Tag Archives: jazz guitar

The Massive Misunderstanding About Modulations

The problem is that you probably don’t know what a key is, and it is a LOT more than you think!

If you look at the C major scale:

Then that is just the scale, the key of C major is so much more, and once you start to understand that then you are going to find it a lot easier to understand chord progressions, songs, and how to improvise over them and it will blow your mind with what you can do with chordsin the key of C major! I’ll show you along the way.

If I have to sum up what this video is about the it is:

Scale ≠ key

Let’s start with a chord progression that is in C major, but has quite a few chords that are not in the C major scale.

Diatonic Chords

An important part of the chords associated with a key are the diatonic chords of that the scale, so the chords you get, if you stack 3rds in the scale:

3rds

Triads

7th Chords

If you do that you have these chords:

The Progression

Here’s a chord progression that we can use to understand some of the chords that are in the key but not in the scale. In the example there are 3 categories of chords that are not diatonic to C major but are all common chords in songs in the key of C:

Immediately you can see that Cmaj7, Dm7, and Fmaj7 are all diatonic chords in C so they are easy to analyze. But there are a few left, I’ll start with the A7 and Eø chords, but first, let’s just talk about what a modulation is.

Modulations – It’s not just changing scales…

The first thing you need to realize is wrong is the rule that if you have to change the scale then you are also in another key. That is not how your ear experiences this, you can go back to the chord progression and listen if you can hear the C as root, and if that changes once you hear the A7.

So the key is more sticky than just diatonic chords, and it doesn’t modulate until it really establishes a different key, take a famous song like All The Things You Are, the first part is almost pretending to be in Fm and then turns out to be in Ab major:

But then you get a clear shift once it goes to G7 and resolves to Cmaj7 instead of the Cm7 that your ear expects:

First, just listen and notice at this point, it would not sound crazy if the songs stayed there and started to play a turnaround in C, to stay in that key.

So what is the difference between the G7 in All The Things and the A7 in my example progression:

The biggest difference is what you hear, you can hear that Ab is not the root anymore when it goes to Cmaj7 and stays there. But that also has to do with the fact that the Cmaj7 is on bar3 in 4 bar phrase so it is given a place in the form that is reserved for the “important” chords. Compared to A7 that is tucked away in the 2nd half of a bar.

Another difference is that the Cmaj7 is a tonic chord, where A7 is a dominant that might lead to another tonic chord but instead resolves back into the key when it goes to the II chord Dm7.

You can start by asking yourself these 3 things if you want to figure out if something is a modulation, and the first thing is indeed to use your ears and ask yourself if it sounds like one. Do I hear another root.

Is it a tonic chord, because if it is modulating then there has to be a root, and you also want to check if it is immediately moving back to the original key. That will help you recognize modulations.

Now you know why A7, Abmaj7, Eø and F#dim are not modulations, but what are they then?

Let’s start with the most common category:

Secondary Dominants and…

This is about what is probably one of the most important things about chord progressions, and your music is really boring if that is not in there: Forward motion!

If you listen to a piece of music then the chords should help you feel a story, they should create tension and resolution to keep it interesting, and one of the easiest ways to do that is to use Secondary dominants.

The strongest resolution we have in music is dominant to tonic:

But in the scale there is only one real dominant, and for C major that is G7.

Luckily the V I, or dominant resolution is so strong that we can add dominant chords for other chords as well, and these are called secondary dominants.

In the progression, the chords go from Cmaj7 to Dm7,

but to add some energy and push towards the Dm7. You can add an A7, and in this case that is the A7 shows up as belonging to the key of Dm because it resolves to Dm7:

Compared to just moving from Cmaj7 to Dm7., then there is clearly more happening, and this is just using a dominant resolution to have some energy towards Dm7. When you analyze these then you write a V but in a bracket to show that it is not the V of the key but a secondary dominant.

But there is another variation possible as well which is a bit later in the progression:

This is a variation of the secondary dominant, but instead of using the dominant, I am using the 7th degree of of the scale to resolve, so in C major that would be Bø Cmaj7,

and in if the chord it resolves to is a minor chord you would use a full diminished chord like this:

These work like the secondary dominants and are a little less common, but still in a lot of songs. You analyze them as secondary seventh: [VII]

Let’s move on to the chords that are probably the most beautiful, and then get to the category that people always try to argue doesn’t exist.

Minor in Major – The Most Beautiful Sound

The Grass is always greener on the other side, so when you are moving around in the major key it can sound really beautiful to have some chords that sound like they are from minor. This is mostly used with subdominant chords, but we do us it with the dominant as well sometimes.

In the example progression, I am using my favorite chord in the key of C major: Abmaj7, the bVImaj7.

Here it is used to create a more interesting transition back to Cmaj7 from Dm7, so it feels a bit like a major subdominant to a minor subdominant back to the tonic Like this:

“and of course I am playing it like this”:

And you can use most of the other beautiful options like a IVm chord:

A Backdoor dominant, which is really just an Fm6 with a funny bass note:

Or the Neapolitan Subdominant which sounds great but is a bit more complicated to explain:

S)

I have another video going into how these work and where they come from that you can check out, there’s a link in the description

Let’s talk about the one that people are always trying to argue doesn’t exist.

#IV – It IS a thing!

The #IV diminished chord! So many people want to tell you that it is really another chord that should resolve somewhere else, which already tells you that it is not a fantastic description. I’ll cover the most common one of those in a bit, but first let us look at what the #IVdim chord is:

The easiest way to understand it is probably to look at it as chord coming out of voice-leading, so if it resolves to Cmaj7 then you could look at it like this:

So really just a way to add a few chromatic leading notes when moving from F to C,

but looking at it like this also makes it clear that you are not modulating to another key, it is not related to another scale in any way. You should also notice that this voice-leading works really well backwards as well especially if you have a 6th on the F chord:

This is what this common progression is Cmaj7 Ebdim Dm7 really is

So that also demystifies that progression, I hope.

The #IV dim is also a great way to create suspensions:

and you will often find it reharmonized as a IIø V to III, especially In Jazz Standards this is often to harmonize a phrase where the 7th of the key is in the melody like “I Remember You”

The Thing It Isn’t

Why is that a common mistake? That isn’t a huge surprise, The first thing you learn is with diminished chords is probably about dominant diminished chords, something like

This is where you get used to blindly turn a dim chord into a dominant, and usually that conversion is where the root of the dim chord is the 3rd of the dominant, so for C#dim then the dominant with C# as a 3rd is A7, which makes sense since A7 is the dominant of Dm7.

But try to listen to the part of the progression that has the F#dim chord:

in this example you have an F#dim which would then translate to a D7(b9), but that doesn’t automatically make it a V of V, looking at it like that would be just looking at the notes and ignoring the other chords.

 

In the progression the F#dim does not resolve to G or G7, it resolves to a Cmaj7 chord, and notice how that still sounds like a resolution.

If you are in a major key, (we are in C major) then the V of V does not have a b9, try playing some songs with a V of V and listen to how a b9 sounds in that place, because that is not a common sound, I can right now only think of one song that has that, and that is to get a blues sound.

You also want to listen to how that dim chord or it’s inversion will resolve not only to the tonic chord, but also to other subdominants like Dm7 and Fm6.

So there are quite a few reasons why this is not just a V of V, and in fact, the diminished chord is not dominant at all, it is subdominant.

But I am sure people will still comment that it is a V of V also on this video…

Think Like The Pros

And this has to do with how you think about chords. Chords are more than notes, because the same chord can be many things depending on what context it is in. This is also a part of what makes Functional harmony such an incredibly powerful tool.

You can use that to not only understand the chord progression and make it simpler, it is also a great help in improvising over chords and knowing what notes to play.

To get into that approach and also how Barry Harris and Pat Martino approach harmony then check out this video which covers that and will make it easier to learn songs and solo over changes!

How The Pros Think About Chord Progressions (and you probably don’t)

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Jazz Beginners: 7 Habits That Keep You Stuck Forever!

There are a few habits that you need to quit if you don’t want to be stuck as a jazz beginner forever. Some of them might be a bit hard to give up, one of them will probably offend a few you, but it is worth it to get this right.

Let me know which one you think is most important or if I forgot to mention one!

#1 Thinking in Scales

Let’s start with some practical music theory, that helps you play better,  because this is a very common problem that you can do a lot about with very little effort. I certainly remember this part of learning Jazz from when I was just getting started.

