Tag Archives: scale exercises

5 Scale Exercises That Make It Easier To Learn Jazz

Scale Exercises are the source of a  lot of problems. I remember running into this myself when I was starting out and I also hear about it often from students.  You practice a lot of exercises, but is it really helping you play better, or are you just repeating the same exercises without getting anywhere?

For me,  there were some exercises that really were game changers in learning Jazz, simply because they could do more than just teach me how to play an arpeggio or a scale, and if you want to improve your playing then you should check if they won’t also be very useful for you.

What is maybe a little weird about them is that they are not all the type of exercise that you work on everyday for months with a metronome, because there are other things you need to learn besides technique, and there are other ways to practice than using a metronome. I think  one of them is also a very powerful and practical way to build a fretboard overview.

Is this a video with a list that get’s filled in along the way? (#1, #2, #3, #4, #5 visible from the beginning)

#1 The Scale

With a build-up like this is then it is maybe a bit of a disappointment that the first exercise is practicing the scale,  since you are hopefully doing that already and you probably trying to not sound like you are playing scales when you solo and want to develop your musicality. But, playing the scale and knowing what notes are in there is important and as you will see it will serve as a foundation for everything else in this video plus that it is the shortest exercise you can imagine with a scale,

just make sure that you:

  1. Start with the major scale in one position before adding other positions and other scales
  2. Gradually get around to all keys so that you get flexible with that
  3. Don’t just play them mindlessly but try to make them sound good and be aware of what you are playing.

There is a video of Pat Metheny turning scale practice into music which I think is very inspiring.

The next exercise is a logical extension of practicing scales, and also what I often refer to as “the most important exercise for Jazz”, but remember that if you are practicing scales then it only takes a short amount of time to go over a key in all positions, and you can set up systems so that you get through all keys over a few days. It shouldn’t take hours of practice every day because you also need to play music when you practice!

As you will see with the rest of the exercises then it is important to connect things, not only the scale, arpeggios and vocabulary, but also chords, you will see what I mean.

#2 Diatonic Arpeggios

I learned this exercise the first time I went to a Barry Harris masterclass in the Hague, and it was an exercise that changed everything about how I practiced and made it all much closer connected to the music that I wanted to learn to play: Bebop. And for me, the goal of all of these exercises is to help you play better Jazz, and this exercise is actually a direct link to the music, and I think it is crazy that not everyone teaches this to their students.

Diatonic Arpeggios sounds difficult, but it is pretty simple, if you play the scale in positions then you can play a 7th chord arpeggio for each note in the scale by essentially stacking 3rds.

Explainer/close-up (a bit quick since it is twice) – hand + diagram + letters?

Show the process of stacking 3rds:

For C major if I start on C, then I build a 7th chord by stacking 3rds: C, E, G, B which is Cmaj7

for Dm7 it is the same thing: D, F, A, C.

You can probably tell that there are obvious technical benefits to working on this exercise, but if you are also aware of what notes and what arpeggios you are playing then you are really connecting some very important information on the guitar to the chords you want to solo over.

Doing this exercise makes it possible for you to take a Jazz standard and play arpeggios through the entire progression, which is a great beginning for internalizing a song and having a place to start with soloing over it, where you take an arpeggio and build a phrase around it.

Besides being a very solid foundation for improvising over chords and learning songs then it will also give you a lot more material, because if you analyze transcriptions of great Jazz musicians then you will find a lot of other arpeggios being used besides the arpeggio of the chord itself, and you are completely ready for doing that if you work on this exercise.

Take a look at how this line uses other arpeggios over the chords than the chord itself.

There are arpeggios from other chord tones that sound great over the chords, and like this you already know them!

Example II V I with other arpeggios.  — First play it then cut to quick highlights with the line above as voice over

Let’s look at some exercises that are not just regular exercises, but also incorporate some chords before we get to exercises for vocabulary and fretboard overview

#3 Diatonic Chords

When you are playing Jazz then you are both playing solos and chords because you are not soloing ALL the time, and you can practice chords in scales as well, which for me was a very useful way to work on exploring new voicings, getting familiar with diatonic chords and how their extensions sound. You can even do chords in scale positions.

This exercise is actually possible with all types of chords, but the most basic version is probably a good place to start and that is to go through the major keys using shell-voicings.

If you know your major scales well enough to know the notes in there then this can be a great exercise since it is not always practical to start on the root.

For example, if you want to play Diatonic chords in C major with the shell-voicings that have the root on the 6th string then you can’t start on C, and F or E is a better option.

