Charlie Parker Licks

Charlie Parker, alto saxophonist, is one of the greatest bebop players of all time. He was highly influenced by Lester Young from the swing era, but Parker created his own methods for improvisation where he implied passing chords, maximized syncopation, and explored dissonance notes against chords. Charlie Parker licks are great to study because he really outlines the chord changes in a unique way and his melodic yet complex lines are great vocabulary for any guitarist.

#1 "Au Privave" Transcription

  • Here is a transcription of the 1st chorus of Charlie Parker's solo on "Au Privave (Take 1)". The chords for "Au Privave" are very similar to the chords from "Blues for Alice."

  • Measures 1-3 are in F major, however mixolydian and blues scales may still be used over this section.

  • Measures 4-5 contains a G minor arpeggio over the Bb7.

  • At the end of measure 5, the same G minor arpeggio is played but it becomes diminished at the beginning of measure 6.

  • Measure 7 contains a killin' F major arpeggio ending with nice chromaticism. Measure 9 uses a Bb major arpeggio.

  • The lick ends with a blues lick in F major resolving the the 6th scale degree.

  • For an entire book of transcribed Charlie Parker solos be sure to check out the Charlie Parker Omnibook.

  • Click here to listen to this lick on YouTube.

Charlie Parker Au Privave Transcription

#2 "Au Privave" Lick #2

  • Measures 1-2 chromatically approach scale degrees 1 and 5 of an F major chord.

  • Measures 3-4 uses the F major scale with a B natural chromatic note.

  • Click here to listen to this lick on YouTube (this lick is after lick #1).

Charlie Parker Au Privave Lick

#3 "Au Privave" Lick #2

  • Here's another lick transcribed from Charlie Parker's solo in "Au Privave".

  • This lick begins on the IV chord (Bb7) of an F blues.

  • Measure 1 contains an A as a passing note over the Bb7 and otherwise all the notes fit inside Bb mixolydian.

#4 "Night in Tunesia" Lick

  • Here is a transcription of the first 5 bars of Charlie Parker's solo in "A Night in Tunesia."

  • Note how the chord changes alternate between Eb7 and D minor; analyze the following transcription and see what ideas you can learn in order to improvise over these chord changes.

  • The Eb7 is a tritone substitution for A7, so essentially this is a V-I-V-I-V progression. D harmonic minor is a logical scale choice here, which is what Parker uses in measure 1-3. Measure 4 is in d minor, mainly outlining a d minor triad.

  • Measure 5 starts with a B minor arpeggio but then switches to the altered scale and ends on the b5.

  • Check out Charlie Parker's recording of "Night in Tunesia" to hear this lick.

Charlie Parker Night in Tunesia Lick

#5 "Blues for Alice" Lick

  • This lick is transcribed from Charlie Parker's solo on "Blues for Alice".

  • Measure 2 over the Fmaj7 chord uses the F major scale with a #4 (Cb) as a passing note.

  • Measures 3-4 consist of a d minor ii-V-i and the notes outline the changes. Parker outlines the b9 over the A7 chord and lands on the #5 over the G7.

  • Click here to listen to this lick on YouTube.

Charlie Parker Blues for Alice Lick
Charlie Parker Au Privave Lick