Top Secret Tool for Improv

Easy Parallel Motion Lines

Welcome to video number 2 in our series Hands-On Jazz Guitar. The goal of this series is to have do some “hands-on” playing. So often, we intellectualise the process of learning jazz. Here, we do both: playing, and learning. The lesson comes in two forms, both this blog post and in the form of a video lesson from yours truly.

Today’s line can be found in our August 2015 issue of our Tune of The Month Club, “Summertime”. The line is played over a very common “two-five-one” chord progression, and makes use of a fun and useful concept called parallel motion. Before I explain the concept, let’s learn the line.

Download Parallel Motion Lines – Hands On 2 Examples

Let’s Play in Different Tempos!

Let us play the line at three different tempos — 50%, then 80%, then 100% of the original tempo.  

Today’s idea centers around parallel shapes. Look closely at the lick below. 

Although there are many more “flats” in block number two, there is one simple link between the two groups of 8th notes: They share the same shape. They are placed a semi-tone, or one fret, apart. 

The line is theoretically imperfect. It works simply because the two shapes are identical. It’s made even stronger because the shapes are parallel. Repetition of the idea gives our ears a chance to latch onto it.

If you’re looking to learn about the basics of jazz improvisation, take a close look at our course “Jazz improv 101”. You’ll find lots of ideas to get you started. You’ll also learn about some of the building blocks of this style of music!

Here are some examples

Now, here are three ways to refresh this idea for use in your playing. In Example A, I’ll invert the second block (block #2). For Example B, I invert the first block, Block #1, but leave the second alone. In example C, I made a simple change in direction to create a new resolution to the line.

See the notes below:

The second block is inverted …

Example A

 … and now the first block is inverted …

Example B

… and finally the original lick with a new resolution.

Example C

From our original idea, we now have a total of four ideas to use when improvising!

Now for the really fun part! It’s time to jump in and “wing it”. It’s really simple: You just need to play. You don’t even need to play these ideas — although you can try! Your main goal here is to improvise. 

Remember, if you’re feeling like this is a little bit much, there’s no worry. You can learn the fundamentals of jazz improvisation on your guitar with our “Jazz Improv 101” course.

Improv 101

Finishing Up

Thanks for tuning to issue number two of Hands on Jazz Guitar. We had some fun using parallel shapes on the guitar. I’m always amazed at how one little line can give us so much material to work with. You don’t have to stop here either. Make up your own new ideas, and put them to work!

Download Parallel Motion Lines – Hands On 2 Examples
 

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Marc-Andre Seguin is the webmaster, “brains behind” and teacher on JazzGuitarLessons.net, the #1 online resource for learning how to play jazz guitar. He draws from his experience both as a professional jazz guitarist and professional jazz teacher to help thousands of people from all around the world learn the craft of jazz guitar.

2 thoughts on “Top Secret Tool for Improv

  1. Thanks Marc, great tool. I’ve been trying this tool using other ‘licks’ that work over Dm7, and it sounds good. Do you think that it should work with any phrase that ‘fits’ with Dm7?

    • Hi John, Nathan here. What makes it work with a phrase is the exact repetition of that phrase, but then chromatically shifted…combined with making sure the phrase has a solid ending target when you want to resolve it. It’s really more about creating “tension” over the V chord than it is about hitting the right chord tones or extensions, and so yes, this technique can work with just about any line, so long as you fulfill the above requirements.

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