Tag Archives: jazz phrasing

Jazz Phrasing – The 3 Simple Things That Will Make You Sound Better

I am sure you know this feeling: You are playing the right notes, the arpeggios, chromatic passing notes but it still doesn’t sound like Jazz even when you play a lick you transcribed from one of your favorite jazz guitarists.

The 3 things I am covering in this video and especially how they tie together with the last exercise are things you need to develop if you want to learn to sound like Jazz when you improvise.

Take Control of the Note

When I am giving feedback to the students in my course “The Jazz Guitar Roadmap” then this is one of the most common things that I have to point out, but It is also a thing that you can easily fix and very quickly makes you sound a lot better, and almost nobody talks about this.

Jazz is about rhythm and what most people don’t think about is that when you solo, then each note has two points of rhythm, and they are both important.

What I mean is that a note is placed somewhere in the bar, that is the first rhythm but the other part of the rhythm is also going to make or break how it sounds: Where does it end? How long is that note?

When you are playing a Jazz solo then this is especially important at the end of the phrase, and most guitar players have a very bad habit: You ALWAYS end on long notes. Mainly because you spent a lot of time practicing playing legato and having a beautiful sustain, and once you can then you don’t think about it. And that sounds like this:

And if you compare that to this:

Then I am sure you can hear the difference.

And this is really easy to fix:

  • Take a song that you know really well and start soloing keeping it simple and easy 
  • Focus on not letting notes ring at the end of the phrase and tighten it up.

Of course, there are many times that you want to let a note ring at the end of a phrase, but you should train yourself to hear the phrase and whether it should be a long note or a short note, it should be a choice, not just the habit of letting notes ring.

Practicing like this will break the bad habit!

There is also another way of getting this skill into your playing but I will return to that later in the video.

This Is Why It Is Called Bebop

“It is impossible to play rhythms like that when I have to think about the arpeggios and chromatic notes!”

This is a response that I have gotten quite often from students, in real lessons, and online. And it is true that when you are using a lot of energy to come up with the line you want to play then it is very difficult to also worry about the rhythm. But you can develop that skill if you approach it in the right way, and it is both not that difficult and something that really will improve how your solos sound.

What I am talking about here is ending phrases on the offbeat, which is in fact where we got the name Bebop.

Naturally, you are probably more inclined to end a phrase on a heavy beat, so this often takes some training, but you can work on it. Another similar part of phrasing is a little more complicated, but I will also give you some really good exercises for that right after this.

3 Exercises To Help You Play “Bebop”

There are a 3 different ways you can work on ending phrases like this:

#1 Start with a simple song or progression that you know very well, maybe a blues or an easy standard. Then practice playing short phrases that end on the offbeat. Keep it simple and short so that you can focus on the rhythm

#2 Learn some Bebop Themes and try to take over rhythms from them. You can turn most Bop themes into great exercises for rhythm in this way and they are anyway very useful to check out for a lot of other reasons.

Let’s take the beginning of Au Privave as an example

And you can take that and use it as a motif in a solo like this:

 

#3 Take a lick that is a short and clear example and work on making variations on that, like this Wes Lick:

Now, Wes is great for this because he often plays shorter phrases and is very motivic and has excellent taste in rhythm.

You can move this around on a Blues as well, and like the other exercises, this will teach you how to hear the right type of phrases and in that way, it will begin to become a part of how you play.

The Secret To Great 8th Note Lines

Before I got into Jazz, I remember one night when I was a kid, going from channel to channel on the TV and ending up watching some random Jazz guitar concert on TV, and it sounded like endless rows of 8th notes weaving through the song

I have no idea what or who I was watching that time, but I found it fascinating that anybody wanted to play like that and I was also really aware that they really wanted it to be like that. But there is a lot more to a great jazz solo than just playing long 8th note lines.

Not all 8th notes are created equal, and not all melodies are created to be great Jazz lines.

One of the most difficult things to learn in Jazz is to learn to phrase 8th-note lines and especially learn to improvise lines that allow you to get the right rhythms in there by accenting some of the notes. My old teacher, Eef Albers, used to refer to it as making the lines dance.

So how do you learn this?

There is one rule which isn’t really a rule it is more of a guideline, and you can use that to find candidates for some of those accents.

A note can get an accent if it is:

  • Not on the beat and,
  • Higher than the next note in the line

So you want to learn to make melodies that have high notes on the offbeat.

