Jump to content

Please note: You can easily log in to MPN using your Facebook account!

Jazz Guitar Help


Recommended Posts

Hey guys, I really hope that someone can help me out here please.


I have been playing guitar for about 9 years now and just recently I have tried to get into some jazz playing. I got the Hal Leonard signature jazz licks book which has transcriptions of excerpts from other jazz tunes. I can play some of the slower stuff but the really fast stuff I have a few problems with as I've never really been a fast player. My normal playing style would be rock / blues.


I discovered some jazz lessons on the Fareed Haque site:




These were good but I just can't get my own jazz licks to sound interesting. I'd actually like to add some jazz licks into my playing in a rock context, perhaps like Steve Lukather.


Can some of you guys please give me tips for someone who knows some music theory a guide on how I can come up with jazz licks of my own?



Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 19
  • Created
  • Last Reply

The main thing first of all is listening to the greats


It is advisable to get as many different versions of the same tune as possible


Transcribing or copping the solos on the tunes you are learning is another biggie


This is absolutely indisposable for the ear training which is necessary to eventually make up your own licks


On a more technically specific route:


Get Charlie Parker's Omnibook in concert key


Download on a legal download site the exact cuts the omnibook has.


Data mine the short IImi-V7 riffs. What i mean is those II-V's whicch are only 2 beats per chord


Find all possible fingerings for just one lick in all possible octave ranges , in all possible positions of the fretboard.


Cycle the lick in all 12 keys


Next, data mine out the long II-V's. those are the 4 beat per chord ones



For speed, fluidity, and a wayy to make up your own licks,

Get Pat Martino's Linear Expressions book


Shoot for playing the whole book at 240 bpms


Get the Guitar Grimoire and learn all of the modes of the melodic minor in all keys in all positions


Work on your scale/speed exercises while learning new scales


Another resource for chord melody is the George Van Eps guitar method


Check out the Joe Pass guitar book as well

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Learning jazz licks can be fun, but to really grasp the concept of jazz you are going to have to do alot more. You have to learn to improvise over chord changes which entails learning a bit of music theoary on how chords are constructed. Then you have to develop your ear to be able to hear these changes. Its not something your going to learn in a few weeks or months. The idea of picking up licks like off of the Charlie Parker Omnibook is a good start as it gives you some ideas on how he played over changes.


Sadly, I have no clue how to play over changes. I have some basic music theory but have a hard time when it gets to the ear part. I can work out some cool licks over most chord changes but I don't really improvise well enough to play over anything but really basic blues changes. I could compose a solo and play something pretty cool over just about anything but thats not really jazz in my opinion. There are different opinions on what jazz is but improvisation is big part of most jazz musicians definition.


So, don't let me discourage you, you can still dabble in it and pick up on some jazzy sounding licks that will work in a blues or rock situation. Take it step by step playing chord tones and try to learn how they sound. I keep telling myself that I am going to do this myself but get lazy. I love listening to jazz, especially early Miles Davis and the music of John Coltrane. Maybe I should follow my own advice and learn some licks and try to understand the theory behind them :) .

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for all the advice guys, and for welcoming me to the forum.


yZeCounsel - You mentioned learning the Melodic Minor scale. I probably sound totally ignorant but in what kind of a jazz situation would the use of the melodic minor scale be appropriate?


Oh and today I bought Wes Montgomery album Smokin' At The Half Note! I got his Willow Weep for me album and, after a few listens I'm finally getting into it so hopefully this one will be as good.


Also, when you guys practice faster tempo stuff, how do you get it up to speed? What's a good way to practice this with a metronome?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Melodic Minor Scale in jazz is mostly used with the 6th and 7th degrees kept sharped whether ascending or descending. For melody you can write the scale in it's correct form if you want...6th and 7th sharped ascending and flattened descending.


Yes a metronome is almost essential to get up to speed and develop a good habit of always staying on meter.


It is harder to advise you not really knowing your current level, besides don't listen to me I am no expert by any stretch of the imagination.


