Tag Archives: jazz guitar scales

Jazz Beginner Mistakes – How To Learn Scales

When I started playing Jazz then I came from improvising mostly with the pentatonic scale, playing phrases, and licks in the scale without really worrying about what I was playing and especially what notes.

Once I got interested in Jazz, in fact, mostly in Charlie Parker solos, then I realized that I needed to use 7 note scales, and that was a lot more tricky to get to sound right and especially to get to sound like great jazz lines

Just practicing the scale, up and down doesn’t teach you how to do that and there is a much better way to practice the scales, one that helps you learn to play Jazz faster and sound in the right way.

Which Scales Do You Need?

First, you need to figure out which scales you need.

Playing Jazz is associated with scales, and often also with a lot of scales with a lot of fancy names. But when you start then you are better off not drowning yourself in different scales, simply because it is more work to learn to use a scale than to learn to play it. Just start with the major scale, and if you are new to major scales then start in a single position

You can add to it later and knowing the scale well in one position will help you learn the others as well. Starting with 5 or 7 positions in one go and trying to be able to play and improvise in them all is not as efficient in the beginning, and you might get overwhelmed and lose the overview, and getting an overview is why you practice scales in the first place.

If you practice in the way that I outline later in this video, then learning other scales and being able to use them will become a lot easier because you can leverage what you already know.

CAGED, 3NPS, Berklee doesn’t matter

A discussion that sometimes appears at this point is what type of scale system should I use, and there are quite a few, CAGED, 3NPS, and Berklee being the big 3. This can sometimes lead to heated discussions, but In the end, it doesn’t matter too much, do what feels more natural to you, you can even change along the way.

Basic Exercises

How do you start? The first thing is to practice the scale, for example, this position of C major:

Try to play it slowly, evenly with alternate picking. Connect the notes, because otherwise, you are going to sound choppy when you have to play faster

Be aware of the notes you play, so first the root

You can even practice the scale while saying the notes you are playing.

The first technical exercise that you should do in the scale beyond playing it is to play it in 3rds.

Scale in 3rds

The reason for this is that when you play Jazz then you are using the notes of the chord, and chords are built in 3rds so you are preparing yourself for learning the diatonic arpeggios, triads, and 7th chords that are found in the scale.

What Do You Need To Play Jazz

What do you need to play jazz phrases? If you look at this fairly typical jazz lick

Jazz Lick – chromaticism arpeggio

Then you can see that it uses a 7th chord arpeggio, Cmaj7, and some chromaticism mixed in with scale notes.

Beyond practicing the scale itself then the things you want to practice are the things you need in your solo. Arpeggios seem like a very useful candidate, to begin with.

The Arpeggios Are In The Scales

When I was first taught arpeggios the I was told to practice them as separate positions. In that way, learn them as independent things, not connecting them to scales or anything else.

A few years later, when I was in a Barry Harris masterclass in the Hague, I learned from Barry Harris that I should know how to play the diatonic arpeggios of the scales, and he talked about how to use them.

If you practice the arpeggios like that you get something like this:

Diatonic Arpeggios

If you know how to play this exercise then you have material that you can use on a lot of chords that you come across in C major, and you see the arpeggios together with the other notes that you have available when you solo. It is already connected to the rest of the material you can use.

II V I lick with diatonic arpeggios

For me, this was really a gamechanger, when you connect the arpeggio to the scale like this it is much easier to play the arpeggio with an extra scale note and also to see how the notes move from one chord to the next, which makes it a lot easier to make strong lines that outline the chords. But there is a lot more you can get out of it, as you will see later in the video. (highlight voice-leading in a lick, overlay lick while talking)

Another thing that is worth noting is that most of the time when you come across arpeggios in Jazz solos, then they are one-octave arpeggios in the middle of a line or even with scale notes in between, so practicing them like this is much more efficient and closer to how you use them in Jazz. As you can see in this transcription (Parker solo transcription?)

How To Practice and Use Them

You can practice the arpeggios from each note in the scale like this (example 4) and again you want to play them cleanly, equal in volume, not too fast, and connecting the notes as much as possible. Another way of practicing them that is useful is to practice up one and down the next

This is actually a bit easier because you don’t have the large interval skip from one arpeggio to the next. In general, you want to practice different things to build flexibility and work towards being free when you improvise, so coming up with variations is something that will help you with that.