You could also explore doing this in a position, but that will not be useful for that many types of voicings, thought it is a nice exercise for the shell voicings:

The main benefits from this exercise are:

  • Know the chords in a key, and how they sound
  • Making it easier to play songs & hear the harmony
  • Exploring how chords move through a scale

Now, you have  the scale linked to both arpeggios and chords, so let’s connect it to the notes that are not in the scale since they are a part of the picture in Jazz as well.

#4 Chromatic Notes

This exercise is such a simple concept but when I first came across it then it  immediately  resonated with me and it really sounds like Jazz, already as an exercise. Of course, this comes from how frequently it is a building block in Jazz solos and especially Bebop lines. When I was given the exercise then I had already heard it 1000s of times in the solos Charlie Parker, Pat Martino and Wes Montgomery, so playing it really just made that click into place and gave me tons of phrases to use in my solos.

I am, as you may have guessed, talking about the Bebop arpeggio exercise, which I have also mentioned in other videos, and this was an exercise that I learned the first time I was at a Barry Harris workshop in the Hague.

The exercise is simple, you play each diatonic arpeggio as an 8th-note triplet and add a leading note in front of it, but it is also a great example of an exercise that is already vocabulary,

something you can use in countless lines and actually also illustrates why Barry’s method is so powerful: It is based on making exercises that are already solo lines, like this:

Obviously this is just the tip of the iceberg, and you can do so much more with adding chromatic notes or even chromatic phrases to arpeggios or intervals, and they will all be good exercise, in fact any vocabulary that you like is probably worth taking apart and turning into exercises.

Most of them will not be used as often as this one in solos, but they are still fun and useful to explore.

You can let me know in the comments if you want a link to a playlist with some of the Barry Harris videos I have done that go deeper into his method and  his system for chromatic notes.

The Bebop arpeggio exercise is the typical “scale exercise” that you can work on in all keys and positions with a metronome. You could approach the next exercise like that as well, but I am not sure I think that is the point of it really. However, It does really fit with the Barry Harris ideology and it is the BEST exercise for building a practical overview of the fretboard.

#5 Vocabulary

I remember when I was starting out and with a lot of the songs I could solo over, then there would be chords where I did not have the freedom to move around on the neck, I was stuck in a single position. if I had been given these exercises then that would have developed a lot faster than it did, in fact this is probably the most practical and efficient fretboard knowledge exercise that you can work on.

The idea of learning a phrase and taking it through all 12 keys isn’t usually considered a scale exercise, but it really is a great exercise for your overview of the scale and it will help you get better at finding the things that you want to use in your solos on the instrument.

Of course, phrases don’t always fit in a single scale, but then the different scales that are in the phrase anyway go together in the music so linking them up is incredibly useful.


There are two ways you can approach this, which are different takes on the geometry of the guitar, and both are equally useful. In the end, you can use both long and short phrases and explore how it is to move them around, but for this I will stick to a relatively short phrase which is a pivot arpeggio

and an altered dominant line

like this:

Example Bebop line  + Bebop line in one position and lots of keys and Bebop line in one key and several positions (Maybe Joe Pass Etudes in several positions)

The first variation is the traditional approach, so take the phrase through all 12 keys (and yes, for stuff like this the whole 15 or 30 keys or whatever that was, doesn’t make any sense at all, so 12 keys!). For this one, I am going to focus on staying around the same area of the neck, it probably won’t make sense to insist on staying completely in the same position, instead the priority should be to stay in the same area while keeping it playable and also possible to play with decent phrasing. This is much more useful, and you want to be practical!

This phrase combines an altered dominant with the key of the II V I which is a really useful connection, and taking it through the keys help you identify important building blocks in those keys and also know what the altered dominant is in those keys, which is (obviously) going to be very useful, we are not all playing in bands like AC/DC where 85% of the songs are in A.

If you are working on this exercise with licks that have common progressions and common building blocks then this is a great exercise for your playing, fretboard overview, ear training and vocabulary. It is good for a LOT of things.

The Guitaristic version of this is also really worthwhile, because you can also use this to develop the visual skills associated with the guitar and your overview of the neck.

As I mentioned in the beginning of this section then I found myself in a place where I was practicing scales in all positions, but I was only able to solo in some of those positions. I only knew how to play the scale in some places without having any vocabulary. Taking a simple phrase and then sticking to one key, but exploring how to play it in all positions is in a way the guitar version of moving a lick through 12 keys, and that can be an exercise that really opens up scale positions for you. When you find the building blocks that you need in each position by moving some lines through the positions, then it gets easier to solo in those positions. In fact, I was given this exercise by a teacher later when I moved to Copenhagen and it did indeed quickly start to do exactly that for my playing. This is also the kind of exercise that you can explore doing with the shot solos from the book the Joe Pass Guitar Style to get more out of them, but you can check that video out later.

