear and then I got back into working on entire solos, which I still do regularly.

Learn Like The Masters = Learn From The Masters

Of course, learning the solos is only a part of it, another activity is as important when it comes to getting this into your playing, but first, I already mentioned how I hear Grant Green (and actually also George Benson) as coming straight from Charlie Parker when it comes to vocabulary. This is really just about recognizing parts of phrases and melodic techniques that are similar to Parker. You can also find examples here and there of Wes playing Parker licks.

To give you an example then check out this phrase from Wes Montgomery’s Solo on, The Parker F-Blues, Au Privave:

This sounded very familiar to me, and Wes probably got that from this part of  Parkers solo on Now’s The Time, which is essentially the same phrase at the same place in the form since both songs are 12-bar blues progressions in F.

Connecting all of this across songs and artists is really about listening to a lot of music, and listening more than once. Something that is often worthwhile is listening together with other people and talking about the music you are listening to. Hanging out can be as useful as a lesson!

 

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If I started Jazz Guitar In 2023 then this is what I would practice

The problem with learning Jazz Guitar is not finding the information, you can find everything explained and almost everything written out on the internet, but where do you start? What is important to learn and what should you practice?

In this video, I will talk about how to keep it practical and what goals to aim for, but also highlight how we now have things available that make it easier, things I didn’t have access to back in 1996 or 7 when I started playing Jazz, and maybe they are not all great..

 

Let’s see if it really is easier to learn Jazz now than it used to be.

#1 Play Music – The Most Important Goal

Getting started without taking lessons is pretty difficult.  When I was first trying to learn a Jazz Standard, then I picked one that I thought sounded cool and tried to solo over it.  But at that time, I didn’t have a Jazz teacher, and working it out on my own was a complete disaster.

Even with all the mistakes and skills I didn’t have, I did get one thing right with that.  If you want to learn Jazz then you want to learn some music to play, that is the big goal around everything:

playing music, and you want to built the rest in a practical way around that. I’ll get to some basics on how to learn a song in a bit, but first you need to understand why it is important that you focus on learning songs.

Why You Want To Learn Jazz Songs

Anything you practice you want to learn to use when you make music, so you actually need to practice to use it, which is almost always missing in the equation, and that is what the songs are for: They are what you play when you make music.

They become the place where you take everything you work on whether it is a lick, an arpeggio or a chord voicing, and learn how to actually make music with it. Some students think that you just need to practice scales or arpeggios and then they magically become great licks in your solos, and that NEVER ends well…..

How You Learn Songs – It is pretty easy now!

There are a few very useful tools to learn songs that were not around when I learned Jazz. In the long run, you want to focus on learning songs by ear. In the beginning, then the chords are difficult to do by ear, so I would suggest always trying to learn the melody by ear first, and here it is a lot easier that we have things like Spotify, or YouTube and don’t need to buy cds or records of the songs, or even figure out what album a song is on. Everything is pretty easy to find on the internet and you can check out different versions and use those to learn the melody. This is great ear training and will also help you develop important skills that I’ll get to later in the video.

You should have a decent shot at learning the melody, and If you can, then check out the chords as well, but otherwise we have things like iReal, or Google to help with that, and of course the trusted old RealBook, but of course, those have been around for a long time! (as you can tell from the coffee stains and tape holding it together.

The Short list of things to focus on when learning a song for jazz soloing would be to:

Learn the melody

Because it will help you hear the harmony, understanding the form something to tie it all together.

Learn the chords

We mostly improvise over chords and if you know the chords and the arpeggios + the key of the song then you are already pretty far in terms of what you need to solo. Playing the chords in time helps you hear the harmony and the flow of the song, which makes it easier to improvise a solo.

Start soloing

Practice the scales and arpeggios in one (or more) positions so that you can solo over the song without having to skip around the neck at random.

And Don’t try to do the entire neck at once if you are new to it, just keep it simple, that is a super common mistake, and nobody learned anything from only practicing scales, except may to not only practice scales…

#2 Scales and Exercises

With learning songs there are a lot of tools that can help you learn faster, with scales and exercises then that is a bit more down to you to put in the work, and make the right choices

I think it is important to not get lost in working on too many things here, so just start with major scales, maybe don’t do all positions, but instead focus on what you need in the songs you play, and work on some exercises in those scale positions that help you solo better.

So here I am talking about learning basic exercises like diatonic triads and 7th chord arpeggios, triad inversions and add leading notes to arpeggios. The things you need for playing Jazz lines,

remember that there should be a connection of some sort. Then you can add more positions and more scales along the way, but again focus on what you need when you solo and try to practice so you improve that, don’t practice scales that you have never heard being used or that you won’t use for another few years. In fact, this is important for any exercise.

The same goes for chords, be careful with massive systems, inversions and permutations because they will eat up your practice time and instead keep it simple and build a vocabulary of chords that you can actually use when you play. I have other videos that give you a more practical approach for that. Let me know if you want a link.

I think this is mostly about working with a metronome, practicing the exercises and I don’t think there are that many differences between now and when I started out. But one thing is knowing all the technical parts of this, putting it together so that it sounds like a Jazz solo is something else entirely, and again it is a lot easier to come by information than it used to be, maybe  even too easy?

#3 Learn The Language

All the scales and arpeggios: someone with a lot of books or practicing with list of scales and chords popping in?

When I started out learning Jazz then I was already listening to a people like Charlie Parker, John Scofield and Pat Martino, but I also tried to find some books in the library that could help me learn, and at the time there was not a lot I could use. The only books I found were on Bebop and the material in there was a lot of boring exercises with lines that did not use songs and did not sound like the stuff I heard when I listened to the music, so I quickly dropped using them, and kept going figuring out bits and pieces by ear, because that was the best I had.

