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7 Ways To Maximize Your Jazz Improvisation Practice

Here’s the big misconception among students of jazz improvisation:

Practice makes perfect.

Or perhaps the updated version: Perfect practice makes perfect.

We all know we’re supposed to practice. The more you practice the better, right?

Wrong. There’s something much more important than ‘logging hours’ in the practice room.

And yet many cats spend hours mindlessly running scales, drills, patterns…

…mindlessly noodling on some tune, ‘working’ on stuff they can already play and generally spinning their wheels in the practice room. With no significant RESULTS to show for it.

As long as they put in the time in the shed they feel good about their efforts. They put in four hours today....

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Major Musical Challenge #3: “Getting Lost On Your Solo”

12 Ways to Learn Tunes So You Never Get Lost On Your Solo Again!

Do you ever get lost on your solos? Is improvising over form (over a tune) hard for you?

Well, you’re definitely not the only one. Lots and lots of cats claim this as one of their biggest sources of frustration. And there’s nothing more gut-wrenching and panic-inducing then being ‘lost at sea’ on the bandstand in front of an audience and your musical peers.

Here’s the thing. Nothing in jazz is really difficult or hard. Including playing soloing over tunes. It’s just unfamiliar. In other words, if you are struggling with form it’s not because form is hard. It’s because you haven’t thoroughly internalized the tune and...

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Major Musical Challenge #2: “My Rhythm Is Terrible!”

In my last post we covered the first (of 3) Major Musical Challenges that just about all jazz students have to deal with.

And today, we’re gonna continue on to #2. Let’s just jump right in…

Challenge #2: “My Rhythm Is Terrible”

Ever thought anything like this to yourself:

“I’m terrible at rhythm. I don’t really know what to play when I’m soloing. To be honest, I feel like I play the same few rhythms every time and I’m afraid my solos sound boring and square. I just don’t know enough rhythms but even if I did I couldn’t possibly worry about what rhythm to play when I can barely find the right pitches to play. It’s so frustrating and overwhelming to...

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Major Musical Challenge #1: “Can’t Make The Changes”

Over the next few posts, I want to dig into 3 of the biggest challenges that students wrestle with.

I hear stuff like this all the time from students and subscribers:

“I just can’t make the changes. They go by way too fast. Yeah, I know my scales, but I don’t really know what exactly to do with them. And it just doesn’t sound like real jazz to me.”

This is a frustrating and super common challenge that looks something like this:

The changes go by too fast. Way too fast to possibly play them.

You try to concentrate hard and play the right notes and scales but it feels impossible. By the time you find the right notes to play on that Bb7 chord, it’s long gone and your solo quickly spins out of control.


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The Big Jazz Puzzle: Part 3

Law #7: The Power of Musical Awareness

This is a biggie.

Your progress as a musician depends directly on the quality of your awareness.

But it’s about much more than just progress. Your sound, your feeling, your vibe, your connection to your true voice, your growth & development as an artist – hell, as a human being – all depend on the level of awareness you bring to your music (and to your life!)

Therefore, you must seek to consistently expand & cultivate your awareness of:

  • Your sound
  • Your execution
  • The content you play
  • Your body
  • Solo development
  • Interest and Shape
  • The other players
  • The tune
  • Your relationship to the other players
  • The room
  • The audience
  • And so on…

In every situation, you must assume that...

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The Big Jazz Puzzle: Part 2

Welcome to part 2 of our 3 part blog series: The Big Jazz Puzzle. In part 2 we'll be covering the next 3 laws. Let's just dive right in, shall we?

Law #4: It All Comes From The Tradition

We now know from law #2 that you need vocabulary to play jazz and to ‘learn by doing’. So where do you get this vocabulary? Well, some of it you’ll work out. As you practice playing, exploring and improvising you’ll discover & develop ideas you like. You can work with those ideas to develop flexibility with them, combine them with other ideas to create new ideas and practice using and applying them in all keys and various musical settings.

But, you must also look to the great tradition of jazz to draw your inspiration from and...

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The Big Jazz Puzzle: Part 1

Okay, Dude…let’s jump into The Big Jazz Puzzle.

It’s been my experience that jazz is a lot like a puzzle. But not just any puzzle. It’s like a really hard puzzle with 1,000,000 pieces. And the thing is, there’s no right way to put it together. There’s not even a ‘picture on the box’.

You see, when you finally get your puzzle together it’s gonna be totally different than everyone Else’s puzzle. And that’s really one of the big goals in jazz anyway, right? To find your own sound? Your own version of the puzzle?

Indeed it is.

Well, as you know I’ve been trying to crack the code and figure out that puzzle for years. Oh…about 25 of ’em. And I’ve...

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When It Makes Sense To Practice Less

 Playing jazz sure was a bumpy road for me. I remember one of my worst days in music school like it was yesterday.

It was my junior year at Berklee College of Music. After 2 years I finally got into the ensemble of my dreams with the legendary jazz musician and educator, Hal Crook.

After playing one tune with the band, Hal kicked me out.

He said I needed more experience playing jazz with musicians. He also said I should schedule and play a session with other players every single day for a year. Every Day!

Well, getting booted from Hal's group was indeed a pivotal point in my musical development. It motivated me to find a better way to learn and advance as a musician. And it taught me some key lessons: Jazz is a music you learn by DOING...

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5 Steps To Develop Your Own Jazz Vocabulary


Why is vocabulary so important to a jazz musician?

Without a solid vocabulary, you become what I call a chord scale noodler. (Assuming you learned a few chord scales. Otherwise, you’re just a ‘noodler’;)

Sure, chord scales are über important.

They're like musical DNA. They can help you understand what you hear on the records. And they can help you build new vocabulary and navigate the chord changes.

But knowing the 'alphabet' and a few 'spelling rules' does not make you fluent, articulate, or poetic with the language.

‘Owning’ enough vocabulary can.

Let me explain:

Your vocabulary is comprised of the phrases and lines and ideas that truly belong to you.

You may have taken a Miles Davis lick off a...

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