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How to Play in the Style of Wes Montgomery


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Contents
Chapter 1 – Introduction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4

How to Use This Book?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4

Biography. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

Wes Montgomery’s Guitars and Amps. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13

Chapter 2 – Single Note Soloing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17

Blues Scales. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19

Bebop scales. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31

Wes Montgomery’s Use of Guide Tones. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47

3 to 9 Arpeggios. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56

Upper Structure Triads. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61

The Minorization of Dominant Chords . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67

Chapter 3 – Octave Soloing. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75

Pentatonic and Blues Octave Ideas. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77

Arpeggio Octave Ideas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83

Scale Octave Ideas. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 89

Rhythmic Variations. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 96

Pedal Tone Techniques . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102

Wes Octave Sample Solo. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .108

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Chapter 4 – Chord Soloing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 113

Common Chord Shapes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 115

Chord Scales. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 127

Diminished Passing Chords. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 133

Bluesy Chord Lines. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 140

Major and Minor ii V I Lines . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 144

Wes Chord Soloing Sample Chorus. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 148

Chapter 5 – Wes Tunes and Progressions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 157

The Three Tier Soloing Approach. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 159

Common Wes Progressions. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 168

Four on Six Chord Changes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 172

Wes Coast Blues Chord Changes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 177

Twisted Blues Chord Changes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 183

Call and Response Ideas. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 191

About the Author. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 195

How to Play in the Style of Wes Montgomery


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How to Use This Book?


Weclome to Jazz Guitar in the Style of Wes
Montgomery, we’re glad to have you here!

Inside you will find all of the material you need to dig
deep into the single note, octave, and chord soloing
concepts that made Wes Montgomery’s recordings
some of the most listened to in jazz history.

You will explore some of Wes’ favorite chord


progressions, and take a look into some of his most
famous compositions, as you get into Wes’ thought
process when it comes to creating memorable chord
changes.

Even after flipping through just a few pages in this book,


you will notice the vast amount of material included in
this volume. While this wealth of information is exactly
why you bought the book, it might also seem a bit
overwhelming at first glance.

To help you work through these concepts in a manner


that gets each example into your ears and under your
fingers, here are some practice tips to keep in mind when working through the ebook.

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Practice Tips

• Go slow and use a metronome when learning new examples.


• If an example is too difficult at first, break it down into smaller chunks and work it up
from there.
• Use the audio files to get examples into your ears before getting them under your fingers.
• After you learn an example on its own, try applying it to a tune you are working on.
• You don’t have to work the book in order, but each chapter is written from easy to more
complex concepts.
• Feel free to work on one or a few concepts from each chapter at the same time, allowing
you to spend time on single notes, octaves, and chords in your studies.
• Listen to Wes! This may be a simple suggestion, but listening to Wes Montgomery’s
recordings before you practice this material will help get his feel, articulation and groove
into your playing as you work through the book.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that the material in this book can, and probably
will, keep you busy in the practice room for years. So don’t feel like you have to tackle it all
at once. Pick a few items you want to study, work them thoroughly in the woodshed, and
then move on to the next item.

If you have any questions about the material in this book, feel free to post it on our Facebook
Page or Twitter and we’ll be happy to help you out.

A note about the audio examples in this ebook: if you are


connected to the internet while working in your ebook, all
you have to do is click the link of each audio example to
play it. If you are not connected, you’ll have to download
the audio files first here (if you haven’t done so already).

Matt Warnock & Dirk Laukens

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Biography

Most of us will never sound exactly like Wes Montgomery,


and most of us wouldn’t want to, but you can digest and use
Wes’ soloing and comping concepts in order to improve your
understanding of the guitar and your ability as a jazz guitarist.

When most people hear the words “jazz guitar,” an image of the legendary Wes Montgomery
will often pop into their heads. Though there were many great players before Wes, and
many since, “The Thumb”, as he became known, has managed to remain the quintessential
jazz guitarist in the public psyche.

Wes never learned to read music, instead learning tunes and improvising completely by
ear, but he possessed a level of musicianship that most conservatory-educated musicians
would envy.

Charlie Christian’s Influence

Wes Montgomery’s early training came by way of learning to play Charlie Christian solos
that he would transcribe from Christian’s recordings. Wes was so infatuated with Christian’s
playing that before he could improvise on his own, Wes would perform Christian’s solos
note for note on stage in place of his own improvisations.

Though early on in his career Wes was shy about improvising, Wes’ recordings are now
considered essential listening for any up and coming jazz guitarist, and many of the world’s
best players, including Pat Martino, George Benson and Pat Metheny, have cited him as
their foremost influence.

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The Thumb

One of the things that made Wes stand out against his peers, was the use of his right hand
thumb instead of a pick. His thumb was double jointed and could bend all the way back
to his wrist. He used the fleshy part of his thumb, not his nail, and played only down strokes
for single note lines and up- and down strokes for chords. Wes once tried using a pick for
some weeks, but it never produced the sound he liked, although it enabled him to play
faster than he could manage with his thumb.

Wes began playing with a pick but after he was married and began having children (he
was to have eight in total), he found it harder and harder to find time to practice. Since he
was working at a factory during the day and playing in jazz clubs at night, the only time to
practice was when his family was sleeping.

Wes found that when he practiced with a pick, it was too loud and would wake up his
wife and kids, so he tried using his thumb in hopes that it would allow him to practice at
a softer volume. After practicing with his thumb for some time, he found that he liked
the soft, warm tone it produced and decided to perform this way permanently. While this
technique had been employed by blues and country players for years, it was new to the
world of jazz guitar when Wes started using it on his early recordings.

Octave Soloing

Wes was not only credited with revolutionizing the way jazz guitarists view their right hands,
but his use of octaves also changed the way players looked at their left hands as well.

Early on in his career, Wes performed regularly at several jazz clubs in Indianapolis in groups
that would have a pianist alongside the guitar. One of the techniques that Wes picked up
from the pianists he gigged with was their use of octave doubling, which was used to beef
up their single note lines.

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As was the case with his thumb, Wes was not the first guitarist to use octaves in his solos –
Johnny Smith and others had experimented with octaves early on as well – but the level at
which Wes was able to use octaves in his improvisations was unsurpassed.

“The most modern and hippest guitarist of our time was Wes Montgomery,
because of his marvellous use of substitute and relative notes for the
harmonic ones. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t influenced by Wes Montgomery’s
sound when I play octaves.” - George Benson

Three-Tiered Solos

While Wes was known to use octaves to play an entire solo (or even a whole tune), he most
often used them as the second tier in his three-tiered approach to soloing.

Wes Montgomery’s multi-tiered approach consisted of:

1. Several choruses of single note soloing,


2. followed by octaves,
3. and then finishing off with a section of chord soloing.

This approach allowed Wes to build intensity simply by increasing the amount of notes
he was improvising with, starting with one note and ending with four or five note chords.

Electric Bass Guitar Pioneer

One of the little known facts about Wes’ innovations was his role in the development of
the electric bass guitar. Wes’ brother Monk Montgomery was the first bassist to tour with
an electric bass while playing in Lionel Hampton’s band following World War II, a band that
Wes toured with as well.

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Though Wes did not play the upright bass, he was drawn to the sound of the bass guitar
and began experimenting with it as a lead instrument. One of the best examples of Wes’ use
of the bass guitar can found on his 1960 album Movin’ Along.

On this recording Wes treated the electric bass as a lead instrument, similar to how he played
guitar on his trio recordings, by playing melodies and single note solos on the instrument.
Though Wes rarely experimented with the electric bass after this recording, his use of the
bass guitar as the featured instrument in a jazz ensemble was to prove inspirational to
the next generation of bass players.

Later Years – The Smooth Sound

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While Wes’ later albums tended to be filled with more pop music than jazz, especially the
albums that featured classical string sections and songs taken from the pop charts of the
day, Wes will always be remembered for his contributions to the world of hard bop jazz
guitar.

Though some critics have chided Wes for the direction he took in his later recordings, these
records were quintessential in helping jazz guitar reach a wider, more mainstream audience.

While some of his die-hard fans may have shied away from his later albums, many new
listeners were exposed to his early works by way of Wes Montgomery’s more commercial
albums. As a result many non-jazz listeners became indoctrinated into the world of jazz
guitar through Wes’ late period recordings.

Essential Listening

To help introduce you to Wes’ recorded output, here are 4 must-own records from his
illustrious career. Feel free to start with these albums as they are often considered some of
greatest work, then branch out to his other albums from here:

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Boss Guitar (Riverside 1963)

Full House (Riverside 1962)

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Incredible Jazz Guitar (Riverside 1960)

Movin’ Along (Riverside 1960)

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Wes Montgomery’s Guitars and Amps

In comparison to many other guitarists, Wes was not interested at all in guitar equipment,
he saw his guitar as a tool to do the job, and man, was he good at doing his job! Keep in
mind that Wes Montgomery played with his thumb rather than with a guitar pick, which is
a major characteristic of his sound.

“I got a standard box. I don’t never want nothing special. Then if I drop my box,
I can borrow somebody else’s.” - Wes Montgomery

Guitars

Gibson L-5 CES

From 1963 onward, Wes Montgomery played almost exclusively


on a Gibson L-5 CES (cutaway electric Spanish) . Gibson produced
this guitar since 1922 and is still in production today. It was the
favorite rhythm guitar in big bands. The L5 was the first Gibson
guitar with f-holes.

Gibson made 3 custom guitars for Wes Montgomery, but they


only had 2 differences compared to standard L-5’s: 1 pickup
instead of 2, which was placed upside down.

Other Guitars

• Wes Montgomery played a Gibson L-7 on the recordings of


The Wes Montgomery Trio (1959). The L-7 was loaned to him
by Kenny Burrell, together with a Fender Deluxe amp.

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• Gibson L-4 with a Charlie Christian bar pickup.


• Gibson ES-175: pictured on the cover of The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery
(1960).
• Gibson ES-125D

Strings

Wes Montgomery used heavy gauge flat wound guitar strings to get that fat, characteristic
tone that he was known for the world over. Wes preferred to use Gibson HiFi Flatwound
strings on his guitars going from .058 to .014.

Amps

Wes Montgomery never really found the amp that sounded the way he wanted it to,
though he did spend his career trying many different models in search for the perfect tone
and performance, including the ones listed below:

Fender Super Reverb


Wes Montgomery used a Fender Super Reverb in his
early years. This tube amp has 4 x 10-inch speakers.

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1965 Standel Super Custom XV

In his later years Wes Montgomery played this Standel


amp.
The Super Custom XV has 2 channels, a normal one and
a reverb/vibrato one. The amplifier has 70 watts RMS
and a JBL speaker.

Fender Twin Reverb

Wes Montgomery switched between the Standel and a


Fender Twin Reverb in his later years.

Other Amps

• Fender Deluxe Amp: Wes’ Verve recordings were done in the studio of Rudy Van
Gelder, where a Fender Deluxe Amp was available.
• Gibson L-4 with a Charlie Christian bar pickup.

Technical Misconceptions

There are some misconceptions about Wes Montgomery’s playing and gear:

• It is commonly thought that Wes played with his tone knob rolled off. This is not true,
he was always trying to get more treble from his pick-up to compensate for the
mellowness of using his thumb.

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• Some sources say that his guitar amps were modified so they had a better response
time. This is also not true.
• It is said that Wes never played unplugged. This is also not the case, he practiced
unplugged a lot.

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Chapter 2 – Single Note Soloing

Wes was a master of many aspects of the guitar, including playing bluesy and blistering
single-note solos, which stand out as some of the best in recorded jazz history. In this
chapter, you will explore various aspects of Wes’ single-line playing in order to understand
the theory behind these melodic concepts, as well as run through exercises and sample
licks in order to take these ideas from the page and onto the fretboard.

The material in this chapter is presented in a way that places the easiest to get down ideas
first, and then progresses to the harder material as you move through subsequent sections
of the chapter.

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If you are an experienced player, feel free to skim through to find the material that is right
for you at this moment in your development. But, if you are new to Wes’ playing style, it
would be a good idea to start at the beginning and work your way through each section
in the order presented.

“I never practice my guitar — from time to time I just open the case and throw
in a piece of raw meat” - Wes Montgomery

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Blues Scales

One of the things that made Wes’ soloing so great was his ability to mix the blues sound
into his lines over both blues tunes and jazz standard progressions. Because this was a big
part of Wes’ vocabulary, studying the major and minor blues scales is an important part of
studying Wes’ single-note soloing ideas.

Minor Blues Scale Review

If you are new to blues scales in a jazz setting, or just need a quick refresher, here is a short
review to get you going with the minor blues scales on the guitar.

The minor blues scale is built with the following interval pattern, and is used to solo over
just about any chord in the jazz vocabulary, as it is one of the most flexible scales you can
use in your playing.

You can use this scale in 2 ways :

• When soloing over a key center, such as applying a minor blues scale to an A blues
progression, you play the scale from the tonic throughout all the chords. So, you play
the F minor blues scale over a blues in F.
• If you want to use this scale over an individual chord (maj7, m7 and dominant 7 chords),
you play the scale from the root of that particular chord, such as playing the A minor
blues scale over an Amaj7 chord to bring a bluesy sound to that chord.

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There are 5 common fingerings for the minor blues scale on the guitar, often referred to
as “box patterns”. Check these fingerings out in your practice routine. Learn them in a few
keys, improvise with them over a backing track, learn some common licks that fit in each
shape etc.
Over time you might find that you gravitate to only a few of these 5 patterns. But, learning
all of them in the beginning will not only expose your ears and fingers to these common
shapes, but they will help open up your neck at the same time.