You can know all the scales and arpeggios in the world and still not know how to get anything to sound like a Jazz phrase. Like any style of music, Jazz needs a certain flow and the right notes need to be in the right place. There are a few ways you can study this, and not studying the language and just inventing your own melodies will often mean that you don’t REALLY sound like Jazz when you improvise, at the same time, that is also a question of taste, so feel free to leave angry comments on personal expression and artistic freedom below, maybe Wes is too clinical for you, Metheny is artificial or Joe Pass is boring. It is a sensitive topic.

The David Baker book that I checked out didn’t appeal to me, but in hindsight maybe a big part of why it didn’t do that was that I had to read the music to hear what it sounded like and I didn’t know how to phrase Jazz lines, so the examples were not really Jazz when I played them. So at the time it probably sounded like this,

But now you can find many lessons with both audio and video examples so that you can hear how the vocabulary you are trying to learn actually should sound, both examples from famous solos and stuff that people on the internet come up with. The important thing is to learn to make your own licks using that language and that takes time, but it is essential that you learn to understand how the lines work, that may be one of the most important reasons why Barry Harris and his approach is such an incredible resource, a resource where you no longer need to be in the room with him since his masterclasses are on YouTube and there are channels dedicated to how he teaches.. Another way to learn vocabulary is the next topic which is also one of the best ways to improve almost everything about your playing.

#4 Phrasing and Ear training

This is SO important for learning to actually sound like Jazz and being able to play in style. When it comes to learning Jazz then it is fairly easy to learn the big rough building blocks, so the scales, arpeggios, analyzing chords and playing licks.

But it is much much more difficult to learn all the subtle things in the phrasing like how much distance is there between 8th notes (because that is much more important than you might think). When should you play behind the beat, what notes should have subtle accents, which ones shouldn’t.

 

And it turns out that for most people those are things that are very difficult to learn by analyzing and explaining them compared to learning solos by ear and getting them into your ear and into your playing without having to analyze it.

Getting started with learning solos by ear can be very difficult, but it is worth the effort, because you will learn A LOT from it. I think this is one thing where it has become so much easier with YouTube, Spotify and having a lot of music available, plus that you can slow down music with the help of programs like Transcribe!

or even work within YouTube using things like the Vidami pedal that really makes it so much easier to check things out by ear.

The only thing missing is some advice on what great beginner solos to check out, and that can really mean the difference between impossible and super easy, barely an inconvienience, which also relates to the next part of learning Jazz.

#5 Learning Path and Information Overload

What should you work on? This is a common issue especially if you are trying to teach yourself jazz guitar using online materials. If you don’t know what is missing in your playing then it is also incredibly difficult to figure out what to work on next and how to learn that. On the internet then there are usually 100 different suggestions, but how do you choose what fits you and helps you the most?

I think the obvious solution here is to find a good teacher who has more experienced ears and a better overview of what you need to learn. I have had a lot of really good teachers, which is probably the easiest way to speed up your learning process. But, of course it is not always possible to find a teacher that fits you or that is available when you are, so if you want my take on getting started learning Jazz in a step-by-step process then check out my Jazz Guitar Roadmap course, where you can also get some feedback on your progress by posting videos in the course community, and that helps catching things that are specific to you and that you maybe can’t hear yourself.

Is it easier to learn Jazz now?

Is it easier to learn Jazz now? I am really curious what you think. I guess that I think it is, but you are faced with a lot of other problems that are often disguised as advantages because we underestimate information overload and how much it takes to choose the right thing to work on. Few things are as useful and efficient as having real lessons. It is hard to beat having a teacher as your main source of information and as your guide in what to practice and what to focus on. But it does have to be a teacher that fits to you and is available. Did it get easier to learn Jazz? Let me know what you think in the comments!

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Which One Is The REAL Jazz Guitar?

I did something terrible, and it was sort of by accident. Originally, I was not going to talk about this. It was meant more as a personal experiment, but I do think it is interesting and worth discussing, so I am going to do that anyway, hopefully it won’t offend anyone too much.

Weird comments

In especially YouTube comments, but also other places like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, I often get questions about my choice of guitar. A lot of that is positive, which is great, and of course, some people don’t like it, which is fine as well, but there is another category of people who seem to question or even criticize my choice of guitar since I play a semi-hollow 99% of the time.  Keep in mind that I have been on the internet for a long time, and this is not something that really bothers me, but that was always a very odd reaction to me and it made me curious. The comments would be asking why I am not using the Gibson ES175 as my main instrument, since that is a “real” jazz guitar or why I “settle” for a semi hollow guitar when I could also use an archtop. With those kind of questions it was often clear that my guitar was inferior to a “real” jazz guitar. And that is the reason why I ended up with this experiment. Which started with a YouTube Short and TikTok video that didn’t have anything to do with all of that.

The 3 Guitars Video

A few weeks ago, at the very beginning of 2023 I posted this YouTube short ,  where I compare the sound of 3 of my guitars.

My original idea was to record Straight No Chaser, and a chorus of comping on each of the guitars and then just cut from one guitar to the next. While I was doing that then I realized how close they sounded, and I mean they sounded very very similar I’ll let you hear it in a bit. It was difficult for me to tell them apart.

That gave me the idea to try something else. I redid the recordings, and I decided to play the same comping chorus with all guitars so that I could switch around audio and video without anyone noticing.

