Learning jazz guitar licks is essential for anyone studying the genre.
By working jazz guitar licks, you increase your fretboard knowledge and build a strong connection to the jazz tradition at the same time.
While you may know that it’s important to practice jazz guitar licks, finding the right lines to work on can be a daunting task.
In this lesson, you find 141 classic jazz guitar licks, from easy to difficult and everything in between, to get under your fingers.
By working these licks, you expand your vocabulary, build technique, and get into the minds of the greatest soloists in jazz history.
Note: To avoid any copyright issues, these licks are based on the playing style of each guitarist. They are not direct transcriptions, but based on lines from the over 250 transcriptions I’ve done over the past 20 years.
Contents (Click to Skip Down)
- What Are Jazz Guitar Licks
- How to Practice Jazz Guitar Licks
- John Abercrombie Licks
- Sheryl Bailey Licks
- George Benson Licks
- Ed Bickert Licks
- Lenny Breau Licks
- Kenny Burrell Licks
- Charlie Christian Licks
- Herb Ellis Licks
- Tal Farlow Licks
- Grant Green Licks
- Jim Hall Licks
- Boogaloo Joe Jones Licks
- Barney Kessel Licks
- Pat Martino Licks
- Pat Metheny Licks
- Wes Montgomery Licks
- Joe Pass Licks
- Jimmy Raney Licks
- Emily Remler Licks
- Adam Rogers Licks
- Kurt Rosenwinkel Licks
- John Scofield Licks
- Johnny Smith Licks
- Mike Stern Licks
- Mark Whitfield Licks
What Are Jazz Guitar Licks
Jazz guitar licks are known by many names. They can be called riffs, licks, lines, phrases, motives, and motifs, just to name a few.
No matter what they’re called, their function remains the same. Jazz guitar licks are short musical phrases used to outline popular chord progressions.
That’s basically it.
Licks can be two beats, one bar, two bars, four bars, or longer. As well, they can be jazz cliches, or they can be totally unique to that particular moment.
They’re versatile, important, and very helpful when soloing over jazz standards.
As you’ll be reminded in the next section, learning licks is important, reciting jazz licks on a gig isn’t.
You want to digest the material behind the licks, but not merely quote them in your solos.
How to Practice Jazz Guitar Licks
When learning how to play jazz guitar, it’s importance to study the great players that have come before you.
One of the best ways to bring your favorite player’s sound into your solos is to learn jazz guitar licks by these masters.
But, while it’s important to learn lines, you don’t want to become a “lick player” by simply reciting lines in your solos.
Because of this, it’s important to break down each lick that you learn, analyze it, and build exercises from the concepts you discover in that lick.
In this section, you look at five steps to take when learning any lick to ensure that you not only memorize the line, but understand the concepts behind the line.
This allows you to create your own memorable lines that sound in the style of your favorite jazz guitarists.
And you avoid becoming a “lick player” along the way.
Step 1 – Learn Jazz Guitar Licks
The first thing to do when learning jazz guitar licks, is to get the lick in your ears and under your fingers.
To begin, here’s the sample jazz lick. Start by listening to this ii V I lick in the key of C major.
Click to hear learning jazz licks 1 To begin, here are a few exercises to memorize and internalize any jazz guitar lick, such as this example.
- Practice in one key at different tempos.
- Sing the lick while playing the chords.
- Play it in 12 keys at different tempos.
- Learn the lick in one or more octaves.
- Experiment with adding slides, hammers, and pull-offs.
- Solo over a backing track and use the lick as much as possible.
- Solo in 12 keys and use the lick as much as you can.
- Vary the lick in your solos, change rhythms, add notes, take notes away, etc.
As you can see, if you just learn the lick off the page there isn’t much to do besides memorize it.
But. If you look for different ways to learn, practice, and apply the lick, you derive hours of practice from a single line.
Step 2 – Analyze Jazz Guitar Licks
The next thing you do is analyze the musical material being used to build the lick. Concepts that you’re looking out for are:
- Chord subs
- 3 to 9 arpeggios
- Pentatonic Scales
- Chromatic Notes
- Changes in Octave
- Chords used if applicable
Here’s an analysis of the example lick you learned in the previous part of this lesson.
Notice that each note is analyzed, ensuring you understand how every note fits into the lick from a theoretical standpoint. Here are those items explained in a bit more detail to understand why they’re labelled as they are in this lick.
- Fmaj7 is being used as a 3 to 9 arpeggio over Dm7.
- There is a classic bebop chromatic lick at the end of bar 1.
- Bm7b5 is a 3 to 9 arpeggio over G7.
- Enclosures are adding tension-release to bar 2 and 3.
- The Honeysuckle Rose bebop lick used in bar 3.
- D being used to create a Cmaj7#11 sound in bar 4.
Now that you have the lick under you fingers, and analyzed the concepts, derive musical concepts to build exercises in the woodshed.
Step 3 – Extract Concepts From Analysis
Now that you identified the building blocks of the lick, such as which arpeggios, bebop patterns, and scales are used, you can move forward with these ideas.
Firstly, you need to understand these concepts in order to bring them into your playing.
This can be tough if you’re new to jazz guitar.
But, not to worry.
In the beginning, it’s good enough to know that you can play Fmaj7 over Dm7, for example, even if you don’t know why that works.
Over time, with more lick study, you build your theory chops to understand that this is a 3 to 9 arpeggio, and not just a cool-sounding line.
For now, here’s how each concept in the sample lick are explained from a theory standpoint, which you can use to build exercises in your guitar practice routine.
3 to 9 Arpeggios
The first thing you look at are the two arpeggios used over Dm7 and G7, Fmaj7 and Bm7b5.
When analyzing these two arpeggios, notice that they both start on the 3rd of each chord.
They also feature the 3-5-7-9 of each underlying chord, Dm7 and G7. So, here’s your first concept.
“When playing over any chord, you can use an arpeggio that outlines the 3-5-7-9 of that chord.”
Here are those two arpeggio written out after extracting them from the lick.
Click to hear learning jazz licks 2 Also notice that the Fmaj7 arpeggios is played in the interval order 7-1-3-5 in the lick.
You can also make a point to incorporate that into the exercises you do with the 3 to 9 arpeggio concept.
There are two common bebop licks in this phrase.
The first is the D-C-A-A#-B line in the bar 1.
Then the second is the D-Db-C-E-G-B lick in the third and fourth bar.
When looking to find ways of organizing these licks, it’s beneficial to look for the fingering used in order to play this lick in other musical situations.
For the first bebop lick, in bar 1, that lick lands on a 1-3-4 fingering on the 4th string, around the notes A-B-C.
You can see how that lines up on the fretboard after breaking down the lick.
Click to hear learning jazz licks 3 Therefore, you would come up with the concept:
“When you have a 1-3-4 fingering on a given string, you can apply this lick when musically appropriate.”
For the second bebop lick, it occurs when there is a 1-2-4 fingering on the 3rd string, B-C-D in this case.
Here’s that pattern written all as 8th notes, no rests as in the line, to make it easier to extract into other musical situations.
Click to hear learning jazz licks 4 Again, this would allow you to derive a guideline for applying this lick to other situations.
This concept is:
“When you have a 1-2-4 fingering on a given string, you can apply this lick when musically appropriate.”
Since playing bebop lines such as these can sound forced, it’s more musical to break down larger licks into these smaller phrases.
By using smaller phrases in your solos, you maintain the bebop language, but won’t worry about sounding unmusical when playing longer lines.
Next, you look at the enclosures that occur over the G7 and Cmaj7 chords.
Enclosures are where you play one fret above, one fret below, and then the diatonic note. From here, you develop a concept on how to apply this technique to other musical situations.
Since this lick uses enclosures on both chord and scale tones, you would derive the concept:
“When playing over chord changes, you can use enclosures with both chord and scale tones when appropriate.”
Since enclosures are extremely common in jazz, it’s one that you would be sure to delve into further in your studies.
The last concept you explore in this lick is the D triad being played over the Cmaj7 chord.
Here, the sound being produced by this concept is a Lydian sound, maj7#11, as the F# in the D triad is the #11 of Cmaj7.
The guideline from this part of the lick is:
“When bringing a Lydian sound into your lines, play a major triad from the 9th of the underlying maj7 chord.”
Here’s how you would work out a D triad fingering next to different Cmaj7 chord voicings that you already use in your playing.
Click to hear learning jazz licks 5 Again, since the Lydian sound is common, make sure to build exercises and improvise with this concept to allow this concept to come out naturally in your solos.
Step 4 – Create Exercises For Each Concept
After you learned a lick, analyzed it, and broken down it’s musical concepts, you can create exercises that bring these concepts into your practice routine.
Here are exercises that you can derive from the concepts mentioned above.
The first exercise is based on the 7-1-3-5 arpeggio used to open the line over Dm7.
One of the best ways practice arpeggios is through arpeggio scales, and so you take the above arpeggio fingering, 7-1-3-5, and apply it to the diatonic arpeggios in a key.
Here’s an example of how t0 work on this arpeggio in the key of C major on the middle three strings.
From here, you take this exercise to other string sets and keys in your studies.
Click to hear learning jazz licks 6 Practicing arpeggio scales is a great way to learn any arpeggio.
As well, it makes you think of the notes and chords in the key, as you can’t use traditional “box-patterns” when running these arps up the neck.
After working on this idea from a technical perspective, put on a ii V I backing track and solo using only the arpeggio shapes from the above exercise.
Then, take the same exercise and solo over ii V I’s in all 12 keys.
Lastly, solo over blues tunes and jazz standards using only this arpeggio fingering to take it further in your practice routine.
Bebop Licks Through Scales
When working on the bebop licks this example phrase, you can extract those licks and run them through scales.
Here’s an example of an exercise you could do over a G7 chord, using the G Mixolydian Scale as the basis for this exercise.
To start the pattern, play an ascending two-octave G7 arpeggio, then run down the scale from there.
As you’re running down the scale, wherever there’s a 134 fingering pattern, apply the bebop lick that you extracted earlier.
In this case, there’s a 134 fingering on the 2nd and 3rd strings.
Here’s how that looks on paper.
Click to hear learning jazz licks 7 Here’s an example of the 124 lick being applied to a D Dorian scale to create a technical exercise in the woodshed.
Again, with this lick you ascend the arpeggio and then descend the scale.
As you descend the scale, apply the lick each time you find a 124 fingering.
In this example, there are 124 fingerings on the 2nd and 3rd strings.
Here’s how that practice pattern looks like on paper.
Click to hear learning jazz licks 8 After running this exercise over G7 at various tempos, practice it in 12 keys.
Then, take it to other scales you’re working on in the woodshed, such as altered, melodic minor, etc.
From there, put on a backing track, first over one chord, then over a ii V I, and full tunes to bring these bebop scale patterns into your soloing in a real-time situation.
Enclosures Through Arpeggios
The last example you look at applies enclosures to a technical and then improvisational exercise.
To begin, take an arpeggio such as the Cmaj7 arp you see below, and play an enclosure on every note of that arpeggio.
Do this ascending and descending with the arpeggio, but for space the descending version is written in the example below.
Click to hear learning jazz licks 9 Once you work enclosures over Cmaj7, take them other keys.
Then, take them to other arpeggios such as 7th, m7 and m7b5 arps in your studies.
From there, put on a variety of backing tracks and use enclosures over arpeggios in your soloing practice routine.
As you can see, you can derive countless hours of exercises from just this one four-bar phrase.
