Tag Archives: jazz rhythm guitar lesson

The One Thing You Wish You Could Improve In Your Jazz Playing

What Is The Magic of Wes and Benson?

I am pretty sure that you have listened to Wes Montgomery or George Benson playing a solo and thought “I wish I could sound like that”, but when you are playing Jazz then you are busy with scales and arpeggios and getting the lines to fit together without losing the form.

But scales and arpeggios will make you sound more like Wes, ot is something else that makes him sound like that, and you are not working on that side of your playing. Let me show you how to fix that!

If you are starting out learning Jazz guitar,  you often get stuck with the first problem that you run into: What notes go where? That is not so strange because it is difficult to navigate a Jazz song and play the right notes in the right place, but once you start to be able to do that, then you need to also start developing other things, and especially rhythm and phrasing, because if you let the notes and the harmony dictate your phrasing then you won’t sound like Jazz:

A Method For Magic

You probably check out licks and solos and try to figure out how they work in terms of what scale, arpeggio, or chromatic thing is used so that you can use that in your playing as well:

This is something you want to do with rhythm and phrasing as well, and the important part is that you start with something you hear and then use that to create your own material,

mainly because we don’t have as many terms for those rhythmical building blocks.

Let me show you what you can do with a simple and short Wes Montgomery phrase to start opening up your own playing. Check out this short but amazing phrase from the 2nd chorus of his solo on “No Blues” off the “Smokin’ at the Half-note” album.

Obviously, we could focus on what notes he uses, and that IS interesting but let’s try and see if there is something to be learned from the rhythm and the phrasing, because Wes is one of the greatest improvisers when it comes to really making strong and clear phrases also in terms of rhythm, and that part of it will already make you sound 10 times better!

To keep it simple, I am going to cut off the pick-up, but I will talk about adding that back in later in the video, also because that is part of another very important thing to develop and ties into something that I talk about very often as well.

Removing the pickup leaves us with this:

I picked a phrase where I like the rhythm, and maybe also because I like the shape of the phrase, so how the melody flows.

I will start by keeping that in there, but you don’t have to of course.

First, you just want to hear the phrase, so sing it, you can probably hear that I am still hearing the flow of the melody. “Rhythm”

In the way that I sing it, you can also hear where I have accents “rhythm”

Make It Your Own

A side note on learning by ear: One of the ways that I trained this and I think also what is the traditional approach to teaching this is learning solos. When you learn solos by ear you want to keep playing them with the track for a long time after figuring them out. In that way, you get the phrases and the rhythms into your system, and that is useful for a lot of things, so you want to keep doing that, but what I cover here is a more focused way to develop your rhythm and phrasing vocabulary. Both approaches are worth exploring.

The goal now is to start hearing phrases with this rhythm, and the easiest way to start is to stick with the shape of the melody. Later I will expand this so that you can start hearing other phrases as well coming out of this example. When you start working on this there is one thing that might demotivate you but I’ll get to that. Here’s a simple version using the Wes rhythm and flow on a Gmaj7:

or maybe something like this, try to recognize the flow in there and judge for yourself if it works as a line.

What you want to do is to create lines over a different chord with the same rhythm and a similar phrasing, and keep in mind that this is to get you out of always playing:

An important thing to keep in mind is that you probably start doing this with a phrase that you consider perfect and doing this exercise will not only give you 150 perfect jazz licks that are going to blow everyone’s mind. It is not so much about the licks as it is about the process, because what you are training is hearing phrases with that melody.

You should only check if the lick does actually work, and it is fine if some of them don’t, you learn from that as well.

Letting Go Of The Flow

I remember when I was just getting into Jazz and I came across this very solid Bebop line or cliche, which is an example of octave displacement, and could probably be taken out of a Bach piece as well, but it works amazingly as a Jazz lick:

And because I didn’t understand octave displacement and the direction of melody I spent a long time coming up with one failed phrase after another. At the time I could hear that it didn’t work, but I could not figure out why or how to fix it in a consistent way. That came much later.

That is why, In the beginning, you want to stick close to the original phrase.

Because then there is a bigger chance that you will write lines that make sense, but after some time it also makes sense to explore if you can let that go and just use the rhythm without the phrasing, check this out then I’ll explain:

So now I am not trying to keep the direction of the melody but just using the rhythm to make a new line and listening for how it should be phrased which in this case gives a few different accents (show sheet music comparing accents between ex 4 and ex😎

If you forgot then often Bop lines sound great if you give an accent to a high note which is not on the beat. It is not a rule, so you will find exceptions all over the place, but that is what I am doing here, and it does make it sound better.

