Tag Archives: phrasing

Legato technique for speed and phrasing

Most good players will mix up different techniques and use a combination of all the things they know to play lines efficiently but also with the best possible phrasing. It is important to realize that different types of legato techniques such as hammer ons and pull offs and slides have an important role in not only how to technically execute a phrase but also how it is going to sound.

In this lesson I will go over 3 lines and discuss how I play them and why to demonstrate how I apply several different legato and picking techniques in my playing. I will then give you some suggestions for exercises that you can use to combine several techniques in one exercise.

The lines

All the examples in this lesson are in the key of F major. THe first 3 lines are II V I lines with an altered dominant. The rest are F major scale exercises.

There are two reasons why  I might use a technique, it can be a question of phrasing so that the technique makes it easy to accent a specific note or it can be because it is helping me play the line.

It is very important to remember that both of these criteria are important. If you don’t choose the right technqiue you might not be able to play the line, and if you don’t think about how your technique makes the line sound you might ruin the line in that way. Both are very important considerations.

You can sum up bop phrasing in pretty much one sentence:

As I was taught by my teacher Peter Nieuwerf:  “In a bebop line notes that are higher than the following notes and not on the beat can have an accent”

Of course it is not completely black and white, but it is for the most part true.

In the first bar of example 1 the line is based on an Bbmaj7 arpeggio. The first hammer on is there to buy the right hand time to change strings. The pull off on the and of 3 is there for that reason too, but also because it makes the picked note (A) louder than the pull note (G). This gives the A a natural accent.

The Altered dominant line is also using two slides. The first slide on the and of 1 is there mostly for technical reasons while the 2nd from 4 and to the 1 of bar 3 is there to accent the 4 and over the 1. It is quite common to not accent the resolution.

Legato technique for speed and phrasing - ex 1

The 2nd example is using a cascading melodic idea, so it contains 4 descending parts which are all descending patterns. In this excample I am using small sweeps or economy picking where my accented notes are down strokes and the rest are played with up strokes or legato. This means that for the right hand each part of the line is started with a down stroke and then continues with up stroke sweeps of two or three strings. The most difficult thing with these is probably keeping it in the groove timing wise. Notice how this line does not actually fit in the bebop phrasing rule I talked about above, since most of the accented notes are on the beat.

Legato technique for speed and phrasing - ex 2

In the 3rd example it is really clear how you can combine slides and hammer on pull offs so that you can play a lot of notes with very little use of the right hand. This is really clear in the opening of bar 1 where the first two notes are picked but the following three are played with first a slide and then a hammer on followed by a pull off. This type of phrasing makes the lines more fluid and horn like in my opinion.

The rest of the 1st bar is pretty much just alternate picking. At the end of the 1st bar I slide from C to Db which serves to make it easy to play and also helps shift the position up one fret to play the C altered scale. The rest of the altered line uses a single pull of to accent the Bb in a similar way to example 1.

Legato technique for speed and phrasing - ex 3

As you can see in the examples I am not strict about down strokes on the beat or always starting on a down strokes. It is also quite clear that I mix a lot of techniques while playing lines.

Making good technique exercises

The technique that I base my playing on is for the biggest part alterenate picking, so the first thing that I try to combine any technique with is alternate picking. The first thing you work on is probably the standard way of playing a scale or similar with that technique, so if you are working on legato then work through a scale position with hammer ons and pull offs.

The next thing you could try is to use it combined with alternate picking. This can help you keep it in time and also help you already at this point starting to make it fit in your playing in terms of dynamics (mostly if it is hard enough compared to your alternate picking).

One way to do this is shown in example 4 where I play a 3 note per string F major scale and on each string I hammer on between the first two notes and then pick the 3rd. 3 note per string scales are useful for this because they are easy to go through with a system.

Legato technique for speed and phrasing - ex 4

You can of course play this way descending as well using first a pull of and then picking notes.

The reverse option is to pick two notes and then use a hammer on. This model is easier for your right hand since it has extra time to change strings.

Legato technique for speed and phrasing - ex 5

These two ways of playing a scale are useful because they both have a certain sound or flow and they can later become useful solutions because you need to start the next part of the phrase on another string with a certain type of up or down stroke for example.

The same two exercises can be done with slides instead of hammer on/pull offs. Since you are in fact changing positions when doing the slides this is a great exercise to open up how you play the scale and help you keep the overview when practicing.

Legato technique for speed and phrasing - ex 6

The sweeps or economy picking that I use are also useful to incorporate in exercises which mix it with  alternate picking. In example 7 I have written out the same scale position using this technique.

Legato technique for speed and phrasing - ex 7

With all of the exercises that I presented here I’d suggest that you don’t spend hours everyday working on this but more that you take one position and make sure that you can play it in a not too fast tempo with good time and that it sounds fairly equal in volume.

You should also take each of these technques and then just try to play lines over a slow turnaround or II V I focusing on using each technique to explore the way it can work melodically in your lines.

I hope you can use the ideas I went over here to work on your own technique and that you have a new perspective on the usefulness of the technques in phrasing and the advantages of mixing it up when playing.