= Root Note of the scale (1)

= Blue Note (one of the blue notes, the b5)

Here are the 5 Minor Blues Fingerings in the key of A:

Audio Example 1
Click here to play audio example 1

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Minor Blues Scale Lines

To help you get started in taking the minor blues scale into an improvisational setting, here
are 3 example licks using this scale in different circumstances that you can learn, practice
in various keys and then use in your own improvised solos.

The first Wes minor blues line sees an A minor blues scale being used over an A7 chord,
with a lot of slides thrown in to get that slippery sound that Wes loved to use in his single-
note soloing ideas.

The content of the lick is straight forward, using only the notes of the A minor blues scale,
but one thing to notice is the target notes at the top of each section of the phrase.These
notes are:

• G in bar one
• A in bar two
• G in bar 3

Using target notes such as these in your playing will help keep a linear focus when soloing,
as well as give your lines direction in the same way that Wes had in all of his improvised
solos.

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Audio Example 2

Click here to play audio example 2

The next lick focuses on the A minor pentatonic notes over A7, as there is no blue note
(the b5 of the scale), throughout this phrase.

Here, the key point to look at is the use of various rhythms, which Wes loved to use in his
solos. Rather than running long lines of 8th notes as some of his contemporaries preferred,
Wes often mixed various rhythmic durations in his lines, such as the triplets, quarter notes
and 16th-notes used in this phrase.

Once you have this lick under your fingers, try soloing over an A7 chord and using as many
different rhythmic variations as you can in order to take this idea further in your own
study.

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Audio Example 3
Click here to play audio example 3

The final lick in this section features a series of leaps in the second measure that are a
characteristic of Wes’ single-note soloing ideas, which you can see in the last 3 notes of the
second bar (E-A-Eb).
Though it is cool to play scale notes in order, changing direction and adding slides and
slurs to make them musical in our solos, one thing that we can use to add more interest to
our lines is the use of leaps and skips when soloing.

This was one of the things that stands out in Wes’ playing, leaps in his lines, and it’s something
that you can experiment with in your practicing in order to expand beyond playing scales
in order when soloing over chords and chord progressions.

Audio Example 4
Click here to play audio example 4

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Once you have all three licks down, try adding them to your improvised solos, as well as
writing out or coming up with three or more licks of your own that are in a similar Wes
minor blues scale style.

Major Blues Scale Review

The other blues scale that Wes and many other jazz guitarists use in their playing is the
major blues scale. This scale is built with the following interval pattern:

Since this scale contains a major third interval, it is mostly used to outline:

• Maj7 chords
• Dominant 7th chords

This means that if you want to apply a major blues scale to an F blues progression, you
need to play:

• F major blues scale over F7


• Bb major blues scale over Bb7
• C major blues scame over C7

Each new chord gets a new blues scale to match up with that chord. For this reason, the
major blues scale is a bit tougher to bring into your playing, as you have to switch keys with
each chord as compared to the minor blues scale, which can be used over all chords of a
blues progression.

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Here are 5 fingerings for the A major blues scale:

Audio Example 5
Click here to play audio example 5

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Did you notice that these major blues scale shapes resemble the shapes of the minor
blues scale?

shapes of A major blues scale = shapes of F# minor blues scale

Since both the minor and the major blues scale have their own unique sound and fingerings
on the guitar, put on an A7 backing track and try to switch between the A minor and A
major blues scale in order to hear how each scale sounds over the same chord. This will
allow you to move between each scale in your solos with confidence moving forward.

Major Blues Scale Lines

We’ll now take a look at three licks in the style of Wes’ single-note playing, only here you’ll
be using the major blues scale to construct each of these phrases.

The first lick uses an A major blues scale to solo over the middle four bars of an A blues
progression. This is one of the rare cases where a tonic major blues scale will work over
more than one non-diatonic chord, as D7 and A7 have different key signatures. The only
reason this works is that Wes avoids the C# from the scale over the D7, which would have
caused a clash against the C in that chord.

As well, notice how both phrases, over each chord, are very similar and there are only two
notes different between them. This use of motivic development, playing one idea over
two chords with a slight alteration to fit each chord is a great way to stretch out your lines,
as well as keep the audience along for the ride at the same time.

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Audio Example 6
Click here to play audio example 6

As well as using single notes with his blues scale ideas, Wes also liked to thicken things up by
throwing in double-stops (playing 2 notes at once) from time to time in his improvisations.
Here is an example of such a line, where the D and G major blues scales are used to create
a line over bars 1-4 of a D blues, with the tonic note on top of the whole phrase to give it a
cool-sounding organ vibe throughout.

Keeping the tonic on top of your lines, with a moving single-note phrase underneath, is a
great way to thicken your lines and bring a secondary texture to your improvised in a Wes
style at the same time.

Audio Example 7

Click here to play audio example 7

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The final lick in this section is based over a V-IV-I turnaround over the last four bars of
a D blues progression. Again, you can see Wes playing a similar phrase over each chord,
slightly altering it to develop the idea throughout the line as a whole, as well as using mixed
rhythms to create interest in the phrase.

There are also a number of leaps within the phrases, which we saw earlier as being
characteristic of Wes’ single-note style:

• A-D-F# in bar 2
• A-D-F in bar 3
• D-A-B in bar 3

Audio Example 8

Click here to play audio example 8

When you can play these three major blues licks from memory, and are comfortable applying
them to your jazz guitar soloing ideas, try writing out or creating three blues licks of your
own in a similar Wes vibe. This will allow you to get used to creating phrases such as these
on the spot, which you can then apply in the moment when jamming or gigging in a jazz
situation.

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Bebop scales

One of the other scale concepts that can be found in Wes’ single-note playing are bebop
scales. These 8-note scales are often used over three different types of chords, 7th, m7 and
maj7 shapes. While all three are possible, Wes tended to focus more attention on the first
two, dominant bebop scale and minor bebop scales, and so these are the two that we’ll
explore in this Chapter.

What Is The Dominant Bebop Scale

To begin, let’s take a look at what exactly the dominant bebop scale is and where you
can use it in your jazz guitar solos. Taking a mixolydian scale, and adding in the major 7th
interval to its construction, will form an 8-note scale called the dominant bebop scale.

Note that a bebop scale is usually played descending.

Dominant bebop scale = Mixolydian scale + 7

Here is the interval structure:

Since this scale comes from the mixolydian sound, it is used to solo over dominant 7th
chords, such as playing G dominant bebop over G7 in the example below. Bar 1 is the
mixolydian scale, bar 2 the dominant bebop scale.

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Audio Example 9

Click here to play audio example 9

The Dominant bebop scale is fairly straight forward from a theoretical standpoint, but it is
the application of this scale to your solos that takes time to work out in the woodshed. So,
let’s get started by looking at some common exercises that you can do in order to integrate
this scale into your jazz guitar lines and phrases.

Dominant Bebop Scale Exercises

One of the most common ways to learn and practice bebop scales is to work them in
combination to the underlying arpeggio for the chord you are soloing over. In the following
four exercises, you will see examples of how to combine 7th arpeggios and the dominant
bebop scale in various forms over a G7 chord.

Once you have learned these one-octave shapes in the key of G, try using them to solo over
a one-chord vamp before taking them to other keys, as well as applying them to other
positions, and to other one and two-octave shapes across the fretbaord.

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Here is the G7 arpeggio shape used in examples 10 and 11:

The first exercise will feature the arpeggio ascending followed by the scale descending.

Audio Example 10

Click here to play audio example 10

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The second version of this exercise uses the scale descending followed by the arpeggio
ascending.

Audio Example 11

Click here to play audio example 11

This is the G7 arpeggio shape used in examples 12 and 13:

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The two-octave version of the arpeggio ascending and scale descending exercise:

Audio Example 12
Click here to play audio example 12

Finally, here is the two-octave version of the scale descending followed by the arpeggio
ascending over a G7 chord.

Audio Example 13
Click here to play audio example 13

Combining arpeggios and dominant bebop scales in your soloing ideas is an essential skill
that will not only help you learn these shapes on the fretboard, but will get a Bebop and
Wes vibe into your lines at the same time.

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Dominant Bebop Scale Lines

Here are three Wes-style licks that use the dominant bebop scale in various forms over
Dominant 7th Chords. Try learning each of these lines in their original keys, as well as moving
them around the fretboard to other keys. As well, try playing bits and pieces of these licks
in your solos in order to expand upon them, bring the building blocks of each line to your
solos, but begin to make them your own at the same time.

The first lick is played over the first four bars of a G blues progression, and uses the G
dominant bebop scale throughout. Notice the bebop lick at the start of the third bar (C-A-
A#-B) which you can hear often in Wes’ playing.

There is also an enclosure in the second half of the third bar (Ab-F#-G) which is another
favorite technique of Wes, in this case enclosing the root of the G7 chord before moving
down the bebop scale from the root to the 7th and finally the b7 (F) at the start of the fourth
bar.

Audio Example 14

Click here to play audio example 14

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The second lick starts with the same enclosure that was featured in the previous line, and
then find the major 7th interval being used in a bit of a non-conventional way in the
first half of the second bar, before finishing with diatonic notes over the rest of the line.

When soloing with the dominant bebop scale, we tend to treat the major 7 note as a passing
tone, running up or down that note between the b7 and root of the underlying chord. But,
you can also use it in an enclosure type style, as you can see in this line.

To use the major 7 interval as an enclosure, you simply play the 6th followed by the major
7th and then resolve down to the b7th of that chord. It’s not a huge change, but it’s one
that will allow you to have a bit of variety with this chromatic note, and it’s something that
Wes did in his playing as well.

Audio Example 15

Click here to play audio example 15

This last example features a triplet rhythm to outline the b7-7-R chromatic notes of the
D dominant bebop scale. This pattern leads up to an enclosure on the root of the chord,
which is also a common conclusion when playing the ascending triplet lick in the start of
the second bar.

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Audio Example 16

Click here to play audio example 16

Now that you have worked through the theory, exercises and example lines for the dominant
bebop scale, let’s take a look at the minor version of this scale...

The Minor Bebop Scale

To build a minor bebop scale, you use the same process as the dominant version, only with
the dorian scale as your underlying diatonic scale. Here, you add a major 7th interval to a
dorian mode.

Minor bebop scale = Dorian scale + 7

Here is the interval structure:

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Here is how that scale looks when compared to the D dorian scale, which you can see
below. This makes learning this scale fairly straight forward if you already know your Dorian
modes, as you simply add one note to each fingering (the major 7th).

Audio Example 17

Click here to play audio example 17

As is the case with many melodic concepts in jazz, there are several versions of the minor
bebop scale. We’ve chosen this version of the scale to focus on as it crops up in the playing
of Wes and his contemporaries and provides a nice contrast to the dominant bebop scale
you learned earlier, especially when soloing over ii V chords.

One of the other popular versions of this scale features an added major 3rd interval to
the dorian mode. When doing so though, you are simply playing the same notes for a Dm7
scale as you are for a G7 scale.

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Audio Example 18

Click here to play audio example 18

In order to avoid this type of melodic repetition, and provide yourself with a secondary
choice when soloing over ii V progressions, we’ll be using the dorian with a major 7th
interval version throughout this chapter.

Minor Bebop Scale Exercises

As was the case with the dominant scale, you can also pair up the minor bebop scale with
its related arpeggio and work these two concepts together across the fretboard in order
to integrate the scale and arpeggio shapes for m7 chords into your woodshedding. Here are
four different exercises that you can do in order to take this concept further in your studies.

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This is the Dm7 arpeggio shape used in exercises 19 and 20:

Example 19 uses the one-octave arpeggio ascending followed by the minor bebop scale
descending.

Audio Example 19

Click here to play audio example 19

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Exercise 20 features the scale descending followed by the arpeggio ascending.

Audio Example 20

Click here to play audio example 20

This is the Dm7 arpeggio shape used in exercises 21 and 22:

For the third exercise, you will work the two-octave scale descending followed by the
two-octave arpeggio ascending.

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Audio Example 21
Click here to play audio example 21

Finally, you’ll explore the two-octave arpeggio ascending and the two-octave scale
descending.

Audio Example 22
Click here to play audio example 22

Start by working these four exercises over a Dm7 chord at various tempos. Then, take them
to other one and two-octave shapes that you know for m7 arpeggios and minor bebop
scales, as well as moving them around to other keys on the fretboard.

Lastly, make sure to work on soloing with these concepts in order to ensure that you are
not only studying how to play them on the fretboard, but are able to apply minor bebop
scales to your soloing as well.

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Minor Bebop Scale Lines

Here are three Wes-inspired licks that you can check out in the woodshed in order to take
this scale from a technical to an improvisational setting in your studies.

The first line that you’ll learn begins with an enclosure of the root of the Dm7 chord,
though this time the enclosure is built with a half-step below the root, followed by a half-
step above the root, then the root itself.

The second bar features a rhythm and lick that Wes and other post-bop guitarists used
often in their playing. Here, you play the root as a quarter note, then the 7 and b7 as 8th
notes, before playing an arpeggio from the 2nd of the chord up to the 6th, completing the
root-7-b7-6 chromatic movement of that scale.

Audio Example 23

Click here to play audio example 23

The second minor bebop lick starts by running up and down the b7-7-root of the Dm7
chord, before outlining a G7b9 chord in bar 2 of the phrase with a Bdim7 arpeggio.

