I have played blues and rock music for a while now on the guitar and slowly venturing into Jazz. I have started with playing the chords and melodies of Standards such as "All of me", "Blue Bossa", etc. and also the jazz blues.

Usually I practice the arpeggios for each chord in a melody and when I improvise, I try to play the respective arpeggio for each chord (with different rhythms and order of notes but mainly sticking to the chord tones).

The problem is that my solos sound like I am simply playing the scales and not a melody.

I would be grateful if you could give me some suggestions to make my improvisation sound more "Jazzy" and melodious. I would also appreciate if you could give me examples of exercises that can improve my improvisation.

4 Answers 4


Is that how you learned Blues and Rock?

Did you learn the chords to Whole Lotta Love by Zep, or whatever, and play arpeggios over the one chord on the song? Here's a recipe that works for some.

  1. Listen to many versions on the song including the original.

  2. Transcribe some of the riffs and licks that hear that you really like. Doesn't need to be a guitar riff. It could be a bass line, a horn part etc.

  3. Start playing along with the recorded versions to get a feel for the real groove of the tune. Be part of the band!

  4. Start putting in your favorite licks and riffs in some of the blank spaces as if you were doing a call and response with the other musicians.

Jazz is not an academic exercise in arpeggio-chord matching. It is an art form and culture. So immerse yourself in the art, listen more than you play and imitate. Every blues guitarist knows the same two or three licks that Jimmy Page starts the solo of Dazed and Confused with. Yet they all play those same three licks a little differently. The Jazz culture is similar.

You will learn faster, in my opinion, by approaching Jazz the same way as other music. It isn't really mysterious.

Become a lick collector. This may make you sound like a "poser" for a while but you'll soon start embellishing those licks you stole and they will become yours. There is a good book on Jazz improvisation called Improvising Jazz by Jerry Coker. He recommends coming up with 2 new licks or phrases a day. Don't worry about what chord they fit over or what key they are in, just that you think they sound cool. Write them down and then figure out what chords those licks naturally fit over by making chords out of the lick notes. This is actually the natural way to write music as chords are just a support, harmony, to the melody. Following the chords puts the cart before the horse.


Learn the theory behind the completion of a melody. Improv is at its core taking something you hear, a melody for instance and expanding on its structure. The harmony, the rhythm, the tempo and the general character

That is exactly why you complete melodies in your theory exercises. So you can learn to identify patterns in melodies and expand on them in your own way.

That is what master improvisers can do. They can quickly identify the structure of even just a small piece of music and add interesting tidbits based on what they hear.

It all starts with a good theoretical understanding of what makes a good melody and how to construct your own ones.


Jazz improvisation is a very deep topic. There are books and video courses devoted to the subject, so covering it all here is impossible. Instead, I will offer two suggestions:

  1. As you go through an arpeggio, add in notes from the pentatonic scale. Make sure that the arpeggio notes land on the strong points and the other notes fill in the gaps. You can also use chromatic notes between or leading in to arpeggio tones. (That will sound very jazzy, but make sure you give the arpeggio notes room to breathe and it doesn't just sound like you're playing every note on the fretboard.)
  2. Learn about motifs. A motif is a short musical idea that forms the foundation for a section of music. For example, you could play three notes from the arpeggio, then expand on that little idea and play variations on it (using the ideas listed above, for example). Melodies are excellent sources of motifs, so learn lots and lots of melodies.

But as I said, this only scratches the surface. Jazz is not something you will master in a month or even a decade. Lock on to something you like and master that one thing, then add a new concept to it. And keep adding. You will get to where you want to be.


Try just coming up with a melody that fits the song, play over some of your favourite jazz tracks and have fun with them. Solos come from feeling, you use the strongest notes to fit a song to keep it melodic and add rhythm, try to emphasize the stronger notes at any time and try keep it rhythmic so that they stand out in a song while adding some fancy tapping/shredding/sweeping to make it impressive.

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