Tag Archives: jazz scales

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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The Solos You Want To Learn By Ear To Play Better Jazz Guitar

This video is coming out of the worst advice that I see given on the internet, maybe not the worst advice but certainly, the most horrible way to give it.

I am talking about when somebody asks something about getting better at playing anything with Jazz guitar and the standard answer is “Learn from the masters”. Now don’t get me wrong, it is super useful to check out solos by ear, but without any context or suggestions than “learn from the masters” is so lazy that it is just bad advice. You might as well just say “practice guitar” Feel free to answer them with this rant!

Any good teacher will have much more specific advice that will help you get started learning some easy solos, and I know that because I asked a lot of them and this video is full of their suggestions for great easy solos to check out.

Let me know in the comments if there was one that you really liked or if you have other useful suggestions, this topic is not covered anywhere near enough and that is really a pity.

Thanks to all the great musicians and teachers who were a part of this video! Again if you have solos that are easy to learn and useful for playing Jazz then leave a comment and let’s start building a solid list!

Maybe it says something about my abilities as a teacher or maybe I should make a separate video with some suggestions for easy solos?

Besides working on learning solos by ear, you also want to work on learning a lot of other things and you can check out this playlist if you want to dig into which arpeggios, how to play over chord changes or how to play jazz chords all the basic things you need to work on and how to get started.

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What Really Makes It Sound Like Jazz?

You already know that just playing the pentatonic scale doesn’t really make it sound like a great blues lick. There are other important things like bends and vibrato that make it sound great.

Of course, this is true for Jazz as well: It is not enough to just run up and down the arpeggio to make it sound like a great Jazz line. You want to play things that sound like this:

In this lesson, I am going to show you some of the techniques you can use to add some jazz phrasing or flavor to your playing, and you don’t need a million scales and arpeggios for this, and this is more important and much more effective

It is Not a Rule Book, It Is A Sound

I am going to use Blues as a reference in this video because most people already have some experience with that and a clear idea about when something sounds like blues or not.

I don’t know if you ever thought about it, but you probably did not learn to play or recognize Blues by reading a list of rules, at least I certainly did not read a Blues rule book.

You just heard it so much that you can recognize the general sound. I think it is important to keep that in mind, and in this video, I am going to give you some examples and then in those examples point out what gives it a Jazz sound.

That way you learn to recognize it and also have a way of using it in your own playing.

Sliding Into It

Here I am making the line work by sliding into the B and then continuing down an Am7(9) arpeggio. This way of changing how some of the notes sound really makes the line a lot more interesting.

And you can use this with any type of material, it also sounds right if you are just sliding into notes in the pentatonic scale:

One of the things you really want to avoid is that all the notes sound the same, this is just one trick, let’s look at some more that you can add to your playing.

 

Fast and Easy Embellishment

One problem that you can run into as a beginner jazz guitarist is that you play long winding 8th note lines, and they have all the right notes and arpeggios, but it still doesn’t really work.

But one of the things that can make a line like this a lot more interesting is to add some embellishments like this:

And you can practice playing these small legato embellishments and insert them into your playing. Some common ones to know would be these:

Notice how they are all small clusters of fast notes targeting a chord tone in Am

You already heard how the first two sound. The last one could be put to use on an Am7 like this:

Here I am targeting the 5th of the chord using a variation of the last embellishment in example 7

Changing The Rhythm

Of course, there are many other ways you can change the rhythm besides embellishments, but one that I think deserves a mention here is 8th note triplets, and especially playing arpeggios as 8th note triplets. This is pure Bebop or instant Bebop, and a great way to make an 8th note line more varied.

Here I am using it on the Am7 arpeggio. You can also use it on descending arpeggios as I did in the beginning of the video or like this:

I have a few other videos where I talk about practicing arpeggios and I am not going to go over it in too much detail here, you can check those out through the link in the description. Let’s look at maybe the most important part of how you get a line to sound like Jazz: Dynamics

The Notes Are Not The Same

Not every note is the same, and they should also not be played the same. I have mentioned before how Bop lines are all about the rhythms that are hidden in the accents and also how that is a big part of why Jazz is rarely played with overdrive or distortion because we want to have the ability to make the notes have very different dynamics.

What this is really about is making lines where you can add accents in the right places. Something where we, frustratingly enough, don’t have a rule book.

