How To Construct A Perfect Jazz Solo

I love stuff like this because it’s funny and it’s true! I just saw this flow chart on FB yesterday, and whether it is meant as a gag or not, it works! I had also created a similar guide years ago, so I thought I’d expand on this subject today for Trombone Tuesdays.


I’ve transcribed and analyzed many great solos and the excellent ones that speak to me really do contain all of these ingredients. In fact, I’m including my own similar list I created about 15 yrs ago when simply trying to figure out what exactly makes awesome solos awesome. Now of course this is all subjective, but I created three categories or stages of a solo – “low – medium – high” intensity – and find most solos do develop thru the list by starting slow/soft, build/more ideas, and peak with high repetitive licks (but certainly all need to and each category could be expanded with dozens of more ideas). When I listen to greats like Miles Davis, John Scofield, Pat Metheny, Michael Brecker, Rick Margitza, Joey Calderazzo, it’s apparent that they all seem to incorporate several ideas from each category as they progress thru their solos. Of course, mature improvisers obviously aren’t consciously thinking of playing ideas sequentially from each category, but attempting to do this myself as a fun improv exercise has certainly helped me and my students improve our skills in the complex art of improvisation. Perhaps it can help you.



Express Emotion

Have Fun

Improvise In The Moment (Be Present, No Pre-Planned Licks)

Use Great Time and Use of Rhythm

Play Quality Intervals

Play with Purpose / Have a Direction / Create a Peak

Melody (Horizontal) more important than Harmony (Vertical)

Ear Processes Linear Line OVER Harmonic Justification


Use Space

Long Notes Using Common Tones

Unique Characteristics of Instrument

Sequence Development

Use Fragments of Song Melody


Use Standard Jazz Vocabulary

Incorporate Patterns

“Out” or “Wrong” Notes

Intense Melodic Phrases

Bebop / Chromaticism / Unique Scales

Tension / Release – Predictable / Unpredictable

Angular Shapes


Repetition/Sequencing – Development of Short Phrase

Range – Extreme Ranges of Instrument


Fast Flourish of Notes

EFX – Trills, Flutter, Multiphonics

Play Something UNIQUE on Your Instrument

Give it try! Either watch the chart while you listen to your favorite jazz solo OR actually play a solo while attempting to incorporate any of these development ideas.

, , , , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.