When learning licks, this is the most important part of the learning process.
Breaking down ideas and creating exercises allows you to create your own licks in this style on the spot in a jam or gigging situation.
Step 5 – Write Lines and Solos Based on These Concepts
The last thing you do when digging into a new lick is write your own licks and solos using the concepts from the lick you just learned.
Creating a great solo on stage is a lot like composing a piece of music in real time.
So, in order to train your hands, ears and brain to perform a memorable solo, you can practice composing solos.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to approach writing out lines and solos to go beyond memorizing them in your studies.
- Write out a one-chorus solo using the material from a lick you learned.
- Memorize the solo at a variety of tempos.
- Play the solo along with a backing track exactly as written.
- When ready, alter the rhythms and notes in the written chorus.
- Slowly move away from the written chorus as you transition into a non-memorized chorus of soloing.
A lot of times when learning lines, you memorize a lick and then throw it into your solos when you got to a jam session.
But, if you dig deep into each lick you learn, you add vocabulary to your solos and derive weeks or months of practicing.
Now that you know how to work any jazz guitar licks you study, time to move on and check out the hundreds of jazz licks in this lesson.
John Abercrombie Licks
Known for his modern approach, John Abercrombie is a groundbreaking guitarist who has developed a personal sound to the genre over the years.
Using solid-body guitars, effects pedals, and his thumb to pluck the notes, Abercrombie’s style is sparse, energetic, and unique.
From an improviser’s standpoint, Abercrombie’s use of the pentatonic scale, triads, patterns, and a horizontal approach to the fretboard are worth absorbing into your vocabulary.
In this section, you study five John Abercrombie licks that deal with those characteristic sounds, and more.
Have fun with these modern jazz guitar licks. Even if you’re not a fan of modern jazz, these licks open up your fretboard, and give you new sounds to explore in any style of jazz soloing.
John Abercrombie Lick 1
The first John Abercrombie lick is based on the D Dorian scale, played over a Dm7 chord.
Here, the line moves up the same strings rather than in position, more horizontal than vertical.
This type of horizontal playing is characteristic of Abercrombie’s soloing and approach to fretboard organization.
Though it’s a diatonic line, no juicy chromatic notes, the pattern and movement up the neck will bring that Abercrombie vibe into your playing.
Click to hear john abercrombie licks 1
John Abercrombie Lick 2
Here’s a static Fmaj7 lick that uses the F major pentatonic scale, mostly.
In true Abercrombie fashion, the first part of the lick is a pentatonic scale pattern played in triplets.
From there, the last part of the line contains two notes outside of that scale, the 7th and 4th of Fmaj7.
By mixing in these two notes, Abercrombie brings a sense of freshness to the pattern-based line.
This helps the line sound musical, rather than simply a finger pattern run up and down the scale.
Click to hear john abercrombie licks 2
John Abercrombie Lick 3
Apart from being a highly skilled modal player, Abercrombie also creates sophisticated phrases over changes with his own unique style.
In this line, over the first four bars of an F blues, there’s a chromatic pattern moving up the fretboard in the second bar.
This type of pattern, and horizontal playing, is characteristic of Abercrombie’s soloing vocabulary.
As well, there are chromatic approach notes outlining a C7 arpeggio in bar 3. Here, the C7 is a sub over the F7, creating a V7-I7 sound in bars 3 and 4 of the blues progression.
Click to hear john abercrombie licks 3
John Abercrombie Lick 4
Here’s a minor 251 lick in a typical Abercrombie style.
There’s an enclosure in bar one of the line, outlining the #9 of the E7alt chord in bar 2 of the phrase.
As well, there are 3 altered notes over that same chord, b9, #9, b13, giving the E7alt chord a true altered sound.
From there, the line resolves with a straightforward 1-b3-5-b7 arpeggio over Am7.
Click to hear john abercrombie licks 4
John Abercrombie Lick 5
The final John Abercrombie lick uses mostly diatonic triads, climbing up the fretboard, to outline a major 251 chord progression in C major.
The triads used are:
- C – I
- D – II7
- Dm – ii
- G – V
- Am – vi
- Bdim – viidim
All of which come from the key of C major, with the exception of D, but each creates different chord colors when applied to the progression.
In this case, the D triad is creating a Cmaj7#11, or Lydian mode, sound over that chord.
Using triads like this is not unique to Abercrombie’s soloing language.
But, it’s something that’s found in many of his lines and solos.
When coupled with the horizontal approach to the neck, this line brings out an Abercrombie 251 vibe that’s worth learning and using in your own solos.
Click to hear john abercrombie licks 5
Sheryl Bailey Licks
One of the strongest modern bebop guitarists on the scene today, Sheryl Bailey brings a fresh approach to the genre.
With an abundance of original compositions and a strong command of the bebop language, Sheryl has become one of the leaders in the modern bop genre.
In this section, you study the concepts that make Sheryl’s playing stand out among her peers.
You learn enclosures, arpeggios, blues licks, chromatic ii V subs, m3rd planning, and much more.
All crammed into 5 licks.
If you’re not familiar with Sheryl’s playing, take a minute and listen to a few of her tracks.
Then, come back and get some of these classic jazz guitar licks under your fingers.
Sheryl Bailey Lick 1
This first Sheryl Bailey lick outlines a Dm7 chord, with a healthy dose of enclosures thrown in for good measure.
The lick uses enclosures, fret above-fret below-scale note, over the Root, 2nd, b3rd, and 5th of Dm7.
At the end of the line, the last enclosure resolves up to the root.
This is a great example of enclosures in action over a m7 chord with a strong resolution.
Click to hear sheryl bailey licks 1
Sheryl Bailey Lick 2
One of the things that makes Sheryl’s playing stand out is her command of the blues.
In this lick, you see a classic Bailey line based on the F blues scale, used over F7.
There’s nothing fancy about this lick, but good Blues solos are never really fancy.
This line gets the job done; it’s melodic, and fun to play.
Check it out and add this Sheryl Bailey lick to your next jazz blues solo.
Click to hear sheryl bailey licks 2
Sheryl Bailey Lick 3
Here, you see an essential bebop technique, and one that Sheryl uses often in her playing.
The opening motive is repeated up a minor 3rd interval, before resolving down to the Fmaj7 chord at the end of the line.
Playing a line, then repeating that line up a m3rd before resolving it is great way to create tension and resolution in your lines.
Give it a try, with this line, and with any riff as you create a bebop tension in your solos.
Click to hear sheryl bailey licks 3
Sheryl Bailey Lick 4
In this long, 251 lick in C major, you’ll see a half-step ii-V sub being used over the first two bars of the line.
This is another common jazz improvisation technique, and one that Sheryl has total command over in her solos.
The concept is that you play a short ii V in the first bar, a half step above the underlying ii V.
From there, you play the same lick, but in the tonic key, and then resolve down to the Imaj7 chord from there.
You can do this with any short riff, just play it a half step higher than the key you’re in.
Then, play it in the diatonic key and resolve from there.
Click to hear sheryl bailey licks 4
Sheryl Bailey Lick 5
In this final Sheryl Bailey lick, you see an example of the dominant bebop Scale being used over a ii V progression.
As well, there’s a Bbmaj7 arpeggio used to sound a Gm9 chord over the C7 in the second half of the first bar.
This is called the “minor conversion” concept.
To sum it up, it means that when you see a V7 chord, you use notes from the iim7 chord to “minorize” that V7 chord.
Click to hear sheryl bailey licks 5
George Benson Licks
There are few players that have captured the attention of jazz guitar fans in the way George Benson has over his career.
Though he’s moved more into the smooth jazz realm over the second half of his career, Benson has always maintained a high level of bebop in his recordings.
A master of building intensity in his solos, and possessing a strong command of the bebop language, Benson is often listed as one of the top jazz guitarists of any generation.
In this section, you look into the bluesy and bebop sides of Benson’s soloing.
As well, you study his energetic, double-time lines, and chord soloing phrases as you dig into the concepts that have made Benson one of the greatest jazzers to ever play guitar.
George Benson Lick 1
This first George Benson lick is one of his best blues licks on record. It’s such a simple line, but when you get it under your fingers, you get the sense of flow that this line creates.
There’s nothing outside in this line, but the Bbmaj9 arpeggio in the first bar outlines a Gm11 chord.
As well, the Ab-C over the C7 comes from the F Blues scale, borrowing from the tonic blues sound.
From there, the line finishes on the tonic, nice and simple yet highly effective.
Click to hear George Benson Lick 1
George Benson Lick 2
In this turnaround lick, every note comes from the F major blues scale.
We often associate Benson’s playing with the minor blues lines that he creates.
But, he’s also a master of mixing in the major blues scale into his soloing lines, and this is a great example of that scale in action.
Click to hear George Benson Lick 2
George Benson Lick 3
As well as using more traditional concepts, Benson also brings a modern sound to his guitar solos.
In this George Benson lick, triads are used to create a sense of tension and release over an F7 chord.
The first bar uses diatonic triads, Eb and F, over F7.
From there, the Gb and B+ triads are used to create tension, which is then resolved into the G at the end of the line.
Click to hear George Benson Lick 3
George Benson Lick 4
A short ii V I lick, this line uses a classic chromatic run over C7 and Fmaj7.
This line is built from an idea Charlie Parker played in his Billie’s Bounce solo.
The chromatic notes connect the 2nd to the 3rd and the 4th to the 5th of the underlying Fmaj7 chord. In this phrase, the Fmaj7 is anticipated a bit as the Fmaj7 chromatic lick begins over C7, then resolves over Fmaj7.
Click to hear George Benson Lick 4
George Benson Lick 5
Here’s another classic Benson blues lick, built by repeated the first bar up a 4th to match the Bb7 chord in bar 2.
Playing a lick on the I7 chord, the repeating that lick on the IV7 chord, is a standard blues soloing concept, and one you can explore on your own further.
As well, notice the range of this line, which is all played above the 12th fret.
If you find it too difficult to play that high up the fretboard, you can always transpose this line down and octave and play it that way in your solos.
Click to hear George Benson Lick 5
George Benson Lick 6
You now explore a few double-time George Benson licks, such as this ii V I line in G major.
Here, the line is built by repeating a three-note motive in 4/4 time.
When doing so, you create a syncopated feel that doesn’t resolve until the end of the line.
Be careful when playing lines like this, as counting can be tough.
Go slow, take your time, and use a metronome until you’re ready to jam it along to a backing track.
Click to hear George Benson Lick 6
George Benson Lick 7
The next double time Benson lick uses syncopated rhythms, short rests and 8th notes mixed with 16th notes, to create interest in the line.
Sometimes you find yourself always running 16th notes when soloing in a double-time feel.
But, great players such as Benson mix in other rhythms and rests to their faster lines.
This helps to break up the line, preventing it from becoming boring or predictable in the process.
Click to hear George Benson Lick 7
George Benson Lick 8
The final double-time Benson lick features a number of interesting items to check out.
The first is the B-F#-B pattern in bar one, which is then played down a fret and back again.
When doing so, playing a fret away and back again, you’re using a concept called sidestepping.
Sidestepping creates a slippery feeling in your lines, but you have to make sure to resolve it such as Benson does here.
As well, in bar two there are a number of chromatic notes, creating tension over the V7 chord before resolving to the Gmaj7 at the end of the line.
Click to hear George Benson Lick 8
George Benson Lick 9
No study of George Benson’s licks would be complete without a few chord soloing lines.
