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John Abercrombie Guitar Licks

John Abercrombie started playing guitar at the age of 14.  He attended Berklee from 1962 to 1966.







During this period he toured with Johny Hammond and recorded with the Brecker Brothers. After graduation at Berklee Abercrombie moved to NY and played in the bands of Chico Hamilton and Billy Cobham.

Abercrombie was invited to record for ECM and the result is his debut album called Timeless with Jan Hammer on keys and Jack DeJohnette on drums. His next trio was called 'Gateway' with Dave Holland replacing Jan Hammer.

John Abercrombie has a subtle and lyrical style which is best heard in small settings like the 'Gateway' trio or his duo albums with Ralph Towner.


Recommended listening: Gateway

John Abercrombie Licks 1

In this first lick, you will see a few altered notes over the A7 chord, as well as a Lower Neighbor over Em7 and a Lydian scale used over Dmaj7.

Playing Lydian over a Imaj7 chord, such as in this line, is a cool-sounding way to bring a new color to your major chords, as well as bring a bit of Abercrombie to your lines.


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John Abercrombie Lick 2

John Abercrombie Licks 2

Though this lick is pretty straight ahead as far as the note choice is concerned, you will notice the use of slurs to add a slippery sound to the line.

Using slides, hammers and pull-offs are important elements of Abercrombie's soloing concept, and something you can take further in the woodshed in your studies.


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John Abercrombie Lick 2

John Abercrombie Licks 3

Here you will learn a lick with another important element of Abercrombie's playing, motivic development.

The whole phrase is build with a simple, four-note melody, that is then played on different beats of each bar until the phrase ends.

Learning how to move melodies around the bar through a longer phrase is a cool sound, and something you can extract from this lick and practice further in the woodshed.


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John Abercrombie Lick 2

John Abercrombie Licks 4

In this minor chord lick, you will use a 3 to 9 arpeggio over Gm7, in this case starting on the 9th and moving up the arpeggio from there.

As well, there is a #7 from the Melodic Minor scale used later in the phrase, which adds a bit of tension to the line that you later resolve before ending the lick.


Listen & Play

John Abercrombie Lick 2

John Abercrombie Licks 5

The final lick in this lesson features a Bbmaj7#5 over a Gm7 chord, which highlights the 3 to 9 arpeggio that you saw in the previous lick.

If you want to outline a melodic minor sound over a m7 chord, playing a maj7#5 arpeggio from the b3 of that chord is a great way to bring this sound into your lines.


Listen & Play

John Abercrombie Lick 2


As you can see, stuyding John Abercrombie's licks will open doors into the world of modern jazz guitar.

If you are interested in modern jazz, or just want to explore something new, then the concepts in these licks will push you in a new direction and get that modern vibe into your jazz guitar lines and phrases.


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