5 Essential Jazz Guitar Soloing Patterns

By Jamie Holroyd

Learning how to play jazz guitar means building up a well rounded improvisational vocabulary, and one way this can be achieved is by learning licks.

But, as beneficial and useful as licks are, there is a lot of information within one phrase to take out and shed, and guitarists often fall into the trap of just playing the lick the same way as the recording.

In this lesson, I have written out 5 of the most frequently used patterns found within classic jazz guitar licks and famous solos. Learning each of these jazz patterns will ensure that you have the right tools for creating jazz licks.

Jazz Guitar Soloing Patterns 1 – Honeysuckle Rose Motif

Jazz musicians often quote the melody of a tune within their solo, but one melody that’s probably the most quoted within any solo, is the Honeysuckle Rose phrase.

The example below shows the first bar of the Honeysuckle Rose melody, which is repeated throughout the first 4 bars of the tune.

 

Jazz Guitar Soloing Patterns 1

 

Jazz musicians often use this phrase within their solos because it works well as an interesting piece of jazz language by itself.

This original Honeysuckle Rose motif is often varied, and I have included two common adaptations of the phrase below for you to check out.

The first example is almost the same as the original but has one additional note added in, G.

The second variation has a ‘B’ on 1+ ,which in conjunction with C and Bb provides a nice chromatic movement that starts the phrase.

 

Jazz Guitar Soloing Patterns 2

 

Almost every jazz musician uses the Honeysuckle Rose motif in some way, but two of the best examples are Charlie Parker and Grant Green.

Grant Green’s solo on “I’ll Remember April” is a perfect example of how to vary the honeysuckle rose motif throughout a solo.

Listen to the track and count how many times Grant plays the honeysuckle rose motif in the first chorus alone.

 

 

 Jazz Guitar Soloing Patterns 2 – Dominant Bebop Scale Pattern

The next jazz guitar soloing pattern comes from the C Dominant Bebop scale.

This piece of language works well because, like when playing any bebop scale, the non-diatonic notes fall on the weaker beats of the bar.

In this example the major 7th is on 1+, a weaker beat of the bar.

 

Jazz Guitar Soloing Patterns 3.1

 

Like the 2nd variation of the Honeysuckle Rose lick, there is also chromatic movement within the first 3 notes in this phrase.

This bebop scale pattern is often used in ii-V-I situations as shown the example below.

Jazz Soloing Pattern 4.1

Jazz Guitar Soloing Patterns 3 – 7th to 3rd Pattern

One reason why the ii-V progression works so well is because the 7th of the m7th chord drops down a semi-tone or fret to become the 3rd of the dominant chord, which is sometimes called the note of resolution.

Jazz musicians frequently highlight this movement when improvising over ii V I’s, which makes it an essential jazz pattern to get under your fingers.

The following example shows how this idea sounds over a ii-V in the key of F.

 

Jazz Guitar Soloing Patterns 5

Here’s a full ii-V-I lick demonstrating the 7th to 3rd pattern.

 

Jazz Guitar Soloing Patterns 6

 

Jazz Guitar Soloing Patterns 4 – Enclosure Pattern

Enclosures are a vital ingredient in the jazz musician’s practice routine, and this next lick shows one of the most popular enclosure licks found within countless jazz solos.

This enclosure pattern targets the 3rd of the dominant 7th chord which in this example is E.

 

Jazz Guitar Soloing Patterns 7

 

Here’s a full lick using this enclosure pattern. Notice the use of the C dominant bebop scale pattern in the second half of the first bar.

 

Jazz Guitar Soloing Patterns 8

 

Jazz Guitar Soloing Patterns 5 – Arpeggio Rake

To finish off this study of jazz patterns, here’s a fun 3-9 arpeggio rake pattern that’s often used by jazz guitarists and saxophonists.

This rake can be played with a plectrum by using down strokes on the first four notes and an up stroke on the 5th note, which a smooth saxophone-like effect.


 

Jazz Guitar Soloing Patterns 9

 

This lick can be also be played finger style or with the thumb. Wes Montgomery was a big fan of using this type of patterns within his solos.

This jazz pattern starts with a minor 3-9 arpeggio and finishes on the 11th of the chord which in this example is C.

Repetition is often used with this lick to build up intensity within a solo.

Jazz Guitar Soloing Patterns Etude

To complete this study I have written out a short etude which demonstrates how these patterns can be used together within a solo.

The progression in this etude is found within many jazz standards such as Take The A Train, Girl From Ipanema, and Exactly Like You.

Please note that I have applied different rhythmic and harmonic techniques to some of the examples to make them fit the etude better.

Some of these techniques include rhythmic displacement, gear changing, and changing the harmonic function of a lick to fit multiple chords.

Each one of these techniques is covered in depth in ‘Introduction to Jazz Guitar Improvisation’.

 

Jazz Guitar Soloing Patterns Study

 

I hope you enjoyed playing and working through each of these short phrases and can see how they form the basis for many classic jazz licks and solos.

Can you think of some solos that use these patterns? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

About Jamie Holroyd

Jamie Holroyd is a UK based educator, author and performer as well as the founder of www.jamieholroydguitar.com, a free website with lessons to help students across the globe play jazz and blues guitar.




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  1. brad benefieldSep 30, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    Nice selection of basics. I wish someone had pointed this out to me when I was starting out!

  2. Harlan SandbergOct 8, 2013 at 1:56 am

    Really nice lines-thanks!

  3. RussOct 16, 2013 at 12:52 am

    Wish I could remember these , nice patterns

  4. João CamachoDec 3, 2013 at 11:49 am

    Very, very nice. I was wondering after “3 years” playing guitar how I was going to put my self into playing in bars in a Lounge Jazz spirit. I was trying everything and with my JM4 looper you gave me the solution! Many thank’s! ;)

  5. Stanley ChurchillMar 9, 2014 at 7:56 pm

    This is excellent for a beginner. It’s done two things for me…..(well actually more)…..the practice of course…but I’ve also started listening for these licks as I listen to pieces practicing identifying what I’m hearing. It’s amazing how these licks keep coming ’round.

    Thanks Jamie!!

  6. ah luMar 29, 2014 at 5:38 pm

    Great advisor good luck

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