Here’s another example:

Of course, you can repeat this process with other lines and in that way expand your vocabulary, but what you can also do to open up this phrase even more is to use it while improvising like this.

Training Your Creativity

Let’s say that you can come up with some phrases using the rhythm that we got from Wes so what you can try now is to play some call-response soloing using those phrases and see what you hear afterward. I’ll do this on a Gmaj7 chord, think of it as a never-ending loop of the first part of I’ll Remember April:

Keep in mind that you don’t have to do this in time, and if you have a line that you like then it can be really useful to play it several times and come up with different responses to it. This is all about starting to place it in your vocabulary and making it work in your solos.

Of course, from working on it rubato you can level it up to using it on a song that you know well and get it into your playing.

I also want to talk about another way that you can open up your playing and not get stuck on the barlines too much.

Breaking Free of the Barlines

This could almost be an independent video, but one of the problems you run into when you are learning to spell out chord changes in your solos is that you want to play clear notes on beat 1 when the chord changes. This is not a bad habit, but you do need to move beyond that if you don’t want to sound boxed in by the barlines, your melodies should be more free on top of the song. Luckily, if you are used to playing toward target notes then you can easily start to practice playing into the chord with a pickup like this:

And another thing that you also want to start exploring is not ending lines on the target note, but instead continuing into the bar like this:

The Right Melodies With The Right Phrasing

But when you are making lines using rhythms and phrasing then you do need to understand Jazz how to create jazz lines that work otherwise there is nothing to phrase or add rhythm to. Check out this video, If you want to explore how to develop this and learn the essential building blocks that make up Jazz lines.

I Wish Every Jazz Beginner Could Watch This!

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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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This is A Perfect Jazz Solo! – Why Scofield Always Gets It Right!

I might touch on a few unpopular opinions in this video, but Scofield NEVER fails to impress me, even when he is just jamming a well-known Jazz standard, and it is surprising how traditional his approach is while he still manages to add his own sound to it, isn’t that what it is all about?

One of the beautiful things about Jazz is that you don’t only play your own music, you also interpret Jazz Standards that make up a big part of the repertoire. And it is always interesting to hear how the people you admire interpret songs, it feels a little like you are playing with them at a jam session.

The video I am talking about also gives me a chance to be a bit patriotic since Scofield is playing with the Danish-Vietnamese bass player Chris Minh Doky and it appears to be a recording for Danish TV (Patriotic b-roll)

The song is Alone Together, certainly one of the most common Jam session standards in the book, and let’s start with how he plays the theme, because that may be sort of an unpopular opinion, and later I will also talk about why I think Scofield is probably one of the first Jazz guitarists to be really important for the entire style, which might be another hot take, so grab your pitchforks and check this out!!

Interpreting A Melody (without being a Robot)

Since they are playing in a duo then Scofield is adding chords to the melody, but the way he does this is really effective and probably also my preferred approach, mainly because it gives you room to really phrase the melody and let that shine.

What he does is,  of course, to play the melody and then add chords around it, instead of playing the melody inside chords all the time which removes some of the possibilities for more vocal-like phrasing. A great example of the “other” approach would be something like this Joe Pass playing Misbehavin’

Of course, here Joe Pass is also playing solo guitar so he needs to cover more of the groove as well, and actually, I also think that the instrument and sound matter a bit here, but if start talking about that then the comment section blows up. Later, in the video, you’ll also see some examples of how Scofields playing is pretty traditional, which is at least not what I really think of when I think of his style.

The Melody of Alone Together lends itself very well to this because the structure is often a pick-up and then a long note on beat 1 which leaves room for adding chords:

Like he does in this section:

So first you get the melody just adding a 5th under it and then a complete Eø(9) and A7.

Same thing on the Aø D7, and then you get this really nice open 3-part harmonization on the Gm7.

Another thing that stands out to me is how Scofield often adds voice movement with suspensions under the maj7 chord. First some octaves and then a nice Maj7(#5) that resolves:

So there is also some reharmonization or embellishment of the harmony going on. You also want to notice that he very often plays E7 A7 instead of Eø A7

Like this:

It is a small detail to add in there but he really uses it incredibly well in the solo too, which really gives the song some personality and changes the overall sound.

Expression is Mostly In The Right Hand

I always found it so impressive even if it is subtle, that Scofield is able to do so much with the sound, picking some notes close to the bridge to get a different sound, using pick and fingers or just fingers for some parts, he really changes that very often throughout the song.

Check out how he is really using where he picks the string to get different sounds:

Two things to learn from this: First, notice how the first bar is picked with a more mellow sound and he moved closer to the bridge to make the 2nd bar more nasal.