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The Most Important Scale For Jazz

“Scales Are NOT going to solve problems”

I think sometimes when you want to learn Jazz then it is too much about learning 100s of scales, and that is not really what Jazz is about. There are a few scales and especially one scale that is endlessly more important than the rest.

Scales are not going to solve problems for you. if your solo doesn’t sound good, then learning hypochondrian b6 is not really going to make you sound any better over a Blues in F, and focusing on the scale takes away attention from more important things in your playing like the melody, rhythm, and phrasing.

You are much better off focusing on the most used scale and then really learning that, and this is mainly because

  1. it is the most used scale – so you are practicing things that you need to play often and
  2. It Becomes Easier To Learn Other Scales because they are mostly just variations on this one.

So of course, I am talking about the major scale!

Simply because that is the scale that is used the most, it covers the most ground and contains most of the chords.  It is not the only scale you need, but if you really dig into that then you will sound a lot better than if you try to learn 20 scales at the same time. This is also one of the reasons why I am not a huge fan of modes, but I will return to that later. Let’s look at what to learn and what to practice.

The Scale

My thoughts on what to practice are heavily influenced by how Barry Harris taught this in his masterclasses in The Hague. That was maybe one of the most important things I learned from him.

Let’s start with 2 octaves of C major:

When you learn any scale then it is useful to know what notes are in there, so C D E F G A, and it is useful to know the intervals in the scale relative to the root, Root, major 2nd, major 3rd, perfect 4th, perfect 5th etc.

Basic stuff that you want to know, but that you don’t want to think about too much unless you are figuring something out.

Of course, just playing the scale makes for some incredibly boring melodies that everyone will get tired of very quickly, so how do you get further? And THIS is a part of why the scale is important because the approach you use on the major scale will make it a lot easier to learn other scales and make that process a lot quicker.

When you improvise in Jazz then the melodies in your solo follow the chords of the song, and if you are playing a song in the key of C major then a lot of those chords are actually in the C major scale, so you want to be able to find those chords.

I am going to show you how this fits on a very common Jazz progression, a II V I. But first you need to be able to find the chords.

The Chords In There and the II V I

This  also works for other scales, and is something you want to keep in mind for working on them.

A chord is a stack of 3rds, so if you have the scale then you can construct the diatonic triads by stacking two 3rds on top of each other.

Here you will get:

C Dm Em F G Am Bdim C

As you can see below, in Jazz, the basic chord type is usually a 7th chord:

but all you need to get those is to add another 3rd, to get these 7 chords:

The Diatonic 7th chords: Cmaj7 Dm7 Em7 Fmaj7 G7 Am7 Bø Cmaj7

Finding the II V I

Now you have the diatonic chords in the scale, then you can pick out a II V I, since that is just the 2nd,  Dm7, the 5th, G7,  and 1st chord, Cmaj7 in that row of chords

You can play them like this:

And the II V I progression is very common in Jazz and probably the most common building block in Jazz songs, so it is a very useful place to demonstrate how this works and ties in with the major scale.v

You also want to notice that all of these chords are in the scale, so here the scale is a bigger thing containing and tying together several chords in a song, that means that often you stay with one scale but the important notes change with the chords.

Soloing over Chord Changes

Before I get into what exercises to focus on and the Barry Harris thing, then it is useful to look at what you actually need from the scale when you solo.

As I mentioned earlier, when you improvise in Jazz then you follow the chords, and you try to make melodies that make it clear what is happening in the chord progression. The easiest way to do that is to play the notes of the chord, which is what we call the arpeggio.

If you turn the row of chords for C major into arpeggios then you can easily play that through the scale and get some raw material for soloing:

and if you then take the 3 arpeggios of the II V I then you would have something like this:

This still sounds like an exercise, but already if you start being creative with the order of the notes you can turn this into something that sounds more like a melody, something that has a flow moving from one chord to the next:

And of course, the scale sits under this, and you can also use those notes when you solo as you take this further.

How To Really Internalize The Scale

So you already have the exercise that is playing the diatonic chords in scale. Another very useful option is to learn the diatonic triads which as you will see in a bit is great material for soloing as well, and then we can get into some of the Barry Harris-inspired exercises.

You probably remember that to create the 7th chords then you first stacked 3rds to create a triad and then added another 3rd to get the 7th chord.

And the notes of the 3 chords in the II V I are these:

What you want to realize is that the top 3 notes of each chord is a triad, and that means that you can use F major, Bdim and Em as material when you create lines over a II V I:

And create lines like this:

So for soloing it pays off to know your scale, to know the diatonic 7th chords in the scale and the diatonic triads, and it is practical to know what notes are in the chords because that helps you connect other arpeggios and triads to a chord, and it is fairly clear that this is important for almost any scale you want to use, not only the major scale.

