Tag Archives: jazz guitar soloing techniques

5 Jazz Guitar “Rules” That You Should Break (The Pros Do)

Jazz Rules!

Are there rules for Jazz? When you are learning something then it is nice to have simple and clear rules so that you can evaluate and practice towards something that fits the rules. Unfortunately, rules are rarely a good description for learning to play music,  as you will see in this video. There are a lot of very common “rules” that you should be breaking as soon as you can,  they will only waste your practice time and keep you from learning.

Rule #1 – Chromatic Notes

Let’s start with a very practical one, and then move on to some techniques and practice stuff that are bad advice.

A big part of Jazz vocabulary is the sound of chromatic enclosures and passing notes, and this rule is about that:

Chromatic Passing Notes Should Never Be On The Downbeat.

So why is this not a rule? The point of a chromatic leading note is to create tension that then resolves to a chord or scale note, and it does that whether you place it on a downbeat or an upbeat.

 

Placing it on a downbeat will only create more tension, but that is also something that works as a sound, like this:

You want to learn to use that creatively, and it is pretty easy to find examples here’s Charlie Parker’s Billie’s Bounce:

And he also uses it in Moose The Mooche

So you can put leading notes wherever you want, just like Parker. Let’s take another very common misunderstanding with notes, but this time the notes in the scale:

Rule #2 – Avoid Notes

Many questionable choices have been made in the name of “Avoid notes“. I imagine it is mostly just because the name is too short and unclear so it is easy to abuse or get wrong.

An avoid note over a chord is a note that is dissonant, the usual example is the 4th or 11th over a major chord, so an F over a Cmaj7. Listen to how the b9 interval between then E and the F really begs to resolve:

But just because you should not emphasize or sit on a note, that doesn’t mean that you should spend too much time worrying about not hitting it.

In general, it is better to focus on what you want to play, and not what you shouldn’t play, and there is no need to try to choose scales that have no avoid notes or only practice not using them in your lines, they are there to be used in the music, and the music is probably boring without them.

Check out how you can use it in your lines as a tension that resolves. Here I am playing the avoid note on beat 1 of bar 2:

Rule #3 – Bending

Once in a while, you will hear people insisting that certain techniques are not allowed in certain styles of music, so there is no tapping in Blues unless Billy Gibbons does it and there is no bending in Jazz.

But, of course, that is not really true, there is quite a lot of bending in Jazz even if there are also complete albums without any, and many guitarists that never use it.

Often this is connected to Blues phrases like this Barney Kessel example:

but there are also Jazz guitarists who have made it a part of their expressive vocabulary outside of Blues phrasing. My favorite for this is probably Pat Metheny:

I made a longer video on this a few years ago, and to me, it was always a bit surprising that this was such a sensitive topic, it is just a technique after all, and you don’t have to use all techniques all the time, surely there is no outrage that people don’t play sweep arpeggios in Blues. I don’t think I ever thought of this as a rule. You probably won’t find a lot of bends in Bop lines, because the effect of this technique really comes across better with long notes, something that there are not a lot of in Bebop, but it is up to you to figure out how it fits in your playing.

This might offend a few people, but I always imagined that it came from guitarists going to Jam sessions and then playing their blues clichés over jazz pieces without ever really sounding like Jazz, connecting to the song or the groove, but I don’t think I ever saw that at a session.

My personal favorites with this are probably Scofield and Metheny. Let’s go to what is probably the biggest waste of time for beginning Jazz guitarists

Rule #4 – Always Practice Everything In All Keys And All Positions

This rule will help you waste a LOT of time, so feel free to ignore it!

“You Need To Practice Everything In All Keys And All Positions”

There is a good reason for eventually taking some things and working through that in all keys and all positions, but this is probably more a few very fundamental things like the 3 basic scales: major, harmonic minor, and melodic minor. Diatonic arpeggios, triads, and that sort of basic foundational vocabulary.

Let me show you how easy it is to overload yourself with work like this very quickly:

This is a great basic line, consisting of an enclosure and an arpeggio

It’s a simple melody so you should check it out for all the diatonic chords in C major, in other positions, in other keys, do all 12, and it probably also works in Harmonic minor:

Or is it maybe more useful to work on using it in your solos?

