Tag Archives: jazz solo lesson

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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What Really Makes Your Jazz Solo Sound A Lot Better

Sometimes everything you play sounds the same and it is uninspired and predictable. There are only so many arpeggios and scales, so chasing after that is not the answer. Instead, you want to become better at making the lines interesting. You want to use stronger melodies and develop your melodic skills.

In this video, I am going to show you a few different ways to look at your solo lines and give you an easy way to add some new melodic ideas to your playing. I am not happy to admit it, but these strategies took me years to figure out but you can just check out this video.

The Jazz Turnaround

I am going to use a basic Jazz turnaround in C major, Cmaj7 – A7(b9) – Dm7 – G7(b9), It is not that important what the progression is, but here you can easily hear how powerful this is and how it will improve your playing.

The first melodic approach is to add a lot of forward motion to the lines and then later I will show you some other very strong strategies to also start using.

The Strongest Type Of Connected Melody

This example is, what I would consider, a basic strong Jazz line with a natural flow, I’ll show you an example with a more interesting rhythm in a bit. The concept here is that you create lines that are moving to the target note on the next chord which really makes the chords clear and makes the melody flow in a natural way.

In this example, the C and D on Cmaj7 are taking us to the C# on the A7. In a similar way, the G G# A has a strong pull towards the final A, the 5th of Dm7. In this type of progression, you can really see the melodies as 4-note patterns ending on beat 1 or beat 3 (highlight)

Like this, the lines are a bit dense and fill up the bar, but if you open up the rhythm with the same strategy then it still works:

Now you have a more syncopated and interesting rhythm, but the target notes are still “contact-points” with the harmony. (highlight target notes in the example)

In this example, The C# on A7 is now anticipated and placed on 2& instead of 3, and the melodies in the 2nd bar are leaving more space and use more offbeats.

This is of course, great but not enough on its own. Let’s have a look at lines that use what is probably the strongest and most used approach to creating longer melodic phrases that really tell stories

Melodic Voice-leading

The technique I am talking about is, of course, motivic development. The foundation of a lot of storytelling in music. This is the reason that when you hear this the Imperial March in a Star Wars movie, then you already know who is coming down the ramp. He has a motif that is repeated and used whenever he appears. And this is something you want to use in your solos to tie the whole thing together.

A very clear example of motifs, without suggesting that Barney Kessel is like Darth Vader would be this part of his solo on Satin Doll.

First the large motif that is repeated and then the shorter motif that is repeated and then developed to end the phrase.

The way Kessel moves the motifs is by following the harmony and voice-leading the melody, just making slight variations to the rhythm.

Making you own motivic licks

Working on doing this through changes is a very useful exercise. For the Turnaround that could give you something like this:

Here the melodies are voice-leading very closely until the G7. That is a little freer to not be too predictable and also round off the phrase in a more natural way.

Whenever you work on stuff like this then try to make it into music.

A similar way to do this but then being a bit freer with the melodic direction could be something like this:

The concept here is to move down Coltrane Patterns through the progression, C major, Bbm, Am, Abm and there is a clear connection between each group because it is moving down similar melodies in a stepwise manner.

Of course, you can do the same thing with a simple two-note motif and in that way have room to make the rhythm more interesting. Moving motifs with rhythm are perhaps the technique that is the most powerful in Jazz solos. Just listen to Keith Jarrett or John Scofield.

There are other variations of motivic development that also are great ways to tie things together, let’s check one more out.

Sticky Notes

A pedal point is a static note that remains part of the melody or harmony through the progression. In the previous example, I was using a G since that is a note that works well through this progression which is in C major. The G is placed at the beginning of each phrase with a little bit of variation in the rhythm.

Again it pays off to explore melodies like this but with more accent on the rhythm. Something like this:

Some Great Tricks Using Direction Of Melody

This was something that took me a long time to figure out, and I don’t think I ever heard anybody talk about it in a lesson: You don’t want to have lines that always move in the same direction it becomes predictable and that makes the whole thing boring. So let’s take a look at a few ways to change that up. This example is moving to the target notes, but it is always changing direction on the heavy beats and that makes it a little too heavy, especially if you do this all the time.

All The Way Up!

It can be really cool and also create some tension and excitement to play a line that moves in the same direction throughout the progression like this:

And especially with the ascending lines, you get the effect of “melodic tension” which is a really cool way to change things up. But you can get the same effect moving down as well:

All The Way Down!

