Transcribing jazz guitar solos is an absolutely essential part of learning how to play jazz guitar. It’s tough to find where to start though, so here are 3 essential first jazz guitar transcriptions. These had to meet some criteria for me to recommend.

First Jazz Guitar Transcriptions - Wes Montgomery

First Jazz Guitar Transcriptions Requirements

First, they had to be relatively slow to medium tempo. Solos that are very slow (over ballads) can be tougher to transcribe because it’s easy for an early improvisor to get lost in them. Obviously, if solos are too fast they can be really frustrating to transcribe. So look for middle ground in terms of tempo.

Secondly, they should be over common forms. Blues, rhythm changes, etc. Your first jazz guitar transcriptions should give you a bunch of licks and phrases that you can use immediately.

Third, they need to be by masters of jazz improvisation. You learn the most by studying the top players, the guys who made jazz move forward. So make your first jazz guitar transcriptions by guys that are giants in the style – Wes Montgomery, Jim Hall, Kenny Burrell, Charlie Christian, Grant Green, etc.

Finally, they should be relatively short. If you’re trying to do your first jazz guitar transcription you will probably find it takes you much longer than you expect. It might take 30 minutes to get a single line down! I know it did for me! So find some solos that are relatively short.
Let’s get to the list.

Kenny Burrell – Chitlins Con Carne – Midnight Blue


This solo is usually the first one I recommend to new jazz guitar students. Burrell really sounds amazing on this solo. It’s extremely simple! He plays very clear phrases, almost all of which can be played using the minor pentatonic scale. His phrasing in this one is what really makes it work. If you come to jazz thinking there are a lot of scales, fast lines, and complicated harmony…well you’re right sometimes :) but this solo is very simple with great phrasing. The form is a minor blues, but with a dominant IV chord. His phrasing is so effective, you could actually get by with transcribing any of the choruses.

Wes Montgomery – SKJ – Bags Meets Wes


Wes is the master, clear and simple. This tune is a blues in Db with a nice extra ii-V at the end of the form. Wes plays an understated solo here that just kills. If this is one of your first jazz guitar transcriptions, leave out the octaves and just learn the solo from one or the other notes. You will still get a lot of great licks and phrasing ideas from the solo without the octaves. Once you have octaves down, this is a great one to work with.

Wes Montgomery – D Natural Blues – The Incredible Jazz Guitar


Wes kills the blues again in D this time. There is so much in this solo that it is absolutely an essential jazz guitar solo. This one has a few moments that get a little fast, but most of it is played at a pretty comfortable pace. You may not want to notate this one – it’s at a tempo that can be tricky to notate because you will have to use sixteenth notes for the entire thing. Learn it by ear and you’ll get a ton from this solo.

So that’s my list, what solos would YOU recommend as the best first jazz guitar transcriptions? Use the comments to make some recommendations.

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Redd Volkaert Licks – Chicken Pickin

by Sam on April 14, 2014

CD-live-at-billy-bobs-168-cRedd Volkaert is one of the unsung heroes of country music these days.  He’s a little off the beaten path, based in Austin, TX instead of Nashville.  But his playing with Merle Haggard has made many country fans take notice.  He also ripped a great solo on Brad Paisley’s “Cluster Pluck” all star jam. His own solo albums are no slouch either!  We’re going to look at 4 Redd Volkaert licks from Merle’s tune Swining Doors from Haggard’s Live at Billy Bob’s recording.

If you find these licks (and Redd’s playing in general) interesting, make sure to check out my new Chicken Pickin’ book here.  Tons of great stuff in there by all the country masters.

Redd Volkaert Lick 1

Redd starts us out with a lick over the Bb7 chord.  This lick is really simple – just following the chord tones from the flatted 7th (Ab) to 5th, and then a bend from the second degree up to the third to complete the top part of a Bb7 chord.

Redd Volkaert Licks

Redd Volkaert Lick 2

The second lick we’re going to check out features a really cool hemiola. Hemiolas are musical figures that imply one time signature while another is happening.  Here, Redd is implying 3/4 over 4/4.  The lick starts on 1, then 4, then 3.  He then resolves the lick with a blues-y line that resolves to the root of the chord.  This one is over an F chord.

Redd Volkaert Licks

Redd Volkaert Lick 3

Our third Redd Volkaert lick uses some creative bending.  He starts with the flatted 7th on the 11th fret of the E string and bends the flatted third up to the 3rd of the chord.  He then changes the high note from the Eb to C, but continues the bend.  Really cool way to keep a bend going while changing the notes around it.

Redd Volkaert Licks

Redd Volkaert Lick 4

The final Redd Volkaert lick we’ll look at is a classic lick taken from the history of country music.  Redd’s probably studied the roots of country as much as anyone and pulls this one out of the old Merle Haggard tune “Strangers.”  Check out the original on YouTube.  This is a really cool throwback to some of the great, original country music from the 1950s.

Redd Volkaert Licks

Make sure to check out my chicken pickin’ book for even more great stuff inspired by Redd Volkaert.  He is one of the best country guitarists out there – and one to definitely check out.

 

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Brent Mason Chicken Pickin 2

April 7, 2014

If you’ve been reading my page for any length of time you probably know that I am a huge Brent Mason fan.  Not only is he a great player, but learning Brent Mason chicken pickin licks is a great way to start chicken pickin’ right away.  He’s played with a ton of great Nashville artists. [...]

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Brad Paisley Licks – Low String Bends

March 31, 2014

Brad Paisley is one of the best chicken pickin’ guitarists out there and has now started to crossover to pop and metal audiences.  His music has become transcendent and that is mostly due to his country guitar shredding! We’re going to look at a few licks from his earlier songs today.  The first 3 are [...]

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Chicken Pickin’ Voice Leading

March 24, 2014

Chicken pickin’ licks without any direction are…pretty boring.  Things don’t go anywhere and it ends up sounding like you’re just playing ‘a bunch of licks.’  The keys to going from a bunch of licks to playing a meaningful solo are context and voice leading.   If you haven’t checked out my eBook, Blues Language, it’s worth [...]

Read the full article →

Transcribing jazz guitar solos is an absolutely essential part of learning how to play jazz guitar. It’s tough to find where to start though, so here are 3 essential first jazz guitar transcriptions. These had to meet some criteria for me to recommend. First Jazz Guitar Transcriptions Requirements First, they had to be relatively slow [...]

Read More

Redd Volkaert is one of the unsung heroes of country music these days.  He’s a little off the beaten path, based in Austin, TX instead of Nashville.  But his playing with Merle Haggard has made many country fans take notice.  He also ripped a great solo on Brad Paisley’s “Cluster Pluck” all star jam. His [...]

Read More

If you’ve been reading my page for any length of time you probably know that I am a huge Brent Mason fan.  Not only is he a great player, but learning Brent Mason chicken pickin licks is a great way to start chicken pickin’ right away.  He’s played with a ton of great Nashville artists. [...]

Read More

Brad Paisley is one of the best chicken pickin’ guitarists out there and has now started to crossover to pop and metal audiences.  His music has become transcendent and that is mostly due to his country guitar shredding! We’re going to look at a few licks from his earlier songs today.  The first 3 are [...]

Read More

Chicken pickin’ licks without any direction are…pretty boring.  Things don’t go anywhere and it ends up sounding like you’re just playing ‘a bunch of licks.’  The keys to going from a bunch of licks to playing a meaningful solo are context and voice leading.   If you haven’t checked out my eBook, Blues Language, it’s worth [...]

Read More