Nathan’s Top 5 Bebop Licks

Improvisation, Jazz, online lessons, saxophone lessons
5 Top Bebop Licks - Learn to play jazz saxophone with Nathan Hassall at

Are you looking to strengthen your jazz improvisation?

Building a “language” is invaluable if you want to become a convincing improviser, whatever the genre that you are interested in.

Bebop is undoubtedly the building blocks of jazz as we know it today and so at the bottom of this blog post is a pdf file for you to download and keep of 5 of my favourite jazz licks. They are by four of the greatest exponents of the idiom, namely Charlie Parker, Sonny Stitt, Sonny Rollins, and Clifford Brown (Yes, a trumpet player. It’s extremely useful to transcribe solos by the masters that didn’t just play your instrument!).

I’ve put them all in the key of C (Eb concert for Alto & Baritone Saxes, and Bb for Tenor & Soprano Saxes), and so they are in a nice and easy key and in a great range on the saxophone so should fall under your fingers well. Check them out!

That’s great, but what do I do with these Licks?

So once you’ve got them under your fingers, try and memorise them. It really is best if you can get to the point where you can play the licks fluently without reading them.

“Then what?” You ask…

Well this is the interesting and fun part. You need to get used to how they sound, so you’ve got to play them in context.

Find a tune (that you have a backing track for, or someone can accompany you on) that has that same same D-7, G7. Cmaj chord progression so you can drop the lick in place and start to learn how it sounds with that harmony. An easy example that springs to mind is the Sonny Rollins blues “Tenor Madness” or perhaps “Almost Like Being In Love” which is often performed in Concert Bb (C Major for us tenor or soprano saxophonists).

Nathan’s Classic Jazz Band performs “Almost Like Being In Love”

At first they will probably sound pretty crude when set against the rest of your improvising, but don’t worry this is completely normal. With time they will become more and more fluent and eventually you’ll be able to integrate the licks into your solo seamlessly.

The next trick is to take a lick and learn it in all 12 keys! That’s the tricky part, but if you persevere then you’ll have a lick that you can drop into any improvisation when you have that major II-V-I chord progression.

I’ll go into the best way how to go about transposing licks into all 12 keys, and then how we can make them our own with variations in later posts; so for now check out these licks and let me know what you think – I love them!

If you like what you’ve read above and would like a jazz saxophone lesson with Nathan get in touch! We’ll get you swingin’ your socks off in no time!

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