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Here's the lesson:

Introduction to soloing:

It’s not magic. A solo is just a musical story. You don’t necessarily need a lot of theory and training to write a good story. Even small kids with no training can sometimes create really compelling stories. Likewise, you don’t have to follow these suggestions to write a great solo. You’ll know you have a great story (and great solo) when you and others enjoy hearing it, regardless of whether or not you have the “right” elements. the same way that the most organic way to become a great author is to first consume all the great literature you can in that genre, the most organic way to create a great solo is to listen to, and learn to play all the greatest solos you can and just let those influences leak into your own playing. Yes, it does work that way. Yes, it does take forever. No, you don’t have to start out that way. And I don’t know if “most organic” means “best” here anyway. I’m just paying homage to the teachers out there who say the best way to solo is to listen and transcribe. They’re not necessarily wrong.

Here are some general guidelines for approaching your written solo:

  • Start with just a single note in the right hand before adding in any harmony notes or left hand
  • Record or write down each draft before you make changes so you don’t drown out your original ideas
  • Freely steal short licks and phrases from other songs and musicians
  • Sing everything you play—no exceptions—mistakes included
  • Play everything you sing—no exceptions—mistakes included

Preparation Suggestions:

  • Listen to at least 3 different recordings of the song
  • Memorize/play the song and words
  • Approximate / paraphrase the melody
  • Identify / play / arpeggiate the chords
  • Identify / play the key and scales
  • Noodle / play
  • Slow it down and noodle again, writing a solo by ear

Improvising on the Melody:

Improvising on the Chords:

Motivic Development:

General Soloing Guidelines:

Jazz Contextual Melodic Devices:



Jazz Non-Contextual Melodic Devices:


Harmonic Substitutions:

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