For me, personally: If I didn’t know it was 3 different guitars then I would maybe not even notice and just think it was one guitar, I really think they sound that similar. Which was also what a lot of people said in the comments.

And keep in mind that the video and the audio on these still don’t match, so when you are seeing the 175 then you not hearing that guitar, I will tell you what is what later in the video, and also add some other guitars to the mix just to figure this out.

All Jazz Sounds The Same

Maybe it is a bit rude of me to trick you guys like this without a warning, and my original plan was of course to never tell you about it, I just wanted to know if anyone could tell. And it was a bit like the fairytale “of the Emperors new clothes”because nobody really could. But then I was watching some Glenn Fricker videos, a Canadian YouTuber who I find very entertaining and watch quite often, but keep in mind that he is a Metal recording engineer, so it may not be everybody’s cup of tea. He has been making a series of videos on guitars and pickups and how that doesn’t really matter. It is almost as if he is trying to prove that all metal sounds the same, though I am not sure that is the conclusion he is hoping to reach. However that did make me think that maybe I was also just proving that in terms of sound then it doesn’t matter that much what guitar you play, because they pretty much sound the same, it is much more about how the guitar responds to your playing and  how you react to that which is important and the sound is not really changing. But I will show compare 5 of my guitars later in this video so that you can make up your mind for yourself.

Going Against Expectations?

It is interesting how the mind works with this, when I posted the video I did say not to listen with your eyes, and I’ll return to that later. I guess it is a bit like eating blue food, even if it tastes the same then you don’t really want to eat it, because it looks strange. And in that way, we also listen with our eyes, and if all your heroes play big archtop guitars then that is also what you want to hear, or in this case see.

Which was also clearly the response in the comments, most people preferred the sound of #1 which was the video of the ES175, with a few people even getting into odd comments that go with that territory like “natural resonance”, “organic depth”,  or “warm complexity”. You can probably tell that I am bit skeptical with those ways of describing the sound, especially since they don’t really say anything about how it sounds. But it is of course nice that so many people love the sound of my Ibanez, which is also what I play in most videos, because that is the guitar playing when you see the ES175.

A side-note: Listening With Your Eyes

The term “Listening with your eyes” was something I learned on the fractal forum when I was still active over there and working on getting the sound I wanted out of my AxeFX. A very common problem was that people would set amps up in the way that they were used to, but not actually listening to how it sounded and reacting to that, so complaining that there was too much bass on the Fender Deluxe model, but still having the bass on 6 or 7 because it shouldn’t be necessary to turn it down, and the response was almost always “if there is too much bass then why don’t you just turn it down, that is what you are hearing and that is what the bass control is for” And that stuck with me: don’t limit yourself to what “is reasonable” or “to be expected” you just listen and dial.  It takes away the “emperor’s new clothes factor, which is practical.

Unexpected Guitar Choices

Before I get into comparing guitars, then I want to just talk a bit about how a certain sound is sometimes associated with a certain guitar, but that is not always how it actually works.

If you don’t know it then you most likely won’t realize that  Ed Bickert or Lorne Lofsky play solid body guitars, I guess I am talking a lot about Canadian guitarists today. And I was also really surprised that Wah Wah Watson plays what I think is an L5, but if I listen to him then my ears would be quicker to suggest that he played a Tele. I reacted the same to James Browns guitarists who often play semi-hollows and not fenders because that is what I thoguht it sounded like. At the same time, would Stevie Ray Vaughan sound THAT different if he played a tele or maybe a Les Paul? Ulf Wakenius is very often playing a Les Paul which I believe is a Japanese copy not a Gibson.

The Problem With Jazz-Tone on a Solid-body

Though the SG1000 pushes the amp a bit. In general, the problem I always found with getting a solid body to sound more like a hollowbody or a semihollow is that you can only cut frequencies not add them, and you very quickly run the risk of making the sound muddy with a solid-body because you take a way high-end with the tone knob when you actually want to boost the low end. Probably an EQ pedal would be a better solution but that is for another video.

 

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The Mistake Everyone Makes Learning Jazz Guitar

A problem that comes up all the time with my students and Patreon supporters, and certainly also something remember from learning myself is that after a LOT of practice then you find yourself at a point where you know the scales and arpeggios, and you understand how that fits with the progression, but your solos still sound horrible!

But if focusing on playing the right notes is a mistake, then how do you fix this?

Clearly, something is missing,  and you don’t want to only focus on the dry theory stuff, so in this video you can take a closer look at what great players like Barry Harris and Charlie Parker are doing, because then you can get started working on making it sound right, because some it is not about the notes.

#1 Bebop Energy

Good Jazz lines have a certain energy, this really comes from Bebop where there is a LOT of forward motion

Take a lick like this Barry Harris Line from his solo on  “I’ll Remember April”:

It is pretty easy to hear that he is really playing from one chord to the next and has lines that move to a target note in the next chord.

In this case, I took an example where the targets are placed conveniently clear on the heavy beats of the bar. But you can open that up later.

This is from Live in Tokyo album which is really worth checking out. His playing is fantastic on this.

What you want to avoid is that your melodies have a lot of notes but are not going anywhere.

This is not a fantastic bebop line:

It doesn’t work because there is no direction, it is just moving back and forth and not really locking in with the flow of the chords.

You want to be able to make lines that move forward. You want to feel that the melody is going to hit the target note on the next chord.  Your solo lines should feel like they are saying: “we’re on a mission from god” (Blues Brothers)

What do you need: If we take Barry’s II V I lick as an example then you can see that he is hitting chord tones on the heavy beat, and that is an easy way to get started.  (Bring up his example with high lights)

The other thing that you need to get used to is knowing where the melody is ending and play towards that note.

