Tag Archives: jazz guitar

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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The Best Exercise For Jazz Guitar – Advice From 7 Online Teachers

There are some amazing lessons available online, and I feel really proud to be in a community of so many great teachers and players. I thought it could be fun to give you a chance to check out some short lessons and both learn something useful and maybe discover a new YT channel to learn from, so I asked a few people that I think make great videos to create a short lesson on their best advice for students something that was a game-changer for them. Some of these are people I recently found and some of them are old friends of mine.

Adam Levy – Most Efficient Jazz Chords

Let’s start with Adam Levy who I hope you already know. His YouTube channel has a lot of great thoughtful advice and some fantastic interviews as well, his credentials as a teacher and the long list of successful artists he has worked with speak for themselves, the lesson is crystal clear, and also how Adam went about learning Jazz chords

 

Richard Peña – Making Everything Bebop

Later Sandara Sherman demonstrates a way to use Shells like these for soloing, but first, a recent discovery for me is Richard Peña, he is an amazing Jazz guitar player and has some great lessons on Instagram and YouTube, you definitely want to check him out.

 

Mikko Hilden – Hearing The Diminished Scale

You have seen Mikko on this channel before, I really like how he digs into topics and really explores them in a personal and thorough way, also great that he does a lot of more modern approaches. This one is about a way to not only learn the diminished scale but also how to hear it, which is much more difficult.

Quist – Rhythm First!

 

Rhythm and timing are so essential to Jazz, and this exercise from Quist is a great way to work on this in a more creative way as well. I am sure you already know Quist from his backing track channel, and amazing intro which you can also find on instagram and tiktok, you should also check out some of his lofi albums.

Chase Maddox – Technique And Vocabulary

Another recent discovery for me is Chase Maddox, which you may already know from the JazzMeme’s instagram that he runs with his brother, but his own YouTube video channel I have found to e a great resource for a lot of solid vocabulary and technique lessons which is also related to this exercise, and then we need to check out some Guide tone tips from Sandra and some Bebop triads.

Sandra Sherman – Guide-tone soloing

I doubt if Sandra needs any introduction, I am sure you already know her channel with lots of great lessons on chord melody and other topics. She sort of takes the same starting point as Adam did but applies it to soloing where it is as useful:

Alon Albagli – Bebop Triads

Alon Albagli, is another recent discovery he’s actually also kind of new to YouTube but he makes really solid videos and his chord Melody playing and the way he works with chords is just amazing so definitely check that out you probably also want to check out his recent solo album on Spotify

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The Most Important Thing To Learn From Wes Montgomery

Wes is Amazing!

Pretty much every Wes Montgomery solo is a lesson in phrasing, and they are all small works of art that contain lots of fantastic and creative ideas. But how does it work?

When you are improvising and finding your way through the changes using scales and arpeggios then you probably don’t manage that, and that could be because you are not focusing on the right things.

Let’s take a look at some Wes solos and see if you can figure out what to practice to develop that aspect in your playing. The essence of it is surprisingly simple.

I’ll focus mostly on examples from fairly simple songs which you might already play, so that should make it easier for you to take these concepts and apply them to your own playing as well, but the first one is a really fast song with not very many chords.

Never Overplaying!

Notice how this is not a lot of long 8th note lines but instead short phrases and often with a lot of repetition:

Here’s the first A section

So there are a few 8th note lines but it is much more sparse a lot more  space, he is really digging into that tritone interval to get the m7(13) sound out there.

Then he starts very simple and turns that into a repeated phrase:

So short phrases, in fact just a single note, that he repeats and develops. You should notice how he is pretty free and even if the phrases are not incredibly complicated then they are not placed very predictably in the form which makes them more interesting.

For a listener that is not a giant Jazz nerd, then that is much easier to relate to as a listener since it is not so dense and not an information overload. In this case, Wes sticks to this approach throughout the solo. If you compare this to how Pat Martino plays the song then that is of course a pretty massive contrast, and Pat’s approach to improvisation is very different from Wes even if he certainly also checked out a lot of Wes’s stuff

And before the comment section explodes, don’t get me wrong, Pat Martino’s take on impressions is amazing and I really like it, but it is a very different take on it. The thing you want to keep in mind is that while you are learning to make your way through a chord progression and play lines that flow through the harmony in a natural way, then you also want to work on playing simpler,  melodic things as well so that you have more options.