But, these are all the basic things to give you an overview of the notes, the harmony, and how it all fits together. Another important thing to keep in mind is that you want to use this for solos, and that should be a part of coming up with what you practice!

Borrowing From Barry’s Vision

One of the things that really changed how I practiced after I had attended my first week-long Barry Harris masterclass in the Hague was a smarter much more efficient way to practice scales.

Several times in the masterclass while Barry had taught us bebop lines and explained how they worked, he had also taken a building block, or a piece of vocabulary, and turned it into a scale exercise.

This direct connection between what you wanted to play in your solos and what you should practice in your scales makes scale practice much more efficient.

I will go over some of the more advanced ones as well, but the basic example that you have probably heard me talk about before is playing the diatonic arpeggios as triplets with a leading note, which is sort of instant Charlie Parker:

And that allows for playing lines like this:

Pivot Arpeggios

Another great exercise that Barry used was pivot arpeggios, so an arpeggio where instead of just playing the ascending arpeggio then you play the first note, and then move the rest of the arpeggio down an octave:

You can turn that into an exercise like this:

And if you take the last Cmaj7, and just add a few chromatic passing notes then it immediately becomes a great Bebop phrase like this:

Getting Creative

And this is where it starts to get really interesting because you really turn anything you like into a scale exercise and then explore how it is to use the same idea or melody on other chords.

As an example you can combine the pivot arpeggio and the triplet with a leading note concept and then create a short building block like this:

 

As you can see it is not a systematic way to combine the pivot arpeggio with the triplet, but it sounds great, and it will work really well in some Bop lines, but first I’ll take it through the C major scale:

And then if you take the Fmaj7 version and use that on a Dm7 you can get something like this:

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Why This Is The Most Important Scale Exercise In Jazz

A little over a year ago, I made a video on the most Important Scale Exercise in Jazz(b-roll exercise maybe licks?), and once in a while, I get comments that I have no right to say that and all scale exercises are created equal.

That is not the case, some things are useful in some genres and not in others.

Take an exercise like this:

This is a great exercise if you want to be the next medium swing Yngwie Malmsteen, but it pretty much sucks if you want to sound like Charlie Parker.

The Most Important Scale Exercise

So in this video, I am going to show you why it is the most important scale exercise in Jazz, and then I am going to show you how you can use it to make your own great sounding licks!

So first let’s just look at why this exercise is important, or actually, just very useful and practical, and then I will go over how to use it.

Here’s Why It Is Amazing!

So the exercise is playing the diatonic arpeggios in a scale position like this:

The Arpeggios you get would be this exercise:

Why is this so useful?

When you play the exercise then you are playing the arpeggios of all the diatonic chords in that scale, so for C major you now have arpeggios for these chords:

It fits the harmony of Jazz songs!

If you look at a Jazz Standard then the basic chords in there are all 7th chords, so if you have to improvise over a G7 or an Am7 in the key of C, then the diatonic arpeggios are immediately clear because you have already practiced that and you know where the arpeggio is.

In that way, it links the scale to the chords and the arpeggios and directly gives you something to play on the chord.

More arpeggios per chord

The other thing that you can use this exercise for is that you can link several different arpeggios to a chord and that gives you a lot more vocabulary, so on a Dm7 chord there are other arpeggios that work well besides the Dm7 arpeggio, and you already know how to play them and where to find them because you played the exercise.

Obviously, a Dm7 works on a Dm7 chord because you are playing the same notes as you find in the chord. Fmaj7 works as well because the notes are almost the same, except the E which adds a 9th on top of the Dm chord and that sounds fine.

Dm7; D F A C

Fmaj7: F A C E

Am7: A C E G

Let’s just check out what they sound like:

Keep in mind that right now, I am talking about this for a Jazz standard, but this is also true if you are playing over a static 7th chord vamp: You can use more arpeggios on the chord and, knowing them will give you more material for your solos

Before I show you how this also works for other chords then I will give you some great examples of how you can use this in your playing, because THAT is what makes it a great exercise: It gives you a lot of stuff you can use.

Arpeggio Combinations

Now that there are several arpeggios that you can use then you can also work by combining them.

Here I am using an Fmaj7 arpeggio and a Dm7 arpeggio on the Dm7 chord.

