Having a few guitar licks up your sleeve is super helpful when you’re improvising. Guitar teacher Samuel B. shares a few of his favorite jazz guitar licks…
Before we begin playing these jazz guitar licks, it’s a good idea to get familiar with the pentatonic scale.
The pentatonic scale is a more versatile and useful scale than you might think. While being an easily-recognized basis for blues, rock, and country solos, it can be (and frequently is) a scale used for jazz solos, too. Adding a few accidentals (notes other than the baseline ones indicated below) can make for some memorable moments in jazz guitar licks.
I’ve heard jazz called “the American classical music,” and here’s why I agree: its chord structures are more complex than those in blues, rock, and country. Sixth, ninth, eleventh, augmented, and diminished chords are all common to it. Solo jazz guitar licks feature a level of intricacy comparable to that of their chord counterparts.
Here are a few tricks guaranteed to spice up any pentatonic-based jazz solo.
The first of these jazz guitar licks covers the segment between the fifth through eighth frets. Notes 2, 5, and 12 are the only ones foreign to the scale itself:
The next one is grounded in the second-through-fifth-fret territory. It features three open-string notes and only one otherwise “outsider” (the note that’s both ninth and twelfth):
Lick three is a different animal entirely. It’s plucked with an open hand (not a pick) and is based on notes comprising a moving triad. As indicated, the first, fourth, seventh, and tenth notes are pairs (not single notes) and are played simultaneously with the thumb and index finger. The remaining ones can be played with an index-and-middle-finger alternation:
Like the first two, the fourth and fifth jazz guitar licks are based once again on pentatonic segments (the highest and the lowest ones respectively).
While the fourth lick involves four accidentals (the second, fifth, ninth, and eleventh notes to be exact), this fifth lick is comprised entirely of notes that are pentatonic:
As seen above, these five jazz guitar licks are intricate and unique creations that can make any jazz guitar solo an instant hit. Learning the pentatonic scale on the guitar is essential for jazz guitar licks, and once you do, you can apply it to other genres, as well. Be creative, have fun, and if you’re looking for further practice with your jazz guitar, ask your guitar teacher to help you out with some new moves and grooves!
Photo by Larry Johnson