10 Jazz Guitar Licks To Supercharge Your Jazz Guitar Solos

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Guitar with musical notes

Jazz guitar licks are a great way to learn and apply improvisational concepts.

However, when learning jazz guitar licks, you should understand how and why they work. Simply memorizing shapes on the neck will only take you so far.

If you want to master jazz improvisation on guitar, you’ll want to know exactly why something sounds the way it does. That’s why I’ve prepared this list of 10 jazz guitar licks. Each lick contains important jazz vocabulary and must-know improvisational concepts you’ll want to get a handle on.

Each guitar lick will have an explanation of the techniques or improvisational concepts within it. Plus, each lick has audio recordings so you can hear them in action!

If you want more information and jazz resources like this, then check out the Learn Jazz Standards Inner Circle! The Inner Circle is designed for musicians who want to take the time-tested, results-driven approach to learning jazz—letting the music teach us how to play.

Jazz standards—the melodies, harmonies, and recorded solos of jazz heavyweights—contain everything you need to learn the jazz language. In the Inner Circle, you’ll learn a new jazz standard each month and gain access to all our jazz standard studies, workshops, masterclasses, and courses.

There are even instrument-specific courses (guitar included) designed to help you master jazz on your instrument!

Ready to get serious about learning jazz and make real, measurable progress?

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Why Learn Guitar Licks?

Language students will often learn stock phrases to help them get a feel for the language and start communicating right away. They may not understand the grammar or know what every word means, but they can convey meaning to others while also practicing pronunciation and tone.

Guitar licks work similarly. A lick is a string of notes that convey a musical idea, just like a sentence is a string of words that give meaning. Language students practice using verb tenses, clauses, or vocabulary in real sentences so that these elements eventually feel natural.

With guitar licks, you can practice the elements of the jazz language to internalize its features and characteristics. Learning jazz licks is the most hands-on and efficient way to learn about all the improvisational concepts jazz musicians use.

Improvisational Concepts We’ll Cover With These Jazz Guitar Licks

Before diving headfirst into these guitar licks, let’s briefly cover some of the important jazz vocabulary elements you’ll encounter. If this section is a review for you, feel free to use the table of contents to skip right to the jazz guitar licks!

(Although it never hurts to review the fundamentals!)

Bebop Vocabulary

Besides swing feel, bebop vocabulary is perhaps the most iconic element of the jazz language. In the evolution of jazz music, bebop was a relatively early addition to the jazz style. Bebop vocabulary features non-diatonic tones, chromatic phrasing, and rapid, flowing 8th-note or 16th-note lines.

Passing Tones:

Passing tones are notes added to a scale or mode so that the chord tones (including extensions) fall on strong beats (down beats), and non-chord tones land on up beats.

Bebop scales are the formalized version of this practice; however, players don’t limit themselves to one of the formal bebop scales when improvising.

Bebop Scales

Bebop scales are octatonic, meaning they have eight notes. Bebop scales keep stronger chord tones and extensions on down beats.

Bebop Major Scale: Ionian (major scale) with a minor 6th passing tone added. In the key of C, you’d play an Ab in between G and A:

Jazz Guitar Licks: C Bebop Major Scale With fingerings, notation and tabulature
  • C-D-E-F-G-Ab-A-B-C
  • Use over maj7 and maj6 chords

Bebop Dominant Scale: Mixolydian Scale with a major 7th passing tone added. Over a C7, you’d play a B major in between Bb and C

C Bebop Dominant Scale With fingerings, notation and tabulature
  • C-D-E-F-G-A-Bb-B-C
  • Use over dominant chords

Bebop Minor Scale: Dorian minor scale (2nd mode of major scale) with a major 3rd passing tone added. Over a C-7 chord, you’d play an E natural between the Eb and F.

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  • C-D-Eb-E-F-G-A-Bb-C
  • Use over minor 7th chords

Remember, you don’t need to play these particular bebop scales to have passing tones in your phrases.

For more on modes like the Ionian, Mixolydian, or Aeolian mode, check out our ultimate guide to musical modes.

Chromatic Approach Tones:

When you lead into a chord tone from a chromatic upper or lower neighbor (the note one half-step above or below a target note), you are using a chromatic approach tone.

Chromatic approach tones do not have to be diatonic like in the example below:

Chromatic approach tone example

Enclosure Figures:

Enclosure figures “enclose” a target note by first playing notes on either side of the target note. The surrounding notes can happen in any order (upper note or lower note first) and can either be diatonic (from the scale) or chromatic.