A consequence of the guideline is also that if you play a descending line then you can pretty much choose whatever note you want to and give that an accent.

Before you start turning your solos into real-time sudoku solving then you could also just ease into it by going through some simple exercises that help you hear phrases like that and then start making variations on those keeping in mind how they need to be phrased.

You can use these exercises as blueprints and try to make different versions and fit them on other chords, especially the last one which is also a must-know melodic technique for playing Bebop.

Exercise 1 – This is a basic arpeggio melody. I am using the arpeggio from the 3rd, Em7, but it will work for the Cmaj7 arpeggio too. This way of playing the arpeggio gives you a natural accent on the 1&

Exercise 2 – Here I am is using a descending C major triad and then adding a scale note above the 5th to get a note that you can accent

 

The Triad from the 3rd can also be played so that it creates a nice accent on the 2& like this:

And of course, a lesson on Jazz and Bebop phrasing would not be complete without an example of octave-displacement:

This honeysuckle rose or octave-displaced Cmaj7 arpeggio in this exercise gives you a great accent and change of direction on the 2& which makes the line much more interesting as a melody.

What You Should Really Learn From The Masters

The thing that you must develop to improve your phrasing is to hear the right melodies that can be phrased in the right way. Now, besides these exercises then a great way to really dive into that is to learn solos by ear, and that is simply because when you work on learning a solo then you really listen intensely to the phrases and you start absorbing not only the lines but also the phrasing and timing, so working on that is also a great way to improve your phrasing.

The Bebop Secret

The most important thing to take away from this is that the phrasing is depending on the melody, and you need to learn to play the right type of melodies in your solos if you want to play with better phrasing. Bebop is one of the clearest examples of this and if you want to play better bebop melodies and really nail that beautiful Jazz phrasing then check out this video on the Bebop Secret which will teach you how to use octave displacement in your solos in many different ways that all work great for your phrasing.

Bebop Magic – One Of The Best And Most Difficult Things About Jazz

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How To Go From Scales to Great Jazz Phrases

You are practicing scales so that you know what to play in your solos, but, like me, I am sure that you are quickly realizing that running up and down the scale is a pretty boring solo. Scales is just not music. You need to learn how to take the raw material of the scale and turn that into musical phrases that you can actually use in a solo.

Scales Are Boring

This is about how you think about what you are playing, and realizing that Jazz is a language that you need to learn to speak on your instrument, but, as you will see, once you get used to that thought then that can also help practice in a much more efficient way and get to enjoy your own playing more.

You already know your scales and hopefully, you also checked out some of the essential exercises like the diatonic triads and 7th chord arpeggios in there since those are very useful for not sounding like you are just running up and down a row of notes.

 

If you don’t know those exercises then check out this lesson on practicing scales.

Jazz Beginner Mistakes – How To Learn Scales

You want to avoid playing solos that just sound like you are running up and down the scale without any direction, completely at random.

Which doesn’t really sound like something that works in a solo.

How To Play A Jazz Phrase on a Cmaj7

So how do you solve this? You need to find a way to construct lines that are not just using random scale notes and that also make sense as an interesting melody and sounds like Jazz.

To keep it simple, let’s just say that you are improvising over a Cmaj7 chord and then I will show you how to start making lines that actually work.

Instead of playing random notes then you want to play something that connects with that chord. A Cmaj7 is C E G B (chord with diagram, right side) and if we play those notes then that will work really well with the chord.

With this you can already start to make something that sounds like music:

The difference is that it is not just running up and down the arpeggio, but instead, you try to hear a melody with the notes, adding some rhythm and hearing where it ends. But it is still pretty limited, so let’s add in some more notes in there, which is easy because there are 3 more notes in the scale.

Scale Notes and Phrases

If you make a line with the arpeggio notes and then start to add in the scale notes around it then you can create something like this:

As you can see the most of the notes are still the chord tones, and the way they are placed in the melody then they still help us connect to, or hear the chord, in fact, you can remove the scale notes and still have a great sounding line:

Sounding Like Jazz – Rhythms and Accents

One of the most important parts of getting a phrase to sound like Jazz is to get some syncopated rhythm in there. You can do this by either using syncopated rhythms like this:

Or by accenting notes so that the accents give you a syncopated rhythm

You get those accented notes by having a high note on an off-beat. In the beginning, you probably need to practice making and hearing melodies like that, but then it gradually becomes a natural part of how you hear melodies and how you improvise.