If you start thinking of the scales and the exercises like this, then you want to find out what you want to use in a solo and then practice that in your scales so that you learn all the useful variations building a vocabulary you can use in solos.

From Arpeggios to Lines

There are many ways that you can use these arpeggios, to get started it makes sense to just play the arpeggios on a chord progression

Example 7 (no backing)

To turn this into something you can use in a solo then you can use the notes around the arpeggios and add some nice rhythms as well.

For the Dm7, this is the arpeggio:

And you can turn that into a more interesting line by adding the E in between the first two notes:

In this way you can start to work on making lines like this:

Here I am using the Dm7 phrase, a triplet on the G7, and also adding an A to the Cmaj7 arpeggio.

The Mighty Triad

Another obvious one is to also check out the diatonic triads which as you will see we can easily connect to the chords and also are great for creating super-strong lines.

Going over the triads in the scale gives you an exercise like this:

And finding triads to use with a chord is very easy:

If you look at a Dm7 then that is D F A C

Here we already have two triads: Dm: D F A and F major F A C.

For the G7: G B D F – G B D and B diminished and Cmaj7: C major and Em

And using these to make lines could sound like this:

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Why This Is The Most Important Scale Exercise In Jazz

A little over a year ago, I made a video on the most Important Scale Exercise in Jazz(b-roll exercise maybe licks?), and once in a while, I get comments that I have no right to say that and all scale exercises are created equal.

That is not the case, some things are useful in some genres and not in others.

Take an exercise like this:

This is a great exercise if you want to be the next medium swing Yngwie Malmsteen, but it pretty much sucks if you want to sound like Charlie Parker.

The Most Important Scale Exercise

So in this video, I am going to show you why it is the most important scale exercise in Jazz, and then I am going to show you how you can use it to make your own great sounding licks!

So first let’s just look at why this exercise is important, or actually, just very useful and practical, and then I will go over how to use it.

Here’s Why It Is Amazing!

So the exercise is playing the diatonic arpeggios in a scale position like this:

The Arpeggios you get would be this exercise:

Why is this so useful?

When you play the exercise then you are playing the arpeggios of all the diatonic chords in that scale, so for C major you now have arpeggios for these chords:

It fits the harmony of Jazz songs!

If you look at a Jazz Standard then the basic chords in there are all 7th chords, so if you have to improvise over a G7 or an Am7 in the key of C, then the diatonic arpeggios are immediately clear because you have already practiced that and you know where the arpeggio is.

In that way, it links the scale to the chords and the arpeggios and directly gives you something to play on the chord.

More arpeggios per chord

The other thing that you can use this exercise for is that you can link several different arpeggios to a chord and that gives you a lot more vocabulary, so on a Dm7 chord there are other arpeggios that work well besides the Dm7 arpeggio, and you already know how to play them and where to find them because you played the exercise.

Obviously, a Dm7 works on a Dm7 chord because you are playing the same notes as you find in the chord. Fmaj7 works as well because the notes are almost the same, except the E which adds a 9th on top of the Dm chord and that sounds fine.

Dm7; D F A C

Fmaj7: F A C E

Am7: A C E G

Let’s just check out what they sound like:

Keep in mind that right now, I am talking about this for a Jazz standard, but this is also true if you are playing over a static 7th chord vamp: You can use more arpeggios on the chord and, knowing them will give you more material for your solos

Before I show you how this also works for other chords then I will give you some great examples of how you can use this in your playing, because THAT is what makes it a great exercise: It gives you a lot of stuff you can use.

Arpeggio Combinations

Now that there are several arpeggios that you can use then you can also work by combining them.

Here I am using an Fmaj7 arpeggio and a Dm7 arpeggio on the Dm7 chord.