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The Bdim 7 arpeggio played over G7 results in what we call a 3 to 9 arpeggio. It starts on the
3rd of the G7, then runs up the 5th and 7th before stopping on the 9th of that underlying
chord (in this case a b9th). Wes often used 3-9 arpeggios to bring out the 7b9 sound.

Audio Example 24

Click here to play audio example 24

The final lick in this section looks at an arpeggio to outline both the ii and V chords in this
phrase, including a 3 to 9 arpeggio over A7b9. Then, there is an arpeggio-based line in
bar 2 of the measure, where the major 7 interval is used to connect the root and b7th of the
Dm7 chord.

Sometimes using notes from bebop scales to connect arpeggios is a great way to break
out of the scale-like sound of these ideas, mixing leaps and steps in your solos at the same
time.

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Audio Example 25
Click here to play audio example 25

After you are able to play these licks as written, start to alter the rhythms, add in notes, and
take notes away as you begin to move away from reciting these licks and begin to make
them your own personal musical statements.

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Wes Montgomery’s Use of Guide Tones

Wes was also a big fan of using guide tones in his lines and solos. Whether he was thinking
about targeting these notes in his lines, or just using his ear to guide him, we’ll never fully
know. But, what is certain is that working on guide tones in your jazz guitar practice will
allow you to get a Wes vibe in your lines, as well as help you comfortably outline chord
progressions at the same time.

In this chapter we’ll look at some background on guide tones, dig into some Wes guide
tone licks, and explore exercises that you can then use to take these ideas further.

What Are Guide Tones?

Guide tones: a collection of notes that allows you to move from one chord
to the next in a smooth manner and with as little distance as possible.

Most commonly, we use the term guide tone to talk about the movement of a b7 of one
chord to the 3rd of the next chord (especially in a ii V I chord progression). Check out this
example of the guide tones for a ii V I chord progression in the key of C. Notice how each
b7 moves by half step to the 3rd of the next chord, allowing for smooth movement (voice
leading) from one chord to the next.

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Try playing these notes on the guitar and see if you can hear the chord changes moving by,
even without a backing track to outline the harmony for you. This is one of the reasons that
guide tones are commonly used, they can produce the sound of a chord progression
with just their movement, you don’t need to hear the full chords to know what’s going on
in the progression.

While 7ths and 3rds are probably the most commonly used guide tones in jazz, there are
others that you can explore in your playing, such as the b5-Root and b13-9 guide tones
over the minor ii V I progression in the below example:

After you have checked out these guide tones on paper, try putting on a ii V I backing track
and see if you can just play the b7-3rd of each chord in a major key, or the b5-R/b13-9 in a
minor key progression to get an idea of how these notes sound in a musical situation.

Short Guide Tone Lines

Once you know what guide tones are, and can play them on their own over chord
progressions, you’ll need to add in other notes around them in order to turn these single-
notes into longer jazz guitar lines.

To help you get started with this idea, here are three short ii-V-I lines that use guide

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tones to move from one chord to the next. These are very commonly used lines in Wes’
playing and in the work of other jazz guitarists, so take the time to learn each lick in 12 keys
if possible, and to take them to tunes you know.

The first lick features an ascending Dm7 arpeggio that then moves from b7 to 3 (C-B) when
you arrive at G7. From here, you descend the G7 scale and again move from the b7 of G7 to
the 3rd of Cmaj7 to end the line.

A lot of guide tone lines, such as this one, sound rigid and sometimes boring when you play
them in a straight 8th-note rhythm. For this reason, try expanding upon and altering the
rhythm by adding triplets, rests, quarter notes etc. in order to make the line sound a bit
more interesting and original when you use it in your own playing.

Audio Example 26

Click here to play audio example 26

This next lick (in a minor key) uses the b5-Root movement between Dm7b5 and G7alt, as
well as the b13 to 9th movement between G7alt and Cm7. To break things up a bit, the
arpeggio runs from 1-3-7-5 (on Dm7b5) and 1-3-7-6 (on G7alt).

This is another way to spice up guide tone lines, apart from altering the rhythm, you can
play the arpeggios out of order to create interest and be a bit more original in your lines

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as opposed to just running up or down an arpeggio with guide tones as connections.

Audio Example 27

Click here to play audio example 27

The next line we’ll look at mixes both the b7-3 movement with a new option for chord
connection, the b9-5 movement between the V7 and I chord in this progression.

As was mentioned earlier, there are a number of different guide tones that you can explore,
and so once you have the basic ones in this chapter under your fingers and in your playing,
try and come up with half-step movements that you like to use and add them to your
playing as well.

Audio Example 28

Click here to play audio example 28

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After getting these short guide tone lines into your playing, you’re ready to move on to
longer, 3 and 4-bar ii V I’s in major and minor keys that use guide tones to connect each
chord in the progression.

Major Key Guide Tone Lines

The first long major ii V I lick that we’ll look at uses the b7-3 movement between each
chord, but here there is a triplet rhythm on beat four of each bar to break up the steady 8th-
notes we saw earlier as you navigate each chord change.

Adding triplets to your improvised lines is a great way to break up 8th notes, as well as get
a Wes vibe into your lines as he was a fan of triplets mixed with 8th notes. Try to experiment
by soloing over a backing track and seeing if you can use at least one triplet in each measure
of your solo, mixed in with 8ths and quarter notes.

One thing to be aware of is using too many triplets. Sometimes, if you play too many
triplets in a row, you can risk sounding too “bluesy” for a jazz setting. So, always try and mix
rhythms in your playing so that you don’t become predictable, playing too many 8th notes
will do this, or out of context, running triplets can have this effect.

Audio Example 29

Click here to play audio example 29

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The next major ii V I guide tone line uses enclosures around the root of the iim7 and V7
chords to bring a sense of chromaticism to these lines, as well as the b7-3 movement
between chords.

Another Wes favorite is the use of 3-9 arpeggios over Am7, D7 and Gmaj7. Here, you are
playing:

• Cmaj7 over Am7: the b3-5-b7-9 of Am7


• F#m7b5 over D7: the 3-5-b7-9 of D7
• Bm7 over Gmaj7: the 3-5-7-9 of Gmaj7

Audio Example 30

Click here to play audio example 30

The last lick in this section looks at using octave displacement when working b7-3 guide
tones into an improvised jazz guitar line. This means that when you arrive at a certain note
(such as the C in bar 1 or the B in bar 2) instead of continuing your descent of the scale,
you jump up one octave and continue from there, which you can see with the movement
between C-B in the first bar and B-A in the second bar.

Wes was a huge fan of octave displacement, and so it’s a must study for those looking to
dig deeper into Wes’ single-note soloing techniques.

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Audio Example 31

Click here to play audio example 31

Minor Key Guide Tone Lines

We’ll finish this section by looking at three long minor ii-V-I lines that use guide tones as
their fundamental navigational tool.

The first line uses the same guide tones that we discussed earlier, b5-R over ii and V then
b13-9 over V to I. To keep things interesting, there is an enclosure at the start of the line,
arpeggios played out of order, and big skips such as the C to B in bar 2, all of which are
staples of Wes’ single-note soloing phrases.

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Audio Example 32

Click here to play audio example 32

The second minor guide tone lick focuses on arpeggio notes in bars 2 and 3, after an initial
scale line in bar one which is a favorite pattern of Wes and his peers. Sometimes you don’t
have to be fancy when adding notes to guide tones, and so the arpeggio is a great place to
start as it directly outlines the chords, while keeping things simple at the same time.

Audio Example 33

Click here to play audio example 33

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Finally, this line uses triplets to break up the rhythm in order to prevent all your ideas
from containing straight 8th notes. Though it is not overly complicated from a note choice
perspective, the rhythms might make this line a bit tricky to get down comfortably, so take
your time and work this phrase with a metronome before taking it to a backing track and
improvised situation after that.

Audio Example 34

Click here to play audio example 34

As is the case with any licks that you learn, try and play these as written first, before altering
them by adding notes, taking notes away and changing the rhythms in order to get the
vibe of the lick into your playing, but avoid just running memorized lines in your jazz
guitar solos.

You can also try writing out similar licks of your own that use the underlying guide tones
and soloing concepts found in these phrases, but that use your own notes and rhythms in
order to expand upon these ideas further in a practice and performance situation.

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3 to 9 Arpeggios

When looking into Wes’ soloing style, arpeggios become a big part of the equation. While
learning how to outline 1-3-5-7 arpeggios is important when analyzing Wes’ playing style,
there is a group of arpeggios that is even more important to check out, 3 to 9 arpeggios.

3 to 9 Arpeggios are those shapes that start on the 3rd of any chord, and then
outline the 5th, 7th and 9th. When doing so, you are mostly superimposing
commonly used shapes such as maj7, m7, dim7 and m7b5, over the chords
in a tune to produce these new sounds.

You can see an example of this in the tab below. Here, you have a G9 arpeggio in the first
bar, which is then split into 1-3-5-7 and 3-5-7-9 arpeggios in the second and third bars of
the example. When doing so, you are playing a Bm7b5 arpeggio when outlining the 3 to 9
sound over this G7 chord.

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What Are 3 to b9 Arpeggios

Let’s take a look at the 3 to 9 arpeggios for each chord in a ii V I VI progression, in this
case in the key of C major.

Audio Example 35

Click here to play audio example 35

Here you can see the substitution chords being used to outline each chord in this
progression:

In other words: instead of playing a Dm7 arpeggio over Dm7, we play a


Fmaj7 over Dm7 to get a richer (9) sound. The same goes for the other
chords in the ii V I progression.

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Now that we’ve looked at 3 to 9 arpeggios on paper, let’s take these 3 to 9 arpeggios to the
fretboard as you dig in to apply this concept to your solos...

3 to b9 Arpeggio Exercise

Here is an exercise that features an all 8th-note pattern that runs up the 3 to 9 arpeggio for
each chord in a ii V I during the first half of each bar. In the second half of each bar notes
from the scale are used to connect to the next chord in the progression.

Audio Example 36

Click here to play audio example 36

When you have worked out the arpeggio going up and scale down in this manner, try
mixing things up by playing the arpeggio down and scale up, or the scale up then arpeggio
down, or any combination that you can think of.

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3 to b9 Arpeggio Lines

To help get you started with taking 3 to 9 arpeggios from the practice room to the jam
session, here are three Wes-inspired lines that you can learn, practice at various tempos and
in all 12 keys as you begin to hear how these arpeggios can be used to create improvised
lines and phrases.

The first lick uses only 3 to 9 arpeggio notes to outline each chord in the progression. One
thing to notice (and something Wes loved to use in his playing), is the order of notes over
Dm7. Here, the notes used are from the Fmaj7 arpeggio (3 to 9 of Dm7) but you start on the
maj7 of Fmaj7 and move up the arpeggio from there.

Staring on the 7th of a maj7 arpeggio is a great way to outline chord changes, but avoid
always starting or stopping your lines on the root note, which can become a habit for
many of us, especially when first exploring arpeggios.

Audio Example 37

Click here to play audio example 37

The next lick features the 3 to 9 of each chord being used over this three-bar phrase, along
with some diatonic and chromatic notes as connectors along the way. Take note of the
enclosure (F-D#-E) used to connect the G7 to Cmaj7 in bar 2 and 3 of the phrase.

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Audio Example 38

Click here to play audio example 38

This final lick gets a bit more chromatic:

• Bar 1: a double enclosure (Gb-D#-E-F)


• Bar 2: an enclosure (Eb-C#-D)
• Bar 3: a lower approach note (F#-G)

Since arpeggios, even 3 to 9s, are very diatonic sounding, adding in various chromatic
patterns is a great way to use arpeggios but prevent them from sounding monotonous or
predictable at the same time.

Audio Example 39

Click here to play audio example 39

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Upper Structure Triads

When learning how to play arpeggios that outline all 7 possible notes over any given chord,
from the root up to the 13th, you have two basic options when organizing those notes on
the fretboard. The first option is to start on the root and just run your way up every note in
the arpeggio. Tthe second option, and something Wes loved to do, is to just play the upper
extensions and focus on the 9th, 11th and 13th.

Since you are playing the upper notes only, and these three note (9-11-13) form triads
of various types depending on the chord you are on, we refer to these shapes as upper
structure triads. In this section, you’ll learn what these triads are, how to apply them to your
soloing ideas, and study sample licks influenced by Wes’ playing that use upper structure
triads to outline various chords and chord progressions in a jazz setting.

What Are Upper Structure Triads?

Upper structure triads are triads (3-note chords), built from the 9th, 11th
and 13th of the chord you are soloing over

These triads are derived from the underlying scale you have chosen to solo with, and so
we’ll start by looking at general guidelines for building these triads, but be aware that they
will change if you change the scale you are soloing with over any chord.

Here is an example of how you would build the upper structure triads for a ii V I VI chord
progression in C major. The first chord in each bar shows the complete 13th shape, the
second chord is the 1-3-5-7 structure, followed by the upper structure triad on beat 4 of
each bar.

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When doing so, you find that:

• Em is used over Dm7 (Dorian): a minor triad starting from the 9th (9th of Dm7 is E, so
an Em triad)
• Am is used over G7 (Mixolydian): a minor triad starting from the 9th
• Dm is used over Cmaj7 (Ionian): a minor triad starting from the 9th
• Bb is used over A7b9 (Phrygian Dominant): a major triad starting from the b9th

As you explore more modes and scales over these chords, such as melodic minor, altered
scales and lydian, you can add to your list of upper structure triad formulas so that you can
always have them handy, and be able to build lines using these triads both quickly and
comfortably in the moment.

Upper Structure Triad Exercises

Now that you know how these triads are built, let’s look at a few exercises that you can do
in order to take these ideas further in the practice room.