It is pointless to try to translate chord progressions or songs to scales! So just Stop doing that! Simply because that is not actually helping you play better, it just isn’t useful information, and It will only help you to sound like you are practicing scales on top of the song:

You need to change how you think about what notes to play.  When you improvise Jazz then you are using scales that have 7 (or more) notes which means you can add a lot of color, but it also means that you need to be able to choose the right notes and be aware of what notes you are playing,

which is maybe different from what you are used to with the pentatonic scale. But you actually want it to be the same as the pentatonic scale, you don’t want to think about it when you are playing.

Let’s say you have a Dm7 chord and that is the II chord in C major,

you want to have different priorities for the notes in the scale. You want to be aware that the Dm7 chord tones are stronger or closer to the chord.

Having that overview makes it easier to play something that nails the sound of the chord, but you want to go a step further than just having that overview of the notes:

When you improvise over a chord then you are not starting from scratch every time, so you want to have a vocabulary of flexible licks that you can use in your solo and put together in different ways, so for the Dm7 you might know that you can use an Fmaj7 arpeggio

and that a certain chromatic phrases sounds great:

And if you put these two together you get:

The important thing here is that you have blocks of melody that you can hear and not theoretical notes that you have to think in your head while playing.

And that knowledge should be flexible so that you can create new things with the building blocks, not just play the same licks every time.

Practice your scales and arpeggios,  but make sure to also learn vocabulary using them so that you have some melodies that go with it, which is probably how you played a solo in the Pentatonic scale. You need something that is music not just theory and technique. Later I will also show you how you can fix the way you think about chords and chord progressions, because that can also be very inefficient!

#2 A 4-bar Loop is NOT a song

I guess Ed Sheeran and Daft Punk might disagree with me on this, but a 4-bar loop is not really a song, and if you want to learn Jazz then you also need to learn Jazz songs, and jazz songs are rarely just 4-bar loops. Learning songs is going to get difficult if you are only practicing looped II V I progressions or a static maj7 chord or something like that.

It is the kind of thing that can be beneficial to do for a period, but you probably don’t ever want to only be doing that for more than a few days. Learning songs, learning real music is much too important, and you don’t go to a Jam session to play an II V I in Eb for 20 minutes. You go there to play songs, so that is what you need to learn!

Of course, The first song can be very difficult to get through but if you pick an easy one then it is far from impossible, and you can check out my Roadmap course if you want a step-by-step guide to take you through that process, learning to solo on a standard.

The Roadmap: http://bit.ly/JazzGtRm

I have fun helping students in the community with feedback as they solo with the material on a Jazz standard and build their skills, it has become a great place to hang out.

#3 Chords Are NOT Islands

If you are trying to learn songs then it can be difficult to remember all the chords in there. Most Jazz standards are 32 bars,

so that is probably more than 32 chords you need to remember. The thing is that you should not be thinking about each chord at all because that is making it a LOT more difficult! Instead, you want to chunk the chords together.

If you know how to do that then you don’t need to remember as many chords. It is like learning to read the words in a sentence instead of trying to memorize all the letters in there. Improvising should also be more about playing through groups of chords.

For this, You want to learn to recognize these harmonic building blocks in the chord progressions, just start with II V I’s and turnarounds but make sure to learn more,

because that will make it 1000x easier to learn chord progressions by heart, and it also makes it easier to hear a chord progression because hearing a Dm7 out of context(example)  is not as easy as hearing a turnaround (example). The building blocks make it closer to something you can hear, relating it to a bass melody or how other songs sound.

Remember to let me know in the comments which habit is most important for you, or if there is one I forgot to include.

#4 Working On The Wrong Exercises

A way to transition smoothly from 3rds to triads to 7th chords  (or each of those exercises)

When I went from playing Blues and Rock to playing Jazz, then one of the transitions that was difficult to get used to was learning to improvise with 7-note scales like the major scale instead of pentatonic scales.

For me, it took some time before I figured out how to learn the scales and what to practice, especially when it comes to Jazz. I started with major scale exercises that might be useful for getting a bit more flexible with the scale in a technical sense, but they didn’t help me play Jazz. But you don’t need to do that, instead, you can focus on practicing the things that you need for Jazz solos. You don’t want to play 4-note sequences in a Jazz solo (Yngwie?)

You are better off focusing on diatonic triads and arpeggios, and also how to add chromatic leading notes to that, because that is what the jazz licks are made of. The way I always tell students to build this is by starting with the diatonic 3rds as a stepping stone

to diatonic triads

and then the 7th chords which are the main structure of most Jazz music.

When you work on these exercises then you are practicing things that you need when you solo and you make it easier to play lines like this:

So stop practicing things that you don’t need when you solo because that is probably a waste of time!

#5 Only Exercises

This is horrible about beginning Jazz and at the same time also one of the greatest things about Jazz:  There are so many possibilities and so many interesting and wonderful things to check out but you also have to watch out that you don’t get stuck just scratching the surface of a lot of stuff without really putting things to use.

If you are only practicing exercises and exploring new material without also playing music and putting the things you practice to use then you probably won’t learn what you are exploring and you also won’t get any better at playing Jazz which was the real goal to begin with. Don’t get stuck with only doing exercises! This is again an essential part of how I have constructed the roadmap, only a few exercises and then a practical way to turn them into music and help you get started playing solos!

Maybe this one is not a bad habit and more of a missing good habit, but if you are not listening to Jazz, you probably won’t ever learn to play Jazz. It is always a bit surprising that I have to say this at all, because why would you want to learn to play Jazz if you don’t listen to it?

I was talking to Adam Levy, who you may or may not know, he has been a guest on the channel quite a few times and has his own YouTube channel.

He mentioned some practice advice that he had received from Joe Diorio in a masterclass: Your practice sessions should always be 50% listening to music! If Joe Diorio recommends something then that is something you should consider, given how incredible and influential a musician he was.  But, you could also argue that this means that if you are driving and listening to Jazz then you are also practicing and you could be practicing while cooking or doing the dishes. Don’t underestimate how much you learn just by listening to a few albums of great music!

#7 Backingtrack Addiction

There is always a hot take in these videos…

One of the most important parts of learning a song and being able to improvise over it is being able to hear the harmony inside and being able to feel the time without leaning on the rest of the band and relying on them to carry you through it. The easiest way to get to that point is to practice with a minimal reference so that if you mess up the time or the chords then you immediately become aware of it. And of course, being aware of this and fixing it when you’re practicing is a lot better than messing up when you are playing with other people. One of my teachers pointed this out to me when I was studying, and I had never thought about it like that but Backing tracks are just always too easy. When it comes to practicing to play music and learning songs then you need to think about backing tracks as the chocolate cake of your practice routine, something that you enjoy at the end but which makes a terrible meal if you were to make it the only thing you eat.

Cut away the backing track and just play with a click. Start by playing the melody and the chords and then once you have the song in your ears you can start soloing. If you don’t believe me then just test it try starting with a metronome when you learn a song and once you can do that then you move to a backing track and notice how easy that is. Then try to do it the other way around, so start with the backing track, and then go to the metronome.  You will know what I talking about.

I know this is not what most people want to hear, but that does not make it any less true, and you can always leave some angry comments if that makes you feel better. Nobody who does the test I just sketched out will do that though, I am sure!

Bonus: What To Practice and How To Make It Into Music

An extra tip, related to practicing scales and how to do this right: In the beginning, it is very difficult to take the exercises and then turn them into music, into the flexible building blocks I mentioned. You need to add important ingredients like Rhythm, Phrasing, and Melody, but how do you do that? There is a way to build that skill, and you can get started with the method in this video where I even throw in some nice chromatic tricks as well that will make things flow and sound like your favorite Jazz guitarist!

I Wish Every Jazz Beginner Could Watch This!

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7 Skills Jazz Beginners Don’t Spend Enough Time On

One of the biggest mistakes Jazz Beginners make is to practice a lot but not develop the skills that really will get them further, in fact, a lot of practice is just wasting time and building bad habits. In this video, I want to go over 7 skills that will help you beome a better Jazz guitarist, some of these skills you might be working on already, but you can use the video to check if something is missing.

#1 How Long Should A Note Be?

I actually think this one is easier to fix than most of the other skills in this video, and I am sure that if I had recordings of myself from when I was starting out, then I definitely did not have this skill and was very much guilty of too many long notes!

If you ask classical musicians who don’t play guitar about their “nickname” for guitar they will probably tell you “staccato festival” meaning that the instrument has absolutely no sustain (which is sort of true compared to a trumpet or violin).