The second thing connects to how I talked about some more traditional aspects of his playing, and here is one of them: He is not playing Eø A7 in that line, it is all A7 altered, so like Joe Pass or Barry Harris, he does not play the II chord all the time. And this really connects to how he starts his solo as well.

Scofield Knows His Bebop

I think it was one of the times that I saw him live with the trio with Bill Stewart and Steve Swallow when he talked about how he loved to practice bebop tunes and check out Charlie Parker, so it isn’t really a surprise to me that he knows that part of it as well even if I didn’t really recognize that in the first things I heard from him which had a lot of New Orleans and Blues influence. I’ll talk a bit more about that later as well. Let’s first listen to the first part of the solo:

The next phrase he plays also shows that he doesn’t only rely on bebop lines, but has a very wide vocabulary of rhythms as well:

The next part really lets the E7 sound shine!

So you get the B and the G# and then the counter movement with the melody going up and the 2nd voice moving down from  G# to G to F.

I’ll show you another really great example of this later.

Again he is not playing the II chord on Aø D7 but goes straight for the D7.

Open Strings and Open Sounds

This is super typical for Scofield, but also really one of the things that I love about his playing: Harmony and Melody are really melting together.

The first part is a chromatic run, which I suspect is actually a Parker lick, but it’s hard to tell. Using a LOT of legato like this is also a very typical part of John Scofields sound or phrasing.

Then you hear the Eø to A7 which is a really simple scale run spelling out the harmony,

But the part that I really like here is the resolution to the 3rd interval, and then adding the melody over the sustained F# starting with the open string.

He did something similar in the theme with the open E. That is such a beautiful sound and again a way of making the best possible use of what is practical on the instrument.

From there you hear a short Lydian maj7 lick before going to the 2nd A, so he is again messing with the sound on the Dmaj7 similar to what he did in the theme.

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When Guitar Ruled Jazz

Few guitarists have had as big an impact on Jazz as a genre as John Scofield. Having worked with everyone from Miles Davis to Joe Henderson and Chris Potter his music and take on Jazz guitar is a huge influence maybe more on Jazz in general than on Jazz guitar, which also just tells you how fantastic a musician he is. My introduction to Jazz was marked by discovering John Scofield and Charlie Parker at the same time, both being really strong in playing Blues which was probably what I could recognize or relate to.

As Jazz guitarists then we often live in a bubble where we focus the most on the guitarists in the genre, but in most of Jazz history then the guitar players were not what shaped the style. Mostly this was left to horn players like Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, or piano players like Bill Evans and Herbie Hancock. Before the comment section explodes —  let me explain what I mean. Kenny Burrell or even Wes or Joe Pass did not really start a new direction in Jazz, it wasn’t so that all the musicians that are not guitarists bought their albums, so there are no “kind of blue” or “giant steps” albums in there. That doesn’t make them lesser musicians so keep in mind that it is not a criticism of their playing or ability in any way, I am just looking a bit beyond what albums were game-changing for Jazz Guitarists, and widening the scope to Jazz in general.

I think that Scofield and Metheny probably did have that type of genre-defining impact on Jazz as a style.  When I studied then everyone had Scofield Quartet albums, especially “Meant To Be” because they were sort of the “Workin'” Steamin'” and “Relaxin'” albums of that period. You hear it pop up in other albums where the connection is very clear, and I think that was the first time that the influence of a guitarist really went across the entire style and didn’t stay with guitar players. For Scofield, it was probably a lot about groove and pulling in new influences to Jazz, especially New Orleans grooves but also some more acoustic-sounding funk.

I think it is worthwhile giving Scofield that credit and it is really nice to be able to reference his music when talking to other musicians on gigs if you want to play a song in a Ponciana groove or something using second-line. That the guitar became a more defining instrument in Jazz so late probably also has something to do with the instrument evolving and being very dominant in pop and rock music.

Counterpoint Funkyness

This is really great, again more open rhythmical phrases and not Bebop lines but he is using the E7 again, and going into it in a really nice way using 6th intervals

It’s almost like a minor II V in Am. The real counterpoint is the next phrase which is Bach meets Blues:

It’s only a few notes but it sounds really great with the B moving up to the C before going into another variation of the E7 A7 that he used earlier.

Genius of Intervals and Counter Melodies!

The way Scofied uses intervals and sparse voicings to make the individual voices more clear is really effective and is a great way to get the melody across, both in solos and when playing chord melody. Developing this in your playing can really open up some beatiful sounds and add another dimension to your playing. If you want to explore that further then a Contemporary of Scofield, Bill Frisell is who you should check out, and I go over how his take on Days Of Wine and Rose which is incredibly beautiful and a great intro to this type of playing.

