How to play a Jazz Solo with Only 5 Notes

How to play a Jazz Solo with Only 5 Notes

How to play a Jazz Solo with Only 5 Notes

► Get your FREE PDF Worksheet for this lesson here: https://www.fretdojo.com/pdf/

► Start Your FretDojo Academy Membership Here: https://www.fretdojo.com/signup-offer

There’s a bit of a trap that you can fall into learning this dark art of jazz (and especially jazz guitar).

The feeling that you need to know everything about jazz…to be able to play jazz.

Think about this:

There’s an often-used analogy of learning jazz like it’s a spoken language, I.e. a form of music which is spontaneously ‘spoken’ rather than reading something already written down.

The logic would imply:

You have to be a ‘fluent speaker’ in the language to be able to hold a decent ‘conversation’.

But:

This isn’t quite how learning jazz works – it’s a good example of where this ‘language’ analogy can get the aspiring jazz guitarist astray.

Here’s the truth:

You don’t need to know that much at all really to pull off a great sounding jazz solo.

“Whaaat? How is that even possible?” you shout, gesticulating your arms wildly at me.

Let’s go further…

In fact, it’s very likely you could make a great sounding jazz solo today, with where you are at already.

Possible? Definitely.

Let me explain. Here’s one of the most useful things ever said to me about jazz playing, by the legendary guitarist Carl Orr:

“Don’t always project into the future. How can I make great music RIGHT NOW, using what I know already?” ~ Carl Orr

Wow. That is profound.

And importantly, approaching jazz in this way will help you to think more as an artist, rather than a just a ‘student’.

Instead of constantly yearning for that ‘special day’ sometime in the distant future when you’ll have enough scales, licks, and 1000 memorized transcriptions under your belt so you’ll feel ‘worthy’ enough to go to a jam session….

Make some good music RIGHT NOW.

Today.

“How?” You might ask (especially if you’re a rank beginner). ‘I can’t even follow the chords in a chart at all yet when I try to solo!’

The answer:

Even if you’re a rank beginner, you still have no excuse.

Here’s a simple exercise to demonstrate.

Step 1:

Take this basic box position pentatonic scale in Dm:

Now 99 percent of guitarists regardless of what style you play would probably know this. If you don’t, take a moment to learn the pattern.

Step 2:

Isolate just TWO of the strings in this pattern. That makes the pattern this:

Why just two strings? You’ll realize why in a minute.

Step 3:

Now fire up the backing track and play this 2 string ‘micro’ scale over the backing track below:

Step 4:

Now start improvising over the backing track, using the 2 string scale.

Try different rhythms, slide into the notes, try different patterns and phrase lengths. Start at different points in the bar. Do anything you like. Experiment!

BUT – the rule if you’re ONLY allowed to use the two strings I’ve highlighted.

Give this a try RIGHT NOW. Grab your guitar and put on the backing track…

Hint: An example of me doing this can be found on the video version of this post that’s at the top of the page.

Hey presto! As you can see, you can make a pretty good sounding jazz solo out of just 5 notes from a scale you probably know like the back of your hand.

In fact, Kenny Burrel uses little more than pentatonic and blues scales on his classic recording Chitlins Con Carne from Midnight Blue (and this happens to be one of the highest selling jazz albums of all time):

Why This Approach Works

The above exercise highlights something very important:

The size of your jazz vocabulary isn’t the most important thing…It’s how you use it that counts!

Even the most accomplished jazz players often just stick to a few key ideas in their soloing. They might have garnered inspiration from many sources, but they play to their strengths first and foremost.

Examples:

<<Pat Martino>> bases a great deal of his soloing on some strong double time lines and the minor conversion concept.

Wes Montgomery had his signature ‘three tiered’ soloing approach of single lines, his famous octave technique, and chord soloing, that features on the majority of his most well-known recordings.

Any great player you study tended to develop their unique sound out of a concise and well-defined set of ideas.

In Summary…

Placing limits on the material you use, and going very deep on that limited material, will quickly open the doorway to building your jazz skills.

Reasons:

1. You’ll learn material more deeply, rather than just ‘skimming the surface’ of a lot of ideas

2. You’ll be able to recall the material you do learn far more easily

3. You’ll learn how to be more creative with the material that you’ve learnt.

Go deep on vocabulary rather than broad.

