Besides playing chord solos, chords can be used in conjunction with single line soloing which is particularly effective if you’re playing solo, duo or without someone else comping behind you and can make you a better jazz guitarist. Combing chords and single lines this way will also help you develop guitar phrasing. because you don’t have too much time on each chord to blow over, we are forced to be more melodic in our improv.

Playing chords with single lines helps you keep the form together as well as fill out the sound, but as guitarists we tend to get caught up on playing too many notes which can lead to forgetting to add chords to our solos.

One technique that can be used to avoid this problem the use of phrase charts. The great guitarist Jamie Taylor showed me this technique and it made a big diffeence in my playing.

To create a phase chart pick any progression or standard that are you working on and draw a line at the top of every few bars within the tune. For this example I’ve picked a blues.

It’s a good idea to set the phrase marks in ‘odd’ places instead over just a full II-V-I for example so you can’t just use licks.

When you have done this, try playing single line phrases in the bars that you have highlighted and chords in the remaining bars like in the example below.

 

 

When you have done this play single line phrases in the bars that you have highlighted and chords in the remaining bars like in the example below.

 

In this example I’ve used shell jazz chord voicings and the charleston rhythm to keep things simple, but there infinite possiblities on how you could use this exercise to practice.  Instead of chords you could play walking bass lines for example.

You can also reverse the exercise so instead of playing lines in the indicated bars you can play chords instead. That way you’ll get the sounds of the chords and single lines of each bar in the progression into your ears.

 

If this concept is new to you and you find it tricky an easier  task you can do first is pick a static chord and improvise lines for a bar then play chords for a bar so you don’t have to worry about following a progression right away.

When this feels comfortable move onto a 12 bar blues and alternate between one bar of chords and one bar of rhythm then move on to the exercise above.

The phase chart exercise is great for develop phrasing because you only have a certain amount of time for single line phrases which forces you to make great simple melodic lines.

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What do you think about using phrase charts? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

 

 

 

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