If you want to study the examples away from the video or article you can download a pdf here:

Legato technique for speed and phrasing

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics or how I can make the lessons better then please feel free to leave on the video or  send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make thme fit what you want to hear.

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Making Jazz lines sound bluesy

For most people diving into jazz improvisation the focus is first on harmony and note choices, and much less on how you phrase the melodies you make. Since blues is a part of the roots of jazz and is used very frequently by jazz players it is a good place to start to add some variation in phrasing.

In this lesson I am going to go over how you can use some techniques and melodic ideas to give basic jazz lines a more bluesy flavour.


Jazz Guitars and phrasing

Since I am approaching this from a jazz point of view I chose to use techniques and concepts that are easy to execute with heavier strings, since that is standard on most jazz guitars. That means that I am not concerning myself with vibrato or bending, but trying to go over the sort blues of phrasing you’d come across in a George Benson or Kenny Burrell solo.

The approach I will go over here is a good way to further what I already covered in many of the lessons on improvising with arpeggios like this one:  How to start soloing over a II V I with arpeggios. This approach should help you get another sound out of the same lines by applying fairly basic phrasing ideas.

The progression I am using for this lesson is this II V I in C major:

Making Jazz lines sound bluesy ex 1

Since I really wanted to demonstrate how powerful phrasing is as a tool I chose to make lines only using arpeggios. The arpeggios I am using on the progression are found in example 2:

Making Jazz lines sound bluesy ex 2

Notice that I decided to keep the arpeggios in the same position and in the same range, even though that means that the G7 does not have a low root. This is mostly because it is important to have all the material covering the same range and to keep the arpeggios compact and not too many notes.

Phrasing techniques

The three techniques I am going to cover in this lesson are all shown in example 3, one bar for each one.

The first idea is to create a dynamic difference with legato. Most of the time when we work onn legato we try to make the notes equal in volume, but since they naturally have a difference in volume you can also use that aspect to add dynamic contrasts within an improvised line. This is utilized in blues phrasing in this lesson but is a fairly standard part of jazz guitar phrasing in general.

The second idea is to slide up to a note. The sliding sound is probably a sort if substitute or emulation of bending (which is an emulation of bottleneck playing). In this case it is not important (or even really audible) where you slide from but just that the slide is easy to hear.

I often get remarks from students who think of the slides as chromatic leading notes. I don’t really consider them as such mostly because they are played as grace notes and you can’t really hear what pitch they are. This is shown in the second bar of example 3.

The third concept is more melodic than technical in nature since it is the use of repeated notes. Repeated notes are somewhat taboo in mainstream bop phrasing but since Blues is a style that often is centered around a smaller pool of notes it is much more common to repeat notes, and doing so in a jazz line can also be a wat to invoke a blues feeling. This is of course also depending on how you do it, One Note Samba does not sound like a blues…

Making Jazz lines sound bluesy ex 3

Examples of Bluesified arpeggio lines

The examples I made are all using arpeggios and are examples of how you can make a very “jazzy” approach in note choice sound more bluesy.

The first example is starting off with the root on the Dm7. Blues phrases are mostly not really up in the extensions and are a bit more living near the basic triad of the chord. Something which you will see in the different examples. From there the line is utilizing both pull offs and slides before it via the 7th(C) oof Dm7 moves to G7.

The G7 line is fairly straight forward with only a slide to the 3rd on beat 1. On the C I also use the slide to the 3rd and add an extra two note tag to the line.

Making Jazz lines sound bluesy ex 4

In the 2nd example I am using two very characteristic blues ideas on the Dm7: Both repeating notes and groups of three notes, in this case the 3 note group starts with a slide to the 5th(A) and then repeating the 7th(C). I blues you find groupings like this often but almost never used to create a polyrhythmic effect like anoter meter on top of the one being played.

The G7 line starts off with a triad bases pattern that is then moved up to the upperstructure of the G7.  The line finally resolves to the 3rd(E) of C maj7. On the tonic it continues with a melody descending down the arpeggio and adding a slide to the 7th(B).

Making Jazz lines sound bluesy ex 5

The third example is using the pull offs on the Dm7 and then moving on to the 3rd(B) of G7 which is played with a slide. It continues on the G7 with a triplet rhythm that has a repeating note. This to me is really a typical blues phrase to my ears, The triplet is used to create melodic tension that is resolved to the 3rd(E) of C which is approachedd with a slide. On the Cmaj7 the line continues with a skip from the root to the 3rd. This 6th interval is also often something you would find in a blues phrase.

Making Jazz lines sound bluesy ex 6

I hope you can use some of these ideas and strategies to work on your own phrasing skills and that it can help you create more variation in your solos by using a sound that you probably already have a feel for.

If you want to study the examples away from the video or article you can download a pdf here:

Making Jazz lines sound bluesy

You can also check out my Bb blues solo lesson with a 4 chorus transcription + lesson:

Bb Jazz Blues Lesson 1

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics or how I can make the lessons better then please feel free to leave on the video or  send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make thme fit what you want to hear.

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