In the following example, three enclosure figures target the root, 3rd, and 5th of a Cmaj7 chord. Notice how there are both diatonic and non-diatonic tones. You may also see enclosure figures that target a note from a whole step away as well!

Enclosure figure examples

Diatonic and Non-Diatonic Chord Outlines

The following jazz guitar licks will contain many chord outlines.

A chord outline is as simple as it sounds: a guitarist will pick out chord tones using arpeggios.

Guitar players may choose to outline diatonic chords from the key of the song, or they may impose other chords over the existing changes to hit altered extensions.

Here is a chord outline of a D-9 chord:

Chord outline of a D-9 chord

Rhythmic Groupings and Rhythmic Displacement

Jazz musicians not only play with pitch and harmony, but they also experiment with rhythms and rhythmic displacement. Taking a musical idea and placing it on different beats is one of many ways a jazz musician might develop a musical idea throughout a solo.

Here is a short, repetitive musical phrase spaced out with one 8th note each.

Rhythmic displacement example

Additionally, a jazz musician might try to group notes in ways that complement or contrast with the meter to create rhythmic variety or complexity.

Notes grouped in two over quarter note triplets

Pentatonic Tricks

Jazz musicians will creatively use pentatonic scales to imply harmonies during their solos. Pentatonic scales fit particularly well on the guitar, making them easy to use for beginner guitarists. However, many great jazz guitar players take pentatonic scale application to new levels.

We’ll cover some pentatonic tricks you can use later on!

Blues Language on Guitar

The blues and guitar playing have evolved hand in hand over the past 200 years or so. Jazz guitarists use bluesy phrases to infuse their playing with the infectious sounds of the blues. We’ll review a few bluesy guitar licks to help you do the same, covering double stops and blues scales.

Strategies and Techniques for Modifying and Evolving Your Own Jazz Guitar Licks!

We’ll also cover different strategies and techniques for taking licks and adapting them to fit different musical goals or environments. Deconstructing and changing a lick is an essential part of defining your own jazz guitar sound.

With that out of the way, let’s jump into these ten jazz guitar licks!

BEFORE YOU CONTINUE...

If you struggle to play amazing jazz solos and want to learn the secret strategies the pros are using to improvise, our free guide will get you on the right track.

Jazz Improv Made Easy Fast Track Guide Ebook Cover

Jazz Guitar Lick 1: Bebop Vocabulary Over A Major ii-V-I

Jazz Guitar Lick 1: Bebop

Our first jazz guitar lick is a straightforward bebop lick that uses chromatic passing tones, chromatic approach tones, and chord outlines.

Take a listen:

After you learn this lick in the key of C, take it through other keys as well.

Jazz Guitar Lick 2: Bebop Vocabulary Over A Major ii-V-I

Jazz Guitar Lick 2: Bebop

Our second jazz guitar lick has many of the same bebop characteristics found in the first lick but is faster. You’ll notice this lick is written in 16th notes rather than 8th notes like the first lick.

Take a listen:

Here is a slower version of the lick:

Jazz Guitar Lick 3: Note Groupings That Contrast With the Meter Over a Major ii-V-I (3/4 time)

Jazz Guitar Lick 3: Rhythmic Groupings

This lick is in 3/4 time and features groups of four eighth notes. We get an interesting contrast between the phrasing and the meter, where the phrase travels across the bar line and doesn’t line up evenly with the meter.

Take a listen:

There are many ways to apply this principle in your own licks. For example, you could create groups of three 8th notes over 4/4 time.

Jazz Guitar Lick 4: Using A Non-Diatonic Triad Over The Dominant Chord For Altered Sound (Ab over G7)

Jazz Guitar Lick 4: non-diatonic triads over the dominant chord

One of the fun parts of creating your own licks is experimenting with chord substitutions in your own lines. This lick replaces the G7 sound with notes from the key of Ab (Ab triad plus the maj7th and 13th).

This gives us many altered chord tones over the G7 chord:

  • F is the 7th in a G7 chord and the 13th in an Ab chord
  • G is the root in a G7 chord and the maj7 in an Ab chord
  • Eb is the b13 in a G7 chord and the 5th in an Ab chord
  • C is the 11th in a G7 chord and the 3rd in an Ab chord
  • Ab is the b9 in a G7 chord and the root in an Ab chord

Here is the lick over a regular ii-V-I:

Here is the lick over a ii-V-I that includes an Ab in the comping:

Here is the lick slowed down:

Jazz Guitar Lick 5: Using Non-Diatonic Triad Pairs Over The Dominant Chord For Altered Sound (Eb and Db over G7)

Jazz Lick 5: Non-diatonic triads over the dominant chord pt. II

You aren’t limited to one triad substitution when improvising over dominant chords. This lick puts a triad pair over the dominant chord to hit even more of those juicy alterations.

