Tag Archives: jazz scale exercises guitar

This Solo Exercise Changed Everything

“This was fixing two of the things that I wanted to improve in my playing, and I also discovered two new things that I could learn from it!” 

Some years ago I had a period where whenever I sat down to practice in my room, I felt stuck with my playing. I could improvise through the changes and make lines but it didn’t really sound the way I felt it should, it was just a lot of notes and something was missing.

I had started to realize that, while longer 8th note lines work pretty well in a higher tempo, they don’t sound nearly as interesting in a medium tempo and I had mostly been focusing on getting better 8th note lines by checking out Pat Martino and Joe Pass. When I was playing a slower tempo, I wanted a different sound. It felt like the 8th note lines lacked dynamics and it sound like too much thinking in a tempo when you want to hear more groove and rhythm.

When you are trying to improve something then most of the work you need to do is to really understand what needs to be fixed. There is a famous Einstein quote where he says that “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.” And this certainly applies to Music as well. The better you understand what is wrong the easier it is to fix it. What I hadn’t realized at that point was that I actually had a solution right in front of me.

I wanted to get a better idea about what should change. I knew that I wanted to get better at playing phrases that were not Bebop lines. But I was stuck with only knowing what I did not want, and I needed to figure out what I did want because doesn’t make sense to practice not doing something, you need to practice doing something else that works. So I needed examples of what I wanted the phrases to sound like. Examples that I could emulate and get some inspiration from. This meant diving into my cd collection (this was before the internet and Spotify).

Here I ran into a problem, I was looking for people who played fewer notes, and still had that sound I wanted. And I realized that I did not really have a lot of music from people who play like that, it was much more Pass, Martino, and Metheny, and not as much Jim Hall, Barney Kessel, and Charlie Christian. In hindsight, that of course explains a lot….

I did have a lot of Wes and that came pretty close. On a lot of the albums that I really liked he was playing a lot more short statements. So I started to listen and learn solos from Wes, trying to find things I could make my own, but I also wanted exercises that were more open open-ended and could help me develop this. And there was one really solid exercise right in front of me.

I was teaching a lesson when I realized that I had an exercise that would help. We were working on improvising over a Jazz Blues with a student and building it up from soloing with chord tones.

For a beginner in Jazz then improvising with chord tones have a lot of advantages:

There are only a few notes

They all work great on the chord

It is pretty easy to make melodies with an arpeggio

You learn to hear the chords in your solo.

But While I was demonstrating to the student by improvising a solo, I realized that  this really connected to what I was trying to learn myself:

Because. when you have only 4 notes then you are not going to play a lot of notes simply because that doesn’t really sound great

If you are playing the arpeggio you are not going to get lost trying to add the material that you usually use with extensions, chromatic enclosures, etc

After I was done teaching that day, I immediately sat down to try this out. It was in many ways a perfect exercise, and I could work with it in a few different ways to really improve my playing like this. And this is an exercise that I find myself returning to fairly often.

Getting this exercise to develop your playing, especially when it comes to rhythm and phrasing can be seen as a 3 step process:

Step #1: The Raw Material

The first thing to do is to choose a song or progression, and then make sure you have all the arpeggios in one place like I am doing here with the first part of Days Of Wine And Roses.

Fmaj7

Eb7

Aøv

This is just to make sure that you have all the arpeggios in one place and to make it easier to go from one chord to the next without having to jump around the neck.

But you need to do more than just know where the notes are, they still need to become music.

Full position arpeggios

For this exercise, it is useful to have the full position of the arpeggio because that gives you more freedom to be melodic once you start improvising, and I am sure that you also already worked on this at some point, so now you get to use it!

Step #2: Refining It

I worked with this exercise in two ways. The first is to build vocabulary, so compose licks or improvise slowly:

So you can hear that I try to use small 2-3 note fragments and then either use them as a motif to go from one chord to the next, or use call response so that one phrase is a call(b-roll)and the next is a response(b-roll)

When you work like this you focus more on making melodies, seeing the connections, and how the notes move from one chord to the next. Because that will help you make much more interesting solos

There are easy ways to work with this. Take this motivic line on Fmaj7 Eb7

Here I am using that A and C can move up to Bb and Db and then I can make that into a nice repeated riff tying together these two chords.