Let’s say that you have a quick II V in C major and these target notes:

Now you want to make lines that go towards that note.

Dm7 to G7: You can run down the scale, super easy, barely an inconvenience!

To change things up a bit on the G7, we have 3 notes to get to  Cmaj7 and you can do that by playing a Dm triad that naturally resolves down to the G on Cmaj7.

Then you have:

If you start practicing making lines that do this, then you will start to get more of that Bebop energy or momentum into your solos. Think of where you want to go, and play a line that gets you there.

#2 Notes With More Bebop Energy

The first thing to work on is  something that I sort of skipped over the Barry Harris example. Notice how he uses chromatic notes to get more tension and in that way pull the melody forward. (Example with highlights?)

This can really help with the energy, and is a key part of the sound, I’ll show you more concepts like this later in the video.

Again it is something you probably want to mostly think of as moving to a specific note, and usually, that will also be a note in the chord at that point.

Check out how this Charlie Parker Lick from his solo on Cherokee is really pushing through to the resolution and has some great chromatic phrases as well:

It mostly makes sense to split these in two types: Single approach notes like these

The other type is a longer chromatic melody usually approaching the target note from above and below, which are called chromatic enclosures.

Adding this to your playing is really about learning to add chromatic notes and learning some chromatic enclosures that you then start to add to your lines, and the target notes for the chromatic phrases are often the chord tones that you would use as target notes in the line anyway.

An example of how you can do this with an enclosure on the Dm7 and two passing notes on the G7 sounds like this:

How Do You Practice Making Better Lines?

As you can tell by now, then I am showing you the concepts that are being used by Parker and Barry Harris. But how do you get those into your playing? If you want to play better lines or if you want to add a specific type of phrase into your playing, then you should work on writing lines.

This is not something that I made up, if you study Parker’s solos then he clearly has phrases that he uses a lot, and the Barry Harris masterclasses are really mostly about him showing the students how he composes solo phrases while breaking down the concepts he uses.

How it sounds

How you want it to sound

What is playable

And that is what you should do. If you want to become better at using F major triads over a Dm7 chord then write 50 II V I licks in C major that uses that triad. Then you cover the 3 most important parts of getting that into your playing: how it sounds and getting it into your ears, how you want it to sound, and what is playable. That way you can get it into your playing. You don’t need to always write it down, but it can be a good idea, especially if you want to figure out why something sounds good, or maybe if it sounds bad. I’ll show you how I do this later in the video.

#3 Arpeggio Motion

Now you have a better idea about how to create lines that move forward, but there are other ways to make your solo lines more alive, and they are actually easy to start using.

One way is to play arpeggios as triplets to add short rapid phrases to lines that are for the rest mostly 8th notes, this is really just about changing up the flow and create variation

Check out this Joe Pass line that does that in two ways:

Joe Pass is playing the arpeggios as 8th-note triplets, and here you have a Bbmaj7 arpeggio with a leading note, which leads nicely into an enclosure,

and later also an Am7 arpeggio that he plays as a triplet and use to target the note F.

 

Both techniques are very common ways to use triplets and can be applied to all chords. They are a great way to change up the flow and get to a target note. You also see Barry Harris using this in the example on the Gmaj7 chord, both using Bm7 and Gmaj7 arpeggios.

Practice playing your scales in diatonic arpeggios using these two recipes and then start using that in your solos.

But there is also another great device in this example that can help you break up the 8th note flow, especially if you have too many scale runs in your solos.

#4 Trills

If you listen to the first part of the line then in the 2nd bar, Joe Pass plays a trill

which breaks up what is going on and stops it from just being a scale run, without it then you have this:

Joe Pass love using these, also often several after each, these are the kind of thing that you want to add to solos in the places where they are easy to play, simply because they are pretty fast and usually sounds the best if you can execute them with legato technique.

Barry uses them as well:

Here you have the trill leading into the root of F7, and this example illustrates another really powerful technique that I will get to in a bit as well, and I can use that to show how I compose lines to get something into my playing.

#5 Twist and Shout!

What I am talking about here is the first arpeggio in the line which is a pivot arpeggio, something that can really solve a lot of problems if your solo lines are very predictable and tend to just run up and down scales and arpeggios.

In this case it is an Ebmaj7 arpeggio over a Cm7 chord, so using the arpeggio from the 3rd of the chord.

The pivot arpeggio is constructed by taking an arpeggio:

You play the root and then move down the rest of the arpeggio an octave to get this much more interesting melody with a large interval skip: 

And don’t underestimate how powerful it is to have a way to make large intervals melodic, because they can sound really unnatural in a line.

How You Improve Your Vocabulary

When you want to get better at using something like a pivot arpeggio then try to keep it simple when you are composing lines.

One Phrase (or arpeggio in this case)

One Chord to apply it to

One  Way of playing it

You can so easily get lost in possible options, and it is not going to be nearly as useful if you do so.

If I use the Ebmaj7 pivot arpeggio and try to make a line that takes me from Cm7 to F7.

Try to get to A, as a target note on F7:

You could also target the high A by combining it with a Cm7 arpeggio

Maybe adding a trill to get to the F7

Or a chromatic enclosure:

The point is to play the pivot arpeggio and then see how you can put it together with the other stuff you know and turn that into a phrase that you like, essentially that is what Barry was doing in his soloing masterclasses by constructing great solos on songs. From there you can gradually start using it when you solo.

