Barry Harris Rhythm Changes Transcription Lesson

jazz piano transcriptionOne of the best ways to really learn how to play jazz is to listen and study the playing of the masters.

So, in today’s free jazz lesson we’re going to do an in depth study of a Barry Harris solo.

Barry Harris took this solo on the tune “Moose the Mooche”. The chords to this tune are played over what’s called “a rhythm changes.” (transcription and free lesson below)

Essentially, the chords of this tune are the same chords as the George Gershwin song “I Got Rhythm.”

Many jazz songs have been written over this same chord progression. Tunes like Anthropology, Oleo, Cotton Tail, Straighten Up and Fly Right, and many others.

Since, this chord progression is so popular and is called all the time at jam sessions it’s a great idea to really learn how to play it well. So, let’s get started learning how to do that from Barry!

Here’s the recording of Barry playing it. He starts soloing at 34 seconds.

Here is the notation of the rhythm changes solo. Be sure to check out all the additional tips and analysis below!

Barry Harris Rhythm Changes

(click to expand and print)

(You can print out a .pdf file of this solo to study it more closely. Feel free to share this page/lesson as well! The only thing I ask is that you link back to the site in return.)

3 Things We Can Learn From This Barry Harris Transcription

Let’s now discuss some of the awesome things we can learn from this solo.  There are literally hundreds of cool things in this solo but we’ll just pick a few.

You can turn almost everything in this solo into an exercise or study. We will also talk about how to apply all these tools to your own music. Let’s get started!

1. Major Scale Can Be Your Friend If You Know How To Use It

Even though the chords to this tune are going by quick (every two beats) you don’t have to specifically hit every chord.  As you can see through the first 3 and a half measures Barry just uses simple major scale ideas from the Bb major scale.

How To Practice: Loop a I-VI-II-V-I (1-6-2-5-1) chord progression over and over practice playing simple riff ideas using the major scale. You can even copy a Barry Harris lick and use it yourself.

If you need some good chords to play while you’re soloing check out this lesson on piano chords.

2. Learn How To Start Your Phrases On Many Different Beats

Barry is truly a master at starting his jazz lines on different beats. He can take classic bebop licks that everybody plays and start them in unusual places. It makes his phrasing and playing sound so fresh. Specifically he varies the start of his phrases constantly.

How To Practice: First, find 4 or 5 phrases that you really like the sound of. Practice playing just the rhythms of these licks and put your own notes on top.

Playing jazz is just as much about playing good rhythms as it is about playing correct notes.  Great phrasing is part of great rhythm!

3. Approach Patterns Can Get Your Motor Running

Barry uses a lot of chromatic motion to really get his lines moving forward. We can figure out some of the ways Barry uses this concept and add it to our own particular brand of musical tricks 🙂 .

One particular technique Barry uses alot is something called an approach pattern. An Approach pattern is a series of chromatic notes that are either above, below, or circles a note of resolution.

When you play an an approach pattern instead of the normal expected note it delays the resolution of the line. This can really extend the length of your riff and licks and will also help you string together different musical ideas.

One example is measure 30 on the Ebmaj7 chord beat 1.  Your ear expects beat 1 to be an Eb but Barry delays the resolution by playing 1 note above (F) the note and one note below (D) the note. He eventually resolves it on beat 2.

How To Practice: Take this one note above, one note below, and then resolution concept and try to apply it to any of your favorite jazz standards. You can come up with ideas that target any chord tone.

First start with the root of every chord, then the 3rd’s, then target the 5th’s, etc. etc.

Examples of Approach Patterns

You can see and hear approach patterns being also being used in this Red Garland transcription and this Barry Harris Green Dolphin Street Transcription.

If you would like to see some more examples in licks you should definitely check out this Charlie Parker lick video lesson and this Wynton Kelly lick video lesson.

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Your Next Steps To Improvement

We’ve only discussed a few of the jazz improvisation concepts Barry Harris plays on this solo. Regardless, you could just take a few of the ideas we’ve discussed and turn it into an incredible amount of licks and improvisational ideas.

When you study a master like Barry Harris there is just so much source material in his playing.

Remember to take your time when you study a jazz transcription. A well played solo is really a map and a guide for you.  If you really dig in and study it properly it can change your playing forever. Thanks for reading and enjoy!

Are there any transcriptions you’ve done that have really helped your playing? Please leave a comment below and share with the community.


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  • Yojotaele

    I love your lessons!
    Thanks from Spain!

  • Oloskan

    Great lesson, thank you 😉

    I’ve got question which is not connected with your post. So, do you write all of these transcriptions by yourself? Do you use some computer aplication to write sheet music? How is it called?

    Thanks and sorry for my english 😉 

    • Hi Oloskan,
        Yes, I write all the transcriptions by myself. I do use several different computer programs for notation etc. I’ll do a more in depth post soon where I talk about all the software I use etc.

      • Oloskan

        Well, I’m looking forward for this post 🙂

  • Roof 1472

    Love the idea of approach patterns.  Can’t almost anything suit?  I’ve been experimenting and it seems so.  It really extends the line if desired.  Si or no?

    • Yes, in theory there are lots of possibilities for approach patterns. I’ve seen books written where there are hundreds of them written out.
        I was really excited at first when I saw some of the collections but the more I listened the more I noticed that I couldn’t find examples of my favorite players actually using some of the more “theoretical” ones.

      So, some of them seemed like a good idea on paper or in terms of intervallic patterns but in reality don’t sound as good as you hope they would.

      Now, I use approach patterns all the time but certain ones more than others.

      So, always make sure you deeply listen right? 🙂

  • Jennifer

    Should we be transcribing jazz solos on paper to study them, or is it enough to attempt duplicating the solo on our instrument?

    • Great question. I do both but you could also just play it on your instrument. Just make sure you really try to internalize the feel, the ideas, the concepts, and the rhythmic ariculation.

      I’m not a huge fan personally of just reading transcriptions of the page or just writing them down without really being able to play them well.

      To each their own though 🙂

  • Noah_Scape

    Very nice of you to do this – we need free examples to get people learning jazz – a great service to jazz music Steve!!

  • tony

    I have just joined my pick and choose approach to your lessons keeps me really on my toes many thanks

  • Milan DesnastranaMozga Lemaic

    You are the king! Greetings from Serbia!

  • Gordon Braun-Woodbury

    Thank you, Steve, for featuring one of Barry’s solos. Another trick he uses a lot is on the V7 leading to a I major. If you play the minor 6th scale a semitone above that dominant– e.g. Abm6 scale over G7 — you get a beautiful altered sound. Combine that with the rhythmic displacement and approach notes in your lesson, and you have some serious vocabulary to apply.

  • Adon N’guessan

    Help me please to be The best

  • Andile Meshack