But in this case, it is the other way around. For Jazz

I am sure you can hear that the long notes sound a bit strange, and check out how short notes are much better at conveying the rhythm and connecting with the groove, and this is, of course, very important for Jazz.

This problem comes up very often with students in the roadmap,

(probably this is not a good shot of the roadmap, the other one later on in the video shows the prices… you know better if and which shot to use…)

but they do hear it and fix it quite fast. The first step is usually to work on just ending phrases on a short note, and sometimes getting used to hearing melodies that end on an off-beat also helps.

Of course, you want to play long notes sometimes as well, the important thing is that you are in control and that you choose, it should not be a habit.

Let’s move on to an online comment that really annoys me.

#2 Jazz Is Not A Looping II V I

I should probably watch out if this doesn’t turn into a rant about what learning music is really about.

Jazz is a style of music, and it has a repertoire, and part of learning to play that style is to learn to play the songs in the repertoire,

so if you want to learn Jazz then you need to start working on how to learn songs and trust me, you want to know a lot of songs!

One of my favorite quotes is from Peter Bernstein:

and you haven’t really learned anything until it is something you can use when you are playing real music.

All the Barry Harris solo masterclasses were about writing lines on songs, they were not about exercises, but about making music!

So you need to work on being able to learn songs, both from sheet music and by ear, just learn a lot of songs so that music theory describes music you already play and hear.
That way, you have music with diminished suspensions or altered chords,

and then theory isn’t theory, it is music.

This brings me to the type of comment that always irritates me: Every now and again I will get asked if I can give some suggestion on how to sound more modern, dark, or something like that on a II V I, and already in the question it becomes clear that the person asking is not learning any songs, just playing this loop of a II V I. A loop of a II V I is not a song, A song is a story, it has development, and twists and surprises, a loop is static. So keep in mind that if you were playing an entire song and not a static 4-bar loop it might not get boring as quickly.

But enough complaining, for at least a bit….

#3 Learning The Language

This is possibly a hot take or at least a delicate topic sometimes, but I think you can argue that Jazz has a certain language in the melodies we improvise, in terms of rhythm, flow, phrasing, and to some degree also what melodies are used. This is probably true for most styles of music, we can all hear when something is a blues lick, and if you want to learn to play Jazz then you need to check out vocabulary so that you get the sound into your playing. This can be checking out licks, and exercises

or what is probably the fastest way to improve: Learning solos by ear, something I have talked about often in videos.

So if you want to sound like Jazz then get good at learning Jazz vocabulary so that you know how it feels to play that, and how it is supposed to sound. A bonus, if you play along with solos that you have learned by ear is that you also improve your phrasing, timing, and swing feel which is also a part of the language.

#4 Make The Machine Swing!

Since I am on the topic of timing, swing-feel, and hearing the groove and the harmony, then that is all stuff that you want to improve, and another skill that will help you develop this is practicing with a metronome,

vastly underrated and a lot more fun than you think once you get used to it.

For Jazz, this is about playing with the metronome on 2 & 4, and learning to play songs and soloing like that will help boost your ability to:

  1. Keep time and feel time
  2. Hear the harmony internally
  3. Play in the groove

The concept is, of course, that you play and stay in time, keep the form, and lay down the groove. The difference between a metronome and a backing track is that it is much more difficult to play with a metronome, but if it swings then it is you. When you play with a backing track then if it swings it might be the backing track. If you look at how famous jazz guitarists practice then it is always a metronome, there are almost no exceptions. If you want to get started practicing with the metronome on 2&4 then I have a video for a few years ago on that topic,

You can check that out here: Practicing with the metronome on 2&4

#5 Putting Chords To Use

What I said about soloing is just as important for chords, so instead of just playing tons of inversions or other exercises on II V I progressions, you also need to work on putting those chord voicings to work on songs, and trust me, that will help you develop so much in terms of voice-leading, adding melodies and colors to your chords and all the other stuff that, like me, you probably love about Jazz and Jazz chords.

You can start rubato and explore the harmony and then later move it into time. Rhythm is also important here, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

#6 Make Your Own Licks!

A problem that I have also encountered myself often when trying to internalize new material, like for example a new way of playing an arpeggio or a chromatic phrase is that I know how to play it, but it doesn’t really work when I use it in a solo, and that is because an important step is missing between practicing something as a technical exercise and turning it into great lines in a solo. Again, also something that I help students with in the Roadmap frequently.

The missing step is composing lines or even entire solos. It is completely unrealistic that you can just immediately get every exercise you do to work in a solo, but composing is improvising slowly and with a way to go back and fix the lines so that they sound better and that you can figure out how the new thing should fit in there. This is a very effective way to introduce new material into your vocabulary, keep in mind that composing solos is also what Barry Harris’ solo masterclasses are built on,

so they probably also will work fine as a part of your practice.

#7 Chords Should Be Phrases Too

The worst way to think about the chords of a song is as a chord symbol with some extensions, simply because that is not music. What you want to work on is opening up those chord symbols so that you can improvise and connect the whole thing, you want to turn the chords into music.

For many jazz beginners, comping rhythms are a mystery and something that is very difficult to improve on, but that is probably because the problem is often not the rhythms, it is how you think about comping.

I am curious, so please leave a comment and let me know when you last practiced comping a song with the metronome on 2&4. Because if you start working with your comping like that and start thinking in phrases then it becomes so much easier to develop rhythms and sounds.

When you comp on a song then you can start thinking in call-response, and riffs and become more free, get the song to sound good, and don’t get stuck thinking about which rhythm or which extension to play.

Use Joe Pass’ Approach

To be able to play chords in phrases and get through songs then you don’t want to get stuck with too complicated chords that are not flexible, and Joe Pass has a really solid approach for building a chord vocabulary that I talk about in this video:

The Biggest Misunderstanding About Jazz Chords And How To Quickly Fix It

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One Of The Best Lessons I Ever Had (Jazz Beginner)

This concept really changed the game for me, which was pretty lucky because some of the early Jazz guitar lessons I had were not that great. My teacher was a good jazz guitarist but he only gave me licks and didn’t show use them or make them into something, except for this one lesson which made a massive difference.

You have to imagine that at the time I was practicing the licks, scales, and arpeggios and trying to make my way through simple songs, but failing pretty badly because there was no real connection between what I was practicing and how I was supposed to use it. It was probably only because I am a pretty stubborn person that I didn’t quit.

There is a good chance that you also know how it feels to practice the dry stuff like exercises, scales, and arpeggios but you can’t put it together and turn that into playing solos that sound right.

A Great lesson!

This was one of the first times that I had a lesson where I was shown how to create a line following a recipe.

We were playing a blues in C, I was making a terrible mess of it and could barely follow the form because I was too busy thinking about the chords. When he was soloing, then he played a phrase in bar 6 after coming back to C7 from F#dim, and that caught my attention so I asked him what that was.

He told me, I am by the way translating this from Danish (and memory since it is more than 25 years ago) that it was a “chromatic phrase” leading into an arpeggio. Then he showed me the arpeggio, and how he had a 4-note phrase leading into it:

I’ll show how this is just the beginning of a way to help you develop your phrasing, and make more interesting melodies because it is more powerful than you think. My teacher then showed me how you can use the same chromatic phrase for other notes in the arpeggio like the root:

and the 7th:

What he described as a “chromatic phrase” is what usually is referred to as a chromatic enclosure, so a short melody using chromatic passing notes

that moves to a target note from above and below, and as you will see or hear, direction is incredibly important.

This concept is simple like instant noodles that most students eat when they don’t have any money, just add water and you have food, well.. “food” It is a 2-ingredient recipe for Jazz licks which in itself is a great thing if you are new to Jazz.

But maybe you are now wondering what is the big deal?

I will show you how the enclosures help you deal with a part of Jazz phrasing that most beginners really struggle with, but the first more obvious part of it is that it is flexible. It will work with other arpeggios as well, so you can create a lot of lines like this. Here’s a version with a Cmaj7:

`

And we have more options when it comes to the chromatic enclosures. Another good one could be this which is also 4 notes and is sometimes referred to as a double chromatic enclosure. You can probably see why

So as you noticed, it moves to the target note in half-steps from two directions:

Until now the chromatic enclosures have been using 4-notes, which makes them easy to use as building blocks, but there are also 2 and 3-note enclosures that are very useful and as you will see, the 2-note enclosures are very powerful and flexible.

The Beginner’s Problem With Phrasing

But first, let’s talk about one of the main reasons that beginners find it difficult to play solos that sound like Jazz.