A great way to play these two arpeggios could be to put them together like this, so first the Fmaj7 and then the Dm7 naturally follows AUDIO

Now you can do the same with the combination of the Am7 and Fmaj7 arpeggio

Taking It To Other Chords

The same concept using the G7 and Bø on G7:

Here it is the same priniciple:

G7: G B D F

Bø: B D F A

And using this in a line sounds like this:

And you can use it on a Cmaj7 as well combining the Am7 and Cmaj7 arpeggios:

 

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Scale Exercises – Make Sure They Help You Play Better

Most of us practice scale exercises, but how much of that is just running up and down the scale or playing 3rds or diatonic arpeggios, and is that the best way to go about it?

In this video, I am going to talk about how you can start practicing exercises that are much closer to what you need in your solos and be more free when you improvise. This can really open up your playing so that you find it easier to create and play lines that sound great.

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Content:

00:00 Intro – More effective scale exercises

00:29 A Bebop Lick and Finding a Great Exercise

01:45 Barry Harris Philosophy

02:04 Another Classic Jazz Phrase

02:59 Flexibility And Vocabulary

03:47 Building from a Benson Inspired Line

05:29 Chromatic Passing Note Exercises?

05:58 Exercises that are Great in Jazz Solos!

06:05 Like the video? Check out my Patreon page!

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How To Make Music From Exercises And Practice Effectively

Getting from just practicing a scale or an arpeggio to the point where you can actually use it in music is quite difficult, and something that a lot of people struggle with. You want to set up your jazz guitar practice in a way that will actually help you get your exercises into your playing as something that makes your solos and improvisations better. That is what this video will teach you! In this video, I am going to go over a 3 step plan to show you how you can approach this and make sure that what you practice also makes it into your playing, and I am also going to discuss what types of exercises I think are practical and what you might better not waste your time on.

 

The Most Important Scale Exercise in Jazz

Let’s start with an exercise that you always want to work on anyway: Diatonic 7th chords. In the Key of C major, that would be this exercise: This is a great exercise that will help you connect chords to a scale and technique to the chords of a song. I have another video going into this exercise in detail which I will link to in the description so I won’t really dig into it here. There are a few practical things to get right if you are practicing something because you want to use it in your solos.

  • Don’t make the exercise too long or complicated
  • Make sure that it is something that you have a place to use
  • Don’t make it so difficult that you have to spend a year learning to play it.

#1 Don’t make the exercise too long or complicated

If you practice Triad pairs with chromatic enclosures on each triad then that is something you can only use on a piece with one chord for a really long time, and you have to think about whether that is really efficient for you.

#2 Make sure that it is something that you have a place to use

Practicing Quartal arpeggios in Melodic minor is not useful if you don’t play over chords using that sound.

#3 Don’t make it so difficult that you have to spend a year learning to play it.

If you have never practice arpeggios then don’t start with playing them with leading notes and as 8th note triplets, just start with playing arpeggios which are probably anyway more flexible.

Taking the exercise to a song or chord progression

I always find it surprising how few people play exercises on songs. It is such a great way to just get your scales or arpeggios into the context where you need them, and also to check if you have everything covered for the song you want to use it on. For this video, I am not going to use an entire song, I am just going to use  a basic turnaround in C Cut in – In the video I am using a very short chord progression, but it is really useful to have songs that you know really well to explore things on, and if you check then that is also something that a lot of players do. They have standards that they return to when practicing things to become comfortable and experiment with new material. Cmaj7 A7(b9) Dm7 G7(b9) In this progression, I am using the C major scale for Cmaj7 and Dm7, and I am using D harmonic minor and C harmonic minor for A7 and G7. And to add something new to our vocabulary then I am going to use the arpeggio from the 3rd of the chord. This is just to flex the music theory and fretboard knowledge a little. The Arpeggios we need: Em7 C#dim Fmaj7 Bdim   Played through the progression in a very basic way:   And to find some more material you can do the lower octave as well, even if that is not really there  for the Fmaj7 arpeggio: And of course, you can also combine the two and make an exercise that fills up the bar: For an exercise like this to be useful, you need to be able to play it easily and think about the next thing you have to play. It has to be in time and you can’t get away with stopping to think. At the same time, it doesn’t have to be super fast, a medium or slow medium tempo will work as long as it feels easy to play. Sometimes I hear students say that it is difficult to learn on a whole song, but if you want to use it in your solos then this is actually a fairly easy thing to learn.

