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Jim Hall Licks

Pat Metheny and Bill Frisell regularly drop the name 'Jim Hall' as their greatest influence, and not without a reason.







If your looking for speed then Jim Hall's not your man. In his own words:

"I don't really play fast, speed has never come easily for me. Little by little I pared down my playing to suit my personality."

Jim Hall's playing is very advanced harmonically, what compensates his lack of speed. His guitar tone is very intimate and subtle, a good match for cool jazz players like Lee Konitz and Paul Desmond with whom he both played. On the other hand he also played with Sonny Rollins and Ella Fitzgerald.

Jim Hall's playing also works very good in duo situations like 'Jim Hall & Basses' and 'Jim Hall & Pat Metheny'.


Recommended listening: 'Undercurrent'

Jim Hall Licks 1

This lick works over an F pedal bass note and is basically a simple 6th interval pattern transposed down the scale, a typical Jim Hall technique that also inspired Pat Metheny, who uses similar kind of ideas.


Listen & Play

Jim Hall Guitar Lick 1

Jim Hall Licks 2

This major ii V I lick uses a common rhythmic device that is found in many of Jim Hall’s classic jazz guitar solos. Here you will find a number of “off-beat” notes in the first two bars of the riff, that then resolve rhythmically into more straight 8th-notes in the last half of the lick. Using displacement to start a line, and then ending the line with more static rhythms, is something that stands out in Jim’s playing, and gives him that rhythmic edginess that is characteristic of his soloing lines.


Listen & Play

Jim Hall Guitar Lick 2

Jim Hall Licks 3

One thing that Jim loves to do in his single-line solos is double up on notes, especially in 3rds. In this example, you can see a line built with these ideas in mind, repeating notes that move around in diatonic 3rds over a ii V I chord progression in the key of D Major.

Also note that the pattern starts on the & of 1, something that Jim does a lot, which helps displace the pattern and make it sound more musical and less like a static pattern down a scale.


Listen & Play

Jim Hall Guitar Lick 3

Jim Hall Licks 4

In this minor ii-V-I lick, you can see some of Jim’s most commonly used techniques and concepts. In the first two bars you find notes being slide down on one string, where they could have been played on two strings but Jim likes to use one string for multiple notes during his solos. From there, you find a G Melodic Minor scale being used in bar 3, and a very Jim Hall like riff in bar four where there is a double stop, C and D, leading into a chromatic, legato triplet.


Listen & Play

Jim Hall Guitar Lick 4

Jim Hall Licks 5

Here we have a chord lick in the style of Jim Hall, featuring characteristic voicings and a chord sub that Jim loves to use over minor ii-V-I progressions. In the first bar, Jim often uses an A7alt chord instead of Am7b5, creating a V/V to V to Im7 progression in place of the normal ii-V-I chords you are used to seeing. This is a fun and relatively easy way to spice up any minor ii V I phrase that you are playing, using chord and/or single-notes to outline that sub.


Listen & Play

Jim Hall Guitar Lick 5


Jim Hall was a master improviser, and working on his licks in the woodshed is a great way to expand your vocabulary and get into the head of one of the instrument's greatest improvisors at the same time.



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