But of course, this is mostly about the notes and becoming better at making sense with short 2 or 3-note phrases, so you need to work on the next step as well to get the final ingredient:

Step #3: The Finishing Touch

Now you can take a medium tempo and start to solo using just arpeggios. If you have the first two steps down then this becomes the place where you really start to develop your solos and integrate them into your playing.

And this is where the limitation part of the exercise really starts to pay off.

A limitation exercise is an exercise where you limit yourself to focus on improving something specific. With music, you do this all the time and it can be a great way to develop many skills. Think of exercises like a chromatic exercise where you play something really simple to focus on your right hand.

In this case, the limitation is that you play the song and improvise over it, but you only use the arpeggio or the chord tones.

The advantage is that you play fewer notes and you don’t have to think too much about the notes, so you can really focus on the rhythm and how you play those notes, making your solo more dynamic and more interesting when it comes to rhythm.

I guess, I had an extra bonus because I was doing this exercise for myself, but also using it with my students, so I could actually practice while I was teaching.

And this was fixing two of the things that I wanted to improve in my playing, and I also discovered two new things that I could learn from it! Playing shorter phrases and more statements than long lines was already getting better, but I also discovered two other things that I had never thought about with Jazz melodies and Bebop lines.

And this was fixing two of the things in my playing that I really wanted to improve by letting me play shorter phrases and use more interesting rhythms. But I also discovered two other things that I had never thought about with Jazz melodies and Bebop lines.

The Sacred Quarter-note

The first thing was about rhythm: When it comes to rhythms then often we think that everything has to be complicated, odd note groupings and syncopations

but one thing that I found to be incredibly effective and overlooked was phrasing using quarter notes.

Quarter notes are very useful and if you go back to people that are closer to the swing era like Charlie Christian and early Jim Hall, then you will hear a lot of quarter note rhythms as well.

The quarter notes often get to work as a resolution so that your off beats sound more interesting as a sort of tension. They are also just a great way to sound more grounded and connect to the groove and the tempo.

Less Notes More Times

The other thing that I discovered improvising like this was that when you improvise 8th note lines then you rarely repeat notes. Mainly because that doesn’t sound great in an 8th note line:

but if you are improvising with shorter phrases and trying to make melodies that are focused on rhythm and locking in with the groove then repeating notes is a great thing to do, actually also something you will hear Wes do as well.

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These Scale Exercises Are Immediately Great Jazz Licks

You want to use the things that you practice, so if your scale exercises are already solid vocabulary or solid licks then that is, of course, a lot easier. Practicing scales should not just be dry technical and boring. What you work on should really connect with what you want to play in your solos and be more than just moving your fingers. So let’s have a look at some great examples of exercises that are really just “Instant Bebop” vocabulary.

Practice Bebop Arpeggios, Not Just Chord Tones!

This is an important exercise! In my experience, the best way to practice arpeggios is as diatonic arpeggios in a scale like this.

That is of course, super useful but also in itself not that inspiring.

Let’s add two things that we love about Bebop and Jazz:

  1. Chromatic Notes to add tension and movement
  2. Interesting Rhythms to keep it grooving and alive

Let’s first work a bit with making the rhythm just a little bit more interesting.

One way to make the rhythm more energetic could be to play the arpeggio as an 8th note triplet like this:

This is something that immediately gives you licks like this:

and you can turn that into a scale exercise like this:

If you play this exercise then you can use this rhythm on all the chords and in a lot of different places, and it already starts to sound like music.

The Chromatic Leading Note

Another great way to use arpeggios that are “Instant Bebop” is combining the triplet with a chromatic leading note:

Of course, you want to work on this for all the arpeggios, so taking it through the scale gives you this:

And, besides sounding like Charlie Parker or George Benson out of the box, this means that you can make licks like this:

Here I am combining the Cmaj7 with some chromaticism, something that both Parker and Benson do all the time.

