Tag Archives: jazz solo analysis

5 Things That Ruin ALL Jazz Beginner Solos

The Roadblock

This is such a common roadblock when you are just getting started with Jazz:

You are practicing scales and arpeggios, but getting that to sound right in a solo is very difficult, and the only help you can find is adding more complicated and weird things which doesn’t really solve the problem and just gives you more scales and arpeggios to practice.

Avoid Scale Solos

Most of the time, The problem is that your solos sound too much like you are just running up and down scales, which is maybe “correct” but also pretty boring and predictable

B-roll: list over “I will show you some simple…” Arpeggios, Interval Skips, Rhythm, Phrasing”

As you can hear, everything is moving stepwise and nothing is really happening. To fix this you need to get better at using scales and arpeggios more creatively. I will show you some simple strategies for that in this video, without throwing scales, chromatic passing chords, and super-imposed pentatonics at you. (Tony Stark eye roll)

#1 Arpeggios Can Be Nice (but use them the right way)

The first thing to add is arpeggios, since the previous example didn’t have any arpeggios, and they already help to break up lines that are only scale movement, but you want to use them in the right way.

A “rule” that I see quite often online for Jazz is arpeggio up, scale down.

That is very similar to a counterpoint rule for melodic tension which says that a leap in one direction is resolved by motion in the opposite direction. (show example with arrows or lines) That counterpoint rule is a good one for a stable melody, but later I’ll show you some examples where great Jazz lines break some of the counterpoint rules.

Arpeggio up/scale down is pretty easy to play, just watch out that it isn’t the only thing you do with arpeggios. Here I am using it going from Dm7 to G7:

But you can also change things up by inserting a descending arpeggio and treat it as a “break” from a scale run. You play the arpeggio and then go back up to the note below the note you started on. Here I am using that over the Dm7 chord and using another useful trick: the arpeggio from the 3r, in this case that’s an Fmaj7 arpeggio. Just to quickly explain that. If you look at the notes of Dm7 and Fmaj7 you can see that 3 of the notes are the same and the only difference is the E which is a 9th against Dm7, which sounds great.

You can do this with most chords, and it just means that you have several arpeggios available for any chord you solo over.

You may have noticed that I sometimes have other ways of not playing scale runs in the last two examples, I’ll get to those later as well. Another way to use an arpeggio is to play it as a triplet which is a great way to change up the flow with rhythm. In this example you also want to notice how I am using the descending arpeggio melody that I just showed you but now with the arpeggio from the 3rd of G7, Bø:

#2 Simple, Flexible and Incredibly Powerful

Before we get to the very simple melodic technique that breaks the counterpoint rule then I want to show you what I used at the beginning of the 2nd example to create this:

and a sneaky variation of it is also what I am using in the 3rd example going from Dm7 to G7

One of the most important parts of the sound of good Bop-inspired Jazz lines, is that they have surprising twists and turns but they also have direction, and that is what I am using here: Enclosures, which is an incredibly deep topic, and something that helps you create great lines on scale melodies, arpeggios and triads!

On the Dm7 line, I start on the A and then instead of moving directly down to F which would be the next note in the arpeggio there are two notes placed around the F, E under it, and G above it. PLAY and what makes it even more powerful is that the enclosure moves up from E to G while the melody is moving from A down to F, so it has both the forward motion and a surprising change of direction.

The easiest way to work on this is to use 2-note chromatic enclosures on the arpeggio, because they are the most flexible and the easiest to play. The concept is simple: a diatonic note above the chord tone and a chromatic note below, so for a Dm7 arpeggio, E above & C# below, resolving to D. G above and E below, resolving to F and so on.

The entire exercise is this:

and you can play it descending as well:

And just using this on the arpeggio gives you solid lines that are anything but boring. Here I am using the enclosure around F and D on Dm7 and also around the B on G7

Let’s have a look at how Bebop breaks some counterpoint rules, and then start talking about how you get this information into your playing because that may not be obvious.