The first exercise features ascending triads over a ii V I VI progression in the key of C
major. When you get this pattern down, you can then take it to other keys, and start to use
other arpeggio shapes.

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Audio Example 40

Click here to play audio example 40

You can also play each triad descending as you apply upper structures to a ii V I VI chord
progression. Again, start in the given key and then take it to other keys, and other triad
fingerings, from there.

Audio Example 41

Click here to play audio example 41

Another variation that I like to do with this exercise is to alternate ascending and
descending triads over this progression. Here is an example of starting on an ascending
triad followed by a descending triad. When you can play this exercise comfortably, you can
try starting on a descending triad followed by an ascending triad to take this exercise a step
further.

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Audio Example 42

Click here to play audio example 42

As well as running these exercises in different keys with a metronome, it is always good
to run them over a backing track in order to hear how these triads sound over the given
harmony.

You can also practice soloing over a backing track and using these triads as the basis
for your lines. This will give you an idea of how these shapes sound in a soloing situation,
and how you can fit them into your current jazz guitar vocabulary in a smooth and organic
fashion.

Upper Structure Triad Lines

After you have worked on these shapes from a technical standpoint, and improvised with
them a bit in your studies, you can check out some Wes inspired upper structure triad
lines in order to study some common vocabulary based on these triads in your playing.

The first sample lick uses the triads we studied earlier over each chord in the progression,
only here there are a few chromatic notes thrown in to help connect these changes on the
fretboard.

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Notice:

• The lower approach note (D#) used to lead into the Em triad in the first bar
• The Eb passing note used to connect the Am triad over G7 to the Dm triad over Cmaj7

• Sometimes adding just a few chromatic notes like this is a great way to break up your
upper structures, creating melodic interest while sticking to triads as the basis for
your lines as the same time.

Audio Example 43
Click here to play audio example 43

The next lick mixes together upper structure triads (first half of each bar), along with a
diatonic arpeggio (second half of bars 1-3) in order to blend these sounds together over
the progression.

One thing that Wes liked to do was to mix upper structure triads with other sounds such
as scale notes, arpeggios and other diatonic triads. When doing so, you keep the upper
structures as a focus in your lines, but you allow yourself to integrate them into your other
soloing vocabulary as a whole, which can produce some interesting and fun results on the
fretboard.

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Audio Example 44

Click here to play audio example 44

The final lick in this series of examples uses upper structure triads to solo over a minor key
ii V I chord progression. Note that we don’t really use a triad over the m7b5 chord, it’s less
common to play upper structures on this chord than other changes. But, there is a Bb over
Ab7b9 and an Em over Dm7 in the progression so that you can see how these structures
can be applied to minor keys as well.

Audio Example 45
Click here to play audio example 45

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The Minorization of Dominant Chords

Though often associated with the playing and teaching of jazz guitarist Pat Martino, the
minorization of dominant chords is a concept that was used by Wes Montgomery as well.

Minorization has 2 uses:

• You add new colors to your soloing ideas.


• You simplify improvising, especially over fast-moving changes. Breaking down ii Vs
into just iis, or thinking about a iim7 chord when soloing over a V7 chord, can cut
down the amount of thinking and jumping around the neck you do when blowing
over tunes.

In this section you’ll learn the theory behind this concept, take a look at a few exercises that
will allow you to bring this theory to the fretboard, and study a Wes-inspired blues solo that
will allow you to brings these ideas to live in your jazz guitar solos.

Minorization Concept

In it’s simplest form, the minorization of dominants technique can mean 2 things:

• When you see a ii-V chord progression you simply play the iim7 over both chords.
This means that if you see Dm7-G7 in a tune, you just solo using Dm7 ideas over both
chords.
• When you see just a 7th chord (such as the first four bars of a jazz blues), you play the
iim7 chord associated with that 7th chord in that part of the tune. This means if you
see F7 for four bars in a blues, you solo over that chord using Cm7 (the iim7 from the
underlying key) over those four bars.

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The notes of Dm7s arpeggio provide different intervals as opposed to playing just a G7
arpeggio over G7. Instead of the root, the 9 is played and instead of the 3rd, the 11th is
played, resulting in a nice G9sus4 sound:

Here is an example of iim7 chords being applied to 7th chords in the first four bars of a
jazz blues in F. Notice that:

• Over F7, you play Cm7 (the iim7 of the underlying key of Bb major).
• Over Bb7, you play Fm7 (the iim7 of the underlying key of Eb major).

When doing so, you are highlighting the 5-b7-9-11 chord tones that were mentioned
earlier, and never focusing on the root of the given chord, which can help you use arpeggio
ideas in your lines, but get away from starting and ending on the root in your phrasing.

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Audio Example 46

Click here to play audio example 46

Once you have gotten your head around this concept, try putting on a static 7th chord
vamp (such as G7), and practice soloing over that chord with a Dm7 arpeggio.

Minorization of Dominant 7ths Exercises

To help you begin applying this concept to a chord progression, here are 3 exercises that
you can do over an F blues in order to take these ideas to a musical situation. Go slow with
these exercises at first, and try to do as much of them from memory as soon as possible
in order to take these ideas off the page and onto the fretboard in as smooth a fashion as
possible.

If you have gotten through all the material in this chapter, then playing these arpeggios
won’t pose much of a challenge at this point in your studies. But, the hard part will be to
see one chord on the page (such as F7), but be thinking about a second chord (Cm7) in your
soloing.

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In this first exercise every chord of an F blues is minorized, playing ascending 7th arpeggios
over each chord in the progression.

Backing Track 1
Click here to play the F7 blues backing track (slow)

Backing Track 2
Click here to play the F7 blues backing track (fast)

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Audio Example 47

Click here to play audio example 47

From here, you can now work the same arpeggios descending over each chord in an F
blues. Though it’s just a reversal of what you did in the first exercise, thinking about and
playing arpeggios down from the 7th to the root can be tricky to do. So, take your time,
and focus on making the transition from one arpeggio to the next as smooth as possible.

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Audio Example 48

Click here to play audio example 48

The final exercise brings these previous two together, as now you are playing the first
arpeggio up and the second arpeggio down. Once you get the hang of this exercise, feel
free to play the first arpeggio down and the second up, as well as any combination of these
approaches that you can think of, such as two up and one down for example.

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Audio Example 49

Click here to play audio example 49

With these arpeggios under your fingers and in your ears, let’s take a look at a sample solo
using Wes-inspired lines to create a 12-bar improvisation over a blues in F.

Minorization of Dominant 7ths Solo

To finish off this section, here is a sample solo over a jazz blues progression in the key of F

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that uses Wes-type lines and the minortization of dominants concept over the I, IV and V of
the key.
Start by learning each phrase until it’s comfortable, and then begin to put them all together
and are able to play the full solo first by reading, and then by memory.

From there, try taking these phrases out of the solo and working them in different keys, as
well as apply them to your own improvisations. Then, try writing out a similar solo over a
blues in F where you create your own iim7 lines over each 7th chord in the progression in
order to take these ideas one-step further in the woodshed.

Audio Example 50

Click here to play audio example 50

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Chapter 3 – Octave Soloing

As anyone who’s heard Wes play knows, he was the undisputed master of using octaves in
his soloing. Used in the second section of his three-tiered soloing approach (single notes-
octaves-chords), Wes’ octaves gave him a unique voice on the instrument, one that is easily
recognizable, and one that many of us work on adapting into our own jazz guitar soloing
vocabulary.

To help you bring some of Wes’ octave soloing ideas into your own vocabulary, this
chapter will focus on various melodic, rhythmic and harmonic concepts that Wes used. By
studying theses ideas, you’ll be able to not only learn lines inspired by Wes’ soloing phrases,
but will understand the concepts behind these lines so that you can construct your own
improvised lines and octave solos in a similar Wes style.

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“Playing octaves was just a coincidence. I used to have headaches every time
I played octaves, because it was extra strain, but the minute I’d quit I’d be all
right. But now I don’t have headaches when I play octaves.” - Wes Montgomery

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Pentatonic and Blues Octave Ideas

The first octave concept we’ll look at features the pentatonic and blues scales played in
octaves. Starting with pentatonic and blues scales when first exploring Wes’ approach to
octaves is a great idea since these scales are usually familiar to us, and they fit over a wider
range of chords and progressions as compared to scales, modes and arpeggios.

The Right Hand

There are three main ways that you can play any octave exercise or line from a right-hand
perspective:

1. You can strum them with your thumb in the same way that Wes did. The in-between
string that is not fretted is muted with the index finger.
2. You can strum them with a pick. The in-between string that is not fretted is muted with
the index finger.
3. You can pluck them with your fingers or fingers and pick. The advantage of this approach
is that the in-between string does not need to be muted.

There is not one right way to play octaves, so experiment with a few different approaches
until you find the one that is right for you. Also, don’t be afraid to mix up different right-
hand approaches to octaves depending on the sounds you want, the tempo of the song
etc.

The Left Hand

Before we go on, let’s address the left-hand fingerings used for any octave notes on the
guitar. What I have found works best over the years is:

1. Use your index and ring fingers when the notes are 2 frets apart.
2. Use your index and pinky fingers when the notes are 3 frets apart.

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This is not something that is set in stone, but it will allow you to quickly move up and down
the strings and keep a consistent fingering system no matter what octave scale, arpeggio
or line you are playing at the time.

The Minor Pentatonic Scale in Octaves

To begin, here is a G minor pentatonic scale written out in octaves. Try learning this scale
in G first then take this octave scale shape to every key as you work it around the neck.

Audio Example 51

Click here to play audio example 51

The next scale you’ll learn is the C minor pentatonic scale in octaves starting on the 5th-
string root note. Learning how to play octave scales from the 5th and 6th string will allow
you to move these shapes around the fretboard, as well as quickly jump from key to key
when applying them to an improvised soloing context.

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Audio Example 52

Click here to play audio example 52

When you can play both the 5th and 6th-string shapes from memory, try putting on a
backing track and soloing over a Gm7 or Cm7 chord using these shapes to create your lines.
From there, move the backing track to other keys.

The Minor Blues Scale in Octaves

We’ll now move on to another Wes’ octave favorite, the minor blues scale. Built by adding
the b5 (#4) to the minor pentatonic scale, the minor blues scale is great for adding a
bluesy vibe to your octave solos.

Here is a sample 6th-string fingering for the G minor blues scale, which you’ll notice is very
similar to the minor pentatonic scale you just learned in octaves. Knowing this will allow
you to simply add one note to that previously learned scale, rather than thinking of the
minor blues as a totally new scale that you need to learn from scratch.

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Audio Example 53

Click here to play audio example 53

Now you’ll play the minor blues scale in octaves from a 5th-string fingering. Here is a
sample fingering for the C minor blues scale. After you can play it on it’s own, and have
tried adding it to your soloing exercises, feel free to mix this and the 6th-string fingerings
together in your soloing workout in order to cover a larger part of the neck with this scale.

Audio Example 54

Click here to play audio example 54

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3 Minor Pentatonic and Blues Octave Lines

To help you get started with these octave scales from a soloing perspective, here are 3
octave licks that you can study and add to your vocabulary.

The first lick uses an F minor blues scale over an F7 chord in a typical Wes-style octave
lick. Notice the use of the off-beat rhythms in the second half of the first bar, which we will
explore further later on in this chapter, but that are worth checking out as rhythms are
always a huge part of any Wes improvised line or solo.

Audio Example 55

Click here to play audio example 55

Here is a line over the first four bars of an F blues progression, using the F Minor Blues
Scale to outline all three chords in the example. Notice the use of leaps in this line. Wes
loved to break up scales with larger leaps, avoiding running directly up and down the scale
while creating interest in his soloing ideas at the same time.

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Audio Example 56

Click here to play audio example 56

This last Wes-inspired octave phrase uses an F Minor Blues/Pentatonic Scale to outline
a ii V I progression in the key of F Major. Notice the direction that this line takes, first
descending, then ascending again, then descending. As with rhythm, the direction of any
line was important to Wes, and his lines and phrases very often had a defined direction to
them, rather than randomly jumping around the neck of the guitar.

Audio Example 57
Click here to play audio example 57

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Arpeggio Octave Ideas

Next we’ll explore octaves applied to arpeggios. Though arpeggios have less notes than the
minor pentatonic and minor blues scales, they contain more leaps and space between the
notes, so they pose their own set of technical challenges on the guitar.

If you find that you are having trouble moving smoothly from one note to the next in any
of these exercises, try playing the lower then upper notes of each octave separately,
before trying to put them back together again, as this can help you overcome any technical
issues that arise with these octave arpeggio patterns.

The Minor Arpeggio in Octaves

The first arpeggio that we’ll look it is Dm7, with two examples of octave fingerings in the
example below. Once you can play one or both of these octave arpeggio shapes, try moving
them to different keys, as well as putting on a Dm7 backing track and soloing over that
chord using only these shapes to build your lines.

Audio Example 58

Click here to play audio example 58

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The Dominant Arpeggio in Octaves

We’ll now move on to exploring two fingerings for a G7 arpeggio played in octaves. When
you have this arpeggio under your fingers, you can then start to put on iim7-V7 vamps,
such as Dm7-G7, and practice moving between these two chords as you build solo lines
with octave arpeggio shapes.

As you work with iim7-V7 progressions, start with maybe 8 bars per chord to give you
time to plan ahead in your lines, then shrink them down to 4 bars per chord, 2 bars, and
finally one bar and half a bar per chord. You might be surprised how well this approach
works when learning how to change arpeggios over chord changes, as opposed to jumping
in with one chord per bar right from the start.

