Tag Archives: Jazz Guitar Technique

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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How to Play Fast & Difficult Jazz Guitar Phrases

You probably feel that you get confronted with your technical limitations very often. I think we all do, which of course is also only a testament to the fact that we always try to take things to the limit of our abilities and expand that limit.

Playing fast phrases on guitar is difficult, and with bebop phrases this is even more difficult because the music contains very complicated lines and melodies in Jazz.

There are actually many ways to play fast phrases. I think this is sometimes a bit overlooked, and if you are aware of the options it can really solve a lot of problems in your playing. In this lesson I am going to discuss how you can use different kinds of technique to execute the first phrase of Donna Lee. What techniques work for you is something that only you can figure out, but you should be aware of them, so you can choose instead of banging your head against the wall in 

The Dreaded Donna Lee Theme with Alternate Picking

Donna Lee is one of the more busy bebop themes. It was originally credited to Charlie Parker, but I personally find it unlikely that he wrote it. Miles Davis is a more logical choice.

The main technique that I rely on is alternate picking and usually that is where I start when it comes to playing bebop themes like this.

Example 1 shows the first phrase of the theme:

The first place to start looking for a better way to play the theme is the embellishments, so the trills and the 16th note phrases in bars1 and 3.

Solving problems with legato technique

These are easier to execute and sound much more natural if you play them with legato.

Legato technique is probably the most common way to make it easier to play fast phrases. When I say legato in this context I am talking about hammer ons, pull offs and slides. So basically any technique that does not relying on striking the next note.

If we turn the two faster difficult phrases into something that we can loop it might look like this:

Legato Strategy for difficult lines

The way of finding a way to play phrases like this that I go over here is probably something you should end up getting to automatically. I rarely sit down and go over phrases with so much thought. It is as much about trying to hear the phrase on the instrument and then let your fingers translate what you hear into sound.

That said it can always be useful to check out some phrases and really think about ways to play them.

The idea here is to try to insert a pull off when transitioning from one string to the next. This will buy your right hand some time.

In example 3 I am doing this with by pulling off from the E to the Eb. This also helps phrasing since it gives the E an accent.

Legato Exercises

To practice mixing legato and picking you can do the exercises here below. The idea is to pick two notes in a 3 note per string scale.

Below is an ascending and descending set of scale exercises.

Slide – the forgotten legato technique

The next technique to add to the example is Slides. Using slides is something that is actually very common bu that is not taught very often.

A great place to use this is in bar 3 where it helps us get some time to move from the A string to the D string in the Dø arpeggio.

Economy Picking

Another way to make it easier for your right hand is to use economy picking. The Economy picking idea is that when possible you can move from one string to the next in one go by not alternate picking but sticking to one direction. 

In example 7 I have shown how to do this with the Donna Lee Theme.

Exercise for Economy Picking!

Below is an exercise demonstrating how to play an Ab major scale using Economy Picking. The idea is pretty simple, but take care with getting the timing right when you play it. Economy picking can very easily rush.

Moving the melody around

Sometimes you can solve a lot of problems by changing position while playing a phrase. This is really due to the fact that sometimes a part of a line like an arpeggio or a scale run can be difficult to do.

In the example belowthe F7 arpeggio in bar 2 is moved around so that the first note A is moved to the G string. In this case it actually makes the shift back a little tricky, but it does work.

Shifting to another place completely

One way to solve problems is of course also to play the theme in a different place on the neck. It is always a great exercise and in doing so you can also discover what is difficult or what might work better for the theme.

Below is the phrase written out starting on another string.

Find the solutions that work for you!

The key element here is for you to find ways of playing the phrases that work for you. A part of that process is of course to check out the techniques and realize what it available as I go over here, but you need to check out what works for you and also what works for others.

Check out how I play double time phrases in this solo

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This Is How You Should Practice Every Scale Exercise

Most great Guitar Players mix a lot of different techniques when they are playing, and if that is the end goal then the scale exercises you do should also contain that element!

In this lesson I am going to go over some ways to take simple exercises and use them to combine legato, alternate picking and sweeping or economy picking.

Technique and Scale Exercises are for sound

For me it is in the end much more about having techniques so that I can play the music that I want to play and get it to sound right and having a flexible technique in terms of legato and picking is very useful for this.

Technique is there to help me play the Music that I want to play with The Phrasing and Sound I want to hear!

The exercises in this video is My take on how this works it is important to remember that the best solution is for you to 

Find YOUR way of combining different techniques
incorporate it into your practice routine and playing

Basic Scale Exercise and a few options

Example 1 is a C major scale in the 8th position played with a 3NPS fingering.