#3 Breaking The Counterpoint Rules

In many ways then Bebop and Jazz lines are closely related to the language of Bach, and the rule that I mentioned about resolving a leap in one direction by moving in the opposite direction does sound quite natural and fits a lot of Jazz lines. Think of the Ellington ending:

But the interval of a minor 6th is not allowed so it is, in that way, breaking the rules, and that descending minor 6th is a great sound for Jazz lines.

Jazz also doesn’t have a problem with parallel 5ths and a few other things but counterpoint was also created for polyphonic vocal music so that isn’t that surprising.

The descending 6th interval can be used as an incredible sound! A simple version of it is to insert it between the half-steps in the scale, in C major that would be between the C and the B, where you can place an E and between the F and the E where it is an A.

And these interval skips are great for Bebop and used all over the place! There are more options but for this I’ll stick with these two. Check out how I first use the interval skip and then two enclosures on Dm7 following that up with the descending arpeggio technique on G7:

The Practice Strategy

By now, you should be wondering how you internalize material like this. You probably noticed that I am not really giving you specific licks it is more like recipes for melodies that you can move around and use to create your own licks.

You could look at getting this into your playing as a 3-step process where the 2nd one is probably often left out, and the reason you won’t get it into your playing:

#1 Exercises

First, you need to take care of any exercises like practicing the scales, be able to play the arpeggios or enclosures

#2 Compose/internalize

Start composing lines with the topic you are working on, so take a single thing and start making lines.

You want to be able to play the lines you come up with in time, but the biggest focus should be on making a lot of lines. That is where you learn something and where you start to hear the melodies that you want to get into your playing.

Keep it simple and don’t try to do only new things because you want to connect the new things to what you already play so that it becomes a flexible and active part of your vocabulary, not something you have to think about.

#3 Put It To Practice

Take a song you know very well and start soloing while you focus on using the new melodic technique or piece of vocabulary that you want to get into your playing.

Most of the time, students underestimate the benefit of writing tons of licks and exploring the material in that way, so pay attention to that while you practice and be a little patient. Keep in mind that Barry Harris taught Bebop by writing licks and explaining the lines. Composing licks can also be great for developing your rhythm and your phrasing, let’s look at that.

#4 The Curse Of Heavy Beats

Keeping up with the changes is very difficult in the beginning, and often we try to hit target notes on beat one whenever the chords change to make it clear to ourselves that we are following the harmony. This is an important skill, but it is not really great for your rhythm so here are two things you should try to work on that helps lighten it up:

#1 don’t stop on beat 1

When you end the line, in this case that makes most sense on the Cmaj7, in the II V I, then continue into the bar and try to end on an offbeat like I do here, and see if you can spot all the other stuff from this video that I use:

This example actually uses the next thing when going from Dm7 to G7:

#2 Resolve on 4&

Try to resolve to the chord on 4& to anticipate the chord change,

again adding forward motion and energy to the line. This is something where it makes sense to spend time composing lines to get it into your ears and into your playing. And in the example, notice how the enclosure is used to help the transition from Dm7 to G7

#5 Technique for Dynamics

The Phrasing is where the music is, and when it comes to phrasing in Jazz then one of the most important parts is the dynamics in the line, and you can use technique to make that easier. This is probably also why so many Jazz guitarists mix a lot of different techniques when they play: It is the most efficient way to get the right phrasing.

For the dynamics then two techniques are great to incorporate: slides and legato.

Here’s an example without any phrasing:

and here it is with some added phrasing techniques, and notice that I tend to use techniques so that I pick a note on the offbeat and make that louder than the note that follows on a downbeat:

I am sure you can hear the difference. When you start working on this then try to find some simple licks where you have a high note on an off-beat, like this way of playing a Dm7 arpeggio:

Or using a pull-off from an offbeat in a descending scale run like this which also makes it easier to play for your right hand:

The Biggest Mistakes Learning Jazz

One of the most difficult moments I ever experienced on a stage in front of an audience is tied to a myth, something that people sometimes will say but that isn’t true. It is easy to waste practice time on stuff like that and you can better focus on actually learning how to play and building the skills you need. I tell the story of that failure on stage and some of the other concepts that you should not waste your time on in this video! Check it out!

