In this video, I am going to show you how to take these 3 basic phrases: play 1-3 short and make some really great licks. The important thing you will learn from this is to hear the difference between boring and interesting lines. I am sure you have already been struck with the Curse of the Bad Bop Licks with all the right notes and arpeggios and still sound really boring. This video will help you improve that and develop your melodic ear in general.
Curse of the Bad Bop Licks with All The Right Notes
Here is a line with the right notes and arpeggios that still doesn’t work:
It is using the right scale and a Dm7 arpeggio with some chromaticism, but it is still boring.
The main problem with this line is that it is very predictable and it changes direction on the heavy beats of the bar, so 1 and 3.
You can play scale runs in your solo, but often it is nice to try to break it up so that it is more surprising to the listener. If you can make it surprising without making it sound random then it works better.
If I took the 3 phrases I talked about at the beginning of the video and made them into a lick then that would sound like this:
Here the melody skips around a lot more and is a lot less predictable. It is not nearly as much just something that moves in one direction.
In this video, I will show you how you can start making licks that sound like that, and develop your skills and ears.
The Diatonic/Chromatic Enclosure
The first phase of the example above is really just an enclosure of the 3rd of Dm, F. You have the diatonic note above G and the chromatic note below E. In this case the chromatic note is also diatonic, but that is actually a coincidence.
If you are writing lines on a Dm7 then it pays off to check this exercise out on the chord tones:
And as you will see later in the video, the direction of the enclosure can make a huge impact on the line that you are playing so you should also try to play it the other way around:
Melodic Direction is Important
Let me show you how the direction of the enclosure can make a huge difference:
If you have a simple scale melody like the first bar below.
You could do it like as in bar 2 or like this bar 3
I am sure you can hear how the last variation sounds a lot more interesting with the skip down to the C#. And that is because you are adding an enclosure that moves in the opposite direction of the scale melody, so the scale melody moves down and the enclosure moves up.
You can then make a lick like this:
What you want to spend time on with material like this is to compose and play lines, that way you start to figure out how you can get it to work and you also start really getting into your ears how solid lines should sound, so don’t forget to get started working on writing lines. This is also how Barry Harris teaches bebop in his masterclasses.
Break Up The Flow: Lower Chord Tones
Besides the enclosures, I will go over another great way to use arpeggios in your lines, but first le’s look at a way to add some large interval skips to a simple melody without sounding completely random.
The first bar shows how you can add a lower chord tone in between notes in a scale run.
One way of understanding this is that you start with a descending scale run and then you add a chord tone between two notes, in this case, the F and the E.
In the original example, I use a low A, because the 6th interval is nice and it is clearly breaking things up, but you can also use a D or instead take a high chord tone like the A
You can turn this into an exercise using a Dm triad as the foundation, and you actually get 3 really solid melodic building blocks:
Turning this into a lick could be something like this:
Notice the rhythmical variation used in the 2nd bar
The 3rd phrase I used in the intro is this way of playing an arpeggio using an 8th note triplet.
I am sure you have already heard this in tons of Parker, Benson or Wes lines, and I also have a video where I talk about talking triplet arpeggios through the scale that I will link to in the video description.
For the Dm7 chord that I am using here there are 3 arpeggios that are really useful and easy to use, namely from each of the notes in the Dm triad: D, F and A
D: Dm7 – D F A C
F: Fmaj7 – F A C E
A: Am7 – A C E G
You can practice these ascending like this:
and the descending version is also really useful, though it is a little less common:
A lick using the triplet arpeggios sounds like this:
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