Tag Archives: jazz solo guitar

This Is Ruining Your Jazz Solo – A Powerful Bebop Breakthrough

You have a problem if your Jazz solos sound too much like this:

In a way, this should work because a lot of things are right about this:

  1. It is nailing the changes
  2. There’s a place where you can add a nice Bebop accent
  3. It is actually also a motif that is being moved through the changes.

But it still doesn’t really sound ok, So what IS the problem?

“It is Jazz! It needs chromatic notes!!!”

Still not really working, let me show you why:

A great jazz line should surprise you, it should not only change direction on the heavy beats like this or even the previous one did.

Because that makes it sound heavy, the lines should have more life and more interesting rhythm, not just go from heavy beat to heavy beat like a lawnmower.

Instead, you want something that is more like this:

Of course, It isn’t so that you can never change direction on a heavy beat, but not all the time, and it pays to figure out how to make the line more surprising, so let’s look at some surprisingly easy strategies for that.

Flipping Chromatic Enclosures

A simple chromatic enclosure that you probably already know is a great hack for this!

So if you have a Dm triad

then you can add the enclosure around the notes like this:

These are called diatonic above chromatic below.

The great thing about these is that they have a direction, and can go both up and down:

And that is much more powerful than you think.

 

Let’s say that you are playing a Descending Dm7 arpeggio:

But you want to add a chromatic enclosure around the last note, the D. The arpeggio is descending, so if you also take a descending enclosure then you get:

But if you have the enclosure go against the descending melody then you get this:

I am sure you can hear how HUGE that difference is!

And this will help you create lines like this:

Throw In A Triad

Another useful tool is to use the diatonic triads like I am using the Am triad on Dm7 in this example:

The concept is pretty simple if you have a note  where you can dip down and take a triad that fits the chord,  then that will work as a way to skip around and still be a strong melody.

In example 10, I did this on the E adding an Am triad. But you could also just take the A and use the Dm triad:

That will work in a line like this where I also use it on a D diminished triad on the G7(b9):

Steal a Bebop Trick

B-roll: Illustration of the F and E -> add low A?

Often a fantastic solution is to get a large interval skip in there but that sometimes sounds very unnatural. Luckily, we can lean on the Bebop greats to give us some tricks for this!

If you are playing a melody in the scale with a half step apart, so for example F down to E on the Dm7 chord then you can throw in a lower chord tone like the 5th, A:

And this always sounds great, another place where you can use that is on the G7 between the b9 and the root adding a low B:

One of the most powerful places to learn this and also get a ton of inspiration is of course to study the Bebop Greats, and especially Charlie Parker. Check out this video, If you want to see what you can pick up from him and also how I use that in my practice and playing. I can promise you that it is worthwhile and a lot of fun!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Is The Difference?

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

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

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

Get More Creative With Rhythm

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

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

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

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

Displaced Rhythms

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

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

Example 5

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

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

Developing Rhythm and Melody

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

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

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

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

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

Who To Check Out?

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

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

Call-Response

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

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

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

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

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Which Jazz Skills Do You Need To Play a (GREAT) Solo? (beginner To Advanced)

I always dreamt about getting to that point where you are free to improvise a great jazz solo over a chord progression. You know what I mean: You can play the things that you want, the notes are right there and the lines sound great. You are just making music.

That freedom is coming out of having specific skills in place for the solo, and that is what I want to talk about in this video so if you want to move beyond thinking a lot and being locked down by the progression then check out this video.

Level #1 Play The Chords, The Key, Scales, and the Arpeggios

This first level is just some very basic technique that you want to have covered, it is the foundation for all the other things, so it has to be pretty solid, and it is important that have this covered.

#1 Play The Chords

You want to be able to play the chords so that you can hear what the progression sounds like.

In this case, I am using a basic turnaround in C: Cmaj7, A7(b9), Dm7, G7(b9)

#2 Understand What Is Going On

You also want to be aware of the key it is in and the scales.

In this case, Cmaj7 and Dm7 are found in the C major scale, A7 is a secondary dominant resolving to Dm7 so you use D harmonic minor on that. G7(b9) is borrowed from the key of C minor so that also takes C harmonic minor.

As you can see, you do want to have some understanding of what is going on in the progression to help you play better solos. That is going to make it easier to find something to play and later it will help you find more options and give you more interesting things to experiment with and get into your playing.

