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3 Must-Know Techniques for Bebop Vocabulary

If you’re looking to make your lines sound more like the bebop masters, there are a few tricks you can use. And these tricks are ultimately what gives bebop its distinct sound as a jazz sub-genre.

We’re going to run through a few of these must-know techniques today, along with a few etudes that will help you work these concepts into your playing.

If you want to dive even deeper into this, make sure to check out our accompanying YouTube video for 3 Must-Know Techniques for Bebop Vocabulary, along with Cecil’s PDF resource with jazzlessonvideos.com20 Bebop Etudes.

Ready to get playing?


Chord tones on strong beats

We’ll start with one of the big hallmarks of bebop, which is having chord tones on strong beats. We’re going to check out a simple V-I, from Bb7 to Ebmaj7.

Bebop jazz use of chord tones on strong beats

You’ll notice we start on the third of our Bb7, moving to the second to the root. Then we have a passing tone to lead into our flat 7—that’s A to Ab. Then we have G, F, Eb, and we’ll land on the seventh of our tonic chord on beat one.

If you look at the notes, they are falling on strong beats—that’s beats 1, 2, 3, and 4, and on each of those beats we have our third, root, and we use a passing tone to make sure that we have the flat 7 on a strong beat, followed by our fifth and seventh on the one chord. This makes it very clear harmonically—you can even strip away the accompaniment and hear what the chords would sound like under that line.


Our next bebop technique is using eighth note triplets to create some forward motion and rhythmic variation in your lines.

For our phrase, we’ll start again on the Bb7 to Ebmaj7, which is going to look like this.

Bebop jazz use of eighth note triplets

This time, we’ll start on the third of our V chord on beat 1, with an approach note into the fifth of the chord—so E to Ef, then we go up on an Fm triad using eighth note triplets. When we land on Bb, our root, we’ll again put that passing tone between the root and flat seven, back up to the root and then we’ll land on the third of our I chord on beat one.


Our last technique that we’ll cover today is syncopation. This means that we’re going to add some unexpected rhythmic movement to lines to give it even more forward motion and give the upbeats and phrases some more natural swing.

Jazz bebop syncopation on 5 1 progression