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Jazz Guitar Soloing – Complete Beginner’s Guide

One of the most important aspects of playing jazz guitar is building a confident and creative approach to jazz guitar soloing.

While nobody wants to recite licks when soloing, you need to study the jazz tradition to allow the history of the genre to come through in your solos.

To help you build your jazz vocabulary, here’s a collection of the most essential jazz arpeggio and scale phrases.

These are phrases that jazz guitarists of all backgrounds need to study and use in their playing.

Work each phrase one at a time, as there’s no hurry to get them all into your playing.

Pick one pattern and solo with it until it comes out naturally in your playing, and then move on to another pattern and repeat.

Building vocabulary is essential to learning jazz guitar, but it doesn’t mean reciting lines, running boring exercises, or losing your personality.

In fact, it’s quite the opposite experience, as learning the jazz language is a fun and creative practice room challenge.

 

 

 

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Jazz Guitar Soloing (Click to Skip Down)

 

  1. Jazz Guitar Soloing – Phrasing
  2. Jazz Guitar Arpeggios
  3. Jazz Blues Guitar Solo
  4. Jazz Guitar Scales
  5. Tune Up Guitar Solo

 


 

 

 

 

Jazz Guitar Soloing – Phrasing

 

When learning jazz guitar soloing, the first thing to study is the difference between short and long phrases, both of which have pros and cons.

This lesson focuses on short phrases, lasting one bar or less, that you combine in to create longer lines in your improvisations.

Here’s an example of how a short phrase is stretched into a two and four-bar phrase ,as you use a small idea to create longer ideas.

 

Click to hear hear this Jazz Guitar improvisation audio example

 

Jazz Guitar Improvisation 1.1

 

Learning longer lines, such as four-bar licks, is tough to break out of when soloing, leading your solos to sound predictable.

To avoid this pitfall, learn short phrases that you can bring together or expand upon to create longer lines.

If you like longer lines, or you have longer lines in your vocabulary already, that’s cool, and you shouldn’t avoid those phrases in your solos.

This approach, learning small phrases to build longer lines, adds to that side of your playing as you continue your journey to learning jazz guitar.

 

 

 

 

Jazz Guitar Soloing – Arpeggios

 

Let’s begin your exploration of jazz guitar soloing with arpeggios.

Having an understanding of both scales and arpeggios is essential to have a foundation on which to build lines and phrases.

To begin your exploration of vocabulary, dig into the first arpeggio pattern, approach notes.

 

 

Half-Step Below Approach Notes

 

The first bebop pattern adds a chromatic note one fret below each note in any arpeggio; seen here over Dm7.

When playing this pattern, you create “tension and release” that’s characteristic of bebop solos.

For now, resolve all chromatic notes to arpeggio tones to avoid landing or resting on any “outside” notes at this stage in your development.

 

Click to hear hear this Jazz Guitar improvisation audio example

 

Jazz Guitar Improvisation 2

 

Once you have this technique down, put on a m7 backing track and solo using the half-step below approach notes in your lines.

Chromatic notes are easier to get under your fingers than into your ears when first experimenting with these concepts.

So, play as many of these outside notes as you can so your ears become used to these new sounds in your playing.

 

 

Half-Step Above Approach Notes

 

You now approach each arpeggio note from a half-step (1 fret) above, as you can see in the G7 arpeggio below.

Again, think of each chromatic note as tension, then resolve that tension into chord tones as you practice this concept.

After you’ve worked this pattern, play half-step below on the way up the arpeggio, then half-step above on the way down that arpeggio to combine these patterns in your jazz guitar workout.

 

Click to hear hear this Jazz Guitar improvisation audio example

 

Jazz Guitar Improvisation 3

 

Put on a G7 backing track, and later other chords such as maj7 and m7 etc., and improvise with chromatic above approach notes.

Then, solo over Dm7 and G7 back and forth, a ii V, using chromatic approach notes to add tension to your lines.

 

 

Enclosure 1 – Half Above and Half Below

 

The next bebop technique is one of the most popular in all of jazz history, the enclosure.

There are a different enclosures, four of which you learn in this lesson, but the most common is the half-above and half-below enclosure.

This is where you play one fret above, then one fret below, before resolving to the target note that you’re aiming for in your line.

You can see this enclosure applied to a Cmaj7 arpeggio in the following example.

When you’ve learned his enclosure over Cmaj7, solo over a Cmaj7 backing track and use enclosures to build your lines.

