Tag Archives: jazz phrasing exercises

How To Sound Like Jazz – It Is All Phrasing

You want to learn Jazz, and everybody is saying: Learn Bebop scales and altered chords, upper-structure triad pairs. All these fancy things, and you can do great things with that, but in the end, it is not that which makes it sound like jazz. It is the phrasing, it is how you play it.

In this video, I am going to go over some examples of fairly simple things that do sound like Jazz and talk about how you start sounding like that what to work and what to practice.

Jazz Phrasing – What To Listen For

To give you an idea about what I mean here are a few very simple II V I licks in C major, just using the notes of the scale, no chromaticism or alterations everything is just in C.

Then I am going to analyze that and give you two great ways to work on improving your phrasing.

What is important is to start hearing about a line like this is that the notes are note played with the same volume or intensity. Jazz lines are not just a row of notes that are either on or off like this PLAY same note equal dynamic

If I played the line like without accents and dynamics it would sound boring and not like Jazz at all.

So I add some accents to the line. In this line, I have accents on the 1, 2& and on the 2& in bar 2. This is shown below:

The first note naturally gets an accent, but within the line then the interesting accents that make it sound like Jazz are on a note that is off the beat and higher than the following note.

Notice how I am using legato to give one-note and accent and make the following softer, this is a very common way to use legato for phrasing.

Accent on a note that is off the beat and higher than the following note.

Here we have accents on 1&, 3& and 2& in bar 2 as shown here below:

Again I am just using the scale and the diatonic arpeggios, so it is clearly more about how you play the lines and how the melodies are constructed than what notes you are playing.

The Dorian #4 Bebop scale will not automatically make you sound like Bebop.

How To Learn Jazz Phrasing

Now you have an idea about what is happening and how to get what you play to sound better.

But if you really want to sound better then you need to get this way of playing into your system so that it becomes automatic, something that is a little more difficult.

There are two exercises that you can work on that will really help this the first one is a great way to learn some repertoire as well. I also have a WebStore lesson dedicated to this that you can check out here: Jazz-Blues – 4 Easy Jazz Phrasing Etudes

One way to really dig into phrasing is to learn bebop themes and really try to analyze them and figure out how to phrase them. This way of working is a bit technical or theoretical and you need to work on it for some time and with a few tunes to get it to work in your playing., but it can be a great way to start hearing better phrasing and you can also reference different recordings of the bebop theme to get a sense of how people phrase the lines.

An analysis of Charlie Parkers Au Privave is shown here below with possible accent notes circled:

Of course, playing along with a recording and really nailing the phrasing is also a great exercise.

It could open up a completely new way to hear the melodies.

Transcribing

The other way to work on this is by learning solos by ear. For me, this was the most important takeaway from transcribing and still is. If you learn a solo and can play along with the recording then you really start hearing the phrasing and it is going to be a lot easier to get that sound out into your playing.

Learning solos by ear can seem really difficult compared to the previous exercise, but the advantage over working from a piece of written out music is that you have to listen a lot to a recording, really try to hear how it sounds and then reproduce that so the process is much closer to how you hopefully will end up using the phrasing and therefore it is much more effective as a way of learning.

Even if this was the only thing you would learn from learning a solo by ear and playing it with the recording, then phrasing is so important that it is more than enough reason to start doing this. I think that is obvious from the first part of this video.

What solos have you checked out by ear, do you have recommendations for good easy solos to learn? Maybe especially because of the phrasing. Leave a comment on this video!

A really important part of improving your phrasing is to hear what you sound like and see how it matches what you want to sound like. The only real way to do this is to record yourself. This is a great tool for learning and especially self-teaching. If you want some solid tips and advice on how to work with this then check out this video on that topic.

I have other videos on phrasing and how to interpret jazz lines like these. I find myself much more hearing drums when I am hearing how a line is supposed to sound.

Practicing Jazz Phrasing with Easy Etudes

Other Lessons on Phrasing

Jazz Phrasing – This is what you want to know

Bebop Soloing – The Licks You Need To Check Out

Jazz & Bebop Phrasing – C Blues

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What Makes This Sound So Good and How To Play Like That

One thing that we probably all love is the sound of great jazz phrasing in a solo. In this video, I am going to take a look at a great example from George Benson and talk about why these jazz phrases sound great. In that process, I will also go over some ways to turn the lick into exercises and use those to make your own licks that have great phrasing.

I also explain how jazz phrasing sometimes clashes with some of the other skills we teach for jazz improvisation and how to work around that.

The George Benson Solo Example

Here is a transcription of the phrases from the Benson solo that I am using

I am going to use the 2nd line as an example.

#1 Why does it sound great?

I have talked about what makes jazz phrasing great in other videos, and there are many things that come together to make a jazz solo great, but one thing that is a huge factor is how the line lets us give some notes an accent.

Let’s focus on the last part of the example and get a little scientific by slowing it down. You can hear that in the video.

When you listen to the slow version you can hear the accents on the high notes that are not on the beat:

I am sure you already have an idea about this, and one way to access this is to sing bop lines in terms of phrasing, that really helps you realize that you probably hear it and you just need to figure out how to get it on to your instrument.

