Hey Jazz Guy,

Who’s solos should I be transcribing to learn how to play through changes?

-Searching in Somerville

Dear Searching,

Transcribing solos of great jazz musicians is a surefire way to improving your understanding of the genre. However, to really execute certain concepts, it can be very helpful write out your own solos. This is a way to practice soloing without the pressure of “instant” improvisation. Let’s choose the topic of playing through changes and use as our example the first two bars of rhythm changes in Bb (BbMaj7, G7, Cmin7, F7). Step one – place the 3rds of every chord on the downbeats [Ex 1]. Next we fill in the remaining eighth notes [Ex 2] using strictly arpeggios of the 7th chords. With that framework in place we can now add some chromatic approaches and tensions, [Ex 3] such as the b9 on G7. The last example continues this idea, [Ex 4] by adding tensions and passing tones. Notice in all the examples we’ve kept the 3rds on the downbeats. The next step would be changing the placement of the 3rds and chord tones in order to delay or anticipate the changing harmony. There is a saying among surgeons – “see one, do one, teach one”. When you transcribe a solo, you are ‘seeing one’, watching someone else perform. Write out your own solo and you are ‘doing one’, figuring out how the pieces fit together. Explain this to a friend and you will ‘teach one’, further increasing your understanding. So try this exercise over different songs and remember, there are a lot of great solos out there, but sometimes the person you should transcribe…is you!

PEF Example: HJG Writing SOLOS

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Categories: Philosophy/Technique

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