#3 The Melodic Version Of The Chords

You also want to be able to play the arpeggios of the chords so that you are able to play the chord tones in time through the progression, simply because those are the notes you need when you start soloing and if you can’t find them like that then soloing with them is going to very difficult. Next, you want to start turning this raw material into a solo, but first, let’s just talk about one thing to keep in mind if you are new to improvising over Jazz progressions, so you don’t crash your progress by practicing the wrong way.

Don’t Drown in Exercises

A very common mistake when trying to learn to improvise over chord changes is to think that you first need to know all the scales and arpeggios in all positions. Of course, you want to be able to do that eventually, but you are better off not drowning yourself in exercises and also give priority to actually using the material you practice. Making music is what you want to be good at, that is the goal, so if you are new to some of the material then try to figure out how to play all arpeggios and scales in one position so that you can make music with that.

Level #2 Spell Out The Changes And Give It A Flow

Once you have the foundation of scales, arpeggios and know what the progression sounds like then you can start working on soloing and also really nailing the changes.

One of the best ways to work on playing solos is to practice writing them, so it can be really useful, for example, to take the arpeggio and the scale and then try to write some line that you can use in your solo. The advantage here is that when you are working on writing lines then you are improvising over the chord progression, but you have time to make sure that it sounds good and you can improve the lines you come up with. In that way, you can start building your vocabulary and your ability to play stronger solo lines.

Here I am actually writing out the lines, and that can be a good exercise, but you don’t always need to do that.

When it comes really connecting the solo to the chords under it then the first approach I would suggest you use is target notes, so that you choose specific clear notes that really connect to the chord and then place those at the beginning of the bar so that it is obvious that the chord changes.

I am not going to cover this in too much detail, but there is a link to a video in the description where I discuss this solid strategy for playing chord changes in a solo.

Level #3 What About The Rhythm?

There are many things you can check out with rhythm, and a lot of them are complicated and often students underestimate how demanding they are technically.

But you don’t have to make it that complicated, in fact, the best thing to do is to make it simpler!

Instead of adding fast runs and subdivisions or difficult polyrhythms then the place to start is probably to make it easier to focus on the rhythm and become more creative.

If you limit the notes you use then you will force yourself to make the rhythms interesting. In this example, I am using only 2 notes per chord, and that is forcing me to think differently which I can then try to take with me when I start soloing without that restriction.

Other things that I have found very useful were learning some of the easier themes that had great rhythms like Bernie’s Tune or Lady Bird. This coupled with listening for rhythm and maybe even transcribing some solos, is really what you want to work on.

Practicing Things In The Right Order

What you may be realizing with this video is that in the end, you start to mix up the order that you work on it. It is not first the scales and arpeggios and then the rhythm, or then soloing it is back and forth and these skills you can zoom in on and develop further again and again.

In what order would you work with these levels? let me know in the comments.

The next two levels I would suggest that you save for a little bit later, but maybe you don’t think so.

Level #4 Make Your Solo A Story!

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Now you know how to play the changes and the lines make sense, but everything is still a bit “something on this chord and then something else on this chord” If you listen to great soloists then you can hear them really have a longer story going in the solo, and there are ways to work on that and skills you can develop.

Turning Phrases Into Stories

The first thing that I would try to work on is developing the melodies you play and in that way use what you just played to come up with the next thing to play. One way to think about that is motivic development where you take the phrase you play and then try to repeat it, but change it a little. That way it sounds both new and familiar to the listener.

Like this way of moving a melody from Cmaj7 to A7

You can practice this by just playing a short melody on the first chord, stop, and then from what you played, try to make a line that works on the next chord. In that way, there is a clear connection and a sense of development in your solo. First, practice that rubato, and then later you can work on it in time.

Turning Phrases Into A Conversation

A variation of this way of thinking is to think about your solo as phrases that are a part of a conversation, so using call-response to create melodies. You probably know about this from Blues.

Something like this:

first a statement and then as an answer to the ascending phrase, a descending phrase. And you can keep this type of conversation going through the entire progression.

For me, this is where you really start to make music. This is what I aim for and what I want to feel able to do when I practice pieces. Trying to come up with a way to tell a story on top of the song is such an essential part of making music, and you hear this with so many great players from Parker to Getz to Pat Metheny.

Let’s have a look at how you can start creating completely different sounds by starting to not only improvise notes on chord progression but also improvise with the chord progression!

Level #5 Improvise With The Chords

Until now the way you improvised was by figuring out what to play over the chord progression, but actually, that is not really how it works in Jazz.