#1 Making It Music

Listen to yourself

Often when you are new to learning Jazz then what you are playing becomes a never-ending stream of notes, but that is not really a melody. If you start working on making shorter statements and leave more space between them then you have time to listen to what you just played and then use that to decide what the next phrase should sound like.

This is in many ways the first step in learning to play what you hear because you give yourself room to actively listen for what you should play.

Give Your Solo An Arc

Being able to play shorter phrases also gives you a larger dynamic range since not playing in a solo often creates tension. Wes uses this incredibly well at the beginning of his solo on “No Blues” just starting with fairly basic Blues phrases with lots of space in between.

Example 2 – No Blues – Chorus 1 – first 8-9 bars

Focus On Rhythm

Another thing that is easier when you are working with shorter phrases is creating variation in the rhythm, something that Wes very clearly uses to great effect. Check out how takes this straightforward triad phrase:

and moves it around the bar in the solo on Missile Blues, which is a Blues in G, almost a Parker Blues.

He is first moving it around the bar and then starts to develop it further to continue in the progression. It is incredibly creative!

So a lot of this is not only about playing short phrases but also connecting and developing them so that they make sense and create a story for the listener. There are two ways to work on this that Wes employs in pretty much all of his solos. These two core techniques for creating melodies are probably in all great solos, but Wes is really good at using them!

#2 Call-Response

Usually, we Call-response in music is a way to describe how two parts of an ensemble communicate, so for example how Muddy Waters has a conversation with the band answering each of his phrases:

But you can also use this way of thinking to connect phrases in a solo, often connected to some motivic development which I will also give you examples of later. Wes uses this very often. In this example, it serves as a way to deal with the repeating harmony in Satin Doll and lets him develop the phrases from bar to bar:

Here you can hear a clear call at the beginning, and then he turns around the melody to make that sound more like an answer then moves up the original phrase and plays a variation on that followed by a different answer.

Another way that Wes uses Call-Response in his phrases is to use either octaves or chords to have two layers. You can hear an example of this in The No Blues Solo where he uses different short blues phrases and then makes them call response with a single octave hit. Simple but effective!

This approach could be a good way to start because either on a Blues like this or with another song where you can easily add an octave hit every 2 or 4 bars. You can find quite a few examples of Wes doing this, in a recent video I covered one from The version of Four On Six off the incredible jazz guitar album (album cover maybe sheet music)

#3 Motivic Development

Call response is one of the major ways to connect phrases, but another equally important technique to develop, one that also depends on you being able to play solid short phrases or statements is Motivic Development, something that is often associated with classical and film music like Leit motifs

But it is a major part of how Wes works with melodies as well, even if he actually goes about it in a different way very often.

What makes Wes different

The first part of Motivic development is having a motif. And you have already heard a few examples of how Wes repeats phrases as he did in Impressions,  and here is another great example from Satin Doll:

What is different here is that Wes does have a motif, but he is actually not really using motivic development, and just repeating the melody, only changing it he needs to fit it to the chords.

This is probably better described as a riff than as motivic development. I suspect that he got this from listening to swing music which is more common. In later styles, like Bebop there is a lot less repetition and the focus in the music is on another type of energy. But he doesn’t keep it as a riff, and instead uses those first repetitions to set up our expectations Then he develops the motif before playing another phrase as an end to this chapter of the solo. Check it out!

This way of connecting phrases across complete sections of the song is a really strong way to have more of a story happening in the solo

and is also often everything that is missing for beginner players when they have just reached the skills needed to play a solo over chord changes without getting lost or playing a lot of wrong notes. It is important that you don’t get stuck zooming in on what happens on each chord and instead also hear what the entire solo sounds like.

The Exercises That You Need For This

If you want to develop this aspect of your playing then there are exercises that you can start working on and ways to think about the music that will help you develop that skill. But the first thing that you want to do is of course to start recognizing it in the music. It is ear-training just like learning licks by ear, you are just listening for a different structure. The other exercises that will help you get more flexible with both motivic development and call-response are more improvisation based and if you want to get started with that then check out this video that covers some thoughts on how you can start working with shorter phrases in a creative way. Just like Wes!

Why They Sound Better Than You Every Time!

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The Real Reason You Are Not Getting Better At Jazz

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

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

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

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

The Answer Is Not A Scale!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where Do You Learn The Recipe

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

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

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

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

You can look at this phrase at different levels.

