Jamie Holroyd Guitar

Jamie Holroyd Guitar

Rhythm Changes Licks Etude

Rhythm Changes Licks Etude

Learning to solo over the rhythm changes is an important part of learning jazz improvisation.

Although I have already written a 3 step guide on how to solo over this progression I wanted to put together a complete rhythm changes licks etude featuring all the techniques in the series.

This rhythm changes licks etudes contains several licks that I have shared on this website, Jazz Guitar NewsletterYouTube channel and over on the Jamie Holroyd Guitar Facebook Page.

Play through each of these licks slowly before working them up to tempo and feel free to use them in your playing.

If you would like to download this rhythm changes licks etude as a PDF click here

Click the player below to hear the full solo at medium tempo.

Please not that the recording is at a medium tempo for practice purposes.

Try and work the licks up to around 200-240bmp


Full Solo


Rhythm Changes Licks Etude: Bars 1-4


The rhythm changes etude starts without any continuous eighth note rhythms, but still outlines the harmony very clearly.

There is a descending Coltrane pattern on the first chord followed by a B diminished arpeggio over the G7, producing a dominant 7b9 sound before resolving to the 3rd of the C-7.

Using diminished arpeggios to play over the V dominant chord is common practice over rhythm changes because the b9 resolves perfectly to the ii minor 7 chord in the next bar.

A chord quality substitution is applied in bar 4 where the C-7 is changed for a C7.

Playing dominant 7 sounds over a minor 7 chord typically doesn’t work, but the internal logic of the line and fast tempo of the progression makes this work.

The fact that the major 3rd (E) is on a weak beat of the bar help too.


Rhythm Changes Licks Etude Bars 1 - 4Bars 1 – 4


Rhythm Changes Licks Etude: Bars 5 — 8


The first A section gets finished off with some more diatonic harmony choices using constant eighth notes to retain the flow of the solo.

Bar 13 features enclosures and guide tone soloing as does bar 14.

Eb-7 is implied over Ab7 using this cool Wes substitution I learned years ago.


Rhythm Changes Licks Etude Bars 5 - 5Next 4 Bars


Rhythm Changes Licks Etude: Bars 9 — 12


The second A section features more continuous motion than the first A and the most adventurous harmonic choices of the solo.

It starts with a Bb triad to give a sense of the originally harmony before moving to a Db tetrachord over G7 demonstrate the tritone substitution technique.

There is then a diminished arpeggio which voice leads perfectly to the next bar.

Bar 11 shows how you can voice lead chords by the 5th.

The lick stars with a desending D-7 arpeggio which drops to a B diminished arpeggio and finally resolves to the 5th of the C-7.

The pattern in bar 11 could have easily repeated in the next bar but it didn’t.


Rhythm Changes Licks Etude Bars 9 - 12Rhythm Changes Licks Etude Bars 9 – 13


Rhythm Changes Licks Etude: Bars 13 — 16


Using blues licks and pentatonic scales over rhythm changes is common practice and the last four bars of the first A section demonstrate this.

Although this lick does not outline the harmony as well as the first four bars, there is still a sense of tension and resolution which stylistically fits the progression.


Rhythm Changes Licks Etude Bars 13 - 16Rhythm Changes Licks Etude Bars 13-16


Rhythm Changes Licks Etude: Bridge


The bridge starts with an enclosure lick targeting the third of the D7 chord.

The bridge of a rhythm changes progression is a great place to experiment with more angular dominant 7th sounds which is why Lydian dominant sounds are used over the G7 in the next two bars.

There is a rising whole-tone pattern over the next two chords which builds up and resolves with a quirky series of tritone intervals.



Rhythm Changes Licks Etude Bridge


Rhythm Changes Licks Etude: Last A Section


The last A section uses techniques, rhythms and substitutions found earlier in the solo with new twists.

There is a nice melodic passage over the iii-VI-ii-V which balances out the eighth note rhythms.

The changes are made reference to in the last 4 bars.

The flat 7th (Ab) is targeted over the Bb7 chord and the 3rd of Ebmaj7 (G) is targeted in the next bar which then follows down a semi-tone to Gb, the flat 7th of Ab7.

This guide tone movement is found in the ending to many Bill Hayley tunes so the final quote makes full reference to that ending guitar lick.


Rhythm Changes Licks_0002Last 4 Bars


Things to Notice From This Solo


  • Implying I VI II V substitutions provides more harmonic options when taking multiple choruses
  • Even though blues scales do not contain the chord guide tones they can still provide an effective form of tension and resolution
  • Guide tones, chromatic approach notes, and enclosures are always used to connect phrases together
  • Constant eighth notes can be used for a nice flow but are best off used with other rhythms to create interest


I hope that you have enjoyed playing and working through this rhythm changes solo.

The rhythm changes is a progression that can never be mastered, but learning etudes is a great way to build up fluency over this progression.

What did you think of this rhythm changes etude? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.





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E natural on C-7? Really, it sounds awkwardly off.

Jamie Holroyd

It's all a matter of personal taste. Remember that these lines are meant to be played at fast tempos and have strong internal logic as well as tension and resolution.

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Fantastic lesson. I found your site and lessons very helpful even tough the theory is way beyond my level yet, but ı'm working on it. keep up the good work. It's much appreciated.

Jamie Holroyd

Thanks, glad you are finding the site helpful!

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bill (england)

i find these complete works more beneficial for me, rather than one line licks. perhaps i'll get more from those later. meanwhile, great stuff, and MORE please. thanx Jamie

Jamie Holroyd

No problem - thank you for the kind words.

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Thanks for all the work and effort, it is much appreciated.
- I really enjoy your lessons

Jamie Holroyd

Thank you for the kind words.

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These are really helpful. I find myself getting lost in a lick/pattern and spending hours playing around with it. Great vocabulary builders! Thanks Jamie!!

Jamie Holroyd

Thanks Rodger - yes each lick/idea has 100's of hours worth of practice. But, that's the fun!

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