Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

The Inconvenient Truth About Becoming a Better Improviser…

Friday, October 7th, 2016


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

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

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

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

20 Practice Hacks for the Busy Musician

Monday, April 25th, 2016

20 practice hacks for the jazz musician

Time is the only thing we really have in life and there never seems to be enough of it…

But whether your goals are to just play for fun or to become a professional musician, there are techniques you can start using today to make use of your time more effectively to become the musician you want to be, despite your limited time.

And if you have all the time in the world, you should still apply these strategies because things won’t always be that way.

As life goes on, you tend to accumulate more and more responsibility, so it’s best to form the habits to deal with limited time right now…

Invest in the right tools

Hack 1 for jazz musicians

The right tools matter more than ever when you’re trying to save time. The right tools could mean anything from the right software to the best instrument you can afford. The point is, use your money to save you time.

We recommend a bunch of things, not just because they help support Jazzadvice and keep it alive, but because they can help anybody get to where they want to go, faster.

It took me a long time to realize that spending a little money on the right tool could improve my listening experience, my transcribing process, and my skill as an improvisor much more rapidly than if I didn’t have these tools.

The right tools give you a huge advantage.

Spend some time thinking about what would make it easier for you … Read More

Goal Setting 101 for the Jazz Musician

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

Goal Setting 101

Everyone wants to set goals, and many actually do set them, but only a handful of people achieve them.

And out of these people that achieve their goals, only a portion of them are truly satisfied with their accomplishment.

What is this exemplary group of people doing differently than everybody else and how can we join this satisfied achieving group?

When it comes to goal setting, I’m no stranger. Flashback to 5th grade, I can remember the guest speaker telling us the importance of goal setting and how it could get us anywhere in life. She was right!

Oh, and the guest speaker? My mom.

I’ve been goal oriented since day one. After dozens of questions seemingly going in circles, a recent personality test—a friend insisted I take it—classified me as “The achiever.”

This was no coincidence.

I spend much of my time thinking about what it is I truly want and how to best get there, all the while, doing my best to not ignore the beauty, joy, and happiness that’s right there in front of me, every single day.

Am I the best at it? Certainly not. I know tons of people that are better at putting into practice what I know in theory, but I’ll do my best to share with you what I’ve found works for me and what I see working for others.

We have one life (as far as we know) and we have the opportunity to architect it how ever we see fit.… Read More

8 Things No One Tells You About Learning Jazz Improvisation

Monday, December 21st, 2015

8 Things No One Tells You About Jazz Improv

People will tell you all sorts of things about learning jazz improvisation…

But no one tells you many of the things that could actually help you the most.

As we practice jazz improvisation, we develop a concept of how we think we should go about learning things. This concept primarily comes from what our teachers, friends, and books tell us. The problem is they often either don’t know or think to tell us specific things that could help us tremendously.

It’s not their fault. We need to take 100% ownership of our education and our improvement. Part of  “Being greedy for the music” is being greedy for the knowledge, all the tips and info that can push us to the next level, little gems or ideas that click in our mind and help us to do something we never thought about doing before.

And that’s what we’ll discuss today. 8 things no one is going to tell you about learning jazz improvisation…

It’s never too early to put your approach on things

When you’re developing as a jazz musician, people will tell you that you have to imitate your heroes a lot. And, this is true.

Whether you listen to them for countless hours or transcribe their every note to memory, at some point you must immerse yourself in the music to learn the nuances that are available to you no other way.

But, just because you’re copying all the time doesn’t mean that you can’t begin developing, applying, and Read More

Stop Running From Your Creativity

Thursday, September 10th, 2015

Stop Running From Your Creativity

Listen carefully…

Can you hear that?

Underneath the thoughts about your credit card bill and next Tuesday’s dinner plans…

Past the anxiety about that upcoming job interview and the frustration with your painfully slow progress in the practice room.

A faint murmur bubbling up in your subconscious. A voice trying to break through the noise of your everyday life. I’m talking about your creative voice!

The same inner voice that you’ve had since you were a child…

The one that daydreamed. That saw things differently and wasn’t embarrassed to be original. The voice that’s honest and heartfelt and out to discover new possibility.

Take it or leave it, this creative voice is the key to coming into your own as a musician.

More than technique, a shiny new instrument, or even years of schooling it’s the one thing that makes you unique.

And that’s exactly why you need to start listening to it…

Hey listen up!

We’ve all got an inner voice.

The only problem is that not everyone hears it.

Some people just ignore it, some are afraid of risking it, and some let the voice get drowned out by the details of daily life. However, for the ones that take a plunge into the unknown and trust their intuition the possibilities are endless.

This creative voice is what led Beethoven to his 5th symphony, it’s the impulse that made Miles Davis keep searching for new sounds, and the calling that pushed Coltrane to make A Love Read More

27 Ways to Get Inspired to Play Music Again

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

Get Inspired to Play Music

It’s been a while since you’ve picked up your horn, sat down to the piano, or even thought about practicing. As time goes by, it gets more and more difficult to get that spark going again. Ok, time to get out of this rut and do something about it.