Amazing Chord Melody Without Any Chords? So Beautiful That Nobody Cares

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I Wish I Could Play Fast Jazz Solos Using This Approach

We NEED to talk about this because it is outrageous that people lie to us like this.

I am sure you have heard how Jim Hall had this text on his business card:  “Won’t play loud, can’t play fast”

Which, kind of, fits his style. His playing is relaxed with an incredibly strong time, good phrasing, and he is very melodic, but after taking his word for it all these years, I recently found out that this isn’t true at all!

He actually plays songs at more than 260 bpm, AND he does it very well adding all sorts of stuff at that tempo, how is that “Can’t play fast”?

But it is a GREAT solo with some amazing rhythms, polyrhythms, and phrasing concepts, and there are quite a few things to learn from it, so let’s have a look at that.

Great Rhythms Are Not Only 8th Note lines

Usually, the first thing you think of with an up-tempo solo is fast 8th-note lines, and that is a large part of what is often played. The Hampton Hawes solo that is before Jim Halls solo on this track is also very dense with 8th notes, but Jim Hall goes about it differently, and it is incredible how there are so many nuances to his playing and phrasing even at this tempo.

The song they are playing is Dizzy Gillespie’s Groovin’ High and this is off a Hampton Hawes album from 1958 called All night Session Vol. 1

Jim Hall is so much more about rhythm and melody than just running the changes. As you can hear then he takes his time and leaves quite a lot some space but also chooses to start on a nice chromatic leading note to create some tension.

He is also working a lot more with quarter notes than with 8th notes, which is sort of, a swing thing,

but what you first want to notice is all the detail and variation he adds to the phrasing. He is not just playing the notes, there is a lot more going on.

The first one is the very subtle trill Am7 D7,

but there are also slides on the Ebmaj7 and Gm7 C7 that follow.

Later there are some clever ways of using slides in the melodies, and you can also see that Jim Hall uses some Barry Harris strategies, and a few other tricks to play at this tempo, and I really love how he does this, drawing on both Swing and Bebop.

The Opposite of Bebop

I mentioned earlier how Jim Hall draws from swing as well as Bop, and his main influence was certainly Charlie Christian who is also in between those styles.

This whole section is using lots of repeated notes, which he can only get away with because his time is so good and the rhythmic ideas are strong enough. When he plays lines then it is all except for one spot just using Eb major.

So not digging into the changes that much and relying on other things to make it work, but as you can hear it clearly works. Mainly because the melodies are strong enough.

Is He Faking It?

You might think, well he is just faking it and making it easier for himself, but don’t think that he can’t play the changes, because he certainly nails them later in the solo, and even starts playing polyrhythms on top of the song, something that was not that common at this point in time. This is all a choice that also becomes clear later in the solo.

Swing and That Thing Pat Metheny Stole

Most of the time, I talk about Bebop in the lessons, mainly because that is the large foundation for what we consider mainstream Jazz, but as I talked about in the video on learning solos by ear, then swing phrasing also has a place in there also just to be able to play something that isn’t ONLY 8th notes. They can also be a way to get more out of your syncopation, check this out:

The first part of this is actually just a pentatonic pickup

then playing the 3rd of the chord in half notes

And then he adds an embellishment around that 3rd

But because the first part is so heavy on the beat then once he start adding up beats and then they have much more effect. Filling the whole thing up with 8th notes would not really give you that effect.

Here you can also see that he is just thinking D7 on the Am7 D7, since he comes out on the F# at the very beginning of those two bars and just plays D major pentatonic.

This is really typical both for Jim Hall’s playing in general but certainly also for this solo: Since there are fewer notes then the melodies are clearer

Then you get the Pat Metheny lick, which is then actually a Jim Hall lick that Pat Metheny stole, I am not sure which Jim Hall albums Metheny checked, but I suspect this was one of them. If anybody knows then leave a comment.

I am of course talking about the repeat notes scale run:

The next part is incredibly simple but this way of phrasing such a simple melody and also use a motif across a II V really blew my mind.

A 3-note motif on Gm7:

and how it is developed on the C7:

Let’s check out some polyrhythms and chromaticism

Jim Hall, Does It Thunk?

But first I want to just talk a little bit about Jim Hall’s sound on this which, as far as I can tell, is the same as it is on his debut tribute album just titled “Jazz Guitar” which came out in 1957, so the year before this album, All Night Session Vol 1. Both of these albums are great, this one was new to me and is in fact in a part of a series of 3 albums that all are great, also if you want to hear how Jim Hall comps a piano player, they get that to work extremely well.