There are a few levels of beginner solos where you might find yourself. Maybe you are only improvising with the arpeggio:

You can also add the scale notes, and keep in mind that these examples are not wrong, they are just also not great:

And if you are a bit further then you are adding chromatic passing notes, but as you can hear that also doesn’t really fix this:

I am overstating it a bit in these examples, but what is missing is that the notes don’t have interesting accents, the lines are heavy and the accents are on the downbeat.

And that is because what makes the Jazz lines work and have interesting rhythms is these accents, and they should be where the melody changes direction on an offbeat, and if you look at the first lick then you have two of those, try to listen:

Here you have a change of direction on 1& and on 3& in the arpeggio,

so the line has more energy and isn’t stuck on the heavy beats in the same way as the previous examples. Starting to get this into your playing and being able to hear phrases that move like that will make you sound 100x better. Of course, you can’t think about where in the bar you change direction while you are soloing, which is why these are so great. I’ll talk more about this later.

It is not Enclosures or Passing notes

A short side-note before we add some more flexible enclosures and some Barry Harris tricks: Keep in mind that what I am saying here is not that you shouldn’t use passing notes, the passing notes are a part of it, and the enclosures are the next level melodies that you build using passing notes. Even if the enclosures are a little more effort to play then they are also adding something important to your solo.

Something that you want to get into your playing, and If you start checking out solos then you probably won’t find a Jazz musician that doesn’t use enclosures of some kind. Sometimes when I talk about enclosures I get the comment that they don’t work and how passing notes are better, and, I think that is missing the point, you just want to be patient and keep practicing until you can use them. They will add something to your playing and they are a part of Bebop, especially this next type!

Keeping It Simple Makes It Powerful

I showed you 2 of the more “complicated” 4-note enclosures, but I didn’t explain how they are constructed which is also useful for some of the later exercises and if you want to make your own enclosures.

Usually, I try to look at enclosures as a mix of chromatic notes and diatonic notes in the scale, so the first enclosure would be chromatic below, diatonic above, chromatic above, and chromatic below.

and The way I used the 2nd enclosure you get diatonic above chromatic above, diatonic below chromatic below. I am sure you can see how this analysis is an interpretation, you could in some cases see the 1st note of example 1 as a diatonic note (example 6). This way of looking at the lick becomes very practical when you combine enclosures with the Barry Harris chromatic scale. I’ll show you later in the video because that is very powerful!

Check out how we can use this analysis to create a simple but very useful 2-note enclosure:

I’ll apply this to a triad because it is used like that very often in larger chunks just listen to Joe Pass or Barry Harris if you want an example of that, but these enclosures are EVERYWHERE and do so many amazing things, I’ll show you some examples.

For a C major triad:

You use a “diatonic above, chromatic below” for each note:

And since it is pretty easy then try to turn around the enclosure so it is “chromatic below, diatonic above” as well:

And, with these and another enclosure then you have a line like this:

And to give you an idea about how powerful this is: you don’t get something as complex or surprising just using passing notes.

Here’s an example with a few chords so you can hear how Bebop this actually sounds:

I think you can tell just how useful these are, and as I said if you look at solos they are everywhere. But this is not about having to think “I need to change direction” while you are playing a line, that’s too complicated. What you want to do is work on coming up with lines using these enclosures so that you hear melodies with that built into them, and that will automatically help you get that sound in there, it’s almost like a bonus.

Let’s add some Barry Harris to the mix and see how that opens things up!

Using Barry Harris For Variations

Let me first explain how this works and then how you can use it. Barry Harris Chromatic scale is a way to add half steps between all notes in a scale. The basic concept is that you either use a chromatic note if there is a whole step between two notes,

or you use the scale note above if there isn’t.

If I apply this to the C major scale then there are two places where I need to use a scale note above: between E and F  and B and C.

So in the key of C major then the Barry Harris chromatic scale would be:

The great thing is that now you can use Barry’s Chromatic scale as a way of moving around an enclosure in the scale,  and in that way get some other enclosures or other melodic ideas:

Let’s take this one which will give you some great variations:

It already sounds great as a Cmaj7 lick like this:

Just to understand the enclosure:

The target note is B and the phrase starts two diatonic notes above moving down with a passing note and then a half step below the target.

Let’s take it down the scale, keep in mind that I always just use a chromatic note from below, that always works, and it doesn’t need any special treatment. Check out how we get a lot of different phrases:

Target note: B

Target note: A

Target note: G

Target note: F

Target note: E

Target note: D

Target note: C

This gives you other phrases that all work and that you can use in lines, for example, this Dm7 lick using the D as a target note:

or mixing the version that has A as a target note with another Barry Harris concept, a Pivot arpeggio:

Barry Leads The Way To Great Phrasing!

Working through the material like this can give you a lot of useful phrases, and Barry’s system is fantastic for this and it does a ton of other stuff that will make your solos sound so much better and help you get rid of uninspired scale runs and overused licks, so check out this video to dive into that!

Why Barry Harris’ Approach Is So Much Better Than Bebop Scales!

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The 10 Jazz Guitarists That You Need To Know

Listen To Jazz!

Listening to jazz is an important part of learning jazz and also one of the things that can speed up that process. It’s essential to check out the right people. In this video, I’ll give you a list of some of the jazz guitarists that I think you really need to be familiar with. I’ll go over some of their famous albums and, if sometimes that’s not my favorite, I’ll talk about why and give you an alternative as well. Let’s hope that doesn’t offend anybody.

#1 The Underdog of Jazz Guitar

I’m going to start with somebody who I think is sometimes a little bit overlooked and underrated very often and then move on to one that I accidentally skipped the first time around, but I’ll get to that later. Jim Hall, I think, is actually sometimes a little bit overlooked, and that’s a pity because he is an amazing jazz guitarist and also somebody that I’m still transcribing to this day. You can learn so much from his inventive melodies and his fantastic iron-strong rhythm and timing.

The Jim Hall album that I recommend you check out is his debut album, simply titled Jazz Guitar.

It’s in a trio with bass, piano, and guitar. His playing on this is super solid, very traditional, but at the same time also kind of giving us hints at what’s to come because he really invented modern jazz guitar. A funny side note about his debut album is that it was, of course, released without drums, but then later, because of the success of people like Kenny Burrell and Wes Montgomery (who will appear later in the video), they actually overdubbed drums on it and re-released it later. Now I’ve never heard that version, that might be better, but I am kind of curious how that sounded.

Playing In Taiwan

As you can see, I’m in Taiwan. I’m performing at the Taichung Jazz Festival this Saturday with Nick Javier and his band,

and I thought it would be fun to try and shoot a video here, even if I’m shooting on location. So that’s not something I’m used to, I’m learning, and maybe the quality is not what you hope, but at least you get to see a little bit of some of the parks in Taiwan. And I thought this was a great place to shoot because I’m, of course, sitting next to a colleague, and he’s getting the attention that he deserves.

#2 The One I Didn’t Know About

With the internet, it’s becoming super easy, barely an inconvenience to check out any album or track. Look it up on Spotify or on YouTube and listen to it, and that wasn’t the case when I was starting out. I was really depending on the recommendations of my teachers and the people that I played with. Even then, if I knew who it was, I still had to find a physical copy, so a CD or an album to listen to, and that’s the reason why I didn’t really check out Grant Green in the beginning. Nobody talked about him, so I wasn’t aware that he existed, which is really a pity because he is a great place to start if you want to learn jazz.

 

If you listen to him, you will hear clear, playable, strong bebop executed in a way that you can actually fairly easily check it out on guitar and learn from it, something that we don’t have a ton of examples of. I’ve talked about in other videos how I don’t really like Grant Green’s tone on those earlier albums, so my favorite album is a little bit later in his career. It’s one of the Blue Note albums, it’s solid,

but that’s also with Joe Henderson and McCoy Tyner. There’s just so much great music on that album, definitely worth checking out. If I were to recommend an earlier album, probably Grant’s First Stand is a good one.

It’s pretty early, it’s in ’61, I think, but that’s Grant Green in an organ trio. That’s really also an album with some fairly famous Grant Green solos that you want to check out, even if I think that the guitar tone has maybe a bit much pick attack and way too much spring reverb.

#3 I Wanted To Be Him When I Grow Up

Joe Pass is a huge influence on my playing. I really check out a lot of his stuff and also some of his books. I’ve made a video about his guitar-style book, which I think is a great method for learning jazz vocabulary.

But his most famous album is probably Virtuoso, which is a solo jazz guitar album.