In this first line, you see a few classic Benson chord shapes used over a G7 chord. The chord names are written below to help you see each chord, and how it relates to the underlying change.
Check out the Am11-D7alt-G9 chords in bar two.
Here, Benson is putting ii-V-I progression into a static chord, G7. This is a common way to create tension when playing over static chords such as this one.
Click to hear George Benson Lick 9
George Benson Lick 10
The next lick features sidestepping over the second and third bars of the line.
Here, there are chromatic chords above and below the diatonic chord, C7.
As always, when attempting this sort of outside soloing line make sure to resolve it back to the underlying chord.
There’s a fine line between outside and wrong, make sure to find that line in your chord solos.
Click to hear George Benson Lick 10
George Benson Lick 11
This final George Benson lick is a chord-soloing line over a G7 change.
There are a number of diatonic chords used, Dm7-Em11 for example. As well, there’s sidestepping in bar two, this time above the given chord.
Lastly, there’s a D7alt-G9 at the end of the lick, which is similar to the sub you saw in the first Benson chord lick.
This lick has a little bit of everything that makes George Benson such a world-class improvisor.
Click to hear George Benson Lick 11
Ed Bickert Licks
Growing up in a small town in Manitoba, Ed Bickert grew to become on of the most accomplished guitarists in Canadian history.
A staple of both the gigging and studio scene, Bickert became known for his advanced harmonic concept and laid-back swing feel.
Though some listeners compare his style to that of Jim Hall, us Canadians prefer to think of Jim as being the American Ed Bickert.
Though he may not be as well known as Wes or Pat Metheny, Bickert’s recordings are legendary among fans of the genre, and definitely worth checking out. In this section, you dig into Ed’s single note and chord soloing vocabulary.
This expands your soloing chops, and expose you to one of Canada’s, and the world’s, greatest jazz guitarists.
Ed Bickert Lick 1
In this first Ed Bickert lick, there are two chord subs, the Bebop scale, and a b9 over the C7 chord, all in a three-bar phrase.
Typical of Bickert’s playing in general, there are chord subs being used to create harmonic colors over the Gm7 chord.
Here, there’s a Dm7 used to outline the 5-b7-9-11 intervals over Gm7.
As well, there’s a Bbmaj7 over that same Gm7 chord, outlining the intervals b3-5-b7-9.
From there, the triplet on beat 3 of the first bar uses the C bebop scale to create tension and release at that moment in the line.
The last item to look out for is the b9 over the C7 chord, which creates some more tension that’s then resolved into the Imaj7 chord in the last bar.
Click to hear ed bickert lick 1
Ed Bickert Lick 2
The next Bickert lick is played over a turnaround progression in the key of Bb.
There’s nothing overly complicated about this lick. But, the repeated notes are characteristic of Ed’s playing, and are found in many of his recorded solos.
Though repeating notes aren’t always the best choice, in the hands of a player lick Ed; these notes become the best part of the line.
Click to hear ed bickert lick 2
Ed Bickert Lick 3
No study of Ed Bickert’s playing would be complete without looking into his chord soloing lines.
This turnaround chord lick uses some big stretches, which Ed loved to use in his playing.
If you can’t make the stretches in the first and third chord shapes, you can take out the lowest notes to make those shapes easier on your hands.
Click to hear ed bickert lick 3
Ed Bickert Lick 4
Here, you’ll be using one of Ed’s favorite chord approaches, open strings.
Though they’re common in blues, rock, and pop, open strings are used much less often in jazz guitar chords.
Ed is a player who enjoyed using open strings in his chord soloing and comping, giving his harmony a distinct sound compared to many of his peers.
As well, you see the Fmaj7 chord being used over the Dm7 chord, which is a 3 to 9 rootless chord shape.
Click to hear ed bickert lick 4
Ed Bickert Lick 5
To finish your study of Ed Bickert licks, here’s a chord line that uses a number of subs that Ed loved to use in his solos.
The first bar contains a backcycling phrase, B7-E7-A7, which then resolves to the D9 through the Eb9 chromatic approach chord.
Backcycling is when you play chords that are a V7 of the next chord in the progression, or subs as is the case here.
- B7 is the V7 of E7
- E7 is the V7 of A7
- A7 is the V7 of D7, resolved through Eb9
As well, Eb9 is the tritone sub of A7, so there is a tritone sub used there that leads A7 to D9 in the lick.
As you can see, just in the first 6 beats there are a lot of subs going on.
This is typical of Ed’s playing, and shows the command he had over chord subs and modern jazz harmony.
Click to hear ed bickert lick 5
Lenny Breau Licks
Though he had a troubled personal life, Lenny Breau has become known as one of the most accomplished guitarists of the last century.
Developing a personal approach to the instrument, and taking influences from pianists, classical, Indian, and Flamenco musicians, Lenny’s style was all his own.
Beyond a personal style, Lenny helped to redefine how guitarists played chords, chord melodies, and chord solos in a jazz context.
His use of piano-style comping techniques, and advanced fingerstyle concepts, brought a heightened sense of harmonic control to his playing.
Comfortable in a group, duo, and solo guitar setting, Lenny left this world very young, but left us with a wealth of music to enjoy for years to come.
Lenny Breau Lick 1
This first Lenny Breau lick is a simple idea, yet contains one of Lenny’s favorite single-note techniques, descending 3rds.
You can see this technique used in the last half of the bar, where the notes step down from beat 3 of bar 2, down to the last note, D.
As Lenny shows, working 3rds through scales is not only a great chops builder, it provides inspiration for your solos as well.
Click to hear lenny breau lick 1
Lenny Breau Lick 2
As well as using 3rds in his solos, Lenny was a fan of triplet rhythms, which you can see in this next Lenny Breau lick.
Here, you outline a short minor ii V I in C, using triplets on each beat of the bar.
As well, look at the Ab-F-F#-G line that connects G7alt to Cm7. This is a classic bebop line, and one you can extract and use in your playing in similar, and other, musical situations.
Click to hear lenny breau lick 2
Lenny Breau Lick 3
The next Lenny single-note lick uses double time, 16th notes, in the classic Lenny style.
There is a repeated riff, first heard in bar 1, which is transposed to fit the Em7-A7alt chords in bar 2.
Repeating riffs like this over descending chord progressions is something that Lenny often used in his solos.
As well, there’s a healthy dose of bebop vocabulary in this line.
Though Lenny is known for his modern jazz, classical, and Flamenco influences, he also possessed a strong command of the bebop language in his playing.
Click to hear lenny breau lick 3
Lenny Breau Lick 4
In this next lick, you see one of the concepts that makes Lenny’s playing so unique and personal sounding, piano-style comping.
This line is built using 3rds and 7ths, or 3rd and 6th over Dmaj7, under a moving melody line.
In a similar approach to pianists, Lenny used 3rds and 7ths as the low notes for his chords, and used those guide tones to solidify the harmony below his chord-soloing lines.
Though they’re just two notes, 3rds and 7ths are highly effective when used in a chord line such as this.
If you’re new to Lenny’s chord soloing lines, go slow with this one.
It take time to get under your fingers. But.
Once you get it down, every Lenny style chord line will be much easier to learn and apply after this initial lick.
Click to hear lenny breau lick 4
Lenny Breau Lick 5
This final Lenny Breau lick uses 3rds and 7ths below a melody line, though this time those notes are separated from the melody during the phrase.
This type of comping between phrases makes one guitar sound like two, and was a big reason that Lenny turned so many heads when he first hit the scene.
Again, it’s difficult to get these shapes into your playing, so take your time, use a metronome if needed, and built the tempo over time with this lick.
Click to hear lenny breau lick 5
Kenny Burrell Licks
Making a huge splash on the scene with his album Midnight Blue, Kenny Burrell has been a staple of the jazz scene for over 50 years.
With a celebrated catalogue of recordings as both a sideman and bandleader, Burrell has made a name for himself as one of the most reliable jazz guitarists of his era.
Known for his bluesy playing, Burrell also possesses a deep knowledge of bebop vocabulary, which you see in the licks below.
If you’re new to Burrell’s playing, check out his album Midnight Blue, especially his tune “Chitlins Con Carne,” as both are a great introduction to jazz guitar.
Kenny Burrell Lick 1
In this first Kenny Burrell lick, you dig into some essential Blues sounds over an A7 chord. Kenny is known as one of the best blues jazz guitarists, and for good reason.
Though this line is simple in its construction, the slippery, bluesy feel it brings to your solos makes a big different when going for a jazzy sound in your lines.
There are no slur markings in the lick, as each player is different in how they choose to play these kinds of lines.
So, feel free to experiment with adding slides, hammers, and pull-offs when learning this line on the fretboard.
Click to hear kenny burrell lick 1
Kenny Burrell Lick 2
Another sound that Burrell likes to explore in his solos is the Phrygian dominant scale.
This scale is the 5th mode of the harmonic minor scale, and it’s used to create a 7(b9,b13) sound over dominant chords in your solos.
Here, Phrygian dominant is being used to color the Dm7b5-G7alt chords in the first bar of this short ii V I phrase.
When playing over ii V chords, you can play the ii, the V, or both. In this case, you learn an example of a V chord being the focus of the ii V progression.
Click to hear kenny burrell lick 2
Kenny Burrell Lick 3
In this Kenny Burrell lick, you look at a repeated pattern that is based on the pedal tone C.
Played over a turnaround chord progression in F major, this line uses a C as the 2nd note of every four-note group.
As well, there’s a G7 chord being used as a sub for the iim7 chord in bar 2.
When soloing over ii V chords, you can use II7 V7 instead as a common jazz sub. This creates a V7/V to V7 progression, adding a bit more tension to your line as you can hear in this phrase.
Click to hear kenny burrell lick 3
Kenny Burrell Lick 4
Here’s a classic Burrell style lick that mixes chords and single notes over a C7 chord.
Moving between chords and lines is something that Burrell loves to do in his solos, and it’s become a calling card of sorts in his career.
While other players use chords in their solos, Burrell’s use of them to punctuate phrases, imitating a pianist, has a personal touch all it’s own.
After learning this line, put on a backing track and insert some chords between your lines to take this concept further in your studies.
Click to hear kenny burrell lick 4
Kenny Burrell Lick 5
To finish your study of Kenny Burrell licks, you learn a double time line over a ii V I progression.
Though Kenny is known for his melodic, bluesy lines, he’s also a got a deep vocabulary of double time lines such as this one.
Check out the second bar, where there is a tritone sub being used over the C7 chord.
Again, this is a staple of Kenny’s playing, as using the tritone sub is a way to create tension over dominant chords such as this one.
Take your time with this lick, use a metronome, and build up speed as you learn this double time Burrell line.
Click to hear kenny burrell lick 5
Charlie Christian Licks
There’s not much to say about Charlie Christian that hasn’t already been said.
The father of jazz guitar, Christian revolutionized the genre with his single-note solos and adaptation of horn lines onto the guitar.
With an endless stream of ideas flowing from his fingers, Christian’s extended live solos have become legendary.
Though restricted by the technology of the time to shorter explorations, his recorded solos also offer a deep look into the mind of one of jazz’s greatest improvisers.
In this section, you dig into Charlie Christian single-note, double-time, and chord lines as you delve into the playing style of the first jazz guitar hero.
Charlie Christian Lick 1
In this C7 lick, you see Christian Christian’s use of blues notes and triads to build a line.
Though triads are often passed over in jazz in favor of more colorful arpeggios, they can go a long way in the right situation.