As far as I can tell, it is Jim Hall playing his ES175 into a Gibson amp, and the sound is very dry. If you have seen my video on my 175 then you know that I sometimes found myself fighting against the lack of sustain. To me, that is also what you hear on this recording, the sound is compressed, but there is not a lot of sustain.

When I hear the expression Thunk, then this is the sound I think of, it may be that there is not enough bass in the sound, since it is an old recording and also because the amp is very small. If you know a better example then let me know in the comments.

Polyrhythms

So the star here is of course the descending chromatic run that is then used as a part of a 3/4 bar shifting on top of the meter.

Notice how he is emphasizing the #11 on the F7, so really going for a Lydian dominant sound there and just moving that motif around before resolving it back to Eb with a pretty simple Bb phrase and sliding into the 3rd of Eb.

Most of the stuff that he borrowed from swing until now has been about the rhythm, but I think this next phrase also really uses some swing note choices.

Swing melodies

The opening of this 2nd chorus of the solo is really emphasizing the 6th and uses the Eb,maj6 sound, which you could also describe as major pentatonic, since the major pentatonic scale really just a maj6/9 chord.

Eb major Pentatonic:

An Eb major triad:

plus a 6th and a 9th:

But the melody in this case is really going for the 6th in a way that is maybe strong than most places where you hear major pentatonic. You also want to notice that you again have the Barry Harris: Am7 D7 is just D7.

The next phrase falls in the category of making melodies with chord tones and leading notes more than thinking scales. Here it is an Eb major triad with a leading note that also really brings out the #11 on the chord. Very similar to the way I have talked about George Benson, Grant Green, and Charlie Parker sometimes construct their lines.

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An Overlooked Skill That Will Give Your Jazz Solos A Massive Boost

It is funny how sometimes a single solo that you hear can really change the way you think about music and what you are trying to learn.

In this case, it was a pretty obscure video and a single solo, that I kept coming back to and that has influenced what I practiced for years, and I never even transcribed it, I just realized that I needed to figure out how to get that one thing a lot stronger in my playing.

The solo I am talking about is this incredibly low-resolution Jon Damian solo, where he is playing Sweet Georgia Brown in a duo with Jake Langley, both, of course, amazing guitarists.

A part of what made it stand out is probably the contrast between Jon and Jake’s solos, where Jake is playing a lot more traditional Bop-oriented 8th-note lines and Jon is relying almost purely on sparse melodies and A LOT of creative and swinging rhythms.

When I first listened to this then I did not immediately get what it was that I liked so much about the solo, but that is why I kept coming back to it and I tried to figure out why I thought it was great. Gradually I started to realize that it was about playing more interesting rhythms and not focus as much on 8th note lines which is what I had done until then. I needed to learn to hear phrases with that type of rhythm.

What Is The Difference?

Let’s first look at what I am talking about. A great but dense 8th note Bebop line could be something like this:

But Jazz is also about syncopation and rhythm and what you also want to be able to do is improvise lines like this:

And here you have fewer notes, but there is a lot of energy and tension in the rhythm that really comes to life, Who said early Jim Hall?

Get More Creative With Rhythm

So How Do You Practice This? Ironically the best way to get more options is to limit yourself and use that to develop your skills.

Let’s start with a simple rhythm, something you compose or take something from a solo that you like. Actually, there are some great themes and solos to check out for inspiration, but I will come back to that later.

In this rhythm, I am just using a few notes to keep it flexible. Here, I am using 2, but 3 would work as well. Just make sure that you don’t make a long complicated phrase like this:

And that is because you want something you can work with, and make variations of and eventually even take through an entire song.

Displaced Rhythms

Displacing rhythms is actually a very important part of jazz phrasing and jazz melodies if you listen to songs like Bernie’s Tune or Broadway.

You can practice is to take the basic phrase and then move it around, that can be in like this where I am shifting the phrase around one 8th note at the time:

Example 5

Of course, this is a pretty intense exercise and you can also just work with this as a way of composing lines and in that way expand the rhythms you use. This could give you a II V I line like this:

Another thing that can be fun is working with this on a one-chord backing track is a great way to learn to hear more rhythms and in that way expand what you can do, and gradually start to move it over to more complicated progressions.

Developing Rhythm and Melody

There is another way that you can develop more rhythmical playing, which will also lead me to give advice that I usually never give..

What you can do is explore simple ways to make variations of the rhythm.

Since there is a fair amount of space in the main rhythm that you are using then you can easily explore how to make variations by adding more notes here and there.