Adding Some Beautiful Wrong Notes

Another thing that you hear in something like a Wes Montgomery, George Benson or a Charlie Parker solo is chromaticism, which essentially means using wrong notes to create some tension that resolves to a right note. If you just play the “right” notes then it is as if you are missing something, and if you just play the chromatic notes then that sounds like you are just playing something wrong.

It has to make sense in the melody and resolve in the right way.

In this example, you have two types of chromatic phrases. Passing notes that resolve to chord tones, like this:

You can create chromatic phrases that resolve to a chord tone. Here it is connecting 7th to the 5th, G in half-steps. You can also have chromatic phrases that move around the resolution like this:

The enclosures you have here are targeting chord tones, first the 5th and then the 3rd: l (isolate enclosure of G and E)

And of course you want to end up with phrases that combine the two like this:

How You Practice Making Phrases

What you have seen until now are different options for building blocks, so small fragments that you use to build phrases with like the arpeggio, the scale, and two types of chromatic phrases. If you want to work on playing better lines then you should work on putting together phrases, but you can also learn a lot from studying how your favorite soloist plays. The way you do this is by analyzing the solo and try to figure out what building blocks are used and how the different blocks are put together.

Transcribing and analyzing phrases is really powerful because it comes from music that inspires us, and you start with what you hear.

This is not the only option, you can also work with making variations of building blocks by moving them around the scale, onto other chords or using rules not unlike what you find Barry Harris doing in his workshops.

In this video, I was only talking about using the arpeggio of a single chord, but there are many other options that you can work on. If you want to explore how you can start using different arpeggios for a chord and also how you make bebop inspired lines with them then check out this lesson on: “the most important scale exercise in Jazz”

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Simple Ideas That Make Your Solo Better

You know the feeling: You are practicing and in your jazz guitar solo you are using the right notes, the right scale, and arpeggios but it is also really boring. In this lesson, I am going to go over some of the things I like to mess around with and try to change things up a bit with different arpeggios, rhythms, and melodic ideas. It should give you some inspiration and a way to change things up a bit in your own playing.

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Content:

0:00 Intro

0:44 #1 How to not sound like scales and arpeggios – with (Secret) Arpeggios

2:18 #2 How to not sound like scales and arpeggios – with Scales

3:48 #3 How to not sound like scales and arpeggios – Wrong Scales and Arpeggios

4:57 #4 8th-notes in groups of 3 notes

6:01 #5 Triplets in Groups of 4 notes

7:21 Triads – The Strongest Melody we have!

7:40 Like the video? Check out My Patreon Page

Expanding your solo vocabulary

Lady Bird – Arpeggios & Pentatonic Scales

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Jazz Phrasing Techniques – How To Get A Better Jazz Flow

Jazz is a musical language, we talk about learning vocabulary and learning phrasing all the time. But I do see a lot of students only
practicing what notes to play and really missing out on how to learn to phrase so it sounds like jazz.

So let’s say that you can make a line like this one:

It sounds good, but it sounds a lot better if you play it like this:

That’s what I want to talk about in this lesson!

Listen for the phrasing and the techniques used

First I am going to give you some examples of the different techniques you can use and then I am going to go over how you can start using it in your own playing for arpeggios, jazz blues and making scale runs much more interesting.

In a way this is a video on legato technique, but it is really more about how you use it make better lines.

How does it make it sound better?

In the example below I am using a slide to move from the chromatic leading note to the root. This brings out the more interesting chromatic note that “doesn’t fit” and it makes the resolution more subtle.

At the end of the 1st bar you can see a 3 note grouping starting on G. The pull-off gives the G an accent which sits well in the groove. The next phrase is the same phrase that is move down a half step and executed in the same way. This shifts the 3-note group but also ties together the line across the two chords.

The trill on beat 3 of the 2nd bar is also a way to add movement in the 8th note line.

More rhythm, more phrasing!

The example here below uses some of the same techniques but is a lot less dense.

The G# leading note is sliding up to the A, again using the concept of bringing out the “interesting” chromatic note and not the resolution. This is also what happens at the end of the line going to G.

The pull-off in the triplet is here more functioning as a way to make the melody more playable.