A great way to play these two arpeggios could be to put them together like this, so first the Fmaj7 and then the Dm7 naturally follows AUDIO

Now you can do the same with the combination of the Am7 and Fmaj7 arpeggio

Taking It To Other Chords

The same concept using the G7 and Bø on G7:

Here it is the same priniciple:

G7: G B D F

Bø: B D F A

And using this in a line sounds like this:

And you can use it on a Cmaj7 as well combining the Am7 and Cmaj7 arpeggios:

 

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5 Scale Exercises That Are Great In Solos

Practicing scale exercises is something that we do to gain flexibility and an overview of the guitar. But another thing you should also consider is that the things you practice in a Jazz scale exercise should also not be too far from what you actually need when you solo.
Setting your scale practice up so that it is helping you develop vocabulary is very useful and very efficient.

In this video, I will show you 5 exercises that are scale exercises but that you can also use as great building blocks for jazz licks. When you check out these concepts you should also start to be able to make your own scale exercises that help you play better solos using the things you want to play in your solos.

Other videos on Scale Exercises and using them

How to practice your scales and why – Positions

The Most Important Scale Exercise In Jazz

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You can download the PDF on my Patreon Page: 5 Scale Exercises

Content:

0:00 Intro – Exercises for Flexibility, Technique and…

0:30 Scale Exercises that are building blocks for Jazz Solos

0:51 The Scale and How I Play it

1:15 #1 The Bebop Arpeggio

2:04 Lick using Exercise #1

2:33 #2 Triads with Enclosures

3:31 Lick using Exercise #2

4:09 #3 Chaining Arpeggios Like Kurt Rosenwinkel

4:49 Along the Neck

5:25 Lick using Exercise #3

6:13 #4 Barry Harris’ Chromatic Rule

6:59 The Rules

7:29 Lick using Exercise #4

8:09 #5 Parker and Benson’s Arpeggio with Chromatic Tail

9:14 Lick using Exercise #5

10:05 Like The Video? Check out my Patreon Page

3 Scale exercises You Need To Know And Use

Any scale exercise is a melody. When you practice scale exercises you are practicing playing a lot of similar melodies that you want to have in your ears and in your fingers so you can use them when you improvise Jazz Solos. In Jazz, Scale exercises are a part of building vocabulary.

This video covers some great melodic structures that you can practice as scale exercises and add to your vocabulary. I find that them extremely useful and you will also hear them being used in a lot of especially more modern jazz solos by people ranging from Michael Brecker via Peter Bernstein to Kurt Rosenwinkel.

Content:

0:00 Intro

0:32 Practice the things you need when You solo

0:50 Modern Jazz that’s 60 years old.

1:03 #1 Sus4 Triads

1:25 The Sound Of Rosenwinkel, Brecker and Mark Turner

1:32 Example Lick with Sus4 triads

1:49 Exercises

2:41 String-set Practice

3:34 #2 Quartal Arpeggios – Modal Jazz Sounds

3:52 Chords with Quartal Structures

4:08 Kurt’s solo on I’ll Remember April

4:34 3-Part Quartal Voicings and Sus Triads

5:12 Exercises with Quartal Arpeggios

5:58 Example Lick with Quartal Arpeggios – Chromatic Shifting

6:25 #3 Shell-Voicings – Mike Moreno and Pat Metheny

7:21 Exercises for Shell-voicings

8:15 Applying Shell-voicings

8:37 Example with Shell-voicings

8:41 Bonus: From Shells to open upper-structure triads

9:18 Spreat Triad Example

9:21 Arpeggios = Melodies

9:52 Like the video? Check out My Patreon Page 

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This Is How You Should Use Scale Exercises

If you want to play jazz and want to learn how to play jazz solos then you are probably also practicing scales and working on scale exercises.

In this lesson, I am going to go over a few scale exercises that you probably already know or at least should check out and then I am going to talk about how to connect them to chords and really use them to make music.

It is very important that you don’t just work on moving your fingers with exercises, you should always try to practice the things you need when you are playing.

Getting Started – Basic Scale Exercises

So first I am going to go over a few exercises and then I am going to relate this to a little simple music theory and show you how you can turn that into something you can make music with.

Let’s look at some of the fundamental things you check out in a scale, just playing the scale and playing thirds.

Lets take a Cmaj7 chord and this C major scale.

You want to play these two exercises because they are going to help you develop the technique to play the things that you can use in lines. Of course, you can use both 3rd intervals and scale runs in solos, but that is something I will save for another lesson.

The Mighty Triad – Powerful Melodic Structures

For most of this lesson, I am going to focus on how to practice and use triads because they are both flexible and powerful tools in soloing. But the process is really the same for all sorts of arpeggios.