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The Biggest Problem With Scale Positions and How They Can Ruin Your Progress

You have probably already realized that it is important to practice the right things so that you don’t waste time, and one of the things that most people, including myself, often tell you to work on is learning scales in positions but is that really what you should be working on? One aspect of this approach can waste a lot of time, but being aware of that can also be very useful for pretty much everything else you want to practice.

3 Position systems

There are different ways of creating scale positions with 3 main systems. I actually used or use two of them:

CAGED:

5 positions, built around 5 campfire chords and emphasizes never spreading your left-hand fingers.

3 notes per string:

7 positions built on consistently having 3 notes on each string

The Berklee scale system:

7 positions is focused on staying in one position on the neck.

 

Of course, they all work for more than major scales, so for each system,you have arpeggios and other scales that work together.

I learned scale positions very early on, first a mix of CAGED and 3NPS and later the Berklee scale position system, really just going with what I was told to practice by my teachers, and it was not presented as a grand system that would solve all my problems. On a recent video, I had a conversation with a commenter where we also talked about how we don’t always know exactly how people like Wes and Charlie Christian practiced.

Some of the later guys like Joe PaSs taught things to students and wrote books, so with them there is a better picture of how they worked on things like scales.

ish

With Wes, I don’t know how he thought about it, and I can’t really see it in his playing, but with Charlie Christian, you often clearly see chord voicings as the basis of the line,

which is also why he uses drop2 chords as arpeggios here and there. I think he played from chord shapes more than separate scale shapes.

For this video I am not going to get too much into a discussion of whether you should practice scales at all, it worked for me,  it is clear that Joe Pass did, and Barry Harris uses scales really a lot in his teaching, which is also a part of why it worked for me. I also don’t really want to get into the huge discussion of which scale position system is better, I used the Berklee system and 3nps the most but I also have had periods where I don’t practice scales in positions at all. You can check the old video on my technique practice on the channel if you want to know how that works

Scale Positions Are Great!

Before we get to the problems then let’s first look at why scale positions are useful, because In my experience both as a teacher and a student, then learning scales in positions is a very efficient and practical approach.

#1 Chunks

It is a way to make fretboard overview easier to learn. Instead of learning the entire neck, you can get a very solid overview of a small part of the neck and still start to improvise and develop those skills, so you can learn C major here and improvise over a song in that key and use the diatonic arpeggios to hit the changes.

#2 Moveable

You can move them around. On the guitar, you can move around positions and learning one position really means learning it in all 12 keys, and learning 5 or 7 positions is a lot easier than having to learn the neck for every key, and since the same scales go together in songs then you can move those relationships from song to song and key to key as well.

#3 Complete You won’t play yourself into a dead end in the middle of a solo – Illustration: playing a moving line on Cmaj7, but then have to move back to the play something on D7

It is also very complete. Sometimes I have seen students who were free over some chords in the song and then very limited on other chords, and which meant that they could solo all over the neck but kept being pulled back to one place when certain chords came by.

So there are many reasons for beginners to start with positions, and Joe Pass actually demonstrates a C major CAGED position in the video. (show video with diagram?) and later a scale position that certainly isn’t CAGED, maybe more Berklee System.

Scale Positions Can Be Tricky!

But no system is perfect, and working with positions then there are also things that you do need to take care of so that you actually make the information useful and can use it freely when improvising. Though these first ones are not that difficult to overcome, and not as serious as the last one.

#1 Open up the scale

You need more than just playing the scale. You don’t want to end up sounding like you are just running up and down the scale and only playing scale melodies.

 

You want to really play lines, and Jazz lines also have other things like arpeggios, triads, and chromatic phrases.

However all of these things can be practiced in the scale, so you can practice other melodies in positions by working on diatonic triads, chords, and triad inversions. Of course, you need to practice using them as well but working on that makes sense for so many reasons, and this is of course also what you will hear if you study Barry Harris stuff:

#2 Tie It Together

You want to Connect the information! This is probably one of the most important parts of fretboard visualization. I mentioned in the beginning that all of the different scale systems are not only major scales, they also have arpeggios and other scales, and you want to connect these things as well to get the full benefit of what is going on.

Getting those connections is not that difficult if you are already practicing, for example arpeggios and major scales, just choose a chord and a scale where that chord is diatonic, play the scale position, and try to see the arpeggio in there.

Maybe see if you can make some lines with that material.

Keep in mind that this is the kind of thing that you don’t want to approach in a too systematic way, something I will get back to later.

#3 Scale Boxes Should Not Be Prisons

Another common problem that you will need to overcome is that when you play then you want to be able to move from position to position. The positions should not be walls on the neck that you can’t get over, and there are some really good exercises to really connect the fretboard and become free.

The main thing to spend some time on is to improvise forcing yourself to change position, getting used to seeing the notes in the positions around the one you are playing in, and being able to move to them while continuing your phrase.

Another thing that is useful to work on is practicing along the neck with scales, arpeggios, and other things that you also use in the positions, hopefully recognizing those same shapes in the scale positions.

Here you have a Cmaj7 arpeggio in a C major scale position (using 3NPS)

It Is How You Think About It

B-roll: practicing a scale with overlay of scale fingering? or picture of a neck with overlay

What I mostly see getting in the way with scale position systems is that they are systems and that everything should be approached as a system. It is easy to think that we should learn things in a system, but if you think about it then it quickly becomes clear that working like that is probably going to have you practicing exercises in positions 14 hours every day for years and years, while not playing any music which is not going to work.

You can quickly learn to play the scales in a way that requires very little effort. You see the notes on the neck and use muscle memory, and you also take some exercises to that level, like diatonic triads or 7th chord arpeggios,

but you can’t have that as a goal for every exercise, and at some point playing an exercise probably becomes more about relying on how well you know those basics and then hearing your way through the scale and using that you know the position. It is about a much more useful flexibility.

