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Jazz Guitar Lessons

How To Approach Note Soloing, Part 1

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Guitarist and educator Richard Burgess provides some great advice and tips on how to approach note soloing.

You know your scales, you know your arpeggios, you know your modes but you still don’t sound like “the Cats”. That was my dilemma until saxophone great Jerry Bergonzi turned me on to a cool device for “making the changes”. He showed me how to target chord tones by the use of “approach notes” (sometimes referred to as “enclosures”). By targeting a chord tone on the downbeat of a measure, you can really get the harmony of the progression in your playing. In this lesson, we will be targeting the 3rd of the chord.  

You don’t have to know any theory to get started on this. You just have to be able to play and visualize some basic chord shapes (see Ex. 1). In Example 2 our “target note” is highlighted in red (see Ex.2). It is the 3rd of the chord. The “enclosure” will work like this:  (1) Play a 1/2 step above your target note (the “square note” in Ex. 2 diagrams), (2) Play a 1/2 step below your target note (the “triangle note” in Ex. 2 diagrams), (3) Play the target note (the “red note” in Ex. 2 diagrams).  You can think of it as 3 easy steps:  “1/2 step above, 1/2 step below, target”

Let’s start with a basic 12-bar blues progression in C using all dominant 7 chords. We’re going to “jazz up” our basic 3 chord blues progression (C7, F7, G7) by adding an A7 and D7 to the mix. Example 3 shows you the chord progression we will be using (See below). 

One crucial element in this is the rhythm. To hit your target note on beat 1 (the downbeat) of the measure, the half step above approach has to start on beat four, and the half step below must fall on the “and” of beat four. This is critical. In other words, to hit our target note on beat one, we need to start our approach on beat four. Example 3 illustrates how this approach rhythm works. The target note (3rd of the chord) is held for three beats in this example (See below).

What you have at this point are some basics on how to target the 3rd of a dominant 7 chord. You will also develop a strong rhythmic sense of where the chord will change by thinking “4 & 1 2 3, 4 & 1 2 3,” etc. In the next lesson, we will expand on this idea by adding some familiar pentatonic vocabulary to the mix to help you “jazz up” your blues lines.

End of part one – check back for part two!


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