Bebop Soloing – a General Guide for The Beginning Jazz Student

Work through these ideas at slower tempos and increase gradually – grading yourself at each stage of practice tempo wise and recording yourself wherever possible.

Remember to think of the forward momentum of the great bop players – sit at the front of the beat until you’re killing on the faster tempos. You could ‘groove’ a bit more after your up tempo time feel is really ‘in’.

A general rule is to sit forward on the tempo with your lines – ALWAYS record and listen to yourself and see where you place, especially over the top of the original artist. Most players have a tendency to drag which doesn’t sit well with faster music so it is generally better to push than pull at higher tempos.

PRACTICE CONCEPTS – to be written out and playable (eventually) at tempo.

  1. Patterns – (e.g. 1).1235, 1358ve, 1357 etc ascending or descending for every chord change. Especially good for 2 beat changes i.e. Moments Notice, Giant Steps, Countdown etc. A good systematic approach to playing correct notes through an entire tune. However it can have a tendency towards sounding ‘mathematical’ or premeditated… which it is. However, changing patterns mid run, breaking up the rhythms involved, deliberately missing out notes or developing new patterns will lessen this ‘mechanical’ effect. Put in a lot of practice time and it would open you up to a much freer approach to improvising over up tempo tunes, as muscle memory does play a key part in mastering much of the bop language – especially at faster tempos.
  2. Directional change running – (e.g. 2). Play through all the changes either ascending or descending without changing direction. If you start from any note of the given chord scale and play only the appropriate scale per change it presents a lot of options and you still play accurate notes. Good practice idea for any improvising situation, – think of your lines as cutting THROUGH the chord changes.
  3. Diad patterns through changes applied as above.
  4. Think less of the ‘ii-v’ movement and more of the dom7 in each change. Even though the function of the ii minor is an important cadence in each progression, doing this will lessen the amount of chords by a lot – you could even think in ‘key centers*’ provided you follow the chord tones as they go by.
  5. Think of guide tones , common tones and near common tones which can guide you from change to change and play with the rhythmic aspect. This is a great way of playing accurately and musically through measures without sounding like a bebop regurgitator.
  6. Practice comping chords fluently (and in many places / positions / shapes) on your instrument. Once you feel a bit more comfortable with the piece as a whole, see if you can sing bass notes and play chords or sing a melody and play chords underneath. Even just ‘4 beats to the bar’ comping is hard up tempo – try this to a metronome, record and listen back to see if you are in the pocket. Weaknesses to look out for are at the moment of a chord change – usually where a player drags the beat.