In the video I play it with alternate picking:

You can do this mixing with legato as well. Let’s do that like this: Down Up Hammer-on:

and of course you can also do Down Hammer-on UP:

 Technique priorities – what to choose

The way I think about this is no that it has to sound the same, different techniques sound slightly different and when I play I am going to use the technique that is playable or easy AND that sounds the best.

The goal is to use the different sounds and dynamics of the technique in our phrasing

So it doesn’t have to sound the same!

Actually you make choices on this already with the exercises.

Here’s the scale in 3rds with alternate picking:

And you can try to add as much legato as possible by doing this:

But somehow it’s nice to have one more picked note to get it to sound a little more natural:


With all of these exercises I am choosing the approach and techniques that I like and that fits to me, but of course this is different from person to person so you might find that other combinations work better for you. The important thing is to make sure you can play it in time and that you get the phrasing or sound that you like.

Adding Economy picking to the mix

Of course you can also work with sweeping or economy picking, When playing arpeggios this becomes very practical. For example with diatonic triads.

And we can combine all of it in an exercise like this with triads up one down the next 

It is up to your imagination and you get to challenge yourself and develop your ability to mix

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This Is How You Should Practice Every Scale Exercise – PDF

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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Practice Major Scales like this and You will get more out of it!

You may think that this is a guitar technique video about major scales, but there is more to scale practice than moving your fingers. Most musicians study major scales as part of their practice routine. In this video I want to talk about what you want to learn, what you need it for and how you use it to build on when making music. Hopefully you can recognize and maybe re-shape your practice and connect things more.
 
 For a lot of you this may be a big check list that you can cross a lot of stuff off on, but it will also give you some new ideas on where to go and connect the things you already know. I may give you the advice to learn a bit of theory.
 

List of Content:

0:00 Intro – What you need to know, what is going to make you play better

0:18 It’s more than moving your fingers

0:57 Step 1 – Learn the scale on your instrument

1:07 Learn the notes of the scale

1:31 Combine The theory and the scale practice

1:50 Learn the Fretboard using the scales

2:29 How knowing the notes helps in a solo and how you use it

3:26 Step 2 – Learning the Diatonic Chords and Arpeggios

3:39 The chords are in the scale

3:58 Construction Diatonic arpeggios in the scale Cmaj7 and Dm7

4:32 What you need to know about the diatonic harmony

5:19 Knowing the notes of the chords in the scale and using that.

6:01 The 7th chords in Jazz and the Triads

6:30 Triads and how they are built

6:47 Triads in Jazz: Upper-structure triads and how they are used

6:56 Em triad as upper-structure on a G7

7:24 Step 3 – Beyond the Basics

7:44 The “Diatonic” Minor Pentatonic scales – Modern Jazz Sounds

8:11 The three Pentatonic scales

8:45 Connecting knowledge to understand the pentatonic scales

9:01 Super-imposing Pentatonic scales on Extended chords

9:32 Example of how to relate a pentatonic scale to a Cmaj7 chord

10:00 Improvising with the super-imposed scale

10:32 Quartal 3-part arpeggios

10:47 Playing the arpeggios and Quartal chords in the scale

11:02 The mysterious chords and how we use them

11:33 How to use the Quartal Arpeggios in your playing

11:56 Example of analyzing some chords against a Cmaj7

12:45 The Many other subsets, arpeggios and structures to work with

13:25 What you need to learn and use!

14:00 Do you have a favourite scale exercise or approach?

14:48 Like the video? Check out my Patreon Page!

My Guitar Practice Routine 2017 – Technique: Open Triads, Quartal Arpeggios

We need to work on guitar technique, but at the same time, it is important not to get stuck with the same guitar technique exercises day after day. Having an ever-varying technique routine is a better way to help you prepare for jazz improvisation and practice guitar effectively.

Since my video on things you should include in your guitar practice routine. This video is discussing the Guitar Technique part of a practice schedule and is just an overview of what I work on. It is my version of the best way to practice guitar, but it is of course not the only way.

Some of the topics I cover are:
0:00 Intro (26-2)
0:22 What is a good Technique Schedule?
1:17 Do you have a good idea for an exercise?
1:45 Basic Coordination and warm up

3:49 Arpeggios across the neck
5:36 Triads Across the neck
7:28 Improvisation with Open voiced or Spread Triads
8:48 Steve Morse Exercise with open triads

9:39 Scale Practice
11:01 C melodic minor across the neck
11:25 Scales in position
12:06 Triads
14:14 Diatonic 7th chords

14:57 Basic intervals
16:15 Focus on different Right Hand Techniques

17:50 Other Structures
18:35 Quartal Arpeggios
18:59 Shell Voicings
20:05 Drop2 voicings
20:51 Triad Inversions

21:28 A few closing thoughts on my routine
23:49 What’s your opinion? & Kreutzer Etudes