And to be honest, that’s not my favorite album. I don’t actually like that album that much. I don’t listen a ton to solo jazz guitar. I tend to be much more focused on jazz where it’s about playing together in a group.

So my favorite Joe Pass album is Intercontinental,

which I think is a great example of his playing. I’m pretty sure they didn’t rehearse anything and they’re just going into the studio and recording some standards, but the result is amazing.

I have another video where I’m breaking down a jazz blues off that album and you definitely want to check out that album. It’s Joe Pass at his very best.

#4 The One I Ignored

The first time I heard Barney Kessel’s playing, I was actually everything but impressed, but that was just because I was listening to the wrong stuff. The albums that you want to check out from Barney Kessel are the Poll Winners albums. They’re actually sort of the first jazz guitar trio albums that are out there.

I think there are three of them and they’re with Shelly Mann, Ray Brown, and Barney Kessel. They’re amazing albums. It’s actually kind of hard to screw it up if you’re in that company, but that’s where you want to start if you want to hear some truly great Barney Kessel.

#5 The One I Studied

I didn’t think about this when I was preparing the video, but actually, I’m recommending really a lot of debut albums. And this is another one. When it comes to Pat Martino, the album that you definitely have to check out is El Hombre, his first album.

He’s also coming out of the organ trio tradition. The whole band is sort of built around an organ trio, but he’s adding a flute player. He’s also adding some percussion. So in that way, it’s not completely just organ trio, but that’s the basic sound. It’s an amazing album from, I think he’s 22 at the time.


You need to check it out.

#6 Check Out The Old Stuff

George Benson is probably the jazz guitar player that I think has the best phrasing. It is really amazing how good he sounds most of the time, even if maybe some of the later stuff where he’s like focusing more on being a vocalist than a guitar player is not really to my taste. And don’t get me wrong, I think it’s perfectly fine. You should do whatever he wants. Those are just not gonna be my favorite albums.

So my favorite albums from him would probably be Cookbook,

which is really just a sort of a picture of where he came from, the organ trio and those groups playing in a quartet, which is like an organ trio with a saxophone player. That is an amazing album. Everybody is playing really solid solos. Another one that’s really great to check out that I also want to mention is Giblet Gravy,

where he’s actually playing with Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Billy Cobham. That’s where the famous version of Billy’s Bounce is found, which I’ve talked about many, many times and also made an entire video on.

There Are More People To Check Out

For this video, then I kind of ended up just going with the classic guitar player. So really the people that are active in the ’50s, ’60s. And of course, there’s a lot happening on jazz guitar afterwards. And actually jazz guitar becomes really an important instrument from the ’70s on and maybe it’s not as much an important instrument in the ’60s. Let me know if you want another video where I talk about sort of more of the modern guys. So Schofield, Metheny, Rosenwinkel, Gilead Hickselman, Jonathan Kreisberg, all these guys. There are a ton of amazing guitar players out there.

#7 Skipped This One By Accident

Another guitar player that I wasn’t really checking out because nobody recommended that I listen to him and nobody told me that he existed is Kenny Burrell. And that’s really a pity because he’s of course also really an amazing jazz guitar player to check out. His most famous albums are probably the one with Coltrane and then also the Midnight Blue album.

Now, both of those are not my favorite albums. I’ve listened really a lot to this Jimmy Smith album

where he is actually just a sideman, but he’s of course featured really a lot and he’s playing on this is so amazing.

#8 The King Of Jazz Guitar

I think we can all agree that Wes Montgomery is the most important and the most influential jazz guitarist that we have. So it’s kind of difficult to sort of pick a favorite, but if I have to pick a favorite, my choice is actually pretty cliché because I’m gonna go with Smoking at the Half Note.

That’s the album with the Wynton Kelly Trio and with that combination Wes and Wynton Kelly Trio, it just can’t go wrong and it certainly doesn’t. It’s an amazing album. They all play great, but especially Wes is really playing some amazing solos and I’ve learned a ton from checking out a lot of solos of that album. If I was to recommend another album, then I think you can kind of check out a different side of Wes’s playing by listening to an album like Boss Guitar because there you hear him playing in an organ trio which is actually different.

It’s also a little bit earlier. Still an amazing album with a lot of great solos to check out.

One thing that I do want to point out is that to me, what makes Wes great is not that he’s playing with his thumb or that he’s playing a lot of octaves or chord solos. That’s technique. He’s great. He sounds amazing. It’s not about that, but I think what really makes his solo so amazing is the clarity of the music that’s in there. So he often plays simpler phrases, but he will then have that one phrase is followed by a phrase that is either a response or a development of what he just plays. And that really connects the whole thing. And that’s actually fairly rare with guitarists or with jazz musicians in general. And that is what makes Wes a genius to me.

#9 The 1st Secret Recommendation

Because I was depending on recommendations from my teachers and the people that I played with, not the internet, then there are a few guitarists that I listen to really a lot that are maybe not as famous, but there are some really great albums that I definitely think you want to check out. The first one I want to mention just shortly is Lorne Lofsky and his debut album, another debut album, which is It Could Happen to You.

That is such an amazing album. He’s always great, but that album is definitely worth checking out. And I’ve listened to that so much.

#10 Another Secret Recommendation

Another album that you want to listen to is a Victorious album that right now I can’t remember the name of, but I’ll put the cover on screen so you can check it out.

The way he plays here is so beautiful, especially that first standard, I Heard You Cry Last Night is such an amazing song the way he plays it. And it’s such a beautiful feel. You definitely want to check that out.

But besides listening to the music, then you of course also want to start to find solos that you can learn by ear. That’s the best way to really develop your phrasing, your swing feel and your timing. But you also have to make sure that you’re not starting with something that’s too difficult, that you’ll just break your neck or that you will get demotivated by. So to help you with that, check out this video, which goes over a few solos that are pretty easy to learn and not too long and definitely will help you develop your playing

5 Easy Solos to Learn By Ear and Boost Your Jazz Guitar Skills

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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:

`

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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Cookin’ Great Jazz Licks With Basic Exercises – 5 Step Process

The Mysterious Recipe

In the beginning, Jazz improvisation can seem mysterious, but just like food, there is actually a recipe you can follow to develop your ability to improvise great lines. In this video, I’m going to give you that recipe including the secret ingredient that is left out of the process so often, and it really won’t be the same without it.

The goal is to be able to construct a lick like this:

The chord progression is a II V I which is a very common Jazz chord progression. You can play the chords like this:

I am not going to talk too much about the progression, because this is about soloing over it. I have other videos on harmony.

The Main Ingredients

Any recipe starts with some ingredients. You have the Progression, there is a scale that goes with that, in this case, that is the C major scale.

And the main ingredient is that for each of the chords in the progression, we can play these easy 1-octave arpeggios, so this exercise:

Just like a meal usually consists of several different dishes, then as I go through this recipe I will show you how each step is something you can turn each step into music and explain how.

With the arpeggios, you can already follow the chords and create a solid line like this:

Follow This Recipe

Similar to a recipe, chords, scales, and arpeggios are only ingredients and it is as important what you do with those ingredients if you want it to work.

What is the  method in this example? I am following the chords completely because  I am only using the arpeggio of each chord, so the notes are taken nailing the harmony,

but the important thing is to get this to sound like a melody and not like a bunch of random notes

The way you get that right is by playing from one chord to the next,  which means a melody on the Dm7 is moving toward a target note on the G7.

Here it is the 3rd of G7 that is the target note which is very easy to hear and works like a signal that we changed chords, but there are more things in that first example that you still need to figure out.

Adding More Flavor

There are two other “types” of notes, that you can add to your jazz licks. The first one would be the notes that are in the scale but not in the chord, it is a bit like basic seasoning, there is no food without it, and the easiest way to use scale notes is in between arpeggio notes, so this:

can become this:

It is a subtle change, but the rhythm sounds a lot better in the 2nd example.

The other type of note that you want to add, is a more radical sound, adding flavor and spice to the whole thing: The chromatic notes.

Here I am going to stick with a simple version: You can add chromatic leading notes a half-step under a chord or scale note, where the chord tones often are the easiest to use.

There are some myths about how to use chromatic notes, but I’ll get into that in a bit. You could turn that into this exercise for the arpeggios which actually breaks that rule:

The rule that I am talking about is that sometimes people will tell you that chromatic leading notes should not be on the downbeat, and in the exercise every leading note is on the downbeat.

The idea is that this:

Is wrong, and it would be better to do it like this:

I think you can hear that both could work and that it is not useful to limit yourself with rules like that, in fact, rules are rarely a thing in music.

