Whether you are trying to add a little Jazz flavor to your solos or working on getting your Jazz solos to sound better then you are probably stuck with mechanical sounding lines that miss that great feel or phrasing. So you sound like
And you want to sound more like this:
The thing that you want to learn is to start hearing melodies that have this type of phrasing, and that may sound incredibly complicated and like you have to transcribe 150 Charlie Parker and John Coltrane solos, but there is actually another way that can get you started a lot faster and a lot easier.
For most Jazz licks there are two main ingredients, meat, and potatoes if you will: The Scale and The Arpeggio. You can let me know in the comments which is which 🙂
To keep it simple, I will use an Am7 chord as a II chord in G major, what you may also call The Dorian Scale or Mode something like this:
And you can play an Am7 arpeggio, which is the melodic version of the chord like this:
The way your playing sounds using the scales and arpeggios is probably like cooking without any spices, it is not interesting and there are no surprises, so let’s get started fixing that.
The Best Phrasing Building Block!
Let’s make it a little more interesting, with probably one of my favourite building blocks when it comes to phrasing:
So now something is happening, mainly because the line is not just running up and down the scale or arpeggio like this
What I am using is a short melody with 4 notes:
It is skipping around and also has a nice chromatic leading note which resolves in a great sounding way.
Try to play the D on the 1& a little louder that makes it feel better and sound more like Jazz. If you play all of the notes completely even then it sounds a bit boring.
This one is easiest to use if you have a place in the scale that is like this, so B C D, half step, whole step.
If you move it around you see how it doesn’t work as well and gets difficult to play
But the basic version is still great for a lot of licks
A Few 16th Notes Sound Great!
A similar but much more flexible little phrase is also still the easiest to play on one string:
The small phrase you can take from this is this one:
And again you want to accent the note on the 1& a little to make it a bit more syncopated.
This is a great phrase to move around on one string like this:
Which is also a good exercise for knowing the fretboard.
But this type of phrase also works if you don’t have all the notes on one string like this:
So now the pull-off on 1& is still getting an accent, but the last note is on the next string. It is followed by a little scale melody and then the Am7 arpeggio and a scale run to takes us up to the 9th of the chord B.
The one that I always found to be the master of these types of phrases would probably be Charlie Parker, and I actually did a video discussing this on Patreon using one of his solos, but you will also find great examples in the playing of Joe Pass.
Let’s have a look at another great way to make your lines sound like Jazz phrasing and also start to combine the different building blocks!
A few things are going on here. The main ingredient is this 16th note trill:
But as you can see I am also using an Em7 arpeggio over the Am7 chord,
and that has to do with how the notes are of Em7 are related to Am7:
Am7: A C E G
Cmaj7: C E G B
Em7: E G B D
So for Em7 the E and the G are chord tones and on Am7 the B and D are the 9th and 11th both notes that sound good on that chord, and as you can see Cmaj7 is also a great arpeggio to use on Am7.
Back to the Trill!
This is easiest to play if you have the notes on two strings, and actually, this trill is pretty easy to practice in a position like this
Let’s combine this with the first building block:
And of, course, you can also add in the 2nd building block.
As you can see then it really pays off to work on developing a vocabulary of building blocks. Those are the real licks that you want to pick out of Charlie Parker solos or other things you hear.
And when you find something like this then spend time practicing to use them and compose licks so that you become better at that and the new material becomes a part of your playing.
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