When you have very active rhythms like this then it is often easier to use very basic melodies. Usually, I suggest working with arpeggios, but you should probably start by using scale melodies here because that is less likely to sound like abstract skipping around.

You can of course also explore removing notes or shortening the phrase instead of adding to it and in that way take it further

Who To Check Out?

Anything you want to learn, you also want to learn at least partially by ear. You need to know what it sounds like.

I have already mentioned that you should check out themes similar to Bernie’s Tune or Broadway. Actually working on Bebop themes in general, is very useful, because even if Charlie Parker often plays more dense lines then these rhythms are certainly there and most of his compositions are not great examples to learn from. This is also one of the main reasons why Donna Lee may not be written by Parker since it is a lot more dense and on the bear than the rest of his compositions.

Call-Response

As you can probably tell by now, I am using the same tools for the rhythm that I use when I am working on melodic skills in solos. Another great way to work with melodies is to use Call-response.

The concept here is that you listen to what you play and then come up with a response to that.

In this case, the main statement is relying mostly on off beats, which creates tension, and then a logical response will be more resolved and have more downbeat. That is also what you can see in both of the examples of responses.

Of course, these are just examples of what I hear as a response, and you might hear something completely different, which is actually great.

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3 Important Exercises for Jazz Guitar Beginners To Get Started

You need many skills if you want to play Jazz, and some of them can be hard to find good exercises for, or even realize that you need to work on them. In this video, I am going to go over 3 Easy exercises that will help you play better solos and develop skills that are difficult to fix by just practicing scales, arpeggios, or chords.

#1 Playing Changes – A Little Easier

Hope you are having a great day playing some Jazz! This video should help you develop your melodies, your rhythm and your phrasing.

This is something you get hit by very hard the first few times you try to improvise over a jazz standard. I know I certainly did, thinking that it must be impossible to follow the chords that move so fast! When you try to play a solo, chords are flying at you left and right and it seems like you have to be a math genius or a computer to figure out what to play and where to play it.

But improvising over chord changes is a part of Jazz and you want to be able to not only follow the chords but also play melodies that make sense.

This first exercise makes that a lot easier, and mastering this and the next exercise will already make you sound really good when you solo.

Let’s use a bit of the Standard How High The Moon:

The chords are:

The Trick is to do the “calculations” beforehand because eventually, you can get by without having to solve crazy equations whenever you see a chord progression, that is mostly a matter of experience. If you practice like this then you build that skill and it becomes something you can quite easily get into your playing (B-roll on top: complex equation overlay on How High The Moon)

I am not going to cover how you find chord tones, diatonic arpeggios and how to analyze chord progressions in this video. I want to focus on how you practice soloing, but if you want to dig into that then check out the playlist I link to in the description with videos that help you get started with that:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLWYuNvZPqqcHYOlEVg5uHPBy_AudysODz

Of course, you want to play something on the chord progression that makes sense and has a natural flow. The best way to do that is to play phrases that begin on one chord and end on the chord change.

So in the song, when you move from Gmaj7 to Gm7 then the chords sound like this:

and a clear line going from Gmaj7 to Gm7 could sound like this:

So you play towards a very clear note in the next chord often a chord tone, and you can hear how it gives you a natural-sounding melody and also makes the change of chord very clear.

With How High The Moon:

Essentially this is two bars of G major, the key of the piece followed by a II V I in F major.

The simple thing you can do is to target the 3rd of the chord, but you should also check how well the 5th might work because that is a very strong melodic note, the 7th is for solos often not a very strong target note. If you play like this then that could give you:

So when you want to develop this skill then take the chord progression and

1 – Find target notes (especially 3rd and 5th)

2 – Make sure Target Notes are in the same area of the neck

3 – Practice playing short phrases to hit each target note

To develop this keep it simple, in one position and one target note at a time. If you develop a skill like this you can expand on it later.

You also want to give yourself time to think ahead, so just stop on the target note and think about making a melody to the next target note. Later you can open this up and become much freer and also not only play to target notes on beats one and three.

This approach is one of the best ways to develop a natural flow when you improvise over changes and learning to think ahead is incredibly important for so many things in Music, not just playing solos over chord changes.

Working like this you can end up with some very heavy phrasing that doesn’t really sound like Jazz which is why you want to check out the next exercise.

#2 The Most Important Part Of Jazz

The most important ingredient in Jazz is rhythm, but it can be difficult to develop mainly because you forget it when you focus on the chord changes and that can really ruin how you sound.

In general, a great way to develop a skill is to reduce your freedom with other things so that you are forced to focus on training and developing that skill.