Making music

Now we can play it on the progression and also hear how it sounds on the song, the next step is to start improvising and start to make melodies. The first thing to do is probably just to spend some time improvising with just the arpeggios. Then you can start to add the other things you use in your solos and really make the arpeggios a part of your material. In some cases, it may be useful to first compose or improvise in rubato to get the user to making melodies that mix arpeggios and use chromatic leading notes. Doing exercises like this is may seem like something you do when you want to learn arpeggios, but actually it is a great way to explore new vocabulary and really challenge your fretboard overview, things that you really want to keep developing in your playing all the time.

Take this to Jazz Standards and use it in Music

Jazz Standards – Easy Solo Boost

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7 Ways To Make Arpeggios Sound Great In A Solo

It is difficult to combine scales and arpeggios and most of us struggle with arpeggios into music and to make it something that we really make music within our Jazz Guitar Solos. In this video, I am going to take you through a challenge, and you are going to figure out if there techniques for making lines or licks, that you don’t know or use. You can keep score and see if there is anything you want to add to your playing or develop further. So the focus is not really on learning new arpeggios but learning how to use them in your playing.

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Content:

0:00 Intro

0:41 The Challenge

0:56 Making Lines and Inventing Names

1:10 #1 Adding Scale notes

1:45 #2 Using Related Arpeggios

2:02 Knowing A lot of Arpeggios is always good

2:21 Finding Related Arpeggios

3:55 #3 Chaining Arpeggios

5:00 #4 Cascades 

6:00 #5 Passing Chords as Arpeggios

6:56 #6 Octave-displacement

7:28 Analyzing the example

7:49 Example 2 

8:16 #7 Voice-leading

9:29 How Many Points did you get?

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Something You Are Not Practicing But You Should Be

One thing that is not often part of most people’s Jazz solo practice is really ignoring the way that people like Wes Montgomery or Kenny Burrel play most of their solos. And that is a pity because it is surprisingly easy to work on and is also very effective.

In this video, I am going over what you are missing and how you can start working like this to get that sound of compact strong phrases.

Content:

0:00 Intro -The difference between You and Wes

0:45 Different types of phrases 

1:18 An Angry YouTube comment 

1:38 How to get started 

1:52 Breaking down a Wes solo for phrases

2:54 Example solo on Out of Nowhere 

3:18 Rhythm – Less notes = better rhythms

3:55 Repeating Phrases and making a solo that is a whole piece of music

4:53 Breaking down the structure of Autumn Leaves 

5:27 Example solo moving a phrase through Out of Nowhere 

5:54 How to start practicing this. 

6:30 Developing Phrases in a solo

7:02 Solo example developing phrases. 

7:36 Like the video? Check out my Patreon page

Improve you Jazz Phrasing

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The Wrong Way To Practice Something New

When you practice Jazz Guitar, then the most fun part of practicing is to work on new things you can add to your playing and enjoy using it while playing music. But often the way you start working on new material actually also stops you from getting it into your playing, and that is what I want to discuss in this video, and of course, give you a few easy ways to fix it.

Other useful articles on Practicing and Learning

This is a Good 10-minute Practice Routine

Avoid Long Practice Plans – This is what you should focus on

Jazz Practice Routine How To Find The Perfect Balance

Content

0:00 Intro

0:30 Setting Yourself up to Fail?

1:20 Using it in a Solo

1:51 The Solo

2:42 Analyzing the solo

5:55 Using it on a Single Chord

6:25 Cmaj7

7:00 Am7

7:50 Bb7(#11) (or E7 altered?)

9:04 Like the Videos? Check out my Patreon page.

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Get the PDF!

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Jazz Scales – What Do You Need To Know And Why

If you want to play jazz you probably figured out that you need to play the scale that fits the chord or the song when you improvise. We don’t need jazz scales but we do need scales.

But just knowing what scale and maybe a single position of it is not really helping you come up with better things in your solos.

You need to learn and practice things within the scale that will help you have material to play that sounds good in a solo.

