i've been working the last year on practicing to sound more authentically bebop in my improvisation...8th note ideas to my choruses, while remaining true to the changes. do you folks have any direction for a young pianist?  

thanks in advanced!
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hi nate,

here it is in a nutshell: bebop is a dialect of jazz, so to get deeper into bebop you need to immerse yourself into it.

- listen to only bebop
- jam with bebop videos in youtube (bird, diz, early herbie, etc...)  
- go to jam sessions where people play a lot of bop
- transcribe bop solos.  start easy!!!!  you pick a solo that's too hard to write down and/or to hard to play and it will be discouraging.  

the reason you are doing all this is because bebop isn't about the notes you play, it's about the rhythms you use to play them.

you can study scales and related bebop theory for your entire life and never know how to really play bop until you figure out where to put the notes in the time.

that's why you jam along with youtube and listen to bop 100% of the time, at least for the next few months.

guys like bird and diz ate, drank, and slept bebop.  that's all they did, so they got really good at it.

if you're not listening to bebop, it will be hard to become a good player in that genre.

final most important thought: remember, it's the rhythm that counts.  it counts so much more than the notes you play.  so learn the rhythm of bebop lines from youtube and play along with youtube or recordings in all your spare time (if you're serious about this.)

i do mean all your spare time.  reason is, you say you're a young guy which means you have all the time in the world, no bills to pay, no "real" job you have to do.  a few years from now you probably won't have the time to immerse yourself in this like you need to.

good luck!
If I'm not back in 24 hours, call the president.

Scot is available for skype jazz piano lessons (and google hangouts, phone call, etc...)
Use the contact link at the top of the page.
excellent scot.  nate, thou shalt heed those words of wisdom, and imbibe the wealth of recorded bebop history.

(i'm reading the scarlet letter:)
i agree with scot wholeheartedly, particularly as someone who wasted their "free time"/young guy years and is trying to like hell make up for lost time while balancing work full-time and all those other little time snatching activities.
(not to say that i didn't get *anything* done during those years, but i put off a lot of things that would have made me a much better player today.)
a google search of "bebop rhythm" turned this up  

"beyond swing

with the focus on improvisation, bebop allowed for an explosion of innovation. inspired by the more harmonically and rhythmically experimental players in swing era, such as coleman hawkins, lester young, art tatum, and roy eldridge, bebop musicians expanded the palette of musical devices from which to choose while improvising. many aspects of swing were imported, including the triplet-based swing feel and a proclivity for the blues.

typically however, bebop musicians played tunes at much faster tempos. soloists did not concern themselves as much with lyricism, but more with rhythmic unpredictability and harmonic complexity. it wasnít just the soloists who were important, however. the advent of bebop marked an expansion of the roles of the rhythm section players, who were no longer simply time-keepers, but who interacted with the soloist with their own embellishments. "
more copy and paste

"characterization of bebop

bebop is, in many ways, a direct outgrowth of the older swing combos, but with more of an emphasis on virtuoso soloing. the solos typically consist of long streams of eighth notes built up from the chord changes of the original theme, with little or no reference to the original melody itself. for example, here is a composition by bebop pioneers dizzy gillespie and charlie parker:
figure 32-1: dizzy gillespie & charlie parker - shaw 'nuff
dizzy gillespie (copyright © 1998 lester levy)

here is an exceprt from dizzy gillespie's solo based on that composition:
figure 32-2: dizzy gillespie - shaw 'nuff

original compositions in bebop tend to be based on blues progressions or other simple progressions from popular songs, most notably george gershwin's "i got rhythm". the melodies often resemble the improvised solos - long streams of eighth notes in scale and arpeggiated chord patterns, as in the example above. the arrangements are almost invariably simple head arrangements, as the emphasis was again on the improvisation, not on the composition.

from the perspective of the rhythm section, the primary difference between the bebop and swing is that the generally faster tempos of bebop require a lighter approach. drummers such as kenny clarke and max roach began keeping time primarily with their ride cymbals instead of the bass drum or hi hat, although the latter was used on beats two and four to keep the beat in a more subtle fashion. pianists ceased concentrating on constantly marking the beat or playing full chords and instead played more sparsely. bass players usually played walking bass lines, playing on all four beats in order to propel the pulse. listen again to the rhythm section in the above examples to hear how this sounds.

another aspect of bebop that sets it apart from earlier forms of jazz is the increased use of more dissonant harmonies. in particular, the interval of the diminished or flatted fifth, also known as an augmented or raised fourth, generated considerable controversy. the following example features a flat fifth at the end of the phrase played by the horns:
figure 32-3: flat fifth at the end of the intro to shaw 'nuff

while modern ears generally do not hear this as anything more than mildly peculiar, it was considered a significant departure from tradition in the 1940's. "
good advice from mel martin:


"musicians that struggle to learn the bebop vernacular sound as if they are struggling to learn a new and somewhat foreign language. david baker in his column in the february/march issue of jazz player talks about learning the bebop repertoire as a means to developing the ability to speak the language and proposes a comprehensive list of bebop compositions. this, in fact, is a great starting point, better than practicing out of the omnibook or transcribing solos. if these lines are memorized and internalized, the player has a strong basis to play authentic bebop. many of these melodies are referred to as cliches and, in a sense, they are as over the years they may have been overused to the point of redundancy. the same could be said of any language. the trick is not to do that. this is where the good and aesthetic sense of an artist comes into to play. this is what made bird, diz, monk and max so great. they were directly communicating using the language of bebop and great musicianship (which, in itself, is timeless). the use of rhythm in bebop is very complex and also needs to be highly internalized. the blistering uptempos as played by the greats are a test of the stamina and technique of any musician and only comes with much practice and performance. the harmonies of modern jazz also set this music apart from earlier styles because they make use of the higher intervals, extensions, substitutions and voicings of contemporary harmonies inspired by bartok, stravinsky, copeland and others. in my previous article, i discussed specific methods for internalizing and dealing with these elements so i would refer you back to that article to apply to this music. the true magic of bebop lies not in the virtuosity of it's best players, but in the extraordinary interplay, use of dynamics, and empathy of the best performances. this is emanates from deep within the players who so internalized the idiom that anything they play, takes on dimensions larger than life."
good info!  

"david baker ... talks about learning the bebop repertoire as a means to developing the ability to speak the language..."

it really is a language, and the only way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in it.  live in korea if you want to learn korean, eat, sleep and drink bebop if you want to play bebop.

even diz said something to the effect of, "i don't play all the right notes, but i put them in all the right places."
If I'm not back in 24 hours, call the president.

Scot is available for skype jazz piano lessons (and google hangouts, phone call, etc...)
Use the contact link at the top of the page.
7 put some info and links up and there's nothing wrong with his post except that i want to put links to these books up that will give ljp some credit.  

here's the post by 7:

really, bert ligon's "connecting chords with linear harmony" is (imho) the best one out there for understanding how to construct bebop lines.

the only way to improve upon this book would be to have audio.

bert ligon's book:


levine's stuff is the real deal too!


dave frank's fantastic "joy of improv" series (with audio!)

another couple of books that i highly recommend in this arena are scott ranney's "jazz piano notebook" (available on this website), along with dave frank's fantastic "joy of improv" series (with audio!)


If I'm not back in 24 hours, call the president.

Scot is available for skype jazz piano lessons (and google hangouts, phone call, etc...)
Use the contact link at the top of the page.
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