John Scofield & Essentialism

In this post I’m going to show you a BURNING line from John Scofield’s Rhythm Changes ‘Flat Out’.

And you’re going to learn how to use it in your own playing without making your fingers bleed :)

Let’s get to it…

Scofield Line #1

Ok, so that’s the line.

Maybe you’re staring at that thinking, “Well, that’s just lovely, Mike. Really nice, and good for you. But I will NEVER be able to play that in a million years.” :)

Well, fear not my friend, because I want to show you a framework for simplifying a line like this so that you can make up your own stuff…

Step 1

We’ll start by reducing each bar to Quarter-notes. What you’re looking for here is the essence of what’s going on in the line. Here’s a walkthrough of how I’d do that:

Here’s that in notation

Scofield Line #2


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Step 2

More simplification! Stripping away more stuff to get the essential…

Scofield Line #3

So now you’ve got some big targets to aim for when making up your lines.

Your task is to use this framework and creatively connect those landmark points.

Here’s a little example:

Wrap up

Ok, so we took that line, simplified it, simplified it again, and then used THAT as a framework to play off of. A framework where you can think creatively about getting from point A to point B. It’s a starting point that can help you get into the sound of rhythm changes, and any set of changes for that matter.

The point is to make it simple enough so you don’t have to do masses of thinking, so that you can be creative and play your ideas.

Good Luck!


Comments on John Scofield & Essentialism

  1. Mike Outram says:

    Cool! Let me know what you come up with :)

  2. Jonathan Paul Martin says:

    Great lesson, and I love that you’re looking at a line I’ve just been studying – I’ve been working through the whole solo from West Coast Blues as part of this month’s Wes focus. Its interesting to look at the same piece, that I already know well, and see if I see other options.

    Now, who wants to apply this approach to Steve Vai’s transcriptions of Frank Zappas solos? :-)

  3. William gibson says:

    I had NOT thought of that – what an interesting way to see it. Thank you! will play around with that and the skeletal thing.

  4. Mike Outram says:

    For sure! 3rds and 7ths are super important, and very useful for tons of things. Check out the Harmonic Foundations course which gets into connecting up the voice-leading in nice ways :)

  5. Mike Outram says:

    I know what you mean. One way of hearing that is as F#-7 ish. Kind of like a tritone II V over the F7. Anyway, you could just play something that captures the vibe to your liking. Like maybe a descending F#- triad C# A F# on beats 456 of that 2nd bar. Or juggle the notes around, F# C# A, etc. And then experiment with using that to see if it works.

    The main aim is to get simple targets to hit, so feel free to alter the skeletal line to fit what you want :)


  6. Arron Storey says:

    I really enjoyed the principle behind this and remember a similar idea being discussed years back in college, where we were notating the 3rd and 7th of each chord and the coming up with ways of joining them up. Being 19 years old at the time, I probably didn’t realise the significance of the simplicity behind it but now it’s quite clear, so thanks. I really want to get my head around the Rhythm Changes chord changes first, but once I’ve done that I’ll definitely be giving this a go.

  7. William gibson says:

    This is really great. I really like the idea of it :-)
    ….but I am struggling to do it. Looks so easy in the video.

    Here is a line for Wes I really like from first chorus of West Coast Blues.
    I have tried stripping down but now feel like i am missing all those lovely passing tones that make the line the line (in the first part). In the second part hook of the motif (for me) is the downward semitone movement and that he is moving from 6 to #5 and 3 to #9 on the F7 (for instance). and I feel like stripping it away i lose the essence.

    WIth the stripped down version though i can still here the line in the second part with those chord extensions on the beat like that, which I like…

  8. Mike Outram says:

    Ha ha! Yes I guess it was. Don’t ask me about invoices…

  9. David says:

    Thanks Mike, Scofield is one of my favourite players, glad to see you got your 335 fixed, sounds sweet! Was the 335 the guitar you mentioned in the 2014 first TEC Q and A that you needed to get fixed? If so must be nice to play it again :-)

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