Breaking Down Jazz Improvisation “OUTSIDE” Playing

Breaking down Michael Brecker!

When looking at musical notation it can seem like random notes. But if we break down each group into 4 note groupings called “Tetrachords” we can break down the music theory and play each group on our instrument.

We can then remember the “Sound and Shape” of each cell and then join them together. In turn we can then apply these cells to our own instrumental playing/improvisations.


jazz improvisation michael brecker outside solo


1st Grouping of 4 notes [Tetrachord]=E flat Pentatonic shape/sound [Mixolydian]

jazz improvisation michael brecker outside solo

2nd Tetrachord=A flat Minor triad and 4th interval [or #11  #9 and #5]

jazz improvisation michael brecker outside solo

3rd Tetrachord=Minor scale fragment [#11 Lydian]

jazz improvisation michael brecker outside solo

4th Tetrachord=Changing cell. [From flat 9 to C Jazz melodic minor]

jazz improvisation michael brecker outside solo

5th Tetrachord=Very “Outside” D major pentatonic/4ths

jazz improvisation michael brecker outside solo

6th Tetrachord =D major Pentatonic sound/shape [very “Out”]

jazz improvisation michael brecker outside solo


7th Tetrachord=C minor arpeggio and 4th

jazz improvisation michael brecker outside solo

8th Tetrachord=B flat major Pentatonic sound/shape

jazz improvisation michael brecker outside solo

9th Tetrachord=C Melodic “Jazz” minor [Augmented] sound/shape [same as 4th Tetrachord]

jazz improvisation michael brecker outside solo

10th Tetrachord = Perfect 4th and major 3rd creating triad pairs sound/shape [or E flat minor 11 implication or G FLAT/a flat]

jazz improvisation michael brecker outside solo

Lastly= Flat 6 for C minor

jazz improvisation michael brecker outside solo


In terms of fingering and musical application on our instruments learning shapes and “Connections” and breaking phrases down into 4 note cells [Tetrachords] is really useful because complex lines can be understood and learnt quickly.

In turn this gives us lots of patterns for improvisation and theoretical knowledge to improvise with as opposed to just playing scales and arpeggios.

If you found this easy then try and break this little solo down into” Hexatonic” scale application. You might find it really interesting!

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Sextuplets Alternate Picking Guitar Lesson

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EXERCISE 1: Repetition alternate picking sextuplet method by counting 1 2 3 4 5 6 to get the “feel” and rhythmic flow with the right hand picking hand.

sextuplets alternate picking guitar lesson

EXERCISE 2: An alternate picking guitar rhythmic sextuplet extension following on from the first exercise

sextuplets alternate picking guitar lesson

EXERCISE 2: VARIATION: another extended sextuplet variation for alternate picking. The key again is to get the sextuplet rhythms flowing from the brain/auditory into the right picking hand.

sextuplets alternate picking guitar lesson


EXERCISE 3: How to use alternate picking for playing sextuplets on the “Off-beat” on guitar by missing the first beat/hearing the silent beat.

off-beat sextuplets alternate picking guitar lesson

EXERCISE 4: Counting “1 and 2 and 3 and” as opposed to 1 2 3 4 5 6. For fluid alternate picking momentum around the 90 to 110 BPM metronome beat.

3/4 as sextuplets in 4/4 time alternate picking guitar lesson

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Jazz/fusion improvisation Altered scale Theory Lesson

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Today we will look at a John Mclaughlin alternate picking Jazz/Fusion improvisation cadence employing the altered dominant chord! Please watch the video below and then try it out yourself.

As you will see this cadence employs the Altered scale. It is a 2 [minor 7 flat 5] going to 5 [ “Altered Dominant”] 1 [major 7th]. This being Dm7 flat 5  G7 altered resolving to C major7.

I also employ a flat 5 substitution on the Dm7 flat 5. All of this resolves though and slips nicely into the altered dominant 5 chord. I also use pentatonics within the altered scale for rhythmic flow. Please look at the TAB/MUSIC below and play through it yourself to see and feel how it all “Naturally” unfolds. I employ alternate picking the same as John Mclaughlin.

John Mclaughlin alternate picking altered scale line Music/Tab

John Mclaughlin Alternate picking Altered scale jazz improviser line

VARIATION With an A flat Pentatonic shape replacing A flat minor/Major Arpeggio for the flat 5 substitution.


Altered scale jazz improvisation, jazz improviser lesson

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Jazz Scales #1 Extension

How to extend Jazz Modes and Scales:

Going back to our negative harmony web page CLICK we had a scale extension of Ionian and Phrygian.

Scale extensions for jazz 13 note scale


Employing our old friends “Tetrachords”  we can build complete 2 octave scales when the octave [or repeated starting note] is missed. In this case the whole tone scale and its transposition builds the scale extension.

16 note jazz scale using tetrachords



We can also build 2 octave scales by joining together two “One octave” scales.

jazz scale extensions 14 note scale


Many composer like Tcherepnin, Messiaen, Boulez along with more modern improviser/composers like Keith Emerson and Allan Holdsworth have applied this for its rich polytonality, modal expansion and textural counterpoint.

This idea along with Negative/Mirror harmony is really well suited to the piano both in terms of improvisation and composition. If you are looking for originality then there is a whole new world waiting here to be discovered and applied.

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Vincent Persichetti’s book covers this. It is not for everyone so it could be a good idea to borrow a copy from a library.


Target Tones for Jazz [Guitar] Improvisation Chromatics

Making Jazz sound, well, Jazzy?

Many people learn modes and scales and arpeggios and copious amounts of music theory. They are then confronted with the biggest problem of all. How to make music out it!

