Tricks & Tips to Make Your Guitar Solos Sound More Jazzy

How Do You Make Guitar Solos More Jazzy?

  1. Listen to lots of jazz

    It goes without saying that you will sound the most like what you listen to the most.
    Listening to jazz all the time will automatically lead you to improvise using the kind of melodic phrases more often that jazz guys use in their solos.

  2. Swing it.

    That is definitely one of the stylistic elements that will bring your solos a big step closer to how jazz solos sound.
    Most jazz rhythmically has a swing feel to it.

    Here’s one way to improve your swing feel.

    How posture affects your rhythmic feel

  3. Play less linear: Follow the chords more

    Jazz improvisers are really good at centering their melodic phrases around the notes of the chords.
    More precisely: the melodic phrases in top jazz solos very often have the 3rd or 7th of the chord in the melodic phrase.

    For example: when the band is playing a G7 chord, the improviser would end the melodic phrase over the chord on a B or an F note, the 3rd and the b7th in the G chord.

    Another thing that jazz improvisers are really good at, is chord substitution.

    For example, they know that over a C chord, they can solo with an A minor chord arpeggio, which creates a C6 sound, or a G triad arpeggio to create a Cmaj9 sound.
    These substitutions create improvisation sounds that we associate more with the sound of jazz, and that we are less used to hearing rock guitarists play.

  4. Add chromaticism

    Chromaticism means fret-wise motion.
    Chromaticism adds a sense of direction, momentum, and forward motion to a solo. It drives a melody in a certain direction.

    Since chromaticism is much more used in jazz solos than in rock solos, you unmistakably end up adding a jazzy touch to your solos when you throw in the occasional chromatic line.
    To hear chromaticism in rock, you’d hear this more commonly with the top-level instrumental rock guitarists like Steve Morse and Guthrie Govan, to name a few.

    You can hear the use of chromaticism here

    G7 arpeggio soloing using the b3 blue note and chromaticism

  5. Blue notes and approach notes

    Blue notes are

    1. The b3 in major keys
    2. The b5 in major and in minor keys

    Blue notes are a bit like chromaticism really.
    You basically approach the major 3rd of the key from a half step below, b3 followed by 3. You can hear this in the video on the above blog page I posted the URL for.
    The b5 can be played in both major and minor keys. The b5 does not necessarily have to be followed by the 5 in the melody. You can hit that note more freely and randomly.

    The b5 is a sound you hear a lot in rock-a-billy solos.

    The b5 blue notes and other fun soloing tricks

  6. Combine following in your melodic phrases:
    1. Arpeggios
    2. Pentatonic
    3. Scalar
    4. Chromatic

    Jazz solos consist of these 4 scale elements. Every couple of melodic phrases, a jazz improviser will have played any combinations of an arpeggio followed by some chromaticism or scalar or pentatonic stuff.

    Experiment with this: where you for example start a phrase with 3 or 4 notes of a pentatonic scale followed by for example a chord arpeggio ending in a couple of chromatic notes.
    Any combination works: start chromatically followed by an arpeggio, or play a scalar line followed by chromaticism then an arpeggio.

  7. Know your theory

    It goes without saying that if you know the scales that jazz guys use, that you will be able to make your solos sound more jazz.

    Some of the scales that jazz guys know well, and that most rock guys tend to not know as well:

    1. The modes of the major scale

      The modes explained

    2. The melodic minor scale (and its modes)

      The melodic minor scale and its fingerings

    3. the harmonic minor scale (and its modes)

      The harmonic minor scale and its fingerings

    4. The whole tone scale

      The whole tone scale

    5. The diminished scale

      The diminsihed scale

There is of course more to all the above: tensions, knowing when to use which one of the modes of all those scales, and so on, but all the above should get you a headstart, should get you way closer to jazzing up your solos, and should keep you busy for a while.


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