TOP 20 Jamming Songs

First Aid Kit

Learn these 20 songs (arranged in order of difficulty) and you will be ready for any Gypsy Jazz Jam!

There are three Tonic chords in any key, as explained here. There are three Dominant chords, too. So most of the chords in your chart can be simplified as either Tonic or Dominant. If you know the key, then you know what lick to use.

But … most songs have key changes, too. And that is more challenging as you will have to change the notes you play. The colour system helps you out:

Here is the colour system applied to the chords of I Can’t Give You Anything But Love (G Major), with lick suggestions from this book. Note: Secondary Dominants do not have a colour as there is no Tonic (or key) for them.

And here is the colour system applied to the chords of All of Me (C Major), with an added red colour for the A Minor key.

Gypsy Jazz Jams are usually in ‘sharp’ keys because there are mainly string players. But if you are in a more regular jazz jam, you will be playing with winds. They tend to play in ‘flat’ keys. Here are some useful licks:

Leading Note Lick

Turnaround Lick

Enclosure Lick

‘6’ Lick

Here are some recurring chord changes you will come across again and again in standards. With useful phrases to play over them.


Minor Plagal Cadence (I – IV Minor – I)

At the end of most ballads, use ‘Jessica’ lick

Extended Minor Plagal Cadence (IV – IV Minor – I)

All of Me, I’ll See You In My Dreams, After You’ve Gone


Raised Plagal Cadence (IV – sharp IV – I)

I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Exactly Like You


Minor Third II-V-I (with Getz Licks)

Chromatic II-V-I (with Getz Licks)

Minor II-V-I (with Bebop Lick)


‘Rhythm Changes’ Turnaround (with Honeysuckle Rose Lick)

Chromatic Turnaround

Chromatic ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’ Turnaround

Short ‘Bebop’ Turnaround

Long ‘Bebop’ Turnaround

‘Coltrane’ Turnaround

‘Djangology’ Turnaround

The Blues sound is never far away, even in Gypsy Jazz. Here is the pentatonic Blues scale in the key of C:

Transpose this scale to other keys, too. Here are some bluesy licks in different keys; you can play the same lick in a Minor or Major key. Place the lick on the Tonic chord at the end of your phrase or solo.

G Blues Lick

C Blues Lick

A Minor Blues Lick

D Blues Lick

Licks can be changed. Start them on a different note; make them longer; or even play them backwards. Here’s how:


In gypsy jazz we use transposition all the time: moving from key to key, but also when we use Minor Third and Tritone Dominant Subs. Transpose in first position only.

Leading Note Lick

To practise transposing, move the lick up in semitones:

And so on. Then down in semitones:


We also can make existing licks longer, for instance if the chord they are based on lasts a number of bars instead of just one. This is called stretching. Here are some examples with licks from our First Aid Licks chapter:

Leading Note Lick


Jessica Lick


Try this yourself with other licks from the First Aid chapter. Next up is a stretched Dominant lick.

Universal Dominant Lick



A lot of licks sound great played backwards, too:

Leading Note Lick

Reversed Leading Note Lick

Also, check out the Descending Coltrane Lick.

Using the minor third connection from the previous chapter, we can transpose our existing licks and ‘sub’ (substitute) them on Dominant chords.

First, take the ‘Getz’ Lick and play it on your Dominant chord, a fifth up. On D7 you play Am, on F7 you play Cm, etc.:

Minor Dominant Sub

If you play it a minor third up, it becomes the Reversed Flat ‘10’ Lick. Cool! Another minor third up and you are on the Tritone of the original Minor:

Tritone Minor Dominant Sub

Playing Tritone Minor on the Dominant is a typical ‘bebop’ sound. This is the iconic lick from those days:

Bebop Lick

Upward Bebop Lick

You can also use the original Dominant Lick, and transpose that a minor third up. Play an F7 Dominant Lick on D7!

Minor Third Up Universal Dominant Lick

Do this two times and you have the Tritone Dominant Lick. So the Ab7 Dominant Lick on D7. Watch how you resolve:

Tritone Universal Dominant Lick

For the last minor third jump, use the Flat ‘9’ lick as the Universal Dominant Lick sounds ugly here.

Minor Third Down Flat ‘9’ Lick

A very straighforward Dominant Sub is the Diminished arpeggio. It’s not really a lick. On D7, we use the Eb diminished arpeggio. 

As you can see in the Diminished chapter, the Eb Dim arpeggio has 4 different root notes, all a minor third apart (Eb, F#, A and C).

So we can start our dimished lick on 4 different notes, play them up or down (or a combination) and each time resolve it to the ‘logical’ note at the end:

‘Eb Dim’

F# Dim’

‘A Dim’

‘C Dim’

Dominant (Dom) and Diminished (Dim) chords are nearly the same, only the root note is different:

The Dim chord is special. It has 4 different names, or root notes, a minor third apart. Take Eb (or F#, or A, or C) Dim:

Going back to a Dominant chord from its Dim chord is simple: take the root note a semitone down. This creates the following set of Doms:

So one Dom is actually 4 chords! We can now use the same lick a minor 3rd up and down, or 2 minor 3rds up or down, which we call tritone. This creates a new family of substitution (‘Sub’) licks: see next chapter.

Substitution is part of the language of jazz. We can ‘sub’ on Tonic chords, playing a Minor lick on a Major chord and vice versa.


Getz Lick: A minor Lick on C Major chord


Leading Note Lick: A minor Lick on C Major chord

(We can also sub a Dominant lick on a Tonic chord:

Flat ‘9’ Lick

But not a Tonic lick on the Dominant!)

Here are some indispensable Kickoff and Exit Licks to start and finish a phrase or song, and a couple of Breaks.


Breaks are played in the last two bars of the Theme of the song, the turnaround, before going into your first solo chorus. Start after the first beat. The band are waiting for your cue to start again, so end the second bar on an easy string of eighths (UK: quavers).

Break in G Major

Break in G Minor

Kickoff Licks

Use a Kickoff Lick to start your solo. It functions like a long upbeat, on the last bar of the previous chorus:

C Major Kickoff Lick

G Major Kickoff Lick

Bb Major Kickoff Lick

Exit Licks

Here are some Exit Licks to end your solo or phrase. There are two types, closed ending (on the root note or third) and open ending (other notes):

F Major Exit Lick (open ending)

Eb Major Exit Lick (closed ending)

C Major Exit Lick

G Major “Quintette” Exit Lick (closed ending)

G Major “Grappelli” Exit Lick (closed ending)

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