You can also put it to use on a G7:

There are a few things you want to learn from this example:

  1. The arpeggio from the 3rd of the chord is great (here it is Bø over G7)
  2. Leading notes can sound great on the downbeat like the Eb on beat 3
  3. Large intervals in a scale run sound great! (I’ll return to that later in the video)

And all you have to practice is playing the arpeggio as a triplet and add a chromatic leading note before the first note. Before we move on to a great Barry Harris Exercise then don’t forget that the descending arpeggio sounds great as well, a simple version without the leading note gives the 1st note of the arpeggio a nice accent like this:

Barry Harris Knows A Few Tricks!

The first exercise was something that I learned from Barry Harris when he was giving masterclasses at the conservatory in the Hague, this next exercise is also from those masterclasses. It is what Barry calls pivot arpeggios, and what often is also called octave displacement, but the way Barry shows the exercise really already makes it like practicing building blocks for great licks.

The concept is really simple: First, you play the arpeggio and end by going down one step in the scale.

The second part is the same melody, but now you move the phrase down an octave except for the first note.

Let’s translate this to the guitar, an easy place to play it would be F major like this:

I imagine you can already hear how this already just sounds like a short lick you are moving around, and actually, both the standard way of playing the arpeggio and the pivot version is great as a line.

here’s a II V I in F major:

And it is a solid option for an Fmaj7 line as well:

And as I mentioned, you can also use the “un-pivoted” version as a great way to frame or target a note with an arpeggio like I am targeting the 3rd of the Gm7 in this line:

And cleary Barry knows his stuff because the triplet version of this melody is also a great option:

Until now it has been about getting arpeggios to become amazing Bebop lines, but you can actually also work on this with simpler scale exercises.

Bebop Boost Your Scale Runs

This exercise is just playing the scale in diatonic 6th intervals, a really pretty sound in itself but not immediately an amazing Bebop line.

I guess this is the least obvious exercise, but as you will see it is incredibly useful!

The reason why it doesn’t sound like a lick is that you are playing so many of them next to each other, so you need to spread them out a bit and add them to something like a scale run.

And this is what I used in the previous examples like ex 3 and ex 4, the concept is pretty simple. If you have a scale melody then see if you can add an extra note when you are on a chord tone. In Example 14 that was on the root which adds an E. In example 3 it was the 3rd down to the 6th, and placing it at the end of the line makes it even more dramatic.

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Why This Is The Most Important Scale Exercise In Jazz

A little over a year ago, I made a video on the most Important Scale Exercise in Jazz(b-roll exercise maybe licks?), and once in a while, I get comments that I have no right to say that and all scale exercises are created equal.

That is not the case, some things are useful in some genres and not in others.

Take an exercise like this:

This is a great exercise if you want to be the next medium swing Yngwie Malmsteen, but it pretty much sucks if you want to sound like Charlie Parker.

The Most Important Scale Exercise

So in this video, I am going to show you why it is the most important scale exercise in Jazz, and then I am going to show you how you can use it to make your own great sounding licks!

So first let’s just look at why this exercise is important, or actually, just very useful and practical, and then I will go over how to use it.

Here’s Why It Is Amazing!

So the exercise is playing the diatonic arpeggios in a scale position like this:

The Arpeggios you get would be this exercise:

Why is this so useful?

When you play the exercise then you are playing the arpeggios of all the diatonic chords in that scale, so for C major you now have arpeggios for these chords:

It fits the harmony of Jazz songs!

If you look at a Jazz Standard then the basic chords in there are all 7th chords, so if you have to improvise over a G7 or an Am7 in the key of C, then the diatonic arpeggios are immediately clear because you have already practiced that and you know where the arpeggio is.

In that way, it links the scale to the chords and the arpeggios and directly gives you something to play on the chord.

More arpeggios per chord

The other thing that you can use this exercise for is that you can link several different arpeggios to a chord and that gives you a lot more vocabulary, so on a Dm7 chord there are other arpeggios that work well besides the Dm7 arpeggio, and you already know how to play them and where to find them because you played the exercise.

Obviously, a Dm7 works on a Dm7 chord because you are playing the same notes as you find in the chord. Fmaj7 works as well because the notes are almost the same, except the E which adds a 9th on top of the Dm chord and that sounds fine.