You are allowed to change the chords! (Dramatic pause, WHAAAT!)

This chord progression is really just a way to go from C and then back to C, and you are pretty free to take another way there. As long as you can find a logical way to get back home.

You may be thinking that this is only for weird modern incomprehensible Jazz, but actually, you can find examples of this all the way back in history to Charlie Parker, and it is just one more thing to make music with.

You can experiment with this, by just changing one or two chords. An example would be to use altered dominants that don’t really belong in there, but this is so common that we don’t think of it as a reharmonization, even though it is most of the time.

For this progression, a simple example could be to use a lot of parallel chromatic movement.

Or you can choose some unexpected chord sounds:

And of course, creating suspensions when the listener expects a resolution like the final G7 to C is a great effect:

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5 Easy Solos to Learn By Ear and Boost Your Jazz Guitar Skills

Learning to play Jazz is a huge challenge, and when I started out then I spent a lot of time working out some solos by ear which taught me a lot of things, and also a lot of things I didn’t realize I was learning. In this video, I am going to recommend some good solos if you want to get started learning solos by ear, some I checked out myself in the beginning and some that I have use often with students, and along the way, I am going to talk about what you learn and give you some tips about how to learn from by ear.

The most efficient way to learn what is probably a lot of the most important things in Jazz is to learn solos by ear, what we often call transcribing even though you might not really want to write them down, but I will talk about that later. Among other things this is something that helps you improve: Swing, Timing, Phrasing, Dynamics, Shape, Contrast, Build up, Technique, Fretboard Knowledge.

This is pretty difficult to get started with, and getting sensible suggestions that help you get started with this is something that there are nowhere near enough recommendations for. I will go over some more tips later in the video, but If you are new to Jazz then don’t start by transcribing Charlie Parker on Donna Lee or John Coltrane on Countdown, find some short and easy examples and build your skills so that you give yourself the best possible chance to develop this ability. Otherwise, you are just going to get frustrated and fail

The Conga Conundrum

The first solo is one that I did not check out when I was learning Jazz, in fact, I somehow missed Kenny Burrell almost completely for some reason and didn’t discover him until much later, but this is the opening track from a truly iconic jazz guitar album: Midnight Blue. A weird side-step here, but In the early 60s everybody had to add conga’s to their jazz albums. You can hear that with Pat Martino but also with Wes (El hombre and Cotton Tail)

I wish somebody could explain to me why they did that?

Kenny Burrell – Chitlins Con Carne

This is one of the first solos that I give to my students, mainly because it is just a medium 12-bar blues in C, not even a Jazz Blues because there is no II V. Kenny Burrell is mostly just using C minor pentatonic and you can play it mostly in the Box 1 pentatonic position. The lines are great, so you learn how he is using a lot of interesting techniques, melodies, and phrasing.

On the recording, Kenny Burrell is comping himself, with the C7#9 but to make it easier in the beginning then I usually tell students to leave out the chords, just to make it simpler. In a way, the fact that Kenny Burrell plays the chords really helps make the whole thing easier to learn, because it is keeping the phrases compact, and with a clear beginning and end, divided by the chords.

This solo is very easy, and I tend to use it to help people get started transcribing and really get used to how it is to learn a solo by ear more than trying to teach phrasing and vocabulary, but of course, you do learn a lot of other things while checking out the solo. Starting to get used to learning by ear will help you pick up a lot of things so much faster, so that is extremely important and useful and that is important enough to see learning this solo by ear as an independent goal.

I’ll talk more about some of the things you want to do when you are transcribing solos later in the video.

Let’s take another example which was one of the very first solos I ever learned played by no other than the father of Jazz Guitar!

Charlie Christian – Grand Slam

Sometimes you learn a solo just because you are curious about what is being played and why it sounds like Jazz. That was the main reason I checked out Charlie Christian’s Grand Slam solo. At that point, I had an idea about what it meant to solo over changes but I hadn’t figured out enough examples to really know what to do and how it worked.

This 30-second 2-chorus blues solo by Charlie Christian is a great study in especially rhythm. Charlie Christians playing here is bebop-related, but the lines are as much swing language as they are bop, and they are great clear examples of that. Often having rhythms like this in your playing is really overlooked, but it will really boost how you sound if you work on it.

