January 10th, 2017

Make 2017 Your Best Musical Year – Use These 3 Simple Steps to Reach Your Goals

Written by Forrest

How to accomplish musical goals

Let’s be real. New Year’s Resolutions don’t work…

Every year, January 1st comes and people act as if they’re going to entirely reinvent themselves, that this is the year. The year that’s different than all other years. The year of making things happen and achieving goals.

But just after a few weeks, the smoke from the fireworks clears and we’re back to square one. Back into our routine and back into our old habits. Our lofty goals fade away to the background once again, patiently waiting to resurface at the turn of the next new year…

What went wrong? Is there a solution? I’m a motivated person, is there a way I can actually accomplish my musical goals this year?

I’ve got good news for you. YES. It’s absolutely possible to accomplish your musical goals this year—or at least make huge progress on them—but you need to transform how you think about musical goals.

The standard goal setting methods might work when it comes to getting up earlier or drinking more water, but as a musician, you need a method that’s ongoing. You need a method that works when you’re tired. You need a method that turns even your smallest goals into a reality because let’s face it…in music even the smallest goals take a TON of work to achieve.

In general, when it comes to musical goals, goals are much larger than they appear.

Musical goals are large

For example, it sounds simple enough to “transcribe a solo,” but what get’s lost in … Read More

December 19th, 2016

How to Steal like a Pro: 3 Incredibly Useful Tactics for Better Jazz Solos

Written by Eric

Your mother probably taught you not to steal…

That taking something that wasn’t yours was wrong or that pocketing an item from the shelves of a store could land you into a world of trouble.

But what you or your dear mum might not realize is that some of your favorite improvisers are cold-blooded thieves. And it’s not just musicians that are guilty of this sin.

You see the rules are a little different when it comes to learning a craft. In the world of jazz improvisation, musical theft is actually one of the best ways to learn the crucial skills you need to play a solo.

Think of yourself like a musical Robin Hood…you know, the whole “steal from the rich and give to the poor” thing. But in this case you (the practicing musician) are the poor one without any musical riches. You need ideas, harmonic techniques and creative inspiration.

And everywhere you look you’re surrounded by recordings of immensely wealthy players that have exactly what you need.

If you’re frustrated with the way your solos sound and you want to make meaningful improvement you need to start “borrowing” ideas from the best players. Actually scrap that…you need to storm in, steal everything you can carry, and run for the door!

What all those books and courses won’t tell you is that music theory is useless without a real-life model. You need someone to show you how to put all of those scales and … Read More

December 15th, 2016

The Ultimate Guide to Overcoming Frustration in Jazz Improvisation

Written by Forrest

Frustration in Jazz Improvisation

Believe me. I know how frustrating jazz improvisation can be…

There have been many periods where I’ve wanted to quit for good. Never play again. Times when I’ve seriously considered putting my horn on Ebay, no reserve, shipping it off to an international buyer, somewhere far far away, and hanging it up for good.

But I’ll never do it. Why? Because once you’re bit by the bug, there’s no going back. I’m a musician, just like you. And whether we like it or not, we always will be. Whether we don’t practice for a month or a year, whether we get rid of our instrument or try to move on, we’ll still feel that need. That desire…

That overwhelming desire to create. To take one step closer to musical freedom. It’s addicting, even if it’s so incredibly frustrating.

Accept the reality of being a jazz improviser

The frustration is inevitable. I wish I could tell you it gets better the more you learn and improve, but I can’t. In fact, it only gets worse. The better you get, the higher your aims, and the more critical you become.

If you think you’re frustrated now, just wait until a tiny wrong articulation makes your blood boil, or until you start obsessing over recording yourself. That’s when it really gets bad, putting yourself under a microscope every single day.

So, it’s time right now to learn how to handle it.

You’re never going to play perfectly, you will always make mistakes … Read More

October 19th, 2016

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

Written by Eric

modern-improvisation

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

becoming-a-better-improvisor

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

secrets-to-altered-scale

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

why-you-hate-practicing

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

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