When it comes to rhythm, then a very useful exercise is to limit your note choice so that you only have two notes and have to focus on being creative with rhythm to get what you play to work, and if you try this exercise then you will probably be surprised how much you can learn. Let’s check out an example and then talk about what you need to focus on to really develop your rhythm.

You Stepped Out Of A Dream

When you set up this exercise for yourself:

1 – Try to choose notes that are mostly chord tones and close to each other across chords so that you have an easier time connecting.

2 – Explore how to use a lot of off-beats especially ending phrases on an off-beat

(this is the sound of bebop phrasing and will help your solos sound 10x better)

3 – Try to play melodies with quarter notes

You always focus on learning to play 8th note lines and forget how great it can sound to play quarter-note rhythms

#3 Passing Notes – Grown Up Jazz Licks

When you can already play a solo over the harmony and you are beginning to use some more interesting rhythms

Maybe cut in: “I mean that you are working on exercise one and two from this video…”

Then you can start working on making the melodies more surprising and more complicated, and you do that by playing a lot of wrong notes and then resolving them to some right notes.

Obviously, this is a HUGE topic, but an easy way to get started is to do two really simple things:

1 Add a chromatic note before the start of a phrase like an arpeggio

2 Add a chromatic note between two notes in the scale.

And if you if put that to use over Ladybird then that sounds like this:

In the beginning, you want to resolve to chord tones and have the resolution on the beat, as you see here where:

The first Cmaj7 bar starts with adding a chromatic passing note between D and C, and later between A and G

on the Fm7 I am adding a chromatic leading note before the Fm7 and making the arpeggio an 8th note triplet which is a great Bebop sound.

The Bb7 has a passing note between the C and the Bb, and transitions back to the Cmaj7 by moving up from the 5 to the G on Cmaj7

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3 Ways To Play More Interesting Rhythms In Your Solos

Learning to play solos where the rhythm really sounds like Jazz is difficult and it is probably the most important part of Jazz. Jazz Rhythm is a language that you need to develop.

What you want to focus on is practicing things that help you hear phrases that have those rhythms in them. They have to be in your ear and in your system if you want them to come out into your playing.

Content:

0:00 Intro – Jazz Rhythm – Hearing Phrases with great rhythms

0:30 #1 Themes and Melodies

0:45 Internalizing melodies = internalizing rhythms

1:34 Using Theme Rhythms in Solos – Tenor Madness

2:04 The other elusive skill for Jazz Playing

2:18 Rhythmical Target Notes

2:33 The Different Kinds of Target Notes

2:53 Example: 4& as Rhythmical Target on a Turnaround

3:40 #3 Rhythmical Displacement

4:13 Example Motif from Bernie’s Tune

5:20 More than just the notes

5:40 Like the video? Check out my Patreon Page

How to Improve your vocabulary of Jazz Rhythms

We don’t often talk about is how rhythm is actually also a melody, and how to work on your vocabulary for jazz rhythm. But,of course, a very important part of playing jazz is interesting and great rhythms.

In this video, I am going to go over some great examples of rhythms used in a jazz solo taken from Chet Baker, Kenny Burrel, and Jim Hall. I also discuss how you might want to work on improving this part of your own playing.

Content:

0:00 Intro – Adding New Rhythms To Your Solos

0:14 Getting Inspirations from Kenny Burrell Jim Hall and Chet Baker

0:32 Example #1

0:39 Kenny Burrell – Mastering Medium Swing

1:06 How To Use Simple (but great 8th Note Rhythms)

1:24 Example #1 Slow

1:34 How To Use The Material

1:57 Example Lick #1

2:14 Example Lick #2

2:22 Ideas with more of a concept

2:40 Example #2

2:46 Chet Baker – Strong Rhythm and Simple Notes

3:02 Analyzing the line

3:58 Example Lick #3

4:26 Example Lick #4

4:52 Example #3 

4:59 Jim Hall – Rhythmical Diversity and Strong Melodies

5:36 Motif and a Scale Sequence

5:59 Example #3 Slow

6:07 Getting More Out of the Pattern and understanding why it is great!

6:30 Example Lick #5

6:40 Like the video? Check out my Patreon Page!

Check out more lessons on Jim Hall

Here are a few more Lessons I did on Jim Hall and his fantastic playing that always contains a strong and interesting rhythmical concept as well as beautiful melodies.

Jim Hall – Ingredients Of The Best Solos

Jim Hall on Autumn Leaves – Can it get any better?

