When learning how to solo over jazz tunes, you work on scales, arpeggios, lines, phrases, and transcriptions. While this material is essential, this approach leaves out some of the most important aspects of jazz improvisation, including phrasing.
Phrasing allows you to develop ideas over time in your playing, as well as stops you from playing run-on sentences that never stop.
To help you develop a strong sense of phrasing, this lesson provides 5 essential phrasing exercises over the jazz standard Pent Up House.
After you work these exercises over the tune below, take all 5 to other tunes, tempos, and keys to get the most out of them in your playing.
Phrasing is something that all great players focus on in their solos, and it’s something that can instantly elevate your soloing and comping.
And you don’t have to learn any new scales or arpeggios in the process.
How to Practice These Exercises
Before you dive into the exercises below, take a minute to read about the best way to run these phrasing concepts in your studies.
To begin, you always play where you see the slashes like this ////, then you rest where you see the rests.
Here are the steps to take in order to get the most out of this material in your practice routine.
- Solo over the tracks, slowly first, then medium, then fast.
- Keep your soloing ideas simple: arpeggios, pentatonic scales, etc., at first.
- Comp over the tracks, slowly first, then medium, then fast.
- Use easy to play chords such as shell chords or drop 2 shapes to start.
- Mix soloing and comping over the tracks at the three tempos.
Working on phrasing is tough compared to learning a new scale or arpeggio, for example. But, with the right approach, you’ll take your phrasing to the next level in no time.
Pent Up House Backing Tracks
Here are three backing tracks that you can use for the exercises below. They’re at three different tempos to provide variety in your studies.
Start each exercise with the slowest track, then move on the second track and fastest track when you’re ready.
Pent Up House 100 Bpm
Pent Up House 140 Bpm
Pent Up House 180 Bpm
8 + 8 Phrasing Exercise
To begin, you play for 8 bars and then rest for 8 bars.
When you rest, don’t just chill out and daydream, use that time to your advantage.
Plan your next line, plan where on the neck you want to start, what note you want to start on, plan to use arpeggios or scale or chords etc.
When you use space in this way, you give yourself the best chance of playing what you hear in your head in your next phrase.
Give it a try, and when you’re comfortable with this exercise, move on to the next concept below.
4 + 4 Phrasing Exercise
Taking things a step further, you now play for four bars and then rest for four bars as you solo and/or comp over the tune.
You can also reverse this phrasing as you rest for four bars and then play four bars over the backing tracks.
2 + 2 Phrasing Exercise
To speed things up you now play for two bars and then rest for two bars.
If you want to take this phrasing further, rest for two bars and then play for two bars as you reverse the layout below.
1 + 2 + 1 Phrasing Exercise
The next exercise features a 1+2+1 phrasing structure, where you play in bars 1 and 4 of each four-bar phrase.
Then, you rest in bars 2-3 of each four-bar phrase.
This spreads out your lines in each phrase, and you play over the phrase markers.
When you play in bar 4 of the first phrase, then continue in bar 1 of the next phrase, you are playing between two four-bar phrases.
This type of phrasing is difficult to get smooth in your solos, but once you do it takes your entire playing approach a step further in your development.
1 + 1 Phrasing Exercise
The last phrasing exercise finds you playing for one bar and resting for one bar.
This exercise is tougher than it looks, mostly because you have such a short amount of time to state your idea, and only have one bar to rest between ideas.
Work on repeating and developing an idea in a soloing exercise like this, or playing off a repeated rhythm if working on comping.
That way you create a thread through your soloing or comping even if every second bar breaks up your lines.
This is a tough exercise, so if you’re struggling, go back and work the previous exercises a bit longer and then come back to this exercise later.