 

Click to hear hear this Jazz Guitar improvisation audio example

 

Jazz Guitar Improvisation 4

 

Now that you’ve explored techniques over m7, 7 and maj7 arpeggios, put on a  ii V I backing track and solo using arpeggios and the bebop techniques that you’ve learned so far in the lesson.

 

 

Enclosure 2 – Half Below and Half Above

 

You now reverse the first enclosure as you play one fret below, one fret above, and then the target note, which you can see over an A7 below.

When you get this pattern down, play the first enclosure up the arpeggio and the second enclosure down the arpeggio as you combine these two techniques in the woodshed.

 

Click to hear hear this Jazz Guitar improvisation audio example

 

Jazz Guitar Improvisation 5

 

With the A7 arpeggio under your fingers, put together a ii V I VI7 exercise, where you use arps to outline these chords, as well as the bebop techniques you’ve learned in the lesson.

 

 

Enclosure 3 – Diatonic Above and Chromatic Below

 

You now mix a diatonic note into the enclosures as you play diatonic note above, chromatic note below, and then the target note.

You can see this enclosure in the example below, which you can learn and take to other keys and arpeggio types as you expand this idea in your practice routine.

 

Click to hear hear this Jazz Guitar improvisation audio example

 

Jazz Guitar Improvisation 6

 

Again, make sure you solo with this enclosure over both one-chord vamps and ii V I and ii V I VI progressions to bring these ideas from a technical to a musical situation.

 

 

Enclosure 4 – Diatonic Below and Chromatic Above

 

You now reverse the diatonic-chromatic enclosure, as you now play diatonic below, chromatic above and then the target chord note.

You can see this enclosure applied to a G7 below, which you can take to other keys and arpeggios in your practice routine.

 

Click to hear hear this Jazz Guitar improvisation audio example

 

Jazz Guitar Improvisation 7

 

Don’t forget to practice this enclosure when soloing over one chord, or chord progressions, as you experiment with improvising with this arpeggio pattern.

 

 

 

3 Arpeggio Licks

 

Here are three licks that you can learn in all 12 keys, study, and expand in your own jazz guitar soloing.

In this first lick, you see arpeggios and chromatic concepts being used to build the longer phrase.

Each enclosed note in the line has been labelled in the text below the staff for easy reference.

 

Click to hear hear this Jazz Guitar improvisation audio example

 

Jazz Guitar Improvisation 8

 

The second lick uses approach notes and enclosures to outline chord tones in the progression.

 

Click to hear hear this Jazz Guitar improvisation audio example

 

Jazz Guitar Improvisation 9

 

This final lick uses enclosures and arpeggios to create the phrase. You can see chord tones being enclosed in the text below the notes.

 

Click to hear hear this Jazz Guitar improvisation audio example

 

Jazz Guitar Improvisation 10

 

Once you’ve learned these licks, write your own licks as you continue to explore these concepts further.

 

 

 

 

 

Jazz Blues Guitar Solo

 

To apply these concepts to a musical situation, here’s a solo written out over a jazz blues chord progression that you can learn in your practice routine.

When first learning this solo, work it with a metronome at a slow tempo. Then, once it’s memorized at that slow tempo, play it along with a backing track at a faster click.

 

Click to hear hear this Jazz Guitar improvisation audio example

 

Jazz Guitar Improvisation 11

 

With this solo under your fingers, write out your own study that uses the bebop arpeggio techniques as you explore these items further in your practice routine.

 

 

 

 

Jazz Guitar Soloing – Scales

 

Since scales have more notes compared to arpeggios, it’s challenging to add vocabulary to scales in a soloing situation.

To help get you over this hump, here’s a collection of small, easy, bebop patterns to add to your practice routine and to your jazz guitar soloing.

 

 

1235 John Coltrane Pattern

 

The first scale pattern was a favourite of John Coltrane, and is heard most prominently in his solo on “Giant Steps.”

This pattern uses the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th notes of the scale related to each chord.

When applied to a ii V I progression, you would play the following intervals for each chord:

 

  • Dm7 = R 2 b3 5
  • G7 = R 2 3 5
  • Cmaj7 = R 2 3 5
  • A7b9 = R b2 3 5

 

Because this is an intervallic pattern, you can think of the 1235 for each scale or the intervals when applying the idea to different chords and progressions.

Whatever works for you is the best way to think about it.

 

Click to hear hear this Jazz Guitar improvisation audio example

 

Jazz Guitar Improvisation 12

 

After you’ve worked out the above example, solo over ii V I VI progressions using this pattern as the basis for your lines.

Add other notes, bring in arpeggios and arpeggio patterns, and other embellishments to integrate this pattern into your overall approach to jazz guitar soloing.