Eb triad:

  • Bb is the #9 of the G7 chord and the 5th of a Bb triad
  • G is the root of the G7 chord and the 3rd of an Eb triad
  • Eb is the b13 of the G7 chord and the root of an Eb triad

Db triad:

  • Ab is the b9 of the G7 chord and the 5th of a Db triad
  • F is the 7th of the G7 chord and the 3rd of a Db triad
  • Db is the b5 or #11 of the G7 chord and the root of a Db triad

Here is the lick over a regular ii-V-I:

Here is the lick over a ii-V-I that includes the Eb and Db triads in the comping pattern:

Here is the lick slowed down:

Jazz Guitar Lick 6: Ascending Chromatic Pentatonic Shapes Over a Major ii-V-I

Jazz Guitar Lick 6: Ascending Chromatic Pentatonic Shapes

Another important and often overlooked jazz improvisation tool is the pentatonic scale. There are so many cool ways to use pentatonics to hit altered tones while also creating unified movement through your lines.

This lick takes a repetitive pentatonic shape and moves it up chromatically over the different chords in a major ii-V-I. The result is a fluid-sounding lick that feels good despite a Gb (or F#) over the G7 chord!

The Eb- pentatonic scale hits many altered tones in a G7 chord:

  • Db is the b5 or #11 on a G7 chord
  • Bb is the #9 on a G7 chord
  • Ab is the b9 of a G7 chord
  • Gb is the maj7 on a G7 chord! What!? It still works because of the upward motion of the line as a whole (and the conviction with which you play it)!
  • Eb is the b13 of a G7 chord

Take a listen:

Here is the same lick slower:

Jazz Guitar Lick 7: Augmented Triad Sweeps Over A Minor iiø-V-i

Lick 7: jazz guitar lessons Augmented Triad Sweeps

No jazz guitar licks article would be complete without a triad sweep! Augmented triads sit conveniently on the fretboard, making it easier for guitarists to get a rapid sweep across several strings. But where do augmented triads fit best into jazz guitar licks?

Augmented triads are not found naturally in the major scale but exist naturally in melodic minor scales. Therefore, augmented triads are very useful over minor iiø-V-i chord progressions.

In the A melodic minor scale, the 3rd mode is called C Lydian Augmented. When we build a triad from this scale degree, we get an augmented triad: C-E-G#. When we make a 7th chord, we get a Cmaj7#5 or C-E-G#-B.

This lick (and the next one) uses a C augmented triad (or a Cmaj7#5 arpeggio) over both the iiø and the V chord before resolving to A-(maj7).

Take a listen:

Here it is slower:

For more on the melodic minor scale, check out our ultimate guide to the melodic minor scale.

Jazz Guitar Lick 8: Augmented Triad Sweeps Over a Minor iiø-V-i (adds chromaticism and rhythmic variety)

Lick 8: Augmented Triad Sweeps variation

This is a variation on the previous lick.

Take a listen:

Here it is again slower:

Jazz Guitar Lick 9: Using Double Stops For Bluesy Jazz Guitar Lines

Screenshot 2024 01 19 at 3.55.15 PM

This lick incorporates some comping patterns in it. It is the goal of many jazz guitarists to be able to keep the harmony moving forward while they improvise. This lick utilizes double-stops and shell voicings to punctuate the harmony in the middle of the line.

  • Double-Stops: two notes played simultaneously (also called dyads).
  • Shell Voicings: minimalistic chords that only include the guide tones (3rd and 7th) and sometimes the root.

Take a listen:

Jazz Guitar Lick 10: Bluesy Guitar Lines Over Dominant Chords (Blending Minor Blues Scale with Mixolydian Scale)

jazz guitar lessons: Jazz Guitar Lick 10 Bluesy Guitar Lick

This bluesy lick uses notes from the blues scale and the Mixolydian mode to play with the major and minor 3rd ambiguity that gives the blues its unique sound.

Take a listen:

Here it is slower:

For more on the blues scale and how to play bluesy licks, check out our article on the blues scale.

