Tag Archives: melodic jazz guitar solo

The 5 Mistakes You Make Soloing Over Static Chords

Are you just playing notes or are you playing a solo and making music?

Often when solos are on one chord then it becomes painfully clear when a guitarist doesn’t know how to make that sound like music, but let me show you some ways to fix that.

Mistake #1 – Not Listening To The Most Important Guitarist

Let’s start with the worst mistake! Those solos where it is just a bunch of notes strung together, and even if the notes aren’t wrong then this still doesn’t make any sense. It sounds like nervously talking all the time but not saying anything.  (B-roll nervous talking, George or Woody Allen)

One thing you do want to notice in this video is that none of these fixes are about what scales/arpeggios or techniques you use, it is what you do with them, and you can do this equally well with a pentatonic scales or a  Messiaen mode.

The solution is a maybe bit surprising: But there is one guitarist that you have to listen to if you want to solve this problem, that is the only way to fix this! Let me show you.

You want to avoid playing solos that are just unrelated streams of notes, stuff that has no story, and where it is almost random licks after each other.

The goal is to make it into a piece of music, in fact, to tell a story with your solo.

You can compare this to actually telling a story: If your story is an endless stream of words with no breaks and no sentences the the first thing you want to do is to start speaking in sentences. We are not computers, It is easier to process information in chunks.

The way you start doing that is to introduce breaks between your phrases so they have room to breathe. This means that when you play something you need to stop and listen to what you just played. And as you might have realized that the guitarist you have to listen to, is yourself because that is the only way you can make your solo into a story. In the beginning, you can start by playing very short phrases, just to get used to it, so don’t be afraid to play 3 or 4-note phrases like these:

Some of the important skills later in this video are easier to develop if you play short phrases, so that is only going to be helpful.

Once you start to think in phrases and listen to what you are playing, then you can also start to make decisions about what you want to play next, and that is the only way you will be able to connect the phrases and develop your solo, like a story instead of just rambling random licks one after the other.

Mistake #2 – Who Is The Main Character In Your Solo?

If we stick to the idea of a solo being a story, then it can be very useful to have phrases that tie the entire solo together. Imagine watching Harry Potter, but in this version, there is no main character, so we keep shifting from person to person,  First Harry Potter is the main character then it’s all about Snape, before it is about Filch, and then Dobby  In that Movie the underlying plot is gone, and it would probably wouldn’t be a great movie to watch. You want to try to also have phrases that are the main character and that develop in your solo. Maybe not for te whole solo but sections of it. Those phrases are the transforming main character just like Harry Potter goes from being a boy living under a staircase to becoming a wizard.


What I am describing here is motivic development, because you can stick to a motif as a main character for a bit and then create a longer story by developing that, but you do need to get a few things right with your motif.

Don’t just repeat a melody, that is the same as just looping a scene in the movie. It’s tricky to get to work.

It needs to develop , otherwise, it gets boring, so practice making variations of the phrase, take away notes, add notes, switch from long to short notes and so on

And again, notice, how I am not using any special scales or sounds, it is about the melodies you play, not about which scale you are using.

But you do want to be aware that you need to make it recognizable. If you vary it too much then the effect is completely gone and nobody will hear how the solo phrases fit together.

Some great examples of motifs and motivic development that you probably already know are Beethoven

Those are great to start hearing motivic development being used in a very clear way, but you also want to listen for it in Jazz, and luckily almost any Jazz soloist will do, but Wes Montgomery is amazing at using motivic development and repeating phrases in his solos, both on changes and on more static chords EXAMPLE? , but once you start listening then you can hear that it is everywhere!

The first step in learning this is really to start to recognize it in the music you listen to, so start by listening.

There is another very important part of motivic development that people leave out..

Mistake #3 – Is Rhythm Important?

