From SCALE practice to JAZZ LICKS — Work towards Music!

If you don’t want to waste your time you want to make sure to turn everything you practice into material that you can use when you improvise.

We all practice scales and work on our technique by doing Scale Exercises, arpeggios, diatonic triads and patterns. In this video I want to show you how you can take your exercises and start turning them into jazz licks.

The Diatonic Triads in a Scale Position

Let’s just start with an exercise that I am sure you already practice: Diatonic Triads. Here below I have written it out in the key of C major:

Turning this exercise into a II V I is shown here below where it is used on a II V I in C: Dm7, G7, Cmaj7:

I am using the descending version of the exercise above on the Dm7. It is then used with the triads of Dm, C and finally B dim. From here it continues with a G7 altered lick before resolving to C.

Diatonic Triads in Patterns

A great way to practice diatonic triads is to play them in a pattern so that you break up the order of the notes. In the example below I have written out the diatonic triads in a 3 1 5 pattern:

Using this type of exercise in a jazz lick is a great way to add some larger intervals to your lines.

The lick here below is using the F,G and Am triads over the Dm7. It then continues with a G7 altered line that is based on a Bmaj7(#5) arpeggio before it resolves to Cmaj7.

Triads along the neck

Another way to practice the triads is to play them on a string set along the neck. This is shown in a 2–1 fingering here below.

Turning this into a lick is easy. I am using the F,Em and Dm triads descending and then continue the triad idea on the G altered with Eb and F dim triads to resolve to the 3rd(E) of Cmaj7.

A good variation on this is to use Db and Eb triads on the G7. This idea is shown here below:

Changing the way we practice scales

In the previous examples I had to rely on scale exercises that are stepwise in nature, so the triads are played in stepwise order: C, Dm, Em etc.

The problem with this is that If you use triads on a Dm7 chord then Dm, F and Am are fine, but Em and G are less strong and therefore difficult to use in a lick.

One way of getting around that is to look at how the Dm, F and Am are a 3rd apart in the scale. This means that we have can start working on practicing the triads in 3rds in the scale to get them together in the sets that work together. An example of how you can do this is shown here:

The lick below is using the triads like this, and they are played in a 5 1 3 patttern. The triads used then are Dm, F and Am which are all closely related to a Dm7.

Beyond the triads: Shell voicings

Of course you can apply this to any type of structure. In the example here below I am doing hte same type of exercise as example 7, but now using Shell Voicings.

Turning this into a lick is shown in example 10 where I use Fmaj7 and Am7 shell voicings on the Dm7. On the G7 I am also using a Db7 shell voicing and combining that with an AbmMaj7 arpeggio before resolving to C.

Putting it all together

As you can see in these example it is not only important to try to use the exercises you do, but it can also be a great idea to try to shape your exercises so that they are immediately easier to use when improvising or composing lines.

It makes a lot of sense to try to work a lot with 3rds because it reflects how we build chords and keep the triads closely related to the chord you want to use them on.

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