You don’t need to know much vocabulary. You just need to know a few concepts really, really well.

Don’t get me wrong:

Do your study and get inspiration from a lot of players and transcriptions of their music.

But never forget that at every step of the way:

The priority Is to make great music RIGHT NOW – with what you have already.

Now over to you:

What are YOUR thoughts on this topic? What did you think of this article? Leave your comments below…

A special thanks to Carl Orr for his deep insights on this topic – find out more about Carl at https://www.carlorr.com/

Now the exciting bit:

If you're keen to have a structured, step-by-step approach to learning jazz guitar, it might be worth checking out my online learning system, the FretDojo Jazz Guitar Academy.

Here's what you get when you join up:

  • Detailed step-by-step video lessons on new classic jazz tunes and essential jazz guitar skills added to the club website each month. Includes listening recommendations, demonstrations of the melody, analysis of the harmony, and detailed explanations on how to solo over the tune.
  • Key improvisation concepts and techniques for soloing, and classic licks and example solos that relate to each tune, so you can continue to expand your jazz vocabulary and have more options when it comes to soloing.
  • Detailed comping ideas to suit the style of each jazz standard covered
  • Lessons on how to make chord melody and solo jazz guitar versions of tunes featured - play a complete jazz standard completely on your own like Joe Pass!
  • Members only forum - A worldwide community of jazz guitarists from all around the globe.
  • Regular workshops, masterclasses, and Q & A Sessions - get direct answers from me on anything holding you back in the practice room. Replays of all sessions are available to access for all members even if you can’t make it live.
  • Massive searchable database of jazz licks and soloing concepts - the ultimate idea "grab bag" for your solos.
  • Optional monthly challenges where members participate to get feedback on their playing, reach new milestones and be eligible for cool prizes.

Go here for more info: https://www.fretdojo.com/signup-offer

Peace,

Greg O’Rourke

Founder, Fret Dojo

Innovation in Online Jazz Guitar Education

FREE Course:
The BIG Secrets of Jazz Guitar Improvisation

•  3 part video series - a step-by-step guide on building improvisation skills

• Learn the biggest mistakes made by aspiring jazz guitar improvisers and what you should be doing instead

• Instant access - completely FREE!

‘Leia’s Love Story’ ii – V – I Lick for JAZZ GUITAR (Valentine’s Day Special)

‘Leia’s Love Story’ ii – V – I Lick for JAZZ GUITAR (Valentine’s Day Special)

‘Leia’s Love Story’ ii – V – I Lick for JAZZ GUITAR (Valentine’s Day Special)

► Get your FREE PDF Worksheet for this lesson here: https://www.fretdojo.com/pdf/

► Start Your FretDojo Academy Membership Here: https://www.fretdojo.com/signup-offer

Welcome to FretDojo LIVE! In this session I’m looking at a cool ii – V – I lick I’ve called ‘Leia’s Love Story’ – one for all you lovers on Valentine’s Day.

Video Sections:

00:00 Introduction
02:18 Lick Playthrough
04:18 Improvisation Concept #1 – Horizontal Approaches
06:51 Improvisation Concept #2 – 4ths Intervals On Relative Minor Pentatonic
11:09 Improvisation Concept #3 – Mixed Tensions on V7 Chord Using Triad Substitution
19:04 Improvisation Concept #4 – Lydian on IMaj7
21:18 Summary and Wrap Up

This material will instantly spice up your jazz guitar improvisations to make them sound more authentic, and will help you open up the creative soloing possibilities on guitar.

Happy woodshedding!

Make sure you subscribe to this site to be advised when future live sessions will be happening.

Now the exciting bit:

If you're keen to have a structured, step-by-step approach to learning jazz guitar, it might be worth checking out my online learning system, the FretDojo Jazz Guitar Academy.