Now you can start writing  lines like this:

Serving The Notes In The Right Way

But you need to do more than find the ingredients and cook the food. It also needs to be served in the right way, and that is where rhythm becomes important.

In the first example, I changed up the rhythm in two ways. The first one is pretty easy to use. On the Cmaj7 I play the arpeggio as am 8th note triplet

Triplets are amazing for arpeggios, and two variations of this are very useful to know. The first one is to add a leading note and then play the arpeggio:

But you can also play the arpeggio and use that to get to a target note

But there  is another rhythm that you want to explore using which is a very important part of the syncopation you hear in Jazz: Anticipating the chord on the 4&!

This is pretty simple: You want to hit the target note on the 4& instead on beat 1 when the chord changes, so instead of this:

 

You want to play the B on the 4& like this:

So now you can put all of this together and start writing licks like this:

 

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Why Barry Harris’ Approach Is So Much Better Than Bebop Scales!

Bebop IS Modern Jazz

I hate Bebop scales, in fact, I never liked that approach to soloing because it always took away the part of the Bebop sound that I love the most, and this was even years before I knew what that was. Bebop is important, because Bebop IS the foundation for pretty much all modern Jazz, just like Christian McBride says:

“Let’s make something very clear.

Be-bop language is still modern-day language.”

For learning Bebop, There are important skills which are about Melody and flow and they are much more important for the sound than just what scale or which arpeggio to play, so I want to show you how that works so that you can start digging into that beautiful Bebop sound! I am a bit curious how many comments I am going to get from people who hate Bebop, but I am sure that more people love it!

Charlie Parker Is The Mozart Of Jazz

Charlie Parker’s solos completely blew my mind when I was just getting into Jazz. It was especially the Jazz Blues solos that I connected with, like this one on KC Blues.  In those solos, some of the phrases were very similar to the Blues I already knew from Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan. But there were these other melodies that sounded great but were completely different, and not at all about Blues. They made me incredibly curious, and I needed to figure out how they worked because they sounded great. And that is how I ended up getting into Jazz and finally getting a degree at the Royal Conservatory in the Hague.

What’s Wrong With Bebop Scales?

The thing that Bebop scales really miss for me is that the emphasis is on playing scales so if you have a G7 bebop scale then that is often something like this:

And there you have the chord tones on the beat and the stepwise melody which really connects with and spells out the chord:

But the lines you get with this are really boring:

And you don’t hear the things that, I think, make Bebop lines sound great like this:

That is not really in there with the Bop scales and music is about more than having chord tones on every downbeat.

To me, this relates to something that we are still learning to teach, Pat Metheny talks about it in the Rick Beato interview:

And, what Metheny says here is also one of the reasons that Barry Harris is so great at teaching Bebop: He teaches melody as well as harmony. Even if he doesn’t seem to have names for everything, then, as you will see, he does have strong concepts that catch this and help you develop your skills with Bebop melodies. This will come up again and again in this video!

Melody is About Direction

To me, this is about learning to hear and play lines that are not stuck on the heavy beats.

So you don’t change direction on beats 1 and 3 all the time:

This is about the rhythm in the melody, and you want to also change direction on the off-beats because that makes it lighter and a lot more interesting,

Check out how I am essentially playing the same notes but changing direction on the 2& and 4&:

But, of course, this is not something you can think about when you are playing, at least I can’t. Instead, you need another approach to get it into your playing, and you want to work on this because it is such an important part of the sound.

This video is really about my favorite trick with Bebop melodies, and I will get to that, but I think it is better to start with a simple approach: Triads and Enclosures.

Back to Triads

I am using this on a G7, so take this G major triad:

With the triad, it is easy to add chromatic enclosures around each note using a diatonic note above and a chromatic note below, so for G:

Which gives you this exercise:

This is not yet super exciting, but check this out:

Here, you have a line that isn’t just moving in one direction all the time and still makes sense with the chords,

there is a secret ingredient that I will get to, but keep in mind how far it is from this:

The secret is that when I have a melody moving down, so I start on G and go down the G7 arpeggio to F and then I want to go to D, but instead of going directly to D, I add the enclosure around the D, But, and this is pretty important: If the melody is moving down, then try to play the enclosure moving up, so in this case I skip down to C# and go back up to E before landing on D. So it jumps around more, but the whole thing still makes sense and has a natural flow.

It is very important to keep in mind that this is not a strict rule and the “only way” you can use enclosures, but you want to train yourself to hear melodies like this because they are more alive and they sound a lot less predictable and boring. Most of us need to work a bit to get them into our ears and our playing, but once you know that it works then you do start to hear them all over the place. A common one with Joe Pass is this one which I transposed to C major:

The reason why I remember this one was that I used to always mess it up when I had to play this solo out of his “Jazz guitar style” book.

You can take any triad and easily figure out the enclosures but don’t forget to start working on composing lines that use this so that you learn to hear how they sound. I often call them flipped enclosures because they move against the melodic direction, I am not sure if there is another name out there.

Let’s try to move to the first Barry Harris Concept which sort of works the same, but just has a lot more notes.

Barry Pivots

Pivot Arpeggios are a super strong Bebop trick and really help you get that sound across. I don’t think I ever heard Barry talk about why pivot arpeggios sound good, but he does teach them and use them a lot, both in his teaching and if you transcribe his solos. It’s actually pretty simple:

In the previous example, I was using an enclosure to change the direction of the melody:

But now I want to use an arpeggio to do that. If you start with the basic Cmaj7 arpeggio:

You turn it into a pivot arpeggio by playing the first note and then moving the remaining 3 notes down an octave:

This is a great way to get your lines to move around in a more interesting way, just listen to Grant Green, he does this ALL the time!
Here’s a phrase from the end of the bridge on I’ll Remember April:

And to translate this back to the G7 I started with: Let’s use the arpeggio on the 7th of the chord which is Fmaj7

and then you have a line that skips around but is still solid:

In this example, I am using another Barry Harris trick that is really powerful, but again you want to just start writing lines with pivot arpeggios and get used to how they sound to get it into your ears and into you playing.

What you might have noticed is in the 2nd half of the bar. Here, the melody is really just moving down, but then it goes back up to the D on beat 4.

That is actually another way to get a beautiful interval skip in there without sounding angular and unnatural. This is a Barry Harris half-step, and coming out of Barry Harris’ Chromatic scale.

Barry Harris Chromatic scale

I get that it may sound strange that I refer to the note D as a half step between C and B in the C major scale,

but that is actually how Barry’s chromatic scale works, and that is an amazingly powerful tool for some really fantastic Bebop phrasing:

You take the C major scale:

Barry came up with a way of adding a half step or chromatic note between all the notes in the scale, but you need a trick along the way.

Whenever there is a half-step available then you use that:

But when you move from E to F, or B to C where there is no half-step then you can use the scale note above the target, which would be G before F:

Continuing like this you end up with:

But it works if you play it descending as well:

There is an amazing extension to this which I will get to, but just the basic scale is already a great way to create some beautiful flowing bop lines. Here I am using it on a G7 with the half-step between E and F, and C and B:

So you have the G between F and E, and, then chromatic passing notes and again skipping up to D between C and B.

Super-charged Barry Harris

When Barry showed us this in the masterclass at the conservatory in the Hague, then he had us play the exercise but then he said something that I didn’t really understand at the time but which is incredibly powerful for  making some super Bebop lines:

“Any note can be a half-step.”

Why is this great? That works because you can use other notes that give you other interval skips and they can still sound great and keep the flow!

Let’s take the beginning of the previous example:

I am using the G as the half-step

but A works as well:

And the lower A with a huge interval skip sounds amazing:

And then you can do stuff like this using enclosures and chromatic scale together:

And remember that this was to not get stuck  playing solos like this

But, it actually gets even more crazy because there is actually another level to this one as well.

Chromatic Boosted Half-step

Now you have a way to add the interval skip as a Barry Harris’s half-step but you can actually add a chromatic leading note to your half-step as well, and I know it sounds a bit weird. But you go from this

and then the low A that we are using as a half-step can also get a chromatic leading note!

So with the chromatic boosted half-step,  which is clearly not a great name for this, then you can create a line like this:

Grant Is The Greatest

Maybe the most important part of getting this into your playing is that you start recognizing it in the solos of the people you listen to, and one of the best places to start with this is Grant Green because his solos are super-inspiring clear examples of this and they are not too fast to follow.

