Chick Corea Spain Jazz Lick Lesson

chick corea spainToday we’re going to study a great lick from Chick Corea’s Spain solo.

This will be a great way for you to begin to learn more about Chick Corea’s amazing jazz improvisation style.

I’m going to show you how to play a turnaround lick by Chick from a 1973 performance of “Spain” by Return to Forever.

Spain is a tune that is in a minor key and is a great vehicle to explore all kinds of modal improvisation concepts. So, lets get started!

Listen to Chick Corea’s “Spain”

There are lots of great versions of Chick Corea playing Spain. But, I’m a huge fan of Return to Forever and love this particular version of Spain:

Now, the first thing you’ll want to do is take a listen to the whole recording to get a sense and feel of the whole song.

Once you’ve listened to this version, go to 4:51 of the video to hear the Chick Corea Spain lick.

Learn the Chick Corea Spain Turnaround Lick

Chick plays this lick over the chords C#7(b9), F#7, and Bm7.

As you might have noticed C#7 is the II7 chord and F#7 is the V7 chord, leading you back to the i chord which is Bm7.

This is a classic jazz chord progression and one that you’ll want to get good at playing over.

Chick Corea Spain Lick Notation

To help you get started I’ve transcribed the Chick Corea Spain lick for you. Here is the chart of the lick.

(Make sure you to also scroll down to breakdown the improv concepts in the lick.)

chick corea spain

Tips To Master the Chick Corea Spain Lick

1. Practice Slow Against the Metronome or a Jam Track

chick corea spainWhen trying to learn the lick for the first time, pull out your metronome or a jam track. A Latin-sounding jam track would be best.

(If you don’t have great sounding jam tracks don’t worry…we have tons of great sounding ones inside the Premium Jazz Membership Course.)

At this point, make sure that your metronome or jam track is set to a slow tempo like 60 BPM.

Play the jam track slow enough to give you enough space to nail the lick in proper rhythm.

You want to make sure that you’re practicing being “in the pocket” at all times.

Once you are able to easily play the lick at a slow tempo, then it’s time to ramp the speed up a bit.

Remember to always choose a tempo that should be challenging enough but will allow you to execute the lick perfectly.

If you need more tips on how to get this lick up to speed, check out this lesson on dealing with fast tempos.

2. Learn the Key and Scales Used Over Each Chord

Now, try to understand how Chick plays the lick. To do that, analyze what scales and chords he has based the lick on.

Look at the lick measure by measure.

In the first measure, we have the chord C#7(b9). We see that most of the notes of the lick are chord tones (3rd, root, 6th, b9). The entire first measure fits nicely in C# Mixolydian b9 scale:

chick corea spain

To make the lick more colorful, Chick switches gears here and plays a descending chromatic pattern over F#7. He starts at A natural, a minor 3rd from F#. The lick suggests a descending chromatic scale.

chick corea spain

By the time you hit the 3rd measure, there’s still a chromatic passing note (Eb going to D) before hitting all chord tones (3rd, 9th, root) for that last snippet of the lick. Also take note that the last note here hits just right before the downbeat:

chick corea spain

The last measure can imply using any minor scale or a Dorian scale in B. Why do you have to go lengths to analyze this lick?

It’s because later on you will want to be able to play it in any key and create variations of it that will sound awesome.

How To Properly Use Scales In Your Playing

Knowing how to play and use all these scales in your jazz improvisation is a critical next step for you.

In fact, one of the reasons you feel stuck in your playing is because of a lack of familiarity with your scales, how to create great sounding licks, and how to put them all together in a musical way.

You may already know some scales but if you’re just running up and down them in a mindless way you’re missing a huge piece in your playing.

chick corea spainWant to know how the greatest jazz improvisers actually use scales and other critical improv concepts to build breathtaking improvisation?

Then check out “The Jazz Improvisation Super System Course”.

You can save yourself years of hard practice trying to learn all this stuff by yourself.