The key to all of this is to look at the rhythm. Rhythm is the key to fluid professional sounding lines. But, how to we do this from a beginners perspective?

Firstly: The most important thing to do is outline the chord tones that are “On” the beat. This way the ear can follow. Because the chromatics on the “Off beat” will then sound correct, interesting and colourful.

The 2 little chromatic set ups/melodies below detail this.

jazz improvisation target tones for jazz improviser

Play through the exercise below and you will hear and see the C7 arpeggio outlined on beats  1 and 3 in all bars. Also, notice the “Up beat”. This sets up the rhythm by targeting the “On beat” chord tone.

jazz improvisation target tones lesson

Here is another example in double time. Notice that this time the complete C major scale is played on each 1/4 note beat of the bar. Again we have the upbeat to create forward motion.

Jazz improvisation lesson target tones C major scale

This doesn’t mean that we do this every time but it shows how to create and then develop really hip lines that are “Musical”. From here on in you can manipulate it.

Jazz/Fusion Line: Don Mock classic “Anacrusis”

Don Mock target tones jazz improv line

John Mclaughlin Classic beginning “In the bar”

Below is a variation using a John Mclaughlin phrase. Notice how Mclaughlin starts on the second semiquaver [off beat] of the second beat of the bar.

John Mclaughlin Target tones example

Here are a couple of other rhythmic set ups to try out,

Notice the off beat to triplet arpeggio. This is a very common rhythm but it always sounds good and works well.

Charlie Parker Be Bop jazz improvisation line

 This line starts “On the beat” but the rhythm gets pushed.

Charlie Parker Be Bop jazz improvisation line

This is just a taster of what makes Jazz sound like jazz. Looking and learning about rhythm is "Everything" because without understanding where the "On' and "Off "beat are it is impossible to syncopate and anticipate musically. All the theory in the world won't help without good forward moving rhythm.

The best book that I have ever read and studied on the subject of enclosure/approach notes/rhythmic set up is,

"Target" Tones by Don Mock.LINK DON MOCK

Target tone Don Mock

For a deeper and intellectual look there is a book called "Forward Motion" by pianist Hal Galper. This book is for someone really wanting to go deeper into the rhythm of jazz.LINK HAL GALPER

Forward motion book by Hal Galper

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SHAKTI Indian Raga Guitar Lesson #2 John Mclaughlin

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This little exercise works on the development of another basic guitar fingering idea. This fingering [as you will find out when playing through the notation/tab] lends itself well to the rhythmic development of John Mclaughlin’s alternate picking guitar technique.


SHAKTI John Mclaughlin Indian Raga Guitar Lesson

As always keep the alternate picking rhythmical and tight and count in groups of “Tetrachords” [four 16th notes or “TA KA DI MI” Konokol ]for fluency and good timing tap your foot as you play the Raga line.

Good luck and thanks for reading this post. I hope it has been helpful, Oh and don’t forget to subscribe to us on youtube. Many Thanks from GuitarGti!

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Guitar Trio-John Mclaughlin-Al di Meola-Paco de Lucia

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Performing in the style of the Guitar Trio with the plectrum requires strict ALTERNATE PICKING for the solo lines that are picked at a very high velocity. You need to be able to “Jump” straight into the rhythmic flow. The patterns below detail the best key alternate picking patterns to gain mastery for this.

The key to all of this is to “Count Time/Groupings”and “Tap your foot” as you do so. If you count time you will play what you hear. It is the key to performing this guitar trio music.

Line 1-“16ths” Alternate Picking starting on a “Down” stroke

Guitar Trio Paco de lucia John Mclaughlin Al di Meola

Line 2- Extended version of the previous line above, again starting on a “Down” stroke

Guitar Trio Paco de lucia John Mclaughlin Al di Meola alternate picking lesson

Line 3-Groups of “4” with strict Alternate Picking but this time starting with an “Upstroke” creating a “Rolling” effect as the plectrum glides across the strings.

Guitar Trio Paco de lucia John Mclaughlin Al di Meola alternate picking guitar lesson

Groups of 6 VARIATIONS:

Line 4-This is a “Variation” of our very first pattern but this time played in “Sextuplets” starting on a “Down” stroke.

6s 1

Line 5-This line can be heard as Triplets or Sextuplets. This time though we are starting on an “Upstroke”. Again, because we are starting our alternate picking on an up stroke there is a fluid rolling effect as we cross the strings.

Guitar Trio Paco de lucia John Mclaughlin Al di Meola

Line 6-This is a key signature line of Pace de Lucia and Al di Meola. It is an ascending G major scale in double timed triplets [or Sextuplets]. We are starting our picking on an “Upstroke”and ascending passionately up the scale, The better the rhythm of the alternate picking the more clean and powerful this little lick becomes.

Guitar Trio Paco de lucia John Mclaughlin Al di Meola alternate picking

Line 7-Here is another variation of the 16th note line. This time we start “Upstroke and roll the line along with tight rhythmical alternate picking. The key as always is to count good time when picking and tap your foot for precision.

Guitar Trio Paco de lucia John Mclaughlin Al di Meola alternate picking guitar lesson

Line 8-“Spanish” descending 2 string line. Really it is an ascending “Down” stroke alternate picking pattern followed by an ascending “Up” stroke rolling alternate picking pattern. If you treat it like that then it is easy to play and learn.


For a closer look there is a complete transcription of “Friday Night in San Franscisco” Book available AMAZON

Guitar Trio Paco de lucia John Mclaughlin Al di Meola alternate picking guitar lesson with tab, video and music notation