Home LJS Podcast Play better jazz solos LJS 146: 3 Strategies for Improvising Over a Jazz Blues

LJS 146: 3 Strategies for Improvising Over a Jazz Blues

Welcome to episode 146 of the LJS Podcast where today we are covering 3 awesome strategies for improvising over a jazz blues. The blues is an important song form in jazz that every aspiring jazz musician needs to be proficient at. These strategies will help set a strong foundation for improvising freely over the blues. Listen in!

Listen to episode 146

Regardless of whether you are a beginner jazz musician or an advanced jazz musician, the blues is a song form you need to have complete control of.

The jazz blues insinuates a variation on the standard 12-bar blues form that has been defined in music pedagogy. In jazz, we generally add more chord changes to the harmony.

While there are many variations and harmonizations of a jazz blues, the basic jazz blues uses I7-IV7-I7-IV7-#ivdim7-I7-VI7-ii-V7-I7.

In this episode, I cover 3 strategies for improvising over the blues. These strategies are more conceptual ideas. They shouldn’t be used by themselves, and you should also be learning licks and pieces of language by ear in addition.

Here is what I talk about in today’s episode:

1. The basic jazz blues form

2. Strategy #1: Chord tones

3. Strategy #2: Major and minor pentatonic scales

4. Strategy #3: Mixolydian and Dorian modes

My challenge for you is to take one of these 3 strategies and spend some time practicing them this week. Try to figure out how you can make them musical.

When you think about each strategy, you realize that each one offers their own ingredients to add to the improv cocktail. If you start combining these approaches, you’ll start to get some foundational elements of playing a great jazz blues solo.

Important Links

Blues In All 12 Keys Challenge (video mentioned)

LJS 121: Understanding Secondary and Backdoor Dominants

30 Steps to Better Jazz Playing (jazz practicing course)

Brent Vaartstrahttp://www.brentvaartstra.com
Brent Vaartstra is a professional jazz guitarist and educator living in New York City. He is the head blogger and podcast host for learnjazzstandards.com which he owns and operates. He actively performs around the New York metropolitan area and is the author of the Hal Leonard publication "Visual Improvisation for Jazz Guitar." He's also the host of the music entrepreneurship podcast "Passive Income Musician."


  1. Great Podcast…today Brent. Yes more on the Blues, which may be the most misunderstood term in the jazz world, i.e., lots of musician friends think of B.B. King types when I talk about the Blues.

  2. Hi Brent

    What a great podcast! I love the practical ideas that I can go out and work on immediately. I have a question about the pentatonic scales: which pentatonic scale (major or minor) do you think works best over the VI, ii and V chords? To my ear, the major pentatonic sounds best. What do you think?

    Thanks, John


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Follow Us

Free Stuff

I want to...