Here are 27 ideas to get you inspired to play and practice again.

Pick One. Do it.

Yes, that’s it. Just one at a time. Then, when you feel a sense of accomplishment and have begun to improve again, pick another.

Here we go:

1.) Find some new things to listen to

Everything you play right now is largely based upon what you’ve listened to up to this point. Whether you’ve studied it or just put it on in the background, everything you listen to affects what you play and how you conceptualize music.

Finding new music to listen to is easier today than it’s ever been. My father tells me all the time that the reason he has certain records is because when he went down to the record shop, that’s all there was! He had a few dozen jazz albums to choose from, so that’s what he bought. Lucky for him, he’s got some great recordings in there.

Go on Spotify. Explore Youtube. Look up any artist you’ve ever been remotely interested in but never took the time to check out. The music doesn’t have to be new. It just has to be new to you.

Ever … Read More

The Secret Behind Every Solo that You Can’t Afford to Miss

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

There’s a secret hidden in every great solo.

You’ll find it in those old records of Louis Armstrong and those videos of Bird and Diz that you watch on YouTube. You can even hear it in the players of today like Terence Blanchard, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Tom Harrell and dozens of others.

It’s a secret that not many people even think about, let alone talk about. But it’s there if you really look for it.

Still guessing? Well I’ll tell you right now that it’s not a fancy scale, not a music theory trick, and it’s not the lick.

You might even think it absurd that there is anything more to a solo that the actual notes. I know I did until I started digging into the solos of my favorite improvisers.

But keep reading because this secret will change the way you approach improvisation…


The secret is this:

Behind one line of a great solo lies the weight of thousands of hours of practice. Years of listening. Dozens of transcribed solos. Decades of private instruction. Tough lessons picked up in jam sessions and revelations passed on by mentors.

…all in just a dozen notes.

Think about it: all of the practice on technique, all of that work on sound, every gig and every hour of study led to that solo you just listened to. It’s all there hidden in those notes.

These notes could fly right by you if you’re not paying attention. You might hear it and … Read More

7 Crucial Lessons from History’s Greatest Improvisers

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

I’m guessing you’ve heard of Miles Davis.

And you probably know Louis Armstrong and have listened to Charlie Parker and John Coltrane.

But have you ever stopped and wondered why you, sitting here in 2015, know these names?

Some of these masters have been gone for 40 years and some of these records are nearly 80 years old. So why are we still listening?

And why does an album like Kind of Blue become the best selling jazz album of all time?

There must be a mystery ingredient that makes some players or albums stand the test of time and become household names, while others are lost to obscurity, failing to connect with a wider audience.

While these musical masters couldn’t predict the future, they did have something in common. In fact they all shared some very specific qualities that allowed their music to travel the world and endure for years.

What’s more, these qualities are true of great people in various fields of work and these principles can be applied to more than just music.

So take note and pay attention to the greatest improvisers, if you’d like to share your music with more people and you’d like to reach a new level of artistry, learn these 7 lessons well.

1) Connect with your audience in a meaningful way

We love fireworks.

We’re drawn to technical flash, larger-than-life stage presence and shocking special effects. The high notes and fast tempos make us squeal with delight and the lure of … Read More

7 Reasons you’re not getting to the next level and what to do about it

Monday, October 13th, 2014
How to get to the next level in Jazz Improvisation

When you begin something new, there’s so much to learn. Improvement is quick and often, practice is exploratory and fun. But after doing anything for a while, you settle into a routine and your once explosive improvement tapers off. Wherever this may leave you, you can’t seem to get beyond this plateau.

Why are you stuck at this intermediate level and what can you do about it?

Fear not friend. The primary reasons people remain at the same level in jazz improvisation are generally the same across the board. Let’s dive into these roadblocks and detail exactly how to handle them so you can get to the next level asap!

1.) You’re using scales as a shortcut to understanding chords

A huge problem and possibly the reason most people get stuck at the same improvisational level for so long, is their constant reliance on scales to understand chordal structures.

When you want to play over an Eb-7 chord, do you have to think about what notes to play based upon scale relationships? If your thinking goes something like this…”hmmmm, Eb- is the ii chord of Db major, so I’ll play the notes in Db major, but starting on Eb,” then you’re in trouble.

Michael Jordan doesn't take shortcuts

"If you try to shortcut the game, then the game will shortcut you." ~Michael Jordan

This shortcut to chords through scales is a widely taught system for understanding chords in jazz improvisation; this system quickly gives you access to correct notes without knowing a lot about the harmonic structures. It's not a bad place to start and in the short-term, it helps you, but if you want to get to the next level, it’s time you ditch your shortcuts and start to understand what actually is going on around you... Read More
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