It’s not about scales, it’s about the chords

More often than anything else, my aspiring jazz students want to work on soloing. “How do I solo over this tune?… or that tune?” Soloing in jazz is certainly a tricky endeavor for sure. I work on it all the time. What I find most interesting is the students that want to become better soloists usually need the most work on their comping/ or chord vocabulary. What is even more interesting is this type of information (common chord voicings for guitar) is SO easy to come by. A quick search on Youtube or a short drive to the local music store can yield enough chord voicings to make your head spin, and yet aspiring jazz students don’t spend the time to works this stuff out on the guitar. Well, for those of you willing to do the work, I’ve found a great instructional video: Fareed Haque’s Jazz Comping Survival Guide.

I’ve been a big fan of Fareed’s playing since the early 1990’s. If you aren’t familiar with his playing, you should check him out. He’s a master a several styles, but it’s his jazz playing that really knocks me out. This instructional video (you can find it on the Truefire site) is the best presentation of this material I’ve ever seen on the internet. No complicated theory to digest. It’s a very simple approach based on using guide tones. The beautiful thing here is that this type of study is exactly what every guitarist is looking for when they come to my office and ask me if I can help them become a better soloist. Mastering the guide tones allows you to pick the best sounding notes of the chord, AND these notes move smoothly (either by half step or whole step) to the best sounding notes of the next chord in any progression. This is what allows the soloist to get into the “sound” of the chord changes… even where there isn’t anyone playing the harmony behind them. Check out Jim Hall on those Paul Desmond albums where Jim is the only chordal player (Bossa Antiqua is one of these recordings… Take Ten is another). One can always hear the sound of the harmony when Jim is soloing and there’s no piano player! Thanks Fareed for putting this lesson out there.