There are a few great ways to practice triad arpeggios in the scales. First here is a basic version: play Diatonic Triads

But you can also give it more of a jazz sound already at the exercise level by adding leading notes both ascending

and descending:

Now we can start working on making some really great sounding licks with these exercises, but first, we need to figure out which triads will work over a Cmaj7.

Music Theory (just a little..)

Now, we have 7 triads in the scale. They don’t all sound that great on the chord, so first we need to find some that work.

The only note that sounds funny on the Cmaj7 is an F. I don’t like calling it an avoid note, but if we are looking for triads then that is not the greatest one to use.

We have all these triads: C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am, Bdim,

C: C E G
Dm: D F A
Em: E G B
F: F A C
G: G B D
Am: A C E
Bdim: B D F

If we remove the triads that contain an F then we get these 4 triads C, Em, G, Am

These fit!

C: C E G (1, 3, 5)
Em: E G B (3, 5, 7)
G: G B D (5, 7, 9)
Am: A C E (13(6), 1, 3)

Now we can start making lines with these exercises and then I will show you another exercise that is great for creating solid melodies

Making Lines with the triads

The first example is using an Em triad and adding a leading note to the 5th:

Another way to work with the Em triad is to play the triad as a triplet to change up the rhythm:

You can also chain together triads as I am doing here with G major and Em triads:

Another Great Exercise

Since the triads work so well in licks it is also possible to change the order of the notes. Until now it was always 1 3 5 or 5 3 1 but if you practice other patterns you can really get some great melodies as well.

Here is a simple pattern that starts on the third: 3 1 5 pattern example

If I make some licks with this pattern then you get something like this:

Arpeggios and Pentatonics!

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The Most Important Scale Exercise In Jazz

You probably already practice arpeggios, but chances are you can do it as a better Scale exercise than what you are doing now, and that is what I want to talk about in this video. Jazz Scale Exercises should be about giving you the material you can use in your solos and help you know and play the different arpeggios and melodies found in the scale.

When you improvise in Jazz then the lines or melodies that you play are related to the chords you are playing over and the solo follows the chord progression it is played over. One easy way to do this is to use the arpeggios of each chord.

You can use the arpeggio of the chord you are playing over, but in fact, there are more options than this and the exercise in this lesson will help you tie all of that together in one exercise.

Practicing Arpeggios in the Scale

The reason why it makes a lot of sense to practice diatonic arpeggios in a scale position is quite simple.

When you improvise a solo you are not only playing scales and then only arpeggios. The jazz lines you are making are a mix of the two. Therefore it is essential to have the arpeggios placed in a scale as notes that are important, and the rest are available.

Here is a C major scale in the 8th position

Playing the diatonic one-octave arpeggios through this scale position would give you this exercise:

Know the Scale!

Often when you learn Guitar in the beginning you rely mostly on the visual aspect of the instrument. Scales, Chords and Arpeggios are shapes that you can see on the fretboard.

This works really well for learning and remembering, but make sure that you also know what notes you are playing and what notes are in those chords and arpeggios. It will become very useful along the way.

For the exercises here above, it is a very good idea if you also play them while saying the notes or saying the names of the chord that you are arpeggiating. This will teach you the fretboard and the music theory on another level and also really attach it to what you play.

Using the arpeggios in your solos

It is not enough to just practice the scale exercise and then hope that your solos will suddenly magically include the arpeggios.

To show you how you can make some basic licks mixing scales and arpeggios here are a few ideas using a Cmaj7 arpeggio and chord.

The first one starts with the Cmaj arpeggio and then continues with a scale melody.

In the second example You can see how it is possible to mix scale notes into the arpeggio and also add a little chromaticism to more of a bebop sound.

Bebop Arpeggios!

This is a great variation on the exercise that also is really setting you up to play some bebop lines. Here you play the arpeggio as a triplet and insert a chromatic leading note in front of the root. This creates some energy and motion that then really brings out the target note that is the 7th of the arpeggio.

This exercise for the scale looks like this:

Make some Bebop Licks!

Using this way of playing arpeggios can be used in licks like this.

The first lick is using the Cmaj7 arpeggio in the lower octave and combining it with an intervallic melody in the2nd half of the bar.

The 2nd example is using the higher octave and adding a chromatic run between D and C before ending on G.

The Arpeggio from the 3rd

Until now I have only been talking about what how to use the basic Cmaj7 arpeggio over a Cmaj7 chord, but you can use more arpeggios.

The way to understand this is quite simple. You can use other arpeggios that contain notes that work well on the chord. The Arpeggio from the 3rd of a chord is usually a great option:

Cmaj7: C E G B – Em7: E G B D

So the two arpeggios share E G B and the Em7 is only adding the D on top of the Cmaj7 which is the 9th and a good note to add in there.

