Jamie Holroyd Guitar

Jamie Holroyd Guitar

1 Fast Joe Pass Lick Every Guitarist Can Play

1 Fast Joe Pass Lick Every Guitarist Can Play

Besides developing good comping chops, every guitarist is always searching for new vocabulary to bring new sounds into their playing. But besides just learning cool licks, it is also important that to analyze them to get the most usage. By seeing why and how licks work, you can use them in different situations and not just play the same lick all the time.

Joe Pass is one of the most influential players of jazz guitar so I have decided to explain how to play and break down this fast lick he plays at the end of his composition ‘C.E.D’.

For those that don’t have it, the ‘Sound of Synanon’ album is essential listening for every jazz guitar fan. The album was recorded just have Joe come out rehabilitation and features some of his best single line playing recorded. Here’s the lick Joe Plays at the end.


Joe Pass Lick

If you would like to hear this lick, fast forward to around 2.50 in this video to hear Joe play it



As illustrated on the example above, this lick uses two common jazz patterns. The first one is what’s referred to as the ‘Coltrane Pattern’, which is the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 5th degree of the parent mode or scale, which in this case is the major scale.

To use the Coltrane Pattern over a C major 7th or C dominant 7th chord, play the notes C, D, E, and G. This pattern can be adapted as needed for different chord types. For example, if you wanted to use it over a minor 7th chord, just flattend the third.

Joe plays the 1235 pattern through the sequence of 4ths, which in this example are C, F, Bb, Eb, and Ab.

The Coltrane pattern is a commonly used piece of jazz language and there’s many ways you can use it in your own playing. Here’s a cool bebop lick that uses the lick over the II chord, which is D-7 in this case. Also note the use of the G dominant 7th bebop scale over the V chord.

If you would like to learn more about bebop scales and their applications, take a look at this article.


1235 with bebop scale pattern


After the modulation of Coltrane pattern licks, Joe then plays a descending diminished shape. Whenever a b9 is added to a dominant 7th arpeggio in place of the root it can be treated as a diminished chord.

For example if you have a G7 chord, and replace the ‘G’ with ‘Ab’, the chord can then be seen as four different diminished shapes: Ab, B, D, and F.

Those who have read my b9 chords article will know that diminished chords are symmetrical. The same rules apply for the diminished arpeggios and scales. Click this link to read the b9 chords article if you would like to learn more about this concept.

The great thing about this is that you only need to learn one diminished arpeggio that can be moved around the neck to play in all positions of this guitar.


diminished shape


Each of these diminished arpeggios is a minor third apart, so when thinking of diminished arpeggios over the dominant chord, you can just move the same shape up 3 frets.

Thinking of dominant 7th chords as diminished arpeggios is especially useful for improvising over the rhythm changes progression. The lick below shows a Johnny Smith pattern that I transcribed from his solo of ‘What’s New’ which demonstrated a cool variation on this movable pattern.



I hope that you have enjoyed this Joe Pass lick lessons and the concepts within this lick will be useful in your own playing. Remember to practice the lick very slowly at first, and practice the patterns within the lick in differnet keys and apply to different standards and tunes that you know. What do you think of this Joe Pass lick? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Be Sociable, Share!


Randy Katz

The lick written is close but is not what he plays. First off he is tuned up a half step in order to play Ab in the "G" position. Secondly the riff starts on the 6th string and thirdly there is a stop on the high Gb (F for you) and then he grabs Ab Gb (G F for you) and descends to D (Db for you) and continues with the diminished pattern on B on the high E string and Ab so that diminished pattern only really starts one position up from the position he ends up at, other then that it's fine! ;)

Leave a Comment


Would you typically use hammer-ons to play the 1-2-3-5 licks, or is it better to pick each note?

Jamie Holroyd

Hey, I pick them but I don't see any reason why you can't use legato if each note is clear...

Leave a Comment

Terry Simcik

The Joe Pass lick creates a couple of interesting fingerings and position shifts to keep moving on the strings as written in your tab.
I play the Bb on the 1st string fret 6 with my first finger as well as the C on the 8th fret after playing the Ab on the 2nd string 9th fret with my fourth finger.
Then another shift to E on 12th fret with my 1st finger after playing Eb with my fourth finger.
I couldn't do it at first but then it came after awhile.
Any other ideas on how Joe did it?

Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment