‘Upgrading’ Rhythms on Your Jazz Licks

‘Upgrading’ Rhythms on Your Jazz Licks

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Recently I put together a complete lesson series on the classic jazz standard ‘Stella By Starlight. Today’s post is a sneak peek of one of the lessons. Find out how to get the full series of these lessons on improvising over Stella By Starlight by clicking here.



 In this free lesson, you’re going to learn:

  • A neat trick for creating flashy virtuosic phrases out of material you already know. 

Something I get asked about all the time by my students is:

“I’m tired of playing eighth note lines all the time! Can you give us something faster and more flashy to play?”

Here’s the thing:

You don’t need to learn anything new to be able to play faster phrases. In fact, you have everything you need at your fingertips already.

Watch the above video where I’m going to show you a neat way to manipulate the rhythms and placement of your slower licks to turn them into virtuosic sounding triplet and double time lines.


Example Of ‘Upgrading’ The Rhythm of a Lick

Here’s the example lick I used in the above video:

Example Lick – See video at 01:22


To make this into a faster line, I could simply transform the rhythms into triplets.

However, that means you won’t have enough material to fill out this chord progression anymore – you’ll need more notes to fill out the line.

But here’s the trick: delay the entry of the new faster line a few beats or even a whole bar into the chord progression, like so:


 Voila! You now have a neat sounding triplet phrase to provide a bit more rhythmic variety in your soloing that still makes sense over the chord progression.

Enjoyed this post?
Get your Handy PDF Download: Click this link to get a print friendly version of all the exercises in this post for your practice.

 So there you have it – the ‘Rhythm Upgrade’ trick – a simple way to get far more “bang for your buck” from the lines you spend your precious time learning.

That’s it for today’s lesson – let me know what you thought of this cool rhythm trick by leaving a comment below…


This concludes this free excerpt of my ‘Stella By Starlight Decoded’ lesson series. To get instant access to the rest of the lessons in this new series (as well as a large number of other lessons on a variety of classic jazz standards for guitar), they are all included in my revolutionary online program, the FretDojo Academy Club. Find out more about the Club here…

Greg O’Rourke,

Founder, Fret Dojo

World Leader in Online Jazz Guitar Education

What happens when you put a jazz improviser in an MRI scanner?

I thought I would share this very interesting video with you today.

It’s a scientific study by medical researcher Charles Limb on what neurologically happens in the brain when you improvise, as opposed to playing pre-learned musical material from memory.

What was the scientific method for this study?

The answer:

Putting experienced jazz improvisers in an MRI scanner to monitor their brain function, as they played jazz on a magnetically resistant MIDI keyboard lying down, whilst trying to keep their head as still as possible.

No easy task for a pianist. (Keith Jarrett comes to mind!)

Although it’s a preliminary study, I think it does shed light on what we could learn from an experienced improviser’s brain functioning.

This is a couple of big takeaways I got from the video:

1. When an experienced jazz musician improvises music (as opposed to playing pre-learned material), areas of the brain associated with self-expression become activated, whilst areas associated with self-inhibition reduce in function.

I found this fascinating as it correlates with my own and others anecdotal experience that improvised music flows best when you are able to transcend your own self-monitoring, be prepared to explore musically and to allow mistakes without inhibition.

2.Improvised music activates areas of the brain associated with language learning

The idea of jazz functioning as a spoken language is often used by jazz performers and teachers. In fact, this concept heavily influenced the way I designed my Fundamentals of Jazz Guitar Improvisation course that I’m currently taking students through at the moment. In the course, students learn a collection of often used jazz ‘words’ and phrases from general jazz vocabulary, and then learn how to string these basic musical words together in various ways as they improvise.

Anyway, over to you – what did you think about this video?

Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Let’s get the conversation started…

Greg O’Rourke,

Founder, Fret Dojo

World Leader in Online Jazz Guitar Education

Walking Bass For Jazz Guitar – Three Easy Steps

Recently I put together a how-to guide to building walking basslines on jazz guitar. Today’s post is a sneak peek of the first lesson. Find out how to get the full series of these lessons on walking bass by clicking here.


In this lesson, you’re going to learn:

  • How to assemble single line basslines on guitar in 3 easy steps
Lesson Resources:

(Right Click + Save As…)

Though walking bass might seem a complex technique, it doesn’t take much work to get a convincing bassline under your fingers.

As you’ll see in the above video, you can break down the basic approach to walking bass in just three simple steps.


Step 1: Play Root Notes On Beat 1 of Each Bar

The bulk of the bass player’s job is to emphasize the root notes of the harmony. So establishing the sound of the root note on beat 1 of each bar makes a lot of sense for a bass player.


Step 2: Add Approach Notes On Beat 4 of Each Bar

The next step is to add some sort of approach note on beat 4 that leads to the root note of the next bar. It sounds most jazzy when you add a chromatic note as the approach note, however, you can use diatonic notes as well as approach notes. (Diatonic means using the scale notes that relate to the current key).


Step 3: Add ‘Walking Notes’ on Beats 2 & 3


To complete your walking bassline, you just need to add two more notes in between the root note of beat 1, and the approach note of beat 4.

These can be any of the following:

  • Diatonic notes from the scale of the given key
  • Chromatic notes, or
  • Arpeggios.


Task:  Watch the above video, then learn to play each of the musical examples given in each of the three steps above. Once you’ve done that, experiment taking the principles covered in this lesson to compose or improvise your own basslines over the progression used in these examples.

