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

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

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

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