This lick is an example of how triads can be an effective soloing device, even when played from the root of the underlying chord.
As well, there are two blues notes, the b3 (D#/Eb) and the b5 (F#) used to create a bluesy feel over the C7 chord.
Click to hear charlie christian lick 1
Charlie Christian Lick 2
Here’s a triplet based Charlie Christian lick over a ii V I in G major.
As well as featuring triplets, there is a chromatic passing note on the first beat of the lick, Ab, connecting the A and G notes.
Lastly, check out the b9, Eb, used over the D7 chord in the second half of the first bar.
Though he didn’t go too far outside the chord changes in his playing, Christian often used tension notes over dominant chords to create interest in his solos.
This lick is an example of how a carefully placed tension note can create energy in a line, without having to overdo it with chromatic notes in the solo.
Click to hear charlie christian lick 2
Charlie Christian Lick 3
One of the best parts of Charlie Christian’s soloing is his ability to create memorable melody lines in his phrases.
Here’s an example of a melodic phrase that uses diatonic notes, but sticks in the head of the listener after the solo.
When learning how to play jazz guitar, many players want to stretch out and use a ton of modes, chromatic notes, and chord subs.
But, a well-constructed melodic line will often connect more with an audience than a hip, outside line.
This is an example of that concept in action.
Click to hear charlie christian lick 3
Charlie Christian Lick 4
Though known more for his single-note solos, Christian could also create engaging chord soloing lines in his playing.
Here’s an example of a Christian chord soloing line that uses approach chords to build tension and release over an Em7 chord.
Each triad, C#m-F#m-Em, is approached by a triad one half-step above, Dm-Gm-Fm.
Again, this is an example of how triads can be an effective soloing device in a jazz setting.
Click to hear charlie christian lick 4
Charlie Christian Lick 5
The final Charlie Christian lick in this section is a double time line over a ii V I in G major.
Again, though more known for his 8th-note phrases and melodic runs, Christian could also let loose and play effective 16th-note phrases in his solos.
Take your time when learning this lick, use a metronome, and slowly build the tempo as you work it out in your studies.
Click to hear charlie christian lick 5
Herb Ellis Licks
Known for his bluesy, fast-paced, and exciting jazz-guitar solos, Herb Ellis has become known as one of the finest guitarists of his generation.
Having studied music at the University of North Texas, Ellis had a deep understanding of harmony and melody that can be heard in his lines and solos.
In this section, you study a number of characteristic Herb Ellis concepts over a variety of chord progressions.
By studying his use of voice leading, double stops, triplets, chromatic notes, and bluesy ideas, you bring a Herb Ellis vibe to your own solos.
Herb Ellis Licks 1
To begin, here’s a cool-sounding Herb Ellis ii V I lick in the key of Bb. There is an F bebop scale being used to start the line, F-E-Eb, which is a common sub over a iim7 chord.
As well, there are guide tones moving between the chords, b7-3, as you play through the line. Guide tones allow you to move smoothly from one chord to the next, as you can hear in this line.
Lastly, check out the F7alt sounds being used to create tension over F7. This tension is then released over the Bbmaj7 chord in the next bar.
Click to hear herb ellis lick 1
Herb Ellis Licks 2
Herb not only played memorable single-line solos, but he also brought a number of double-stop ideas into his playing.
In this C7 line, you see double stops used in the first half of the lick.
When playing double stops, you can use your pick, or pick and fingers to play those notes. Sometimes something as simple as double stops can be the difference between a line sounding predictable and a line sounding fresh and hip.
Herb knew how to use double stops to bring a sense of hipness to his lines.
Click to hear herb ellis lick 2
Herb Ellis Licks 3
In this ii V I lick in G, there’s a G major bebop scale being used to create tension at the end of the D7 and start of the Gmaj7 chord.
As well, there’s a b3 passing tone that creates a bluesy sound over the Gmaj7 chord at the end of the line. Notice the triplets being used in this line.
Herb used a number of triplets such as these in his solos, but he didn’t chain triplets together as other players do.
Instead, he inserted them in the middle or beginning of lines to break up 8th-note runs in his solos.
Click to hear herb ellis lick 3
Herb Ellis Licks 4
Here, you learn a minor ii V I lick in the style of Herb Ellis.
Again, there’s a triplet in the second bar, using the same intervals as the first lick in this section.
Using a triplet from the b9 to #9 to the b9 again is a characteristic sound of Herb’s playing, as well as being a common bebop technique.
Though it’s a small idea, it’s worth exploring further in your playing as countless jazz soloists use this sound in their playing.
Click to hear herb ellis lick 4
Herb Ellis licks 5
In this double-time Herb Ellis lick, you see a number of characteristic sounds over this two-bar lick.
There are passing tones (P.T.) in the first half of bar one, as well as C7alt sounds used over the second half of that bar.
Notice the Caug triad used over C7alt. Players such as Herb and others from his era would often use triads in situations such as this.
Though triads might seem simple compared to modes and larger arpeggios, in the right hands they’re an effective soloing tool.
Lastly, there’s a voice-leading run that leads the C7, b7, to the Fmaj7, 3, in a characteristic Herb Ellis fashion.
Click to hear herb ellis lick 5
Tal Farlow Licks
Though his career was relatively short, he retired in 1958 to work as a sign painter, Tal Farlow is considered one of the greatest jazz guitarists to ever live.
Luckily for fans of his playing, Farlow did make a comeback later in his life, but even with a short career span, his recorded output is rich with material for you to study.
With huge hands, gaining him the nickname “Octopus,” Farlow was able to play chords and single-note runs that other players couldn’t reach.
In this section, you study licks featuring large stretches, double-time ideas, voice leading, and other characteristic elements found in Tal Farlow’s solos.
Tal Farlow Licks 1
To begin, here’s a typical Tal Farlow ii V I lick that uses a wide range and a few leaps in its construction.
Because Tal had large hands, many of his chords and single-note lines contained wide stretches and big leaps.
This won’t be a problem for most people at a slow or medium tempo.
But, when playing this type of line at a fast clip, those stretches become harder to navigate.
Take your time with this line and experiment with a few different fingerings to see what works best for you.
Click to hear tal farlow licks 1
Tal Farlow Licks 2
The next Tal Farlow lick uses double stops to create a bluesy sound over an Fmaj7 chord.
Tal loved to use double stops in his solos, especially blues-inspired runs such as this.
You can use your pick and fingers, or pick if you mute non-played strings, when playing double stops.
Notice the power chords, perfect 5ths, used at the end of the line.
Though you don’t use them much in jazz, players such as Ed Bickert, Tal Farlow, and Johnny Smith explored perfect 5th intervals such as these in their playing.
Click to hear tal farlow licks 2
Tal Farlow Licks 3
Digging into a minor ii V I Tal Farlow lick, you see some rhythmic ideas used to create interest in the second half of the line.
Though it may seem like a small idea, breaking up your lines with rests, as you can see here, can make a big difference in the success of your solos.
Make sure to play the rests in the second bar; don’t hold the notes, actually stop them from ringing.
Often times, guitarists can be guilty of holding notes rather than resting, as you don’t have to breathe like horn players do.
Playing the rests brings out the syncopated element of the line, making it swing harder at the same time.
Click to hear tal farlow licks 3
Tal Farlow Licks 4
Here’s a Tal Farlow double-time lick that you can use over a minor ii V I chord progression.
Notice the melodic idea that starts the Am7 bar, which is characteristic of Tal’s playing. As well, you’ll see the b6, F, used over Am7.
Though dorian and melodic minor are commonly used in jazz over m7 chords, Aeolian is also sometimes used, as you can see here.
Click to hear tal farlow licks 4
Tal Farlow Licks 5
The final Tal Farlow lick is played over the first four bars of a Bb rhythm changes.
There are a few large leaps in this line, in typical Farlow style.
As well, the C melodic minor scale is used to create some tension over the Cm7 and F7 chords at the end of the line.
Using Melodic Minor from the iim7 chord in a ii V is a common bebop technique, and one you should explore further in your studies.
Click to hear tal farlow licks 5
Grant Green Licks
With a unique tone, bluesy sound, and strong bebop vocabulary, Grant Green helped to define the Blue Note guitar sound in the 1960s.
As well, he was an innovator in the jazz funk genre as he moved into that realm later in his career.
No matter what genre he was playing in, one thing was certain; Grant would bring his best to each recording and jam session.
In this section, you learn a variety of major and minor ii V I Grant Green licks in various keys.
Grant Green Lick 1
In this first Grant Green lick, you learn a short ii-V-I in the key of C.
There’s a triplet chromatic run at the start of the line, in typical Grant style. As well, notice the B-D-F-Ab arpeggio, Bdim7, used as a 3 to 9 arpeggio over G7 in this key.
Though it’s a simple lick at first glance, it’s a repertoire of short, cool sounding vocabulary that made Grant’s playing so effective in any situation.
Click to hear grant green lick 1
Grant Green Lick 2
In this short ii-V-I Grant Green lick, there’s another triplet rhythm near the start of the line, again a rhythm Grant liked to use to begin his licks.
From there, you have a blues line, including the #4 passing tone, to finish the line over Cmaj7.
Adding in blues notes over maj7 chords, such as the F# over Cmaj7 in this lick, is characteristic of Grant’s playing style.
It’s a small idea, but adding blues notes to maj7 chords brings a cool, bluesy sound to your playing outside of the jazz blues form.
Click to hear grant green lick 2
Grant Green Lick 3
Here’s a longer ii V I lick in the key of Bbmaj7 that uses a few altered notes to create tension over the F7 chord.
This tension creates a bebop sound over the V7 chord, before being resolved into the Bbmaj7 a bar later.
You can always add tension notes such as these over major key V7 chords; you just need to resolve them in the style of Grant’s line below.
Click to hear grant green lick 3
Grant Green Lick 4
Grant was a master of melodic lines, as you’ve seen up to this point.
But, he was also highly skilled with weaving longer, 8th-note based runs in his solos. Here’s a Grant Green ii V I that runs straight 8th notes, no rests, with a few 16ths thrown in for good measure.
With a longer line such as this, use a metronome to make sure your rhythms are even.
Then, slowly build up the tempo as you increase the speed with this Grant Green bebop lick in your studies.
Click to hear grant green lick 4
Grant Green Lick 5
The final Grant Green lick in this section is a longer ii V I in A minor.
There’s an interesting moment in the second bar, E7alt, where the natural 9 is used to start the bar, but the b9 in used to finish the bar.
Though it’s over E7alt, the F# is part of an approach note pattern that runs A-F#-G-G#.
So, think of that note as approaching G# rather than as a natural 9th over an altered chord, which wouldn’t be the best note choice in this instance.
Click to hear grant green lick 5
Jim Hall Licks
One of the most popular and well-loved jazz guitarists of his generation, Jim Hall brought a cool, laid-back sensibility to the instrument.
His playing was melodic, yet full of energy, and he was able to play in solo, duo, combo, and large-ensembles with ease.
Apart from his personal tone, Jim’s playing had a sound all it’s own.
In this section, you study 5 Jim Hall licks that explore his use of scales, blues notes, chords, and other melodic devices.
Jim Hall Lick 1
In this first Jim Hall guitar lick, you see the E altered scale being used over the V7alt chord in a minor ii V I. In typical Jim Hall fashion, the altered scale simply runs straight up from the b7 to b7, though it sounds great over the chord progression.
With the right feel and attack, you can make even a straight scale sound good in a line. Jim’s music is full of moments like this, simple approaches that have big effects on the music.
