Transcribable Solos

Transcribing solos (or parts of solos) is the single most important thing you can do to develop your skill as a jazz musician. But I am going to make it plain - not every solo is suitable to begin your route on transcription. So, what solos should someone transcribe? That is one of the questions I get the most while working students. In some ways it is tricky to answer - people have to transcribe things they are excited about and sometimes it can be an enriching experience when those solos are a tad out of reach


The following solos are often my 'go-to's' for early transcribers. There is a certain clarity of idea in these solos that make them not only great solos, but also great starting points for jazz musicians to begin their transcription journey.


Johnny Hodges, Reelin' and Rockin'

Solo @ 1:49


Above all of his amazing qualities, Hodges is a superb bluesman. On the merits of his phrasing alone, Hodges commands unparalleled presence over the blues form that can be a template for any instrument. This solo is a one of many great examples and holds to a rather conservative collection of pitches and range.


Lester Young, Pound Cake

Solo @ 1:38


Lester Young teaches us the a triad, plus the 6th is all one really needs to sound hip. Once again, this is a great example of how to effective phrase over the blues as well as develop motive with a turnaround lick.


Harry Sweet's Edison, St. Louis Blues

Solo @ 2:35


Sweet's is another player whose master over the blues simply has to be respected. This solo is rather thematic before it yields to some really bluesy ideas that are worth developing through a variety of keys and assimilating into one's vocabulary.



Chet Baker, Summertime

Solo @ 0:29


Chet makes a quarter note sound really good. Rhythmically, there is a simplicity here that helps musicians with organizing their ideas early on in the transcription process. Also, summertime is a very common tune for young improvisers. So this solo provides a good "non-blues" example where the transcribed ideas can be applied to a tune that is likely in the vocabulary of the player already!


Wynton Kelly, Freddie Freeloader

Solo @ 0:44


There are a lot of really great solos on the Kind of Blue album. Landmark solos actually, but this one stands out to me for Kelly's ability to "make it plain." While Miles's solo on this tune may be more common, I find that the language employed in Kelly's solo is more universally applied to other contexts and may help players develop in ways that more transferable to diverse contexts.



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