In the roadmap course, I teach a song using a small area of the neck because I want the students to practice some scale stuff, but the important lesson is what you can do with that, and what many also experience is that if they work on it like that then it becomes something that you can actually improvise with. But in the Roadmap I also get questions about making all the exercises into huge projects in all keys and all positions, and in my experience, that really doesn’t work and you end up not getting the material to a level where you can really use it in your solos.

The main thing to get rid of is probably the idea that you need to play things entirely automatically or as muscle memory, but instead it is about working on exercises to become better at moving and hearing them as melodies through the scale position.

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3 Goals That Block Your Progress Learning Jazz Guitar

Like me, you probably played guitar for some time before you became interested in learning Jazz. In a way that should make it easier to learn since you can already play and know a lot of things, but often that experience can also be what gets in the way of learning.

The advantage to learning Jazz when you are already used to learning guitar is that you can recognize a lot of the skills you need and come up with exercises to develop those skills, but that is actually also often where it starts to go wrong.

Consistent Practice = Massive Boost

One of the first times I encountered this was when I had just figured out how valuable it was to be consistent, and especially being consistent with practicing technique. This was before I decided to pursue guitar as a profession, and I was jamming with one of the bands I was in next to studying mathematics and computer science at the university.

Since I had just started practicing scales and arpeggios then the boost that gave my ability to improvise was pretty massive, but of course, going from zero to something is a huge difference.

Starting to be able to find notes on the neck and play the notes of the chord was giving me all these options and pretty much everything sounded new and exciting so this seemed like the way to go.

My goal in this was of course to get a better overview of the Fretboard so that I knew where to find arpeggios of the chords and how to play the scales I wanted to use.

There is nothing wrong with the goal in itself, you DO want to have an overview of all the arpeggios, scales, and so on but what often happens is that it starts to overshadow learning to play, and that gets very tricky very fast.

Myth #1 – Fretboard Overview

“I first want to learn all my scales and arpeggios in all keys and all over the neck, and THEN I want to start improvising”

Then you are probably setting yourself up to fail, simply because when it comes to learning Jazz, or any other kind of music, then knowing where the notes are doesn’t mean that you magically know how to play the right melodies, use the right phrasing or how to put those phrases together in a solo, if you think about it then it is sort of obvious. Joe Pass would not be great in Van Halen,

and Eddy Van Halen would not sound amazing doing chord melody.

The other skills required for that style of music have to be there as well, and they are much harder to learn because there are no scale exercises or arpeggios that will teach you that. That is about playing music, not exercises.

And this was also close to how I felt after a year of trying to play Jazz. I had practiced technique and was able to play a lot of it over most of the neck, but  I wasn’t really told to learn something that made what I played to sound like Jazz, there was no vocabulary it was more scales and arpeggios, but not with a way to get it to sound right, not how to play it. At this point, I had finished University and had decided that I needed to figure this Jazz thing out and maybe do that for a living. I wanted to be able to improvise in that style and play those types of melodies that I heard especially with Charlie Parker. I listened to other things like Scofield and Metheny as well, but I could tell that they were playing different things, and the Parker stuff was what really fascinated me.

The way I started to solve this was not the easiest way, and also not how I teach this, which I will get to. As I kept listening and trying to figure some Parker stuff out by ear while mostly failing pretty badly then I started to look for solos that were closer to Parker and easier to figure out. I ended up with some Ulf Wakenius solos and finally Pat Martino’s solo on Just Friends which really helped a lot. I was also listening to Wes, but the stuff I had was more of the commercial stuff so it was mostly octaves and chords all the time. in the late 90s, you were stuck with CDs and no internet which, in hindsight, was a pretty limiting factor. Once I moved to Copenhagen then I also started to have lessons with teachers who gave me a lot of vocabulary to learn,  jazz licks and easy example solos to play so that I started to get the language into my ears and also into my fingers. THAT made a huge difference and really helped me sound a lot better.

What should you do instead

In my opinion, it makes a lot more sense to have a more balanced approach to your practice so that you are not only developing some of the skills you need. Only working on technique and fretboard overview without actually learning to play music is almost like making a decision to only work on your alternate picking technique without ever learning anything that is really music, and it is not so that you have to learn all positions and variations in all keys of everything to play music. You CAN start working on songs and developing those skills almost immediately, which is also how I teach in my online course and how I have taught 100s of students.

The recipe is not rocket science:

Find an easy song where you need a few scales, learn the chords, learn the melody

Figure out what the key is and a place to play all of that in the same area of the neck,

Start playing music.

If you can couple this with learning some vocabulary then you are working on taking the things you practice to the place where you can make it into music, and you can expand your fretboard knowledge along the way.

In the end, you did not start exploring Jazz to learn to play scales or find notes on the neck, you want to use that to make music and that part of it is just as important as practicing scales if not more important. I can promise you that Wes and George Benson did not only practice scales, they probably spent more time playing music

And you see the same type of problem with chords, but luckily people like Ted Greene did understand this.

Myth #2 – Chords

“I can’t start learning songs, I first need to learn all my Drop2 and Drop3 chord inversions”

The idea that the more chord voicings you know, the better you are at comping, is something that I come across very often online. And that is definitely not true, it is almost so that those two things have nothing to do with each other. Let me show you:

When is comping good? It has to:

  1. Fit the music – so the right type of sound for the song and how the band is playing
  2. Make the Groove and the Harmony Clear – So you need to state where the time is and what the chords is (as much as is needed in the band)
  3. Be a part of the music – What you play should be a story, it has dynamics, development and makes sense beyond being a robot playing a chord with some extensions.

And these skills don’t really depend that much on knowing all your drop2 or drop3 inversions. Again, it is not so that you will not benefit from learning inversions, but at the same time, you won’t learn to make music by just playing a bunch of inversions. You need to take the time to learn to make them into music, and often that process is approached in a different way, which moves across voicings and you will end up thinking more about melody and rhythm than about the chord.

I mentioned Ted Greene earlier in the video, and I think that is a good example of material that is trying to teach not only some chords to play, but also how they fit together and become music, simply because he teaches the chords in the context of a progression so that it is not empty knowledge.

The more I teach harmony and comping then I also start to think that maybe it is very important to learn to understand chord symbols as options and think of groups of chord voicings instead of learning separate chords, especially since we use them together all the time.

Learning the connection between the voicings is as important as learning the voicing. I doubt if Joe Pass spent most of his time learning inversions, I am pretty sure he spent more time learning songs.

At one point, I had some lessons with a guitarist who insisted that I also buy his books on chord voicings, which were in fact just books with all drop2 chords, first maj7 then m7  then dom7th, and then the same for drop3 and drop2&4. The books didn’t contain any examples of how the material could be used, it was just a lot of diagrams. I did practice that a bit, but as I was practicing then it occurred to me that it was better to just make the inversions myself because then they were easier to remember and I knew the chords a lot better.

On guitar it is fairly simple to make inversions along the neck for any chord: Let’s take this Cm7 chord. First, you find all the notes in the chord and then you order them in pitch:

C G Bb Eb – order in pitch would just be C Eb G Bb. Now you just look at the chord and see that

C goes to Eb

G goes to Bb

Bb goes to C

Eb goes to G

And then you can keep on going moving each note in the chord. And essentially this works for any chord,

but sometimes the inversions are pretty unplayable

What should you do instead

Again, I think you want to learn to comp on songs, so take an easy song and try to play the chords just using basic shell voicings. Pent Up House is a nice and simple song.

From there you can develop your options by finding notes that work on top of the chord, so that you can play melodies and create something that flows from chord to chord.

Like this, you can start developing your ability to improvise while also playing the chords, learn how to repeat rhythms, and have melodies across a chord progression.

It is about turning chord symbols into music, not turning them into diagrams of chords.

Myth 3 – Pentatonic Scales

“I don’t want to learn music theory and scales, I want to play Jazz just using Pentatonics.”

I guess this is the most guitar-specific example in this video, and it is actually very common that I get that statement followed by the a question of what video to watch first.

There are two ways that this falls apart, the first one is a bit more subtle for beginners. For most people then the sound of Jazz is not pentatonic, there are pentatonic things in there here and there, but if people think about jazz solos then usually it is about arpeggios, chromaticism and more dense lines, and that is not really what you get from a pentatonic scales. Even if I don’t really like Bebop scales, then it says a lot that they are created by adding notes to 7-note scale, not taking them away.

See if you can hear it:

A Bebop phrase on an Am7 chord sounds like this:

And an Am7 phrase using Am pentatonic scale sounds like this:

What you maybe can hear, is that If you want to learn to play Jazz then you need to use the melodies and structures that fit in that style because they are a part of the sound, just like you don’t try to learn to play Blues using the chromatic scale and not learning the pentatonic scale.

The other part of where this gets very difficult is that you need to be able to figure out which pentatonic scale goes where.

it is fairly common to superimpose pentatonic scales in Jazz, that is how they are mostly used, and the way you do that is by figuring out if a pentatonic scale works over a chord and if it gives you the notes that you want to use there. Then you can improvise using the “pentatonic sounding” melodies over the chord.

If you want to do this then you need to have a fairly good overview of what pentatonic scales are found in the scale that fits the chord, so you do need some theory.

Let’s say that you are improvising over Cmaj7(#11) and you want to use pentatonic scales.

If you want to find a pentatonic scale that works then you need to be able to find a scale that has the important chord tones which would be E and B, the 3rd and the 7th and you probably also want the #11 in there, the F#.

Instead of just trying to construct something at random with those notes in there, then you can also look at the scale where the chord is found and what pentatonic scales are in there.

They all can work over a Cmaj7 chord, there are no strange notes in there:

But only one of those scales has the F#: Bm pentatonic and luckily that has the E and the B as well, so that works.

Figuring all of this out does take a fair amount of theory, and it is actually very useful to be able to easily figure out what a set of notes like a pentatonic scale,  triad, or arpeggio will give you against a chord since you can get a lot of options from that both with what notes to play and what types of melodies you can make.

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The Most Important Scale For Jazz

“Scales Are NOT going to solve problems”

I think sometimes when you want to learn Jazz then it is too much about learning 100s of scales, and that is not really what Jazz is about. There are a few scales and especially one scale that is endlessly more important than the rest.

Scales are not going to solve problems for you. if your solo doesn’t sound good, then learning hypochondrian b6 is not really going to make you sound any better over a Blues in F, and focusing on the scale takes away attention from more important things in your playing like the melody, rhythm, and phrasing.

You are much better off focusing on the most used scale and then really learning that, and this is mainly because

  1. it is the most used scale – so you are practicing things that you need to play often and
  2. It Becomes Easier To Learn Other Scales because they are mostly just variations on this one.

So of course, I am talking about the major scale!