Click to hear jim hall licks 1
Jim Hall Lick 2
One of the main reasons that Jim Hall’s music is so loved by fans is his ability to create melodies on the fly in his solos.
Not only are they melodies, but they stick in your head and are singable, even after the solo is over.
In this Jim Hall line, you play a memorable rhythmic and melodic lick that outlines a ii V I in D major.
The only melodic device in the line is the b3, blues note, being used over the Dmaj7 in the fourth bar.
Click to hear jim hall licks 2
Jim Hall Lick 3
As well as playing melodic lines, Jim was also able to create energy and intensity in his solos with double-time lines.
Though he used them less often than some of his contemporaries, Jim’s double-time lines were an effective part of his soloing repertoire.
In this phrase, you learn a diatonic line over a ii V I in G major, played all in 16th notes.
Go slow with this lick, work it with a metronome, and build the tempo up over time as you get this line under your fingers.
Click to hear jim hall licks 3
Jim Hall Lick 4
No study of Jim Hall’s playing would be complete without looking into his chord work.
In this Jim Hall lick, you learn a short ii-V-I chord soloing line in C major.
The start of the line uses a G9sus chord over Dm7.
You can also think of this chord as Dm7/G, which is the same chord shape you’d use to play Maiden Voyage by Herbie Hancock, just a different key.
There is a G7alt chord creating tension over the G7 chord, which also contains a triad pair, Eb-Db, leading to Cmaj7.
If you ever have a 7th chord, you can play major triads from the b5 and #5 of that 7th chord to create an altered sound.
Click to hear jim hall licks 4
Jim Hall Lick 5
The final Jim Hall lick is a minor ii V I, mixing single notes and a chord along the way.
In this lick, the E7alt is anticipated by two beats, as the G# signals that chord half way through the first bar.
When soloing over chord changes, you create a sense of tension by anticipating the next chord in your lines.
Then, when the next chord is played, it resolves that tension as the chord catches up to your lines.
Jim used this technique to create interest in his solos, and it’s worth checking out in your own playing.
Click to hear jim hall licks 5
Boogaloo Joe Jones Licks
One of the names that has come up time and again in my conversations with players lately is Boogaloo Joe Jones, who was a fantastic jazz funk guitarist.
With the ability to take a few memorable ideas and stretch them out into whole solos, Boogaloo was a master of grabbing the listener’s ear and holding on to their attention.
In this section, you learn five licks inspired by the playing of Boogaloo Joe Jones that you can learn, practice, and apply to your own jazz guitar solos.
Boogaloo Joe Jones Lick 1
Fans of Pat Martino will be familiar with this pattern, as this and similar licks are also found in many of Pat’s solos.
The line is built by playing the Blues note, B, leading into the 5th and b7th of the underlying chord, F7, creating a bluesy, repetitive lick that you can use to build energy.
Feel free to repeat this lick for more than 2 bars, as Boogaloo and Pat both do, in order to create longer spans of energy in your lines.
Click to hear boogaloo joe jones licks 1
Boogaloo Joe Jones Lick 2
Here’s another typical Boogaloo Joe Jones lick that you can hear in many of his solos.
The lick is based on the F triad, F-A-C, with notes from the F minor blues scale added in, G#(Ab)-A#(Bb)-B, to create a chromatic vibe.
You can repeat this lick again and again, adding in slight alterations to the rhythm and adding more notes at the start and end of this lick to play it in a similar style to Boogaloo.
Click to hear boogaloo joe jones licks 2
Boogaloo Joe Jones Lick 3
The next Boogaloo Joe Jones lick is based on the F minor pentatonic scale, and used over an F7 chord to create a bluesy feel as the Ab acts as the blues note over that chord.
Play with this lick as you bring it into your soloing by altering the rhythms of the Ab-C double stop.
As well, bring in more notes below that double stop in order to carry that Boogaloo vibe into your solos with this lick.
Click to hear boogaloo joe jones licks 3
Boogaloo Joe Jones Lick 4
Here’s a funky, A minor blues scale lick that can be applied to any chord that holds the minor Blues scale, so A7, Am7, Amaj7, etc., making it a very versatile lick.
This lick is also great to have in your vocabulary because it works at a slow tempo, for that sultry, blues feel, as well as in faster tunes, where it would bring a funky groove to your lines.
Click to hear boogaloo joe jones licks 4
Boogaloo Joe Jones Lick 5
The final Boogaloo Joe Jones lick is a minor pentatonic scale pattern that uses a mixed 16th and 8th-note rhythm.
Since this lick uses the minor pentatonic scale, you can use it over Am7, A7, Amaj7, or an A blues, any place where you would normally apply an A minor pentatonic scale to your solos.
Click to hear boogaloo joe jones licks 5
Barney Kessel Licks
Born in Oklahoma, Barney Kessel became known as one of the top studio guitarists of his generation.
Besides recording with top jazz musicians, as well as leading bands of his own, he played on classic recordings with the Monkees, The Beach Boys, and others.
As a member of the famous “Wrecking Crew,” Kessel helped shape the L.A. studio scene in the 1960s. From a jazz perspective, Kessel’s playing is energetic, full of bebop vocabulary, and possess a unique tone and attack.
All of these make Barney one of the most prominent and well-loved guitarists of his generation.
Barney Kessel Lick 1
The first Barney Kessel lick is a G7 line that uses a Dm9 arpeggio as the focus on the phrase.
This approach is called the “minor conversion” concept.
It sounds tricky, but essentially if you have a V7 chord, you play the iim7 chord from the same key instead.
In this case, G7 is the V7 of C major, and Dm7 is the iim7 in that same key.
Kessel then uses the Dm9 sound to create a minor quality in this 7th-chord lick. Click to hear barney kessel lick 1
Barney Kessel Lick 2
In another dominant Barney Kessel lick, you see enclosures, Dm9, bebop, and blues notes used in a four-bar phrase.
The use of the G bebop scale in this instance creates tension in the third bar of the line.
That tension is then resolved in the fourth bar, with a blues note, A#(Bb) thrown in for good measure.
Click to hear barney kessel lick 2
Barney Kessel Lick 3
Here, you see previous Kessel concepts applied to a ii V I chord progression in C major.
There’s an enclosure at the start of the line, followed by Dm7 being used as a minor conversion over G7.
Though this isn’t the most tense line, it does create a warm, G7sus sound over G7, which helps bring interest to the ii V I progression.
Click to hear barney kessel lick 3
Barney Kessel Lick 4
Here’s a classic Barney Kessel lick with a bluesy line outlining the E7 in bar two.
The E7 phrase comes from the underlying parent key of A major. Here, there is a C and D#, both blues notes, followed by the C#,D, and E notes, all in the key of A major.
From there, the line ends with an Amaj7 arpeggio, G#-A-C#-A-C#.
Using tonic blues lines like this is a great way to create interest over a ii V I progression.
Click to hear barney kessel lick 4
Barney Kessel Lick 5
In the last Barney Kessel lick, you’ll learn a longer, 8th-note based ii V I in the key of D major.
In this line, a C#dim7 is used to create a 3 to b9 arpeggio over A7, a common jazz sub over 7th chords. A
s well, there’s a mixture of ascending and descending lines, as well as leaps and steps in this lick.
Mixing leaps and steps, as well as changing direction, is something Kessel used to create interest in his improvised solos.
Click to hear barney kessel lick 5
Pat Martino Licks
Known for his blistering lines, high-energy solos, and inventive approach to modern bebop guitar, Pat Martino is one of the biggest names in the history of the genre.
Born Pat Azzara, Martino moved to New York at the tender age of 15, and quickly took the scene by storm.
Mid way through his career, Martino had an operation to remove a brain tumor, causing him to have to relearn to play guitar from scratch.
Not only did Martino rise to the top of the jazz guitar world once, but he did it twice in his lifetime.
Not an easy feat for anyone to achieve.
In this section, you learn five classic Pat Martino licks that dig into the soloing concept of one the greatest jazz guitarists of all time.
Pat Martino Lick 1
This first Pat Martino lick uses bluesy double stops from the F major blues scale over an F7 chord.
Although not in the notation, to make it easier to read, you can play the A in the double stop as an Ab, 9th fret rather than 10th, then bend that note up to A from there.
You can also play the A and C as is, then “push” them up about a quarter-tone or less to bring a bit of that Martino “growl” into your blues lines.
Click to hear pat martino lick 1
Pat Martino Lick 2
Here’s a short, ii V I lick in D minor that uses the A Phrygian dominant scale over the first bar of the line.
As well, there’s a characteristic triplet line that runs from the b3 to 4, through the 3, in bar 2.
This triplet can be picked, or slurred, depending on how slippery you want that part of the phrase to sound.
Click to hear pat martino lick 2
Pat Martino Lick 3
No study of Pat Martino’s playing style would be complete without looking at a repeated lick.
This line uses the blues note, b3, leading into the 3rd and then the root of the underlying key of C major.
Though this line is played over a four-bar phrase, to get the Martino style under your fingers, you can repeat the three-note pattern as long as you want.
If you listen to Martino regularly, you hear examples of him using this pattern for whole choruses, especially in live situations.
Click to hear pat martino lick 3
Pat Martino Lick 4
Here’s a double time Pat Martino lick that you can learn and use over a short ii V I chord progression.
When doing so, you can pick every note in a typical Pat Martino double-time style.
Or, if you want to add your own flavor to the line, feel free to use slurs when appropriate.
Notice the G augmented triad used to outline a G7#5 sound over the second half of the first bar.
Triads are a great way to bring out 7alt sounds in a line such as this one.
Lastly, there are two Bb’s over the Dm7 chord that create a bit of tension, hinting at D Aeolian, in that section.
Click to hear pat martino lick 4
Pat Martino Lick 5
In this long Pat Martino lick, you’ll be using a typical descending-ascending Martino line to outline a turnaround chord progression.
Sliding into the first note, G, will give you a characteristic Martino sound at the start of the line.
As well, notice the Edim7 arpeggio in the last four notes of the line, outlining a 3 to b9 over C7b9.
Click to hear pat martino lick 5
Pat Metheny Licks
There are few players on any instrument who’ve have as prolific careers as Pat Metheny.
With a huge catalogue of recordings, and hundreds of original songs, the word Metheny is often synonymous with jazz for many listeners.
While many fans know him from his writing and playing with the Pat Metheny Group, Pat’s small-group recordings are some of the best in the jazz idiom.
In this section, you learn five classic Pat Metheny licks that explore his outside, energetic, and highly creative approach to jazz improvisation.
Pat Metheny Lick 1
The first Pat Metheny lick uses a sidestepping approach to creating tension over a C7 chord.
By playing B7 in the second bar, Pat is creating tension over that line, which is then resolved to the third measure.
When soloing over changes, you can play a chord one half step below or above the chord you’re on to create tension.
You just have to be sure to resolve that tension by bringing your line back to the underlying chord changes.
Click to hear pat metheny lick 1
Pat Metheny Lick 2
One of the concepts that Metheny uses often in his solos are triads.
In this lick, you see Ab and Eb triads used to create tension over the ii V chords.
From there, there’s a Dm triad used as a resolution point over the Ima7 chord.
Experimenting with non-diatonic triads such as these will help bring a Metheny, and modern jazz, vibe to your solos.
Click to hear pat metheny lick 2
Pat Metheny Lick 3
In this Pat Metheny ii V I lick, you’ll see chromatic 3rds being used to create tension over the ii V, that is resolved in the second bar.
