This Will Make Your Jazz Licks 10x Better

You already know how to find the scales and arpeggios that go with the chords, and you can play something on each of the chords, but your solos still sounds very much like you are just playing something on each chord, and when you listen to great players like Wes then you hear a whole melody in the solo, not just something on Dm7 and something else on A7.

In this video, I am going to show you how to improve the skills that make it possible for you to play a solo that is a complete piece of music and not a bunch of random lines next to each other.

I a m going to go over 5 examples that will show you what to focus on start hearing and playing connected melodies in your solos. You can use them as blue prints for writing your own lines and try to add this to your solos.

In a way the concepts I am going over here could be described as a “holy trinity” of Beethoven, Muddy Waters and Kurt Rosenwinkel – just a strange side-note.

The material I am using here is pretty basic and you probably know it already.

It is a II V I in C major so we have an arpeggio from the root and one from the 3rd of each chord:

And around that we have a C major scale:

If you want to explore more on diatonic arpeggios then check out this lesson:

Beethoven inspired II V I lick

One way to connect a melody is to follow up a phrase with a developed repetition of that phrase. This is called motivic development and is a very powerful way to make melodies just ask Ludwig Beethoven

This is a really solid example of basic motif: the melody on the Dm7 and G7 are almost identical and just transposed, but that does make it easy to hear how the G7 melody is a logical follow up on the Dm7.

Muddy Waters playing Changes

Call-Response is associated with blues, but is really a part of all melodic traditions. In the example it becomes almost a question answer where the Dm7’s ascending melody is a question and the G7 is the descending answer.

It feels a little like the Dm7 is opening up something and the G7 melody is closing it again. The Cmaj7 line becomes more of a tag to finish it off.

Creatively Voice-leading Motifs

When you work with motifs then you can be very strict and mechanical, but in the end you should also want to be able to use it more freely and maybe a little less obvious.

This example is starting with a descending Fmaj7 arpeggio on the Dm7 and that is “voice-lead” to a descending G7 arpeggio.

It is not only for II V I licks

To keep everything compact in this lesson I am just using short II V progressions, and you should practice making melodies or licks with this types of melodic connections, but as you start getting it into your system then it really pays off to take this to entire songs and work on creating musical sentences over entire sections of a song. I think especially Wes is a great clear example of this, but if you listen closely you will hear it with pretty much everybody!

Stubborn Rosenwinkel Habits

One of the things that I learned from a Kurt Rosenwinkel masterclass was how he already in technical exercises worked on continuing a melodic direction through the changes.

This II V I lick is a simple example of that where the melody is ascending throught the II V to resolve on the Cmaj7.

Another thing that is worth noticing is that instead of playing only scales, arpeggio patterns then the G7 line is using something that works like a D pedal point in the line.

Reverse Rosenwinkel with a motif

And of course you can make a lick that is descending through the entire cadence. In this example it is combined with a motif using first a Dm triad and then a B dim triad.

Adding Alterations (Like Benson)

The previous examples where all very simple and I tried to keep everything diatonic to make it clear that it is about melody (and maybe also about rhythm?)
Of course you can also do this with altered dominants and this example is developed from an altered phrase that I transcribed from a George Benson solo.

The melody has a motivic development between the Fmaj7 and the Fø arpeggio, but also a connection between the Fø and the Em7 arpeggio on the Cmaj7.

New Concepts for your Solos!

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