Here's what you get when you join up:

  • Detailed step-by-step video lessons on new classic jazz tunes and essential jazz guitar skills added to the club website each month. Includes listening recommendations, demonstrations of the melody, analysis of the harmony, and detailed explanations on how to solo over the tune.
  • Key improvisation concepts and techniques for soloing, and classic licks and example solos that relate to each tune, so you can continue to expand your jazz vocabulary and have more options when it comes to soloing.
  • Detailed comping ideas to suit the style of each jazz standard covered
  • Lessons on how to make chord melody and solo jazz guitar versions of tunes featured - play a complete jazz standard completely on your own like Joe Pass!
  • Members only forum - A worldwide community of jazz guitarists from all around the globe.
  • Regular workshops, masterclasses, and Q & A Sessions - get direct answers from me on anything holding you back in the practice room. Replays of all sessions are available to access for all members even if you can’t make it live.
  • Massive searchable database of jazz licks and soloing concepts - the ultimate idea "grab bag" for your solos.
  • Optional monthly challenges where members participate to get feedback on their playing, reach new milestones and be eligible for cool prizes.

Go here for more info: https://www.fretdojo.com/signup-offer

What did you think of this jazz guitar quick tip? Leave your comments below…

Peace,

Greg O’Rourke

Founder, Fret Dojo

Innovation in Online Jazz Guitar Education

FREE Course:
The BIG Secrets of Jazz Guitar Improvisation

•  3 part video series - a step-by-step guide on building improvisation skills

• Learn the biggest mistakes made by aspiring jazz guitar improvisers and what you should be doing instead

• Instant access - completely FREE!

The “Passy-Doble” Joe Pass Jazz Guitar Lick

The “Passy-Doble” Joe Pass Jazz Guitar Lick

The “Passy-Doble” Joe Pass Jazz Guitar Lick

► Get your FREE PDF Worksheet for this lesson here: https://www.fretdojo.com/pdf/

► Start Your FretDojo Academy Membership Here: https://www.fretdojo.com/signup-offer

Welcome to this replay of episode #1 of FretDojo LIVE! In this session I’m looking at a cool ii – V – I Joe Pass lick and approaches.

Video Sections:

00:00 – Introduction
04:24 – Passy Doble ii – V – I Lick Playthrough
05:56 – Fingering tips for the lick
10:16 – Concept 1: Double Approach Notes
16:42 – Concept 2: Dm7b5 Sub on G7
22:15 – Concept 3: Dmaj Triad Sub over CMaj7
27:06 – Summary and Next Steps

This material will instantly spice up your jazz guitar improvisations to make them sound more authentic, and will help you open up the creative soloing possibilities on guitar.

Make sure you subscribe to this site to be advised when future live sessions will be happening.

Now the exciting bit:

If you're keen to have a structured, step-by-step approach to learning jazz guitar, it might be worth checking out my online learning system, the FretDojo Jazz Guitar Academy.

Here's what you get when you join up:

  • Detailed step-by-step video lessons on new classic jazz tunes and essential jazz guitar skills added to the club website each month. Includes listening recommendations, demonstrations of the melody, analysis of the harmony, and detailed explanations on how to solo over the tune.
  • Key improvisation concepts and techniques for soloing, and classic licks and example solos that relate to each tune, so you can continue to expand your jazz vocabulary and have more options when it comes to soloing.
  • Detailed comping ideas to suit the style of each jazz standard covered
  • Lessons on how to make chord melody and solo jazz guitar versions of tunes featured - play a complete jazz standard completely on your own like Joe Pass!
  • Members only forum - A worldwide community of jazz guitarists from all around the globe.
  • Regular workshops, masterclasses, and Q & A Sessions - get direct answers from me on anything holding you back in the practice room. Replays of all sessions are available to access for all members even if you can’t make it live.
  • Massive searchable database of jazz licks and soloing concepts - the ultimate idea "grab bag" for your solos.
  • Optional monthly challenges where members participate to get feedback on their playing, reach new milestones and be eligible for cool prizes.

Go here for more info: https://www.fretdojo.com/signup-offer

What did you think of this jazz guitar quick tip? Leave your comments below…

Peace,

Greg O’Rourke

Founder, Fret Dojo

Innovation in Online Jazz Guitar Education

FREE Course:
The BIG Secrets of Jazz Guitar Improvisation

•  3 part video series - a step-by-step guide on building improvisation skills

• Learn the biggest mistakes made by aspiring jazz guitar improvisers and what you should be doing instead

• Instant access - completely FREE!