As well, there’s an Ab triad that steps outside over the Cmaj7 chord, before resolving to the 9th at the end of the line.
Pat loves to use descending chromatic 3rds in his solos, and it’s a technique you can use to bring a Metheny vibe to your lines.
Click to hear pat metheny lick 3
Pat Metheny Lick 4
One of the ways that Metheny creates energy and forward motion in his solos is with repeated melodic patterns.
In this double time lick, you use a repeated melodic pattern to move up and down the neck chromatically.
After creating a large amount of tension, you resolve to the tonic chord at the end of the phrase.
Click to hear pat metheny lick 4
Pat Metheny Lick 5
Apart from melodic devices, one of the items that Metheny uses is picking patterns to create interest in his lines.
In this Pat Metheny lick, you use a slurred-picked pattern that creates a fluid, slippery sound over a ii V progression.
If you enjoy this picking pattern, take it out of this lick and apply it to any scales you’re working on to inject it further into your playing.
Click to hear pat metheny lick 5
Wes Montgomery Licks
There’s not much to say about Wes Montgomery that hasn’t already been said.
The man was a genius of jazz guitar, one of the most influential musicians of his generation, and someone who changed the face of jazz forever.
His ability to create seemingly endless streams of energetic, sophisticated lines, then turn on a dime and nail a blues run, made him fun and enjoyable for all jazz fans to listen to.
As well, his use of a three tiered approach to soloing, single notes-octaves-chords, was unique at the time, making him stand out against his peers.
In this section, you study single note, octave, and chord soloing lines from the deep catalogue of Wes’ recordings.
Wes Montgomery Lick 1
The first Wes Montgomery lick is built by applying the G blues scale to a G7 chord.
You can hear how Wes “jazzes” up this blues lick by using slides, a repetitive approach to melody and a slight variation on the highest note of each section to make the scale firmly sound like jazz.
Wes had a strong command of the blues, and it’s something that all great jazz improvisers explore in their playing.
Click to hear Wes Montgomery Licks 1
Wes Montgomery Lick 2
As well as using the minor blues scale to create bluesy-sounding lines, Wes also used the major blues scale to his lines.
Here’s an example of the major blues scale over a ii V I progression in the key of F major.
By sliding from the b3 to the 3 in this line, you can maintain a major sounding phrase, while adding a bit of blues at the same time.
This approach is something Wes was very fond of in his soloing ideas.
Click to hear Wes Montgomery Lick 2
Wes Montgomery Lick 3
The next approach you look at is applying blues notes to arpeggios.
In this example, you can hear how the major third, B, is then replaced by the blues note Bb in bar 2.
Later, the two are combined, Bb-B, as you mix in this note to a G7 arpeggio phrase.
Adding blues notes to arpeggios is a great way to bring a blues feel to your phrases in the style of Wes Montgomery.
You also directly outline the chord changes at the same time.
Click to hear Wes Montgomery Lick 3
Wes Montgomery Lick 4
Here’s an example of a Charlie Parker lick, marked lick in the music, that Wes often used in his own solos.
Even though he was one of the greatest improvisers in jazz history, Wes still studied other great players to build his vocabulary.
This is a lesson we can all learn from in the practice room.
Click to hear Wes Montgomery Licks 4
Wes Montgomery Lick 5
No study of Wes’ soloing concepts would be complete without looking at a few octave licks.
In this first octave lick, there’s a lot of space that break up the line into smaller chunks, as opposed to the straight 8th-notes that are characteristic of Wes’ single-note lines.
By breaking longer lines up into smaller groups, Wes was able to keep the listener guessing as to what was coming next in his octave solos.
When first attempting to solo in a Wes octave style, leave as much space as possible in order to give yourself time to hear the next line in your solo.
This also eases you into the technical side of playing octaves on the guitar at the same time.
Click to hear Wes Montgomery Licks 5.
Wes Montgomery Lick 6
In this ii V I Wes octave lick, there’s a blues scale in the last bar which is idiomatic of Wes Montgomery’s approach to soloing
Though he used chord substitution, chromatic notes, bebop phrases and other advanced concepts in his playing, one constant was the blues scale.
If you’re new to octaves, starting with the blues scale is a great way to get these ideas under your fingers.
This sets you up to explore more complex octave phrases that use arpeggios and longer scales.
Though it’s just a descending blues scale, the use of the bluesy notes at the end of this phrase gives the lick a Wes flavor that brings the diatonic nature of the first half of the lick to a close.
Click to hear Wes Montgomery Licks 6.
Wes Montgomery Lick 7
The last of the ii V I Wes octave licks focuses on a rhythmic motive that’s run through the diatonic key of the ii V I, G major.
Wes was a big fan of playing rhythmic motives, and often applied them to his chord soloing, single note, and octave soloing phrases.
As learning jazz guitar rhythms is an essential skill for any player to develop, make up your own rhythmic motives such as this and improvise with them over a tune.
Being able to solo with a rhythmic idea underneath you melodic and harmonic ideas is a great way to connect your lines over longer sections of an improvised solo.
Click to hear Wes Montgomery Licks 7.
Wes Montgomery Lick 8
After working out single-note and octave licks, you’re ready to study Wes Montgomery chord lines.
In this first ii V I line, there are three secondary dominant chords being used that lead you to the next chord in the progression.
The first, B7b9, leads you to Em7.
The second, E7b9, leads you to A7.
Then, the third, A7b9, leads you to Dmaj7.
Wes loved to use 7b9 chords this way, in the shape of dim7 chords, to create tension and resolution in his chord lines.
Click to hear wes montgomery lick 8
Wes Montgomery Lick 9
The next line uses a diatonic sub, C#m7 over Bm7, as well as an E7b9 sub that creates tension over the line in the first bar.
When chord soloing, you can use shapes from the underlying key, such as the C#m7 from the key of A major in this lick.
This is a great way to bring color to your lines, without having to reach for more complex chord subs in your phrases.
Click to hear wes montgomery lick 9
Wes Montgomery Lick 10
There are two secondary dominant chords in this last Wes Montgomery chord lick, C7b9 to Fm7, and G7b9 to Cm7.
As well, there’s an Am7b5 being used to outline a Cm6 chord sound over Cm7.
That same Am7b5 is also the 3 to 9 chord for F7, as it plays double duty in the Wes ii V sequence.
Click to hear wes montgomery lick 10
Joe Pass Licks
Joe Pass was a master of every aspect of jazz guitar playing, including solo guitar, duo guitar with vocals, chord soloing, single-line playing, and of course chord melody.
When learning how to solo as a jazz guitarist, there are few players that you can study who have more command of the bebop vocabulary than Joe Pass.
In this section, you study two sides of Joe’s playing, single-note lines and chord soloing lines.
The chord soloing lines can be used to play in a solo, duo, or combo setting, so feel free to experiment with them in different musical situations.
Though Joe’s playing can sound like it’s too difficult to study, by breaking down his ideas into smaller chunks, you can learn the building blocks and soloing concepts of this great player.
Joe Pass Licks 1
This first lick inspired by Joe Pass’ soloing concepts, features three tension notes over the V7 and Imaj7 chord in the phrase.
Notice the b9 and #9 notes used to create tension over the V7 chord.
As well, there’s a #11 tension note over Cmaj7, which implies a Lydian sound over that chord.
Joe Pass was a master of integrating tension notes into his lines, as well as resolving those notes properly.
So, lines such as this are a great way to introduce that Joe Pass “tension-resolution” sound into your own playing.
Click to hear Joe Pass Licks 1
Joe Pass Licks 2
Another concept that Joe loved to use in his lines is applying a tritone sub to the V7 chord.
In this phrase, you can see a Db7#11 chord being used as a tritone sub over the V7 chord, before resolving that tension to the Imaj7 chord.
After you learn this lick, put on a ii-V-I backing track, and replace the V7 with a bII7#11 line in order to take this concept into your own solos.
Click to hear Joe Pass Licks 2
Joe Pass Licks 3
The next phrase begins with a 16th-note run, typical of Joe’s arpeggio lines, and includes two important bebop concepts.
There’s an enclosure at the end of the second bar, fret above-fret below-target note.
The second concept is a typical bebop scale pattern that you can use from the 2nd note of any major scale, in this case using the notes D-C-B-C.
Because of how the major scale is built, you can also play this pattern from the 5th or 9th of the major scale.
Sometimes you don’t need to add chromatic notes to bring a jazzy sound to your solos.
A well-placed diatonic pattern can go a long way when used at the right moment in your lines.
Click to hear Joe Pass Licks 3
Joe Pass Licks 4
One of the most engaging section of Joe’s single-note solos was his use of double-time phrases to create energy.
In this ii V I line, you use 16th-notes to outline each chord as you run up and then down the fretboard.
There is also a triplet over the Em7 chord, which might take some time to work out in your studies.
Go slow, use a metronome, and build up the tempo from there when learning this lick on guitar.
Click to hear Joe Pass Lick 4
Joe Pass Licks 5
To finish your study of Joe Pass’ single note licks, here’s a minor ii V I in the key of A minor.
In typical Joe Pass fashion, the line starts with a triplet from the 4-b5-4 of the iim7b5 chord.
From there, the altered scale is used to outline the E7alt chord in bar two.
Then, the line resolves to the Im7 chord, with an Am6/9 sound in that section of the lick.
Click to hear Joe Pass Lick 5
Joe Pass Licks 6
You’re now going to study one of the most popular sides of Joe’s playing, chord soloing.
This first Joe Pass chord lick features a descending iim7 line that resolves to the V7 chord.
In typical fashion, Joe uses a Bb7 to create a half-step resolution to the A7 chord, adding in the tension that his playing is known for.
The first three chords have some leaps between them, so take it slow when first learning this line.
Make sure that it sounds smooth, and that each chord is connected to the next without any “hiccups” in between.
Click to hear Joe Pass Lick 6
Joe Pass Licks 7
Here’s a classic Joe Pass chord lick to study in your practice routine.
The phrase in the first half of the first bar is quintessential Joe, and one that he used a lot in his chord solos.
It’s an idea that fits well into the larger scheme of this phrase, and is also worth extracting and learning in other contexts.
A note about the fingering of the first Gm7 voicing that occurs on the second beat of the first bar.
Many guitarists like to play that chord with four fingers, 1-4-2-3, but it’s much easier, with some practice, to play this idea with only three fingers, 1-3-2-2.
Baring with the second finger is tricky, and takes some practice to get down, but is worth it in the long run.
From there, the first bar is repeated up 3 frets, creating tension over the V7 chord, before resolving down to the Fmaj7 chord at the end of the line.
Click to hear Joe Pass Lick 7
Joe Pass Licks 8
This phrase is very typical of Joe’s chord soloing.
It features an ascending group of three-note chords on the iim7, shapes that can be found in just about every Joe Pass chord solo.
These chords then resolve with a descending chromatic melody line on the V7, leading to the Imaj7 chord in bar two.
The chords in the first two beats are pairs of triads, Bb and C, which is a common sound that is found in a lot of famous players’ solos.
As well, the first C7 voicing is a C13 with no root, voiced as an Em11b5 chord.
This is also a sub that Joe and many other players like to use in their comping and chord soloing.
Click to hear Joe Pass Lick 8
Joe Pass Licks 9
Another classic Joe Pass chord sound is double-stops.
This run is built off of a series of 6ths running down a C9 arpeggio. Here’s where Joe differs from a lot of other jazz guitarists when it comes to double-stops.