Jazz Beginner – 5 Myths That Waste Your Time

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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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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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Why They Sound Better Than You Every Time!

What is the difference between a good solo and a great solo? And what are some of the skills you want to develop to go from playing the right notes to really playing a great solo?

There is a set of 3 skills that especially a beginner won’t notice because you are too busy finding the chord tones and playing chromatic notes, and you want to start working on this from early on if you want to play solos that make sense and are not just random phrases.

The Problem With The Right Notes

When I was getting started playing Jazz then I practice scales and arpeggios since I had learned that I needed those to play Jazz. The problem I had with my solos was that even if I could play the right notes then it still sounded very fragmented and messy because I played everything per chord. Let me show you how that is the opposite of how George Benson plays. My playing at the time was like this:

 

These are all the right notes. but as you can clearly hear then it doesn’t make any sense at all because I am:

#1 Starting a new idea every bar

#2 Always Starting on Beat 1

#3 Stop playing so I Can Think Of The next chord

George Benson Gets It!

So what is the difference? He is playing from one chord to the next, so his melodies are ending on a note that clearly tells your ear that the chord is changing. In this case. it is super clear by hitting the 3rd every time:

Getting stuck with just playing something more or less random on each is a natural part of learning to play changes, but you can quite easily get started fixing it, and that is a really important skill to get in there so let’s look at that, and then dive into two other approaches that you hear a lot in the playing of Wes Montgomery and Jim Hall.

Forward Motion

When it comes to Bop-inspired Jazz, then a core principle in the solos is that often the melodies are dense with a lot of notes and are really pushing forward to the chord changes, similar to what you heard in the George Benson example. This is not that different from how Bach wrote music even if Jazz uses different harmony and also some “extra” notes here and there.

Hal Galper wrote a good book about this calling it Forward Motion

which is a good way to describe it. The simple version of the concept is that you practice playing lines that end somewhere, so target notes. The notes in a solo line are not just random pitches against a chord,

they should fit together as a melody that moves to the next chord. Which is what you heard in the Benson example.

But there are some things that you can get wrong when you are working on target notes, so here’s a suggestion for getting started, and actually you should consider buying that book.

Choosing Target Notes and Practicing

For finding the right target notes then you sort of have to forget what you learned when you started checking out Jazz chords.

I am sure you have had lessons telling you that when you play chords then you just need the 3rd and the 7th to get the sound of the chord across. That would also suggest that you can use those two as target notes, but that is actually not really true.

Let’s look a II V I in C major:

The 3rd of the chord is still a really good option, as you heard in the George Benson example,

but the 7th is often a bit vague, and in the beginning, you want to train your ear by having very clear notes that tell you that the chord has changed.

On Dm7 then the C doesn’t really sound like a Dm7 on it’s own, it sounds much more like a C major chord, so having that as a target is going to be much more difficult.

The 5th, A, is however a very good target note instead, which is sort of the first note you would throw out of a chord. This is true for Cmaj7 as well where the 7th, B will really just sound like you are not resolving the V chord in a II V I. Of course, you can play melodies that make these notes possible, but as I said, you want to keep it easy to hear in the beginning.

Let’s say that we keep it easy and play the 3rd as a target note on all the chords, just like George.

You want to practice coming up with Dm7 lines that play towards and end on a B, a simple version could be something like this:

Or like this:

 

These are of course super simple, and I don’t actually have to start with the F on the Dm7, but I think you can hear how the melodies are naturally moving towards the chord change. Before we get to the Wes and Jim Hall examples then let me just show you how you can easily make it a lot more embellished with trills, leading notes etc:

So here it is a little less clear and the target note is often moved to the 4& which also makes it a bit lighter, but that is really just the next step to work on and it is the same concept.