 

 

Diatonic Triads

 

You’ll now study diatonic patterns as applied to any scale you use to solo over jazz chords.

Here’s an example of diatonic triads applied to a C major scale, with each triad played in root position and on one string set.

After you’ve learned these shapes, solo over Cmaj7 and use these triads in your lines before taking this idea to other keys and other scales in the woodshed.

 

Click to hear hear this Jazz Guitar improvisation audio example

 

Jazz Guitar Improvisation 13

 

 

 

I Love Charlie Parker Pattern

 

The next pattern is one of my favourite jazz guitar lines, the “I Love Charlie Parker” pattern.

This pattern is named because it’s in a lot of Bird’s solos, and when you sing the words with the notes it helps you memorize the pattern.

The phrase is applied to the root note of a m7 or 7th chord, as in the examples below over Dm7 and G7.

When doing so, you create the intervals R-7-b7-R-6-5, bringing to light both minor and dominant bebop scales.

Apply this pattern to ii V chords in different keys, and then solo over those changes using the Parker pattern in your phrases.

 

Click to hear hear this Jazz Guitar improvisation audio example

 

Jazz Guitar Improvisation 14

 

 

 

Honeysuckle Rose Pattern

 

As was the case with the previous pattern, the Honeysuckle Rose pattern begins on the root of a m7 or 7th chord.

This lick is so named because it’s a variation on the opening line to the song “Honeysuckle Rose.”

When playing this lick, you play down the bebop scale, but instead of playing R-7-b7-6 directly, you play R-7-b7 and then an arpeggio from the 2nd note of the scale, 2-4-6.

This type of redirection was used by bebop players, and has stayed as an integral part of the modern jazz vocabulary.

In the example below, you apply this pattern to a Dm7 and G7 chord on their own, as well as to a short ii V and ii V I to hear this lick resolve in various harmonic situations.

 

Click to hear hear this Jazz Guitar improvisation audio example

 

Jazz Guitar Improvisation 15

 

When you have this pattern under your fingers, solo over ii V I progressions and move between the Parker lick and this pattern to integrate these important phrases in your solos.

 

 

Pat Martino Chromatic Slur

 

You’ll now move on to a classic Pat Martino pattern, featuring four chromatic notes in a row from the 5th of the iim7 chord and V7 chord, and the 3rd of the Imaj7 chord.

The important aspect of this lick is the long slur, where you pluck the first note and hammer-on and pull-off the rest of the notes to give it that slippery sound.

 

Click to hear hear this Jazz Guitar improvisation audio example

 

Jazz Guitar Improvisation 16

 

 

 

Pat Metheny Chromatic Line

 

This slippery line is inspired by Pat Metheny.

The line is built with chromatic notes from the 6th of any m7, 7 or maj7 chord, finishing with an enclosure around the root of that chord.

When working this pattern, use a metronome and go slow, as the more chromatic notes you play, the bigger chance you’ll rush.

While note choice is important, time and feel are even more important. So, make sure to focus on these aspects of your playing in the woodshed as well.

 

Click to hear hear this Jazz Guitar improvisation audio example

 

Jazz Guitar Improvisation 17

 

 

 

Jazz Guitar Scale Licks

 

Here are three licks that built by combining jazz guitar scale patterns to form longer lines and phrases.

Practice these patterns in all keys and apply them to your soloing practice over progressions and common jazz guitar standards.

This first lick is built by combining a Honeysuckle Rose pattern with diatonic triads.

 

Click to hear hear this Jazz Guitar improvisation audio example

 

Jazz Guitar Improvisation 18

 

This lick combines the Martino, Metheny, and Coltrane patterns to form a slippery, chromatic line that outlines a ii V I in C.

 

Click to hear hear this Jazz Guitar improvisation audio example

 

Jazz Guitar Improvisation 19

 

With a combination of Parker, Metheny, 1235, and triads, this  ii V I VI lick combines classic bebop patterns that you can work on in the woodshed.

 

Click to hear hear this Jazz Guitar improvisation audio example

 

Jazz Guitar Improvisation 20

 

 

 

 

Tune Up Guitar Solo

 

Here’s a solo over the Miles Davis tune “Tune Up” that you can learn, memorize, and expand in your practice routine.

After you’ve worked this solo out, write out a chorus of your own over this tune, or any other jazz standard, as you continue to work these scale patterns in the woodshed.

 

Click to hear hear this Jazz Guitar improvisation audio example

 

Jazz Guitar Improvisation 21



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