July 26th, 2016

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

Written by Eric

The Talent Myth

Talent…

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
July 6th, 2016

4 Steps to Mastering the Solo Break: A Lesson With Clifford Brown

Written by Eric

Clifford Brown Solo Breaks

Improvising over any chord progression can be a challenge…

But the true test of your skills as an improviser comes in those moments when the band drops out and you’re forced to improvise alone, without any accompaniment.

The solo break.

All of a sudden the spotlight is on you and you’ve got a split second to come up with a musical line.

What are you going to play?

For some players the answer ends up being a guess and for others, a panicked attempt at throwing in some scales. But there has to be a better way…

Today we’re going to take a look at how a master musician navigates the solo break – Clifford Brown’s solo on After You’ve Gone from the album More Live at the Beehive.

Take a moment and listen to the opening of Clifford’s solo, paying special attention to how he navigates the solo breaks:

 

The distinctive feature of this particular arrangement is the four bar solo break that happens at the end of every chorus:

 

Each chorus concludes with a hit in Bb and is followed by a four bar break for the soloist that resolves in Eb Maj7.

Below we’ll show you 4 simple techniques that Clifford Brown uses in his solo to sound great over every solo break…

Solo Break #1: Creating Harmonic Motion with ii-V’s

Clifford opens his solo with the following line:

Clifford Brown solo break #1

 

You hear a long melodic line that stretches over all … Read More

June 30th, 2016

How to Completely Change How You Think About Practicing: Words of Wisdom from Harold Mabern

Written by Forrest

How to change your practice

As he stood in the hallway, the students gathered round…

You could see the crowd growing, one-by-one as the people walking by heard what was happening.

Harold, animated and speaking with vibrant energy, was sharing his experiences with a group of lucky students that happened to catch him in-between classes.

While I was at music school, pianist Harold Mabern’s spontaneous hallway-lunch-time talks became something you did not want to miss.

A walking encyclopedia of jazz history, tunes and techniques, Harold actually lived it.

He played with greats like Cannonball Adderley, Roy Haynes, J.J. Johnson, Sonny Rollins, Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, Hank Mobley, and Miles Davis, just to name a few!

And Harold, as you can tell from the scene described above, loves to share his experiences and knowledge that he’s picked up along the way.

Having the fortunate opportunity to study and spend time with him for several years, he taught me all sorts of things.

But sometimes the things that have the greatest impact on you are the simplest of ideas…

An then it hit me…

Box after box I unpacked. What could be in this one? More lead sheets, another 10 play-alongs, a manuscript notebook filled with messy lines and chord symbols. What is all this junk? And then, in small barely-legible handwriting, scribbled on a piece of paper, I read something profound…‘Harold told me today that it’s not how much you gain, it’s how much you retain’

This was me as I went through my boxes … Read More

June 24th, 2016

Killer Triadic & Pentatonic Concepts Made Easy: A Lesson With Kenny Garrett

Written by Forrest

Kenny Garrett Triadic Concepts

Kenny Garrett is an incredible musician. He’s arguably had one of the largest impacts on alto saxophone since Charlie Parker…

In fact, when he started to gain popularity, most every alto player in the world had to rethink their concept.

All of a sudden, copying Charlie Parker didn’t seem that cool anymore.

But the thing is, Kenny Garrett built his unique style using the jazz language of his heroes. Besides his huge beautiful dark one-of-a-kind tone, that’s why it sounds so awesome.

Because he mixed his own unique style with the bebop language, it sounds like a natural and progressive evolution of the music.

Today we’ll have a listen and a look into what makes some his lines tick…

Getting into Kenny’s head

It’s always difficult trying to understand a modern player by listening to them play on their own esoteric compositions.

What’s easier?

Studying their playing on a standard or a tune you’re ultra familiar with.

In this lesson, we’ll check out what Kenny plays on the Charlie Parker tune Ornithology, which is based on the tune How High the Moon.

Here are the chord changes to Ornithology so you have an idea about what’s going on with the harmony if you’re not familiar with the tune.

Listen to Kenny Garrett play Ornithology and how effortlessly he weaves through the chord changes and commands the direction of the entire band.

Every phrase he plays has intent behind it and leads perfectly into the next one.

And, somehow … Read More

June 21st, 2016

How Thinking Like a Writer Will Make You a Better Jazz Improvisor

Written by Forrest

Think like a writer

Sometimes a change in perspective is all you need…

Jazz improvisation is a demanding pursuit, one that combines intellect, feeling and expression.

It’s easy to grasp the music theory side of things, but it’s much more difficult to grok the more dubious concepts…things like strong phrasing, connecting ideas, having a unique musical perspective, or the concept of “telling a story.”

The thing that nobody ever thinks about is that you’re not limited to the confines of jazz or music to draw inspiration from to help clarify these more esoteric concepts.

In fact, there’s inspiration all around you, from the books you read to the people you meet and the places you go.

But one of the most obvious and most effective places to draw inspiration from you’re already highly familiar with: the craft of writing.

Drawing inspiration from writing

Jazz is a language, but because it’s a musical language it’s difficult to define exactly what that means.

By turning to an actual spoken language and understanding the precise use of syntax and strategies skilled writers use to shape this language, you can gain a whole new perspective on how to think about improvising a solo.

This idea comes from one of the greatest tenor saxophonists to ever live: Joe Henderson.

