Jamie Holroyd Guitar

Jamie Holroyd Guitar

5 Modern Jazz Guitar Licks

5 Modern Jazz Guitar Licks

This article aims to show you how to play 5 modern jazz guitar licks that capture the sounds of current jazz guitarists.

The modern jazz guitar licks in this article are particularly inspired by players such as Pat Metheny, Alan Holdsworth Kurt Rosenwinkel and Jonathan Kreisberg.

Jazz guitar is interesting in that there are many players around today who are continually expanding and pushing the style.

Just like the older guitarists such as Wes Montgomery and Charlie Christian did.

Each of these modern jazz guitar licks uses rhythmic and harmonic techniques that are used by the players mentioned to take your jazz guitar improve to the next level.

Study each lick in its own right and use the specific sounds that you like in your own playing.

I hope that you enjoy studying, playing and working through each of these licks and that they add a modern flavour to playing.

Play through each of the licks slowly to begin with before working them up and applying them over tunes and progressions that you are working on.



Modern Jazz Guitar Licks: Parallel Triads


Using triads to outline the harmony is a common feature of modern jazz guitar licks.

The triads found within this first lick both come from the parent major scale of D-7, the C Major scale.

There are two major triads that are a tone apart within a major scale that are built from the 4th and 5th degrees of the major scale.

The parent major scale of D minor is C, and the triads that are a tone apart are F and G.

This modern jazz licks example connects both of these triads together in the first bar using an eighth note to two sixteenth note pattern which is used by Kurt Rosenwinkel.

This cool jazz rhythm alone is worth practicing. Kurt Rosenwinkel mostly uses it on licks that move horizontally up the fretboard.


modern jazz guitar licks 1 Lick 1



Modern Jazz Guitar Licks: 3 Note Per String Legato Pattern


Often associated with metal guitar, legato is a left hand guitar technique used in modern jazz licks too by guitarists such as Alan Holdsworth, Pat Metheny and Kurt Rosenwinkel.

Legato works especially well with three note per string scales and triplet rhythms as demonstrated in this modern jazz guitar licks example.

Have a go at finding 3 note per string fingerings for jazz guitar scales that you already know and apply the legato technique to get a modern jazz guitar flavour to your lines.

Practice this lick very slow to begin with and make sure that every note is clear before working up the speed.


modern jazz guitar licks 2Lick 2



Modern Jazz Guitar Licks: Pentatonic Intervals


Besides being a great scale to use in blues and rock improvisation, pentatonic scales are also used in modern jazz guitar licks.

Note the recurring interval pattern that starts half way through the lick in the first bar.

The pentatonic scale is a great device for creating modern jazz guitar licks.

Try practicing the scale in different intervals and see what type of patterns you can  come up with.

Practicing scales in different intervals is a great technical warm up and helps guitarists avoid only playing ascending and descending scale lines.


modern jazz guitar licks 3

Lick 3



Modern Jazz Guitar Licks: Whole-Tone Pattern


Whole-tone scales can provide a wealth of crunchy altered sounds when you find the patterns within them.

This modern jazz guitar licks example uses a reoccurring pattern found within a descending 2 note per string Lydian Dominant arpeggio.

Modern jazz guitar licks are influenced by saxophone players like Joe Lovano and Michael Breaker.

These type of saxophone players tend to favour harmonically rich lines that span a wide pitch range.

This can achieved on the guitar by starting your lines on the high strings and finishing them on the low strings and vice versa.


modern jazz guitar licks 4Lick 4



Modern Jazz Guitar Licks: Tritone Triad Pairs


This modern jazz guitar licks article finishes off where it started; with a triad pairs lick that uses the Kurt Rosenwinkel rhythm pattern.

The two triads in this lick are a b5 or tritone apart; which in this example are G and Db. G7 is the chord in content and Db is a b5 away from G.

Each triad starts on the root so it’s not too tricky to visualize on the fretboard

Like many licks in this article, the line is technically challenging so practice it slowly to begin with.


modern jazz guitar licks 5Lick 5

Here is a video lick lesson that I did which uses the same harmonic technique with different rhythms.

Hopefully this example will show how you can get more from your licks by just changing a small thing such as the rhythm.




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Guy Boden

Excellent, triad pairs can create a very modern sound.

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Greg Chambers

You said C major is the parent scale of Dm. I know Dm is the relative scale of F maj. Please explain the difference between "parent" and "relative". Thanks!

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C major is referred to as the parent scale because Jamie was thinking of d minor in terms of the Dorian mode. Therefore, if d minor is the two chord, which would indicate Dorian, the related major scale would be C major. F in this case would actually be Lydian.

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