Sometimes it seems that most people forget that about practicing scales…

Other useful Lessons on Scale Practice

The Most Important Scale Exercise In Jazz

How to practice your scales and why – Positions

Jazz Scales! The 3 You Need to practice and How You apply them to Jazz Chords

Content:

0:00 Intro – Jazz and Scales

0:32 Playing the Scale

0:49 Positions and beyond

1:48  Make sure you know the notes

2:48 Diatonic 7th chords

3:34 A Step-wise method for learning the Arpeggios

4:08 Using Arpeggios in Solos

4:47 Example using arpeggios in a Lick

5:33 Triads (are also great in Jazz)

6:07 Example using triads in a Jazz Lick

6:50 Triad Patterns 315 and 513 

7:32 Which scales to learn?

7:55 Chromaticism and Turning licks into scale exercises

8:31 Exercise adding chromaticism to diatonic structures

8:43 Developing a Peter Bernstein Lick into an exercise

9:32 Like the video? Check out my Patreon Page!

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Get the PDF!

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If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics then please let me know. Leave a comment on the video or send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make them fit what you are searching for.

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5 Scale Exercises That Are Great In Solos

Practicing scale exercises is something that we do to gain flexibility and an overview of the guitar. But another thing you should also consider is that the things you practice in a Jazz scale exercise should also not be too far from what you actually need when you solo.
Setting your scale practice up so that it is helping you develop vocabulary is very useful and very efficient.

In this video, I will show you 5 exercises that are scale exercises but that you can also use as great building blocks for jazz licks. When you check out these concepts you should also start to be able to make your own scale exercises that help you play better solos using the things you want to play in your solos.

Other videos on Scale Exercises and using them

How to practice your scales and why – Positions

The Most Important Scale Exercise In Jazz

Get the PDF

You can download the PDF on my Patreon Page: 5 Scale Exercises

Content:

0:00 Intro – Exercises for Flexibility, Technique and…

0:30 Scale Exercises that are building blocks for Jazz Solos

0:51 The Scale and How I Play it

1:15 #1 The Bebop Arpeggio

2:04 Lick using Exercise #1

2:33 #2 Triads with Enclosures

3:31 Lick using Exercise #2

4:09 #3 Chaining Arpeggios Like Kurt Rosenwinkel

4:49 Along the Neck

5:25 Lick using Exercise #3

6:13 #4 Barry Harris’ Chromatic Rule

6:59 The Rules

7:29 Lick using Exercise #4

8:09 #5 Parker and Benson’s Arpeggio with Chromatic Tail

9:14 Lick using Exercise #5

10:05 Like The Video? Check out my Patreon Page

The Scale is NOT That Important – This is!

This isn’t really a jazz scale lesson. A lot of teaching and a lot of online discussions are about what scales to use on what chords, and of course it is important and also the topic of one of my most viewed videos: 3 Scales To Play Jazz

But in this video, I am going to talk about how we may be overemphasizing the scales and not thinking about what we really need and give you some examples of how a lot of the artists we admire may not be thinking in scales or modes that much, and what we should think about instead.

Focus on the song not the scales

When you are improvising you are playing lines that need to match the underlying chord sequence and relate to it. The scale you use will contain the chord, but sometimes it is not that important what else is in there.

First I am going to talk about how a lick or a solo follows the changes and then about how that makes some of the notes in the scale a lot less important.

Content:

0:00 Intro

0:11 Jazz Scales are not everything

0:30 Follow the examples of great players

0:43 How Solos Relate to the Chords

0:58 Example #1 – A lick that spells out the sound of a Gm7 chord

1:30 Why and how is it related to the chord

2:02 Example #2 – A Lick that uses the Gm7 with other chords

2:27 Hear the harmony without any backing

2:46 Splitting the Scale in Chord Tones and Extensions

3:14 Example #3 – Chord tones vs Extensions

3:48 Example #4 – Gm7 line that is thinking Chord Tones and leading notes, not just a Scale

4:17 Examples of Licks that are constructed only thinking chord tones and not the scale

4:31 George Benson Example and Analysis

5:02 How Pat Metheny suggest you work on this

5:39 Focus on the Chords and make strong melodies don’t worry too much about scales

6:06 What is important about a scale?6:19 Like The Video? Check out My Patreon Page!

How To Explore Scales in a useful way

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