Tag Archives: jazz harmony

Learn a Jazz Lick on Fretless Bass – Bass Practice Diary 25

Learn a Jazz Lick on Fretless Bass – Bass Practice Diary – 9th October 2018

The best way to use “licks” in jazz is a subject that divides opinion amongst musicians. I’ve written a melodic jazz lick in the key of F major over a II-V-I chord progression. In this post I’ll explain the lick and also share some of my thoughts on the use of licks in jazz.

What is a Jazz Lick?

In this context, a jazz lick is a melodic phrase, like a musical sentence.  It’s a small fragment of melody that can comprise part of a longer jazz solo.

The debate amongst musicians tends to centre around whether or not it’s appropriate to use pre-learned licks as part of improvised jazz solos.  It’s something that a lot of musicians do, including really good musicians, and the argument in favour of using licks is as follows. By learning licks, you are effectively learning jazz vocabulary. And the more jazz vocabulary you learn, the greater your range will be as an improviser.

This is why I practice jazz licks or phrases. Sometimes I work out my own ones, as I’ve done in this video and at other times I play licks written by other musicians, as I have in this video.

Personally, I don’t like to use pre-prepared licks when I’m performing or playing with a band. Improvising is the thing I love to do most in music. And I like to not know for sure where the music will go. Sometimes the music can suffer as a result of this approach, and if you’re looking for more consistency in your soloing, then learning licks is a good place to start. But, I wouldn’t choose to sacrifice the process of improving by using pre-learned licks. I’ve tried it and I just don’t enjoy it. To me it feels like trying to introduce a pre prepared sentence into a conversation. It might be a great sentence, but there’s every chance it won’t make sense depending on where the conversation goes.

However, using licks is something that probably all improvisers do either consciously or unconsciously. We all fall into patterns of playing, often without realising it. I’m fairly certain that even musicians who are very against the idea of using licks, often unknowingly fall back on melodic phrases that they’ve played many times before.

Fretless Bass Jazz Lick

If you follow my Bass Practice Diary you’ll know that I like to play jazz melodies on fretless bass. So, when I do this kind of practice, I’ll always use my fretless. Having said that, the lick will also work on a fretted bass.

Jazz Lick Ex 1
II – V – I Jazz Lick for Bass Guitar

I’ve TAB’d it for 4 string bass so everyone can play it. I sold my 4 string fretless bass after I got the 6 string Warwick Thumb SC in the video. That’s the only reason that I’m playing a 6 string bass in the video.

The lick is meant to be played over a II – V – I chord progression in the key of F major. Gm7 – C7 – Fmaj7. The II – V – I chord progression is the most common chord sequence in jazz. I won’t go into the theory of it because there are so many articles in existence about II – V – I’s, like this one. I’ll just explain what I’m playing on each chord.

Inside and Outside Notes

I think the reason that jazz musicians love to play over II – V – I chord progressions is because the V chord affords a great opportunity to use outside notes. Whereas the II and the I chord tend to favour the use of inside notes. So, you can create a feeling of starting inside the harmony and then moving outside on the V before coming back in on the I. This is a very jazz approach. The feeling of taking the harmony out and then bringing it back in, immediately sounds like jazz. And it’s that sound that I’ve tried to demonstrate with my jazz lick.

If you want to learn more about inside and outside notes and how to use them then check out this video.

Here’s what I’ve played on the II chord Gm7.

Jazz Lick Ex 2
II chord Gm7

As you can see, all of the notes are in the key of F major, creating an inside sound. Which is fine because we’re about to step outside of the harmony on the V chord.

There are several chromatic alterations in this bar. Playing a b9 on beat one is a very strong statement that I’m taking the melody outside of the key signature. I love this kind of bold harmonic statement. The other chromatic alterations (outside notes) are the #9 and the b13. The final note of the bar is also an outside note, but in this case it’s functioning as a passing note rather than an altered chord extension. It’s simply a semi tone above G natural to take us to an A natural on beat one of the next bar.

How much outside harmony you choose to use is a matter of personal taste. I mentioned in the video that you could play a similar phrase on the V chord but with a natural 9th instead of the #9 and a natural 13th instead of the b13. It would go like this.

Jazz Lick Inside
Alternative Line on the V Chord

Finally, on the I chord, F major 7, the lick resolves itself onto the major 3rd A. Which is about the most inside sounding note you can use at this point.

As I’ve said, I’m not planning to use this lick again any time soon. For me, this is simply an exercise in expanding my jazz vocabulary so I can improvise lines in a similar way in future. But if you’d like to learn  it, and use it in future, I would consider it an honour that anyone chooses to play one of my lines. I hope this has been helpful!

How to Use Outside Notes In Your Basslines – Bass Practice Diary 19

Inside and Outside Notes – Start Using More Outside Notes in Your Bass Lines – Bass Practice Diary – 28th August 2018

Recently I made a video called Everything You Need to Know About Harmony on Bass Guitar. You can check it out by clicking on the link. In the video I talked about using inside and outside notes. Well I thought it was time for a practical video about how you can practice playing inside and outside notes. Here it is!

Inside and Outside Notes

The simplest way to explain inside and outside notes is that inside notes are notes that belong in the key you are playing and outside notes don’t. Hopefully you know already that I don’t believe there is any such thing as “wrong” notes. Simply because outside notes can make your basslines more interesting when they’re used in a musical way. You can use them to create tension within music, which is very hard to achieve if you only play inside notes. And the resolution of those notes onto inside notes creates a resolution of the tension.

How Can You Practice Using Outside Notes

This video is a practical guide not a theory lesson so I’m going to jump straight in to the musical examples. If you’d like to learn more of the theory then jump to my previous video which is linked in the opening paragraph.

I started with two chords, G7 and C7. And I created a bassline using only chord tones. The notes are G, B, D and F for G7 and C, E, G and Bb for C7.

Inside and Outside Notes Example 1
A Bassline Made From Chord Tones – G7 & C7

The first variation I played was to add a note one fret above or below either of the root notes. In the following example I’ve added the note Db before the C root note and Ab before the G root note. Both Db and Ab are outside notes on both G7 and C7 chords.

Outside Notes Example 2 Part 1

Outside Notes Example 3
Outside Notes One Fret Above the Root Notes

Notice that these notes always resolve onto the root note. Meaning that the next note after the outside note is always the root note. It’s that resolution that keeps the outside notes from sounding “wrong”.

Resolving Outside Notes Onto Chord Tones

You can resolve outside notes onto any chord tone. It doesn’t have to be the root. The following example starts on a Bb, which is an outside note on G7. The Bb resolves up one fret onto B natural which is a chord tone. The next outside note is Db which resolves onto the root note of the next chord C7.

Resolving Outside Notes Onto Chord Tones
Resolving Outside Notes Onto Chord Tones

Chromatic Runs

The final technique for incorporating outside notes that I looked at in the video is chromatic runs. I usually use these when leading into a chord change.

Starting three frets either above or below the root note, simply play each fret either up or down to the root. It’s a simple technique, but it sounds cool if you don’t over use it. The following bassline demonstrates the technique.

Outside Notes Example 4
Using Outside Notes in Chromatic Runs