A Simple Trick for Jazz and Blues Guitar Licks

If your guitar heroes use a lot of "wrong" notes and make them sound "right," and you can't... here's how to do it!

Ultimate Guitar
You would like to learn how to play "outside" but somehow everything you play sounds "wrong" rather than "outside"? It's because you were not introduced gradually to outside playing. Here I'll show you a simple way that will get you started. Keep reading.

In styles like jazz and blues guitar players (and not only) use a lot of "outside" notes: notes that are not really in the scale that is being used at the moment in the piece. In some cases, some of these outside note became so common that they were eventually incorporated in the scale: think of the "Blues scale," that is simply a pentatonic scale plus the b5 "blue" note, that is clearly an outside note. Another examples are the numerous "Bebop scales."

There is no advantage to restrict yourself to the scale when playing (in fact, it can make your solo sound too "stiff"), on the other hand if you don't know how to use the outside notes, they will invariably sound "bad" when you play them. What can you do?

The wrong solution is to learn from articles or columns titled "24 ways to use outside notes" or similar. I have seen time and again with my student that in this case less is more: you need ONE good trick, and then you need to master it. If you know 24 tricks, you will not focus in mastering any of them, and so you will not solve your problem.

In the video below I explain one of the simplest and yet most effective way to use outside notes in a blues or jazz solo. Sure, it is not the ONLY possible trick (the video would be hours long...), but it's a great first trick to master and you will get a surprising mileage out of it. Watch the video now.

YouTube preview picture

As you can see, there is nothing difficult in what I show in the video. It will not take any effort for you to implement this trick into your guitar playing, and you will be able to use it immediately. What are you waiting for? Grab your guitar and give it a try.

About the Author:
Tommaso Zillio is a prog rock guitarist and teacher with a passion for Music Theory applied to Guitar.

19 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Really a great video, it's funny that I used this somtimes without thinking hut know i'll try to explore it more
    The word "jazz" in lesson titles often scares me away...I'm glad I decided to click anyway. Of course, I would not have even hesitated if I could have seen from the home page that this lesson was yours, Tommaso. Great as always!
    I hear you. People are under the impression that Jazz is more "difficult" for some reason. It's not (and it's fun to play).
    no offense, but isn't this a bit obvious? i mean look at the chromatic scale, that's all semi-tones, or even when you do vibrato. obvious but overlooked by all the scaleheads i guess lmao
    As a music instructor, I always find that what's obvious for somebody is a revelation for others, and vice versa. UG's audience is very wide in skills and interest, and I'm trying to create lessons that are useful for everybody, that is sometimes I go for the more advanced side and in some other cases I do lessons on simpler topics. That said, I also found that sometimes you have to remind even advanced people of the obvious things. I need that a lot
    Chris Zoupa
    I've come up with a new exercise using this exact concept this morning. I'll credit you when I've made and finished it. Also some of my students have been learning off your site without me even knowing! Tiny world!
    You won't believe it, but the other week one of my students came to me and told me: "hey I found this website that explains theory kinda like you do, it's called musictheoryforguitar.com ..." Being the sneaky bastard I am I told him "yeah, I wonder who the author is, can you find out for me?" hilarity ensued
    And BTW, it's so nice that you get inspired from what I do and I get inspired from what you do Even if we live on opposite sides of the world (quite literally...)! Music is a team sport.
    The lesson is very solid. I would recommend subtitles though since your accent is a bit tricky to understand at times. Also the hiss on the vocal microphone is very irritating. Other than that solid though.
    Incredible way to enter jazz smoothly. You also remind me of Tobias Flunke lol. Thanks for the lesson