#1 The Notes

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

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

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

#2 The Harmony and Arpeggios

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

#3 Melody

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

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

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

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

This is also happening in the Grant Green example:

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

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

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

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

The Triad That Isn’t A Triad

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

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

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

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

Analyzing Solos For Recipes

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

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

Learn Like The Masters = Learn From The Masters

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

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

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

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

 

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Jazz Comping – A Difficult Conversation With Aimee Nolte

Comping is one of the most fun parts of playing Jazz, but comping with both a piano and a guitar is incredibly difficult and the source of many frustrations!

In this video, I visit Aimee Nolte and we have a long and difficult conversion about comping, and we also play some music but most of that is on Aimee’s channel.

Check out Aimee’s video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wvWkP1_C68

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

This is one of the best people to check out if you want to develop pretty much everything you need to learn when starting out with Jazz: Phrasing, Vocabulary, Rhythm and most importantly these solos are pretty easy to figure out and play. I have given them to students to learn by ear many times, and they always learn a TON from it! Which makes me almost want to submit a complaint with my former teachers because nobody told me to check him out, but I’ll get back to that later.

The guitarist I am talking about here is Grant Green, someone who was a massive influence on a LOT of people, from Benson, to Pat Metheny, Peter Bernstein and Kurt Rosenwinkel. Super important figure in Jazz Guitar history!

3 Eras for Grant Green

To me, there are sort of 3 periods for Grant Green’s playing.

His early Bebop/Hardbop period, which is what I will focus on in this video. A lot of Organ trio stuff and also this guitar trio album simply called “Standards”.

then a true Hardbop era, with more modal Jazz and albums with Coltrane’s rhythm section, “Solid” is an amazing album from this period

and finally the Funk and Soul period where you have “Green Is Beautiful”

But the stuff that is so incredibly valuable for beginners learning Jazz is mostly the early stuff, and I think you will see why. And just to warn you: I will also talk about why I don’t like his tone that much on these albums, but you can of course start complaining about that already now in the comments.

Let’s get to the first example which is the pickup and the beginning of the solo, and it demonstrates 3 things that you definetely want to have in your playing, probably a more..

Bebop On Guitar, But Done Right

I should probably mention that the song is You Stepped Out Of A Dream, off the album called “Standards”. The whole album is a guitar trio, and Green doesn’t play any chords in this song at all, same goes for the other songs on the album, but it is an incredible album to check out, his playing is so solid and the lines are so strong.

The pick up is a long G7 line, even if I just write C6 since it is the end of themelody. It is a great example of how you can use trills in your playing to change up the flow a bit and make the whole thing come alive so it isn’t just 8th note lines all the time.

And it is really just a G7 out of C harmonic minor:

The first 4 bars of the solo shows some really useful examples of motivic development with 3 phrases that link in motifs:

First two phrases on the Cmaj7 are descending arpeggio melodies

and then the he connects the 2nd phrase of Cmaj7 with the phrase on Dbmaj7, using the same beginning notes over the chord.

Another thing that you want to notice is the large interval skip that Grant Green uses on the Dbmaj7 chord, inserting a low F between Db and C.

This is instant Bebop, and you will see 3 more variations of this later in the solo, and if that is all you learn from this solo then it is still worth the effort! As you will see, then this works on a lot of chords and is a great way to change things up so that your lines are not always running up and down scales or arpeggios but also surprising the listener a bit.

The II V I to Ab major that follows is also a great line, but later you also have a perfect II V I line! This one has what you could call a Dbmaj7(9) arpeggio,

Something you will see him play a few variations of as well in the solo. On The Eb7 there is another great interval skip that I always associate with Wes: You encircle the 3rd of the dominant and then skip up to the root, Wes does this a few time in 4 on 6.

Let’s take a look at that Perfect II V I

The Perfect II V I

Grant Green is a great example of how to be practical about taking Charlie Parker Bebop licks, that are often difficult to play on guitar,

and then make them into really playable and very solid Bebop material for Guitar. This, coupled with how he usually plays fairly relaxed tempos, makes these solos a lot easier to play and it is still really good music.

Check out this line and then I’ll talk about how it is a perfect example of a II V I bebop lick

You can hear that it has it all: syncopation, trills, interval skips and triplets. The funny thing about this is that you can see it as an embellishment of a very simple skeleton, like this:

Explainer: First you get the syncopation and the enclosure (From D to Bb) This is followed with the 2nd way to introduce interval skips:

 

The Pivot arpeggio that takes you to G on C7 (Pivot arp to G) We still have 2 variations of these in the solo though.