Audio Example 59

Click here to play audio example 59

The Major Arpeggio in Octaves

To finish up the ii V I octave arpeggios, let’s learn the maj7 arpeggio from the 6th and 5th
strings of the guitar, in this case starting with Cmaj7 as in the example below.

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When you feel ready, you can also put on a iim7 V7 Imaj7 backing track in one key to start
and solo using the one-octave arpeggio shapes to build your lines. From there, take the ii V
I chords to all keys as you work on building lines all over the fretboard using these shapes
as the foundation for your ideas.

Audio Example 60

Click here to play audio example 60

Minor ii V Arpeggios in Octaves

We’ll now move on to the ii chord of a minor ii V I, the m7b5 arpeggio in octaves. Again,
begin by learning this shape as written, with the two fingerings given, and then solo over
different m7b5 chords in order to take these shapes to an improvisational setting as well.

Audio Example 61
Click here to play audio example 61

The next octave arpeggio will feature five notes as you outline a 7b9 chord, E7b9 in this

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example, on the fretboard. Since we need to have some sort of common alteration when
playing over the V7 chord of a minor ii V I, the easiest to start with is the b9 as it fits right on
top of a 7th arpeggio shape on the fretboard.

Audio Example 62
Click here to play audio example 62

Begin by learning these two shapes in various keys around the neck, and then solo over
V7b9 vamps using these octave arpeggios to create your lines. From there, you can put
on iim7b5-V7b9 vamps, such as Bm7b5-E7b9, as you begin to apply these arpeggios to
various chords.

Octave Arpeggio Licks

Now that we’ve looked at all of the various octave arpeggios you need to solo over major
and minor key ii V I’s, let’s check out some octave licks in Wes Montgomery’s style to help
you build your improvisational vocabulary.

This first lick outlines a short ii V I in the key of D major. Almost all of the notes in this lick
are built from arpeggios, with the exception of the F over Em7 and G over Dmaj7, which are
both used to lead to the next arpeggio notes in the lick by half-steps.

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Audio Example 63

Click here to play audio example 63

This second octave arpeggio lick focuses mostly on chord tones, but notice the use of
various rhythms, including a quarter-note triplet, to create interest without stepping
outside the key center in this C major ii V I progression.

Audio Example 64

Click here to play audio example 64

The last lick we’ll look at in this section resembles the first lick as the same type of melodic
motion is applied to a short ii V I in the key of F minor. One of the easiest ways to expand your
soloing vocabulary is to take a lick you know in a major key, alter the notes needed, and
turn it into a minor key lick, essentially doubling your soloing vocabulary in that instance
at the same time.

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Audio Example 65

Click here to play audio example 65

When you have these three sample licks under your fingers, and have practiced applying
them to jazz tunes that you know, try writing out 3 to 5 similar licks of your own that
emulate Wes’ octave arpeggio style.

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Scale Octave Ideas

The next thing to learn are the octave fingerings for 7-note modes. With two more notes
than the minor blues scale, these shapes can be a bit tricky to get under your fingers at first,
especially getting them smooth and flowing on the fretboard. Because of this, make sure to
go slowly and work with a metronome or backing track.

First we’ll have a look at the scales that fit over a major ii V I.

The Dorian Mode in Octaves

To begin, here are two fingerings for the D dorian mode, one starting on the 6th string
and one starting on the 5th string.Once you have these two fingerings comfortably under
your fingers, try taking them to other keys on the neck of the guitar, as well as begin to solo
over m7 chords, starting with Dm7 and moving on from there, as you apply this octave
scale to your soloing ideas and phrases.

Audio Example 66

Click here to play audio example 66

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The Mixolydian Mode in Octaves

Here are 2 fingerings for the mixolydian scale:

Audio Example 67

Click here to play audio example 67

With both the Dorian and Mixolydian octave scales under your fingers, a good exercise
would be to put on a iim7-V7 backing track, in one key at first and moving to others from
there, and start to work on switching between these scale shapes in your soloing practice
and later on in jam sessions and on gigs.

The Ionian Mode in Octaves

You will now learn how to play the final scale from the ii V I major key progression using
octaves, the major scale (aka ionian mode).

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Audio Example 68

Click here to play audio example 68

With all three scales under your fingers, you can also now begin to solo over major key ii
V I progressions, starting with Dm7-G7-Cmaj7 and moving on to other keys as you start to
work on combining these scales in your soloing practice and jazz guitar jam sessions.

Scale Octave Lines for Major ii V Is

To help you get these scales under your fingers in a soloing context, here are two classic
Wes-inspired licks.

This first major key ii V I octave lick uses scales to directly outline each chord in the
progression, creating interest by adding in larger interval leaps in bar two of the phrase to
break up the scale movement in the rest of the line.

Sometimes just adding a few leaps into your scale lines is enough to create interest in
your phrasing without adding subs or chromatic notes to your phrases.

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Audio Example 69

Click here to play audio example 69

This second major ii V I lick focuses on a two-note pattern that is repeated through the
second bar and into the third bar of this phrase.
This is a simple approach to creating interest in your octa ve scale lines and it’s something
that Wes was a master at, creating memorable jazz lines using small variations to well-
known scales and arpeggio shapes.

Audio Example 70

Click here to play audio example 70

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After you have worked out the three scales needed to solo over major ii V I chords, let’s work
on octave scales that fit over minor key ii V I chords, beginning with the locrian mode.

The Locrian Mode in Octaves

When you work out these two octave locrian fingerings, you can practice them in all 12
keys, as well as apply them to m7b5 chords in your soloing practice as you take them to an
improvisational context.

Audio Example 71

Click here to play audio example 71

The Phrygian Dominant Scale in Octaves

The next scale that we will learn with octaves in two positions is the phrygian dominant
scale, the 5th mode of Harmonic Minor, that can be used to improvise over dominant
chords that resolve into the Im7 chord at the end of the progression. When playing this
scale over a V7 or V7alt chord, you are implying the b9 and b13 tension note.

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Audio Example 72

Click here to play audio example 72

As was the case with the major keys, now that you have the first two scales down for the
minor key ii V I, try putting on a iim7b5-V7alt backing track and soloing over those
changes using the Locrian and Phrygian Dominant Scales to build your improvised lines
and phrases.

Scale Octave Line for Minor ii V Is

To finish this section of the chapter, here is a minor ii V I lick that focuses on using the
scales learned earlier in this section, with the dorian used over the Dm7 chord to finish off
the phrase.

Audio Example 73
Click here to play audio example 73

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Try writing out 3-4 major and 3-4 minor ii V I licks using these octave scales, and ideas/
concepts taken from the sample licks, as you begin to build your own repertoire of cool-
sounding octave scale licks over common chord progressions.

“The man who has meant the most to me in recent years is Wes Montgomery.
I’d heard him talked about a lot quite a while ago, and then he made his first
record... He really impressed me. Since Charlie Christian, the only completely
original soloist is Wes.” - Freddie Green

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Rhythmic Variations

Let’s take a look at some of the common rhythmic variations that Wes used to spice up his
melodies when soloing in an octave situation.

Sometimes we can find ourselves learning the correct scales, and applying them to the
right chords in our soloing, but our phrases just sound flat compared to Wes and other
great players. To get over this hump, focusing on your rhythmic phrases and vocabulary can
be just the thing needed to take your playing to the next level.

To begin, here is a sample of such a rhythmic variation. In the first bar you will see a C
major scale written in 8th-note octaves, where each note has the same rhythmic value (8th
notes).

In the last two bars of the example, you’ll see the same octave scale, but this time the rhythm
has been altered to add an 8th-note rest on beats one and three of the bar, essentially
breaking up the line and creating a more interesting rhythm as compared to the first bar.

Audio Example 74

Click here to play audio example 74

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Rhythmic Variation 1

The first rhythm that you’ll learn is one that Wes uses all the time in his octave, and single-
note, soloing ideas. While the rhythm is fairly basic in nature, it is the short notes at the start
and end of the phrase that make this idea swing so hard.

Sometimes it is the length of certain notes that will make a rhythm or melodic phrase
so effective, and so when practicing this line, make sure that you only play the first and last
notes as 8th notes, and don’t let them linger and turn into quarter notes in your playing.

You can see this rhythm applied to the first bar of this ii V I phrase at the end of the written
example.

Audio Example 75

Click here to play audio example 75

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Rhythmic Variation 2

The next rhythm is a slight variation of what you just learned, where every note is the
same except the final note, which now has an 8th note attack on the & of 4. Though it is
very similar to the first rhythm, this phrase has a character all it’s own, and the continued
8th-note pulse after the short note on beat 1 of the bar really propels this phrase forward in
your lines. You can see this rhythm in action in the first bar of the sample lick below:

Audio Example 76

Click here to play audio example 76

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Rhythmic Variation 3

Next is a common Wes rhythm that uses triplets in its construction. When working on
triplets, pairing them up with a longer rhythm, such as a quarter note, will work well to
create a nice rhythmic contrast within that phrase.
You can see this rhythm applied to the first bar of the example phrase below. Since the
triplets move by fairly quickly in the phrase, work slowly at first and use a metronome to
make sure that you are as accurate as possible with the rhythms found in this phrase.

Audio Example 77

Click here to play audio example 77

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Rhythmic Variation 4

Here is another rhythm containing triplets, only now it is a two-bar rhythmic phrase with
8th notes in the first bar and triplets in the second bar. Because the rhythms are faster in
this instance, you can see how Wes used rests and space between each group of notes to
break things up and make it easier to get into your playing and not trip over your fingers.

Audio Example 78

Click here to play audio example 78

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Rhythmic Variation 5

The next rhythm uses 16th notes. Since these notes move by very quickly, make sure to work
slowly on the phrase in order to get it perfectly accurate, and of course use a metronome
in order to make sure you are right in the pocket when practicing this rhythm. The second
half of the example uses the same rhythm.

Audio Example 79

Click here to play audio example 79

Now that you have checked out these rhythmic variations found in many of Wes’ soloing
and phrases, try playing any scale or arpeggio you are working on with octaves using these
rhythms in those exercises to expand upon them. Try soloing over a tune using octaves
and focus on one or more of these rhythms to build your lines as you focus on transferring
these rhythms to an improvisational context.

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Pedal Tone Techniques

The final concept that we’ll explore in this chapter is Wes Montgomery’s use of pedal tones
to create energy and intensity during his solos.

A pedal tone is a static note (usually the tonic or dominant note of the chord or
key) that you return to during a phrase while playing other notes in between.

Wes was particularly good at using pedal tones to:

• Lock in with the rhythm section.


• Create repetitive phrases that built intensity.
• Build chorus-long phrases that used minimal material for maximum effect.

In this section we’ll explore various pedal techniques that can be found in Wes’ playing,
as well as learn a few sample licks to help you get started with bringing Wes’ pedal tone
concept to your guitar solos.

Pedal Technique 1

The first pedal technique we’ll look at involves placing the pedal tone (the static C in the
example) at the top of the phrase. When doing so, you can insert other notes from the
scales/arpeggios you are soloing over under this pedal tone to mix things up in your line.

In this example, you are playing a C major scale in octaves, placing the C pedal in between
two notes from the scale as you ascend the scale between each pedal tone. Once you have
worked out this approach over C major, try taking it to other keys and scale types as you
expand upon this concept in the woodshed.

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The P in the music notation is where the pedal tones are.

Audio Example 80
Click here to play audio example 80

Pedal Technique 2

We’ll now look at reversing the previous technique as you put the pedal tones on the
bottom of your line, with other scale notes placed on top of each pedal tone.

Here is an example of how you can practice this technique over a C major scale, with the
note C being used as the pedal tone and the C major scale inserted between each pedal in
a descending fashion.

Once you have worked this pattern in other keys and over other scales, try soloing over
a one-chord backing track and switching between the lower and upper pedal tones to see
how they compare when played back to back in an improvised solo.

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Audio Example 81

Click here to play audio example 81

The same technique can be used with chords instead of octaves. In this example, you
can see an F7 chord moving down the neck in four positions, combined with an octave F
as a pedal tone between each chord. Not only is this technique useful for building octave
soloing lines, but it’s also a great way to practice inversions and various chord voicings.

After you have learned this pattern, try practicing the same technique with other chords.
Simply play up or down the neck using various inversions or grips for that chord, and place
the root in between each inversion to create a pedal tone at the same time.

Audio Example 82

Click here to play audio example 82

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Wes Pedal Lines

To help you expand upon these ideas in the woodshed, here are three Wes-inspired octave
licks that use pedal tones in the three variations that we just explored from a technical
perspective in this section.

The first lick uses an upper pedal with a repeated descending melodic line in between each
pedal note. In this case, the pedal note is not the root as we’ve seen before, but the third
of the key you’re in (Bb). While you can stick to the root and 5th, as safe pedal tones, Wes
also liked to add a bit of color to his pedals by exploring other tones, such as the 3rd seen
in this line.

Audio Example 83

Click here to play audio example 83

In this next example, you can see the 9th of the given key (C minor), being used to create a
lower pedal tone which is played between a descending melodic pattern over each chord.

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Though the 9th is the focus of the pedal, it is acting as:

• The root over the first chord.


• The 5th over the second chord.
• The 9th over the tonic chord.

What is nice about this approach is that the pedal start fairly plain (as the root), and gets
progressively more colourful as the chords progress in the ii V I.