How To Change And Adapt Jazz Guitar Licks

When you transcribe or write your own jazz licks, you should spend some time adapting and evolving them. A great way to practice new concepts is to write licks, melodies, tunes, or solos that incorporate those concepts.

In the following section, I’ll show you a few ways you can change a lick. (The ways I choose are not the only options you have at your disposal.)

Original Jazz Guitar Lick:

Adapting your own guitar licks: lick 1

Take a listen:

Modified Jazz Guitar Lick

There are several ways we can change the original lick.

I decided to add some anticipations on the last 8th note of the first and second measures. Here, the melody of my line arrives at the new harmony right before the official change to a new chord. This helps give the lick forward momentum.

I also changed up the rhythm of one of the chord outlines, switching from a triplet to a 16th-note rhythmic phrasing. This adds rhythmic variety to the line.

Lastly, I added more to the phrase to push the melody further into the bar.

Adapting your own guitar licks: lick 2

Here is the result:

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TAKE YOUR JAZZ PLAYING TO THE NEXT LEVEL.

We help musicians of all instruments start improvising confidently over jazz standards in as little as 30 days without mind-numbing hours of practice or the overwhelm.

“Jazz music is the power of now. There is no script. It’s conversation. The emotion is given to you by musicians as they make split-second decisions to fulfill what they feel the moment requires.”
WYNTON MARSALIS

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For play-alongs and eBooks:

Because these are digital downloads, and not returnable, we have a strict no refund policy. All purchases are final and cannot be reversed. Please be sure that you fully understand the product you are purchasing and what is and what is not included. Of course, if you ever have any questions about a product feel free to contact usor visit our FAQ page.

For 30 Days to Better Jazz Playing eCourse

Please make sure you completely understand the product you are buying before purchasing.

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  • This guarantee lasts 14 days, which completely covers almost half of the course, enough for you to observe its’ effectiveness.
  • We can’t guarantee you will be Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, or John Coltrane in 2 weeks. We’d be suspicious of anyone who could promise that. Becoming a better jazz musician is a process and it requires work.
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TO THE MAXIMUM EXTENT ALLOWED BY APPLICABLE LAW, YOU AGREE THAT IN NO EVENT SHALL EITHER OF Learn Jazz Standards OR ANY PARTY ACTING ON BEHALF OF Learn Jazz Standards BE LIABLE FOR: (A) ANY CLAIMS, PROCEEDINGS, LIABILITIES, OBLIGATIONS, DAMAGES, LOSSES OR COSTS IN AN AGGREGATE AMOUNT EXCEEDING THE GREATER OF THE AMOUNT YOU PAID TO Learn Jazz Standards HEREUNDER OR $100.00; OR (B) ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, CONSEQUENTIAL, SPECIAL, INCIDENTAL, PUNITIVE OR ANY OTHER DAMAGES. YOU AGREE EVEN IF Learn Jazz Standards HAS BEEN TOLD OF POSSIBLE DAMAGE OR LOSS ARISING OR RESULTING FROM OR IN ANY WAY RELATING TO YOUR USE OF THE Learn Jazz Standards MESSAGING PROGRAM. Learn Jazz Standards AND ITS REPRESENTATIVES ARE NOT LIABLE FOR THE ACTS OR OMISSIONS OF THIRD PARTIES, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO DELAYS OR NON-DELIVERY IN THE TRANSMISSION OF MESSAGES.

Indemnity

To the maximum extent allowed by applicable law, you agree to indemnify, defend and hold harmless Learn Jazz Standards, its directors, officers, employees, servants, agents, representatives, independent contractors and affiliates from and against any and all claims, damages, liabilities, actions, causes of action, costs, expenses, including reasonable attorneys’ fees, judgments or penalties of any kind or nature arising from or in relation to the these Messaging Terms or your receipt of text messages from Learn Jazz Standards or its service providers.