From here, he then adds a trill and an enclosure to resolve to the 3rd of F: A (C7 line to Fmaj7)

 

One thing you want to notice is that at the very beginning when he has the enclosure taking us to Bb then he is playing the enclosure in the opposite direction, so the melody moves down from D to Bb, but he plays the enclosure up from A to C. Again this is a much more interesting melody, also without the syncopation.

Everything moving down sounds like this

compared to the “flipped enclosure”

This is also a thing that Parker does really a lot, so he probably got it there. We still have two more variations of those large interval strategies so let’s get to the next example

Two Great Examples of Chromatic Notes

There is a really cool trick with enclosure at the end of this example, but let’s start with the phrase on the Dbmaj7, where he is really laying back in the time. Again he is adding a low F between Db and C, but this time he is adding a leading note to that lower note which is a great way to amplify the effect of the interval skip, because you are skipping down to a funny note that needs to resolve:

On the II V in Ab that follows he uses the Dbmaj7(9) arepggio that I talked about earlier, but adding a trill and going in to two enclosures next to each other that sound really great:

Here you have a melody which is first an enclosure of Bb and then on of G

This is very similar to how George Benson creates some great lines on Billie’s Bounce, no scales, just using triads and enclosures. Let me know if you want a link to the video where I talk about that.

How I discovered Grant Green

As I mentioned in the beginning then I was never told to check out Grant Green, which is probably just a coincidence. I had actually checked out some of his later stuff before getting into Jazz, but I did not think to look for more standard material by him. It wasn’t really until I started looking for material that I could use for teaching that I discovered him, mainly because his solos are not too long and not too fast plus that they are often on a 12-bar blues or on a common jazz standard, which makes them great for learning Jazz. This led me to checking out quite a few solos and using them really a lot in lessons and I really like a lot of his albums, especially Solid is a favorite of mine where Joe Henderson is also really amazing! B-roll: Joe Henderson Photo or VIdeo

The Tone And All That Reverb

Grant Green clearly doesn’t fit the typical myth about Jazz tone, with the tone rolled down and bass turned up on the amp, but of course that is also a myth. If you have watched any of my other videos on my guitars and how I think about tone, then you might be able to guess that I am not a massive fan of how Grant Green sounds on these early recordings where I think he is using an ES330 which is a completely hollow version of a 335 with p90 pickups. According to George Benson then Grant Green set up his amp by turning down treble ad bass and turning up the mids, which actually is not that different from how I set up my amp. When I talked about not liking the attack on my ES175 in the video on that guitar, then that is exactly what you hear in this recording of Grant Green. Of course, I think it is fine for him, but it is not what I want to sound like. I have similar thoughts on the spring reverb that is very present on this album, when I listen now I do wonder if it is not a studio spring reverb instead of the amp, but it is hard for me to tell. Remember that it is quite possible to like how somebody plays without wanting to have the same tone, and for the rest feel free to “open up emotionally” in the comment section.

No Chords, Just Fills

I want to add a short side-note on the harmony Grant Green uses on this song and how he doesn’t use any chords, which is not very common for jazz guitar trios, but I think it is clever how Grant Green uses fills to spell out the harmony next to the melody. This is especially clear on the maj7 chords in the beginning. where you have the 3rd in the melody and then Grant Green plays a riff spelling out movement from the 7th to the 6th which both gives you the chord and suggests some harmonic movement.

He probably got that from the trombone part on the Sonny Rollins version, EXAMPLE And I say that because he also plays the same reharmonization and also the same wrong note in the melody that Sonny plays. The next example is on top of that reharmonization.

Pivot Arpeggio 2.0

The reharmonization here is that you usually don’t go from Fmaj7 to Fm7, but instead it goes from Fmaj7 to Am7 D7, so V of V. Both sets of changes fit the melody which is just a C.

What I want to highlight here is the 4th variation of those Bebop interval skips, because here you have an Abmaj7 pivot arpeggio on top of the Fm7, but Grant Green adds two nice variations to it. You get a leading note to the low C, and there is a trill on the G when he gets back up

The other thing that I want to point out here is how he also uses the enclosure and interval skip on Bb7 to get that nice interval at the end of the line:

Which is similar to what he did on the Eb7 in the first example.

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

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

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

 

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

#1 Play Music – The Most Important Goal

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

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

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

Why You Want To Learn Jazz Songs

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

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

How You Learn Songs – It is pretty easy now!