This was on one of the first Jazz CDs that I ever bought and I sat down and learned this solo in a day to figure out what was going on. At the time I was tuning my Strat down a half step and not being familiar with Jazz found the key of F for a blues a very odd choice (and I was in fact playing it in F# of course), I have since become more used to playing Blues in F, maybe even more so than in E…

Two other guitarists, that I checked out a lot, both talk about Charlie Christian as their main influence: Wes Montgomery and Jim Hall. Jim Hall even credits the Grand Slam solo as the reason for him getting into playing Jazz.

Grant Green – Cool Blues

Another solo that I picked up along the way as a teacher was Grant Green’s solo on Cool Blues. Grant Green is a great resource for learning Bebop on guitar and most of my students have had his solos as homework.

This solo is on Green’s “Born To Be Blue Album” and it is full of the typical strong Bebop Grant Green language that is so useful to check out and also very playable on the guitar. I imagine he got it straight from Parker, but I actually don’t know. This is a practical solo because the tempo is relaxed and the solo is not that long.

A bonus to this recording is that Grant takes an extra solo before the last theme, so if you are in the zone you can check that out as well.

Don’t forget to like the video if you find this useful, that is a huge help for me and the channel.

Tips for Transcribing solos

There is a right and a wrong way to go about learning a solo by ear, and here are a few things you want to pay attention to and try to get right when you are learning a solo.

Listen To The Solo (And Then Listen To It Another 10 times)

This can not be understated, the more you listen to the solo the easier it will be for you to learn to play it, and trust me, you will probably save time if you first just listen to the solo a lot, and I mean REALLY a lot! In fact, just listen until you can sing it.

Know The Song

Solos in Jazz are generally on a form, and if you know the chords where they are in the song then you are going to have a much easier time learning the solo and hearing what is being played, simply because you know what that part of the song sounds like, for example, if you are transcribing a solo on Just Friends and knows that it goes from Bbmaj7 to Bbm6 then it is easier to figure out what is going on.

Learn Phrases Not Single Notes

If you want to remember what you are learning then it is important that you start thinking of the solo in phrases and learn it phrase by phrase. That way it is going to make more sense and be a lot easier to get into your system. It is similar to how you don’t try to learn a language word for word, but really try to learn to say something.

Don’t Write It Down, Focus On Playing The Solo

I think it is often overlooked what is most useful in learning a solo, because I don’t think it is the exact phrases or notes. It is much more about the way the phrase sits on the groove in this performance or the exact phrasing and subtle things like that don’t make into a transcription, so you are better of learning it by ear and memorizing it like that instead of writing it out and then playing what is on the page, which is really more of a reading exercise that leaves a lot of information behind.

Wes Montgomery – Four On Six

Four on Six is probably the most famous Wes song, and the first recording off “The Incredible Jazz Guitar” album is a great solo to check out for some of the things that you definitely want to learn from Wes:

Melodic and short phrases, motivic development, Call-response, rhythm. It is all in there.

For this solo you can also leave out the octave and chord parts as they are more difficult, just learning the first few single-note choruses will already teach you a ton of great stuff.

Learning Wes solos taught me a lot about phrasing and being melodic but still swinging, and the clarity in his melodic ideas are worthwhile checking out for anybody who wants to play Jazz. I ended up having a year in my study where I was always learning Wes solos and got through most of Smokin’ at The Half Note and a lot of other songs as well.

If you want to check out some of my videos on Wes solos then there is a playlist in the video description: Videos analyzing Wes Montgomery solos

George Benson

I have always loved how George Benson could make pretty much anything sound like fantastic Jazz phrases, and this solo on “The Borgia Stick, off The George Benson Cook Book” is no exception. This was also one of the first solos that I say down and obsessed about when I was just starting out, and I am still a bit surprised that I managed to figure out the chords in there.

This solo is great if you are not that at home in Jazz Harmony. The lines are surprisingly simple and most are really just A minor pentatonic stuff, but learning to play them and add all the beautiful rhythms and grace notes in this Benson solo is going to be great for your playing. His use of intervals and chords is also amazing and still fairly simple.

Honorable Mentions

Of course, there are many many solos to check out, and these 5 are just the tip of the iceberg. If you have great suggestions for Jazz guitar solos to learn then leave a comment, maybe we can make an even longer list of recommendations to help learn Jazz..

A few others that I spent time on, in the beginning, deserve a mention as well:

Jim Hall on Stella By Starlight, in fact, that whole first Jim Hall Album is a masterclass in swinging rhythms and motivic development, but the Stella solo is fairly easy to check out.