One solo that covers all the examples in this video is his solo on “You Stepped Out Of A Dream” which I break down in this video so that you can hear all of this in action, and get started using it yourself.

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

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3 Reasons A Guitar Teacher Is The Fastest Way To Learn

I don’t think this discussion is specific to learning Jazz, a few weeks ago, I had a guy in the comments talking about how Jazz teachers were making things more complicated and trying to keep students from learning, which I thought was both incredibly funny and a little weird conspiracy and tinfoil hat sounding. But then I remembered that I once had a student who in the lesson told me that I was not teaching him the right things because when I played it sounded way better than when he played, so I had to be keeping something from him.

Needless to say, the difference was probably just that I had practiced a bit more than him, but he was convinced that couldn’t be it, so I suggested that he might be better off finding a teacher that he trusted and stop having lessons with me if I thought I was holding back information. Sadly I couldn’t talk him into going to another teacher at that time.

All of this doesn’t fit at all with my experience. I have had a LOT of guitar lessons from a lot of different teachers, in fact, I started having lessons when I was 12 years old, and mostly I have had friendly, encouraging, skilled, talented, and motivated teachers who were incredibly patient with me and all the stuff I couldn’t do and had to learn, and that is a massive part of why I can play today and make a living playing guitar, and it is also why I love teaching. So I thought it would be helpful to talk a bit about what the benefits of having lessons are, and especially why it is probably better to have real in-person lessons compared to watching a YouTube video or reading a blog post like you are now. I think this is a critical discussion both for teachers and students, but I am also very curious about what you think about it.

Of course, I’ll add some stories about less fantastic teachers in there as well, but we’ll get to that. Let’s start with one big misunderstanding, with teaching, probably for learning anything, but especially with learning an instrument.

Information Is Everywhere

If we return to the angry student then he felt that he was not given the information he needed to play well, and before the internet then I guess that was possible. At that time you had to have a book, or a teacher maybe access to a library so that you could get information.

But with the internet that is no longer the case.

By now you can find information about anything just by searching on the internet, or even asking ChatGPT what to practice or how to solo over There will never be another you, but ok, maybe AI isn’t really there yet. But there are articles and YouTube lessons on pretty much anything you want to work on.

The challenge is how to figure out what is actually useable or relevant information,  and even if you know that then you still have to get that internalized in a step-wise manner which is very difficult. An example of having information but not being able to use it even before the internet is when I started out trying to learn Jazz. The only books I could get at the library were the David Baker Bebop books,

and they were completely useless to me, and Ironically, they might have been great if I had worked with a teacher, but I’ll get to that later.

On the internet, everything is probably there for free, and if you want an ordered approach of online lessons then you can get access to that for the price of two or three guitar lessons, by enrolling in an online course similar to my Jazz Guitar Roadmap.

In a course, you pay to get access to a longer connected learning path and don’t get stuck having to waste time by putting it all together like a puzzle where you need to Google every piece in there.

So why would anyone take guitar lessons? There are actually quite a few really good reasons for that.

#1 A Teacher is A Guide

This first one may maybe obvious and follows the problem I just pointed out with unconnected lessons on the internet. Information is not ordered in a way that is tailor-made for you as a student, even if you get a course that is also made to fit a lot of students and that may not be the most efficient way for you to learn. But that is exactly what a teacher can do: You get material based on how you play, what you need to develop, and what you want to learn, so instead of searching for hours on the internet you only spend that time practicing and learning. The mix of exercises and songs is also something that a teacher can adjust so that it fits the student, within reason at least, which means that the way you are taught fits you. Maybe you have an easy time picking up solos by ear, or maybe you are more comfortable reading etudes or composing your own licks, there is room for a lot more flexibility.

The best part is that you and the teacher can find a way of working that is, efficient, more fun and practical for you.

To return to my example with the David Baker books, the problem I ran into with them was that I did not have any help in putting them to use in solos, and when I played the examples

then they were played with bad phrasing and I did not have someone to demonstrate how it could sound which meant that it was just a bunch of notes with my horrible phrasing, uninspiring and useless, without that being David Bakers fault.

I certainly tried my best to make my course useful for most students and I have seen a lot of them really benefit, but that level of personalization is just not possible, even if I did come up with a way to fix it a bit with the Jazz guitar roadmap, but I’ll talk about that in the next section, and also discuss why in-person lessons are better than Zoom/Skype/facetime as well, but first, we need to talk about the biggest problem for beginner guitarists.

#2 Experienced Ears

The one thing that holds back any beginner in any genre is that they don’t know where to start or what they need to learn. Mainly because you need a lot of experience with the genre to understand what needs work, and that is the only thing you don’t have at that point. Think of it this way: If you don’t know how Blues is supposed to sound then learning the pentatonic scale will not really help you, and you can end up spending a lot of time wondering why you don’t sound right if you are just trying to invent your own blues vocabulary without checking out people like Stevie Ray Vaughn, BB King or Eric Clapton. I think this sounds pretty obvious for a lot of us, but then think about how often people try to learn Jazz by only studying theory and NEVER listening to Jazz. I think it is pretty clear how that is a recipe for disaster.

I think this is one of the biggest benefits of having a teacher: feedback from experienced ears, and this is true for any genre,

Let me give you some examples from Jazz: As a beginner, you probably can’t hear what is wrong with your phrasing, whether you are ahead or behind, or how your swing-feel is. And those things are what make the difference between sounding like a Jazz solo or sounding like something random being played back by GuitarPro. Playing the notes is easy, playing the right melodies in the right way is very very difficult, and a teacher can help steer your playing in the right direction with stuff like this, and most likely you can’t tell yourself, you can maybe hear that it doesn’t really sound right, but not what to fix. No blog post or YouTube video will listen to you playing and tell you what is going on, and it will be a while before we have an AI tool that can do that well enough, it at least first needs to learn the chords for There Will Never Be Another You.

Getting Feedback will help you learn faster. You can save tons of time by having someone listen to your playing and give you feedback so that you know what to improve and can train your ears to hear the right phrasing and the right types of melodies or notice if you are doing something wrong in a solo all the time. Figuring that out on your own takes at least 10 times as long if not 100 times, so it is a colossal advantage to get feedback on your progress. But you do have to trust the one giving feedback as I will tell you about in a bit. I was actually aware of this when I made my course, and that is the reason that there is a community built into the Roadmap so that the students can get feedback on how they are doing and sometimes I can even help with things that are not in the course, but really holding back a student, but don’t underestimate how big a difference this can make for you learning Jazz. It is definitely worth taking some lessons just with this in mind.

As I mentioned, you can also find yourself with a teacher whom you don’t trust they are really helping you, similar to my student from the beginning, but that is pretty rare, I think mainly because teachers who don’t enjoy seeing their students get better won’t enjoy teaching at all and find something else to do. One teacher that I did study with for a very short time was in the first lesson insisting that I bought his books and then in the next lesson tried to impress me by playing something on the piano, calling it “advanced theory” he just didn’t realize that I played much better piano than him, and what he was playing was simple enough so I knew exactly what he was doing. To me, that came across as if he was trying to fake it and show off, and the combination of those two things made me stop having lessons with him right away, But one bad experience in having lessons for more than 25 years, is a pretty good statistic for guitar lessons!

The last advantage I didn’t find a good solution for in my course and it might seem subtle but I really think it makes a big difference it certainly did for me, and then I want to mention some of the reasons why many don’t do in-person lessons, most of which are certainly valid.

#3 Up Close And Personal

One of the most common ways to have in-person lessons is still online using Zoom/Skype or Facetime. Similar to all the YT lessons and blog posts this is great for a lot of reasons, especially because you can study with great musicians on the other side of the world, but again this is maybe less effective than actually being in the room with another person. It can be that this is more typical for guitar, but I do think it holds for all instruments. Being in the room with a musician or a teacher is just so much more powerful. Think of the impact it has to listen to an album on Spotify versus going to a concert and being in the front row.

But there is more to it than that, especially when it comes to Guitar. You learn so much from playing with someone who is better than you, and even if this is something that is maybe forgotten sometimes, then it is actually a big part of learning to play Jazz. Jazz is not a solo art form, it is about playing together with others, locking in with their time, and reacting to what they play both when you are soloing and when you are comping, and you learn so much by that. In fact, I think that most of what I learned during my study at the conservatory was from making music with the other students, not my main subject lessons, and that doesn’t mean that my main subject lessons were not any good. That is just because you learn to play music by playing music.