But the real trick is of course to change direction more often and have more surprising skips in your lines. You can do this with cascading lines with a more energetic rhythm like this:

Impressive Arpeggios

Melodic Triads

But a lot of it is also about adding some larger intervals into the lines and there are two ways that are easy to do that and still have melodic lines. The first one is to use some sort of pattern with arpeggios and let the arpeggio pull it all together:

And here as well you can open up the rhythm to add some nice syncopation to the mix:

The Bebop Way

Another fantastic way to get some larger intervals into your lines is this Bebop trick that they actually sort of stole from Bach: Octave displacement. This gives you lines like this:

Here you have octave displacement on the Em7 arpeggio over Cmaj7 and with the Fmaj7 arpeggio that I am playing over the Dm7 chord.

If you removed the octave displacement or reverse engineered the line then you could get something like this:

This sounds fine, but the movement in the previous example is more surprising and exciting.

If you want to explore more examples of what you can do with octave displacement then check out this lesson:

Bebop Magic – One Of The Best And Most Difficult Things About Jazz

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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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A Simple Jazz Solo Skill You Want To Master

There is a skill that you can develop in your playing that will really help you play jazz solos, and this is not even that difficult to get started with all you need is a few arpeggios and a simple progression. This video will also show you how to practice more efficiently and not drown your practice sessions in just doing exercises.

An Easy Exercise on a Blues In F

One of the first exercises you should do if you want to get started playing Jazz is to outline a chord progression with one-octave arpeggios. Here is an easy version of that, and you can maybe even try to play along right away. After that, I will show you how to make that into a really strong solo developing rhythms, phrasing, and forward-motion, and I will also explain why I think this one of the most important things about being efficient with what you practice.

F Jazz Blues with arps

If this is still a bit tricky to play you can take the video back and try again or practice it later and return to really nail it, just because sometimes that really feels good.

Notice that you just need 5 one-octave arpeggios for this jazz blues and 4 of them are dominant arpeggios (show diagrams on screen)

F7:

Bb7:

D7:

Gm7:

C7:

Some Easy Music on a Blues In F

With this exercise, you can already start to make some music, and you want to, because that is why you practiced the arpeggios in the first place and it is not so difficult. I’ll play the example and then talk about how you go about playing like that.

F Jazz Blues

When you improvise like this then you are limited to four notes, and that can maybe seem difficult because you want to play bebop lines like

But with just the arpeggio you can start working on some things that are just as important as playing many notes: Phrasing and Rhythm and that is a much bigger part of Jazz in the end than long 8th note lines. Especially working on adding some interesting rhythms to your playing.

If you want some inspiration for this type of playing on guitar then Charlie Christian is worthwhile checking out.

What You Can Learn From Charlie Christian

When I was starting out playing Jazz then I was lucky in one way because one of the first things I had was a compilation album of Charlie Christian, I also had some Scofield and some Charlie Parker which I also loved, but at the time I could only figure out how to learn the Charlie Christian solos. Scofield was too weird and Parker was too fast and difficult to learn by ear. Charlie Christian’s style of playing is a lot less dense and with a lot of clear examples of great swinging rhythms which you want to learn. That is one HUGE reason to check out Charlie Christian and learn some stuff. Remember that Jim Hall heard one Charlie Christian Solo and from that decided to dedicate his life to playing Jazz music.

Check out another lesson on Charlie Christian: Charlie Christian Solo Analysis

Notice that I immediately start making music with the arpeggios that I am practicing, that is very important for everything you work on, I’ll return to that a little later.

Next, Let’s try adding some different types of phrasing, so you have some more sounds available and can change that up as well.

Some Easy Phrasing on a Jazz Blues In F

As you can tell this is really simple, you can add a lot more blues feeling and dynamics just by using some slides (example) and some (hammer-on/pull-off) and when you do that then you are really focusing on the music and how it sounds, it is not about technique or being flashy, you are trying to get it to sound great.

Another thing that is really a part of Jazz which you can also work on with this is to make the changes clear with strong natural flowing melodies, so that is something I’ll show you how to develop later as well.

Should You Practice All The Arpeggios?

What you can see here is that I am really working on getting as much music as possible out of these few arpeggios, and I think that is something to keep in mind, I at least need to remind myself very often, that you don’t always want to spend time first learning all inversions in all keys and all positions, on all string sets in all tempos, subdivisions and all tunings — phew

Maybe it is actually more efficient for your playing if you take a single position work on some simple and easy arpeggios and really get that to the place where you can make music with it. That is much more useful than getting lost in a sea of technical exercises because you actually get to make music with it and you can check out the next position some other day.