How do you get this into your own playing

For you to start working with this type of phrasing and techniques you should start looking at the lines you make and spot how you can add to the phrasing.

Example 4a here below is a really basic Gm7:

This can be embellished with a leading note as shown in 4b which makes it sound a lot better:

Adding Dynamics to spice it up

Legato is a great way to add some dynamics and make a lick less monotonous.

Try playing this line:

Instead of playing this by picking each note and make it pretty even you can add a lot of life to it and get it to sound a lot better:

A key ingredient of Jazz Blues

Using grace notes and slides are really what makes Blues work in Jazz lines. Try to listen to these two ways of playing the same melody, first with and then with out the embellishing phrasing:

And without:

Leading notes to arpeggios

A great and easy way to add some interesting phrasing is to use leading notes. This works especially well with arpeggios as shown in the example below, where I am adding an F# in front of the Gm7 arpeggio.

Keep it practical

If you want to practice this then you could explore exercises like this one. Notice how I am using slides in some places and hammer-ons in others. It really just depends on what is easier to use in each case.

Making your scale runs more fun to play

Scale runs can quickly become boring. In this section you have two licks with scale runs and I will shouw you how to make add some more movement with simple embellishments.

Example 7 has a scale run in the 1st half of the bar. This is turned into a triplet rhythm with a slide and hammer on/pull-off. What really helps here is also that the direction now changes within the run so it is less predictable.

Example 8a and 8b use a similar approach for the first part of the bar. Here the scale run also introduces a larger interval from D up to the G on beat 3.

Build your own phrasing!

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How To Listen To Your Solos And Really Learn Something

You are practice playing jazz guitar solos because you want to get better at it, and you probably also discovered that it really helps to record yourself and listen to how the solo sounds because you don’t really have time to listen if you are playing the guitar.

But what do you listen for, and how do you figure out what to improve your jazz guitar skills? In this video, I am going over some of the things you can learn from recording your own solos.

Content:

0:00 Intro

0:17 Recording Your Solos – But what to learn from them?

0:52 Get the most out of your practice (also the easy things)

1:18 It is Hard to listen to Your Own Playing

1:49 Ear-training (but not just chords and scales)

2:48 Lost in the Zoom – Don’t only check out details

3:46 What to listen for and work on

4:34 Things for the list of stuff to check out

6:48 Do you record your own solos?

7:14 Like the video? Check out my Patreon page

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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

Jazz-Blues – 4 Easy Jazz Phrasing 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 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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Why You Want To Write Your Own Jazz Licks

Playing Jazz is about learning a style and a language but it is also about finding your own voice.There are many reasons you want to write you own licks and work on your own vocabulary:

  • – You want it to sound good to you (and sound like you)
  • – Develop Your taste – figure out what you like and what you don’t like
  • – Learn How to Incorporate New things in to your Playing
  • – Practice coming up with Playable licks and material.

Composing Jazz Licks

In this video I will discuss these topics and while it is made with Jazz Guitar in mind it probably holds true for other instruments and styles as well.

Table of Contents

0:00 Intro – Why you want to write your own licks

1:08 Playing in time = Deadlines

1:44 Coming Up With Playable Lines

2:10 Example lick with a Drop2 voicing arpeggio

4:40 Learn How To Use New Material

5:11 Quartal Arpeggios Example

5:45 Three Variations

6:31 Develop Your Taste – Learning The Language

6:53 Listen to what you play – Did you like it?

7:23 Wes Montgomery Lick and variations

8:38 Make Vocabulary that Sounds like you want it to sound

8:56 Investigate what works together.

9:11 Example 1

9:47 Example 2

10:21 Like the video? Check out my Patreon Page

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The PDF with examples for this video is available through Patreon. You can check out my Patreon Page here: https://www.patreon.com/jenslarsen

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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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The Reason Your Jazz Guitar Licks Suck and How you fix it!

Your jazz licks have all the right arpeggios and chord tones, target notes etc. And they still don’t sound like great bop lines! The Problem is probably with the jazz phrasing.  In this video I am going to give you a basic understanding of some of the jazz phrasing that can lift your solos to the next level.

I am also going to give you a way to write licks which you can phrase better and take a few bars from a George Benson solo to demonstrate how he gets it right!

The Good, The Bad and the Bebop!

In the example below I have written out two examples of jazz lines over a Turnaround in C major.