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

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

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

Learn the melody

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

Learn the chords

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

Start soloing

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

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

#2 Scales and Exercises

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

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

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

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

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

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

#3 Learn The Language

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

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

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

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

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

#4 Phrasing and Ear training

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

#5 Learning Path and Information Overload

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

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

Is it easier to learn Jazz now?

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

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Is Your Improvisation Practice a Waste of Time? (And How to Fix That)

When it comes to practicing then it we often have a very clear idea about scales and exercises which you can easily turn into a practice routine or schedule. Habits like that help you measure your progress and make things efficient. When it comes to actually getting better at soloing thex that is often a lot less clear, and you actually have to watch out that you are not just noodling the same stuff without getting any where.

In this video, I am going to work to show you my process while actually learning a song, how I think when I am playing and to demonstrate some of the things that will help you get better at soloing and make your solos more melodic, because just focusing on playing better licks isn’t really enough.

The Song and the Story

I was playing a gig a few weeks ago mostly with people I hadn’t met before, and during the gig the saxophone player called a song that I didn’t know. When you get asked to play a song you don’t know on a gig that can be really difficult, depending on the band and the situation. Sometimes people don’t understand or even accept that you may or may not know a certain song. But while I am building up to a lot of drama then that was not the case. It was a very relaxed gig and we were just calling standards to play. We ended up playing the the song which is pretty easy to learn, and while I never played it (I think), it is a fairly common jazz standard The only hurdle is that it is mostly played quite fast.

The song that I am talking about is the standard “I want to be happy” which I think is mostly famous from the Stan Getz/Oscar Peterson version, but there is also a Rollins version that I had already heard.

Because the song is so simple then the saxophone player actually just explained the harmony so I didn’t have to read it off iReal, which is also nice because the way he explained it then it was easier to play than the iReal harmony which has a few more chords.

VS the usual iReal version:

That’s the song, as you can tell it isn’t super difficult, and hopefully your solo practice can become more effective, and actually more fun by taking some ideas from how I practice, what works and what doesn’t .  This is mostly about being more melodic but that is of course also a subjective term, I find good Jazz lines melodic, other people think jazz lines are abstract theory constructions, you can let me know if it is something else. The important thing is that you find a way to practice soloing that is not random.

#1 The Basics

With any song you, of course, need to have your basics down, this is stuff that I don’t usually work on for all songs that I practice, but if you are new to learning Jazz standards then you want to know the scales and arpeggios needed for the song, and it is practical to know them in one position because it is easier to be melodic if you don’t have F major at one end of the neck and  F#dim at the other.

Later it will be clear that some melodic techniques are a lot easier if you know everything in more positions if not all over the neck.

Since this video is about  soloing over the song,  I am not going to get into how to learn the song, listen to recordings,  play the melody and the chords.

#2 Some Lines

When it comes to practicing instead of the song getting called on a gig , then you can  can choose a comfortable tempo and get used to improvising over the song, not too fast, but certainly also not too slow.

Let’s first just play a simple solo through the progression,   play some lines that connect with the harmony and (hopefully) make sense, maybe stumbling on some difficult stuff or some good things?

In the first solo,  I am staying around the same area, branching out a bit. Really trying to spell out the changes and still get the lines to make sense.

This is mostly about hitting the right target notes that really spell out the chords, so F to F# and E to Eb:

And I do that in the solo here:

This is still mostly playing lines that are zoomed in, I am not really trying to have very long ideas that much, just spelling out the harmony. But I like to have longer ideas in my solos, so let’s try to look at how to develop that, because you want to be able to do this but you also do need to go further

#3 Becoming Melodic

The place I usually start with creating longer lines in my solos is using motivic development, simply because that is one of the strongest ways to connect phrases, Like Autumn Leaves: PLAY or a longer arc like All The Things You Are. Repeating things and changing them is really strong for melody.

The easiest way to do that is actually voice-leading, but I’ll show you that in a bit.

Usually this becomes going back and forth between figuring stuff out without playing in time and putting that to use in time.

Let’s first try a bit in time:

When do the motifs continue, when does something new start, is there a conclusion.

Then you play something and try to hear what follows it, and mostly it will be some sort of echo of the original phrase, but it can also have the character of call-response where one phrase is a question and the next is an answer.

And this part of the practice where you play something and then listen to what you played and play something off that is super important for getting your solos to make sense. It has to be so that even if you start a new melodic idea then it should be a choice, not because you can’t continue the one you were just playing.

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