Dm7; D F A C

Fmaj7: F A C E

Am7: A C E G

Let’s just check out what they sound like:

Keep in mind that right now, I am talking about this for a Jazz standard, but this is also true if you are playing over a static 7th chord vamp: You can use more arpeggios on the chord and, knowing them will give you more material for your solos

Before I show you how this also works for other chords then I will give you some great examples of how you can use this in your playing, because THAT is what makes it a great exercise: It gives you a lot of stuff you can use.

Arpeggio Combinations

Now that there are several arpeggios that you can use then you can also work by combining them.

Here I am using an Fmaj7 arpeggio and a Dm7 arpeggio on the Dm7 chord.

A great way to play these two arpeggios could be to put them together like this, so first the Fmaj7 and then the Dm7 naturally follows AUDIO

Now you can do the same with the combination of the Am7 and Fmaj7 arpeggio

Taking It To Other Chords

The same concept using the G7 and Bø on G7:

Here it is the same priniciple:

G7: G B D F

Bø: B D F A

And using this in a line sounds like this:

And you can use it on a Cmaj7 as well combining the Am7 and Cmaj7 arpeggios:

 

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5 Scale Exercises That Are Great In Solos

Practicing scale exercises is something that we do to gain flexibility and an overview of the guitar. But another thing you should also consider is that the things you practice in a Jazz scale exercise should also not be too far from what you actually need when you solo.
Setting your scale practice up so that it is helping you develop vocabulary is very useful and very efficient.

In this video, I will show you 5 exercises that are scale exercises but that you can also use as great building blocks for jazz licks. When you check out these concepts you should also start to be able to make your own scale exercises that help you play better solos using the things you want to play in your solos.

Other videos on Scale Exercises and using them

How to practice your scales and why – Positions

The Most Important Scale Exercise In Jazz

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You can download the PDF on my Patreon Page: 5 Scale Exercises

Content:

0:00 Intro – Exercises for Flexibility, Technique and…

0:30 Scale Exercises that are building blocks for Jazz Solos

0:51 The Scale and How I Play it

1:15 #1 The Bebop Arpeggio

2:04 Lick using Exercise #1

2:33 #2 Triads with Enclosures

3:31 Lick using Exercise #2

4:09 #3 Chaining Arpeggios Like Kurt Rosenwinkel

4:49 Along the Neck

5:25 Lick using Exercise #3

6:13 #4 Barry Harris’ Chromatic Rule

6:59 The Rules

7:29 Lick using Exercise #4

8:09 #5 Parker and Benson’s Arpeggio with Chromatic Tail

9:14 Lick using Exercise #5

10:05 Like The Video? Check out my Patreon Page

3 Scale exercises You Need To Know And Use

Any scale exercise is a melody. When you practice scale exercises you are practicing playing a lot of similar melodies that you want to have in your ears and in your fingers so you can use them when you improvise Jazz Solos. In Jazz, Scale exercises are a part of building vocabulary.

This video covers some great melodic structures that you can practice as scale exercises and add to your vocabulary. I find that them extremely useful and you will also hear them being used in a lot of especially more modern jazz solos by people ranging from Michael Brecker via Peter Bernstein to Kurt Rosenwinkel.

Content:

0:00 Intro

0:32 Practice the things you need when You solo

0:50 Modern Jazz that’s 60 years old.

1:03 #1 Sus4 Triads

1:25 The Sound Of Rosenwinkel, Brecker and Mark Turner

1:32 Example Lick with Sus4 triads

1:49 Exercises

2:41 String-set Practice

3:34 #2 Quartal Arpeggios – Modal Jazz Sounds

3:52 Chords with Quartal Structures

4:08 Kurt’s solo on I’ll Remember April

4:34 3-Part Quartal Voicings and Sus Triads

5:12 Exercises with Quartal Arpeggios

5:58 Example Lick with Quartal Arpeggios – Chromatic Shifting

6:25 #3 Shell-Voicings – Mike Moreno and Pat Metheny

7:21 Exercises for Shell-voicings

8:15 Applying Shell-voicings

8:37 Example with Shell-voicings

8:41 Bonus: From Shells to open upper-structure triads

9:18 Spreat Triad Example

9:21 Arpeggios = Melodies

9:52 Like the video? Check out My Patreon Page 

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The Most Important Scale Exercise In Jazz

You probably already practice arpeggios, but chances are you can do it as a better Scale exercise than what you are doing now, and that is what I want to talk about in this video. Jazz Scale Exercises should be about giving you the material you can use in your solos and help you know and play the different arpeggios and melodies found in the scale.

