When learning how to play jazz guitar, it is essential to spend time studying, analyzing and learning licks from great players such as Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass and Charlie Christian. While learning classic licks, getting them under your fingers and working them in 12 keys is important, it’s equally important to understand the architecture of each lick so you can incorporate the concepts behind the lick in your own guitar solos.
- Minor Lick 1
- Minor Lick 2
- Minor Lick 3
- Minor Lick 4
- Minor Lick 5
- Minor Mini Licks
- Minor Lick 6
- Minor Lick 7
- Minor Lick 8
Major Jazz Guitar Licks
In this section you’ll learn 5 finger-friendly jazz guitar licks in the key of Eb major.
By practicing these licks you’ll get 2 important patterns into your fingers: the 1235 pattern and chromatic enclosures.
All 5 licks are played in the same position, around the Ebmaj7/Eb6 chord and Ebmaj7 arpeggio:
The 1235 pattern is a famous pattern in jazz. John Coltrane used it a lot in his solo on Giant Steps.
On a Ebmaj7 chord, a 1235 pattern looks like this:
You can also start the 1235 pattern on another note of the scale, on the 5th for example:
An enclosure is the technique of approaching a target note (often a chord note) with notes above and below the target note. These approach notes can be diatonic or chromatic (or both).
Here’s an example of an enclosure used on the target note G (the 3rd of Ebmaj7):
You can combine enclosures with chromatic notes, such as in this example:
Major Jazz Guitar Licks Video
Major Lick 1 [0:03 in the video]
Major Lick 2 [0:30 in the video]
Major Lick 3 [0:48 in the video]
Major Lick 4 [1:08 in the video]
Major Lick 5 [1:27 in the video]
Dominant Jazz Guitar Licks
In this section you’ll learn 5 dominant jazz guitar licks. Learn them in different keys and positions on the fretboard.
Dominant Lick 1
This first Dominant Lick blends the Mixolydian scale along with a blues note (the b3), used to bring a bluesy vibe to any 7th chord soloing phrase. If the Mixolydian scale is new to you, check out this lesson about guitar modes.
Notice the placement of the b3 (written as A# in this example, between the notes A and B). It acts as a passing note and blues note at the same time.
Listen & Play:
Dominant Lick 2
Here is a repetitive pattern that highlights the interval of a 6th between the 3rd and root of the G7 chord in the underlying progression.
Repeating a phrase in this fashion allows you to play the lick twice, once on the & of 1 and again on the & of 4, preventing the lick from sounding monotonous in your phrase.
Also, notice how one note is different in the second repetition of the lick, which also helps to prevent a sense of monotony in the line.
Listen & Play:
Dominant Lick 3
We’ll now move on to one of the most common 7th chord devices in jazz, the dominant bebop scale, which is a Mixolydian Scale plus an added major 7th interval.
Notice that there is also an Am triad near the end of the first bar that helps to reset the lick back to the D that was played right before the triad. Triads are a helpful way of running up a chord line to avoid sounding too scalular in your playing.
Listen & Play:
Dominant Lick 4
Moving on to an altered lick, this phrase uses the G Altered Scale to bring a sense of tension to this line, before resolving this tension to the tonic at the start of the second bar.
When applying the Altered Scale to Dominant chords, you will need to take care that you resolve those altered notes so that you don’t leave any tension hanging in your line.
Listen & Play:
Dominant Lick 5
To finish off our studies of Dominant licks, here is a classic 7alt line in the style of Pat Martino.
Again, notice that the tension notes are resolved and not left hanging over the underlying chord change.
Listen & Play:
Minor Jazz Guitar Licks
In this section you’ll find guitar licks in the minor key . Try the licks in different keys and fretboard positions.
Minor Lick 1 – Chromatism
Here is a fun lick that uses chromatic passing notes:
- between the 5th and 6th notes of the Am7 chord,
- as well as between the root and 9th of the chord.
By adding chromatic notes into your lines, you can create a sense of tension and release over m7 chords, which is an important ingredient when learning how to bring a jazz sound to your improvised solos.
Listen & Play
Minor Lick 2 – Pentatonic and Chromatic Mix
Another fun way to outline m7 chords is to play the Major Pentatonic Scale from the 3rd of that chord, such as the C Major Pentatonic Scale used over the Am7 chord in this example.
Though the C major pentatonic and A minor pentatonic scale contain the same notes, by starting on the note C and thinking of the scale from that root, you will focus on non-root notes for the underlying chord. This is a great way to use pentatonic scales in your solos without always starting and stopping on the root of the chord.