You can take the lick and then add another ending:

Maybe it is nice with some more chromatic stuff and a leading note on the downbeat:

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Or you could be leading into it with a Coltrane Pattern;

Of course, you might have time to do both, but do you have time to do both for all variations in all keys, scales, and positions? You need to be realistic with what you get out of it.

Working like this is great for exploring but it should not be the way you always do everything. Ask yourself how common 7th-chord arpeggio inversions are in Bop lines? Are they common enough to spend hours practicing that? Or a similar thing: It’s good to sometimes take a song through all 12 keys, and it can also be fun. But it is not always the way to do, maybe it is better to get really good at it in the key you need to play it in?

Rule #5 – You Need A Foundation in Technique and Theory

A very similar Rule that people think is part of Jazz is that you need to have a foundation in Theory and Technique to play it. That is also not true. You could get started with a lot less, even no theory at all, and just start learning solos by ear and other vocabulary only to learn the theory as you work on the vocabulary.

If you are starting with some not-too-modern bop-inspired stuff then most of that is going to be major scale, a few chromatic notes, and the odd blues phrase here and there. You can get very far with that. Don’t get lost in modes, and different minor scales right away, you can better focus on learning to improvise, getting the right vocabulary, and learning to play songs.

Getting those things down will get you to play music and really, and it is probably also closer to why you are interested in Jazz in the first place. I am sure you did not start playing Jazz just to learn how to play melodic minor.

My Jazz Guitar Roadmap course is built around that as well, a major scale, some arpeggios, a song, and figuring out how to play solos, using rhythm, phrasing, and chromatic stuff to make it sound right. It really doesn’t have to be that complicated!

Check it out here: The Jazz Guitar Roadmap

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Simple Ideas That Make Your Solo Better

You know the feeling: You are practicing and in your jazz guitar solo you are using the right notes, the right scale, and arpeggios but it is also really boring. In this lesson, I am going to go over some of the things I like to mess around with and try to change things up a bit with different arpeggios, rhythms, and melodic ideas. It should give you some inspiration and a way to change things up a bit in your own playing.

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Content:

0:00 Intro

0:44 #1 How to not sound like scales and arpeggios – with (Secret) Arpeggios

2:18 #2 How to not sound like scales and arpeggios – with Scales

3:48 #3 How to not sound like scales and arpeggios – Wrong Scales and Arpeggios

4:57 #4 8th-notes in groups of 3 notes

6:01 #5 Triplets in Groups of 4 notes

7:21 Triads – The Strongest Melody we have!

7:40 Like the video? Check out My Patreon Page

Expanding your solo vocabulary

Lady Bird – Arpeggios & Pentatonic Scales

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How To Listen To Your Solos And Really Learn Something

You are practice playing jazz guitar solos because you want to get better at it, and you probably also discovered that it really helps to record yourself and listen to how the solo sounds because you don’t really have time to listen if you are playing the guitar.

But what do you listen for, and how do you figure out what to improve your jazz guitar skills? In this video, I am going over some of the things you can learn from recording your own solos.

Content:

0:00 Intro

0:17 Recording Your Solos – But what to learn from them?

0:52 Get the most out of your practice (also the easy things)

1:18 It is Hard to listen to Your Own Playing

1:49 Ear-training (but not just chords and scales)

2:48 Lost in the Zoom – Don’t only check out details

3:46 What to listen for and work on

4:34 Things for the list of stuff to check out

6:48 Do you record your own solos?

7:14 Like the video? Check out my Patreon page

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5 Quick Tips When You Are Stuck In A Jazz Solo

We all get stuck in solos, even though you know the song, the chord or the scale. You still don’t know what to play. This video will give you some jazz guitar tips that you can use to get past this.

The 5 tricks are about looking at things differently or taking a step back and finding more options, but working on them will make you a better jazz improviser and improve how you make music.

More tips on improving your Jazz Guitar Solos

The Scale is NOT That Important – This is!

More Melodic Guitar Solos – Three Critical Techniques without Arpeggios and Scales

Content:

0:00 Intro

0:42  You Know The Song, but still..