When you improvise in Jazz then the lines or melodies that you play are related to the chords you are playing over and the solo follows the chord progression it is played over. One easy way to do this is to use the arpeggios of each chord.

You can use the arpeggio of the chord you are playing over, but in fact, there are more options than this and the exercise in this lesson will help you tie all of that together in one exercise.

Practicing Arpeggios in the Scale

The reason why it makes a lot of sense to practice diatonic arpeggios in a scale position is quite simple.

When you improvise a solo you are not only playing scales and then only arpeggios. The jazz lines you are making are a mix of the two. Therefore it is essential to have the arpeggios placed in a scale as notes that are important, and the rest are available.

Here is a C major scale in the 8th position

Playing the diatonic one-octave arpeggios through this scale position would give you this exercise:

Know the Scale!

Often when you learn Guitar in the beginning you rely mostly on the visual aspect of the instrument. Scales, Chords and Arpeggios are shapes that you can see on the fretboard.

This works really well for learning and remembering, but make sure that you also know what notes you are playing and what notes are in those chords and arpeggios. It will become very useful along the way.

For the exercises here above, it is a very good idea if you also play them while saying the notes or saying the names of the chord that you are arpeggiating. This will teach you the fretboard and the music theory on another level and also really attach it to what you play.

Using the arpeggios in your solos

It is not enough to just practice the scale exercise and then hope that your solos will suddenly magically include the arpeggios.

To show you how you can make some basic licks mixing scales and arpeggios here are a few ideas using a Cmaj7 arpeggio and chord.

The first one starts with the Cmaj arpeggio and then continues with a scale melody.

In the second example You can see how it is possible to mix scale notes into the arpeggio and also add a little chromaticism to more of a bebop sound.

Bebop Arpeggios!

This is a great variation on the exercise that also is really setting you up to play some bebop lines. Here you play the arpeggio as a triplet and insert a chromatic leading note in front of the root. This creates some energy and motion that then really brings out the target note that is the 7th of the arpeggio.

This exercise for the scale looks like this:

Make some Bebop Licks!

Using this way of playing arpeggios can be used in licks like this.

The first lick is using the Cmaj7 arpeggio in the lower octave and combining it with an intervallic melody in the2nd half of the bar.

The 2nd example is using the higher octave and adding a chromatic run between D and C before ending on G.

The Arpeggio from the 3rd

Until now I have only been talking about what how to use the basic Cmaj7 arpeggio over a Cmaj7 chord, but you can use more arpeggios.

The way to understand this is quite simple. You can use other arpeggios that contain notes that work well on the chord. The Arpeggio from the 3rd of a chord is usually a great option:

Cmaj7: C E G B – Em7: E G B D

So the two arpeggios share E G B and the Em7 is only adding the D on top of the Cmaj7 which is the 9th and a good note to add in there.

A few ways of playing an Em7 arpeggio in this position is shown here below:

Jazz Licks with an Em7 arpeggio on a Cmaj7 chord

You can use the Em7 arpeggio like this.

The first example is a basic “bebop Em7 arpeggio” that continues with a more modern sounding Quartal arpeggio from B.

The 2nd example is again focusing more on adding some chromatic ideas. Here the first half of the bar is a chromatic enclosure that is leading us to the first note of the Em7 arpeggio.

Putting all of this into a II V I lick

To give you and idea about how easy this is to generalize to a progression I have added this final example.

Take a look at the lick and see how I am using Fmaj7 on Dm7. Both Bø and G7 on the G7 and also both Em7 and Cmaj7 arpeggios on the Cmaj7.

It is easier than you think!

Use this approach in a Song!

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