Talking Bebop - Part2: 16 basic licks for the most common chord progressions

Improvising and learning a language

If you like to improvise with more confidence over chords on your instrument, it is important that you learn to speak the right language on your instrument. You might have experienced that you don't get a nice improvisation from just running the "right" scale up and down. No, you have to turn these notes into recognizable and attractive musical statements. The basic language you have to learn is called "bebop" and was "invented" by saxophone player Charlie Parker, trumpet player Dizzy Gillespie and piano player Bud Powell round 1940.

Through listening to great players like saxophone players Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, Cannonball Adderley, John Coltrane, Sonny Stitt, Stan Getz, Joe Henderson, Michael Brecker, Kenny Garrett and trumpet players Chet Baker and Miles Davis I collected phrases and licks they used and made my own vocabulary from these. Form my students I made a reduction of 16 very useful standard licks. With these 16 licks it is easy to play nice improvisations over jazz-standards. In the examples I only use:

  1. 16 basic licks for single chords
  2. 16 licks for the most common chord progressions
  3. parts of the original melody
  4. quotes from iconic recorded solo's by great players

to create melodic and attractive improvisations. Some fragments are easy to play, others might be challenging. For every this is great stuff!

All great jazz players master this language and developed their own style from the knowledge of bebop. Instead of just playing notes random on your instrument, this is the shortest way to learn to play great jazz solo's.

Why copy other players as improvising is about expressing your own inner music?

Like learning a language you start with words and some simple phrases. So people understand what you mean. From there you can develop your skills and maybe even becoming a poet. In music it is the same. By copying other players you master the basics. From that point you can develop your own language and express what you feel on your instrument.

How to use these standard bebop licks?

In the sheet music you find 16 basis single chord licks. You can apply them to a jazz standard you are playing and hear what it sounds like. There is also a number of well known jazz standard available where I demonstrate how you can use to play attractive and melodic improvisations.

I enjoyed very much developing this course. I hope you enjoy developing your own inner musical world too!

Werner Janssen


  • Sheet music
    Sheet music

    In this file you will find the 16 basic bebop licks written down as sheet music, in G clef and F clef