Jazz improvisation for guitar often becomes more complicated than it really needs to be.
For some students, even learning how to improvise along with a blues progression can be a difficult thing to do.
Both students and teachers dive deep into the theory aspect of soloing, and get stuck thinking about what they are going to play instead of using their ears and creating interesting melodies.
One reason for this is that traditional theory doesn’t apply to the blues in a literal way, so students have to learn the theory in traditional terms, and then learn all of the exceptions that apply to the blues.
This way, you end up having to learn, unlearn, and relearn your theory - just to play a blues solo on the blues. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be this complicated.
Getting A Good Sound
Getting a good sound for jazz on guitar is a combination of your equipment, settings on your electronics, and you as the player.
If you want to sound good playing jazz, you need to listen to great jazz guitar players.
Spend some time figuring out what you can do to match the sound of guitarists like Barney Kessel, Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, and Jim Hall for starters.
Your equipment also plays a part in the sound you create with it.
Having the right strings and picks, the guitar and amplifier you use, and knowing how to adjust your tone and volume settings can all make a big difference.
Once you’re comfortable with the basic 3 note jazz guitar chord shapes, it’s time to start applying them to chord progressions.
Chord progressions are sequences of chords that fit together in a key song.
If you don't know the basic 3 note jazz guitar shapes yet, click here.
From a practical standpoint, playing a chord progression means smoothly moving from one chord to another. While you could jump straight into learning songs, there is a simple chord progression that you should probably learn first.
The 2 5 1 (or ii V I) progression is an extremely common progression to come across in jazz music, and it is a great place for you to start when you are comfortable with your basic jazz guitar chords.
Because it is so common, this progression should be internalized and it’s a good idea to practice it in every key.
In this lesson you will learn 2 different patterns for the 2 5 1 progression that you can use at any point of the guitar to play in different keys.
One of these patterns starts and ends on the 6th string, so we’ll call it the 6th string pattern. The other pattern starts and ends on the 5th string, so we’ll call it the 5th string pattern.
When I started learning jazz guitar, I pretty much only worked on learning chords.
I had a great teacher who had a pretty “old school” approach.
Lots of exercises with different chords, finding them all over the neck so you always had an option for your next chord.
I got really good at sight reading chords - and the kind of charts you would get in a jazz band.
Traditional Comping Approach
He was also very traditional in his approach to accompaniment, which is the guitar players main job in a jazz band - “4 to a bar” playing where you strum once on each beat.
This worked great for me for a long time. I mostly played guitar in jazz band, so that style worked perfectly in most of the situations I encountered.
I started getting hired for groups around town, playing for weddings, events, and pit orchestras for musical productions as a high school kid.
Eventually I Needed Something Different
Once I got to college though, I started encountering situations where this 4 to a bar style accompaniment wasn’t working as well.
And as I listened to a wider variety of jazz music, I noticed that the guitar was sometimes doing all kinds of different rhythm patterns behind melodies and soloists.
I Learned A Lot About Different Comping Styles
Over time, I worked with several different jazz guitar teachers. I would book a lesson with anyone I could as they came through town, or sometimes I would travel across the state to meet with a great teacher for an hour.
Through these teachers and my university professors, I was able to identify some general rules about accompaniment that helped me improve my playing, and help me sound better in a wider range of jazz styles.
Now I was getting hired by jazz groups in my new local area, which was much more competitive than where I grew up.
I even won a couple of guitar jobs over older, more experienced guitar players - partially because of my comping ability.
Over Time, I Figured Out What Really Works
As a guitar teacher, I’ve worked with students of a wide range of ability levels - from kids starting out in jazz band to serious high school and college age students to adults who want to learn jazz guitar for fun.
Over the years I’ve found 3 basic comping rhythms that work well as an entry point for most players.
By mastering these three patterns and learning how to switch between them, you’ll have a good foundation for becoming the kind of jazz guitar player that people want to play with and listen to.
Note - A lot goes in to good accompaniment skills, and just learning one or two patterns isn’t necessarily going to cut it.
But that doesn’t mean you have to learn thousands of rhythm patterns either.
What You'll Learn
In this lesson you’ll learn 3 important comping rhythms - Freddie Green, The Charleston, and the Reverse Charleston.
More importantly, you’ll learn how to piece these rhythms together in a way that will sound good and support a melody or soloist.
Comping is an essential jazz guitar skill, and it’s one of the most important parts of playing jazz guitar with other people.
It is also a very overlooked area of many guitarists playing.
If you take the time to develop your comping skills, it can set you apart as a jazz guitarist, and help you get more opportunities to play with better groups.
When you think about observation you might picture Sherlock Holmes solving a mystery.
Mr Holmes was famous for his observation skills that helped him solve crimes that were considered unsolvable.
Anyone can develop the skill of observation, and it can help you whether or not you are trying to be a famous detective.