How To Practice Forward Motion

If you practice soloing like this then you will get a lot better at creating lines that have a flow and that don’t sound like random things copy-pasted on top of the progression. I would suggest starting with keeping it simple composing lines and then gradually going from improvising over a basic turnaround rubato into playing in time and then taking it to some songs.

This skill is essential for anything Bop inspired, but the next two are maybe even more powerful and less Jazz specific. The first one is in everyone’s playing, but Jim Hall is truly a master at this!

Make People Remember Your Phrases

What Jim Hall does in this solo is probably the strongest melodic principle that we have, it is at the core of so many great solos and great compositions.

You first have a motif being repeated and developed over the Dm section of the song. He then rounds this off with a very chromatic line on the Aø D7 before starting to work with a short intervallic motif that is moved around in triplets.

Check it out:

So this is all over Jim Hall’s playing, but Wes uses this as well:

Here are a few very clear examples from Four on Six.

Clear, but still changing the rhythm on a simple 4-note motif. Notice that he plays it 3 times and then sort of finishes the sentence with something else. That is very common.

Both Wes and Jim Hall uses forward motion and motivic development, it is not one or the other, some of Jim Hall’s motifs have forward motion. Beethoven and Mozart knew how motivic development worked as well. The effect of this as a listener is that you hear something that you recognize but it is not just a loop, it changes and stays interesting in that way.

How To Practice Developing Motifs

The first important step is that you want to recognize these things when you listen to music,so try to listen to solos that you know and that you like and recognize the motifs in there. Again the way to practice this is to solo and try to stick with motifs when you improvise, so start rubato and play a short phrase then imagine how this phrase should move through the changes. Later you can start just sticking with a motif over a song and see what you can do with it.

I sometimes see comments on YouTube that want to attribute Wes’ playing to magic or some other vague term. I think that is surprising when his genius is, to me anyway,  the clarity of his strong melodic ideas. Can you be tone-deaf for melodies like melody-deaf?

Wes Montgomery uses another melodic technique quite often, and that is also a great strategy for making your solos a longer story.

Have A Conversation With Yourself

I often talk about how music is a language,  and music is a form of communication, a place where conversations happen.

And this can also be in your solo where you are having a conversation between phrases, what is often referred to as Call-response.

Check out how Wes does this:

He actually also has a great example of this with octaves from the earlier recorded version:

So this is about hearing different phrases as a back and forth between two sides.

Bebop 101 for Guitar!

Another guitar player that is really great at this and has some amazing lines to learn from both in terms of solid bebop and motivic development is Grant Green, and if you check out this video then you can learn something about how he creates melodic, playable, and beautiful bebop lines. Especially since it is bebop but not too difficult for guitar!

I Wish I Had Checked Out This Guy! His Solos Are Jazz 101 On Guitar

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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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How To Understand The Style of Jazz Solos

The Style of a Jazz Solo is about how the notes are used in melodies and against the chords.

John Coltrane and Lester Young are mostly playing the same notes, and they are more similar than different. Yet if you listen to Jazz, they are worlds apart.

In this video, I am going to take a phrase from Lester Young, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, and Joe Henderson and then compare how they improvise in their solos.

This will give you a clear picture of why these styles sound so different and also some ideas on what and how to work on your own playing to sound the way you want to.

I am curious what you guys think!

Content:

0:00 Intro

0:12 4 Solos From Different Styles

0:27 Working on knowing different Styles of phrasing and improvising

0:41 #1 Lester Young – All Of Me

0:52 Analysing Lester – Melodies on top of the chords

2:15 Example #1 Slow

2:37 #2 Charlie Parker – Anthropology

2:41 Bebop – Forward motion and Harmony

3:50 Example #2 Slow

4:00 #3 John Coltrane – Take The Coltrane

4:08  Painting on a Chord Progression  – Abstraction on a Blues

5:36 Example #3 Slow

5:54 #4 Joe Henderson – Solid

6:07 Hardbop – New Melodies and Old Blues

7:38 Example #4 Slow

7:56 What Do You Think Is The Difference between the Styles

8:20 Like The Video? Check out my Patreon Page

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Jazz Guitar Solo – This Is What I Think About

What do I think in a Guitar Solo? A Jazz Guitar Solo is not as much thinking as you may assume. In this video I improvised a solo, transcribed it and then I go over the solo discussing what I thought or about or what I might have thought about when playing the solo.

