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5 Exercises To Learn Jazz Guitar Licks

When learninghow to play jazz guitar,we all know the importance of studying and learning from thegreat
playersthat have come before us.

One of the best ways to bring a bit of yourfavorite players soundinto your solos is tolearn jazz guitar
licksby these masters, and inject them into your playing.

But, while it is important tolearn jazz guitar licks, you dont want to become a lick player by simply
repeating famous licks in your solos one after another.

Because of this, it is a good idea to break down each lick that you learn, analyze it andderive further
exercisesfrom the concepts you discover behind any lick that you learn.

In this lesson well look at 5 steps that I like to take when learning any lick to ensure that youmemorize
the line, but also understand and digest the concepts behind the lick, allowing you to create your own
memorable lines thatsound in the style of your favorite jazz guitarists.

Step 1 Learn Jazz Guitar Licks

The first thing I do when I learn jazz guitar licks or phrases, is to get the lick in my ears and under
myfingers on the fretboard.

To begin, here is the lick that we will study as an example in this article, aii V I lickin the key of C major.

Click to hear

Vm P

Here is how I would learn jazz guitar licks when first tackling them in thepractice room.

Practice it in 1 key at a variety of tempos

Sing the lick in 1 or more keys while comping the chords

Play it in 12 keys at one tempo

Play it in 12 keys at a variety of tempos

Repeat the above exercises in a different octave or with a different fingering for the lick on the

Repeat the above exercises and try adding slurs and slides to the lick where appropriate

Practice soloing over a ii V I progression in one key and use this lick as the basis for my lines,
varying it along the way to make it my own

Practice soloing over a ii V I progression in 12 keys and use this lick as the basis for my lines

Practice soloing over a tune and use this lick as many times as possible, as written and with
variations, during my solo

As you can see, if you just learn the lick off the page there isnt much to do besidesmemorize it.

But, if you dig deep and look fordifferent ways to learn, practice and apply the lick, you can derive hours
of practice from just one simple line.

Step 2 Analyze Jazz Guitar Licks

The next thing I would do is analyze the musical material being used within thecontext of the lick.

Things that I would be looking out for are arpeggios, scales, Bebop licks, familiar patterns such
asenclosuresand other common ideas.

Here is an analysis of theexample lickyou learned in the previous part of this lesson.

Here are the things that I woulddraw attentionto in the line.

The Fmaj7 arpeggio being used over Dm7 in bar one of the lick

That same Fmaj7 arpeggio is played 7-R-3-5 instead of starting on the root

The Bebop Lick in the second half of the first bar

The Bm7b5 arpeggio played over G7 in bar 2

The enclosures used at the end of bar 2 and beginning of bar 3

The Bebop lick used in bar 3

The D triad used over Cmaj7 in bar 4

Now that I have the lick under my fingers, in my ears and Iveanalyzed the lickas in the above list, then I
am ready to dig into the theory and derive musical concepts that I can then extrapolate into my practice

Step 3 Extrapolate Concepts From the Analysis

Now that I have identified the parts of the lick, such as which arpeggios,Bebop patternsand scales have
been used, I would try and derive concepts from these sections of the lick that I could take to other
chords, tunes, keys and musical situations so that I didnt just learn this lick, but the building blocks of the
idea as well.

3 to 9 Arpeggios

In the example lick, the first thing I would look at are thetwo arpeggiosused over Dm7 and G7, Fmaj7
and Bm7b5 respectively.

When analyzing these two arpeggios, I noticed they both start on the3rd of each chord, and feature the
3-5-7-9 of each underlying chord, Dm7 and G7.

So, there is my first concept. When playing over any chord, I can use an arpeggio that outlines the 3-5-7-
9 of that chord.

Here are those two arpeggio written out after extrapolating themfrom the lick.

Click to hear

Vm P

I also noticed that the Fmaj7 arpeggios is played from the7-1-3-5 in the lick, and so I would also make a
point to incorporate that into the exercises I do with the 3 to 9 arpeggio concept.