Simply because that is the scale that is used the most, it covers the most ground and contains most of the chords.  It is not the only scale you need, but if you really dig into that then you will sound a lot better than if you try to learn 20 scales at the same time. This is also one of the reasons why I am not a huge fan of modes, but I will return to that later. Let’s look at what to learn and what to practice.

The Scale

My thoughts on what to practice are heavily influenced by how Barry Harris taught this in his masterclasses in The Hague. That was maybe one of the most important things I learned from him.

Let’s start with 2 octaves of C major:

When you learn any scale then it is useful to know what notes are in there, so C D E F G A, and it is useful to know the intervals in the scale relative to the root, Root, major 2nd, major 3rd, perfect 4th, perfect 5th etc.

Basic stuff that you want to know, but that you don’t want to think about too much unless you are figuring something out.

Of course, just playing the scale makes for some incredibly boring melodies that everyone will get tired of very quickly, so how do you get further? And THIS is a part of why the scale is important because the approach you use on the major scale will make it a lot easier to learn other scales and make that process a lot quicker.

When you improvise in Jazz then the melodies in your solo follow the chords of the song, and if you are playing a song in the key of C major then a lot of those chords are actually in the C major scale, so you want to be able to find those chords.

I am going to show you how this fits on a very common Jazz progression, a II V I. But first you need to be able to find the chords.

The Chords In There and the II V I

This  also works for other scales, and is something you want to keep in mind for working on them.

A chord is a stack of 3rds, so if you have the scale then you can construct the diatonic triads by stacking two 3rds on top of each other.

Here you will get:

C Dm Em F G Am Bdim C

As you can see below, in Jazz, the basic chord type is usually a 7th chord:

but all you need to get those is to add another 3rd, to get these 7 chords:

The Diatonic 7th chords: Cmaj7 Dm7 Em7 Fmaj7 G7 Am7 Bø Cmaj7

Finding the II V I

Now you have the diatonic chords in the scale, then you can pick out a II V I, since that is just the 2nd,  Dm7, the 5th, G7,  and 1st chord, Cmaj7 in that row of chords

You can play them like this:

And the II V I progression is very common in Jazz and probably the most common building block in Jazz songs, so it is a very useful place to demonstrate how this works and ties in with the major scale.v

You also want to notice that all of these chords are in the scale, so here the scale is a bigger thing containing and tying together several chords in a song, that means that often you stay with one scale but the important notes change with the chords.

Soloing over Chord Changes

Before I get into what exercises to focus on and the Barry Harris thing, then it is useful to look at what you actually need from the scale when you solo.

As I mentioned earlier, when you improvise in Jazz then you follow the chords, and you try to make melodies that make it clear what is happening in the chord progression. The easiest way to do that is to play the notes of the chord, which is what we call the arpeggio.

If you turn the row of chords for C major into arpeggios then you can easily play that through the scale and get some raw material for soloing:

and if you then take the 3 arpeggios of the II V I then you would have something like this:

This still sounds like an exercise, but already if you start being creative with the order of the notes you can turn this into something that sounds more like a melody, something that has a flow moving from one chord to the next:

And of course, the scale sits under this, and you can also use those notes when you solo as you take this further.

How To Really Internalize The Scale

So you already have the exercise that is playing the diatonic chords in scale. Another very useful option is to learn the diatonic triads which as you will see in a bit is great material for soloing as well, and then we can get into some of the Barry Harris-inspired exercises.

You probably remember that to create the 7th chords then you first stacked 3rds to create a triad and then added another 3rd to get the 7th chord.

And the notes of the 3 chords in the II V I are these:

What you want to realize is that the top 3 notes of each chord is a triad, and that means that you can use F major, Bdim and Em as material when you create lines over a II V I:

And create lines like this:

So for soloing it pays off to know your scale, to know the diatonic 7th chords in the scale and the diatonic triads, and it is practical to know what notes are in the chords because that helps you connect other arpeggios and triads to a chord, and it is fairly clear that this is important for almost any scale you want to use, not only the major scale.

But, these are all the basic things to give you an overview of the notes, the harmony, and how it all fits together. Another important thing to keep in mind is that you want to use this for solos, and that should be a part of coming up with what you practice!

Borrowing From Barry’s Vision

One of the things that really changed how I practiced after I had attended my first week-long Barry Harris masterclass in the Hague was a smarter much more efficient way to practice scales.

Several times in the masterclass while Barry had taught us bebop lines and explained how they worked, he had also taken a building block, or a piece of vocabulary, and turned it into a scale exercise.

This direct connection between what you wanted to play in your solos and what you should practice in your scales makes scale practice much more efficient.

I will go over some of the more advanced ones as well, but the basic example that you have probably heard me talk about before is playing the diatonic arpeggios as triplets with a leading note, which is sort of instant Charlie Parker:

And that allows for playing lines like this:

Pivot Arpeggios

Another great exercise that Barry used was pivot arpeggios, so an arpeggio where instead of just playing the ascending arpeggio then you play the first note, and then move the rest of the arpeggio down an octave:

You can turn that into an exercise like this:

And if you take the last Cmaj7, and just add a few chromatic passing notes then it immediately becomes a great Bebop phrase like this:

Getting Creative

And this is where it starts to get really interesting because you really turn anything you like into a scale exercise and then explore how it is to use the same idea or melody on other chords.

As an example you can combine the pivot arpeggio and the triplet with a leading note concept and then create a short building block like this:

 

As you can see it is not a systematic way to combine the pivot arpeggio with the triplet, but it sounds great, and it will work really well in some Bop lines, but first I’ll take it through the C major scale:

And then if you take the Fmaj7 version and use that on a Dm7 you can get something like this:

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