Another Stella solo is by Ulf Wakenius. This is fairly unknown, and it is off a Niels Henning Ørsted Pedersen album called “To A Brother” and Ulf Wakenius is playing a lot simpler than what I am used to from him, but both this solo and the one on Alone Together are great and really helped me out in the first few months when I had trouble telling what was the theme and what was the solo.

Another thing that you should not underestimate is the wealth of great solos that are on YouTube and not on any albums. A Solo that I always found to be a great example of Bensons playing is this really simple 1-chorus solo on Take The A-train from some obscure television show in the 70s. Lots of Blues but only great phrases! There are some hidden gems out there!

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How To Play Outside – A Few Great Jazz Solo Secrets

This lesson will show you 5 different ways that you can play some beautiful outside things on a static m7 chord, not just what to play but also how to use it.

If you are soloing on a static chord then a great way to make your solo more interesting and surprising is to play something that really rubs against what the listener expects to hear.

But you can’t just play random notes, it still has to make sense and sound like a melody, and that is what you will learn with some different strategies in this video

#1 Half-step Below

The examples are all on a static minor 7 chord, and the first few examples use different chords on top of the harmony and then later I will cover some other strategies and how they sound.

A great place to start is by moving everything a half-step down, often referred to as side-slipping or side-stepping. This is easy to work with thinking wise and you can use the same position and material while still sounding great. First, let’s check out how that sounds, and then I will show you how to get the melodies to connect and make sense, both going into the outside section and also coming out of it. The backing is a static Cm7, so the side-slip will be a Bm7.

The first part of the solo is just using the Cm Dorian sound, just so that we have a sense of what home is, then I transition to Bm7 by using the parallel motion of the arpeggios, first I play Gm7 and Ebmaj7 arpeggios and then I use these as a motif to move down to a Dmaj7 arpeggio thinking Bm7. The solo really sits on the C# to create tension and then I go back to Cm7 by playing the Ebmaj7 arpeggio rounding it off with a blues phrase.

How and Why Superimposed Chords Work

So I am really treating it as a chord change and connecting across the chords with motivic development. In that way, the melody makes sense and is not random, I am using the same logic to make melodies with Bm7 as I do on Cm7 and it is practical that it is the same chord.

This is true for more of the examples in this video, but some can be used differently as well, like the next one.

The only thing you need to be careful with when you connect with motifs is that you don’t make the motifs too obvious, that sounds predictable and unnatural, but that is the same as when you use motifs in your solos on changes.

#2 Altered Dominant

You can also use altered dominant lines on top of the chord to make your solo sound more surprising. As you will hear, this creates tension and movement within the solo in a very natural way. For the Cm7 then the altered dominant is G7alt, and the G altered scale is the same set of notes as Ab melodic minor. There is a really big advantage to using the altered dominant for this and I will explain in a bit.

The advantage with G7 is that you are used to working on improvising lines that resolve to Cm, so it is a lot easier to make lines that resolve back into the sound of the chord because it is a connection you already know.

In this example, I first set up the Cm sound with some Dorian and Cm blues and then transition to the G altered scale and play a typical G7alt line using the diatonic arpeggios Fø and Bmaj7(#5). These are arpeggios I would normally use for that chord so you can use the material that you already know. The transition back is done by simply sliding down to resolve from Ab to a sustained G, ending with a Cm pentatonic phrase. If you are looking for more things to play on Altered dominants then I will link to a video on that in the description of this video.

Altered Dominant & Scale Melodies

For the altered dominant scale you can also get the melodies to work with more scale oriented melodies, which is a simpler way to make melodies and a nice addition to your playing:

Here I set up Cm quickly before moving into the G7alt line that is essentially just an ascending scale that then resolves back with the scale played in 3rds.

Next, let’s have a look at what is probably the most common outside suggestion you come across.

#3 Half-step above

Moving up a half-step is a common way to create some outside sounds, and similar to the first example, an easy way to get there and you can use the same material you are already playing. The example I am using here demonstrates another way to move smoothly into the outside part of the phrase: A Pivot note

The beginning of the example setting up the Cm7 is a little more extensive here, and with more rhythms. Moving up to Cm7 is done by using the Eb as a pivot note. A pivot note is a note that is in both chords, Cm7 and C#m7. It is the 3rd in Cm7 and the 9th on C#m7, and the melody starts out using it as the 3rd of Cm7, and then it turns into the top-note of a descending arpeggio on C#m7.

The solo goes back to the Cm7 by simply shifting down a 3-note scale fragment, so just C# D# E, first a basic version on C# and then a more embellished version on the Cm7.