Bebop Licks

There are twocommon Bebop licksin this phrase, the D-C-A-A#-B line in the first bar, and the D-Db-C-E-
G-B lick in thethird and fourthbar.

When looking to find ways of organizing these licks in my playing, and allow me to quickly and accurately
apply them toother musical situations, I would look at the fingerings being used for these licks so that I
could apply them to the same fingerings in other scales, modes, keys and tempos.
For the first Bebop lick, in bar 1, that lick lands on a 1-3-4fingering on the 4th string,around the notes

Click to hear

Vm P

Therefore, I would come up with the concept, When I have a 1-3-4 fingering on a given string, I can apply
this lick whenmusically appropriate.

For the second Bebop lick, it occurs when there is a1-2-4 fingeringon the 3rd string, B-C-D in this case.

Click to hear

Vm P

Again, this would allow me to derive a guideline for applying this lick toother situations.

This concept would be, When I have a 1-2-4 fingeringon a given string, I can apply this lick when
musically appropriate.
Since playing Bebop lines such as these can often sound forced, I like to use this approach,thinking of
licks as applied to scale fingerings, as it allows me to get my ears involved and think as little as
possible when practicing and using these ideas in a performance situation.


Next, I would look at the enclosures that occur over the G7 and Cmaj7 chords, where one note is
playedabove a chord or scale tone, one note played below that same note, and then finally resolving to
the target diatonic note over that chord.

From there I would develop a concept or guidelines on how toapply this techniqueto other musical
situations in my playing.

Since this lick uses enclosures on both chord and scale tonesover those two chords, I would derive a
concept such as When playing over chord changes, I can use chromatic above-chromatic below
enclosures applied to both chord and scale tones when appropriate.

Since this concept, enclosures, isextremely common in jazz, its one that I would delve into further and
bring into both my practice routine and performing to allow this important melodic concept to come out
more naturally in my playing during my solos.

Superimposed Triad

The last concept I would explore in this lick is the D triad being played over the Cmaj7 chord in thelast
bar of the phrase.

Here, the sound being produced by this concept is a Lydian sound,maj7#11, and so I would consider this
when deriving a concept from this part of the lick.

The guideline I would work out from this part of the lick is, When looking to bring aLydian sound,
maj7#11, into my lines, I can play a major triad from the 9th of the chord to accomplish this in my solos.

Here is how I might work out a D triad fingering next to differentCmaj7 chord voicingsthat I already use
in my playing.

Click to hear

Vm P

Again, since the Lydian sound is very common in thejazz idiom, I would make sure to build exercises
and improvise with this concept in my practicing and performances to allow this concept to come out more
naturally and less forced in my playing.

Step 4 Create Exercises For Each Concept

After I have learned a lick, analyzed it and then broken it down intomusical conceptsthat I can use to
create my own lines in different musical situations, I would create technical and improvisational exercises
in order to dig into these concepts in my jazz guitar practice routine.

Here are some examples of exercises that I would derivefrom the conceptsmentioned above.

Arpeggio Scales

The first exercise I would derivefrom this lickis based on the 7-1-3-5 arpeggio used to open the line
over Dm7.

One of the ways that I like to practice arpeggios is throughArpeggio Scales or Chord Scales, and so I
would take the above arpeggio fingering, 7-1-3-5, and apply it to different string sets and indifferent

Here is an example of how I would workon this arpeggioin the key of C major on the middle three

Click to hear

Vm P

Practicing arpeggio scales is a great way to learn anyarpeggio fingeringyou are working on, but it also
makes you think of the notes and chords in the key, as you cant use traditional box-patterns when
running these arps up the neck.

Try the above example at various tempos in the key of C, then try taking it to other keys on the same
string set, and then toother string setsas you explore this concept further in the woodshed.

After working on this idea from a technical perspective, I would then put on aii V I backing trackin the
key of C major and practice soloing over that progression using only the triad shapes from the above

Then I would take the same exercise and solo over ii V Is in all 12 keys, and then solo overBlues tunes
and Standardsusing only this arpeggio fingering to take it further in my practice routine.