Audio Example 84

Click here to play audio example 84

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The last Wes pedal lick uses the 5th of the key (G) to pedal between various chord voicings
over a ii V I in C minor. The chords are fairly simple, as the pedal tone and movement between
chords and octaves is enough to create a strong sense of interest in this phrase.

Audio Example 85

Click here to play audio example 85

Once you have practiced these technical and improvisational examples, try soloing over a
ii V I major or minor backing track, or a tune you’re working on, and build your solo using
the three pedal techniques found in this section.

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Wes Octave Sample Solo

To provide a sample of how these octave techniques can be used to build a Wes-style solo,
here is a chorus of octaves played over the chord changes to the jazz standard Summertime.
Each of the four phrases has been taken out of the solo and analysed to help you practice
them separately, and understand the building blocks of each phrase, with the full solo
being seen and heard at the end of this section of the chapter.

To begin, let’s take a look at the first four bars to see what’s going on from a technical and
musical standpoint in this part of the solo.

The first four bars are built off of a repeated two-bar phrase that uses blues and scale tones
to outline each chord. This was a typical technique found in many of Wes’ greatest solos,
where you play one idea over the first half of the phrase, and then repeat that idea but alter
it to fit the new chords in the second half, such as the F# added to bar four of this phrase.

Audio Example 86

Click here to play audio example 86

The next four bars from the solo focuses on the use of upbeat rhythms as you can see in
bars one and three. In between these upbeats, there is a legato line in bar two, and a typical
7alt lick in bar four that focus on more steady quarter and 8th-note rhythms.

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Audio Example 87

Click here to play audio example 87

Since the third phrase of the song starts the same as the first phrase, we’ve come back to
the opening lick to tie those two sections together in your solo, again altering the final bar
to fit the new chords in that section. Wes was a master of coming back to ideas time and
again in his solos to keep a thread going that tied together earlier material to later material
in his improvisations.

Audio Example 88

Click here to play audio example 88

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The final phrase uses a common descending octave idea in the first bar, followed by a ii V
in the second bar, and finishes with a mixture of triplet and 8th-note pairs in a typical Wes
style.

Audio Example 89

Click here to play audio example 89

To finish off this chapter on Wes’ octave playing style, here is the full solo played together
so that you can work on it further. After you have learned this sample solo, try building/
writing out your own solo over the chords to Summertime to expand upon this study in
your practicing.

Backing Track 3

Click here to play the Summertime backing track (slow)

Backing Track 4

Click here to play the Summertime backing track (fast)

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Audio Example 90

Click here to play audio example 90

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Chapter 4 – Chord Soloing

The third tier in Wes’ three-stage soloing approach, chord soloing, was used by Wes to take
the intensity level of his soloing ideas to new heights as he worked up from single notes, to
octaves and finally peaking with chord-soloing phrases.

In this chapter you will explore common Wes chord voicings, check out classic Wes
influenced chord-soloing lines and phrases, before studying a full Wes type chord solo over
the chord changes to Autumn Leaves.

Chord soloing is the toughest part of Wes Montgomery’s playing style (from a technical
standpoint), but with a bit of time in the woodshed, you can greatly expand your soloing
chops.

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“I don’t know that many chords. I’d be loaded if I knew that many. But that’s not
my aim. My aim is to move from one vein to the other without any trouble. The
biggest thing to me is keeping a feeling, regardless what you play. So many cats
lose their feeling at various times, not through the whole tune, but at various
times, and it causes them to have to build up and drop down, and you can feel
it.” - Wes Montgomery

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Common Chord Shapes

To begin our study of Wes’ chord-soloing phrases and concepts, let’s take a look at a number
of common chord shapes that have been taken from Wes’ chord solos over common tunes
and chord progressions.

Try taking one or two from each chord shape category, memorize it on the fretboard, and
then take a common progression such as ii V I, or a tune you know, and use these chord
shapes to comp and/or chord solo over those changes.

Each set of examples features two chords from the Root, 3rd, 5th and 7th of the underlying
chord so that you always have two options for each inversion of any chord, which can be
very helpful when coming up with improvised chord lines over tunes and changes.

Minor Chord Shapes

Here are eight different m7 based shapes that Wes liked to use in his chord soloing ideas.
I’ve labeled the exact chord name on top of each shape (such as m9 or m11), but you can
use any and all of these minor based chords to solo over m7 chords when applied to tunes
and progressions.

Notice how each of these chords is on the top four strings of the guitar, this is because
Wes preferred to use these strings to build his improvised chord lines over tunes. He didn’t
always play on these strings only, but they made up a good percentage of his chord lines,
and therefore are a great place to start when exploring these concepts in the woodshed.

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Audio Example 91

Click here to play audio example 91

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How to Play in the Style of Wes Montgomery


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Dominant Chord Shapes

Here, you have a collection of common dominant chords that Wes used in his soloing
phrases. Again, you can see that they are written specifically for each voicing, but they can
all be used to solo over any 7th chord in a tune you are jamming over.

Learning these shapes is a matter of memorization, which comes fairly quickly to many of
us. But, learning how to solo with these shapes is a matter of application, which can be a lot
tougher to do, and therefore should be worked on alongside your memorization exercises.

Audio Example 92

Click here to play audio example 92

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How to Play in the Style of Wes Montgomery


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Major Chord Shapes

To finish up the ii V I chord progression, here are eight different maj7 chord shapes that
you can take into your playing.

Audio Example 93

Click here to play audio example 93

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How to Play in the Style of Wes Montgomery


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Half Diminished Chord Shapes

We’ll now move on to minor key chords that come from Wes’ vocabulary with a study of
the m7b5 voicing.

Here are eight shapes for both m7b5 and m11b5 chords, the two most common variations
of half-diminished chords in Wes’ playing, that you can learn in the woodshed before moving
on to the 7alt shapes in the next section of this chapter.

Audio Example 94

Click here to play audio example 94

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How to Play in the Style of Wes Montgomery


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Altered Dominant Chord Shapes

The next group of shapes features common Wes alt7 chords. The term alt (abbreviation of
altered) means:

• The 9th is either sharp (#9) or flat (b9)


• The 5th is either sharp (#5 or b13) or flat (b5 or #11)

Audio Example 95

Click here to play audio example 95

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How to Play in the Style of Wes Montgomery


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After you have practiced these chords, put on a iim7b5-V7alt-im7 chord progression and
practice soloing over those changes, using the chords in this chapter as the inspiration for
your improvised lines and phrases.

Having a strong handle on the common chord shapes that Wes used in his chord solos
will allow you to quickly and easily move on to the next exercises in this chapter, as well as
apply them to your own improvised lines and phrases.

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Chord Scales

One of the items that pops up time and again in Wes chord soloing phrases is the use of
chord scales of various types, where you are playing up or down diatonic chords in a given
key depending on the chord you are currently soloing over.

As an example: if you are soloing over a Cmaj7 chord, you can use any of the diatonic chord
shapes from the key of C major such as Cmaj7, Dm7, Em7, Fmaj7 and so on.

When doing so, your chord lines have a more linear shape to them, as opposed to leaping
around the fretboard, which can happen when focusing on inversions to create your chord
soloing lines and phrases.

In the following examples, you will learn how to play chord scales based on major keys in
four positions, one for each inversion of the starting chord, on both the middle four and top-
four strings of the guitar. Though Wes did prefer the top four strings when chord soloing,
he did mix in the middle four strings and so they are worth studying when working on Wes
chord-soloing concepts in the woodshed.

“The greatest of us all is unquestionably Wes Montgomery” - Barney Kessel

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Major Chord Scales on The Top 4 Strings

The first example shows an F major chord scale using root-position shapes to climb up the
neck from the tonic to tonic in this key.

Audio Example 96

Click here to play audio example 96

We will now look at the same F major scale, but this time using first inversion chords for
each shape in the chord scale.

As was the case with the common Wes chord shapes, there is a mixture of different shades
of each chord, such as F6/9 instead of Fmaj7, as this is a shape commonly found in Wes’
chord-soloing ideas.

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Audio Example 97

Click here to play audio example 97

When you have these first two chord scales under your fingers, or even just one of these
scales, try putting on an Fmaj7 backing track, or even a ii V I in F major, and soloing over
those changes using these chord scales to build your lines in order to begin taking this
concept to a soloing situation on the fretboard.

Here is a chord scale made up of second-inversion chords from the key of F major:

Audio Example 98

Click here to play audio example 98

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The final chord scale on the top four strings that we’ll explore features third-inversion
shapes on the neck. This will complete the chord scales on the top-four strings, so take
some time here to work these chord scales further in the woodshed before moving on to
the middle four strings shapes in the second half of this section.

Audio Example 99

Click here to play audio example 99

Major Chord Scales on The Middle-Four Strings

You will now move on to the root-position chord scale on the middle-four strings, in this
case written in the key of C major.

Once you have these scales under your fingers, try playing the root-position chord scale
on the middle strings, followed by the C major root position chord scale on the top-four
strings. Mixing string groups in your practicing will allow you to see these chords across
the entire neck when applied to chord scales, as well as allow you to quickly move between
string sets when you take these chord scales to a jazz guitar soloing situation.

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Audio Example 100

Click here to play audio example 100

The next chord scale features first-inversion shapes from the key of C major to create the
chord scale.

Audio Example 101

Click here to play audio example 101

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We’ll now move on to the second-inversion shapes.

Audio Example 102

Click here to play audio example 102

The last chord scale you’ll learn is the C major third-inversion scale on the middle-four
strings.

Again, don’t forget to practice soloing with these shapes, as this is a key step in the
development of any jazz concept, taking it to a soloing situation. With this many shapes
under your fingers, you have more than enough material to take these ideas to a chord solo
over common progressions and now jazz standards.

Audio Example 103

Click here to play audio example 103

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Diminished Passing Chords

The next step in exploring Wes’ chord soloing techniques is looking into the diminished
passing chord concept, which you can hear in just about every Wes chord solo from his
recorded catalogue.

This concept involves adding in a dim7 chord (taken from the V7b9 chord), in between
each inversion of the chord you are currently playing on.

Take for example Dm7: the V7b9 chord of Dm7 is A7b9. Take the four dim7 chords that are
built from A7b9 (C#dim7, Edim7, Gdim7 and Bbdim7) and insert them between the four
inversions of Dm7 as you climb up the fretboard.

When doing so, you create a I-V-I-V etc. sound that really helps you stretch your chord
inversions in a chord soloing context, as well as adding tension and release to your lines,
which is an important part of any jazz solo.

The Minor Chord Scale With Diminished Passing Chords

This might seem a bit theoretical in nature, but let’s take a look at how this concept is
applied to the fretboard and it should clear up and confusion as you take the idea to the
guitar.

In this first example, you can see four inversions of a Dm7 chord, using common Wes
colors as we saw earlier, with the four dim7 chords inserted between these inversions to
create the passing dim7 concept. When moving up and down these shapes, notice that you
always move to the closest of the four dim7 chords from the Dm7 inversion that you’re on
in order to ensure smooth voice leading.

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Once you have this example down, try putting on a Dm7 backing track and soloing over
that chord using these Dm7 and A7b9 dim7 chords to build your lines and phrases.

Audio Example 104

Click here to play audio example 104

The Dominant Chord Scale With Diminished Passing Chords

Let’s now take a look at applying this concept to a G7 chord, where you will be playing
F#dim7, Adim7, Cdim7 and Ebdim7, the four dim7 chords from D7b9, in between each
inversion of G7.

When you have these shapes under your fingers, try soloing over a G7 backing track,
using these shapes to build your lines.

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Audio Example 105

Click here to play audio example 105

The Major Chord Scale With Diminished Passing Chords

We’ll now finish off the major ii V I progression by looking at the dim7 passing chord concept
as applied to Cmaj7. Here you will use the four dim7 chords built from G7b9 (Bdim7, Ddim7,
Fdim7 and Abdim7) as you move between the four inversions of Cmaj7 on the fretboard.

When you have practiced these shapes as written, and soloed over a Cmaj7 backing track
with these shapes, try putting on a Dm7-G7-Cmaj7 backing track and solo over a full iim7
V7 Imaj7 progression using these shapes to build your improvised lines and phrases.

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Audio Example 106

Click here to play audio example 106

The Minor Chord Scale With Diminished Passing Chords (Middle Four Strings)

In order to help you expand this concept to other parts of the fretboard, here is the dim7
passing chord concept as applied to Dm7, though on the middle four strings this time.

Audio Example 107

Click here to play audio example 107

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The Dominant Chord Scale With Diminished Passing Chords (Middle Four Strings)

We’ll now move onto the G7 inversions, with the D7b9 dim7 passing chords between
them, as applied to the middle four strings of the fretboard.

Audio Example 108

Click here to play audio example 108

The Major Chord Scale With Diminished Passing Chords (Middle Four Strings)

Finally, let’s look at the Cmaj7 passing chords on the middle four strings, giving you two
string sets for each set of chords, iim7, V7 and Imaj7, that you can then use to practice chord
soloing over these chords and the larger progression as a whole in the woodshed.

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Audio Example 109

Click here to play audio example 109

Example Licks

With the technical side of things under your fingers, let’s take a look at 3 lick examples
from Wes’ catalogue that use the passing dim7 concept.

The first line features a Cdim7 to lead into the G7 chord, as well as an Abdim7 chord to lead
into the Cmaj7 chord. These chords create a D7b9-Gm7 and G7b9-Cmaj7 sound that is so
common in Wes’ chord soloing lines and phrases over ii V I’s.

