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Parallel Harmony

One of the exercises that can help you improve your improvisation skills is playing over parallel harmony. This means playing chords of the same type, such as all dominant sevenths. When playing over parallel harmony, you need to follow the movement of the bass line.

To practice this, you can use the arpeggio studies exercise provided in the handout. The exercise consists of arpeggios and phrases that will help you get through the sequence of chords. The key to playing over parallel harmony is to repeat your phrase and transpose it to fit the chords. This is called motivic playing.

Motivic Playing

Motivic playing is a technique that involves repeating a musical idea and transposing it to fit the chords. When you repeat your phrase and transpose it, it can be very effective.

To use this technique, start by playing a phrase using only the chord tones. Then, rearrange the chord tones to create a motif. Repeat the motif and transpose it to fit the chords. You can also add chromatic passing notes to create a more complex sound.


Woodshedding is the process of practicing a specific musical idea until it becomes automated. It involves repetition and muscle memory, so when you're improvising, you don't have to think about what notes to play. Instead, they come naturally to you.

When practicing these exercises, make sure to do it away from the performance. This is like doing press-ups and sit-ups before a match. It's essential to do the preparation work separately, so when you're improvising, you don't have to think about the theory behind it.


Improvisation is a crucial part of Jazz music, and it requires a lot of practice and understanding of music theory. By practicing exercises such as playing over parallel harmony and motivic playing, you can improve your improvisation skills. Remember to woodshed your ideas until they become automated, and you don't have to think about them when you're improvising.

How to make major scales sound more like jazz language. 

Miles Davis is known for his innovative and inspiring jazz solos, and learning his licks can be a great way to improve your own playing. In this article, we'll explore some of the techniques used in Miles Davis' solos and how to use them to create your own jazz vocabulary.

To get started, let's look at Miles' enclosure lick number one. This lick starts on the seventh degree of the scale, goes to the ninth, and then resolves on the first degree. This is what we call an enclosure. To play an enclosure, you need to play the notes on either side of the target note before resolving to it. This creates a tension and release effect that is characteristic of jazz music.

To practice enclosures, start by playing the major scale up and down. Once you are comfortable with the scale, try adding enclosures to the notes in the scale. For example, if you are playing the E flat major scale, you can add an enclosure to the first note (E flat) by playing the notes D, F, and resolving on E flat. Repeat this process for each note in the scale to create your own enclosure licks.

Using Miles Davis' Solo as Inspiration For Your Own Ideas

In this clip we take the first four bars of Miles' solo and use the same motivic idea over the second half of the bridge, where the chords change chromatically every two beats. First, we use the intervals to sequence the idea through the new chord changes, then we improvise with the rhythmic phrasing. This gives us a clear strategy to work with and reduces the amount of information for the brain to process, which leaves us free to improvise in real-time and create new melodic ideas that hit strong chord tones over a tricky chord sequence at speed.

If you're a jazz musician looking to improve your soloing skills, it can be challenging to know where to start. Fortunately, there are many techniques and strategies you can use to help you get started. One such technique is to use the solos of jazz legends such as Miles Davis as inspiration. In this article, we'll explore this technique further and show you how to incorporate it into your practice routine.

To begin, let's take a look at a specific example. You may find it helpful to take a phrase from Miles Davis' solo and sequence it across the changing chord sequence. For example, you could take the first four bars of Miles' solo and use it as a basis for a melodic phrase. Then, you can work it through the chords to make it fit. This simple but effective strategy can help you get through the solo with confidence.

Another way to use this technique is to create a backing figure for a quintet or sextet. While one person is soloing, the other musicians can play the little figure behind them. This adds depth and dimension to the music and can make the whole performance sound more interesting.

When you're practicing this technique, it's essential to get creative with it. Try moving a few notes around, inverting them, or playing with the rhythms. For example, you could play two crochets instead of two semi-quavers. This experimentation can lead to new and exciting musical ideas that you can incorporate into your solos.

It's also important to listen to yourself while you're playing. Make sure you're comfortable with what you're playing and that you can hear it clearly. This will help you develop a sense of confidence and control over your playing, which is essential for a successful solo.

In conclusion, using a motif or phrase from a transcribed solo as inspiration for your jazz soloing is an effective technique that can help you improve your playing skills. Whether you're sequencing a melodic phrase across changing chords or creating a backing figure for a quintet or sextet, this technique is a great way to get creative and explore new musical ideas. So the next time you're working on a jazz chart, try incorporating this technique into your practice routine and see how it can help you take your playing to the next level.

Exploring the Arpeggios in Bebop

Bebop jazz is a genre that emerged in the 1940s and is characterized by fast tempos, complex harmonies, and intricate melodies. It is known for its improvisation and virtuosity, and it has had a significant influence on the development of jazz music. 

One of the fundamental elements of Bebop jazz is arpeggios. Arpeggios are the notes of a chord played in sequence, and they are the building blocks of most jazz improvisation. In this article, we will explore the arpeggios in Bebop jazz and see how they are used in improvisation. We will also discuss the importance of chord tones in Bebop jazz and how they can be used to create melodic lines. 

Arpeggios in Bebop

One of the things about Bebop is that it is based on a specific time and place. When studying Bebop jazz, it can be confusing to learn from generic lead sheets or real books because they do not capture the essence of the genre. Therefore, it is best to learn from recordings of Bebop jazz performances. 