The most under-used tool to make solos interesting is probably rhythm. Rhythm can be a creative element that you can use in many ways:

  1. Play in the groove or over it
  2. Create contrast between phrases using different subdivisions
  3. Rhythmic displacement is also one of the best ways to develop motifs,

Phrase in the groove

Phrase over the groove

Subdivision for Motivic Development

Rhythmic Displacement is also a great way to develop motifs

in fact, for motivic development, it is one of the most powerful things to work with, and also something that you hear used in famous songs like fascinating rhythm:

An easy way to use this is to take a group of notes that don’t fit in the meter, so for 4/4 you can use 6,5 or 3 note groupings, and repeat them to create a motif that is shifting on top of the meter and in that way it becomes a more interesting phrase.

Mistake #4 – The Other Connection

There is another way to connect phrases than thinking of motivic development, and this is also a great way to get used to listening to yourself, I am, of course, talking about: Call-Response.

The concept here is to play a phrase and then think of what might be a good answer to that phrase.  My favorite example of this is the opening of Mozart’s  “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik”

But you can try this out rubato as well

When you work on this then try to have a contrast between the different phrases. Play a more legato slow-moving phrase and then answer it with a faster more distinct phrase, or change the register between high and low.

Mistake #5 – Is It Boring?

When you solo on a single chord you can’t rely on the harmony of a song or chord progression to give your solo a form, a beginning, and an end, which is a lot easier when you are soloing on a song form. What becomes especially difficult is often that after some time then the notes become bland and it all sounds the same.

One way to surprise the listener can then be to find ways to use the notes in the scale that are the most exciting. I am using a m7 chord groove in this video so here notes the 9th and especially the 13th are good:

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But you can also create tension by leaving the harmony or changing it to creates dissonance.  Going outside the harmony and then resolving that dissonance creates development in your solo. One fairly easy way to do that is to shift out of the harmony by moving a half step:

and here I am just changing chords from Am7 to Abm7 in the middle of the line, in fact I do that twice,  and that give me a section of the phrase that is very dissonant which then resolves back into the Am7 chord. This is often referred toas Side-slipping, because you are taking a step outside and then move back home. You can do a lot of things with other chords, I have a video on that for m7 chords that I’ll link to in the description. Another approach that you can use is to re-interpret the chord and move to a sound that in the context is more dissonant and therefore more interesting. Like using A diminished over the Am7, even if that doesn’t really fit the chord.

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You want to start developing these skills, and once you do then you will quickly start to hear the improvement, especially if you also spend some time listening to soloists and hear how they are using call-response, motivic development, but there are other great phrasing techniques that you want to develop especially if you are getting into Jazz, and in this video I cover how you can learn some great lessons from the playing of Wes Montgomery and George Benson that will make you sound a lot better, on static chords but also on more moving harmony.

Why They Sound Better Than You Every Time!

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5 Ingredients Of The Best Jazz Phrases

This Jazz Solo Lesson is for you if all the lines in your solos are just a sequence of “now I am playing an arpeggio” then “a bit of scale”. That is of course not that exciting to listen to. There is more to jazz lines and jazz melodies than just trying to put arpeggios and scales next to each other.

In this video, I am going to show you some of the ways that you can make more interesting melodies in your solos. It is all about surprising to the listener without just being weird and hard to understand.

In hindsight, this is a lesson I really wish I had when I was starting to learn Jazz and wanted to play better lines in my solos.

Content:

0:00 Intro – Less boring and predictable Lines in Your solos

0:57 #1 Breaking up Scale melodies – Adding a lower chord tone.

2:05 Example 2

2:52 #2 Breaking up Scale melodies – Chromaticism & Chord Tones

3:56 #3 Breaking up Scale Melodies – I can fit an entire arpeggio in here!

5:34 Example 2

6:10 #4 Benson’s Top-note melodies

7:37 Simpler Example

8:24 #5 Pedal Point Strategies

9:13 II V I Example

10:00 Like the video? Check out my Patreon Page!

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You Need To Practice Developing Phrases in Your Solos

If you listen to great jazz musicians, and it doesn’t matter if it is Joe Pass, Barney Kessel, Pat Metheny or Kurt Rosenwinkel. They play jazz phrases and connect them, making their solo one long piece of music not a bunch of licks.

So you should probably ask yourself if your solos are just you playing something on this chord and then something else on the next chord.