This should give you some insight into how I improvise and also maybe what you should not worry about when playing a song. Jazz is a genre of music that lends itself to over-thinking.

Some of the topics I go over is how and why I think certain things like altered dominants or motifs. I also talk about the construction and thought process behind double-time lines and some polyrhythmic ideas.

Content of the video

 0:00 Intro – What I think about in a solo

0:20 The Driving a Car Analogy

0:42 Solo and Transcription.

1:17 Out Of Nowhere – The Song and the Form

1:48 The Solo

2:43 The Beginning – How to start a solo

4:04 How Target notes are a part of my playing

5:18 Ab Blues in G major?

5:49 The Added C7(#11) chord

6:33 The Gmaj7 Gm6 trick

7:09 Bm7 E7 – Thinking an Altered Dominant

8:39 I am not Pat Martino (surprised?)

8:50 A Tonic minor sound on the II chord

10:14 The Lydian Dom7th: Eb7

11:03 Double Time Line

12:31 Using Blues G Phrases in Medium Swing

14:22 A Simple Motif through a few bars

15:53 Bm Pentatonic to C7(13)

16:33 The Bm7 chord as a II chord not a III

17:25 4th note Triplet Poly Rhythm- Groups of 2 (displaced)

18:45 The Final turnaround and the ending

19:50 Blues in Medium Swing (Joe Pass)

20:54 How Not To Think About What I do

21:15 Like the video? Check out my Patreon Page

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The 7 Questions You Need To Ask About A Solo You Love

We all have a jazz guitar solo that we really love and we dream of being able to play a solo like that. Often the advice that you get is to transcribe the solo and use that to learn to figure out what is going on, but that can also be a way for you to zoom in too much on the details. Often it isn’t that important if it is an E or and Eb, but it is much more important that he is developing a motif or only using short phrases or playing triplets in groups of 4.

In this video I am going to focus on what you can learn by listening to solos and focus on other things than what notes are being played, a lot of topics that are just as important and that we forget to talk about.

Hope you like it!

Content of the Video

0:00 Intro

0:12 The Problem with Transcribing

0:47 Focus on The Bigger Picture

1:22 How Long Are The Phrases?

1:37 John McLaughlin Vs Wes Montgomery

2:27 Using Phrase Length in Your Own Practice

2:44 What Is Happening With The Rhythm?

2:54 Pat Martino vs Herbie Hancock

3:27 Herbie going beyond the 8th note and in the groove phrasing

3:50 Intersesting ideas with 8th notes

4:00 Timing, Placement on the beat?

4:21 Is It Bebop Lines or Vocal-like Melodies?

4:50 Paul Desmond Vs. Pat Metheny

5:43 How Is The Development Of The Solo?

5:52 Mainstream Jazz and Dynamics?

6:05 Steve Vai vs Stan Getz

6:36 A Method for Solo Construction: Wes Montgomery

7:20 Is it In The Groove or Floating over it?

7:57 Joe Pass Vs Allan Holdsworth

8:31 Are The Phrases Connected, and How?

8:55 Wes Montgomery Vs Pat Martino

9:26 How Is The Soloist Using Space?

9:44 Use Space to Create Tension!

10:00 Like John Abercrombie!

10:28 Like The Video? Check out My Patreon Page!

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Ed Bickert – A Jazz Guitarist You Need To Know About!

Ed Bickert is the secret super hero of Jazz Guitar. He is somehow always under the surface, but you don’t want to miss checking him out! Probably most of us know him from his great playing on Paul Desmond albums like Pure Desmond and Desmond Quartet Live.

This video is on a solo on the Standard Have You Met Miss Jones, off a live trio album with Don Thompson and Terry Clarke.

