1. Learn the melody of a tune. Really learn it. Listen to recordings and be able to play the melody the way it was meant to be played. Be able to play the melody from memory.
2. Make it your own. Develop your own interpretation of the melody – how you would like it to be played – without modifying the changes.
3. Be able to create a bass line to the changes. If you need help, go back to your recordings and transcribe what the bass player is playing.
4. Outline the chord changes. Use scales and patterns like 1235, 1353, 12345678, 1357, 7531, 13579, etc. Try variations and combinations from measure to measure to challenge yourself.
5. Begin improvising. Start be improvising with the melody notes and the patterns you have practiced, then begin exploring other possibilities and ideas you would like to try. If you are still having trouble coming up with ideas for solos, listen to recordings of the songs you are learning and transcribe the solo that the performer plays.
And when you’re ready to take it to the next level…