Bebop Licks Through Scales

When working on the Bebop licks from the analyses, I would find scale andfingering patternsthat I could
apply these licks to in my playing.

Here is an example of an exercise I would do over a G7 chord, using theG Mixolyian Scaleas the basis
for this exercise.

To start the pattern, I play an ascending two-octave G7 arpeggio, then Irun down the scalefrom there.

As Im running down the scale, whenever I find myself on a134 fingering pattern on a given string, in
this case the second and third strings, I apply the Bebop lick that we discovered earlier in this lesson.

Here is how thatlooks on paper.

Click to hear

Vm P

And here is an example of the 124 lick being applied to aD Dorian scaleto create a technical exercise
that I would then work through in the woodshed.

With this lick, I would ascend the arpeggio and thendescend the scale.

As I descend the scale, I would apply the lick each time I found myself on a124 fingeringon any given
string, on the second and third strings for example in this scale shape.

Here is how thatpractice patternwould look like on paper.

Click to hear

Vm P

After running this exercise over G7 atvarious tempos, I would then practice it in 12 keys and practice
applying the Bebop lick to other scales and modes I was working on that week in the woodshed.

From there, I would put on a backing track, first over one chord such as G7 or Dm7 and then over a ii V I,
and laterBlues and Standardchord changes as I started to bring these Bebop scale patterns into my
soloing in a real-time situation.

Enclosures Through Arpeggios

The last example well look at applies enclosures to a technical and thenimprovisational

To start, I would take an arpeggio such as the Cmaj7 arp you see below, and thenplay an enclosureon
every note of that arpeggio.

I would do this ascending and descending with the arpeggio, but for space purposes justwrote it out
descendingin the example.

Click to hear

Vm P

Once I had worked the enclosures over Cmaj7, I would take them tomaj7 arpeggios in other keys, and
then to other arpeggios such as 7th, m7 and m7b5 arps to allow myself to use enclosures over any chord
in any chord progression.

From there, I would put on one chord vamps, ii V I and otherstandard progression backing tracksand
improvise over those changes using as many enclosures as I could in order to begin making this
important concept sound more natural and less forced in my solos.

As you can see, you can derive countless hours of exercises, bothtechnical and improvisational, in the
practice room from just this one four-bar phrase.

When learning licks, at least to me, this is the most important part of the learning process,breaking down
ideasand then creating exercises that allow you to understand the building blocks of each lick, allowing
you to create you own licks in this style on the spot in a jam or gigging situation.

Step 5 Write Lines and Solos Based on These Concepts

The last thing that I like to do when digging into a new lick is towrite my own licks, phrases and solos
over common progressions using the concepts in the lick Ive studied as the basis for these new ideas.

Creating a great solo on stage is a lot like composing a piece ofmusic in real time.

So, in order to train my hands, ears and brain to hear, write andperform a memorable solo, I like to
practice composing good-sounding solos, memorizing them and then building upon them in the practice

Here is a step-by-step guide to how I would approach writing out lines andsolos in the practice roomso
that I learn the ideas, but also go beyond just memorizing them in my practicing routine.

Write out a one-chorus solo over a blues or other standard tune you are working on, using the
material from a lick you are studying as the basis for your lines.

Memorize the solo at a variety of tempos, from ballad to burning if possible.

Start to play the solo along with a backing track exactly as written. Then, after a few choruses start
to vary the solo more and more until you are fully improvising over the tune after about 2-3 minutes
or so.

Then, begin to bring the solo back into your playing until you are playing the solo off the page once

A lot of times when learning lines we simply memorize a lick and then throw it into our solos when we got
to ajam or performance situation.

But, if you dig deep into each lick you learn, you will not only add that bit of vocabulary to your soloing
ideas, but you will provide yourself with weeks or months of material in the practice room as you analyze
and digest each concept presented in thatparticular lick.