What I really like about Ed Bickerts playing is his sense of melody and also how he is amazing at adding chords to his solos. But the examples in this video also highlights his use of reharmonization and cross rhythms.

I don’t actually know too much about Ed Bickert probably because he mostly has been active in Canada and haven’t appeared on that many albums as a sideman. But I really enjoy his playing. First I wanted to cover a song from the Pure Desmond album, but then I came across this great transcription on Francois LeDuc’s channel so I used that instead. You can check out Francois’ channel and Patreon in the description of this video. He has a lot of great transcriptions there!

Francois Leduc – Patreon

If you want to check out some more stuff on Ed Bickert then try to look up the two Paul Desmond albums that he play on:

Paul Desmond – Pure Desmond with Ed Bickert

And the live album with the same band:

Paul Desmond Quartet – Live

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This Is Not Bebop, But It Is A Great Coltrane Solo

It is not surprising that a Coltrane solo isn’t bebop, but it is interesting to figure out why that is the case. Understanding what types of licks or melodies are typical for a style of music is a really good description of what is going on.

The solo that I am talking about in this video is John Coltrane’s solo on the F blues – Take the Coltrane off the Coltrane/Ellington album from 1963.

In the video I am presenting an analysis of the solo with a focus on the melodies, there placement and function in the form and not only the notes that are being used. I find that it takes a more detailed view to understand a solo than just what scales are being used.

Let me know what you think?

A few thoughts on this Coltrane solo Analysis

As always music is not an exact science so this solo has a lot of traits that are really not bebop sounding but it still contains examples of normal bop lines and chromatic passing notes etc. So clearly Coltrane is rooted in that tradition even if he is moving away from it.

I am going to talk about this using three examples from the solo but it can be a good idea to check out the whole solo. There are a lot of transcriptions online so you can easily find that and listen to the solo.

Some of the things that are different are about the choice of sounds, but in my opinion it is more about how the sounds are used and the melodies than what scale. I am curious what you think?

Melodies without direction and not playing blues

What is interesting about this first part of the solo: He doesn’t play the 3rd of the chord at all for the first 8 bars, that is very different from bebop where everything is tied much more closely to the chord. Here the melodic statement is very strong and fairly long but it is intentionally vague. If you play the melody it could fit on a Cm blues just as easily as a F blues which is not really going to be the case for a Parker or Stitt solo. There is a Wes solo that does this as well and Wes would often sit heavily on the “II” sound on a V chord.

The 2nd 4 bars is a development of the first 4 but then moving with the chords, still not playing the 3rd of the chords.

So this is really about what note he isn’t playing and it becomes even more clear when we don’t have the piano comping.

Unresolving Tensions and Angular melodies

This example illustrates how the approach is much more modal. Coltrane is very often playing melodies that fit the chord but are not really functional and moving forward towards the next chord.

This is clear in the first bars where there is first an angular statement just using an F7 arpeggio. In fact using the 2nd inversion F major triad which Coltrane seems obsessed with in this solo.

A great example of how the emphasis is on sound rather than function is the Altered dominant in bars 3 and 4 of this example. Here there is a clear altered or tritone sound and the b5 is really at the center of the line, but the line is not resolved. It stops before changing and the statement on the Bb7 is unrelated to the altered line.

The last part of this example is demonstrating how the chords are interpreted. The statement on the Bb7 is turned into a motief that is moved down in half steps to give us an Am7 Abm7 Gm7 progression.

Another thing that shows how this is less functional is that the final II V is replaced with C7 Bb7 in the song taking away the main cadence of the Jazz Blues.

Super-imposed Pentatonic Scales

Coltrane doesn’t really use normal blues phrasing a lot in this solo and here he does use Fm pentatonic in a way that is really typical for everybody who came after him. I think it is important to notice that using Fm pentatonic on a Blues in F is something that is quite rare with the bop guys. Pentatonic scales are not really a part of bebop in the way they are used as a sound here.
The blues phrases of Joe Pass and Charlie Parker are quite different and much more a mix of major and minor.

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Why Coltrane is not bebop

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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