One of the things that David does in the course is take you through the Mixolydian and Dorian modes and show you how they work in many tunes.

They say knowledge is power. It truly is.

3. How To Master It In All 12 Keys

chick corea spainNow that you know how that lick was formed, you can now try and practice the lick in all 12 keys.

The fastest way to do this is to simply transpose the lick a half step up once you’ve mastered the original lick.

Being able to transpose your musical ideas on the fly is a great way to unlock your creativity at the keyboard.

Now, you might say, “Hold it right there!” How do you transpose stuff on the fly?

Good question. Well, a lot of it is understanding your scales and the definite intervals and chords that go with each scale.

chick corea spainWhat if you’re not 100% fast or confident in your transposition  skills yet?

We have a whole masterclass inside the Premium Jazz Membership Course that shows you how to easily master any song, lick, and pattern in all 12 keys. 

5. Use the Lick When Improvising Over Other Tunes

How do you get started improvising with this lick in other tunes? Check out the pattern of the lick. Afterwards, try and apply the pattern into any tune that is in a minor key.

You can also use the lick for tunes that have sections implying a minor key.

A good tune you can try and apply this lick is when improvising over Stella by Starlight. All you have to do is modify the lick a bit to fit the chord.

chick corea spainHere’s how you fit the lick to any chord:

  1. You already know that the first measure of the lick has the chord tones 3rd, 9th, and root.
  2. If you want to use the lick over a minor chord, just lower the 3rd a half step.

If you understand how your chords are built, you can easily modify the lick to fit over any chord.

You can get more tips for playing over jazz tunes in a minor key through our harmonic analysis videos found inside Premium Membership.

Next Steps After Learning This Chick Corea Spain Lick

1. Make Your Own Variations of the Lick

chick corea spainOnce you have mastered the lick, you want it to be incorporated well in your own soloing vocabulary.

It is around this stage where you would like to create variations of the lick.

You can do all sorts of things to craft variations. You can add more passing notes, modify the rhythms, change some of the notes, land on other chord tones, etc.

As long as you understand how the lick was built, you can do anything you want with it to suit your soloing needs.

2. Learn More Licks from Jazz Legends

chick corea spainAs soon as you have mastered the Chick Corea Spain Lick, you’ll want to add more to your vocabulary.

You’ll desire to upgrade your jazz piano skills. This means it’s time to learn more licks.

To learn new jazz piano licks, listen to the works of jazz legends.

Listen to masters like McCoy Tyner, Barry Harris, Bud Powell, Keith Jarrett, and Art Tatum. Try to pick out by ear little bits of jazz vocabulary from their solos.

What If You Don’t Have 20 Hours A Day To Practice?

Now, come to think about it, that’s a lot of records to study. I know you want to improve your improv skills but you might not have tons of time to sit down and learn from all these recordings.

Or, maybe your ear isn’t 100% where you want it to be.

It’s going to take years of listening to all that.

If you’re short on time or your ears aren’t there yet there is an easier solution.

We’ve already worked on that tough bit of transcribing ourselves, so that you can maximize your time learning and having fun at the piano.

chick corea spainRather than wasting away worrying, grab a copy of Jazz Masters Method to get started learning new licks.

This course not only features Chick Corea’s style, it will also teach you licks and important improv secrets from greats such as Barry Harris, Red Garland, Bud Powell, Ray Charles, and more.

Steve breaks down licks from all these masters and shows you how to add their style into your own playing. I highly recommend it.

I hope that you enjoyed learning this really awesome Chick Corea Spain lick. If you have questions, feel free to leave a comment below. We’re always glad to help out.

It’s our goal to help you become the musician of your dreams. Thanks!

Chick Corea spain image above courtesy of Alberto Capello.
About The Author

Mark A. Galang

Mark Galang is one of our contributors at He loves teaching all styles of music especially jazz, blues, rock, classical, and Christian music.