But!

You should work on adding accents to your lines and also work on writing lines that allow for interesting accents.

A lick that doesn’t really work would be this:

But if you try to create melodies where the high notes are on off beats then you can end up with something a lot more interesting like this:

Here the melody has a high note on 3& in the first bar and on 2& in the second bar that I can give an accent, and this makes it a lot less heavy and much more groovy.

Starting to hear the phrases as these flowing notes with some notes popping out is a huge part of Jazz phrasing and if you start to get that into your system then you can make almost anything sound like Jazz.

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3 Jazz Phrasing Problems You Need To Fix In Your Playing

You probably already figured out that knowing scales, arpeggios, and Jazz chords is not really enough to be able to play a great Jazz Solo.

It can be frustrating and seem like magic when you listen to great jazz phrases like Wes or George Benson but there are ways to work on this, and it is not magic, it is just a bit of work.

But you will sound better if you fix it!

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Content:

00:00 Intro

00:23 The First Thing You (Anyway) Should Start Doing

01:09 How Swing 8th Notes Sound

02:33 Make Your Phrases And Phrasing More Interesting

04:34 Overdrive/Distortion in Jazz – Here’s the problem

04:48 Don’t End On The Beat All The Time

05:53 Ending On Long Notes.

06:54 The Types of Practice That Helps Phrasing

07:30 More Exercises for Phrasing and Swing-feel

07:37 Like the video? Check out my Patreon page!

 

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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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How To Make Music From Exercises And Practice Effectively

Getting from just practicing a scale or an arpeggio to the point where you can actually use it in music is quite difficult, and something that a lot of people struggle with. You want to set up your jazz guitar practice in a way that will actually help you get your exercises into your playing as something that makes your solos and improvisations better. That is what this video will teach you! In this video, I am going to go over a 3 step plan to show you how you can approach this and make sure that what you practice also makes it into your playing, and I am also going to discuss what types of exercises I think are practical and what you might better not waste your time on.

 

The Most Important Scale Exercise in Jazz

Let’s start with an exercise that you always want to work on anyway: Diatonic 7th chords. In the Key of C major, that would be this exercise: This is a great exercise that will help you connect chords to a scale and technique to the chords of a song. I have another video going into this exercise in detail which I will link to in the description so I won’t really dig into it here. There are a few practical things to get right if you are practicing something because you want to use it in your solos.

  • Don’t make the exercise too long or complicated
  • Make sure that it is something that you have a place to use
  • Don’t make it so difficult that you have to spend a year learning to play it.

#1 Don’t make the exercise too long or complicated

If you practice Triad pairs with chromatic enclosures on each triad then that is something you can only use on a piece with one chord for a really long time, and you have to think about whether that is really efficient for you.

#2 Make sure that it is something that you have a place to use

Practicing Quartal arpeggios in Melodic minor is not useful if you don’t play over chords using that sound.

#3 Don’t make it so difficult that you have to spend a year learning to play it.

If you have never practice arpeggios then don’t start with playing them with leading notes and as 8th note triplets, just start with playing arpeggios which are probably anyway more flexible.

Taking the exercise to a song or chord progression

I always find it surprising how few people play exercises on songs. It is such a great way to just get your scales or arpeggios into the context where you need them, and also to check if you have everything covered for the song you want to use it on. For this video, I am not going to use an entire song, I am just going to use  a basic turnaround in C Cut in – In the video I am using a very short chord progression, but it is really useful to have songs that you know really well to explore things on, and if you check then that is also something that a lot of players do. They have standards that they return to when practicing things to become comfortable and experiment with new material. Cmaj7 A7(b9) Dm7 G7(b9) In this progression, I am using the C major scale for Cmaj7 and Dm7, and I am using D harmonic minor and C harmonic minor for A7 and G7. And to add something new to our vocabulary then I am going to use the arpeggio from the 3rd of the chord. This is just to flex the music theory and fretboard knowledge a little. The Arpeggios we need: Em7 C#dim Fmaj7 Bdim   Played through the progression in a very basic way:   And to find some more material you can do the lower octave as well, even if that is not really there  for the Fmaj7 arpeggio: And of course, you can also combine the two and make an exercise that fills up the bar: For an exercise like this to be useful, you need to be able to play it easily and think about the next thing you have to play. It has to be in time and you can’t get away with stopping to think. At the same time, it doesn’t have to be super fast, a medium or slow medium tempo will work as long as it feels easy to play. Sometimes I hear students say that it is difficult to learn on a whole song, but if you want to use it in your solos then this is actually a fairly easy thing to learn.

