October 19th, 2016

10 Modern Improvisation Techniques from Woody Shaw that’ll Rock Your World

Written by Eric


Every musician wants to sound hip and modern…

To play complex lines that move outside of the harmony and above the time. Solos that’ll make your fellow musicians shake their heads in disbelief and leave the audience speechless.

The only problem is that few players actually get to this point, and even less sound authentic, unique, or even innovative in their efforts.

However there is one musician in the jazz lineage who achieved this and more – Woody Shaw.

And today we’re going to dive into one of his live performances to uncover some of the key devices he used to create a highly innovative approach to improvisation.

For starters, let’s take a listen to Woody Shaw’s solo on the tune Stepping Stone:


The solos and ensemble playing sound complex, however the chord progression for the solo sections is deceptively simple:

And by studying how Woody Shaw plays over just two simple chords you can get a glimpse into his larger approach to improvisation.

The way he plays over an extended dominant chord or minor 7 chord is directly connected to the complex lines and harmonies that he uses in every other solo.

Let’s take a closer listen…

Breaking down the solo

At a quarter note equals 400+ bpm it’s hard to hear the individual ideas that Woody is playing.

So let’s slow down the tempo and take a close listen to each line so you can actually hear what’s going on…

Below I’ve transcribed Woody’s two … Read More

October 7th, 2016

The Inconvenient Truth About Becoming a Better Improviser…

Written by Eric


Making progress as an improviser is tricky business…

I’m not talking about the baby steps along the way like learning a new tune, transcribing a solo, or even practicing a few scales.

I’m talking about finding musical breakthroughs. Arriving at creative revelations and actually playing the ideas you’re hearing in your head.

But I’m guessing you already know this…I’m even willing to bet that somewhere, deep down you know you have more musical potential than you give yourself credit for.

You know that you can play a better solo, that you can dust off that old instrument and start practicing again, that you do better than the same old tunes, the same old lines, and the same predictable solos.

But how do you get over this hump? How do you unleash the creative musician buried deep inside of you?

Well if you listen to most people, you’d lock yourself in a practice room for the foreseeable future. But here’s the catch:

Practice alone isn’t good enough…

It’s time to get uncomfortable

As musicians we have a collective mindset that’s ingrained in us from an early age – that practice makes perfect.

It’s true that practice is necessary to be a competent musician, but it’s not the most important thing you can do to improve as a creative musician.

The same routine, the same exercises, and those hours spent playing licks with Aebersolds isn’t going to make you the next Miles Davis. If you want to reach the level of your … Read More

September 26th, 2016

5 Secrets for Mastering the Altered Scale

Written by Eric


The dominant chord is one of the most versatile chords in the jazz repertoire…

And it’s your best bet for adding harmonic tension and melodic interest to your lines.

The only problem is that many players approach this sound with the same old scales and licks every time. And this can get pretty boring…

That’s why today we’re going to show you one of the most powerful techniques for playing V7 chords like a pro – the altered scale.

Transforming this often misunderstood scale from a mundane theory exercise into an invaluable melodic tool that you can start using in every solo.

Here are 5 Secrets to Mastering the Altered Scale

#1) Master the basic scale

If you ask a group of musicians about what to play over an altered dominant chord you’re likely to get a number of answers.

From melodic minor scales to diminished patterns, and even tritone substitutions…

But what you might not realize is that most of these altered approaches are describing the same scale.

Four names for the altered scale

That’s a lot of theory jargon. But at the end of the day, it’s just four different ways of looking at the this scale:

the altered scale

You can mentally approach this scale is a number of ways, but the sound of these 8 tones will be the same…

What matters is how you can access this sound on the fly in your solo. If you prefer to think of melodic minor – use that. If it’s the altered scale –

Read More
September 13th, 2016

Why You Hate Practicing: 3 Simple Ways to Love Your Instrument Again

Written by Eric


Practicing is the most important thing you can do as a musician.

Or so everyone says…

But let’s be honest, practicing can be a real drag sometimes.

It can feel like the daily chore that you can never escape. Hours of tedious warm-up routines, endless technical exercises, and slogging through every key while staring at the seconds ticking by on the clock…

Yet, somehow the world’s greatest musicians learned to embrace the art of practicing and even love it. And if you’re serious about becoming a successful musician, you’ve got to do it too.