Audio Example 110

Click here to play audio example 110

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The next lick is played over the first four bars of a blues in F, where you can see dim7
passing chords being added to the I7, IV7 and I7 chords throughout this progression. The
blues is a great place to start with this concept as you can focus on one or two sounds, 7th
and m7 chords, when first beginning to apply these shapes to your playing.

Audio Example 111

Click here to play audio example 111

The last example lick is a ii V I I the key of C major. Again, you can see the dim7 passing
chords adding over each change in the progression to add a bit of tension and release to
this phrase.

Audio Example 112

Click here to play audio example 112

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Bluesy Chord Lines

We’ll now take a look at six bluesy chord phrases that will help you take the concepts
covered in this chapter to an improvisational context. Once you have learned any of the
licks in this chapter, and dug into the concepts behind each lick, try working them in all 12
keys around the fretboard in order to get a fuller understanding of how they sit on the neck.

This first bluesy Wes lick is built by mixing Bb7 shapes with Adim7 and Ebdim7 subs in the
second bar. The line is a great example of the Wes dim7 passing chord concept in action.

Audio Example 113

Click here to play audio example 113

This Wes bluesy lick uses F7 shapes as well as passing and chromatic dim7 chords, which
is a technique Wes loved to use when chord soloing over a blues progression. You can see
an Abdim7 chord in the first bar leading into a Gdim7 chord in the second bar, followed by
an Fdim7 chord, before moving back to an F13 and F7 shape at the end of the lick.

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Audio Example 114

Click here to play audio example 114

The next chord lick that you’ll learn uses Cdim7 and F#dim7 chords to outline the D7b9
shape, the VI7b9 chord in an F blues progression, as well as a legato slide up the fretboard.

Soloing over the VI7b9 chord is one of the toughest parts of soloing over any jazz blues
chord progression, and sometimes using chord lines such as this one can make those
sections easier when it comes time to solo over a jazz blues.

Audio Example 115

Click here to play audio example 115

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Here you can see a lick that covers the first 3 bars of a jazz blues progression in the key
of Bb. There is an Abdim7 chord at the end of the first bar, implying a Bb7b9 shape, as well
as a B13 chord leading into a Bb13 shape in the last two 8th-notes of the second measure.

This type of half-step approach when chord soloing is something that Wes loved to do,
and it’s something that you can explore further in order to bring a bit of a Wes vibe to your
chord soloing lines and phrases.

Audio Example 116

Click here to play audio example 116

This chord lick features a rhythmic phrase that is pushed around in each bar of the phrase.
The rhythmic line features a three chord group in each bar, with the first bar having a quarter
note followed by two 8th notes, then in the second bar the first chord is moved to the & of
1, before moving the group to the second beat of the least bar. Sometimes playing with a
rhythmic idea such as this is the best way to develop an idea across a chord soloing line,
without worrying too much about the harmonic or melodic content.

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Audio Example 117

Click here to play audio example 117

The final bluesy chord lick that we’ll explore also features a rhythmic focus, only this time
it is steady 8th notes with the chord shapes changing in odd parts of the bar to create
interest in the line.

Audio Example 118

Click here to play audio example 118

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Major and Minor ii V I Lines

As well as studying bluesy Wes chord licks, working out a number of ii V I chord licks in the
style of Wes’ playing will go a long way in helping you apply the concepts covered in this
chapter to your soloing ideas and phrases.

This first ii V I lick in the key of D major features a dim7 passing chord (F#dim7 over Em7),
as well as dim7 chords over A7 (implying an A7b9 sound). There are also two long slides
between the chords during the 2nd half of the first bar and the 1st half of the second bar.
These legato slides are idiomatic of Wes’ playing style, and can add that “slippery” sound
that is often found in Wes’ chord lines.

Audio Example 119

Click here to play audio example 119

The next ii V I chord lick relies on a quarter-note triplet to build a rhythmic pulse during
the first bar, as well as an A7alt sound in the chord line to build tension that is then released
over the Imaj7 chord in the second bar of the phrase.

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As well, notice the long slide in bar two between the chords, though this time it is a
descending slide compared to the ascending slide that was featured in the previous lick.

Audio Example 120

Click here to play audio example 120

In this long ii V I lick in the key of G major, the phrase is based around a rhythmic pattern
that starts in the first bar, dotted quarter followed by off-beat 8th-notes, and continues
throughout the line from there. When learning this phrase, be sure to use a metronome so
that you don’t rush the off-beat chords, as is easy to do with a phrase such as this one that
features a good amount of syncopation.

Audio Example 121

Click here to play audio example 121

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We will now move on to minor keys, as you can see with this minor ii V I lick in the key of
F minor. Here, there is a pedal note C on top of each chord in the first bar, which is then
resolved to three-note chord shapes in the second bar. While we haven’t looked too deeply
into three-note chords in this chapter, Wes was fond of removing the lowest or highest note
of any chord grip to shrink his shapes down to three notes rather than four in his chord lines.

Audio Example 122

Click here to play audio example 122

In the next minor ii V I lick, again in the key of F minor, you can see a legato slide in the
second half of the first bar, as well as Bbdim7 and Dbdim7 being used to imply a C7b9
chord during the C7alt change in that section of the bar.

Audio Example 123

Click here to play audio example 123

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In the final minor ii V I lick, this time in G minor, there is a rhythmic pattern being used to
outline each change in the progression. Keeping a focus on a specific rhythm over a phrase
is something Wes loved to do, and it’s a great way to bring a Wes vibe to your ii V I chord
phrases.

Audio Example 124

Click here to play audio example 124

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Wes Chord Soloing Sample Chorus

We’ll finish this chapter on Wes’ chord soloing techniques by learning a full chorus over
the changes of Autumn Leaves. By learning this study, you will be able to see and hear
all of the concepts from this chapter as applied to a musical situation over a jazz standard
progression.

To help you learn this longer-form chord study, each four-bar phrase has been isolated
that you can learn on it’s own, and understand how it was built, so that you can focus on
small chunks of material at a time, bringing them all together to form the solo as a whole
once you have worked them out individually.

To begin, the opening phrase of the solo features a syncopated line that focuses on the
upbeats of the second and third bar of the line. There are approach chords such as the
C#7 to D7 used to connect the first two bars, which is something that Wes used a lot in his
playing.

Audio Example 125

Click here to play audio example 125

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The second phrase of the solo features a pedal tone (the 5th of the key B), that is used to
create interest during this minor ii V I line in the key of E minor.

Audio Example 126

Click here to play audio example 126

We now return to the major ii V I changes in G major for the third phrase, which features
a G#dim7 passing chord in the first bar, as well as an A7 chord which acts as a V7/V7 in the
first measure before resolving to D7 in the second bar. As well, there is a Cdim7 chord over
the D7 change, which implies a D7b9 sound during that part of the phrase.

Audio Example 127

Click here to play audio example 127

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We now pick up the rhythmic pace with an 8th-note focused line during the last phrase of
the first half of the chord study. When working on these more fast-paced phrases, make
sure to slow things down and use a metronome in order to clean up any technical difficulties
as well as keep the rhythmic pulse steady when you raise the tempo during this phrase in
your practice routine.

Audio Example 128

Click here to play audio example 128

We are returning to a pedal note in the following phrase, though this time the pedal tone is
the second note of the key. As well, the rhythm has picked up here where the pedal tone is
played with 16th notes, as opposed to the 8th-notes that we saw earlier in this chord study.

Audio Example 129

Click here to play audio example 129

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As you return to the major key ii V I in this section of the tune, there is a focus on the dotted
quarter note during this phrase. This rhythm, which equals three 8th-notes in duration,
was commonly found in Wes’ chord soloing lines, and it’s a great way to “hide” the barline as
you are not boxing in your phrases within the four beats of each bar in the phrase.

Audio Example 130

Click here to play audio example 130

We’re now moving on to the trickiest part of the tune, which features two quick-moving
ii V’s that lead into the final turnaround of the tune. To outline these chords, you will use
a melodic pattern that starts on a diatonic chord, moves up an inversion, then back and
down to a dim7 chord that connects this shape to the subsequent chord in the progression.
When soloing over fast-moving changes, sometimes the easiest thing to do is to play a
melodic pattern such as this.

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Audio Example 131

Click here to play audio example 131

To finish things up, here is a very slippery, legato line in the style of Wes’ chord soloing
phrases that nicely brings this chorus to a close.

Audio Example 132


Click here to play audio example 132

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Now that you have learned each four-bar phrase from this Wes-inspired chord solo on their
own, you’re now ready to play them together as you learn the chord solo in its entirety.
Once you have learned this sample solo, try writing out one of your own over this jazz
standard, or any other tune you know, as you begin to take all of the material from this
chapter and apply it to a real-life, musical situation.

BACKING TRACK 5

Click here to play the Autumn Leaves backing track (slow)

BACKING TRACK 6
Click here to play the Autumn Leaves backing track (fast)

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Audio Example 133

Click here to play audio example 133

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How to Play in the Style of Wes Montgomery


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How to Play in the Style of Wes Montgomery


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Chapter 5 – Wes Tunes and Progressions

In the final chapter in our look into the playing style of Wes Montgomery, you’ll be digging
into some of his favorite chord progressions, how he liked to build his solos with a three-
tiered approach, as well as study his call and response approach to building improvised
choruses.

Studying the great players such as Wes often means zooming in with a microscope to
dissect their note choices when comping, soloing and chord soloing, but it often also means
taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture. That’s exactly what you’ll be doing in
this chapter, looking at the bigger picture in Wes’ playing style, and using the zoomed in
concepts you’ve already studied to tie everything together.

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“It’s impossible for me to feel like there’s only one way to do a thing. There’s
nothing wrong with having one way of doing it, but I think it’s a bad habit. I
believe in range. Like, there’s a lot of tunes that I play all the time and sometimes
I hear ‘em in a different register. And if you don’t have complete freedom, or you
won’t let yourself get away from that one straight line, oh, my goodness, that’s
too horrible to even think about.” - Wes Montgomery

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The Three Tier Soloing Approach

Wes was well known for his octave and chord soloing as he was one of the pioneers in the
octave style and one of the best chord soloists in jazz guitar history. In this chapter we’ll be
looking at how he organized his single note, octave and chord soloing ideas into a three-
tiered approach.

When soloing, Wes would often:

1. Begin his solos with a few choruses of single-note ideas,


2. followed by a few choruses of octaves,
3. and finishing up with choruses of chord soloing.

By doing so, Wes would build the intensity during his solos as he increased the thickness
of his soloing textures during the solo as a whole.

To see how Wes did this, let’s take a look at a chorus over the chords to Autumn Leaves,
we’re looking at a chorus to make it easier to visualize, but when bringing this concept to a
tune you can play several whole choruses of single notes, octaves and chords as you apply
this idea to a full tune.

“Wes Montogmery was the last guitar innovator, there hasn’t been anything
really new since then. To me there have only been three real innovators on the
guitar - Wes, Charlie Christian and Django Reinhardt.” - Joe Pass

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To begin, let’s learn a single note solo over the first 8 bars of the tune.

Audio Example 134

Click here to play audio example 134

Now, let’s learn a second A section of single-note ideas before moving on to octaves in
the next section as the intensity builds during the improvised solo.

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Audio Example 135


Click here to play audio example 135

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We’re now ready to step things up a bit as you solo over the 3rd 8 bars using octaves to
build your lines and phrases.

Audio Example 136

Click here to play audio example 136

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To finish the chorus, you’ll move on to chord ideas to build a climax to the solo in the last
8 bars of the tune.

Audio Example 137

Click here to play audio example 137

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To finish this section of study, here is the 32-bar solo as a whole so you can hear how each
section comes together in order to build the intensity level over the full chorus.

Audio Example 138

Click here to play audio example 138

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As you can see, by using the three-tiered approach to building a solo, you can use a few single-
note ideas, a few octave ideas and a few chord-soloing phrases to build an interesting
and engaging solo, rather than having to constantly come up with new single-note ideas
during a longer solo.

Once you have checked out this sample solo, try soloing over a tune and playing single
notes, octaves and chords in subsequent sections to build your solo in the same way
Wes liked to in his playing. When you can do this on a smaller form like one chorus, then
extend this concept to playing full choruses of single notes, full choruses of octaves and
finishing with full choruses of chord soloing ideas in the same way Wes did in his soloing.

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Common Wes Progressions

To begin our look into Wes’ chord progressions, you’ll dig into a handful of famous changes
that Wes liked to use in his compositions so that you can have a better understanding of
these chords, as well as apply them to your own soloing and writing situations.

The first progressions that we’ll look at comes from Four on Six and is referred to as “non-
resolving ii Vs”. This is so named because the ii Vs in this progression move logically, but
don’t resolve to a Imaj7 or Im7 chord within their framework. Learning how to recognize
these types of ii V chords, as well as becoming comfortable soloing over them, is an essential
skill for any jazz guitarist to have that is exploring Wes’ tunes in their practice routine.

Audio Example 139

Click here to play audio example 139

The next progression is based on sneaking short ii Vs in between longer ii Vs as you


would see in tunes such as Road Song. This progression has a short ii V (Bm7-E7) which
resolves to the Bbm7 chord in the second half of the phrase. There’s also an Am7b5-D7alt
which resolves down to the Gm7 chord in the next bar of the tune.

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Audio Example 140

Click here to play audio example 140

Drawn from the last four bars of West Coast Blues, the next progression is a cool-sounding
turnaround that you can use in your own writing and playing as Wes did in his.