Developing your own observation skills can help you become a better guitar player and get more out of your practice time, guitar lessons, and classes.
Many guitar players get stuck in a rut simply because they are not paying attention to what they are doing.
Your mind probably wanders a little as you practice your guitar, as you listen to your teacher explain something, or even as you read this sentence.
By improving your observation skills you can get more out of your guitar lessons, your practice time, and you can even learn new things faster.
In this lesson you will learn what observation is, how it can help your guitar playing, and some practical steps you can take towards developing your own powers of observation.
Have you ever wondered how guitar players come up with interesting guitar parts to songs like House Of The Rising Sun, Hotel California, or Stairway To Heaven?
Some of the most iconic guitar parts you can think of are created by using a technique called arpeggios.
While some of these parts can sound tricky and complicated, it’s actually a pretty simple technique to get started with.
Arpeggios are an important technique for guitar players in just about any musical style you can imagine.
They provide a different texture for your chords than strumming does, and can be a helpful songwriting tool.
Arpeggios are used throughout all styles of music, and in many cases they make up some of the most memorable guitar parts to songs you like.
Luckily, arpeggios for guitar can be as simple as learning a picking pattern to play while holding down a chord.
Learning your arpeggio patterns will give you more options to play with as you improve your skills, and make your picking technique better at the same time
In this lesson you will learn the basic 4 string arpeggio picking patterns, and how to apply them to basic open guitar chords.
By the end of this lesson you’ll have the tools you need to play simple arpeggio picking patterns over chord progressions, and apply them to some of your favorite songs as well.
Imagine being able to play a great sounding solo next time you’re jamming with another guitar player, or playing along with a backing track.
Believe it or not, you don’t need to study advanced improvisation techniques to get going.
You just need to learn one or two simple scales, and you’re ready to get started!
For a guitar player, pentatonic scales are an important tool you need to have at your disposal.
In almost any style of music you want to play, major and minor pentatonic scales are going to be your go-to scale pattern for improvisation and playing guitar solos.
Learning your major and minor pentatonic scales will give you the tools necessary to improvise in both major and minor keys with confidence - whether you are jamming with your friends or taking a solo in jazz band.
A solid foundation with your major and minor pentatonic scales will also make it easier for you to learn other scale forms later on - like major and natural minor scales.
In this lesson you will learn how to play the major and minor pentatonic scales starting on the 6th string. We will look at suggested finger patterns and learn the scale tone numbers for both of these scales.
You will also start to see how you can move these scale patterns around the neck, so you can improvise in any major or minor key with confidence.
Reading music is an essential skill for guitar players, and would be something that gets covered in your guitar lessons.
There are 3 types of music reading that all guitar players should be aware of:
In this lesson, we are going to focus on reading TAB, or tablature. Reading TAB is a skill that will help you start to learn songs, riffs, and other material that is written down
Tab shows you the strings on the guitar, and uses numbers to tell you what fret to put your fingers on.
It’s kind of like a coordinate system - you find the right string or line, and then you find the right fret or number - then you’ll have the right note!
It is important for you to learn how to read TAB because most guitar resources today incorporate it into the way they present musical ideas, whether they are showing chords, single notes, or arpeggios.
Depending on how serious you are about learning music, TAB might be the only music reading skill you need.
If you are looking into learning to play guitar as a hobby, TAB is a perfect way to get started.
If you are looking into a degree or a career in music, TAB is still a great way to start out - you’ll just want to transition into reading standard musical notation as well.
In this lesson, you will learn the basics of how to read TAB for guitar, and get a basic understanding of how it will help you learn to play songs on your guitar.
When I first started playing guitar, it was purely for fun.
I thought the guitar was the coolest sounding thing I had ever heard.
I was 7 years old at the time, and eventually strumming a few chords for fun turned into taking guitar lessons from an older kid who lived down the street.
Along with those lessons, something changed with how I thought about playing guitar. I got well intentioned advice from my guitar teacher and family members about how long and how often I should practice.
“If you’re going to take guitar lessons, you have to practice at least 30 minutes every day.”
This advice led to a few different things: a dedicated practice time each day, an organized list of things I needed to do every time I practiced, and a sudden dislike for playing my guitar.
Scales can be intimidating for a lot of beginners learning to play guitar.
In this beginners guitar lesson I'll show you a simple scale pattern that's easy, fun to play, and sounds good.
Scales are an important skill for anyone learning to play guitar, whether you're just starting out or you've been playing for years.
Scales are how we write and play melodies or guitar solos, help build your finger coordination, and get your left and right hands working together.
By learning to play your G major pentatonic scale, you will be able to play melodies and improvise guitar solos in the key of G, and build a foundation of technique that will let you learn other scales as time goes on.
In this lesson, we will cover 2 different directions for playing the G major pentatonic scale on the first 3 strings of your guitar:
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