1:51 #1 Play The Melody  

2:59 #2 Play The Chord

3:43 #3 What Do You Hear? Nothing? Then Play That! (Jim Hall!!)

4:54 #4 What Did You Play Right Before

5:34 How This Sounds on A Song

7:36 #5 Check Available Triads, Arpeggios, Pentatonics

7:52 Share your list

8:12 A Part of My List

9:10 Like The Video? Check out my Patreon Page

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Get the PDF!

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Jazz Guitar Solo – This Is What I Think About

What do I think in a Guitar Solo? A Jazz Guitar Solo is not as much thinking as you may assume. In this video I improvised a solo, transcribed it and then I go over the solo discussing what I thought or about or what I might have thought about when playing the solo.

This should give you some insight into how I improvise and also maybe what you should not worry about when playing a song. Jazz is a genre of music that lends itself to over-thinking.

Some of the topics I go over is how and why I think certain things like altered dominants or motifs. I also talk about the construction and thought process behind double-time lines and some polyrhythmic ideas.

Content of the video

 0:00 Intro – What I think about in a solo

0:20 The Driving a Car Analogy

0:42 Solo and Transcription.

1:17 Out Of Nowhere – The Song and the Form

1:48 The Solo

2:43 The Beginning – How to start a solo

4:04 How Target notes are a part of my playing

5:18 Ab Blues in G major?

5:49 The Added C7(#11) chord

6:33 The Gmaj7 Gm6 trick

7:09 Bm7 E7 – Thinking an Altered Dominant

8:39 I am not Pat Martino (surprised?)

8:50 A Tonic minor sound on the II chord

10:14 The Lydian Dom7th: Eb7

11:03 Double Time Line

12:31 Using Blues G Phrases in Medium Swing

14:22 A Simple Motif through a few bars

15:53 Bm Pentatonic to C7(13)

16:33 The Bm7 chord as a II chord not a III

17:25 4th note Triplet Poly Rhythm- Groups of 2 (displaced)

18:45 The Final turnaround and the ending

19:50 Blues in Medium Swing (Joe Pass)

20:54 How Not To Think About What I do

21:15 Like the video? Check out my Patreon Page

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The 7 Questions You Need To Ask About A Solo You Love

We all have a jazz guitar solo that we really love and we dream of being able to play a solo like that. Often the advice that you get is to transcribe the solo and use that to learn to figure out what is going on, but that can also be a way for you to zoom in too much on the details. Often it isn’t that important if it is an E or and Eb, but it is much more important that he is developing a motif or only using short phrases or playing triplets in groups of 4.

In this video I am going to focus on what you can learn by listening to solos and focus on other things than what notes are being played, a lot of topics that are just as important and that we forget to talk about.

Hope you like it!

Content of the Video

0:00 Intro

0:12 The Problem with Transcribing

0:47 Focus on The Bigger Picture

1:22 How Long Are The Phrases?

1:37 John McLaughlin Vs Wes Montgomery

2:27 Using Phrase Length in Your Own Practice

2:44 What Is Happening With The Rhythm?

2:54 Pat Martino vs Herbie Hancock

3:27 Herbie going beyond the 8th note and in the groove phrasing

3:50 Intersesting ideas with 8th notes

4:00 Timing, Placement on the beat?

4:21 Is It Bebop Lines or Vocal-like Melodies?

4:50 Paul Desmond Vs. Pat Metheny

5:43 How Is The Development Of The Solo?

5:52 Mainstream Jazz and Dynamics?

6:05 Steve Vai vs Stan Getz

6:36 A Method for Solo Construction: Wes Montgomery

7:20 Is it In The Groove or Floating over it?

7:57 Joe Pass Vs Allan Holdsworth

8:31 Are The Phrases Connected, and How?

8:55 Wes Montgomery Vs Pat Martino

9:26 How Is The Soloist Using Space?

9:44 Use Space to Create Tension!

10:00 Like John Abercrombie!

10:28 Like The Video? Check out My Patreon Page!

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Get the PDF!

The PDF with examples for this video is available through Patreon. You can check out my Patreon Page here: https://www.patreon.com/jenslarsen

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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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