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Jazz Rhythm – The Most Important Aspect of Jazz

Learning jazz is often mostly about playing 8th note lines, but if you listen to amazing musicians like Charlie Parker then you can hear that he doesn’t only play dense 8th note lines. He also plays very interesting rhythms. So we need to learn to hear rhythms like that.

In this video, I am going to go over an exercise that you can apply to the songs that you play and help develop your ability to play much more interesting solos with more inspired rhythmical ideas.

Developing Rhythmical ideas

The exercise I am using in this lesson is reducing the amount of notes that you use and in that open up to give more attention to the rhythm.

To have a progression to work on I am using the A-part of Take the A-train which is fairly simple. You can, of course, choose any song you like, but make sure that you choose one with not too many chords. Try to also pick one that you know very well.

The chords of the A-train A-part is shown here below:

The Three Notes

Let’s first find three notes for the chords. I am treating the II V as one chord.

If you can see figure out where I got the three notes from then leave a comment on this post 🙂

Rhythm #1

The first rhythm is shown here below. The note on the 4th beat helps it drive it forward. The 2& also helps a lot with adding some “jazz feel” to the rhythm.

First play the rhythm with just one note to get it into your system.

Applying Rhythm #1 to The Chord Progression

A way to improvise through the progression with the 3 notes could look or sound like this. When you work with the rhythm try to keep improvising until it becomes really easy to improvise. That way you have really internalized the rhythm and it is more likely to show up in your playing.

Rhythm #2

This rhythm is actually just a basic syncopation, but at the same time also a very important rhythm to be familiar with in Jazz.

Using Rhythm #2 in a Jazz Solo

As you can see I am starting to mix up the rhythms so that I am not only using one rhythm. In many ways I am using the rhythms to help create a sense of Call-Response in the solo.

Rhythm #3

More complicated rhythms work as well. This one is a lot less clear and can also help you develop your ability to feel off beats more precisely.

Rhythm #3 – Mixing it all up

This 8 bar examples uses Rhythm #3 but I am also mixing it up quite a bit with the previous rhythms. I think this also illustrates how much variation is available like this using more interesting rhythms and a smaller set of notes.

Bebop Phrasing Lesson

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5 Comping Exercises for Jazz Rhythm on the Blues

Rhythm is much more important than notes. This is very true for jazz and certainly for comping. The easiest way to learn some new rhythms for your comping is to come up with some small riffs and practice playing those through a chord progression. In this jazz rhythm guitar lesson, I am going to show you 5 great variations on some great Comping rhythms and how they sound through a Blues In F.

If you want to practice them with me then you can go to the second examples via the link in the description of this video. I’ll talk a little about that later. This way of really thinking in rhythms as phrases are really important because you can’t think about the notes, you have to hear them.

If you want to check out more material that you can use for both soloing and comping on an F blues then have a look at this Study Guide: F Blues Study Guide

The Shell-Voicings

Instead of using the voicings that I use in the example you can also simplify that part by using shell voicings. In the end this is much more about rhythm than it is about the chord voicings so that will still teach you the most important part of the material in this lesson.

Practice with the video!

In this video I have added the count-off to the perfromances so if you want to play the rhythms together with me then you can do that. If you are a Patron of the channel then you can also download the mp3 backing track via my Patreon Page

The Shell-voicings are shown here below.

You can go through these voicings and use them while practicing the rhythms in the 5 exercises.

#1 Charleston Rhythm

The Charleston rhythm is a great place to start! It is in many ways the most simple rhythm that has it all. It clearly shows the chords by stating that on the 1 and the groove and swing feel is clear from the 2& that follows it.

If you are playing with people you don’t know: When in doubt, Charleston!

#2 Pulling Forward

This rhythm is a little more busy. Here the goal is to state the groove with the first two 8th notes and then use the 3& to really pull the song forward. The 3& sound adds tension or energy and the following chord on the 1 resolves that tension.

#3 Clear Groove

This example is a little busy if you play it too much, especially if the tempo is higher than a slow medium.

It is however a complete groove and a way of laying down the harmony and the groove in a very clear way. This can work as a a great solid background for a soloist, but for some it may also get in the way.

#4 Up-Beat Energy

This rhythm is a little lighter and a great way to break things up a little. It is important to be able to play comping rhythms that are not on the 1st beat all the time.

#5 Leave it to Bass and Drums

Another exercise is to play rhythms starting on beat 2. This exercise helps you feel(or think) the first beat and then play on the 2nd. Internalizing the rhythm and the meter like this is really useful for your overall timing and time-feel.

Get more ideas for comping

If you want to expand your comping and check out some more ideas then check out this lesson in my WebStore:

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And the Shell-voicings are available here:

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