Dispute Resolution

  1. General. Any dispute or claim arising out of or in any way related to these Messaging Terms or your receipt of text messages from Learn Jazz Standards or its service providers whether based in contract, tort, statute, fraud, misrepresentation, or any other legal theory, and regardless of when a dispute or claim arises will be resolved by binding arbitration. YOU UNDERSTAND AND AGREE THAT, BY AGREEING TO THESE MESSAGING TERMS, YOU AND Learn Jazz Standards ARE EACH WAIVING THE RIGHT TO A TRIAL BY JURY OR TO PARTICIPATE IN A CLASS ACTION AND THAT THESE MESSAGING TERMS SHALL BE SUBJECT TO AND GOVERNED BY ARBITRATION.
  2. Exceptions. Notwithstanding subsection (a) above, nothing in these Messaging Terms will be deemed to waive, preclude, or otherwise limit the right of you or Learn Jazz Standards to: (i) bring an individual action in small claims court; (ii) pursue an enforcement action through the applicable federal, state, or local agency if that action is available; (iii) seek injunctive relief in aid of arbitration from a court of competent jurisdiction; or (iv) file suit in a court of law to address an intellectual property infringement claim.
  3. Arbitrator. Any arbitration between you and Learn Jazz Standards will be governed by the JAMS, under the Optional Expedited Arbitration Procedures then in effect for JAMS, except as provided herein. JAMS may be contacted at www.jamsadr.com. The arbitrator has exclusive authority to resolve any dispute relating to the interpretation, applicability, or enforceability of this binding arbitration agreement.
  4. No Class Actions. YOU AND Learn Jazz Standards AGREE THAT EACH MAY BRING CLAIMS AGAINST THE OTHER ONLY IN AN INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY AND NOT AS A PLAINTIFF OR CLASS MEMBER IN ANY PURPORTED CLASS OR REPRESENTATIVE PROCEEDING. Further, unless both you and Learn Jazz Standards agree otherwise in a signed writing, the arbitrator may not consolidate more than one person’s claims, and may not otherwise preside over any form of a representative or class proceeding. You agree that, by agreeing to these Messaging Terms, you and Learn Jazz Standards are each waiving the right to a trial by jury or to participate in a class action, collective action, private attorney general action, or other representative proceeding of any kind.
  5. No Class Actions. YOU AND Learn Jazz Standards AGREE THAT EACH MAY BRING CLAIMS AGAINST THE OTHER ONLY IN AN INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY AND NOT AS A PLAINTIFF OR CLASS MEMBER IN ANY PURPORTED CLASS OR REPRESENTATIVE PROCEEDING. Further, unless both you and Learn Jazz Standards agree otherwise in a signed writing, the arbitrator may not consolidate more than one person’s claims, and may not otherwise preside over any form of a representative or class proceeding.
  6. Modifications to this Arbitration Provision. Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in these Messaging Terms, if Learn Jazz Standards makes any future change to this arbitration provision, you may reject the change by sending us written notice within 30 days of the change to Learn Jazz Standards’s contact information provided in the “Contact Us” section below, in which case this arbitration provision, as in effect immediately prior to the changes you rejected, will continue to govern any disputes between you and Learn Jazz Standards.
  7. Enforceability. If any provision of these Messaging Terms is found to be unenforceable, the applicable provision shall be deemed stricken and the remainder of these Messaging Terms shall remain in full force and effect.

Changes to the Messaging Terms

We reserve the right to change these Messaging Terms or cancel the messaging program at any time. By using and accepting messages from Learn Jazz Standards after we make changes to the Messaging Terms, you are accepting the Messaging Terms with those changes. Please check these Messaging Terms regularly.

Entire Agreement/Severability

These Messaging Terms, together with any amendments and any additional agreements you may enter into with us in connection herewith, will constitute the entire agreement between you and Learn Jazz Standards concerning the Messaging Program.

Contact

Please contact us with any inquiries or concerns at [email protected]

OUR PROVEN PROCESS FOR LEARNING JAZZ STANDARDS LIKE A PRO

Get our FREE eGuide “Learn Jazz Standards the Smart Way” and follow the 5 simple steps for crushing it with jazz standards.

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OUR PROVEN PROCESS FOR IMPROVISING JAZZ SOLOS LIKE A PRO

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OUR PROVEN PROCESS FOR LEARNING JAZZ THEORY LIKE A PRO

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DOWNLOAD THIS CHORD CHART

Get our FREE "10 Jazz Guitar Licks To Supercharge Your Jazz Guitar Solos" chord chart and our entire library of 200+ jazz standards!

Chord Chart

DOWNLOAD THIS CHORD CHART

Get our FREE "10 Jazz Guitar Licks To Supercharge Your Jazz Guitar Solos" chord chart and our entire library of 200+ jazz standards!

Chord Chart

DOWNLOAD THIS CHORD CHART

Get our FREE "10 Jazz Guitar Licks To Supercharge Your Jazz Guitar Solos" chord chart and our entire library of 200+ jazz standards!

Chord Chart