A few ways of playing an Em7 arpeggio in this position is shown here below:

Jazz Licks with an Em7 arpeggio on a Cmaj7 chord

You can use the Em7 arpeggio like this.

The first example is a basic “bebop Em7 arpeggio” that continues with a more modern sounding Quartal arpeggio from B.

The 2nd example is again focusing more on adding some chromatic ideas. Here the first half of the bar is a chromatic enclosure that is leading us to the first note of the Em7 arpeggio.

Putting all of this into a II V I lick

To give you and idea about how easy this is to generalize to a progression I have added this final example.

Take a look at the lick and see how I am using Fmaj7 on Dm7. Both Bø and G7 on the G7 and also both Em7 and Cmaj7 arpeggios on the Cmaj7.

It is easier than you think!

Use this approach in a Song!

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This Is How You Should Practice Every Scale Exercise

Most great Guitar Players mix a lot of different techniques when they are playing, and if that is the end goal then the scale exercises you do should also contain that element!

In this lesson I am going to go over some ways to take simple exercises and use them to combine legato, alternate picking and sweeping or economy picking.

Technique and Scale Exercises are for sound

For me it is in the end much more about having techniques so that I can play the music that I want to play and get it to sound right and having a flexible technique in terms of legato and picking is very useful for this.

Technique is there to help me play the Music that I want to play with The Phrasing and Sound I want to hear!

The exercises in this video is My take on how this works it is important to remember that the best solution is for you to 

Find YOUR way of combining different techniques
incorporate it into your practice routine and playing

Basic Scale Exercise and a few options

Example 1 is a C major scale in the 8th position played with a 3NPS fingering.

In the video I play it with alternate picking:

You can do this mixing with legato as well. Let’s do that like this: Down Up Hammer-on:

and of course you can also do Down Hammer-on UP:

 Technique priorities – what to choose

The way I think about this is no that it has to sound the same, different techniques sound slightly different and when I play I am going to use the technique that is playable or easy AND that sounds the best.

The goal is to use the different sounds and dynamics of the technique in our phrasing

So it doesn’t have to sound the same!

Actually you make choices on this already with the exercises.

Here’s the scale in 3rds with alternate picking:

And you can try to add as much legato as possible by doing this:

But somehow it’s nice to have one more picked note to get it to sound a little more natural:


With all of these exercises I am choosing the approach and techniques that I like and that fits to me, but of course this is different from person to person so you might find that other combinations work better for you. The important thing is to make sure you can play it in time and that you get the phrasing or sound that you like.

Adding Economy picking to the mix

Of course you can also work with sweeping or economy picking, When playing arpeggios this becomes very practical. For example with diatonic triads.

And we can combine all of it in an exercise like this with triads up one down the next 

It is up to your imagination and you get to challenge yourself and develop your ability to mix

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This Is How You Should Practice Every Scale Exercise – PDF

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From SCALE practice to JAZZ LICKS – Work towards Music!

If you don’t want to waste your time you want to make sure to turn everything you practice into material that you can use when you improvise.

We all practice scales and work on our technique by doing Scale Exercises, arpeggios, diatonic triads and patterns. In this video I want to show you how you can take your exercises and start turning them into jazz licks. 

The Diatonic Triads in a Scale Position

Let’s just start with an exercise that I am sure you already practice: Diatonic Triads. Here below I have written it out in the key of C major:

Turning this exercise into a II V I is shown here below where it is used on a II V I in C: Dm7, G7, Cmaj7:

I am using the descending version of the exercise above on the Dm7. It is then used with the triads of Dm, C and finally B dim. From here it continues with a G7 altered lick before resolving to C.

Diatonic Triads in Patterns

A great way to practice diatonic triads is to play them in a pattern so that you break up the order of the notes. In the example below I have written out the diatonic triads in a 3 1 5 pattern:

Using this type of exercise in a jazz lick is a great way to add some larger intervals to your lines.

The lick here below is using the F,G and Am triads over the Dm7. It then continues with a G7 altered line that is based on a Bmaj7(#5) arpeggio before it resolves to Cmaj7.

Triads along the neck

Another way to practice the triads is to play them on a string set along the neck. This is shown in a 2-1 fingering here below.

Turning this into a lick is easy. I am using the F,Em and Dm triads descending and then continue the triad idea on the G altered with Eb and F dim triads to resolve to the 3rd(E) of Cmaj7. 

A good variation on this is to use Db and Eb triads on the G7. This idea is shown here below:

Changing the way we practice scales

In the previous examples I had to rely on scale exercises that are stepwise in nature, so the triads are played in stepwise order: C, Dm, Em etc. 

