So while I've recently been transcribing I've been noticing that a lot of the notes seem to be in key with the occasional passing tones or small chromatic runs. I have tried multiple times to just play through a song and play what I "hear," but apparently it isn't as easy as it sounds. What I resorted to is playing in key and using occasional "out of key notes" as I felt it was appropriate and adding in a lick or two that I liked from the transcriptions.

I'd like any critique you can give me, keeping in mind I recorded these on the fly before I left my guitar for 5 days so there are a couple of obvious mistakes.

It sounds like you're just throwing in chromatics, just because. That's not what you want to do.

Start analysing what's actually happening in good jazz solos. The chromatic tones are usually chromatic passing tones that side step into chord tones. The out notes tend to be on off beats, and resolve on the beat. Also think about the motion of the line. You don't just want to do a half step approach below every chord tone in a chord - that's boring and sounds predictable - and bad too.

Should I stray from people that are solo jazz acts to get a better idea of soloing? I mean I'm sure Joe Pass playing by himself solos different than a saxophonist over a whole band.

I know I'm supposed to be doing some mix of playing scales, chord tones, and just "being free" (or what ever you prefer to call it) and playing what I feel/hear. My question is what steps to I need to take to start learning how to solo? I focus on chord tones and I play repetitive and boring and systematically, I do scales and I don't incorporate enough "Jazz" into it, and if I play what I hear its boring and not the right note. Where do I go?

Look at bars 2-4. He starts with chord tones, then moves to a ii iib vii(or ib) i (relative to the G7 chord it should be on top of) that ends on a G but right over the Em7 chord which happens to be the 3rd of that chord. That is brilliant, but am I supposed to learn that if/when I play a ii V iii sequence I can use this idea/lick? I just don't understand what I'm supposed to be learning from this.

Also, what do you mean about the motion of the line?

Edit: What I'm learning is that my own solo might not have had much direction in my line (since I decided to stay in the same position and scale) and so I might need to work more on moving up and down with the solo not just play 6 notes back and forth right?
Last edited by a0kalittlema0n at Mar 13, 2013,
Break down small sections. Write out above the transcription what each note is over the chord. Start to notice what chord tones they're using, and where the chromatic and altered tones are and how they're functioning.

Take those groupings (like a line over a ii-V-I that you like) and learn them in various positions. Ingrain them and do rhythmic permutations so that you can freely express the line, but in your own way, in a variety of contexts.

If that line works over that ii-V...you can use it over any ii-V you just need to relate it to the chord correctly. You need to build up a huge repertoire of lines like this so that you start to understand the vocabulary.
I'm assuming my first full solos will be more composed than improvised then right?

Also thanks a ton, I tried this with one specific thing, but couldn't seem to do it too well. I guess more practice then.
Improvisation isn't spontaneously creating music from nothing. You're subconsciously applying concepts that melodic fragments and motifcs that you've ingrained into your muscle memory and inner musical ear.

If you internalize the lines to the point that you can play them and relate them without consciously thinking, then they will appear in your improvisations the same way as any other melodic motif you come up with ...
When I improvise jazz I do so on different layers the first layer is the key center so the first thing I do is analyze the harmony in your case the A section of the girl from ipanema is in F major so the basic layer will be the f major scale. then next layer are the chord tones you want to reflect the harmony in your improv especially the guide tones which are the 3rd and 7th you want to target them as resolution points. the next layer are the upper structures and the substitute chords. for example in the A section there is a Gb7 lading from the G-7 to the Fmaj7 this is the triton sub for the c7 as this is a 2-5-1 progression. connecting all these layers are the chromatic notes these are passing or enclosure notes.
So would it be a good approach to try the first layer, then slowly add layers into the solo? I assume it would be very boring at first, but after adding the second layer to multiple parts it would start to sound better.
There's hundreds, if not THOUSANDS of ways to explain how to learn to solo and improvise.

Lots of private teachers will get you to do exercises that focus on a single aspect:
-Pick one note (consonant or not) and play rhythms. *I've actually been working out of a drum book and transcribing rhythms of rappers and playing accented rhythms and adding melody to them later

-Play 3 or 4 note ideas. Play for 2 beats of each measure. If your tendancy when you start is to play with a pick up note, start on 1. If you naturally start on 1, start with a pickup or wait for the + of 1.

-Play simple rhythms. Quarter notes & Eighth notes. No rhythm smaller than 8ths. Only triplet 8ths.

-Just play chord tones. No passing tones.

-Play lines centered around common tones between chords (In Satin Doll, focus on F for the first two bars and then G for the third and fourth.)

Theres so many more exercises to do but it's up to you to do them and be strict with them. Know the difference between practices and playing. These exercises are just that. They're not always fun. They're not always musical. But it helps to open up the instrument to you and look at the music differently so that when you get back to playing full lines and ideas, you won't go on auto pilot and play what you're comfortable with, instead you'll be able to play truly honest and musical ideas.
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