Jamie Holroyd Guitar

Jamie Holroyd Guitar

The Secret to Developing a Jazz Language

The Secret to Developing a Jazz Language

Transcribing lines and solo’s while developing a jazz language is an essential ingredient in any guitarist’s practice schedule when learning jazz guitar.

Let’s be honest though, how many of us have transcribed 4 choruses of a solo and never use a single lick you took down?

Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. I know this has certainly happened to me, and many other jazz musicians that I’ve talked to.

In my entire career as a professional jazz guitarist I have probably transcribed about 5 full solos, but I’ve pulled countless amount of lines of records, and found many variations with almost every single I know.

While there is nothing wrong with transcribing full solo’s as it is very beneficial, I recommend working with small chunks at a time in order to gain the most application from a solo.

For example if you have a 5 bar 16th note Joe Pass lick, it would be quite hard to get it in your solo every time, and it’s going to be quite obvious when you use it. It’s better to digest the phrase and use parts of it as well as playing the lick in it’s entirety.

As a follow up to a previous lesson of this series I taught called how to play one lick over 4 chords I will be showing you some ways that you can get more mileage from your licks by adjusting them and combing them with parts of other licks you already know.

By doing this you will have a better understanding of how language is constructed, have more language to use at gigs and jams, and the best part is you don’t even need to learn any new licks.

All the greats, and especially bebop players like Charlie Parker had favourite licks that they could use in many ways.


Constructing a Beginning Phrase


To begin let’s check out two cool lick beginnings in the key of D- that we can use to create jazz lines.

The first example consists of notes from a D-7 arpeggio along with the 6th (G), where beginning phrase 2 is more of a scale based jazz line, starting with a fourth.


Beginning Phrases 1 and 2


Let’s check out some ending phrases that we can add to these licks. The intervals for ending phrase 1 are down a b5, up a b5, and down a 4th.

This type of interval movement creates interest and breaks you out of using only scale lines and is very effective in line construction

Ending phrase 2 is a similar type of idea that I got from Peter Bernstein. The pattern for this lick is down a 4th, up a 4th, down a minor 3rd, than a descending minor triad.

Notice in the example below that the beginning phrase 1 and 2 lines work great with beginning phrase one and two.


Combing Ending Phrases with Beginning Phrase 1


developing a jazz language

Combing Endings with Beginning 1


Just by mixing up two parts of different lines I have doubled my language and now have 4 lines instead of 2, pretty cool huh?

These two endings also work great with beginning phrase 2


Combining Ending Phrases with Beginning Phrase 2


Combing Endings with Beginning 2


For good measure here’s another cool ending phrase that emphases the 9th and works with both of these lines to give you even more use of the first two beginning phrases.


Ending Phrase 3 with Beginning Phrases

Ending Phrase 3 With Beginning Phrase


Write down some of your favourite lines and see how many you can combine to create new ones.

This way of combining lines together is an essential part of building up solid vocabulary on the guitar. Not only does it stop us from repeating ourselves, but seeing how different lines work together gives us twice as much use for language.

When you start to combine different licks, see what chords they work over, and displace them rhythmically you can easily build up a strong vocabulary and go from having one lick to ten without learning anything new.

Do you have any favourite ways of combing licks or getting more mileage from phrases you already know? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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