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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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