Next, let’s have look at a completely different sound and approach to creating outside lines.

#4 Diminished Scale

There is a great trick to using C diminished as an outside sound on a Cm7 chord.

You have a connection with the Cm scale:

C D Eb F G A Bb C

C D Eb F F# Ab A B C

Because you have a lot of common notes, but you also have some “funny notes” like the F#, Ab, and the B.

Using  The Triads

The trick is that you can use the major triads of the diminished scale to improvise with and shift those around to create some strong and interesting melodies.

Scale:

C D Eb F F# Ab A B C

The 4 major triads:

D: D F# A

F: F A C

Ab: Ab C Eb

B: B Eb F#

in the scale, we have the 4 major triads: D, F Ab and B

All the triads contain very strong colorful notes on over Cm7 and since they are triads you can easily use them to create interesting melodies.

In example 4 I use the D, Ab and B triads together to create a melody which sounds like shifting colors on top of the Cm chord.

In this example the 4 triads don’t really “belong” in the sound of the chord, but we have another less common sound that can actually shift in and out of the chord sound in a similar way, that is the next thing to check out:

#5 Augmented Scale

The augmented scale is a 6-note scale:

Eb F# G Bb B D Eb

You can se it as either two augmented triads next to each other:

Eb augmented and D augmented

or, what is practical in this case, you can see it as 3 major triads in major 3rd distance:

Eb G Bb , G B D and B Eb F#

In this case, I am making a link to Cm7 by using the Eb major triad which is the upper structure of Cm7, and then create lines by mixing the 3 triads in different inversions:

In the example you hear how the line moves to the B major triad and then to the 2nd inversion G major triad, plays some more scale-based melodies before returning to Cm7 by resolving the F# to G.

Melodies like this are something you hear a lot in Michael Brecker solos.

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Stay Inspired In Your Practice – A Solid Jazz Solo Survival Guide

If you check out the solos by great Jazz players then you will probably find that they don’t really play other scales or notes than you do, simply because it is not about the notes you play, it is about what you play with them. So you don’t need new scales or arpeggios, you need to become better at making music with the ones you already know.

If you feel stuck and always playing the same things then this video will give you a straightforward way to deal with that and also a way to develop new things in your playing.

The Problem with Scales and Arpeggios

The problem is that you need to do more than just run up and down the scale to make the solo interesting, and it is difficult to be inspired with just an arpeggio and a scale.

So let’s say you are playing over a Dm7 chord in C major. You have the Dm7 arpeggio and also the scale that goes with it.

And you can make some solid lines with that as you can see here below:

But quickly things start to sound similar and it gets a bit boring and not so fun to play.

Checklist approach to inspiration

In this video, I am going to give you a checklist approach and show you how that can help you create a lot of new stuff, and also test and improve your abilities to create your own lines.

For all the chords you have to improvise over you have melodic tools or types of building blocks that you can use to create the melodies, and if you start thinking about it like that then you will help yourself come up with new and better material. And you can make that into a checklist and one of the first things you want to put on it would what I will cover next:

More Arpeggios

An obvious and practical place to start is to go a little beyond the basic arpeggio. So you can try other arpeggios or changing the rhythm of how you play the arpeggio

For example, turning it into a triplet works well for getting a Bebop sound:

but then try to see if you can use the one from the 3rd (play Fmaj7) and maybe play it as a triplet:

You could also see if the arpeggio from the 5th is an option, in this case, you have an Am7and then try to see if you can use that in a line:

The way you use this to add to your vocabulary is of course that if you can’t immediately use this in a line then you can sit down and work on composing a few examples and in that way start to get it into your playing and add to your vocabulary

But maybe you don’t feel like using arpeggios, then try using something else from the checklist:

Chromatic Melodies

Chromaticism is an important part of the Jazz sound, and there are many ways you can use this in your solos. Often a chromatic enclosure targeting a chord tone is a great idea:

Or some shorter enclosures and a few leading notes

The important thing is that if you feel stuck on a chord and you have this type of checklist it can help you come up with something to try, or prompt you to use this to create something new. This is not for stuff that you practice all variations of, it is for reminding you of things that you think sound great and that you want to use.

Let’s add another option that is a little less specific but really useful.

Bebop Tricks

This is hardly a very precise term, but for a list like this then the names don’t have to be theoretically correct, it is more important that it resonates with you, so if you think of Bebop tricks then that may be Parker inspired chromaticism *EXAMPLE

or it can be octave displacement.

