PPT mouthpieces

Book Review - Greg Fishman hip licks!


Well-Known Member
Fishman’s Hip Licks – my review and 2 cents!

I’ve bought a few books over the years and some are just plain awful. Here is one of the better ones.

Right away I just want to say that this is a really excellent book and collection of same fantastic practise material. The book is aimed at players wanting to learn the jazz language, mainly straight ahead jazz and bop licks, and not so much blues riffs.

What makes this book worthwhile is the quality of the examples – in short these are some of the best licks you’ll find anywhere

There are 168 licks altogether, covering various chords and chord progressions. Most of the examples use various well known techniques such as enclosures (approach notes), bebop scales, diminished scales etc. There are 14 chord or chord progressions in each of the 12 keys – total of 168 unique licks. Each of the 12 keys has a lick in a good sax register, so they all sound good. So, for example the major 7th licks which starts at #25 is the key of C, and the last major 7th lick is #36 in the key of Db – each key between #25 to #36 has a unique lick. This is very cool because instead of slugging away at practising a phrase in every key, you get something that suits each key, and generally these fall under the fingers quite well.

There are 4 play along CDs. – 2 for alto and 2 for tenor. The play along’s are recorded at 2 different tempi – slow and fast. Greg also does not simply transpose the alto parts, but rather transposes the entire rhythm section, so that the alto plays the same notes as the tenor. It’s a shame that other excellent books (like Minzter) don’t do the same. If you’ve done a lot of transcribing you’ll recognise many of the phrases. If not, then this book has loads of really great tasty licks. As I played through them, I found myself going ‘yeah - that’s very cool!’ many times. (A couple of the 9b licks that use diminished scales are really minty).

Where the book falls short, is in the lack of any theory or explanation of how these are constructed. If you understand chords and the common techniques, you’ll have no problems. The other shortfall in my view is a lack of a systematic approach to getting the best out of the material. If you simply read and practise the phrases then ok, you’ll get them under you fingers, and get some ear training - but it won’t really come out in your improv. I think to get the best out of the book you need to break down the phrases into 4 note groups (words) that link the chord tones, and work to understand them and play them in different keys. You can then, over the weeks and months learn to link them together and construct your own phrases (sentences).

In short, if you don’t spend a lot of time transcribing, this book provides a short cut to

some great practise licks and phrases. One of the better books, and all for around £20!
Thoroughly agree, a great book that will keep you going a long time. It gives the option of hearing the rhythm section with or without Fishman. The licks are all played twice so you can play with them as call and response or just do them twice each. The playing is delicious, a fine teaching aid. I've been using the book for a few weeks now and thoroughly enjoy it. When the first cd has been assimilated I'll put on running shoes and proceed with the fast version!
Hot Licks - Vol 2

This afternoon I finally had the time to open Greg Fishman's second Hip Licks offering and start exploring the world of jazz a little more closely.

At least, that was what I hoped.

As @fibracell explained about Vol 1, there is no theory in this book, either. There are four pages explaining how to practice the licks and how to expand them but no actual theoretical explanations regarding how the licks were created. And, if we're honest, this is a big part of why the book is so good. It's not aimed at beginners - the 'slow' versions of the licks average around 160bpm, which isn't really slow by any definition - so anyone able to play these examples should also be able to work out how each riff was created relatively easily. We don't need to be bogged down by page upon page of text, we want to play.

What I really like is that this book is it's like having a mate, who's a much better player, that comes round and shows you new things they've been working on. Up to now each lick has been a lot of fun to play and sounded really, really good. It's the first time in my 18 months that I've felt like I'm playing proper Jazz, the sort of thing you hear Bird and Dexter blasting out so perfectly.

But if the first page is anything to go by then this is going to be a proper finger twisting journey where someone like me is going to have to work really hard. In fact, I've had to slow down the 'slow' examples to have a fighting chance at playing them, however the challenge will definitely be worth the effort.

I see many months of hard work in my future ... and every second of it's going to be great fun.
If at all possible try to develop your own licks. By listening, transcribing, and practicing. I mentioned a book to Trimmy . "1000 licks for saxophone " and told him not to get it. Each to their own, but I want my licks. Not Greg Fishmans. He got them from practice, and now wants paying for them ? Just my opinion. Ade
By your logic, one should not buy song books to learn from as you should be writing your own songs. I'm not sure that's a very solid argument, although I do think all musicians should try to write some original material. ;)

Also, if someone is more inclined to copy than to create then it doesn't matter where they get their knowledge from. And lastly, and I've said this before, absolutely no one can say what the best way for someone to learn is, only how they learned.
Looks interesting, if somewhat daunting.

@fibracell and @Veggie Dave - I'm assuming that I should start with Book 1, but can you tell me what is the difference between Book 1 and Book2 - Is Book 2 more difficult, or is it just more examples? I couldn't find an explanation on Greg Fishman's website.
here's the index from vol 2. More complex chords. That's a whole boat load of material to keep you busy.

And yes, you need to transcribe licks yourself and understand and develop them. I like to take little snipets from the hip licks and try to incorporate them in to something myself.

You'll only get out of these book, what work you put in....