However, that said there are lot's of things you can do, many already mentioned by our fine music intructor, Yze Counsel.


There is a long road ahead of you, so much to learn, but if you give it a chance and hang you will have a lot of fun and learn a lot.


You really first and foremost want to get a very good grasp of jazz chord voicings and get good at fast changes. Forget soloing right off the bat. You need to know your chords. And once you know your basic voicings you want to learn more complex grips and perhaps even simpler ones that make more sense. For eg. if you are playing in a band with a piano/keyboard and bass player you don't need big muddy voicings and perhaps can go higher on the neck with nice tasty 3 or 4 note stacks.


Know your chords and learn the substitution rules. Look up jazz chord substitutions, altered chords, hybrid chord structures, reharmonization etc etc and see where that journey takes you.


Start to develop your sight reading. At the very least you must know how to read chord charts, which includes reading the rythym as written.Even if you have not developed good soloing chops, at least you can go sit in on some jazz gigs and just comp the chords and get experience. But work on your reading, if you go into jazz, you are going to have to be able to sightread the dots at speed.


For soloing you are going to have to know your arpeggios and your scales. The most common scales are going to be Major, Harmonic Minor, Melodic Minor, Half/Whole and Whole Tone scale....basically. These can be found all over the place.


The toughest thing about learning soloing is have something to jam to.


I recommend the Jamey Aebersold series and perhaps start off with the II-V7-1 release, called Volume 003-The II-V7-I Progression.


He has a bunch of books, look them up. They have a CD in with piano,bass,drums backing tracks along with charts. Some might be too advanced but still may have a song or two in there that is cool to just jam over so really look at the contents.


Most importantly .....develop your ears, listen, listen, listen and start to sing out the notes to yourself of these complex chords so you can recognize the types as you hear them. And listen to as many recordings as possible, immerse yourself in the greats who have walked before you and be respectful and humble.


That's all you need ;) ....just kidding...hard work ahead, have fun and good luck!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Get some recordings by cats who played melodically with very little flash and cop them note for note


Get some Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, Stan Getz,

Lester Young (although he did chops bust at times), Dexter Gordon, and catch the miles solos on kind of blue album as he plays slow enough to where you won't need the 1/2 speed machine


Try to internalize the solos to where you can hum (or scat - while NOBODY's HOME!!) it w/o the instrument by memory w/o the CD.


In fact don't even get the guitar out, just hum along


Now before, you use the CD to cop w/the axe, try to hum the first phrase and cop it directly from your mind to the axe w/o the CD player

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think that if you goal is to use your own jazzy licks in your playing-- which I'm ASSuMing is playing rock/blues-- then you should start with the the way you normally get your ideas for improvising and then start jazzing that up.


I think one important aspect if "sounding jazzy" is having an ability to swing hard in any context. That is not to say that all jazzy or fusion playing is swung, but you should have the option available at all times.


Practice your alternate picking and really enforce the accent pattern. Dizzy something along the lines that to swing you have to have more up beats or something like that. The point is that much of rock and blues is on the down beat, use this tendency of the other musicians and the music to find your own space on the "n"s of the beat, and be able to lay off the down beats.


Start lines on the "n" of the 4th beat anticipating the change or on the n of the one. This allows you to use notes that in rock contexts rarely work.


"Bad" notes are at least sometimes "new flavors" (yeah, that's it: I didn't play a bad note I used a new flavor) in that you should replay bad notes and find lines that resolve them. The more convoluted the resolution sometimes the better (sometimes not).


When you look at a rather straight forward progression like C / / / | Am / / / | Dm / / / | G7 / / / |


You can see this, Em / E7b9 / | Am Fmaj7 Em A7b9 | Dm/A / D7b5/Ab / | G13 G7#5 G7(nat 5) G7b5 -- at least as some possibilities.


Depending on the sound you want and the band your in, you should sometimes at least pull back and only play thirds and sixths or one note of the chord, de-emphasizing the root and fifth in your playing as they are general covered elsewhere in the band. Once you get comfortable with this "thinner" playing you can start adding notes changing notes look for voice leadings and chromaticisms.


