** As featured in issue 44 **
Some players love learning licks whilst others shy away from it. Personally I fall somewhere in between, I don’t have a large arsenal of licks, but I have done my fair share of transcribing in the past and have always found it hugely rewarding and learn plenty from the process. I think that is the key, if you don’t want to be a “licks” player then you have to go deeper than just getting the lick under your fingers. Learn how it was constructed, try to figure out the thought process behind it; what is the underlying harmony? What key is it in? Are there any substitutions? Where is it being played on the neck? Etc. etc. You then need to make it your own, play it in different keys, styles, rhythms, over different harmony, this not only gets it into your muscle memory better, but will make it sound less forced when you do use it, because it becomes a natural part of YOUR playing. I think in Jazz more than any other style people are craving licks to sound “Jazz”. I have lost count of the amount of times I've heard “Dude you got TABs for that...?” Inside I'm screaming “Figure it out for yourself!” Of course learning a bunch of licks won't make you sound Jazz alone, you have to delve into all the things mentioned above and more.
We have been looking at Major II V I progression that features so much in Jazz. So far we have looked at arpeggio shapes and exercises around the progression, now we are going to turn these exercises and shapes into musical lines, with some licks I have written using only arpeggios. There are five licks each corresponding with the position on the neck where we have been learning the arpeggio shapes. Please be sure to check out the video to see and hear them in context. You will also find TAB/notation plus a backing track attached to try the licks and your own ideas.
All these licks use a swung rhythm (which we will go into more detail in future lessons), but for now if you are unsure then do a little research via listing to classic Jazz albums to hear this style. If you are already familiar with it, now is the time to try not to over swing your lines but make them a little straighter, again really listen to your favourite Jazz players and you will notice that they actually play pretty straight, anyway like I say more on that in the future. This is a typical 8th note line in the 2-5th fret area, making liberal use of 4th intervals and lading on the 5th of the Gmaj7 chord to sound a little hipper than the obvious root.
5th - 8th fret. Again a straight 8th rhythm throughout but the D7 line is pretty tricky thanks to the wider intervals used, the Maj 7 line does conclude on the root this time but it’s a real short note.
8th - 10th fret. A slight change up rhythmically here with each new phrase starting on the off beat, the first two bars act as a call and response , and the final two bars finish it all with a longer run back up resolving on the 5th of the chord
10th - 13th fret. Once again a different rhythm here making use of 8th note triplets, these can be tricky to feel against a swung rhythm, if you find it hard refer to the video to hear how it should sound. It’s also good to remember that a swung rhythm starts of life as a triplet, then the middle one is removed to get that swing feel. Notice the root and 3rd played together to finish the line.
13th - 15th fret. It's all going on here for the final one! Broken up rhythms, octave shapes and a tricky 16th note run to finish it all. Aim to play the final 16th note run using a straight rhythm this will sound way hipper than a cheesy swung 16th line!
I have written the analysis above as separate licks just to make it clearer, but the TAB and the way I recorded it is all played as one piece to try and make it sound a bit more musical, rather than here is lick 1 now lick 2 etc. Its good practice for linking lines and areas of the fretboard together if you can play them all together as one solo.
Learn the licks, try them to the track, but more importantly learn from them and make them your own by using all the techniques I mentioned at the start. Next month we move onto minor II V I's, good luck!