Making music

Now we can play it on the progression and also hear how it sounds on the song, the next step is to start improvising and start to make melodies. The first thing to do is probably just to spend some time improvising with just the arpeggios. Then you can start to add the other things you use in your solos and really make the arpeggios a part of your material. In some cases, it may be useful to first compose or improvise in rubato to get the user to making melodies that mix arpeggios and use chromatic leading notes. Doing exercises like this is may seem like something you do when you want to learn arpeggios, but actually it is a great way to explore new vocabulary and really challenge your fretboard overview, things that you really want to keep developing in your playing all the time.

Take this to Jazz Standards and use it in Music

Jazz Standards – Easy Solo Boost

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This Is A Better Strategy For Jazz Guitar

Most jazz guitar lessons will tell you that you need to know your scales all over the neck, you need to know all the arpeggios and all the chords, understand all the theory. But what nobody seems to talk about is what order you should learn this in, and does learning jazz guitar mean that you first have to learn 3-5 scales in 7 positions with 7 diatonic arpeggios each?

Content:

0:00 Intro – Can you play Jazz without 2 years of scale practice?

0:34 How Most of us get into Jazz (me included)

1:16 Wes Montgomery Practicing Scales

1:36 Jazz is not a skill

1:56 Where does it go Wrong?

3:32 What Are You missing?

4:14 How To Fix It

4:46 A more simple approach

5:32 How It Works on a Song

5:58 Quick Analysis of the Chord Progression

7:07 The Scales we need

8:02 Making it a short compact amount of material to practice in 5-10 minutes,

8:45 Like the video? Check out my Patreon page.

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Get the PDF!

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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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Jazz Scales – What Do You Need To Know And Why

If you want to play jazz you probably figured out that you need to play the scale that fits the chord or the song when you improvise. We don’t need jazz scales but we do need scales.

But just knowing what scale and maybe a single position of it is not really helping you come up with better things in your solos.

You need to learn and practice things within the scale that will help you have material to play that sounds good in a solo.

Sometimes it seems that most people forget that about practicing scales…

Other useful Lessons on Scale Practice

The Most Important Scale Exercise In Jazz

How to practice your scales and why – Positions

Jazz Scales! The 3 You Need to practice and How You apply them to Jazz Chords

Content:

0:00 Intro – Jazz and Scales

0:32 Playing the Scale

0:49 Positions and beyond

1:48  Make sure you know the notes

2:48 Diatonic 7th chords

3:34 A Step-wise method for learning the Arpeggios

4:08 Using Arpeggios in Solos

4:47 Example using arpeggios in a Lick

5:33 Triads (are also great in Jazz)

6:07 Example using triads in a Jazz Lick

6:50 Triad Patterns 315 and 513 

7:32 Which scales to learn?

7:55 Chromaticism and Turning licks into scale exercises

8:31 Exercise adding chromaticism to diatonic structures

8:43 Developing a Peter Bernstein Lick into an exercise

9:32 Like the video? Check out my Patreon Page!

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Get the PDF!

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.

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

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

Get the PDF

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

5 Quick Tips When You Are Stuck In A Jazz Solo

We all get stuck in solos, even though you know the song, the chord or the scale. You still don’t know what to play. This video will give you some jazz guitar tips that you can use to get past this.

The 5 tricks are about looking at things differently or taking a step back and finding more options, but working on them will make you a better jazz improviser and improve how you make music.

More tips on improving your Jazz Guitar Solos

The Scale is NOT That Important – This is!

More Melodic Guitar Solos – Three Critical Techniques without Arpeggios and Scales

Content:

0:00 Intro

0:42  You Know The Song, but still..

1:51 #1 Play The Melody  

2:59 #2 Play The Chord

3:43 #3 What Do You Hear? Nothing? Then Play That! (Jim Hall!!)

4:54 #4 What Did You Play Right Before

5:34 How This Sounds on A Song

7:36 #5 Check Available Triads, Arpeggios, Pentatonics

7:52 Share your list

8:12 A Part of My List

9:10 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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