Stepping back and listening to what else is going on around you and with out you lets you find many new possibilities.


One idea is to look for chromatic runs, and chromatic twists

check out some comedy I've done:


My Unitarian Jihad Name: Brother Broadsword of Enlightened Compassion.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by musicalhair:


"Bad" notes are at least sometimes "new flavors" (yeah, that's it: I didn't play a bad note I used a new flavor) in that you should replay bad notes and find lines that resolve them. The more convoluted the resolution sometimes the better (sometimes not).


It's not a bad note, it's a jazz note. Flat response for the stink eye when you play a dissonant note.


Or if the guitar player miss-frets, "That was a jazz chord huh."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A lot of good advice I'd say.


Personally I think when the melodic minor scale is used in a certain way it's about the "jazziest" and coolest sounding thing known to mankind, and after finally seeing it's jazz secrets revealed and explained in wonderful detail with inspiring and useful examples in the Ted Green Jazz single note soloing books (I think it was his volume II that had the melodic minor nuggets) I've become totally dependent on it for jazz.


In the non melodic minor category Jamey Abersold II-V-I set that Fumbly Fingers mentioned I believe is the one that has a bunch of cool very jazzy, very chromatic type lines as examples in standard notation that can be really useful in a modal context too, and a more manageable way for a blues/rock player to get the feet wet and start sounding jazzy ASAP. Those'll give you good ideas that you can build upon for your own jazz improv.


I was in the same place you are now, Souvenir, so in case my example is of any help:


I was blues/rock/fusion guy who decided to learn some jazz and I found that "chromatic modal"

playing (heavily based on the J. Abersold licks) was a way to get some useful results that sounded like jazz playing. This can be thought of as "filling in between the notes" of the diatonic scale with neighboring tones and passing tones. I did that for years and resisted playing jazz standards (they didn't call out to me real strongly) and was lost trying to play through challenging chord changes.


Eventually I got really bugged that I was incompetent at playing real jazz with real jazz musicians and those Ted Greene books and countless hours of practicing along with the Jamey Abersol recordings got me to a competent level and gigging in a jazz trio sight reading jazz from fake books.


Buckling down and learning the arpeggios and melodic minor scale in all fretboard positions was crucial. I'm really glad I took the time to do it.


So if your level of motivation is at all similar to what mine was, I'd suggest this as a potential way to divide up a daily practice routine:


1) Immediate gratification modal jazz improv and study.


2) Practice of the arpeggios, Jazz standards etc. that will more gradually bear the golden fruit.

Just a pinch between the geek and chum



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great stuff here guys, thanks.


The thing about the metronome - if something is being played at 210 bpm - do you set your metronome to 210 or would you set it at 105bpm and do you count it on the 1st and 3rd or 2nd and 4th beats?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by souvenir:

do you count it on the 1st and 3rd or 2nd and 4th beats?

2nd and 4th beats definitely.


Way more conducive for a swing feel.


If you can do it. If not you could always set the metronome to 210 at first to ease you into getting used to playing with the metronome, then move on to having the metronome at 105 on the 2 + 4 backbeats.

Just a pinch between the geek and chum



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by A String:

If a piece calls for 210bpm, then set the metronome for 210bpm.

I'll dissent.

Setting the met at 210 for jazz will contribute toward a stiff feel


It is best set at 105 and then calling the clicks count 2 & then count 4.


The off-clicks are count 1 & 3


If you really want to develop a "floating" jazz pocket say at 200 bpms


Set the met at 50 and quadruple it call each click count 1 and then count the "2,3, & 4" before the next click hits


This is still at 200 bpms because 50 times 4 = 200


If you really want to get sick, call each click count 2 and then count 3,4,1 before the next click on count 2



Then call the click count "3"


The hardest is when you call the click count 4 becasue you want the click to be count 1 and feel it pulling there


I practices standards like this for years, and you learn how to phrase around each part of the beat this way.


It's also cool when you play with a killer drummer, because they will sense that you are confident in your time feel

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...