Bebop jazz emerged in the mid 1940s, and at that time, the whole scale-chord concept did not exist. Therefore, most Bebop improvisation is based on arpeggios and chord tones. The musicians spent a lot of time working on playing arpeggios of chords. 

Chord Tones in Bebop 

Chord tones are the notes of a chord. In Bebop, chord tones are essential because they are the target notes that the improviser aims to hit. The improviser uses the arpeggios to navigate through the chord changes, and the chord tones are the notes that give the improvisation its harmonic structure. 

Charlie Parker, one of the most influential Bebop musicians, discovered that he could play the extensions of the arpeggios. Instead of playing just the root, third, fifth, and seventh notes of the arpeggio, he could play the ninth, eleventh, and thirteenth notes, which gave him more melodic options. 

Embellishing Arpeggios

To make the improvisation sound more complex and sophisticated, Bebop musicians embellished the arpeggios with chromaticism. Chromaticism is the use of notes that are not part of the scale or chord. The musicians used approach notes and enclosures to join the notes of the arpeggios, creating more tension and release in the improvisation. 

Practice Exercises

To practice playing arpeggios in the Bebop style, you can use backing tracks that play the chord changes of popular Bebop jazz tunes. You can start by playing just the root, third, fifth, and seventh notes of the arpeggio and then gradually add the extensions. You can also practice embellishing the arpeggios with chromaticism, using approach notes and enclosures. See my series of books "Rhythm Changes Soloing" for more at... 


Arpeggios are an essential element of Bebop jazz, and they are used to create melodic lines in improvisation. Chord tones are the target notes that the improviser aims to hit, and embellishing the arpeggios with chromaticism adds complexity and sophistication to the improvisation. To play Bebop , it is best to learn from recordings of performances rather than generic lead sheets or real books. By practicing arpeggios and chord tones, you can improve your Bebop improvisation skills and create more sophisticated and interesting lines.

How to Add Chromaticism to Your Solos and Improve Your Playing

As a musician, you may have experienced the feeling of playing in one scale over a single chord for an extended period of time, and it can become a bit bland if you only use the major scale. To add some spice, you can start adding chromaticism by embellishing the chord tones. Essentially, you're targeting chord tones but using chromatic embellishments.

A chromatic approach note means you can approach a chord tone above or below with a semitone. The idea is to create tension and resolution by hitting a seemingly wrong note, and then quickly resolving it onto a strong chord tone. This works well on the triads because the resolution gives you the clarity of the chord.

To practice this technique, you can use different patterns. For example, you can start with the first exercise on the sheet that has an "a" underneath as an approach note, and the other notes are just the chord tones. By playing through the triad and adding a semitone in front of the first note, then playing inversions of the triad, you can create a nice little line with some chromatic spice. This gives it more flavour.

In addition to chromatic approach notes, you can also use chromatic passing tones. A chromatic passing tone is a non-chord tone that connects two chord tones by a half-step. This technique can add tension and colour to your solos. You can use it to create a smooth transition between two chord tones. For example, you can start with a chord tone, then add a chromatic passing note, and end with another chord tone. This creates a sense of direction and purpose in your playing.

In conclusion, adding chromaticism to your solos can make your playing more interesting and dynamic. By using techniques of embellishing the chord tones, such as chromatic approach notes and chromatic passing tones, you can create tension and release, which makes your solos more exciting. Practice different patterns and variations, and experiment with different techniques to find what works best for you.

The Simple Two-Five-One Chord Progression in Jazz

If you're new to jazz and feel overwhelmed by the number of chords in a piece, don't worry. Sometimes, it's better to zoom out a little bit and think in chunks. One of the most common chord progressions you'll find in jazz is the two-five-one. In this article, we'll explore what it is, how to play it, and why it's important.

What is a Two-Five-One Chord Progression?

A two-five-one chord progression is a sequence of chords based on the second, fifth, and first degree of a major or minor key. For instance, in the key of C major, the two-five-one progression would be Dm7-G7-Cmaj7. In the key of A minor, it would be Bm7b5-E7-Am7.

Why is it Important?

The two-five-one chord progression is essential to jazz because it occurs so frequently. Once you know how to play it, you'll recognize it in countless jazz standards. Knowing this chord progression will give you a solid foundation in jazz harmony and make it easier to improvise over the changes.

How to Play a Two-Five-One Chord Progression?

In this piece of music, the two-five-one chord progression is in B flat major for the first eight bars, followed by the same sequence in G minor for the next eight bars. The B section starts with two-five-one in the minor and ends with two-five-one in the minor.

The chords for the B flat major section are: 

- BbM7 - C-7 - F7 - BbM7 - Eb7 - AbM7 - D-7 - G7

The chords for the G minor section are: 

- G-7 - C7 - FM7 - Bb7 - EbM7 - Ab7 - DbM7 - Gb7

As you can see, the chords may look daunting at first, but if you break them down into four-bar chunks, it becomes manageable.

Batch Processing the Chords

To play jazz, it's crucial to learn how to batch process the chords. That means thinking in chunks of four bars and understanding how the chords fit together in those four bars. This way of thinking is how jazz musicians can process a lot of information quickly and play fast runs of notes.

Final Thoughts

The two-five-one chord progression is a fundamental building block of jazz. Once you've mastered it, you'll see it everywhere in jazz standards. Don't be intimidated by the number of chords. Break them down into chunks and practice them regularly until they become second nature. With time and practice, you'll be able to improvise over the changes and play jazz with confidence.

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