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Jazz soloing technique

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Keith Berrigan, Apr 11, 2018.

  1. Keith Berrigan

    Keith Berrigan

    May 29, 2015
    I watch players soloing some jazz sounding chops, I solo but never can create the sound, what scales are being used in a jazz solo.
    Pbassmanca likes this.
  2. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    First of all, jazz players don't usually think in terms of "scales"; that is a myth. Nobody who pays big bucks to go to a jazz club wants to hear musicians practicing scales on stage!

    Second, a good place to start is to learn the melody (or "head") of the song. You can play a nice solo just by embellishing some "theme and variations" on the melody.

    Third, once you've mastered the melody, the next step is to transcribe and study some solos from famous recordings of that tune. For example if you were learning "Body and Soul" you could listen to various recordings and transcribe a Lester Young solo, an Oscar Peterson solo, and a Louis Armstrong solo.

    I don't know where you're at on your learning path, so let me know if you have questions about anything I just said. Or if you are an advanced student, please forgive me for stating the obvious. ;)

    What jazz songs are you working on right now? Do you know any other jazz musicians you can get together with and jam? Do you have a teacher, and if so, does he or she have jazz experience?
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  3. Keith Berrigan

    Keith Berrigan

    May 29, 2015
    Thanks very much for your help,
    Been playing a long time, playing rock, pop, funk, but in terms of soloing, runs, it's all sounding the same, so just love jazz sounding solos, fills, was just looking for a basis
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  4. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    A really great way to build jazz vocabulary in a hurry is to learn the melodies of Thelonious Monk tunes like "Blue Monk" or "Straight No Chaser." Monk was one of the "jazziest" of all jazz composers.
  5. Keith Berrigan

    Keith Berrigan

    May 29, 2015
    Thanks for your help, will sit down with these and give it a go
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  6. It takes a long time... Like. A really long time...
  7. Actually, scales help. Most of the time jazz solos are improvised. You can't improvise if dont know wich notes you can play over a chord or progression.
  8. Keith Berrigan

    Keith Berrigan

    May 29, 2015
    I'm nearly there!!
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  9. Ahh, my friend, playing a long time means absolutely nothing when it comes to jazz solos. If you've never done it, you are still just an embryo, even if you've played funk for 40 years. Soloing is a world, all by itself... Doesn't get good until you can do it without thinking. Like having a conversation. Until then, it's all baby talk.

    It's not impossible though and not that hard. Just mainly unfamiliar at first.
  10. Keith Berrigan

    Keith Berrigan

    May 29, 2015
    I know what your saying, not planning on soloing Jeff Berlin style, just some fills, just to make it more interesting and add to what I have
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  11. Keith Berrigan

    Keith Berrigan

    May 29, 2015
    Any tips, scales
  12. Cool
  13. Well, if you still plan on playing funk, rock or blues etc, knowing how to manipulate your pentatonics up and down the neck and in various permutations is all you probably need to know. Most funk/rock bass solos are pretty much just pentatonics with a few juicy notes thrown in. This is one of my favorite pentatonic lessons.

    Last edited: Apr 11, 2018
  14. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Ah, but jazz musicians don't really think that way. There are 12 possible notes in the musical alphabet, and 7 notes in most scales (major scales, minor scales, modes, etc.). If jazz musicians only played the 7 "diatonic" or "inside the scale" notes, and avoided the 5 "non-diatonic" or "outside the scale" notes, then we wouldn't have composers like Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Steve Coleman, etc.

    "Which notes you can play" is frankly a terrible attitude for studying jazz. A really great exercise (I think I got it from a Victor Wooten video?) is, while soloing over a progression, for every possible note (all 12 notes of the chromatic scale) figure out how to make that note sound good in the progression. For example, if you are in the key of C Major, the note Db might sound "wrong." But if you go from Db to C, you resolve the tension, and it sounds "right." If you are creative and have a large musical vocabulary, you can do this for every possible note, proving there are no "right" or "wrong" notes in jazz.

    A thrilling example of this concept is the John Coltrane tune "Miles' Mode."
  15. All of that is true. Of Monk and Ellington, etc.

    However, I've made an extensive study of Jimmy Haslip's solos. He's the bassist I want to sound like the most and he RARELY plays outside notes. His solos are 99% diatonic to the scale and he sounds awesome all the time.

    I'm saying this to make the point that jazz doesn't have to be as complicated as people want to make it. It's not. It's not hard. It's not magic. You just have to work on sounding good with whatever notes you want to use. Ever notice that the people who can REALLY play, never talk about all that esoteric stuff? Everybody doesn't need to be Ellington.

    I play a lot of jazz gigs (pretty much exclusively) and I got all caught up in that stuff till I realized, it doesn't matter that much. Just sound good and people will dig it.

    It still takes a long time to get good, but don't worry about the rabbit holes.
  16. I was not talking about "Which notes you can play" in a literal way. Just pointing this: You definitely got to know the Major Scale in order to know wich notes are in and outside of it.
    How are you supposed to improvise over a Major Chord if you dont know the Major scale?
  17. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Why would you assume the major scale is the "correct" scale to use for improvising over all major chords? (Not being snarky. Serious question.)
  18. In order to know its not the correct i got to know it first.
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  19. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv

    IMHO scales to improvisation is like the alphabet or words to writing. You can memorize the dictionary, but you still have to know how to put the words together in order to say something. You can get wrapped around the axle worrying about scales, but in the end you have to know how to use them.

    I'm learning jazz guitar and one of the things I'm doing that really helps in soloing is transcribing solos and writing them out along with the chord structure. That way you can understand, when there is a ii, V, I; they do this, four bars on a single chord, they do this, etc. STUDY someone else solos then make them your own.

    Carol Kaye talks about improvising around chords, not scales; Henry Johnson talks about 'centers'. If you base your solos on scales, it's going to sound like it. ;)
  20. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    The reason you don't sound like Sonny Rollins isn't because he knows some scale you don't know.
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