In this column, I’d like to share with you a useful lesson that I teach my students, and that is the importance of rests, or silence, in music, and how to achieve it in a meaningful, controlled manner. I do this by teaching them some basic, stock jazz “riffs” that are both fun to play and beneficial for their general technique development.
I often use this exercise as a quick left-hand warmup. It's great for loosening up your left hand, especially for more complicated chordal work. It's also an excellent study for left-hand coordination and control. The concept is to play chromatic octaves starting on the low open E string entirely in first position. We will move up chromatically starting on the low E up to the G# on the first fret of the third string.
As I was walking around, I heard a violinist playing these wild exercises-he was wailing! I thought it would be really cool to adapt those licks to the guitar. Since the violinist didn't speak any English, I had to gesture for him to show me what he was doing. He gladly did, and then he showed me a bunch of variations, too. It was great; though we didn't speak, we nonetheless communicated very easily.
When studying jazz guitar, we often begin by exploring the Dorian mode when soloing over m7 chords. But, while that is a great first-choice scale, we often stop there with our explorations of m7 chord vocabulary. One of the mostly widely used scales besides Dorian to solo over m7 chords is the melodic minor scale, which is built like a Dorian but with a natural rather than a b7 note.