This progression uses two tritone subs in bars 2 and 3 of the progression as the original
chords are a straight forward Imaj7-VI7-iim7-V7 chord group. The maj7 is added to help
resolve the V7 chord in the second bar at this point in the progression.
Audio Example 141

Click here to play audio example 141

Drawn from Wes Montgomery’s tune Angel, the next progression uses a descending
bassline, which build slash chords along the way, in order to move from the iim7 chord,
through the Imaj7 chord, into the relative minor vim7 chord and to the iiim7 chord at the
end of the phrase, which is often lead back to the iim7 in a turnaround situation from there.

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Audio Example 142


Click here to play audio example 142

As Wes was inspired by Charlie Parker in his playing and writing, we see elements of Bird’s
music in Wes’ recordings such as the tune Doujie. Here, the first four bars are the same first
four bars as Confirmation and Blues for Alice, where you start on the Imaj7 chord, then
move down with a series of ii V’s that resolve to the IV chord in the next phrase of the song.

Audio Example 143


Click here to play audio example 143

The last common Wes progression we’ll look at comes from the tune Far Wes. Here, there
is a ii V that resolves in an unorthodox fashion to the Imaj7 chord (Dbm7-Gb7-Amaj7).

Normally this progression would want to resolve to a Bmaj7 chord, as Gb7 (F#7) is the V7
chord of that key, Wes resolves to Amaj7 giving the progression a nice little twist that you
can use in your own writing or as a chord sub in your improvising when bringing a Wes vibe
into your own playing and writing.

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Audio Example 144


Click here to play audio example 144

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Four on Six Chord Changes

Now that we have looked at some common short Wes progressions, we’ll begin to dissect
some of his most famous songs from a harmonic point of view. The first tune we’ll dive
into is one of his most commonly played and studied, Four on Six.

With it’s memorable opening bassline, to the catchy melody and a chord progression based
on the chords to Summertime, with some classic chord subs thrown in for good measure,
Four on Six is the perfect introduction for anyone who is just beginning to study Wes’ chord
progressions and compositional techniques To break down this chord progression an
analyze the chords that Wes used to build the tune, we’ll look at the Four on Six chords on
top of the staff in each section, with the original chords to Summertime underneath the
staff for comparison.

Here is the first phrase of the tune (bars 1 to 4), which contains a tonic Gm7 chord in Four
on Six, which is either played as four bars of Gm7 or three bars of Gm7 and one bar of G7alt
in Summertime depending on which version you are referencing.

While the first four bars were very similar between both tunes, it’s in bars 5 to 8 where Wes
brings in a series of iim7 V7 chords that really differentiates Four on Six from the original
Summertime chord changes.

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Both progressions begin with a Cm7 (the ivm7 in the key of Gm7), but from there Wes uses
the Cm7 chord as a iim7 and begin a series of descending iim7 V7 chords from there. You
will notice that in bar three Wes uses the same root as the original changes (A), but he plays
Am7 as part of a iim7 V progression where the original changes had Am7b5 in that position.

The final connection between the two progressions occurs in the final bar, where the original
chord is a D7alt chord, V7alt in the key of Gm7, and Wes uses Ebm7 Ab7, with the Ab7 being
the tritone sub for D7alt, resolving by half step into Gm7 in the next bar of the tune.

Though it may look like random ii V’s in this section of the tune, you can see three main
connections between Four on Six and Summertime in this part of Wes’ tune that connect
the two progressions in a logical fashion.

The next four bars (9 to 12), use the same chords in both tunes, a Im7 chord (Gm7) for three
bars, followed by a iim7 V7 progression that resolves to Bbmaj7 (the relative major key) in
the following bar of the tune.

The last four bars of Four on Six use the same changes as the last four bars of Summertime.
Here, you have Bbmaj7 (the relative major key), followed by a ii V I in G minor and a quick
iim7b5 V7alt turnaround to get you back to the start of the next chorus.

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Here is the full chord progression of Four on Six for you to check out as a whole.

BACKING TRACK 7
Click here to play the Twisted Blues backing track (slow)

BACKING TRACK 8

Click here to play the Twisted Blues backing track (fast)

To help you get your fingers and ears around this classic Wes tune, here is a sample comping
study that you can learn in the practice room and use as the basis for taking these analyzed
changes from the page and onto the fretboard.

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Audio Example 145


Click here to play audio example 145

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When you have this chord study under your fingers, try working out comping patterns
of Four on Six in the woodshed in order to take this idea further in your jazz guitar practice
routine.

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Wes Coast Blues Chord Changes

Another classic Wes tune that is worth analyzing to get into the thought process of Wes
the composer is West Coast Blues. Played in ¾ time, this tricky, bluesy song is not a really
blues chord progression, but has elements of the blues within it’s construction, making it
a favorite of jazz guitarists.

One of the elements of the blues that you will see is the use if the I7 chord (Bb7), as well
as the IV7 chord (Eb7), though they don’t necessarily fall within the same positions as you
would expect to see them in a blues tune. These kinds of small twists are a characteristic of
Wes’ writing style and something that made his tunes so interesting to listen to and fun to
play.

In the first four bars, you have a I7 and bVII7 chord. The bVII chord is borrowed from Bb
natural minor, the mode that contains a bVII7 chord. When writing chord progressions, you
can often borrow chords from other modes with the same root, such as taking the bVII7
chord from natural minor in this progression, which is a technique that Wes liked to use
when writing chord progressions in his compositional output.

Audio Example 146


Click here to play audio example 146

The next four bars contain the I7 chord, but here you will find a ii V progression (Bm7-E7) in
the second half of the phrase which sets up the Eb7 chord in the next bar of the tune. Again,
this is an example of a tritone ii V progression resolving down by half step, as you saw with
Four on Six as well.

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Audio Example 147


Click here to play audio example 147

You have now arrived at the IV7 chord when you land on the Eb7 chord in this phrase. The
second half of the phrase then moves to a ivm7 chord (Ebm7), which becomes the first iim7
chord in a series of descending chromatic ii V’s that continue in the next four-bar phrase of
the tune.

The next four bars feature 2 iim7 V7 progressions that move down by half steps and
resolve into the Cm7 chord that is found at the start of the next phrase in the tune. This type
of descending, chromatic ii V movement is something that Wes enjoyed using in his tunes.

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One of the most straight-forward sections of the tune, here you have a iim7 and V7 chord
spread out of four bars that lead to the tonic chord at the start of the next phrase in the
tune.

Audio Example 148

Click here to play audio example 148

The final four bars of the tune are some of the most interesting, and hardest to solo over
when you take this tune off the page and onto the guitar. Beginning with a Bbmaj7 chord
(Imaj7), this first twist of replacing a tonic 7th chord as we saw earlier with a tonic Imaj7
chord is inspired by the Bird blues changes that you find in tunes such as Blues for Alice.

Moving forward, you have two tritone subs in place of a normal Imaj7-VI7-iim7-V7
progression to produce the chord changes Imaj7-bIII7-bVImaj7-V7, which is also inspired
by a classic tune (Ladybird), which uses the changes Imaj7-bIIImaj7-bVImaj7-bIImaj7.

Audio Example 149

Click here to play audio example 149

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Here is the whole chord progression:

BACKING TRACK 9

Click here to play the West Coast Blues backing track (slow)

BACKING TRACK 10

Click here to play the West Coast Blues backing track (fast)

Here is a chord study that you can work on in the woodshed in order to take these chords
from the theoretical realm and move them into the practical world.

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Audio Example 150


Click here to play audio example 150

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Once you have these changes under your fingers, try working out new ways of playing
the tune using chords that you know in order to explore this tune further in your studies.

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Twisted Blues Chord Changes

The last chord progression that we’ll look at is Twisted Blues, which is a tricky one to
understand sometimes as it doesn’t really resemble a blues, and has two key centers.

The first phrase of the tune that we’ll look at makes up the first 8 bars of the first and
second half of the song. There is a Gb7 (the I7, but we’ll look at a second option for looking
at this chord later on) and a G7 (the bII7).

Basically this is a I to V progression with the V7 chord being replaced by a tritone sub in the
second and fourth bars of the progression. Again, this is a common sub that you see in Wes’
and other’s compositions.

The next section appears in the 3rd phrase of both the first and second halves of the tune,
and it provides us with two ways of looking at this part of the song. The first looks at Gb7 as
the I7 chord, as we did in the first half of the song, which then moved to a #Idim7 and then
Vmaj7 chord in bar three of the phrase.

From there, you find a Bm7-E7 (ii V) that begins a series of non-resolving ii Vs in the next
phrase of the tune.

The second way to look at this section is to think of the Dbmaj7 chord as a Imaj7
chord, making the Gb7 the IV7 chord, which you would find in a blues and so relates
the changes to the title of the song in this fashion. When doing so, the Gb7 becomes a IV7
chord resolving through a #IVdim7 to the Imaj7 in bar 3 of the phrase.

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Audio Example 151

Click here to play audio example 151

Here you have the last four bars of the first half of the tune, which is a series of non-
resolving ii Vs that finish on a Dm7-G7 change that then resolves down by a half step to
the Gb7 chord at the top of the next section of the tune.

Audio Example 152

Click here to play audio example 152

The last four bars of the tune also hint at the song being more in Dbmaj7 than Gb7 as here,
the ii V’s move down and resolve to that chord in bar three of the progression.

Because of this movement, I tend to think of this song as being in Dbmaj7, while most
others prefer Gb7, so try working out both in your studies and go with the one that makes
more sense to you as a composer and soloist.

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Audio Example 153

Click here to play audio example 153

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Here is the entire chord progression on one page so you can see all of these cool and fun
to play chords in action.

BACKING TRACK 11

Click here to play the Twisted Blues backing track (slow)

BACKING TRACK 12

Click here to play the Twisted Blues backing track (fast)

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To finish this tune, here is a sample chord study that you can learn, memorize and add to
your own playing:

Audio Example 154

Click here to play audio example 154

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As is the case with any chord study you learn, check this sample out in the woodshed and
then work on creating your own chord studies over this tune in order to develop your
understanding of these changes in your own studies.

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Call and Response Ideas

To finish our study of Wes’ soloing tactics, let’s look at how he used call and response to
build melodic lines and phrases in his solos. Commonly used in blues music, the call and
response technique has also translated nicely over to the jazz realm and has become
a staple of the improvisational diet of many legendary players. The concept behind this
approach is fairly straight forward, though hard to pull off in the moment when improvising.

What Wes would do in this context is play one idea (the call) and then repeat this idea with
slight alterations (the response) to build a longer phrase with one idea rather than two
separate ideas in this section of the tune.

To help you get this idea into your ears and under your fingers, here is an example of a
Blues in C which uses the call and response approach to build each 4-bar phrase of the
solo. Here are the first four bars with some text to guide you when looking at the main lick
followed by the response to that idea in the second half of the phrase.

Audio Example 155

Click here to play audio example 155

You’ll now learn a Call and Response phrase over the middle four bars of this 12-bar blues
progression. It uses the same melodic idea that is then slightly altered in the response,
occurring in the second half of the phrase.

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Audio Example 156


Click here to play audio example 156

We’ll now finish our chorus by learning a phrase over the last four-bars of the tune.

Audio Example 157

Click here to play audio example 157

With each phrase worked out separately, you can now put them all together to construct
a cool sounding solo over a C Blues progression that uses the call and response technique:

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BACKING TRACK 13

Click here to play the C Blues backing track (slow)

BACKING TRACK 14
Click here to play the C Blues backing track (fast)

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Audio Example 158

Click here to play audio example 158

When you have this sample solo under your fingers, try writing out some of your own call
and response phrases, working them over backing tracks and carefully constructing them
before beginning to take this concept to a fully improvised context over a tune.

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About the Author

Canadian guitarist and pedagogue Dr. Matthew Warnock has been awarded Jazz
Performance degrees from McGill University and Western Michigan University, culminating
in a Doctorate in jazz performance from the University of Illinois. During his Doctoral study,
Matt researched the improvisational vocabulary of jazz guitarist Johnny Smith, culminating in
a dissertation titled “Johnny Smith: Melodic Interpretation and Improvisational Techniques.”

Matt currently maintains a strong focus on high school and collegiate jazz education and
has held faculty positions at Western Illinois University, the Interlochen Arts Camp and the
Leeds College of Music. He has also given workshops and lectures throughout the US, UK,
Canada and Brazil including Carleton University (Ottawa), Concordia University (Montreal),
Chicago High School for the Arts, the Wisconsin Conservatory (Milwaukee), the Federal
University of Juiz de Fora (Brazil), the Federal Universtiy of Ouro Preto (Brazil) and the Federal
University of Sao Joao Del Rei (Brazil).

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Published by Mel Bay, Just Jazz Guitar Magazine, and All About Jazz, Matt is the author of
3 jazz guitar books and 2 jazz guitar learning apps for the Apple and Android platforms.
Having a strong belief that all instrumental teachers should maintain a healthy concert
schedule, Matt has performed throughout Europe, the US, Canada and Brazil, including the
International Association for Jazz Educators Conference and Lincoln Center in New York,
the Savassi Jazz Festival in Belo Horizonte, Brazil and the NuJazz Festival in Curitiba, Brazil.

After living in Belo Horizonte, Brazil for 2011, where he toured with Samba Jazz bands and
taught Jazz at Universities and Music Academies, Matt currently resides in Chester, UK,
where he runs an online guitar teaching website www.mattwarnockguitar.com, is a Lecturer
at the University of Chester, gives Guitar exams for the London College of Music (Registry
of Guitar Tutors) and continues to perform and give workshops on the international level.

Layout, editing and programming done by Dirk Laukens (www.jazzguitar.be)

How to Play in the Style of Wes Montgomery