Normally, cats would run up or down a scale using double-stops, normally 3rds or 6ths.
But, in Joe’s case, he likes to also run down arpeggios using two-note harmonizations.
This line is tricky to get down, especially at a quick speed.
But, once you have it under your fingers, it adds a nice touch to your dominant chords, especially in the context of a bluesy phrase.
Click to hear Joe Pass Lick 9
Joe Pass Licks 10
Though the first five licks in this section were fairly diatonic, Joe loved to use chromaticism in his chord solos.
This progression is a ii-V-I from a Blues in Bb, though once you play the first chord you realize that he’s using a sub over the Cm7, in this case a C7. The C7 functions as a V7/V7, and is a favorite for many great jazz guitarists.
As well, in the second bar Joe switches to a Cm7 chord for the first two chords, then jumps to a Gb7 from a Gm7, which resolves to an F7, before finally making his way to the Bb7 chord in bar three.
This type of chromatic approach, moving from Cm7-Gm7-Gb7-F7, is something Joe used a lot and is an essential sound for any jazz guitarist who is looking to dig deeper into Joe’s playing.
Click to hear Joe Pass Lick 10
Jimmy Raney Licks
Jimmy Raney is a bebop guitar legend, and a true master of bebop style soloing on the guitar.
Because of his mastery of the genre, he is a vast resource for study when working on developing your jazz guitar soloing chops, and especially bebop vocabulary.
Having replaced Tal Farlow in the Red Norvo group, Jimmy went on to become on of the most influential jazz guitarists of his generation.
Though he suffered from a condition that caused him to gradually become almost deaf in both ears, that didn’t stop him from playing for his entire life.
In this section, you learn five Jimmy Raney licks that dig into enclosures, octave displacement, modes, and other characteristic Jimmy Raney sounds.
Jimmy Raney Lick 1
The first phrase is a 3-bar ii-V-I progression in the key of D major, which features a couple of classic bebop techniques.
In bar one, notice the D#, which is the maj7 over Em7.
Using the maj7 against a m7 chord to create tension, is a bebop technique that Jimmy used in his lines.
The second item to notice is the Phrygian dominant scale in bar two.
The Phrygian dominant scale is used to bring a b9 tension note to the V7 chord in this lick.
Click to hear Jimmy Raney Licks 1
Jimmy Raney Lick 2
The second phrase is a fairly straightforward short, two bar, ii-V-I progression in the key of G major.
This is a solid phrase to learn when working on outlining short ii-V-I’s, where the chords move by quickly and where it’s hard to simply run scales or arpeggios over the changes.
Apart from the diatonic scale, G major, being used, there’s a classic bebop phrase at the end of the first bar.
This lick leads into bar two, E-G-E-F-F#, and you can practice it further as you bring this bebop phrase into your solos.
Click to hear Jimmy Raney Licks 2
Jimmy Raney Lick 3
In this short, minor ii-V-I phrase in the key of Gm, you see voice-leading used to outline the first two chords in the progression.
The voice leading here uses the b7 of Am7b5 to move to the 3rd of D7alt, G-F#.
As well, there’s an octave skip from F#-F# in bar 2. When soloing over ii-V progressions, highlighting the movement from the b7 of the ii chord to the 3rd of the V7 chord is a great way to sound the changes in your lines.
As well, octave displacement, is something that you can use to “reset” your line, so that you can continue your thought without running out of room on the neck in one direction.
Click to hear Jimmy Raney Licks 3
Jimmy Raney Lick 4
Here’s a four-bar Jimmy Raney maj7 lick that you can use to spice up your longer Imaj7 ideas.
You can also break this lick apart to create smaller lines from each bar in this phrase and apply them to shorter, 1-2 bar, maj7 chords.
Notice in bar three that there are two passing notes, the F and Eb, creating a long, chromatic phrase from the maj7, F#, to the 5th, D, over the chord. Otherwise, this lick uses only notes from the major scale.
Click to hear Jimmy Raney Licks 4
Jimmy Raney Lick 5
In this final Jimmy Raney lick, you notice an octave displacement at the start of the phrase, followed by an enclosure in bar two.
Enclosures have various variations, but in this lick it is built by playing one fret above, then one fret below, then your target note, in this case the root note, E, of the V7 chord.
In order to get a Jimmy Raney vibe in your solos, working on octave displacement is a good step in that direction, as you have seen it used twice in these five sample licks.
Click to hear Jimmy Raney Licks 5
Emily Remler Licks
Though she left this world too early, Emily Remler became known as one of the top jazz guitarists of her generation during her lifetime.
With a strong influence from Wes Montgomery in her soloing, Remler put her own personal stamp on the Wes sound as she developed as a player.
Remler’s soloing was energetic, possessed a strong sense of swing, and was chalk full of bebop vocabulary.
In this section, you study the soloing concepts of one of jazz’s greatest bebop players, Emily Remler.
Emily Remler Licks 1
In this first Emily Remler lick, you learn a typical ii V I phrase in the key of G major.
Notice the first four notes, G-B-A#-B. This leap down, then a lower-neighbour note, is a classic bebop technique.
It can be heard in the playing of Wes Montgomery, and of course in Emily’s playing.
You can leap down to various intervals, but in this case you’re outlining the tonic chord, Gmaj7.
The A# is a blues note, Bb, creating a Bluesy sound over the ii V I .
Click to hear emily remler licks 1
Emily Remler Licks 2
Moving into a minor ii V I lick, here’s a phrase that uses the A minor pentatonic scale to outline the iim7b5 chord.
The A7alt chord features typical altered 9th intervals that then resolve down to the Dm7 chord.
This phrase over A7alt is a very traditional bebop line that you can take out of this lick and add to other areas of your jazz soloing.
Click to hear emily remler licks 2
Emily Remler Licks 3
Here’s a rhythmic based line that is typical of Remler’s soloing approach.
There are a few chord subs being used, diatonic arpeggios and triads, as well in this phrase.
Mostly, the line is based on the triplet and 8th-note pattern that you can hear in bars two and three of the lick.
Though she had incredible chops, Remler always maintained a sense of rhythmic focus and melodic development in her solos.
Click to hear emily remler licks 3
Emily Remler Licks 4
This arpeggio line is typical of Remler’s playing, but also that of saxophonist John Coltrane.
Using a triplet rhythm, this pattern climbs up the Em7 arpeggio before you resolve with a blues lick in the third bar.
Again, you can often create interest with a diatonic pattern such as this one, not needed to step outside to be creative in your solos.
If you enjoy this pattern, use it to practice any arpeggios you are learning in the woodshed.
Click to hear emily remler licks 4
Emily Remler Licks 5
To finish, here’s a double-time lick in a typical Emily Remler style.
There’s not a lot of melodic material that you haven’t seen in other lines in this lesson, but the line still has a characteristic Remler sound.
This is a big lesson to learn.
Even if you’re using material that other’s have played, you can still bring a unique and personal touch to that traditional material.
Click to hear emily remler licks 5
Adam Rogers Licks
Adam Rogers is one a standout guitarist that has a very modern sound, but also a foothold in the jazz tradition at the same time.
Because of his understanding of both traditional and modern jazz harmony, Adam is a great player to study when working on jazz guitar improvisation techniques.
Known for his work with Michael Brecker and Chris Potter, Adam has also released memorable albums of his own as a bandleader.
The Adam Rogers licks below help you understand the concepts that Adam uses in his playing, exploring modern jazz techniques at the same time.
Adam Rogers ii V I Licks 1
In this first line, a short ii V I in F major, you can see one of Adam’s favourite modal colors, the 7alt Chord.
In this case, it’s being used to outline the Gm7-C7, focussing on the half-step resolution between Ab-G, E-Eb, Db-C and Bb-A in that section.
When put together, these notes add up to the 3rd Mode of the harmonic major scale.
If that’s a bit advanced for you at this point in your development, think of it as moving down by half-steps to chord tones, both diatonic like the 5th (G) and root (C), or altered notes such as the #9 (Eb).
Playing the 7alt sound over both the ii and V is a great way to simplify your thought process, while outlining the underlying key center at the same time.
Click to hear Adam Rogers Licks 1.
Adam Rogers Licks 2
In this long Adam Rogers ii V I lick, the interesting bit involves the chords being outlined over C7 in the second measure.
A big fan of interesting chord subs and superimpositions, Adam’s playing is full of these types of lines, where one chord is used to create new colors over the given harmony.
By playing Abmaj7 over C7, the line outlines the intervals b13-R-#9-5, or two diatonic notes and two notes from the 7alt sound.
As well, the D7 chord that is superimposed over the second half of that bar helps to bring a Lydian dominant scale sound, 7#11, to the line.
Playing a 7th arpeggio from the 2nd note of a chord, such as D7 over C7, is a great way to bring that 7#11 sound into your lines without playing a scale-based idea.
Click to hear Adam Rogers Licks 2.
Adam Rogers Licks 3
The next Adam Rogers inspired ii V I lick you’ll look at involves a cool sub over the Gm7, iim7, chord in the first bar of the phrase.
Here, there’s a typical sub being used to create tension over Gm7 that then resolves to the C7 chord in the next bar.
Playing bVI7 V7 Imaj7 instead of iim7 V7 Imaj7 is a great way to bring tension to your ii V I lines, while properly resolving these tensions at the same time.
Click to hear Adam Rogers Licks 3.
Adam Rogers Licks 4
Adam possess incredible technique, which is showcased in his double-time licks.
Here’s an example of a double-time Adam Rogers lick that uses a few chord subs over the iim7 chord.
Here, there are A7 and Eb7 chords used to create tension over the Am7 chord. That tension then resolves into the D7 chord at the end of the phrase.
Click to hear adam rogers licks 4
Adam Rogers Licks 5
As well as playing outside sounds, Adam is also a master at creating simple, melodic phrases.
These phrases add contrast to his more outside sounds, adding context to the inside and outside sections of his solos.
Here’s a typical Adam Rogers melodic line, built from a G major pentatonic scale.
If you’re always playing outside, then outside will eventually become normal.
Using melodic, inside lines such as these will help keep your outside lines sounding outside.
Click to hear adam rogers licks 5
Kurt Rosenwinkel Licks
Probably the biggest name in modern jazz guitar, Kurt Rosenwinkel has become a living legend on the instrument in the past 20 years.
With a mixture of standards and original compositions, Kurt has covered a lot of ground during his recording career.
Having developed an original sound and discovered new improvisational tools in his playing, Kurt’s solos are instantly recognizable as his own.
In this section, you study five licks that showcase the different concepts that Kurt likes to use in his jazz guitar solos.
Kurt Rosenwinkel Licks 1
In this first Kurt Rosenwinkel lick, you see how Kurt uses triads and triad pairs to create tension and release over a moving chord progression.
Notice the first and third bars. Here, there are major triads from the b5 and #5 of the underlying dominant chord.
When playing over 7th chords, you can create an altered scale sound by playing major triads from the b5 and #5 of that chord.
Though triads sometimes seem elementary, they are used to outline changes by both modern and traditional jazz guitarists in their solos.
Click to hear kurt rosenwinkel licks 1
Kurt Rosenwinkel Licks 2
Another way that Kurt uses triads in his solos is applying diatonic triads with a rhythmic pattern over chord progressions.
You can see an example of this in the following lick, over a Bm7 chord.
This lick uses diatonic triads from the B melodic minor scale.