Nailing The Changes on a Blues In F

Now that you can play some interesting rhythms and add some phrasing to those lines, then it makes sense to also start to make the melodies longer so that you don’t end up just playing short isolated melodies for each chord which is hard to get to sound like a great solo.

There are a few ways you can do that and the first one you might have heard me talk about before is: Thinking ahead and playing towards target notes. When you do that with simple material like this then you are really working on digging into the harmony and figuring out how it moves and how you can improvise with that movement and connect a longer melody across chords.

The concept is simple: For each chord, you pick a target note and then you practice making melodies with your 4-note arpeggios that lead to the target note on the next chord. An example could sound something like this:

I took this part of the form because it has the most movement so that you can easily hear and understand what is going on.

An easy target note is often the 3rd of the chord simply because that is the most colorful note. This is also why you think about chords in two groups: major or minor depending on the 3rd.

As you can hear and see in the example, the solo really connects with the harmony moving from D7, Gm7 to C7 and because I am thinking ahead and playing towards a note then the melody has a natural flow and sounds much stronger.

With this technique you don’t only want to practice connecting everything and end up with one long line weaving through the entire form, there are other ways to play solid melodies, and one of them is really tied to Blues as a genre.

Blues Melodies But They Work in Jazz

Sometimes it seems that the advice nobody is giving is that you have to learn how to listen to yourself, and I don’t mean that you have to learn to listen to recordings of yourself, even though that is important too. I am talking about playing a phrase and then listening to how it sounded and using this to play the next phrase. When you are playing a solo then working like this is like having a conversation with yourself, and we usually refer to this way of making melodies as call-response.

This is an incredibly effective way to tie together phrases and pretty simple to do and is mostly about giving yourself time to listen and respond. An example of how that might sound could be this:

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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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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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A Great New Sound In Your Jazz Solo

Arpeggios and scales are often reduced to the notes they contain against a chord, but by doing that you throw away other information that is more important for the sound of your jazz solo, and this is something you want to be aware of and not miss.

It is a way to get so much more out of scales and even pentatonic scales that you already know because you can use them in a different way.

What is the difference?

If you listen to how quartal arpeggios sound on a II V I: 

Compared to a more traditional bop line:

Of course, you can mix the two as well, but I think this makes the difference quite clear.

There are a few ways to approach this, and I am going to go over both diatonic and pentatonic options using the II V I in G major: Am7 D7alt Gmaj7

The Scale and a Diatonic Arpeggio exercise

For the Am7 and Gmaj7, you can use the G major scale, and it is fairly easy to play a G major scale in diatonic quartal arpeggios:

The construction of a diatonic quartal arpeggio is really simple:

G A B C D E F# G A B C D

if you want to find the quartal arpeggio on B you just stack 4th intervals: B E A:

 

or for C: C F# B, but notice here that you get an augmented 4th between C and F#:

Using this on the Am7 chord

It is easy to make some lines using these arpeggios on Am7, especially if you avoid using the ones with the F# in there (for now anyway)

That gives us these:

Example using Quartal Arpeggios on Am7

Here I am using two quartal arpeggios on Am7, the one from B and the one from A. I actually continue with quartals on the D7 altered, but I am going to cover those a little later.  First, let’s try to come at this from a pentatonic scale instead of a major scale.

Am pentatonic scale and an important exercise

You all know the Am pentatonic scale:

And if you play this exercise in that scale:

A lot of these are quartal arpeggios (high light and explain) also the C and Am triads

Example using the Pentatonic scale

You can use this as a way to get to this sound in a lick like this

Quartal Arpeggios on an Altered Dominant

Now let’s look at how you can also use quartal harmony on an altered dominant:

Here I am using quartal harmony on all 3 chords and it is constructed so that I am moving two quartal arpeggios on each chord as a motif.

You can practice the quartal arpeggios in the Eb melodic minor

See this in use on a song:

Lady Bird – Arpeggios & Pentatonic Scales

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How To Make It Sound Like Jazz – Great Embellishments

In this lesson, I am going to show you some techniques and ways to play simple phrases that make them sound more like Jazz. There are some very common phrasing techniques in Jazz Guitar that are a huge part of the sound, and you can quite easily start adding them to your playing if you want to work on your Jazz phrasing.

