If you’re like me, you’re a rock/metal/blues guitarist who has caught the jazz bug at some point and have been frustrated with your progress . It can be overwhelming at first as most teachers will give you an incredible amount of material to study. While there is a lot of work involved I’ve given a lot of thought to presenting you with a more structured approach to learning jazz guitar.
A great place to start if you have a rock, blues or metal background or even if you’re new to guitar altogether is the jazz blues. Jazz blues is a modified version of the ‘regular’ 3 chord I-IV-V blues. It can be scary and intimidating at first as there are more chords and often unfamiliar keys. So a 12-bar Bb jazz blues will look something like this (there are many variations):
Bb7 / Eb7 / Bb7 / Bb7
E7 / E#dim7 / Bb7 / G7
Cm7 / F7 / Bb7 G7 / Cm7 F7
The last four chords are 2 per measure. Here’s a PDF of the progression to give you a better idea.
A jazz guitar tone will generally be a clean tone, with some reverb and turn down the treble on your guitar and amp, more of a mid-range sound. On an electric guitar I use my neck pickup.
With jazz we have to be a lot more aware of the underlying chords since many of our blues/rock licks won’t work too well. I think this is why we have so many problems with jazz, is a general lack of awareness of how to play over chord progressions, other than playing in the general key of the tune.
For soloing, we could talk about a lot of theory but I don’t want to go there right now. Instead a very effective way to start soloing is to learn 2 to 4 bar phrases that you pick up from other solos. The easiest way to get started and to mimic what singers do in blues is to divide the 12 bar blues into 3 groups of 4 bars (measures). So play a 4 bar phrase, repeat the same basic phrase over the next 4 bars that fits the chords. Do a final similar phrase over the final 4 bars but make it sound more complete by say, landing on root notes (ie. Bb).
Here’s an example of a basic jazz blues solo. It is quite repetitious but we have to start simple. I’ve taken a little 4 note motif and repeated it, modifying it slightly to fit each chord. The final four bars stars out repeating the same idea but expands upon it a little taking into account the current chords. You’ll notice a lot of chord tones such as D over Bb7 (the major third), Db over Eb7 (the minor 7th), etc. So get to know your chord tones. Repeating melodic contours and rhythms is very effective but you don’t want to over do it.
Here’s the Jazz Blues Solo PDF.
Here’s the blues solo mp3 played by Guitar Pro 6.
Jazz Blues Solo.mp3
So to summarize, a very effective method to learn jazz soloing is to think in phrases, intelligently cut and paste them into solos, use repetition and development of the phrases, understand why the phrases work, create your own by modifying existing phrases.
Here’s a video to explain the progression and transitioning from blues to jazz blues.
Check out my Soloing Over Changes lesson if you’re looking to start doing some jazz soloing, or you can use it for any other style to be more melodic.