Modern Jazz Chord Progression Workshop with Stuart King (Replay)

Modern Jazz Chord Progression Workshop with Stuart King (Replay)

Modern Jazz Chord Progression Workshop with Stuart King (Replay)

This week Stuart King, jazz guitarist and composer extraordinaire did a wonderful live online workshop for FretDojo entitled Breaking Out of the ii-V-I: How to Make Your Own Jazz Chord Progressions That Sound Great.

As one participant Karl remarked afterward:

“The workshop was about 3 years of theory explained in little over an hour!”

In the leadup to the workshop, I got a lot of emails from people indicating that they would have loved to attend, but couldn’t due to the time zone differences.

So, for the benefit of all you guys and gals that couldn’t make it, here is the complete replay of the workshop in all it’s glory, along with some notes on the ideas Stuart put forward in his presentation.

 

How This Workshop Came About

As a bit of background, many of you know I’ve been helping co-produce Stuart’s debut album of original jazz guitar compositions Qualia, which has just been released – get your copy here!

The idea for the workshop came to me in the studio during the final mixing sessions for the album.

What struck me was how interesting and innovative the chord progressions were that Stuart was using in his compositions, so much so I couldn’t help but ask Stuart to reveal all his techniques to the FretDojo community.

Without further ado, let’s get into it!

 

Workshop Replay:

Below are some notes on the workshop as well as diagrams of chord shapes you can use to get started with modern jazz chord progressions on guitar.

(Hint: fast forward the video to the relevant timecode in green to get to the relevant part of the workshop.)

 

Cycle 5 Harmony and Tritone Substitution (6:00)

Stuart kicked off his presentation with an overview of typical Cycle 5 root movement.

This refers to the traditional movement of the root notes of chords via the interval of a perfect 5th.

A good example of this is a typical ii – V – I progression: e.g Dm7 => G7 => C.

In this case, G is a perfect 5th from D, and C is a perfect 5th from G.

You can manipulate this standard root note movement with tritone substitution, a well-known technique in jazz harmony to create variety and to facilitate smooth voice leading from chord to chord.

Stuart’s opening track on Qualia, Forty One is a good example of this technique in action:

 

moderrn-jazz-voicings-guitar-1

 

You may ask here:

“So what is a tritone substitution anyway?”

Let me explain.

Have a look at a G7 chord and a Db7 chord, pictured below:

 

moderrn-jazz-voicings-guitar-2

 

Notice anything similar?

As you can see, these chords share two of the same notes – only the root note has changed.

These two notes are the guide tones – i.e. the 3rd and the 7th. The intervallic distance between them is known as a tritone.

Therefore, as the chords are so similar, they can be used to substitute one another.

Hence the term ‘tritone substitution’ – whereby you substitute one chord with another that has the same tritone.

In bar 12 of Forty One, Stuart uses this technique – substituting a Db9 in place of where you would expect a G7 chord to be:

 

moderrn-jazz-voicings-guitar-3

 

Although this is a well-known technique, you can play with it in interesting ways.

In the next example, Stuart does the same substitution but also does a tritone substitution on the C7, using a Gb13 chord instead.

Therefore, we now have a cycle 5 root movement off the tritone substitutions, giving us what’s sometimes known as ‘Cycle 5 off the Sub V’s progression’:

 

moderrn-jazz-voicings-guitar-4

 

For all the nitty gritty detail about everything covered above, check out the workshop video from 6:00 onwards.

 

Upper Structure Triads (18:48)

To demonstrate upper structure triads, Stuart referred to one of the tracks off Qualia, Great Ocean Road:

 

moderrn-jazz-voicings-guitar-4a

 

The upper structure triad concept is simple to understand but can give you really interesting chords as a result.

In the following example, you’re going to use the same root note for all the following chord voicings, which then superimpose different triads on top of this static root note.

This results in some colorful, modern sounding voicings you can use in your comping as well as in your compositions:

(Note: the following chords could potentially have other names and functions as well, below is only one way you could label each chord)

 

moderrn-jazz-voicings-guitar-5a-fix

 

moderrn-jazz-voicings-guitar-5b-fix

 

At 22:25 in the video, Stuart then flips this idea on its head.

Rather than keep the root note static and change the upper structure triad, what if you keep the upper structure triad static but change the root note instead?