I am going to go over how you might play them and also give you some good examples of how they can be added to a line.

In the lesson, I will show you how to get better sounding lines by adding them to a basic Cmaj7 arpeggio, and while I was preparing this video I was actually quite surprised about how they really give you a lot of sounds, especially some of the longer embellishments at the end of the video.

Slides (and the triplet trick)

The basic Cmaj7 arpeggio can be played as is shown below.

I am also going to play it with a leading note and then making it a triplet which is also a very bebop thing to do, which is shown in the following bar.

Adding a Slide to the top-note

One of the easiest ways to get this slightly boring arpeggio to have a little more life is to use slides, so you can slide into the top note, which serves as a sort of target for the arpeggio when you use the triplet.

Notice how I play the notes at the end of the phrases short most of the time, that is also a way to connect with the groove and make the lick sound better.

This is a big part of Wes Montgomery’s phrasing vocabulary like this from his solo on Unit 7. which is a Gm(11) arpeggio over a C7 chord

Delaying the target note

Chromatic passing notes are great for getting things to sound like Jazz, and this is a quite simple way to make that work on the Cmaj7 arpeggio. As I said before, the “target note” of the arpeggio is the B, and delaying this works really well:

Sometimes you will get told that chromatic leading notes have to be on the offbeat and resolve back on the beat. As you can hear in this example that is not true, but don’t take my word for it, ask Charlie Parker:

Above you can see how Parker uses a leading note on the beat. In bar 2, beat 4 and in bar 6, beat 3 and 4.

Turns

The names for embellishments like this are a little open, so sometimes what I am calling turns here are also called trills and slurs. It’s like chord symbols, just try to figure out what is meant and don’t worry about it.

For this video, a turn is more or less a short faster phrase with notes close to a target note. The examples will make it easier to understand what I mean.

There are a few ways you can add turns to this arpeggio.

Turn #1 – 16th note pull-off

The first variation is shown here below:

The easiest way to work on this is probably to play the scale with the turn on one string like this:

Turn #2 – 16th triplet – Mid Phrase

The 16th note triplet is also a good way to get into this. It should be executed with a quick hammer-on/pull-off and is a very common and very effective way to break things up.

Turn #3 – 16th triplet – Begin Phrase

Another way you can use this embellishment is at the beginning of a phrase.

That is what I am doing in the example below, think of it as a way of sending off the arpeggio. The line continues with a slide to the high B.

Joe Pass using “Double Turns”

To give you an example of how this is used by jazz artists, here is a lick from Joe Pass on a II V I in D major.

Pass uses the turns in the 2nd half of the A7 bar, and the last turn is used to introduce a b13 and create a little tension before resolving to Dmaj7.

Take It To a Song and Into Your Playing!

Take The A Train – Bebop Embellishments

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The Most Important Solo Tools For A Maj7 Chord

Sometimes it is hard to come up with something that inspires you when you are improvising a jazz solo. There are a lot of things you can use if you want to improvise over a maj7 chord, and in this video, I am going to give you some of my favourites terms of arpeggios, triads, pentatonics and a few special tricks as well.

You should have a lot of things to start working with at the end of this video, and most of it is really just a new way to use the things you already know.

Focus on how it sounds because I think that is how you are going to be inspired by it, and I will also give you some other tips on getting new ideas that are not only about what notes to play.

Cmaj7 – You can always get more out of this!

The basic material in this video is this chord, the C major scale.

And the one Cmaj7 octave arpeggio

Chromaticism – Pure Bebop

A great way to tap into Jazz as a sound and getting this type of melodies into your playing is to use chromaticism.

The example below has two short lines using different chromatic enclosures and a melody build around a Cmaj7 chord. You can check out more information on different types of chromatic enclosures here: 5 chromatic enclosures

There are more examples in this lesson: 10 Great Chromatic Ideas in Jazz Licks (Easy to Weird)

Be creative! Don’t just run up and down arpeggios

Very often when I listen to a great line and check out what it is and how to use it. Often I find that the melody is actually a basic arpeggio melody. Below are some examples of lines like this that I have come across.

You can use a variation of the Rosenwinkel melody like this:

You can also experiment with inventing melodies playing patterns with a one octave arpeggio. Try to mess around and see if you find something that sounds like an interesting melody.

Em7 – Don’t Box yourself in, you are missing out

The Em7 arpeggio is the diatonic arpeggio from the 3rd of Cmaj7.

