Better Rhythms in Your Guitar Solos -Inspired by Jim Hall and Barney Kessel

As Jazz guitar players we spend way too much time on worrying about scales, arpeggios and target notes! This means that we forget to worry about playing more interesting rhythms and in Jazz the most important thing is Rhythm and you want to have better rhythms in your guitar solos!

In this lesson I am going to go over a simple exercise where you can limit the amount of notes to create a simple set of a few notes that forces you to play more interesting rhythms! This is an exercise I have done quite often with students and also have done myself with great success! Have a look!

The form and how to find a nice set of notes

The examples that I am playing in the video are all on a Blues in G major. The progression is shown here below:

I have not written out the examples that I play, mainly because I am not trying to get you to play those solos, I am trying to get you to work on your own ability to come up with lines focusing on rhythm!

Finding 3 suitable notes

When choosing notes I start with a simple motif on the G7. Since I want to have something that is easy to both move around on the chords and make melodies with. For this purpose it is probably nice to keep it close and not take for example a complete triad.

For the G7 I am using the notes B D and E. With this notes I can easily make some small simple melodies and as you will see it is easy to “voice-lead” them through the changes and still have note sets that we can improvise with.

To get used to the idea of improvising with the 3 notes you can take the first B,D,E motif and try to play a bit over a static G7 chord just to try to feel how that works.

This motif moved through the entire form is written out in example 1.

Basically we have a 3 note scale for each chord and we can use these 3 notes to improvise with and improvise with more focus on the rhythm that we use.

If you want to check out players who have phrases like this in their solos you should check out some Barney Kessel or some of the early Jim Hall albums.

In the video I play example 1 and also a solo demonstrating how to improvise over the form with first the basic motif and then expanding more on it using more notes.

Rhythmic motifs combined with the 3 notes

One way to expand your vocabulary is to start with a rhythm and find a way to play that with the 3 notes. Then use the G blues and the note sets as a way of practicing this.

In the video I do this with the rhythm shown here below:

A more free approach

You can also be more free and then start with the motif and gradually move away from it and vary it. I do that with the example shown here below in example 3:

It don’t mean a thing..

Rhythm is the overlooked part of playing in 99% of the cases. At the same time you want to have strong and inspired rhythms in your guitar solos! I think this approach is really useful to develop your rhythm. The inspiration for it is Barney Kessel and Jim Hall as I already mentioned, but it also reminds me of more swing oriented phrasing from Lester Young or even big band arrangements.

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