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Getting rid of "cut n' Paste" sound

  • Thread starter d!minishedlogic
  • Start date


In my jazz improvising, I feel my solos are a little too predictable. I have a decent amount of licks so that to a person it wouldnt sound like i'm cutting and pasting. However, I personally get SICK of the same licks. Can one of the maestros help me to play "in" the changes rather than "over" them like I am doing? One of the important ideas that I have worked on, is trying to HEAR the progression as the chords roll by. But I havent really worked on it too much. Also I have trouble Identifying chords as they are played. I think this is a huge thing that will really improve my playing. Thanks guys.


I'm a long way from a maestro - but I certainly recommend singing along while you play, or doing an excercise where you perhaps loop four bars singing one time and trying to play what you just sang the next.

My guess is that you'll find that, as long as you "know" the tune, you'll intuitively sing fluid and great melodic lines - sometimes including your favorite licks.

You don't have to be like George Benson and sing with perfect precision, just let your voice do the driving.


Ear training is important!
Try transcribing some good players like Miles. His solo on So What (Kind of Blue) is a great transcribing exercise. Transcribing is one of the best way to learn I think. It can be a lot of work, but it's very rewarding when you "get it down".


i like the clips on your site man! anthropology= nice phrasing!

I've been working on singing all the solos before i lpay them, and i'm pretty good at it. In the intonation department i'm almost perfect, but as for the actual hearing before you play it. I'm pretty weak man. I've been working on transcribing. I cant get myself to do it sometimes, out of sheer laziness and just a desire to "rock out" in a jazz setting. I guess i'm just kind of a player player player. I'm a bit of a theory buff as well but transcription just doesnt hit me that hard. But it has to and i'm going to work on some parker and trane this summer UH!!!!


Silver Supporting Member
It sounds like you are on the right track, you just have to follow through and do it until it all sinks in. Others gave some good advice, so I won't repeat what they said. Other ideas:

The simplest things is to stop playing your licks. They are safe, and you know they will sound good, but force yourself to lay off of them for a while. Listen to players who are much less lick oriented such as Sonny Rollins or Jim Hall versus those who rely more on patterns and licks.

One way to stop yourself from playing licks and patterns is to make it impossible to play them. Limit yourself to playing on one string. Then, your licks are out the window and you will have to rely more on your ear and perhaps will play slower and more melodically. Or limit yourself to the second and fourth stings only; limit yourself to a one octave range; limit what fingers you use; etc...whatever you can think of to break yourself of habits.



Senior Member
Don"t be so hard on yourself. Careful analysis of Bird and Trane will reveal that they too play the same licks over and over again. In order to improvise adequately you must hear and feel the vibe. So if you feel like playing your licks then go for it. This is one way that people will recognize that it is you that is playing and not some Wes clone. But to answer your question, try gathering up solos of a tune like All the things you are and listen to how improvisers treated the tune. Then listen to thousands more solos and sing those solos and then sing your own solo. Lets face it, if you could improvise a fresh take everytime you played, then you would be Pat Metheny. Good luck


i hear a LOT of repetition in metheny's playing... personally. i think hes great and melodic, but he repeats licks all the time.


Senior Member
There you have it. Everybody repeats their own licks. The point I'm trying to make is that licks are a good thing especially if the player feels it strongly enough to use them. One of the best ways of improving your soloing is to actually write your own lines. This is what will separate you from the rest of the players who are trying to copy others. But then copying is a cool thing too as long as it influences you to do your own thing. Thank goodness Metheny repeats those lines and what incredible lines they are.
Stevie Ray repeated licks and you don"t hear anyone complaining. He just took what Albert King was doing and then did his own thing. Ok enough said. Hope this helps.


I'm struggling with improvising myself, but watching the John Abercrombie instructional video gave me some new ideas on how I can make my phrasing more musical, so I highly recommend you check it out, even though I feel I *generally* learn more from listening to records than watching vids, or reading all the method-stuff.


Playing canned licks is not improvising, it's like having a conversation using only stock phrase and sounbites.
Forget using pre-arranged licks and work on forming and mutating ideas as you play.
Like a Theme and Variations style of playing.

Take a simple line and adapt it to work over several chord changes, e.g. take a basic three note tune like "Three Blind Mice" a simple 3-2-1 melodic phrase over a I chord. This is your theme.

Then adapt it to work over a ii-V-I progression, so in the key of C this mean the tune of E-D-C would turn into F-E-D over the ii and B-A-G over the V.
This is keeping the basic 3-2-1 relationship over each chord.

Now comes the variation part, work on altering/mutating the phrase as you play it, change the rhythm around, invert the phrase, change the interval relationship to the chord, start on the 5th etc.
The key is to keep elements of the phrase so your listener's ear will recognise it but the change will kep it interesting.

Great players can craft whole solos from one or two themes and keep it interesting.
Another trick to stop playing your same riffs over and over is to write a song using the riff. Once it is a signature of a song, you'll be too embarrassed to keep using it outside the context of the song.

Sounds goofy, but think about it. Would you play, say, the Layla riff in a blues jam? Maybe you would just to be ironic, but you instinctively know to stay away from it because it's not just a cool series of notes, it's Layla.

Do the same with your favorite lines, and you'll stop playing them in improvisations. And you'll start to build up a body of original songs to boot!

dewey decibel

I disagree with StevenA. The whole point in improvising for me is to hopefully play something I've never played before, or find a new way of looking at something. A guy like Dexter Gordon- he plays similar licks all the time. But he sounds like he's always reaching when he plays them- like he's always looking for something new, a new way to say it...

The best (maybe only) way to do this is to put yourself out on a limb. Give yourself nothing to fall back on.

But beside that, I think a lot of the suggestions are good. One thing that always helps me, and is along the lines of what Unburst is saying, is to focus on the rhythms of what you're playing. Change things up, drop out notes here and there, start on "and" instead of "one"... I think you'll find that when you do that your ideas will natuarally fit the changes.

Another thing is to hold an idea over from one change to the next. In fact just start with one sustained note. This can have really great results, and can also help you further develop your ear.

The goal is to make it sound like the changes are moving to fit your lines, and not that your lines are moving to fit the changes. IMO...


I feel the same way about my "licks." One thing that has helped me is to take one of my more overused licks and turn it into a motif for a longer melody. If you can, notate the lick and the make it a focal point. Elaborate on it by keeping the same general vibe of it, but altering the rhythm or which notes are accented. Make it fit over different chords, etc. Create a paragraph with it and just stretch it out for a few "sentences" or phrases and then resolve it after a few bars.

Sometimes, I'll do this then work the other way. I'll take that lick and, without harmony, create a longer melody (singing helps with this quite a bit). Using my DAW, I'll record this melody and the try to harmonize it with a chord progression. For me, this is a much more entertaining way to practice and build my vocabulary.


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