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Jazz Guitar Lesson: Soloing Ideas for Miles Davis' "So What"


Miles Davis’ 1959 record release, Kind of Blue, is still revered to this day as one of the most prolific jazz albums of all time. Featuring John Coltrane on tenor saxophone, Julian “Cannonball” Adderley on alto saxophone, Paul Chambers on upright bass, Jimmy Cobb on drums, and either Bill Evans or Wynton Kelly on piano (depending on the track), Miles’ sextet on Kind of Blue was composed of some of the most admired musicians in jazz history. It’s not a wonder that after more than 60 years, Kind of Blue is still one of the most popular and critically acclaimed jazz albums of all time.


The introductory track on Kind of Blue, entitled “So What,” was beloved by jazz fans when the album was released and is still performed worldwide by jazz musicians of all levels. It’s a classic tune that can still be heard in venues ranging from Carnegie Hall to your average high school band room. It’s an important tune that every jazz musician should analyze, understand, and know how to play.


In this online jazz guitar lesson, award-winning master guitarist, former member of the Stanley Turrentine Quintet, and ArtistWorks jazz guitar instructor, Dave Stryker teaches how to improvise over the chords changes in “So What” using the Dorian minor scale, and provides a few exercises that you can practice and expand on in your solos.


LEARN MORE: Want to learn how to play jazz guitar from a master musician like Dave Stryker? Try some free online jazz guitar lessons now!


“‘So What’ is a modal song with an AABA format,” Dave explains. “The A section is centered around D minor and the B section is centered around E-flat minor. The great thing for us as guitarists is that we can take the shape of our Dorian minor scale that we’re using to improvise in the D minor A section and simply drop it a half step to E-flat when soloing over the B section.”


What is a Modal song?

Many of you may be wondering, “what is a modal song or a modal tune?” Modal jazz is jazz that makes use of musical modes, often modulating among them to accompany the chords instead of relying on one tonal center used across the piece. Miles began writing predominantly modal music around the time he released Kind of Blue, with the 1959 record featuring almost exclusively modal pieces.


In the case of “So What,” the modes that are being used are the Dorian minor mode in D and the Dorian minor mode in E-flat.


“These exercises and lines that I’ve provided in this lesson are a great starting point,” Dave explains. “The goal though is to take what I’ve provided and expand on it to create your own improvised solo. Remember, as long as you stay within the D Dorian and E-flat Dorian modes, you’re sure to craft very tasteful solos over this piece.”


To learn more about Miles Davis’ “So What” and a few essential soloing methods that can be used when improvising over this classic tune, dive into this online jazz guitar lesson from Dave Stryker:


Soloing Ideas for Miles Davis' "So What" with Dave Stryker:




Have you always wanted to learn how to play jazz guitar? Through our comprehensive jazz guitar lessons online and Video Exchange Learning platform here at ArtistWorks, you can learn from internationally renowned players, like Dave Stryker, and get personal feedback on your playing.


Dave’s course starts with the basics and teaches everything from beginner guitar to advanced performance techniques, classic jazz standards, improvisation, music theory, and beyond. So, whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced player, all levels are welcome and all students will grow and improve their skills as jazz guitarists and musicians.


Sample some free music lessons here and see what makes ArtistWorks courses some of the best online music lessons around!



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