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Home LJS Podcast Play better jazz solos LJS 183: Analyzing a Good and Bad Jazz Solo (What Makes a...

LJS 183: Analyzing a Good and Bad Jazz Solo (What Makes a Good Solo)

Welcome to episode 183 of the LJS Podcast where today we listen to two solos I’ve recorded in the past. We’ll listen to one that I’m proud of and checks off the boxes of a good jazz solo, and we’ll also listen to one I’m not so proud of. I analyze what made the good one good, and the bad one bad.

Listen to episode 183

I talk a lot about in this podcast analyzing your own jazz playing, listening back to recordings of yourself and analyzing and digging in to what you can work on and what you can do better.

One thing to do is to listen to a jazz solo you play that you really are proud of, one that you really think defines what you are going after musically, and also listening to one that you feel a little bit disappointed with, maybe even slightly embarrassed to show to others.

And that’s exactly what I’m going to do in today’s episode. I’m going to show you a jazz solo that I’m proud of and a jazz solo I kind of don’t want anyone to listen to.

In this episode:

1. My 3 elements of what makes a good jazz solo

2. My “good” jazz solo with a vocal, bass, guitar trio

3. My “bad” jazz solo over my original composition

4. 3 things I could do to improve my solo and make it better

Thanks for listening to this episode of the Learn Jazz Standards Podcast. If you aren’t already, make sure you are subscribed on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

I look forward to having you join me in the next episode!

Important Links

LJS 178: Becoming Your Own Jazz Teacher by Recording Yourself (feat. Jens Larsen)

LJS 141: What I Think About When I Take a Jazz Solo

LJS 136: I Critique My Jazz Playing from 7 Years Ago

Brent Vaartstra
Brent Vaartstra is a professional jazz guitarist and educator living in New York City. He is the head blogger and podcast host for 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. I think sometimes we are our own worst critic. While the first solo was more "mature", the second solo was nice, too. And while there were some noticeable differences that you pointed out, it may not be fair to compare a solo early in your journey to one made after years of public playing, at least in terms of "good" and "bad"; "less experienced" and "more experienced" perhaps. Nothing to cringe over in either solo, but a good lesson in development as a musician.

  2. Thanks for this! I really enjoyed the comparison. I also really liked your composition – Capital Hill. Do you have the changes for that, by any chance? I thought it was a great sound.

  3. Sucking that bad would be a great improvement for me. Thanks for all the tips. Every time I hear you play, Brent, I think I should pick up golf, except my golf is even worse than my jazz.

    • Oh no! Didn't intend to make you feel that way, Rene. We are all on the same path headed the same direction, some on different parts of the path. Don't compare yourself to me or other musicians, just enjoy the ride!

  4. Brent, thank you so much for the opportunity to hear your musical kitchen! Of course, from the outside it does not sound as scary as you try to imagine; and sometimes even quite good! In any case, no one sits with the score and watches every note played.
    Just the idea itself is very exciting: how to play an interesting dynamic solo on non-standard harmony. I personally listened a lot to Wayne Shorter's music; and it definitely gives some prospects for improvisational thinking !

  5. Great program….appreciate hearing the comparison between a not-so-great and a great jazz solo, although I'm not sure I really got it. Would have helped if I'd heard those different solos in the same piece.


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