Jazz Lessons First Jazz Guitar Transcriptions - Wes Montgomery

Published on April 21st, 2014 | by Sam


3 Essential First Jazz Guitar Transcriptions

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 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

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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

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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

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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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