If at all possible try to develop your own licks. By listening, transcribing, and practicing. I mentioned a book to Trimmy . "1000 licks for saxophone " and told him not to get it. Each to their own, but I want my licks. Not Greg Fishmans. He got them from practice, and now wants paying for them ? Just my opinion. Ade

I look at it slightly differently. I have a book of licks by Steve Neff - pages and pages of ii-V-I in all 12 keys for major and minor ii-V-1. I know a lot of them by heart, but I don't think I ever put them into solos, in large part because I couldn't think quickly enough to insert a whole lick into a solo.

However I think practicing these licks builds muscle memory and fluidity on the instrument in the same way as practicing scales and arpeggios in all 12 keys. The more patterns I learn in the different keys the less I need to think about the key itself (because that part becomes automatic) and the more I can try to be expressive with a solo.

In short - practicing licks in all 12 keys is a similar exercise as practicing scales / arpeggios in those keys, with similar payback.

I'd also add that with nearly 100 years of jazz music back-catalogue the idea that any of us is going to come up with any truly original licks is a bit of a stretch.
Twelve keys and arpeggios are the foundation of what we do. I don't think the transcription of somebody else's lick bears relevance. Stretching the imagination ? Is that not what it is all about ? Cobble together a lick from Steve Neff, one from Greg Fishman you may have a decent solo. However it is not your work. Each to their own but at the risk of repetition, where did they get them ? They practiced, listened, practiced again. Now they sell them. Chops in a box: but each to their own.
I think you missed my point - I probably wasn't clear. Practicing licks builds muscle memory just like any other technical exercise - this then makes finger movement more automatic and frees the brain to be more creative when soloing, even if you're not consciously playing any of the licks.

It's no substitute for listening, of course - having a good ear and figuring out what you're hearing, why it works and why it sounds good, but it's another tool to build fluidity on the instrument.

The other thing you can do with licks (and I wish my licks book had it) is to figure out why some of the licks work. For example does the lick use augmented on the 5 or altered dominants, or is there a tritone substitution going on ? If you can figure that out a book of licks gives you a way to hear the possibilities that the different scales / substitutions offer.

Often I'll play a new lick and straightaway think "I've heard that sound before on ......." - so I think playing other people's licks, analyzing them and finding bits of them in your favourite jazz records can also help build your understanding of theory.
Last edited:
Looks interesting, if somewhat daunting.

I'm finding it something of a challenge. ;)

It's taken me three days to be able to play the first 6 licks on page one. There are another six to go before I can turn the page, too. And even after three days I'm playing these phrases at 120bpm rather than the 'slow' speed of 165bpm on the CD. The full speed versions are 230bpm - that may take a while. ;)

What I'm really liking is that I'm well and truly out of my comfort zone. There is absolutely no relaxing, no drifting into phrases/constructions that you always play, no avoiding those keys you don't really like. It's already triggering ideas for new songs as well. I'm a fan. :)
Man, you shot directly at level two, apparently, so you're in for a tough time. I struggled starting with book #1 and gave up for now. I'll have to give it another try, if I can find the time.

I'm obviously not as good as you are fighting the rough spots! I'm way too lazy I guess...
Man, you shot directly at level two

As you know, I couldn't find a copy of Vol 1 so just bought what was available.

you're in for a tough time.

The first two licks weren't too bad ... and then we went to A♭7(#11) and F#7(#11). These are the two that I've had to work so hard to play. Thankfully, the rest of the page doesn't seem to be quite so hard. Hopefully, it'll only take a week to play them.

And then I can speed them up to 'slow'. :D
Stick with two mate. If you are going for it challenge yourself. All respectful disagreement accepted ; all cool. I will finish here by asking, Bird, Sonny, Getz, where dhey get their licks ? I rest my case M, lud
@Adrian63 I understand what you're saying, but when you mention Bird, Sony, Getz, I don't feel like I'm part of the discussion! Way out of my league, unfortunately. :mad:

I wish I could pretend like one day I will sound like these guys, but to be honest all I'm after is a way to manage a decent sound and possibly be capable of improvising some decent solos that are not too far off the mark in terms of following the chords.

For now, anything that helps me make some progress in playing better is worth looking at. Ultimately, I would like to be able to play on my horn whatever is in my mind, something like what I do when I'm whistling. But I'm still very far from able to do that... :(

Those licks will never be mine. Just some practice material to build up my own.

If you're comfortable playing these, then perhaps you have acquired the dexterity and ear to build your own. After all, they are only a succession of notes played with some jazz touch.

Each have their way to reach their goal. Obviously some find licks are useful.
So where did Sonny, Bird and Getz get their licks ?
They didn't get'em from Greg Fishman that's for sure, they got'em from playing and learning from their elders and with time developing their own style. You gotta start somewhere. Sooner or later you'll start playing like you. It's a long and winding road, you've just gotta put the time in.
I will finish here by asking, Bird, Sonny, Getz, where dhey get their licks ? I rest my case M, lud

Are you suggesting they learnt in complete isolation? That they didn't share ideas, techniques, licks, runs, riffs? They didn't share revelations, whether that was technique or kit? That they weren't influenced by their peers? That they didn't also have heroes they copied, they were influenced by? Because if you are then I'm going to assume you haven't read their biographies or know their stories and that you have never had the pleasure of being an active musician in an active music scene. All scenes are remarkably incestuous - it doesn't take long for almost everyone to have shared almost everything with everyone else.

On the other hand, if you're suggesting that people like me are using this book simply so that I/they can mindlessly regurgitate the licks in it then you have a remarkably low opinion of a large number of practising players.
Last edited:

Similar threads

Top Bottom