The problem with this is that If you use triads on a Dm7 chord then Dm, F and Am are fine, but Em and G are less strong and therefore difficult to use in a lick.

One way of getting around that is to look at how the Dm, F and Am are a 3rd apart in the scale. This means that we have can start working on practicing the triads in 3rds in the scale to get them together in the sets that work together. An example of how you can do this is shown here:

The lick below is using the triads like this, and they are played in a 5 1 3 patttern. The triads used then are Dm, F and Am which are all closely related to a Dm7.

Beyond the triads: Shell voicings

Of course you can apply this to any type of structure. In the example here below I am doing hte same type of exercise as example 7, but now using Shell Voicings.

Turning this into a lick is shown in example 10 where I use Fmaj7 and Am7 shell voicings on the Dm7. On the G7 I am also using a Db7 shell voicing and combining that with an AbmMaj7 arpeggio before resolving to C.

Putting it all together

As you can see in these example it is not only important to try to use the exercises you do, but it can also be a great idea to try to shape your exercises so that they are immediately easier to use when improvising or composing lines.

It makes a lot of sense to try to work a lot with 3rds because it reflects how we build chords and keep the triads closely related to the chord you want to use them on.

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From Scale exercises to Jazz Licks – Practice Music

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3 scale exercises you should know

There are so many ways to practice your scales, but some of them will really help you get some new tools to make more interesting lines. In this lesson I will go over three scale exercises and why you should practice them and how you can use them.

The Scale and the positions

I am going to only use one position of the C major scale in this lesson, and you should probably just start by going over it in one position as well.

If you really want to work on this you would need to check it out in the remaining 4-6 positions that you have for your major scales and other scales as well of course.

The scale is shown in example 1

3 scale execises you should know - ex 1

The scale exercises

The first exercise is to play the major scale in diatonic 6ths. THe 6th is the inverted interval of the 3rd (so C to E is a 3rd and E to C is a (minor) 6th) and since most of the harmony we are working with is 3rds based then this makes the 6th an easy interval to use in lines without sounding out there or intervallic. The examples later in this lesson will also show that.

3 scale execises you should know - ex 2

Playing diatonic arpeggios of triads or 7th chords are essential to understand the harmony that is contained in a scale or key. What we often forget is that especially the triad inversions are also very strong melodies, and practicing those in the scale will give you a much stronger overview of each note in the triads. It will also give you some very strong melodic structures to put to use in your lines.

3 scale execises you should know - ex 3

I have only shown the 1st inversion triads here, but you should also have a look at the 2nd inversion triads!

Stacks of 4ths are a very important part of the more modern jazz sound since they are connected to pentatonic scale sounds and suspended chords. Playing stacks of 4ths in the scale can prove a bit difficult, but will then also help develop several aspects of both right and left hand technique!

3 scale execises you should know - ex 4

The scale position that I’ve used is of course 3 notes per string (3 nps) and that makes the fingering very predictable and therefore easy to play, but in the end it is not too important what you use. There will also be pros and cons for strict postion, caged or 3nps systems in terms of fingerings and knowing all of them can be an advantage. As an example 3nps systems are quite stretchy and can be hard on your left hand in the lower positions.

Putting the exercises to use in lines

It is important to spend time using the things you practice in your scales to make music. Just improvising with whatever scale exercise you just did is not a very useful approach for most people, and you are often better of trying to sit down and come up with different ways of incorporating the material by composing lines.

The firs example is mainly using the 6th interval, but actually touches on the other two exercises as well. The line starts out with a 6th skip from the 5th to the 3rd on Dm7.  From there it ascends up a stack of 4ths and resolves that with a descending scale run. On the G7alt it is using a 6th drop both from Ab to B  and Eb to G to break up a scale line. It resolves to the 9 (D) of Cmaj7.

3 scale execises you should know - ex 5

The triad inversions are the base of the 2nd example where it starts out with a 1st inversion F major triad on the Dm7. The rest of the Dm7 line is an Fmaj7 arpeggio. On the G7alt the line consists of connecting two 1st inversion triads: Db and Abm. From there it resolves down to the 3rd of Cmaj7.

3 scale execises you should know - ex 6

Whenever I am using the 6th interval I am skipping between two chrod notes. In example 3 it is from the 3rd and up to the root. From there the line continues with the rest of a Dm7 arpeggio and then a descending scale line. On the G7alt the line is based on two stacks of 4ths from Eb and F  over the G chord from there the line resolves to the 3rd(E) of Cmaj7.

3 scale execises you should know - ex 7

I hope you can use the exercises and the concept of applying them to your music to get some new lines and also to have a better command and udnerstanding of your scales.

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3 scale execises you should know

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