So what was their secret? Well, the key to loving your practice often comes down to what you’re not doing.

And what you’re not doing are 3 simple techniques that turn practice from a daily chore into one of the most productive activities in your musical life.

Let’s start with number one…

I) Your practice doesn’t have a personal goal

Why do you practice? What’s the point?

For most musicians the reason for practicing comes from other people.

Your parents push you to practice, your teachers give you assignments, that cranky old piano instructor threatens you every week, and there’s the constant pressure to keep up with your friends and colleagues.

All of this is hanging over your head as you walk into the practice room…

As a musician, you know that practice is expected of you…but have you ever stopped to ask what you want?

Finding the answer to this question is the single most … Read More

August 29th, 2016

Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About the Bebop Scale…But Were Afraid to Ask

Written by Eric

Bebop Scale

Scales can be one of the most overwhelming parts of learning jazz improvisation…

Between you and me, it can seem like there’s a scale to learn for every chord, a scale for every progression, and a scale for every day of the week.

However, as you’ve probably realized in the practice room, scales are not always the secret to a great solo.

But what if I told you that there were a few scales that are essential for every serious improviser to know?

Scales with inherent melodic and harmonic devices that can be used in any solo and when practiced correctly, will give you valuable techniques for mastering the jazz language.

I’m talking about the bebop scale. And in today’s post were going to put this scale under the magnifying glass and turn it inside out to show you everything you’ve ever wanted to know.

So if you’ve been stuck wondering how to create long flowing lines in your solo or are frustrated with the same old boring ideas, this one’s for you…

The basic Bebop Scale

I’m guessing you know the bebop scale.

You’ve seen it in books, your teachers have told you to learn it and you probably even know it in a few keys…

Bebop scale

So what’s the big deal? Well, the true value of the bebop scale is revealed in it’s potential for creating melodies over chord progressions.

The chromatic movement surrounding the flat 7th of this scale creates a natural melodic motionRead More

August 9th, 2016

8 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Practicing Jazz Improvisation

Written by Forrest

8 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Practicing Jazz Improvisation

Let’s be completely honest…

My amazing teachers did tell me many of the things that I’m about to tell you…I just didn’t listen!

Why didn’t I listen?

I don’t know. Immaturity. Stubbornness. The belief that there had to be something else. Something more important. Something more complex. Something better, that mattered more…

But these 8 pieces of advice matter more than I ever could have known and I continue to rediscover their importance time and time again.

Whenever I veer of course, it’s usually one of these things that I’m ignoring.

And hopefully, by sharing them with you today, you’re inspired to continue to grow and develop your musical potential in the direction you want to take it…

1.) Listening to jazz is the most important thing you can do

I know you think you listen, but do you really listen?

When you get in the car, do you turn the pop hits of today on– I’m guilty of this too, and I swear they’re the same 5  computer-generated songs playing on every single radio station. Do bands even exist anymore?!– or are you listening to Bird, Trane, or supporting the local jazz station?

Each day do you feel the need to listen to jazz? Are you truly compelled?

Do you, in fact, listen to jazz every single day? And not because you feel you should, but because you love it?

Don’t underestimate the power of listening to jazz.

So much of what we play and who we become as … Read More

August 5th, 2016

Eager to Improve? Don’t Make This Common Mistake in the Practice Room…

Written by Eric

Eager to improve at jazz improvisation

In case you were starting to mistake jazz musicians for super-humans…

Or highly talented individuals that know thousands of tunes, have perfect pitch, and transcribe solos in mere minutes, I thought I’d write a post to correct that picture in your mind.

In fact, I want to show you one of the most important rules when it comes to learning to improvise.

I want to show you why absorbing one solo or a single tune into your bloodstream is a good thing.

And I want to show you that unless you do this, you’re missing out on the best kind of practice.

Let me show you what I mean…

Too fast & too furious in the practice room

The problem with the way many players practice jazz improvisation is this:

they are simply trying to do too much at once.

Daily practice becomes a mad rush to cram in tunes, transcribing, memorizing licks, scales in all keys, technical exercises, and ear training.

But despite all of this time and effort, lasting musical progress somehow continues to be elusive.