Listen & Play
Minor Lick 3 – 3 to 9 Arpeggio
One of the most commonly used ways to outline a m7 chord in jazz context is to play the 3 to 9 arpeggio (the notes 3-5-7-9 of the underlying chord).
By doing so, you are outlining the given m7 chord, but are replacing the more plain-sounding root with the more colorful 9th.
A 3 to 9 arpeggio is when you play a maj7 arpeggio from the 3rd note of the m7 chord you are on, as you can see in this example where a Cmaj7 arpeggio is played over an Am7 chord.
|Played over Am7||b3||5||b7||9|
Listen & Play
Minor Lick 4 – Pat Martino Shape
Known for his “minor conversion” approach to soloing, where he sees every chord he plays as some sort of minor shape on the guitar.
Pat Martino loves to start lines from the 2nd of any m7 chord, and run up the 3 to 9 and 1 to 7 arpeggios from there. Here is an example of that approach over an Am7 chord, where he starts on the 9 (B) and continues with a Cmaj7 apreggio, creating a 3 to 9 arpeggio. Try it out and see if you can bring a bit of a Martino vibe to your next jazz guitar solo.
Listen & Play
Minor Lick 5 – Side Stepping
With this lick (which has a very modern sound to it), you will be switching between the A minor pentatonic scale and the Bb minor pentatonic scale, a technique called side-stepping.
Side-stepping is when you are using a pentatonic scale a half step away from the root of the chord you are on.
It can sound very cool when you get this approach down, but may sound a bit “weird” at first. So, take your time, work with a backing track when using this technique to hear it in context, and have fun exploring it in your lines and phrases.
In this lesson, featuring videos from Chris Standring (author of the successful guitar course Play What You Hear), you will learn how to take small, manageable licks and connect them in a musical way to build longer lines in your jazz guitar solos.
By breaking down longer lines into short, easy to play licks, you will not only add some great sounding Bebop lines to your vocabulary, but you will give yourself the building blocks needed to create hip-sounding lines on your own.
To begin, here is a “master list” of all of the mini-licks used in the longer lines below.
It would be good to start this lesson by playing through each of these smaller ideas, learning how they sit on the fingerboard and how they sound as individual ideas. This will help you learn to recognize these small yet important licks later on when you begin to explore the longer Bebop lines below.
Feel free to refer back to this master list as you work through the longer Bebop lines in order to refresh your memory with these short licks, as well as use these short ideas to create your own Bebop lines later on in the practice room.
Minor Lick 6 – Bebop
In this first example, which is played at both slow and fast speeds in the video, you can see how Chris takes 5 short licks and connects them to form a longer, three-bar Bebop line over an Em7 chord.
Work this line slowly at first, paying attention to the lick as a whole, but also the short licks that are connected in order to build the longer phrase. It’s just as important to see the small licks as they come together as it is to get the longer line under your fingers.
Minor Lick 7 – Bebop
This second example, which you can see at both slow and fast tempos in the video below, uses some of the same licks as the previous line, but now adds some new ideas to the mix over the course of these 3 bars.
If you can get the long line under your fingers, as well as understand and hear how it was built by connecting the smaller ideas, then you not only get a cool sounding lick to use in your solos, but you are well on your way to building lines such as this on your own.
Minor Lick 8 – Bebop
In this third and final example, you can see how four licks from the first and second lick are connected in new ways to derive a unique sounding phrase.
Check out the video for a demonstration of this lick in both slow and fast speeds, then take this lick to different keys and tempos around the neck.
These last 3 licks are an excerpt from Chris Standring’s highly effective jazz guitar learning tool called Jazz Guitar Masterclass Volume 1. Check it out here…
More Jazz Guitar Licks
- Miles Davis Licks
- Django Reinhardt Licks
- Wes Montgomery Licks
- Charlie Parker Licks
- John Coltrane Licks
- Charlie Christian Licks
- George Benson Licks
- Joe Pass Licks
- Kenny Burrell Licks
- Grant Green Licks
- Pat Metheny Licks
- Pat Martino Licks
- Thelonious Monk Licks for Guitar
- John Scofield Licks
- Jim Hall Licks
210 Classic Bebop Licks for Guitar
3Licks for II V I Chord Progressions
45 Essential 2 5 1 Licks
5Jazz Blues Licks
65 Paul Desmond Licks From The Take 5 Solo
7Brazilian Jazz Guitar Licks
85 Pat Metheny Licks From Two For The Road