They both contain right notes and the melodies are moving from chord to chord in a logical way, but the second one sits better in the groove and is easier to phrase in a nice way.

The difference is where the target notes and the notes where the line changes direction are placed. In the first example this is all the time on the heavy beats (so beats 1 and 3). This is shown with the circle.

In the second line these notes are placed mostly on an off-beat and that makes it possible to give them an accent and add some more life to the line.

I guess the difference is that bebop lines need the syncopated lines that have high notes and turning points on off-beats because that makes it come alive and add some small dynamic surprises for the listener. 

Composing lines with better phrasing

It does sound a little strange I know, but actually we can work on making lines that are easier to phrase in a right way. 

The trick is to find a way to create lines where we have a high note on an off-beat.

If we take the two heavy beats in the bar, 1 and 3, then there are two types of off-beats we can have: The one before a heavy beat: 2& and 4& and the one after a heavy beat: 1& and 3&.

Before a heavy beat

In example 3 I am using the Dm7 G7 progression to demonstrate 4 different ways to have a high note (and therefore an accent) before beat 3.

After a heavy beat

The 3 different examples below show how you can add an accent on 1& by making that note a local high note.

It is worth noting that the descending line actually also makes the 1& a note you can accent, so that option is also often a good way to add an accent. You will also see this in the George Benson solo.

Examples of Jazz Licks with accents

To show you some examples of lines that have melodies that you can add accents to I have written to II V I lines in C major.

The first example starts with an accent on the 2&. This is achieved with an Fmaj7 arpeggio similar the 2nd bar in Example 3. The rest of the bar does not contain anything that gets an accent. 

In the G7 bar the first accent is on the 1& where the D is a high note. There is another accent on the 3& where the B can get an accent.

The 2nd example is using the same arpeggio on the Dm7 to get an accent on the 2&, but this time the arpeggio is played in an inversion to add a large 6th interval skip on the 1& 

The ascending arpeggios are also used to get accents on the 2& and 4& on the G7alt. Here it is first a G augmented triad and the 2nd one is an Fm7(b5) arpeggio.

Other ways to lget better at phrasing

Learning from composing and analyzing is only one way of the ways to internalize these things. Of course it will help you recognize and hear where accents are and understand the phrasing examples you hear on a conscious level.

Another way to work on this is to listen and imitate examples of good phrasing, this can be copying records or learning to play transcriptions.

Why George Benson has great phrasing

As an example of somebody with good phrasing here is 4 bars from a George Benson solo. These 4 bars are an excerpt from his (really fantastic!) solo on Billies Bounce. I transcribed it and will go over where the accents are.

The excerpt starts on the II V to Gm7, which in Billie’s bounce is Am7 D7(b9). The first part is a sweep of a triad which does not contain any accents, mostly because this technique does not really allow you to add an accent.

The line on the D7 moving to Gm7 does have an accent. The Sweep of the C major triad comes out on an F#. From here it skips up to a D and descends step-wise to Bb. This means that it is possible to add an accent on the 4&(C) which George does. 

On the Gm7 the A on the 2& get’s an accent., and for the rest there is no accents in the Gm7 line. Ont the C7 the G on the 1& is a high note which then gets an accent. It is followed by a dramatic skip (dramatic in a beautiful way…) and the line is ended with a bop cliche that ends on an D on the 3& that also naturally get’s an accent.

On the F7 D7 there are not notes on the off beat and therefore no accents. 

The Gm7 C7 line at the end of the chorus actually has accents on all off beats in the bar, which is of course possible, in this case it is also part of a blues phrase that somewhat asks for it.

How do you go about improving your phrasing?

When you are working on phrasing I would suggest that you combine all the approaches I discussed in this lesson. It is important to listen and analyze solos to get the sound of the phrasing into your ear. At the same time you can reinforce this process with composing and exploring what lines you can come up with that has notes that you can give an accent.

Finally it is also really good to have some solos that you really copy and play along with the record to really get into how the guitarist is phrasing.

Good luck with it!

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Take this approach further with more examples

If you want to explore the concepts discussed in this lesson further with some exercises and examles you can check out this lesson in my WebStore:

Jazz & Bebop Phrasing – C Blues

Get the PDF!

You can also download the PDF of my examples here:

The reason your jazz licks suck!

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics or how I can make the lessons better 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.

Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Instagram,Twitter Google+ or Facebook to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.