It is about kick-starting your imagination after all.

Pentatonics

For a m7 chord then the pentatonic scale sounds like a pretty boring set of notes that you already have in the scale that you are using, but if you have some nice Pentatonic patterns then you can hear how it is a different sound that you can give to the things you play.

Maybe it will fit with what you are hearing, maybe it won’t, it could be that the Bebop inspiration is better here, but it is still useful to have on the list and it only takes a second to decide that it is not what you want.

What would you put on a list like this?

Since these concepts or tools that I am listing here are just general sounds that I use then maybe you have other ideas that you would like to add, leave a comment if you have a suggestion that I didn’t talk about since this can help spark a lot of useful ideas for others.

Outside

Another option that you can mess around with is to add some outside phrases in there, often a short side-slip or a super-imposed chord can be a great way to add some new sounds to this place in a song.

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The Two Reasons Triads Are Amazing For Jazz Solos

Usually, you connect Jazz with chords with a lot of extensions and alterations. But Triads are still an amazing resource that you can create beautiful lines with and something you definitely want to check out. In fact, you can use triads to add some things to your playing that are essential to Jazz and not just about what notes you play over a chord.

Of course, there are more than two things that are great about triads, but the two I talk about here are really useful for Jazz, but If you have other suggestions why triads are great and how you can use them then leave a comment.

Diatonic Triads – The Raw Material

Before you start using the triads then you should also have an overview of them and two things you can work on to have that overview would be to practice the diatonic triads in the scales:

and also check out the triads on string sets like this:

This is simple and basic stuff, you want to know diatonic triads and 7th chords for all scales that you need for soloing, and please start with major scales because you need that the most.

Triads Can Help Your Rhythm

First I want to show you how you can use triads to create more interesting rhythms in your lines. One problem that many students run into, and I know I did, is that when they figure out how to play changes, then everything starts to sound heavy and obvious when it should be light and swinging.

So you don’t want to sound like this

What is missing here is that the rhythm and the melodies are predictable and all move to and from the heavy beats

And instead, you want the accents to be on off-beats more syncopation and more surprising and a lot lighter. Since triads are 3 notes they are really good for having melodies that shift accents and make the solo dance more. Something like this:

So I am playing triads to create a pattern of 3 notes that shifts on top of the 4-4 meter and in that way sound a lot better.

And you can explore this in many ways, you can also add chromatic passing notes and not only use triads but still get a great effect:

Finding Triads

To come up with lines like this then it is useful to find the triads that sound great over a chord. Then you have some options to create the licks that sound great.

I am going to give you an easy way to explore that, before covering the other great triad trick you that is super useful for so many other things as well. There is a very easy way to do that by writing the scale out in 3rds.

So for Dm7, this is coming from the C major scale, which you can write in 3rds like this:

C E G B D F A C E G

The Dm7 chord is here: D F A C, and the triads we can use would be

Dm, F, Am, and C which you can see still contain some basic chord tones and also adds some beautiful extensions.

The G7 that you heard in the examples was coming from the C harmonic minor scale, so in fact, you are borrowing the dominant from minor to get some interesting notes, and also some really great sounding triad options:

So here you have the C harmonic minor scale written out in 3rds.

C Eb G B D F Ab C Eb G

The G7 is here! and then you have the triads G Bdim and Ddim, but Eb augmented works as well and you can make some really interesting melodies with them.

Writing out stuff like this is incredibly useful for your overview of the scales and will give you a ton of options to use in your solos.

Change The Chords!

The other thing that triads do really well is that you can get your melodies to make sense by playing the triads of a super-imposed progression and in that way create a sort of counterpoint to the original chord progression. Because you are playing something that works but also moves differently.

This is pretty easy, you can do this on a single chord like this:

Here I am playing a short walk up Cmaj7 Dm7 Em7 just using the basic triads and since Em sounds great on C major then the Dm triad just becomes a diatonic passing chord used in the melody that resolves back into the sound of the Cmaj7. But it really adds some movement instead of just playing up and down a Cmaj7 arpeggio.

More Chord Progressions

The same type of concept used on a II V I could give you something like this:

Here I am using triads from both C major and C harmonic minor, first walking up Dm and Em and then Fm and G from harmonic minor adding a Ddim before resolving. In this way, you have a line that shifts on top of the meter with 3-note groupings and also adds a different kind of movement in the chords.