As the triads climb up the neck, they repeat a rhythmic pattern that Kurt loves to use in his playing, and that Bill Evans also applied to his piano solos.
Click to hear kurt rosenwinkel licks 2
Kurt Rosenwinkel Licks 3
One of Kurt’s favorite ways to create intensity in his lines is to run a lick across a wide range of the fretboard.
In this ii V I line, you see how Kurt would stretch across all six strings, and from the 7th to the 17th fret, covering 10th frets in three bars.
Watch the fingerings on this lick, there are a number that you can use, experiment and find the one that works best for you.
Click to hear kurt rosenwinkel licks 3
Kurt Rosenwinkel Licks 4
In this double-time Kurt Rosenwinkel lick, you see a typical scale-based line over an Em7 chord. Notice that the Aeolian mode is used over this chord.
Though Dorian is often the go to choice for many jazz guitarists over m7 chord, Kurt experiments with Dorian, Aeolian, melodic minor, and more when soloing over minor chords.
Go slow with this lick, and as always use a metronome as you build up the speed with this scale pattern.
Click to hear kurt rosenwinkel licks 4
Kurt Rosenwinkel Licks 5
Apart from being an accomplished single-note player, Kurt also uses a lot of chords in his solos.
In this Kurt Rosenwinkel lick, you see how Kurt would use chords to break up his single-note lines.
With this approach, you’re creating a two-hands of a piano approach to soloing.
This is where you play single notes, right hand, then play chords, left hand, on the guitar.
Click to hear kurt rosenwinkel licks 5
John Scofield Licks
One of the most famous jazz guitarists of any generation, John Scofield has become known for his unique approach to jazz funk guitar.
Though his jazz funk and fusion playing is well known, Sco also has recorded a number of classic bebop influenced tunes and records.
It’s this variety in his playing; from traditional to ultra modern and everything in between, that makes Scofield a fan favorite on today’s scene.
In this section, you study a number of characteristic Scofield soloing concepts over common chord progressions.
John Scofield Licks 1
This first John Scofield lick uses a Lydian dominant scale to outline an Ab7 chord.
As Sco plays over a lot of vamp chord progressions, using concepts such as 7#11 scales is a great way to create interest over a static chord.
Though it’s not the most outside line, getting a few Lydian dominant licks under your fingers help you expand your vocabulary over 7th chords.
Click to hear john scofield licks 1
John Scofield Licks 2
Moving on, here’s an example of the Lydian scale being used to color a Cmaj7 chord with a Cmaj7#11 sound.
As well, there’s a characteristic blues note in bar one, and an idiomatic bebop pattern in bar two.
Though Sco is known for his modern jazz and jazz funk playing, he also possesses a strong bebop vocabulary in his solos.
Click to hear john scofield licks 2
John Scofield Licks 3
In this John Scofield lick, you learn a long, diatonic run over a Dm7 chord.
Using only the Dorian scale, this line can be played at medium to fast songs with 8th notes.
Or, if you want to use it over slower tempos, you can play it as a double-time lick, changing the 8th notes to 16th notes in the process.
Click to hear john scofield licks 3
John Scofield Licks 4
Apart from being a great vamp player, Scofield can outline ii V I’s with the best of them.
In this line, you see a G7 chord being used as a sub over the iim7 chord, Gm7.
This is a secondary dominant chord, as it functions as the V7/V7 in this progression.
There’s also a #5 interval, D#, used to color the G7 sub, and a C7alt sound in the second half of the second bar.
Using tension notes such as these is one way Scofield creates interest in his ii V I lines and solos.
Click to hear john scofield licks 4
John Scofield Licks 5
In this final John Scofield lick, you see a Lydian dominant sound being applied to a double-time C7 line.
As well as using the #11 interval, this line features the b3 blues note.
Scofield is often thought of a melodic player, but he also has a ton of chops at his disposal.
Having chops and using them sparingly is something that makes Scofield one of the best in the business.
Click to hear john scofield licks 5
Johnny Smith Licks
Not as well known as some of his more famous contemporaries, Johnny Smith is one of the most accomplished guitarists of the 20th century.
From his work in the jazz world, to arranging for NBC, to debuting classical pieces with some of the top musicians in New York, Johnny build a formidable career at a young age. Though he left New York for a quieter life in Colorado at the peak of his career, Johnny’s music continued to inspire generations of players that came after him. In this section, you learn five classic Johnny Smith licks and the concepts he preferred to use in his improvised solos.
Johnny Smith Licks 1
In this first Johnny Smith lick, you’ll see the A7alt chord being used to outline the ii-V chords in a D minor ii V I chord progression.
When soloing over ii V changes, you can play the ii for both chords, the V for both chords, or outline both chords in your solos.
One of the choices that Johnny Smith liked to make was using the V7 chord over both changes, such as you can see here.
Lastly, check out the Dm7 run, which is a typical, long-range Johnny Smith line.
Click to hear johnny smith licks 1
Johnny Smith Licks 2
In this typical Johnny Smith lick, you use triplets to solo over a Bm7 chord.
Notice the A#, leading tone, in the first triplet, as this is used to lead into the root note, ascending the Dorian scale from there.
As well, there’s a G# passing note in the second bar, beat 2, that’s used to break up the diatonic nature of the line.
Click to hear johnny smith licks 2
Johnny Smith Licks 3
In this ii V I Johnny Smith lick, you see a Gm7-C7alt sub being used over the C7 chord.
As was the case earlier in this section, you used the V7 to solo over the ii and V chords.
In this line, you use the iim7 chord over the V7 chord in the first half of the second bar.
As well, there’s a blues note, b3, which kicks off the Fmaj7 chord in the last bar of the lick.
Click to hear johnny smith licks 3
Johnny Smith Licks 4
Here, the V7 chord is used to solo over both the ii and V in a minor ii V I chord progression.
As well, the second bar features the A melodic minor scale, one of Johnny’s favorite m7 colors to use in his solos.
Using the melodic minor over m7 chords will create tension.
But, if you resolve that tension appropriately, as Johnny does, you can bring this color into your solos with confidence.
Click to hear johnny smith licks 4
Johnny Smith Licks 5
In this final Johnny Smith lick, you see a classic bebop inspired line over the 7th and 8 bars of an A blues progression.
Notice the blues notes, b3 and b5, in the first bar, used to bring a blues vibe to the line.
As well, there are two enclosures over the F#7b9 chord.
Soloing over the VI7b9 chord in a jazz blues progression can be tough to work out at first.
But, with time, and a few classic lines like this, you can nail that chord change in your solos.
Click to hear johnny smith licks 5
Mike Stern Licks
From his early days with Miles Davis, through his time with Michael Brecker and onto the top of the jazz guitar world, Mike Stern is one of the most recognizable names in the genre.
With a vast library of bebop vocabulary, and total command over the fusion genre, Mike’s playing straddles the fence between the jazz tradition and current trends.
In this section, you study both sides of Mike’s playing, traditional and modern, through 5 classic Mike Stern licks.
Mike Stern Licks 1
The first Mike Stern lick is an example of his deep bebop knowledge as applied to a minor ii V I progression.
Besides the altered notes in bar 2, there aren’t a lot of outside sounds going on here.
This is just a straightforward example of the bebop side of Mike’s playing.
Click to hear mike stern licks 1
Mike Stern Licks 2
In this Mike Stern ii V I lick, you see an A7alt sound being used to color the V7 chord.
Using 7alt sounds over a major key V7 chord is something that many jazz guitarists use in their solos, including Mike.
As well, there’s a #11 interval at the end of the line.
Often you pass through #11 intervals in your lines, but Mike isn’t one to shy away from highlighting color tones in his lines.
Click to hear mike stern licks 2
Mike Stern Licks 3
Moving forward, here’s a typical Mike Stern lick that uses a number of wide intervals over a ii V I in G major.
Take your time with this lick.
Though it’s only written in 8th notes, those wide leaps can wreak havoc on your picking hand.
Use a metronome, go slow, and experiment with different fingerings and fretboard positions for this lick if needed.
Click to hear mike stern licks 3
Mike Stern Licks 4
One of Mike’s favorite licks is to run up from the 6 to the root at the top of a m7 arpeggio line.
You can see an example of this approach here, where the Em triad is played under the moving melody line.
After you work out this line, you can speed it up and play it with 16th notes, as well as apply it to the iim7 chord in a ii V I chord progression.
Click to hear mike stern licks 4
Mike Stern Licks 5
The final Mike Stern lick uses diatonic arpeggios from the E Melodic Minor scale to outline the ii and V chords in a ii V I in D.
Using the E melodic minor scale over Em7 is probably not new, but continuing it over the V7 chord brings a Lydian dominant sound to your lines.
If you’re soloing over a ii V, play a melodic minor scale from the iim7 chord over both changes.
This is a typical bebop approach to soloing over ii V chord changes.
Click to hear mike stern licks 5
Mark Whitfield Licks
One of the lesser known, though highly deserving, guitarists on this list, Mark Whitfield is one of the young lions who brought jazz into the ’90s and new millennium.
Highly influenced by Benson and Montgomery, Whitfield’s time, vocabulary, and creativity made him one of the top young players of his generation.
At a time when modern jazz was where the scene was headed, Whitfield built a career by playing bluesy, bebop based tunes, with a command of the instrument that few of his peers possessed.
In this section, you learn five licks in the style of this great, modern bebop player.
Mark Whitfield Licks 1
To begin, here’s a bluesy Mark Whitfield lick over a C7 chord that you can use in your jazz blues soloing, or to bring a bluesy sound to the V7 chord in a ii-V-I progression.
Notice the two blues notes used in this lick, F# (b5) and the Eb (b3).
These are commonly found in Mark’s playing, and are a great way to add a blues sound to your Dominant 7th soloing lines.
Click to hear mark whitfield licks 1
Mark Whitfield Licks 2
One of the rhythms that comes up in Mark’s playing are triplets.
This lick outlines a C7 chord, with most of the notes coming from the C7 arpeggio, with the 4th, F, used to create movement between the 3rd and 5th of the chord.
As well, notice that when the 3rd appears, the note E, it’s approached from below with the blues note Eb sliding up to the E.
This is another way to bring a bluesy, Mark Whitfield vibe to your lines.
Click to hear mark whitfield licks 2
Mark Whitfield Licks 3
Whitfield also has a strong control of the bebop language, which you can see in this turnaround lick in C.
Here, you will see the “Lady Bird” turnaround being subbed over the underlying turnaround.
The Lady Bird turnaround comes from the Tadd Dameron tune of the same name, and uses a tritone sub dominant 7th chord for the VI7, iim7 and V7, in the original changes.
When doing this, you create a I7-bIII7-bVI7-bII7 progression that creates tension over the tune, before resolving this tension to the I7 chord at the end of the line.
Click to hear mark whitfield licks 3
Mark Whitfield Licks 4
A similar bluesy lick to the last one, this lick uses a double stop at the beginning of the line, which is something that you hear a lot in Mark’s playing.
Double stops are a great way to add a second texture to your solos, beyond single notes, as well as bring a larger sound to your improvised lines and phrases.
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Mark Whitfield Licks 5
To finish your study of these idiomatic Mark Whitfield licks, here is a ii-V-I turnaround that uses a bluesy sound in its construction.
Notice the C major blues sound in the first bar, followed by the C minor blues sound that appears in the second bar.
Mixing the major and minor blues scale is a great way to bring a bluesy sound to your ii-V-I soloing lines and phrases.
Click to hear mark whitfield licks 5