But two of these examples are similar in a way and you can practice getting that into your lines quite easily.

#2 What Should You Practice

If we look at this fragment (D# to E in bar 2) then what happens here is Benson is playing a blues phrase, but the effect is really just a leading note resolving upwards and then a lower not.

If we apply this idea to an arpeggio then you would have an exercise like this:

And at the end of our example, Benson does something similar with this arpeggio, one way to look at that is as a way of playing a 1st inversion Cmaj7 arpeggio. If you take that through a scale then you have this:

#3 How Do We Play Licks that Sound Like That?

Usually when you start playing Jazz then you have a really hard time playing logical melodies that follow the changes. And one of the first things you learn, or at least should learn, is that if you play chord tones as target notes on the heavy beats of the bar then you connect with the phrase.

This might sound like this:

Where I am playing an F on beat one and an A on beat 3, but the line doesn’t really give us a nice flow with some accents. As my old teacher used to say: “It doesn’t make me want to dance”

But with the exercises, you can start putting together your own lines and in that way getting it into your playing.

Here I am using the exercise from EX2 on the Dm7 (play that) and leaving a little more space to go from G7 to C

Another one could be something like this:

Develop your phrasing

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Jazz Phrasing – This is what you want to know

You problably know the feeling of trying to come up or with lines and then even though you know the notes are right it is impossible to get it to sound like jazz.

In this video I am going to show you some things that you need to be aware of when trying to come up with lines and which will help you jazz phrasing really a lot. One thing that is really interesting about this is that it is actually possible to write jazz licks that really are not possible to phrase well.
This is about how you play the notes and a little about which notes you play, and for me it was really a huge part of getting my bop lines to sound good.

How to learn good Jazz Phrasing

I am going to cover two things: First how to write lines like this and later I’ll talk about how to hear it in examples and get it into your system so that you don’t have to think about it, because that is what you eventually want to have. Phrasing is something you hear and feel not something you think about while you are playing.

The Lick that doesn’t swing

Have a look at this lick: Harmony is clear, the notes are mostly chord tones.  Target notes make sense but it sounds heavy.

This line has direction and it spells out the chords, but the melody sounds heavy because it asks for accents on the heavy beats: 1 and 3. There is no place where we have a not popping out to make it dance.

In short: That sounds more like Megadeth than Charlie Parker.

Writing better line with Better Phrasing

Luckily you probably already have a good idea about how a good jazz solo sounds. If you try to sing the phrasing of that then you get a much more.

If you pay attentiont to what you are singing and slow that down then you start to notice that the accents in the phrase are not on the beat, so accents are on the off-beat

In Jazz, or bebop, the accents are naturally on the off beats. The question is then how do you make melodies where you can create those accents.

Let’s look at an example:

In the example above the accents are the higher notes in the phrase, so the C on 1-and plus the A on the 3-and.

The rule you want to notice here is:

If a note is higher (in pitch) than the following note and not on the beat. Then you can give it an accent.

In the line above there are therefore two notes that can get an accent. 

Using your technique to make it easier to phrase

Very often the easiest way to accent something is not to play that note a lot louder but instead to play the surrounding notes a little softer. Using legato is a great way to naturally do that.

The way I use this is to pick the note that gets an accent and then use a pull-off to play the following (lower) notes.

Another example of a line where this strategy will give it a natural phrasing is shown below:

Bebop Phrasing on a II V I

Of course this way of thinking and using this rule can also be applied to a complete II V I lick as shown below.

You will notice that the accents are on 4-and in bar 1 and on 2-and in bar 2. The line also ends with a classic “bebop” phrase where the descending interval is the sound that gave the genre it’s name.

Learning to hear good phrasing

Besides writing lines it is also important to listen to great solos and it can be useful to analyze transcriptions to find places where there are accents in the solo.

Be sure to listen to bebop and hardbop artists to get the most out of this. You also want to keep in mind that even if you don’t analyze it then just hearing good phrasing in huge amounts will also help you a lot. 

How Wes Montgomery Gets it Right

As an example of an analysis of a solo let’s have a look at the opening phrase from Wes Montgomerys solo on Four on Six off the Smokin’ at the half note album.

The first part of the pickup is a sliding 5th interval which is on the beat. This is not a bebop 8th note line so or ideas about accents doesn’t really apply.

The next phrase is a Gm pentatonic phrase an here Wes is playing 8th notes. The phrase is essentially a descending scale run and he does in fact accent the top note (a C).

The ascending arpeggio that follows does not allow any accents, but the descending Dm triad in bar 3 does, and here the first note does get an accent.

The way to better phrasing

For me it was a combination of knowing how to phrase bebop themes and lines, composing lines with the accents in the right place and certainly also training my ears by listening and playing along with great examples. 

I would suggest you find a way to mix in all of those approaches if you are working on your phrasing.

A short cut to improve your Bebop Phrasing

One way to speed up the process could be to check out this webstore lesson with analysis and examples of lines that are easy to play and have great phrasing.

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If you want to download a Free E-book of 15 II Valt I licks then subscribe to my newsletter:

Get the PDF!

You can also download the PDF of my examples here:

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics then please let me know. Leave a comment on the video or  send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make them fit what you are searching for.

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