Forward Motion:The Secret Formula to Jazz Bebop Solo Improvisation


One of the most asked questions among any jazz students, seeing how jazz masters effortlessly improvise beautiful jazzy solo lines even through complicated chord changes.


Notice how Bud Powell’s lines melodically weave through the chord changes of Anthropology with ease. You can even hear the changes listening to the solo lines alone, with resolution on strong chord tones, resolving every phrase.

In search of an answer to this question, I, for one, have invested quite an amount on any jazz materials I can grab. Not a single one of them attempted to analyze the sophiscated internal process in the mind of an improvising jazz musician, except Hal Galper with his book Forward Motion.

I bought this book with the expectation of another chord scale relationship dictionary. But surprisingly, Hal Galper opened the introduction with a discussion on rhythm.

Hal Galper discussed how the “One” and “Three” of each bar are strong release beats, where lines should be resolved, and how we were traditionally taught the opposite, such as to practise scale lines starting on the “one” of each bar.

Galper also stressed the importance of upbeats by quoting Dizzy Gillespie,

“The more upbeats you have in the music the more it swings”

Few jazz education books ever touch on the importance of rhythmic placement of notes in improvising. Hal Galpers’ Forward Motion, in my opinion, is a must have bible for any aspiring jazz musician. In the coming few weeks, I will be posting a series of reviews discussing the theories in this book, with possibly some examples, videos, transcriptions and further analysis of my own.

Subscribe the Pianologist RSS feed to be updated regularly.

Check out these earlier posts on Forward Motion:  

Tutorial on Forward Motion Application

Shakatak Nightbird Piano Solo Transcription and Forward Motion Application

Acquiring Speed in a Slow Way

Introduction to Tension and Release Beat

Tutorial on Assigning Target Tones in Mastering Jazz Solo Improvisation -1

Tutorial on Assigning Target Tones in Mastering Jazz Solo Improvisation – 2

Until then, Have fun and enjoy… 😀


  • Edward

    Reply Reply February 27, 2008

    Darn, the videos down 🙁

  • john voysey

    Reply Reply January 14, 2012

    bert ligons – connecting chords ……….. is also excellent on this subject.

Leave A Response

* Denotes Required Field