Using Sequences In Your Improvisations

Using sequences is a great way to give your improvisations structure and start to move away from the ‘widdling’ I think we have all been guilty of at some point…

For those that don’t know, a sequence is a repeated phrase and these can be melodic or rhythmic. A great example of this is in Freddie Hubbard’s solo on ‘Maiden Voyage‘. Hubbard stays very much within the harmony playing the 4th, 3rd and 9th of D mixolydian over the Dsus chord. He then moves the phrase up a minor 3rd to play the same phrase over the Fsus.


Another fantastic use of sequence is to get ‘outside the harmony’. Check out this Joe Henderson lick from ‘Song For My Father‘. It is from a transcription that I’ve been working on for a long time now, still trying to get some of the lines under my fingers as it is full to the brim with amazing lines! If you want to check out one of the other licks from this solo just click here!


The tab has been included in this lick to help illustrate the pattern being moved through the lick. Over each chord there is an identical pattern. It starts with a hammer on between the minor third and the major third, starting the lick off with a nice bluesy sound, and then targeting the root. This shape is all moved up a semi tone which then gives us the 3rd, 4th and flat 9. This shape is moved up a final time which gives us 4th, flat 5, 9th and then resolves on the 5th. One important point to realise is that playing lines in this way will only work if you know how to resolve them correctly, in this case ending each phrase on the 5th of the chord.

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