Building a strong melodic guitar solo is one of the most important skills an improviser needs, especially when soloing in the Gypsy Jazz style. You need to use solid building blocks to structure and present your solo into a seamless, engaging story that your audience will want to listen to.

Master Gypsy Jazz guitarist, Reinier Voet focuses on this essential skill here in these 5 free guitar lessons from his Gypsy Jazz Melodic Soloing Guidebook. He demonstrates how to use the melody of the tune as an inspiration and then embellish it with a variety of improvisational tools and techniques. You’ll learn how to spice melodic solos up with minor 6th arpeggios, chromatic runs, tritone substitutes, diminished runs, and much more.

Swinging Minor – Concept: m6 Arpeggios

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When you’re able to find and play the most common minor 6th arpeggios and their fingering, it will give you a lot of possibilities for soloing over minor progressions. As mentioned before, minor 6 arpeggios give you that “gypsy jazz guitar” sound. So, any place where a “normal” minor chord is played, use a minor 6 arpeggio in your solo.

Another interesting application of the minor sixth is as a substitute for a dominant 7th chord. For example, play a B6 arpeggio over an E7 chord, which results in a E7/9 sound. The similarity between the Bm6 chord and the E7/9 chord is quite clear. Just look at the chords!

Georgia in Town – Concept: Tritones

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The use of the tritones gives you a sound which is distínctly “jazzy”. It’s an easy way to alter dominant 7 chords, making them sound hip and a bit dissonant. Have a look at the explanation about the tritone in the section about “Minor Swing”.

In this example, I apply the tritone concept in the same way. Of course it sounds different, because it’s another piece. But, the same principles are being used. Have a listen to my example.

Thing Thing! – Concept: Diminished

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Next, I would like to explore the use of the diminished arpeggio. The beginning of the melody of “What Is This Thing Called Love” is already a minor third. The B part also starts with a minor third, which makes it a perfect candidate for the use of diminished arpeggios. These are repeating minor 3rd intervals.

I will also play diminished arpeggios over the dominant 7 chords, which resolve to their root chords. For example: From C7 to F minor, or G7 to C, or F7 to Bb, etc. But first: Have a look and a listen; I’ll explain everything later in the breakdown.

Clouds – Concept: Arpeggios

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The melody of “Nuages” really invites us to use arpeggios to embellish it. This is because it’s nice to break up the constantly descending chromatic lines of the song. As an added benefit, you illustrate the harmonies by playing the notes of the chords. The word arpeggio means “broken chord”. Applying arpeggios in this way really anchors your solo to the chord progression. At the end of a melodic line, there is often space to embellish with arpeggios, especially in a slower ballad like “Nuages”.

I will play an example solo with some arpeggio lines executed just after the melody, where there is still time left in the bar. So, listen and count along. This way you will be aware of how many beats are left and when you can fill the space with some extra lines.

Sweet Atmosphere – Concept: Licks

Download the tab, notation and jam track for this gypsy jazz lesson on TrueFire.

The bridge of “Douce Ambiance” is a challenging one, because it consists of only one chord for the first 4 bars! This gives us enough time to explore several licks. You will find some classic licks on my 50 Gypsy Jazz Licks You MUST Know course. In my Gypsy Jazz Guitar Guidebook course, I suggest to use this well known standard lick in “Douce Ambiance”. To avoid repetition, I will use another one this time. I also recommend to sort out some solo lines from other guitar players, and not only Django’s! You will probably find some nice things that YOU like, to use in places YOU would like to make them fit. I found Boulou Ferré, the son of Matelot Ferret, to have some nice, original minor tricks, which we can use to get through the bridge of “Douce Ambience”. Have a listen to these suggestions in my example solo!

Dig these free guitar lessons? Check out the full course for more: Gypsy Jazz Melodic Soloing Guidebook