What does the word “hack” even mean?
A hack is a simplification of something down to it’s key elements to get a result in a shorter length of time. In this case we say, “soloing in weeks, not years.” We don’t mean that you will gain infinite knowledge in the field of jazz improv in weeks. What we do is help free your mind from the skull-crushing levels of theory one can experience at first.
We simplify the process so you can start soloing as soon as possible. Not after you have learned all the scales and arpeggios and have practiced playing them at the right time in a musical way.
Creating long melodic lines over chord changes is much easier when you can focus on a major scale (with a change here and there) instead of a new scale or arpeggio over each chord.
This is where you start. Being a “great” improviser will take years of hard work, but being able to play a nice melodic solo on a standard with the right notes shouldn’t take as long as it does using the “traditional” route.
The same thing goes for chords and melodies. Being free to use any chord voicing in a musical way and being able to play melodies over the entire neck in with embellishments and added harmony underneath is hard. Might even be a lifetime pursuit. But I want you jamming with your friends on standards next week. Let’s lower the bar for starting to play jazz.
It’s hip to play outside man. Don’t you know?
There is one area we do not dig very deep into.
You know those jazz solos where it sounds like they are playing really outside (wrong notes that are somehow justified because they make it work)? This method will not teach you to play that way. Making wrong notes sound right is something that only one who knows what the right notes are can pull off. That is where this hack comes in. Let’s get you playing great solos with the right notes as soon as possible, then you can start exploring the wrong notes. Or not. Sometimes less hip is more, if you know what I’m saying.
Once you’ve used this hack you’ll be able to play interesting melodic solos over jazz standards. If you can get there in weeks instead of years then you’ll have a head start over people that are spending time learning scale upon scale and how to use them when the time is right. But once you´ve used this hack, you´ll have traded frustration for freedom, and have enough drive and passion to go beyond the hack and develop further skills later on. If you are deep into the system and really soloing on a bunch of tunes, there are some tips about how to make some wrong notes right in the “Spicing Up Your Solo” section.
Relative minor / major keys
Most songs can be thought of as either in a major key or its relative minor key. A major key, and it’s relative minor key are the same in every way except what note you start on if you are playing the scale. If you play a major scale starting on the sixth note, that gives you the relative minor scale. For the simplification of the system we think of all songs in the major key while using the system to practice which notes to solo with. This doesn’t mean that you have to think of a minor song in its relative major key forever, just as you first practice to solo over it to learn the deviations.
The only type of tune that is difficult to think of it in its relative major key, is a minor blues. If Imaj7 chord is in a minor blues song (it usually isn’t) it still will not sound like home base. That’s ok. Practice the deviations like you normally would. Once you know where they are, you can think of the notes in a minor context, you can add pentatonic licks, or put on a cowboy hat and boots if you want to. Your main scale will still be the major scale, more appropriately called it’s relative minor scale.
If a tune is “modal”, it means that you use one scale type for the whole solo (or most or it). One of the most well known modal tunes is called “So What”. The A sections use a D scale with b3, b7 (AKA, the Dorian mode). In the B section you use the same scale, just take it up one fret (that would be Eb with b3, b7). Easy right?
Wild Card Tunes
In a very few number of songs, the key will change for number bars. In some songs it might make sense to analyze those sections in the new key. “All the things you are” and “How high the moon” are difficult songs that modulate through different keys that are not related. If you analyze each tonal section (each part in a new key) with the system, the solo is actually very easy to play.