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3 Steps for Bebop Soloing

When you’re developing as an improviser, it’s helpful to start branching out to some new styles, scales, and techniques.

Something that many jazz players work on is bebop soloing—which evokes some of the style and technique of the bebop era and some of jazz’s greatest players like Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Bud Powell.

Bebop is often characterized by complex melodies played at a fairly fast tempo—often floating around 300bpm.

Today we’re going to check out three steps you can take in bebop soloing to get you more comfortable with the concept.


The bebop scale

The easiest place to start with bebop playing is the bebop scale.

G dominant bebop scale for jazz musicians and jazz guitarists

If we look at the G dominant bebop scale from the perspective of the mixolydian scale, we’re going to have not only the mixolydian flat 7, but we’ll also have the natural major seventh as well. This creates a smooth b7-7-1 line that you can move through quickly. This scale is basically a cross between the major and mixolydian scales. Essentially what we’re doing is adding a passing tone so that all chord tones fall on strong beats in an eighth note line.

How to build g dominant bebop scale, difference between  mixolydian scale major scale and bebop scale

You’ll notice that in the G dominant bebop scale against a G7, we have the root, b7, 5, and 3 all falling on strong beats, which are all chord tones in G7. And this all just ensures that there is harmonic clarity in the line, and even if we add in more chromaticism outside the scale or play decorative figures in the eighth note lines, we still have the sound of G7 underpinning it.

If you want to start integrating this scale into your playing, a good way to do so is to descend the scale from every chord tone. This means descending from the root, then the flat 7, the fifth, and finally the third—and you want to do this descending instead of ascending, which is how it’s mostly used in idiomatic bebop phrases.

If you want to see how Cecil does it, be sure to check out our accompanying YouTube video, 3 Steps for Bebop Soloing.

Integrating arpeggios into bebop lines

So within the dominant bebop scale, we have four arpeggios that are built off the chord tones of G7—that’s from G, B, D, and G.

Jazz arpeggios from dominant bebop scale

So off of G, we have of course G7. Off of B, we have Bm7b5 (B, D, F, A). And you’ll notice that A is giving a tension nine over the G7 chord. Then we have Dm7, which gives us the 5, b7, 9 and 11 from G (D, F, A, C). Then we come to Fmaj7, which gives us the b7, 9, 11, and 13 from G (F, A, C, E).

Now what you can create simple bebop lines by connecting the arpeggios to the scales, by doing the arpeggio ascending and the scale descending.