May 10th, 2017

10 Things Every Comeback Player Needs to Know

Written by Eric

You’re a musician.

Or at least you used to be one…

You played an instrument in high school, faithfully took private lessons, and performed at dozens of recitals and concerts.

Maybe you even went on to study in college.

There’s a guitar sitting in your closet, a piano in the spare room gathering dust, and a collection of music books stacked on your shelf.

You’ve spent hours memorizing music theory, taken your fair share of auditions, and played in a few bands. You were actually pretty good, but then you had to face the facts and get a job.

There was even a time when you had a solid practice routine, devoting multiple hours a day to your instrument, but that too fell to the wayside. Now you’re lucky to play a couple notes a few times a month.

Somehow life just got in the way and your instrument got lost in the shuffle. It happens to the best of us.

But deep down you know you’re still a musician and that music is still a part of your life. Now you’re ready for a comeback…

Music is a pretty powerful thing

You’ve probably read about the mental and creative benefits of playing an instrument.

But music has more than benefits for your brain. It’s an activity that will enrich your life, connect you with the people around you, and introduce you to new cultures.

Music can alter moods, change minds, inspire hope and bring about focus and motivation. … Read More

May 3rd, 2017

How The Chord-Scale System Has Failed You: 6 Steps to Freedom With Scales and Modes

Written by Forrest

The Chord Scale System Has Failed You

The Chord-scale system has become the most established and widespread method for teaching jazz improvisation…

And it’s no mystery why. So often, scales—more specifically the modes of the major and melodic minor scales—get passed-off as the most important aspect of learning to improvise.

It’s as if by magic, you learn a couple scales and their modes, and you’re playing jazz!

Scales and modes, are NOT the secret to learning to improvise. They are important, but don’t fall into the trap that so many do, thinking that they are the system that will give you improvisational freedom— they’re nothing more than a starting place.

The modes are the equivalent to learning your times-tables when you’re learning how to multiply.

Recall back to when you learned the basics of math. Remember how your teacher made you memorize the times-tables and drill the information until you didn’t have to think about it anymore?

That’s exactly what you want to do with ALL scale and chord knowledge. Just like the times-tables, you must internalize the information and move far beyond it. Otherwise, you’ll always wonder why your playing still doesn’t sound authentic, like you’re speaking the jazz language, because despite what you may think or have been told, scales are not the language of jazz.

Scales and modes fit into an overarching melodic and harmonic framework that help you to conceptualize melody and harmony in any genre of music. This framework allows you to intellectually understand how specific notes relate to a … Read More

April 12th, 2017

How to Play Cherokee like a Pro: 24 Melodic Tricks for Insanely Fast Tempos

Written by Eric

Have you ever wondered how the best players can play incredibly fast…

Regardless of the key, the chords, or the tune?

I’m not just talking about running memorized licks and technical patterns…I mean soloing at breakneck speed with actual melodic lines over the progression.

Trying to improvise on uptempo tunes is something that can be frustrating for even the best players and the truth is, you hear more than a few players faking it. Unfortunately, most resources leave you with more questions than answers.

But this doesn’t mean that there aren’t specific techniques to practice that will teach you the skills you need. If you’ve been stuck wondering how to create long melodic lines, improvise at fast tempos or create double-time passages you’ve come to the right place…

Today we’re going to show you 24 improvisation techniques for creating melodic lines at fast tempos – taken directly from the solos of the music’s greatest improvisers.

While there are dozens of factors that go to into improvising at fast tempos – technique, time, phrasing, swing, articulation – today we’re going to put these solos under a microscope for one reason. To understand the nuts and bolts of creating long melodic lines at very fast tempos.

And to do this, we’re going to take one of the most well-known standards in the jazz repertoire: Cherokee.

Why Cherokee?

Composed by Ray Nobel in 1938, Cherokee has been played by nearly every important jazz musician to pick … Read More

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

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