If you look at the notes of Cmaj7: C E G B – and look at the notes of Em7: E G B D you can see that they share most of the notes and the Em7 adds a D, the 9th of C. That makes it a great arpeggio to use on a Cmaj7.

In fact the arpeggio found on the 3rd of the chord works great for most chords.

Sometimes you miss great melodies because the focus is on learning in a position, in a scale or in some other shape. This example using an Em7 arpeggio is branching out of the regular patterns and making specific melodies a lot easier to play.

Gsus4 – Not Obivous and Very Cool

The thing with the sus triads is that they sound a little less obvious and that is why they are great to use once in a while. In this first example I am using the Gsus4 triad to make a 5-note group that I can repeat before continuing, another way to change things up in a solo: odd-note groupings.

Another way to play the notes of the Gsus4 triad is this beautiful C quintal arpeggio that is the perfect way to add some larger intervals to your lines. In this case, I am combining it with a sus4 triad which is another great tool on a Cmaj7.

The Esus4 triad is really useful (leave this clip out?)

Esus4 – Complete Chord And some Color!

The Esus4 is really the complete chord, it has an E and a B so the 3rd and 7th of Cmaj7 and also the 13th: A adding some color. Here I am using it as a 3-note grouping and again taking advantage of sus4 triads being less obvious so that it is easier to repeat them in a melody without it getting boring.

Em pentatonic – Quartal Cmaj7 licks

The Pentatonic scale is very closely related to the sound of quartal harmony, and since it is a scale that we guitarists are usually very familiar with then it is a great place to find some interesting lines.

Practicing the pentatonic scale in the way shown below can help you explore melodies similar to what I use in the example.

Triad Pairs

This triad pair works fantastic for Cmaj7, besides that they are also what I used to make the most annoying picking exercise I ever cam up with…. (B-roll) and the way I usually improvise with triad pairs is by chaining together inversions to get different colors on top of the chords. This has a sound that is different from other types of melodies and still produces very strong melodies.

Putting these concepts in a song

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How To Make Jazz Licks From Easy Chord Shapes

When you use the chord shapes you play to make solo lines you can access a lot of very useful material. The Link also helps your solos in other ways because it makes it easier to use the chords to tie together several phrases.

In this lesson, I am going to go over this approach with some easy chord shapes and show you how you can apply this to a song and also how you can put it to use on complicated progressions like Giant Steps.

Setting up this Jazz Solo Lesson

To show you how easy this is I am going to take the first 8 bars of Take The A-train, make some easy voicings and use them to make some lines. (here we go)

Finding Voicings for a Solo

A simple way to play the chords of Take The A-train with basic jazz chords could be:

To make them more useful for solos then it makes sense to take away the root and turn them into more compact 3-note voicings:

Examples making lines on a Cmaj7

Now you have some chord voicings and you can start working on turning them into solo lines. The concept is really simple, the melody is using the notes of the chord and adding notes around it from the scale.

These two examples are just basic ways to turn the rootless Cmaj7 voicing into a line by using the voicing and some of the notes around the voicing.

Another example could be this one:

Notice how the lines are different from what you normally will end up with if you use scales and arpeggios.

Playing a Solo based on the Chords

Turning this into a complete solo is really just following the same principle

First, let’s have a look at how the lick is constructed and then I can show you how that works in connecting the lines.

Voice-leading Jazz Licks

The big advantage is that now you have a melody based around the 3-note chord and for the next chord you can use the same lick and just move it to that voicing. In that way you are voice-leading the entire thing. This is exactly what I do in example 3 on the Cmaj7-D7 chords.

Voicings as more interesting melodies

If you use this technique on a II V I with common voicings like the ones shown below, then you can get some really great fresh sounding melodies.

The melody is really just arpeggiating the Dm7 shape, but because the voicing has the 9th(E) in there then we get a nice maj7 interval in the melody.

If you think about this then it is as much a question of learning songs to improvise on and then use the chords as a way of getting some solo material as well

A Practical approach to turnarounds

A basic way to play a turnaround in C could be using the chords shown below.

This is easily turned into a lick, just playing the chord shapes and adding an occasional extra note here and there:

A Solid Strategy for Giant Steps

This is also a refreshing way to approach Giant Steps where you can get some new melodies using shapes that you already have in your fingers.

Using these shapes to play a lick could give you something like this:

With Giant Steps I think it really works well to also add melodies that are not only 8th notes, something that we play too often on changes like that.

Learning Songs to Solo on

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