And here at Jazzadvice, this one of the most common themes we hear from people around the world that are learning to improvise and improve their musicianship – they are overwhelmed.

There is simply too much information out there…and the frustration comes in trying to keep up.

It’s understandable. Many improvisation resources bombard you with music theory information, instructors push you to transcribe solos, and jam sessions put on … Read More

August 2nd, 2016

How to Play the Blues Like a Pro: A Lesson with Wynton Kelly

Written by Eric

How to play the blues like a pro

Every serious improviser has to deal with the blues…

From the players just starting out in school, to the musicians at local jam sessions, to the biggest names performing on international stages.

Because the blues goes hand in hand with creating music in the moment.

But unlike many players think, it goes beyond the blues scale, memorized licks or even the 12 bar progression.

The blues is about making a musical statement – telling a story through the lines you play. Rather than thinking about notes or theory, it’s the sound, style, and feel of what you’re playing that matters most.

And this is an essential skill that every improviser must develop…

Today we’re going to take a lesson in the blues from one of the most swinging and melodic players out there – the great Wynton Kelly.

Wynton Kelly’s solo on Freddie Freeloader

Wynton Kelly only played one tune on Kind of Blue

But it’s a solo that sticks with you. One that you start singing without even realizing it.

He has a swinging, bluesy, melodic style that can’t be notated on paper. And like all masterful improvisers, something special happens when you turn on the recording.

You don’t think about notes, technique, or music theory when you’re listening to him improvise – you hear music.


I’m guessing you’ve listened to this solo before, but if you take a closer listen you’ll discover that he is using some key concepts to create a masterful solo … Read More

July 26th, 2016

The Talent Myth: Why Exceptional Musical Ability Is Within Your Reach

Written by Eric

The Talent Myth


It’s a word that’s thrown around in all professions and all parts of life. From sports and academics to art and music.

And nowhere is it more prevalent than in jazz improvisation.

We listen to the musical masters of the past century, we look at our teachers, the musicians at jam sessions and the young improvisers in school that show promise.

…and we imagine that these players were born with innate musical gifts.

That they can simply pick up their instruments and start playing beautiful music in any key, at any tempo, and at any time of the day…all because they have this thing called talent.

But is talent real?

Is it the missing link between an average musician and a master musician? The elusive piece of the puzzle that you need to gain exceptional musicianship…

Or is it a word that hints at a much deeper process?

For many people, the process of improvisation is hard to define and talent is often the easiest explanation. But what you might not realize is that chalking everything up to talent can actually hold you back in the long run.

Let me explain…

The Musical Truth Hidden in Plain Sight

It’s easy to use a term like talent.

Or to say that a musician is a natural, or gifted, or even a prodigy.

However, when you attribute musical skills or musicianship to talent you start to believe that improvisation arises from natural ability – that great improvisers are born instead Read More

July 12th, 2016

The Beginner’s Guide to Jazz Articulation: Coltrane Techniques Demystified

Written by Forrest

The guide to jazz articulation

It’s the subtleties of articulation that make melodies come alive…

But, being so subtle, articulation is one of those concepts that’s difficult to grasp, or for that matter, even teach.

And it’s personal. Nearly every player has their own distinct method of articulating, which yields a different result.

With all this ambiguity, how can we start to get a concept of articulation and practice it?

As always, finding a clear model gives us a direction and starting place to understand what it is we’re dealing with, and of all the solos I’ve listened to, one sticks out in particular when I think of articulation…

The concept of varied articulation: Learning from Coltrane

John Coltrane has a wide variety of articulation techniques that vary from album to album, but his solo on I Hear a Rhapsody makes use of the primary 3 styles that he and other great players tend to use in a clear and definitive way.

It’s like this solo was made to be a study in articulation. It’s packed with way more information than we need to learn the fundamentals.

Go ahead and take a listen to John Coltrane’s solo on I Hear a Rhapsody:

If you listened closely, you’ll note that he’s not exclusively using one type of articulation. In general, as we’ll delve into shortly, he mixes 3 different styles of articulation, even within one phrase.

The 3 types of articulation are:

  • Hard articulation – an attack (tonguing for horn players) at the beginning
Read More
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