Notice how using stepwise movement is a pretty easy and strong way to create these progressions.

This is a variation of the same idea, but now moving down from F to Dm and then using a D dim triad to get the G7(b9) sound.

If you really want to open up this type of thinking then you want to also add the triads in the altered scale, that gives you something like this:

Here the chord progression is F and Am on the Dm7 and then Abm and Db on the G7alt . You can hear how this also might work as chords:

And you sort of can turn the G7alt into a tritone II V using Abm7 Db7.

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Triplets Can Make Your Jazz Solo Sound Amazing

You are always working on playing better solos, making your lines more interesting and finding the right arpeggios or scales. But Jazz is also about rhythm, and it is actually more important to work on playing more interesting rhythms in your solos. Using triplets is a great way to improve your vocabulary and not sounding like an 8th note robot with no dynamics or expression.

In this video, I am going to show you 4 ways that you can easily add 8th note triplets to your jazz lines and make them sound a lot more interesting.

Chromatic Triplets

Let’s get to it. The first place to use triplets is pretty easy to play because you can put it on one string most of the time. When you check out these examples you will also hear that these are really a core part of the Bebop Language

Chromatic enclosures add tension or dissonance that is then resolved quickly, and the combination of this with 8th note triplets is a very nice way to add some energy and momentum to a line. Here I am first using it on the Dm7 with one triplet and two 8th notes to target the F on beat 3. You can find this with Joe Pass and Charlie Parker (Pictures?)

A shorter variation is used on the Cmaj7.

This double triplet chromatic melody is one you will find often with Charlie Parker in his solos on Anthropology or Now’s the time. (Pictures?)

To practice phrases like this you could see the phrase as being a way to connect a minor 3rd with half steps, E to G.

You can then also make one for a major 3rd that starts with a whole step not a half step.

This way you can play the pattern through an Fmaj7 arpeggio like this:

The next thing to check out is how you can create some great sounding arpeggio lines with triplets

Bebop Arpeggios

Playing the Gm7 arpeggio as a triplet with a leading note is something you will find pretty much everywhere, and certainly, something that should be a part of your playing.

You could see the triplet as a way of giving emphasis to the top note, consider that a target note of the arpeggio.

Another way to use the triplets with arpeggios is what you will hear in this Wes Montgomery inspired line again the point is to target the first note after the triplet:

In this example, I also use Honeysuckle rose arpeggio played as a triplet on the Fmaj7.

The best way to practice the arpeggios like this and get them into your playing is to take them through the scale in an exercise like this:

Next I am going to show you a way to transform “normal” 8th note phrases to phrases with triplets

Triplet Transformations as 8th note variations

Here you could play this as “normal” 8th notes like this:

But you can easily hear how the first version is more exciting, and really this is just about mapping 4 8th notes on to a the rhythm with triplets

ILLUSTRATION

Another variation of this principle could be this:

Here the rhythm is this (ILLUSTRATION) and you could make other variations yourself.

Let’s look at how to use triplets for polyrhythms

Groupings and Polyrhythm

Usually, we feel triplets as groups of 3 notes like this:

EXPLAINER OVERLAY

But triplets can also be seen as the bar split into 12 notes and you can group them into 3 groups of 4 notes which sounds like this:

And this shifts on top of the quarter note pulse in a very nice way that you can also use in a solo like this:

Here you have 4-note groupings on the G7alt

Another way to use this on an entire II V I, but then playing a slightly less obvious rhythm would be this:

Here I am using a rhythm which is 3 notes and the last is a quarter note triplet.

Practicing Playing These Rhythms

When it comes to these triplet rhythms both the transformations and the polyrhythms then it can be really useful to work on playing these by working on soloing on Afro Cuban 12/8 grooves which are based on the triplets and will help you get comfortable playing them.

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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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The Most Effective Way To Improve Your Jazz Solos

A title like this is of course extreme, but I do really think that this way of working and improving your jazz solo is both underused and misunderstood, and that is a pity because it is very effective and in fact, it is also a part of The Jazz education tradition.

If you can practice in a way that makes you learn faster and sound better then what do you have to lose?

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Content: 

00:00 Intro

00:22 How To Really Learn A Lick

02:31 Composing Is About The Process!

04:32 Cornerstone of Barry Harris’ method

06:16 Hearing Strong Melodies

07:24 Analyze Licks with Your Ears

08:44 This Is Why You Should Study Bebop

09:03 Like the video? Check out my Patreon page!

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