Joe Henderson Quote

“I try to create ideas in a musical way the same as writers try to create images with words. I use the mechanics of writing in playing solos. I use quotations. I use commas, semicolons. Pepper Adams turned

Read More
June 17th, 2016

How to Learn Chord Changes Straight Off a Recording: A Handbook [Free Download]

Written by Forrest

Learn chord changes from a recording

Learning a tune straight from a recording is THE way to learn it. But the most difficult part is always deciphering the chord changes…

And it’s certainly not an easy task compared to the alternative of simply grabbing a fake book and looking up the chord changes.

But there are huge benefits to learning the chord changes with your ear straight from the recording rather than just looking them up.

Many times, the chord changes you find in fake books are incomplete or just plain wrong, but the main thing is that you’re missing out on a HUGE growth opportunity every time you just look up the chords, instead of at least trying to figure out the chords for yourself.

The process of figuring out the chord changes to a tune with YOUR ear and mind will help you grow as a musician, greatly improve your ear, and help you to permanently learn the changes on a deep level that you won’t forget.

So if it’s so great to learn the changes straight from the recording, how come people avoid it? Well, simply put: it’s hard.

Or, at least people think it is…

They tried it once, it was difficult, and that was it.

But with the right process guiding you through each step and a little kick in the right direction, you CAN do it.

Download the FREE Handbook on Learning Chord Changes Straight From a Recording

Download the handbook

Download it now and enjoy … Read More

June 15th, 2016

Why This Two-Step Approach to Jazz Language Will Take Your Improvising from Good to Great

Written by Eric

Take your improvising from good to great

Have you ever felt like you’re stuck with the same old licks when it comes to improvising?

Or that you’re trying to create a solo from a strict set of scales…

The truth is many players share this frustration and it all goes back to the practice room. You see when it comes to tackling jazz improvisation, most players approach their practice in one of two ways:

  • Technical practice
  • Creative practice

There’s the time devoted to developing technique: Memorizing scales, running arpeggios with a metronome, working on articulation, and conquering the physical demands of playing an instrument.

And then there’s the creative approach to music. Thinking about chord progressions, improvising  with play-a-longs, applying language and struggling playing what you hear…

The only problem is that most musicians rarely apply both of these approaches to the language of jazz. Technical practice goes in one box and being creative goes in another. And this is where the trouble begins.

I’m sure you know the feeling. Just jamming with play-a-longs lacks direction while hours of scale practice can leave you feeling uncreative and unmusical.

The truth is you need to find a way to apply both practice approaches to the language of jazz. And today we’ll show you how to reconcile the two in a way that will take your playing to new levels.

Let me explain…

Start by finding a line

To illustrate this concept in action, let’s find a piece of jazz language.

You can choose any line that you like … Read More

June 10th, 2016

2 Simple and Effective Practice Plans for Jazz Improvisation [Free Download]

Written by Forrest

Effective jazz practice plans

There seems like there’s so much to practice, but it’s actually an illusion…

In today’s day and age, we’re bombarded by information. In approaching or learning literally anything, there’s a million resources for how to achieve it.

Looking for the perfect way to slice an apple, or the best diet to get a six-pack? A simple stroll of the internet will give you more information then you know what to do with, and that’s exactly the problem.

More information is not necessarily better.

You see, before the books and the DVDS and the countless play-alongs, musicians learned by studying the music they loved. Of course they had a couple technical books and a strong understanding of harmony, but they weren’t drowning in a sea of practice topics to choose from.

This feeling of drowning that’s so familiar to us all, is exactly what this reader expresses:

“I feel like there’s so much to practice, arpeggios, scales, transcription, learning tunes, walking bass lines, working on time, and the list goes on. I find my self trying to work on everything in one day but each thing gets half-assed.

Is it okay to pick different things to work on each day? I always thought that you should do as much as possible in one day but that obviously can’t be the case.”

Even when you know what to practice, it can still be a mystery of how to structure your time. And that’s why today, we introduce two simple and effective practice … Read More

June 7th, 2016

3 Secrets to Soloing with the Pentatonic Scale: A Lesson with McCoy Tyner

Written by Eric

Lesson with McCoy Tyner

No pianist has influenced the modern approach to jazz piano more than McCoy Tyner…

From players like Chick Corea and Mulgrew Miller to non-pianists like Woody Shaw and Michael Brecker, McCoy has left his mark on generations of serious improvisers.

And one distinctive element of his approach to improvising is his creative use of the pentatonic scale.

But it’s more than the five simple notes that most musicians think of using over a minor chord. As you’ll soon learn below, the pentatonic scale can add a wealth of harmonic and melodic possibilities to your solos.

Take a listen to McCoy Tyners’ solo on Blues on the Corner from the album The Real McCoy:

 

The Blues is a form that every improviser must learn and master if they want to become a proficient player. You can approach it with blues language, bebop, or even modern and outside approaches – it all comes together in the blues.

And today we’re going look at 3 creative ways McCoy Tyner uses the pentatonic scale on the blues…

1)  Using the Minor Pentatonic Scale over Dominant Chords

If you’ve subscribed to JazzAdvice I’m guessing you’ve learned more than a few options for improvising over V7 chords.

And you probably have a few tricks up your own sleeve when it comes to creating solos over this sound…

However, one scale that many players don’t think about on V7 chords is the minor pentatonic scale. And that’s exactly what we’re going to look … Read More

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