In the next lesson, you’re going to learn how to play chords at the same time as this walking bass line – sounds hard to do? If you know a few simple tricks, it’s not hard at all. I’ll show you how to do it in the next lesson of this series…


This concludes this free excerpt of my ‘Walking Bass For Jazz Guitar Primer’ lesson series. To get instant access to the rest of the lessons in this new series (as well as a large number of other lessons), they are all included in my new online program, the FretDojo Academy Club. Find out more about the Club here…

Greg O’Rourke,

Founder, Fret Dojo

World Leader in Online Jazz Guitar Education

Uncle Joe’s wise advice

Do you know what my favorite piece of advice from Joe Pass is?

“You should learn as many melodies as you can.”

Next time you are in a mood for a vision quest, I want you to think of this saying next time you take a solo trip up some deserted mountain somewhere. You need to sit and meditate on this one for a while.

Let’s think about this for a minute. What does Joe mean here, by ‘learning as many melodies as you can’?

You can take this pithy instruction a couple of ways.

Firstly, you could interpret it as learning as many melodies to jazz standards as you can.

Too often, students get bogged down by playing the same five jazz standards, trying to get them perfect before moving on.

The result? They never develop their repertoire. And in failing to do this, they don’t give their ears the opportunity to develop either. It’s counterproductive working like this.

The thing is, by filling your mind with as many melodies as possible, it’s actually a faster way to get a grip on how to play in the jazz style. You have to start somewhere, and jazz melodies are crucially important to get your ears attuned to the sound of jazz.

But I think that this saying, ‘learn as many melodies as you can’ has a a double meaning too.

Joe Pass always emphasized the importance of lines in his playing style. Short, melodic pieces of vocabulary.

These lines are the ‘words’ of the jazz language. The more jazz lines you learn, the better you will be able to communicate your ideas as a jazz musician. The bigger vocabulary that you have, the more expressive and spontaneous you can be in your musical conversations.

The good news?

My soon-to-be-released FretDojo Academy Club is going to give you both of these things – a repertoire of jazz standards AND the most important lines to study in jazz – and a whole lot more besides.

Every month, You’re going to learn all aspects of playing a well-known jazz standard on guitar (including melody, comping, chord melody, and improv), therefore increasing your jazz repertoire and internalizing those all-important classic jazz melodies.

You’ll also learn a bunch of red-hot vocabulary that is broken down for you step by step, and I’ll show you how to apply it to your improvisations in an easy to understand way.

In summary, what’s the answer to sounding melodic when you solo?

Learning melodies.

So this time, listen to Uncle Joe, and get yourself on the early bird list for this new program now.

Joe told you so:


I’ll see you in the Fret Do Joe,




Greg O’Rourke,

Founder, Fret Dojo

World Leader in Online Jazz Guitar Education

Can I let you in on a little secret?

Time to let the cat out of the bag.

Over the past few months, I’ve been working hard, but keeping something close under wraps.

I’ve been working with a small group of jazz guitar students on a new way to learn jazz guitar online.

To be honest, this was on a hunch of sorts. I wasn’t sure how it would go. But as the results from the students have been so impressive, I’m completely convinced that the ‘proof is in the pudding’ and I’m just about ready (very soon) to launch.

Is the world ready? I hope so.

I think it’s about time, in fact. Why? Reasons like these:

– Ever wonder why some players just seem to ‘know’ improvisation as naturally as talking, but you’ve been left completely in the dark as to how to improvise and be able to sound anywhere approaching half decent?

– Ever feel frustrated that you learning feels disjointed and confusing, and you’re left scratching your head on how to connect the dots in the right order?

– Ever feel embarrassed that you only know how to play two jazz tunes, whereas the other guys know the complete real book from end to end?

– Ever feel like you wish you wouldn’t have to play with backing tracks all the time, but you have no idea on how to get started with solo jazz guitar?

To be frank – this sucks. Doesn’t it?

I’ve had enough of players feeling like this. It’s time to cut the crapola and the endless paraphernalia out of how to learn jazz guitar.

Which leads to the big question:

So what’s this new thing I’ve been tinkering away with undercover for the past few months, that going to help solve these all these problems?

Answer: It’s a new online learning community for jazz guitar, featuring step-by-step video lessons on all aspects of your jazz guitar playing. By doing a deep dive on a classic jazz standard each month, you’re going to get the answers on how to take the fast track to mastery of jazz guitar.

What’s the best word for it?

One word. Revolutionary.

It’s going to revolutionize every aspect of your jazz guitar playing. So much, in fact, that fast forward three months you’re going to have a double take when you realize how quickly you built your skills.

And your significant other will be equally (and pleasantly) surprised.

What do you need to accomplish this?

All you need is a recipe, a guide, and a community. That’s all. And this new program has all three of these.

If you’ve had enough of wafting through huge dusty 297 page guides on jazz guitar…

If you’ve had enough of trying to pick the brains of disorganized teachers at expensive one-on-one lessons…

If you just want the straight answers for building your jazz skills fast…

Then, you need to this:

Click this link now and get on the early bird list for the upcoming online program:


(Note – special price and a cool bonus available for early adopters)

To the early bird that catches the worm,




Greg O’Rourke,

Founder, Fret Dojo

World Leader in Online Jazz Guitar Education

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