If you look at the studies about how corona has slowed down kids learning because everything was remote then I think that fits with what I am saying. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you can’t have great lessons through Zoom, but it is missing something, and if possible you also want to get trained in interacting and making music with others while you have lessons. It will also prepare you for bands, jam sessions, and hanging out with other people who play, all important parts of playing guitar and learning Jazz, and I think in fact the most fun part!

You Never Have To Take Lessons!

I am really curious about what you think about this, so please leave a comment to share your experience and your opinion, but, of course, having lessons in person on a regular basis is not possible for everyone, and that is perfectly fine.

You need to work with what is possible for you, and committing to regular lessons is difficult, You risk them not being effective if you space them out too much. Besides time, then you also need to have a teacher near enough for lessons to be practical, and you need to be able to work with that teacher, which can also be an issue. Not everyone’s taste or style of learning fits with all teachers, and in those situations things like online courses and online lessons can be the best option, especially if it is that or nothing else.

But if you have not tried having lessons then I can only recommend you try, I guess I do that more as a student than as a teacher, but as I already mentioned then I feel that I got here because I had lots of lessons with a lot of good teachers, and there are a lot of good teachers out there.

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This Guy Doesn’t Need a “REAL” Jazz Guitar To Sound Amazing!

Overlooked But Incredible Guitarist

Whenever the topic of “real jazz guitars” and “jazz tone” comes up, then I always have to think of this guy.

There is almost nobody I can think of who:

#1 Has a great tone using a bit unusual and sort of cheap equipment.

#2 Plays This Melodic, both with chord solos and single note lines.

#3 Gets Recommended By Jim Hall.

Of course, I am talking about Ed Bickert, who is certainly one of my favorite guitarists, and this solo demonstrates why in quite a few ways with him playing a lot of Blues on a standard, using amazing chord voicings in chord solos, and also being really creative with the melody in the solo. I don’t know if it is because he is from Canada that he is a little overlooked, but if you don’t know his playing then you are really missing out! I have REALLY been looking forward to making this video.

The fact that he is not using a large hollow body guitar is something we will return to later, but if you feel tempted to comment about Real Jazz guitars with natural resonance and vintage wood air, then you might want to wait until you have listened to Ed Bickerts playing!

The Song And The Blues

 

The Solo is on Just Squeeze me off the Paul Desmond Album “Pure Desmond” with Paul Desmond on sax, Ron Carter on bass and Connie Kay on drums, and of course, Ed Bickert on guitar.

There are 3 things that this solo illustrates very well about Ed Bickerts playing, but a part of what is genius about this specific solo is also that it is an incredibly simple song in a medium tempo.

They play the song in Eb and it is an AABA

with an A-part that mostly stays around the tonic, just moving up and down in diatonic chords. You’ll see Ed Bickert interpret the harmony very freely here.

The B-part is what is usually called an Ellington bridge, so a II V to IV and then V of V continuing to a II V back to I.

Something you’ll find in lots of songs like Honeysuckle Rose, So Danco Samba, Sunny Side Of The Street. It is a very common bridge progression, and therefore good to know.

Ed starts out his solo with a chord and then immediately goes for some solid blues licks:

So really basic Eb major pentatonic and blues with a motif that is first stated,

and then developedÆ

Then he rounds off with another blues phrase and a really nice polyphonic turnaround:

And you can tell that he is really thinking of two independent layers in the turnaround: Having the sustained Eb in the melody and then the chords moving from C7 to F7 to Bb7, where the Eb is of course really clashing with the Bb7 chord.

The Melody But Now With Blues

There are two places where Ed Bickert references the melody in the solo, this first one is a really creative way to add a bit of Blues sound to the melody and then let that flow into another Jazz blues lick:

Two cameras

It is pretty simple, first harmonizing the melody with a 3rd above, but sliding into the G and then moving up and using a Db above the Bb to create more of a Bluesy Eb7 sound.

A nice detail is how he then keeps that idea in there by playing a single note line but still emphasizing the Db in the 2nd of the two bars which sort of works like an echo of the 3rd interval idea.

Later, there is also an example where he uses the melody of the song, but with some unusual but really beautiful open chord-voicings. They remind me a bit of Bill Evans, but first let’s look at a really nice line that isn’t Bebop and sort of reminds me of Jim Hall.

Did He Get This From Jim Hall?

This example is an 8th note line, but it is not a Bebop line, it is another logic behind the melody, and it continues into a really beautiful II V with an altered dominant and a lot of offbeats which is also quite typical for Ed Bickerts playing. After that, I’ll talk a bit about his guitar and amp.

You have probably heard me talk about Bebop lines and how they flow and move through the harmony and have a lot of direction and forward motion, and this line starts off like that with essentially another blues line, but then goes into a line with a Pedal G note and then moving from the #11 of the F7 down to the 3rd in half steps.

From there he goes into an Fm7 Bb7 line that is pretty much all off beats, first an Fm7 arpeggio and then an E major pentatonic lick, that really works well to get the Bb7alt across.

And this is a great example of creating rhythmic tension just before the end of a section of the song, so that you really feel when it goes back to the A-part.

The Telephant In The Room

What, I think, often is a topic with Ed Bickert, even to the point of it overshadowing his playing, is that he primarily played a Telecaster and was one of the earliest mainstream Jazz guitarists to have that as his main instrument. In interviews, he said that he got it because he needed it for studio work and kept using it because it was in tune and easier to travel with. Ironically, he also said in an interview with Guitar Player, that he found it difficult to get a useful tone out of it and that he disliked how it quickly became muddy comparing it to what he considered the ideal tone with players like Jim Hall or George Benson.

By now, with Bill Frisell, Ted Greene, and Julian Lage we are used to telecasters as Jazz guitars.

What is maybe a bit more surprising is his choice of amp. From what I have been able to find then he often used a Roland Cube 60 as an amp. These old orange amps are solid-state amps, and while they have a sound pretty similar to a polytone they do sound really good. I have an older video on amps where I tested one together with Joram Pinxteren if you want to hear one. They do sound great, they don’t weigh a lot and they are also not super directional which is actually very nice when you play live.

Fender amps are often very directional and throw a lot of low frequencies out of the open back of the amp which just gets in the way of the bass and drums, I love the sound of Fender tube amps, but that aspect of the design is really horrible to me. Let’s get t some chord soloing!

Beautiful But Unusual Voicings

These voicings are really beautiful, and I don’t think I have heard others do this in a chord solo, it is pretty unique and sounds amazing, and after this, I’ll show you how he uses dominant voicings from the diminished scale as a practical way to sound bluesy!  Ed Bickert is in this example again quoting the theme. This time quite high on the neck, probably an example of one of the advantages of a telecaster because it can stay in tune this high. But it is pretty amazing:

The voicings here are pretty open and very high register, my guitar is struggling to be in tune so far up the neck. The Gm/C bass note voicing is used over an Ebmaj7 and gives you an Ebmaj7(13) it just sounds so great. He is harmonizing the G in the melody and uses the same voicing for the Ab and then this voicing for the Bb. This is pretty practical and not too difficult to play while also sounding great and a lot more open compared to most chord solos which use Drop2 or triad-based chords most of the time. This somehow reminds me of Bill Evans but I can’t really give you a specific example of where I heard it. Let me know if you have any idea about who he checked out for this.

He also uses more standard chord voicings but then creates a different more bluesy sound.

Beautiful But Unusual Sounds

Notice how he  relies on the same 3-note quartal voicing and the same rhythm to tie this together while playing some pretty out-there sounds,

and still getting some Blues in there:

So the rhythm makes this a riff, and makes it all fit together.

He is sort of going Eb7 Bb7 most of the time going from this Eb7(#9) to this Bb7(13),

This is what creates the Blues sound and still sort of fits with the original chords that move up and down the scale in steps(play),

but then he is also adding notes on top and then shifting to other variations of the 3-note voicing to get a D7(13#9) that moves to a G7(13#9) and finally a C7#9 to Fm7. It is actually pretty easy to play, and if I remember correctly then Lorne Lofsky does something very similar in his solo on “It Could Happen To You”, I am guessing he got that from Ed.

A Personal Way Interpretation Of Harmony

I really love how Ed Bickert is working with the harmony and improvising by changing chords as well as the solo lines he is playing, and this is just a 2-chorus solo on a very medium swing jazz standard. Even if this is not what most beginners are working on then it is an important part of playing Jazz, and something that you want to explore. Another guitarist that has a beautiful and personal take on harmony is a guitarist who also plays a solid-body guitar, and has a beautiful version of Days of Wine and Roses with a lot of amazing sounds.

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