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Mike Stern Licks

Mike Stern started playing guitar at 12, studied at Berklee under Pat Metheny and began playing in the band Blood, Sweat and Tears at the age of 22.

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving this band he played with Billy Cobham a short time, before moving to NY where he got recruited by Miles Davis to join his come back band in 1981. He appears on 3 of his albums: The Man With the Horn, Star People and We Want Miles.

In 1983 Mike Stern went touring for a year with Jaco Pastorius' Word of Mouth band and then returned to Miles Davis for another year of touring. In 1985 He released his first album as a leader: ' Neesh' and many albums followed since, including 3 Grammy Award nominations.


Recommended listening: Standards

Mike Stern Licks 1

The first lick in this lesson outlines bars 5 to 7 in a Bb Rhythm Changes chord progression. One of the most interesting parts of the lick is the second half of the first bar, where there is a classic bebop phrase being used to outline the Bb7 chord, before it resolves to the 3rd of the Ebmaj7 chord on the downbeat of the next bar. This five-note pattern is worth extracting from this lick and expanding up in your practice routine, as it is a common part of the jazz guitar language and soloing vocabulary.

 

Listen & Play

Mike Stern Lick 1

Mike Stern Licks 2

Here is a line that uses two characteristic Mike Stern soloing ideas:

  • The first is the use of the Lydian Dominant (7#11) sound to outline a 7th chord (in this case G7#11).
  • The second idea is the use of repetitive melodic phrases, in particular with triplet rhythms. Mike is a master at building tension in his lines by repeating phrases as the band builds energy behind him, and this lick demonstrates a bit of that energy as you use it to create interest in your soloing lines.

 

Listen & Play

Mike Stern Lick 3

Mike Stern Licks 3

Here is a fun Em7 lick that runs up the lower triad (1-b3-5) of the chord, while each time reaching to a different note at the top of that triad. The first note is the 6th, followed by the b7th, 7th and root. Not only does this lick outline the underlying harmony, but it brings a sense of variation to the line that is reflective of Mike’s soloing ideas, and a great way to expand your own arpeggio-based lines in the practice room.

 

Listen & Play

Mike Stern Lick 3

Mike Stern Licks 4

This lick uses a common chord sub that Mike uses in his lines, where there is a ii-V a half step higher than the written chords in bar one, followed by the original ii-V in bar two of the phrase. Using chord subs like this is a great way to build tension in your lines, which is then properly resolved in bar two of the line.

As well, notice the movement from the b7 of each iim7 chord to the 3rd of each V7 chord, both in the subbed and written chords. This half-step movement is a great way to outline ii-V’s in your playing, and is something that is found in many of Mike’s classic solos.

 

Listen & Play

Mike Stern Lick 4

Mike Stern Licks 5

This lick is a short, Major ii-V-I outline in the style of Mike Stern that uses half-step movement to shift between each chord in the progression.

  • We see the b7 of the iim7 chord (G) moving by half step to the 3rd of the V7 chord (F#).
  • The b9 of the D7 chord (Eb) moves by half step to resolve to the 5th (D) of the Gmaj7 chord to end the line.

Moving by half step from one chord to the next is a staple of Mike’s soloing, and is something that is worth expanding on as you practice these ideas further in your own playing.

 

Listen & Play

Mike Stern Lick 5

 

One of the funnest jazz guitarists to watch live, Mike Stern has a treasure chest full of lines and phrases for you to study and add to your own jazz guitar vocabulary.

 


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