Great Ocean Road is full of this technique – watch what happens when I replace some of the chord names so that you can see what’s going on more easily:

 

moderrn-jazz-voicings-guitar-6

 

Stuart goes into a lot more detail about the techniques he used on this tune, check out the workshop replay video from 22:25 for more details.

 

Quartal Harmony (4ths voicings) (30:05)

Quartal harmony is extremely useful for jazz composition and arranging, as well as for comping.

Whilst regular chords are built by stacking 3rds, quartal voicings are built by stacking 4ths.

As quartal voicings are tonally ambiguous, the same shape can be used in many situations and still sound good.

At this point in the workshop, Stuart showed a neat trick of how to find various 4ths voicings, by playing a 4ths voicing chord scale based on E Dorian:

 

moderrn-jazz-voicings-guitar-7

 

The title track off the album, Qualia, demonstrates the use quartal harmony in action:

 

moderrn-jazz-voicings-guitar-7a-1

moderrn-jazz-voicings-guitar-7a-2

 

Notice how, early on in the above chart, Stuart also plays with the root note movement to create some very interesting and colorful chords:

 

moderrn-jazz-voicings-guitar-8

 

The workshop wrapped up with some interesting questions from participants as well as a couple of performances of the tunes from Qualia by Stuart on solo guitar (see the video from 44:13).

Now the exciting bit:

If you're keen to have a structured, step-by-step approach to learning jazz guitar, it might be worth checking out my online learning system, the FretDojo Jazz Guitar Academy.

Here's what you get when you join up:

  • Detailed step-by-step video lessons on new classic jazz tunes and essential jazz guitar skills added to the club website each month. Includes listening recommendations, demonstrations of the melody, analysis of the harmony, and detailed explanations on how to solo over the tune.
  • Key improvisation concepts and techniques for soloing, and classic licks and example solos that relate to each tune, so you can continue to expand your jazz vocabulary and have more options when it comes to soloing.
  • Detailed comping ideas to suit the style of each jazz standard covered
  • Lessons on how to make chord melody and solo jazz guitar versions of tunes featured - play a complete jazz standard completely on your own like Joe Pass!
  • Members only forum - A worldwide community of jazz guitarists from all around the globe.
  • Regular workshops, masterclasses, and Q & A Sessions - get direct answers from me on anything holding you back in the practice room. Replays of all sessions are available to access for all members even if you can’t make it live.
  • Massive searchable database of jazz licks and soloing concepts - the ultimate idea "grab bag" for your solos.
  • Optional monthly challenges where members participate to get feedback on their playing, reach new milestones and be eligible for cool prizes.

The best part:

You can access this all of this and more for just $1 by signing up to a 14 day trial. Go here for more info: https://www.fretdojo.com/signup-offer

Wrap Up

Special thanks to Stuart King for putting on this fantastic workshop! Hearing the examples directly off Stuart’s album Qualia bought these techniques to life for me, and the participants really enjoyed being a part of the session. I hope to do more of these types of workshops in the future.

qualiaIf you haven’t already, get your copy of Qualia here – Stuart King’s debut album of original jazz guitar compositions.

We’re both very proud of the work we have put into this album project and it’s a great resource for you to study some of these more advanced chord progression techniques that Stuart outlined in the video workshop above.

Click here to buy the album now>>

Thanks for reading! Did you find this workshop useful? Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment below…

Greg O’Rourke, BMus (Hons), ANU

About Stuart King:

Stuart KingStuart is a guitarist with over 20 years experience as a performer in many varied contexts, ranging from classical through to contemporary styles, musical theater, and jazz.

In 2005 Stuart graduated from the Canberra School of Music, Australian National University with a Bachelor of Music as a jazz performance major.

These days Stuart performs regularly around Canberra as a band leader, sideman, session guitarist and solo jazz and acoustic guitarist.

Stuart has performed with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra on various occasions and has performed with many notable Australian jazz musicians including Mike Price, Ben Hauptmann, Carl Dewhurst, Lucinda Peters, and Luke Sweeting.

Find out more about Stuart at www.stuartkingmusic.com

FREE Course:
The BIG Secrets of Jazz Guitar Improvisation

•  3 part video series - a step-by-step guide on building improvisation skills

• Learn the biggest mistakes made by aspiring jazz guitar improvisers and what you should be doing instead

• Instant access - completely FREE!

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