That is what makes it a solo and what makes it really great, and you really don’t want to sound like your solo is you throwing licks on a chord progression.

Let’s fix that!

The Song and the raw materials

The Song I am using is Strayhorn’s Satin Doll. Mainly because it has a lot of II V progressions which makes it easy to move things around on and you can use the same arpeggio shapes often while soloing.

I have made other very useful lessons on Satin Doll with chords and soloing that you should consider checking out:

Drop 2 Magic On Satin Doll – This Is How To Use Jazz Chords

Satin Doll – Easy Jazz Chords (and a little beyond)

Standard with Pentatonics – Satin Doll

Barney Kessel – How To Make A Bebop Solo Catchy

Arpeggios! (Just ask Mr Metheny)

The Material I am using in this lesson is almost exclusively arpeggios.

To practice the arpeggios in an easy way you can check out this exercise:

Developing phrases #1 – Reduction

The example below uses reduction in groups of two bars, so the main statement is the first bar of Dm7 G7, Em7 A7 and on Am7 D7. For each of those statements the following phrase is a reduced development, so a variation on the original phrase with fewer notes.

Developing phrases #2 – Change Direction

Another way to develop phrases is to by reversing the direction of a part of the phrase.

This is seen below between the first bar of Dm7 G7 and the inverted ending of the first bar of Em7 A7.

Another similar relationship is found between the Dm7 G7 bars (one is descending the other ascending) this is the other way around between the two bars of Em7 A7.

Developing phrases #3 – Displace the Rhythm

Example 3 is based around one motif that is then developed through out the example. The basic idea is using the 5th and 7th of the m7 chord to encircle the 3rd of the dominant.

I play the basic motif in the first bar and from there on is mover around and developed in the following bars.

Developing phrases #4 – Inverting a melody

The example below is using a zig-zag shape in the melodies. All the melodies are changing direction in each phrase. The first one is up-down, the mirror of this is very clear 2 bars later. I use the same type of development in the Am7 D7, Abm7 Db7 bars.

Motif exercises

You can develop your ability to work with motivic development by taking a simple motif through the changes. In many ways, Satin Doll is a great song to practice this on.

You can move a motif through the song like this:

Experiment with constructing arpeggio melodies

I have often found it extremely useful to work on just making variations of basic arpeggio melodies.

The exercise here below is a transcription of some melodies only using Dm7 and G7 arpeggio notes.

Getting more out of Arpeggios on a Jazz Standard

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3 Things You Need to Improve in Your Jazz Solos

The fact that you need to improve something in your playing is not the end of the world. In this jazz solo lesson, I am going to discuss how you are able to spot problems and realize that it needs work. Then you can start looking for a good strategy to fix issues and get you on the path to becoming a better Musician.

This Jazz Solo Lesson is a little philosophical and going over 3 very common problems that I come across with students and with my own playing. I also discuss some of the strategies that you can apply to help solve the problem.

Content:

0:00 Intro

0:12 Improving and learning is a part of playing Jazz

0:28 3 Common Problems and how you deal with them

0:52 #1 Overplaying

1:34 Good Taste?

2:15 A Solution (and Wes Montgomery)

2:58 Ideas for Exercises

3:28 #2 Timing – A problem with a few nuances

4:10 Authentic Re-enactment of bad timing

4:44 Ideas for Exercises and ways of working

5:40 #3 Playing The Changes

6:00 Identifying the problem

6:25 Ideas for exercises

7:24 Like The Video? Check Out My Patreon Page

Get your Timing and Practice sessions together

Rhythm is the most important part of Jazz, and a big part of having good rhythm is your ability to play in time and feel time. Check out some solid exercises in this playlist:

Metronome Practice – Tips and Tricks for Jazz Learning

If you want to check out more advice and ideas for your practice sessions and your journey to learn jazz guitar then check out this playlist:

Learn Jazz Guitar – Thoughts and Advice on how and what to practice

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The PDF with examples for this video is available through Patreon. You can check out my Patreon Page here: https://www.patreon.com/jenslarsen

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If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics then please let me know. Leave a comment on the video or send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make them fit what you are searching for.

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