Archive for the ‘Jazz Language’ Category

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

Friday, June 24th, 2016

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

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

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

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

The Reason You Need to Start Thinking About Jazz Language Right Now…

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016


Michael Brecker talked about it…

Mulgrew Miller mentioned it time and again in masterclasses…

And if you’ve spent any time on Jazzadvice, you’ve seen multiple articles about the importance of learning it.

But why should you start thinking about jazz language?

You’re already practicing technique, running scales, and listening to a ton of your favorite players…and you’ve even noticed some progress in your ability to create solos.

So why should you add one more item to your already packed practice list?

It’s a good question…and one that many players shrug off.

But not so fast! Language is the key that can take you from the player that’s frustrated with scales and chords to a soloist with unlimited creative ideas.

You just have to approach it the right way in the practice room.

Let me explain…

The 3 stages of learning jazz improvisation

Musicians of all levels are drawn to jazz improvisation.

Because we all want a chance to step into the spotlight to take a solo…

But no matter what your skill level is, every player encounters the same struggles when it comes to finding their voice on an instrument.

Mulgrew Miller

You see, we don’t get a guide book for learning how to improvise. And finding an effective practice routine can sometimes be a big mystery.

Just because you’re spending time practicing doesn’t mean that you’re automatically going to get to the next level. To improve as a soloist, you’ve got to practice the right things.

And this is where … Read More

4 Steps To Attaining Freedom With Jazz Language

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

4 Steps to Freedom with Jazz Language

Becoming fluent with jazz language is the key to unlocking your musical freedom when you improvise.

It’s the missing piece of the puzzle. The lost ship. The thing everyone ignores…

And it’s totally counter-intuitive…

  • You copy, to sound original.
  • You practice the same line over and over, to be creative.
  • You use limitation, to find freedom.

If you’re already confused, that’s okay. We’ll get there…

The 4 steps to jazz language fluency

Jazz is a language and acquiring useful jazz language is essential.

The whole process of learning the jazz language can seem overwhelming and ambiguous as there’s so much to focus on.

But, just by becoming fluent with one piece of jazz language you can begin seeing results today.

When you’re fluent with a piece of language, say a dominant 7 piece of language, you now have a line and a concept of how to approach a dominant 7 chord.

You have more than a lick, you have an understanding, a visceral intuitive knowledge that allows you to play musically over a sound, instead of having a purely intellectual concept of how to go about things rooted in music theory.

With fluency in jazz language, music theory supplements and supports your knowledge, ear training practice becomes more applicable, and jazz improvisation starts to make sense.

Here are the four steps of becoming fluent with a particular piece of jazz language:

4 steps to jazz language fluency

And what do each of these steps entail? What information do they hold?

Jazz language details

The line you’re transcribing and … Read More

4 Tricks To Practicing Jazz lines In All Keys

Sunday, February 14th, 2016

Practicing Jazz Lines and Language In All Keys

Practicing lines in all keys is a must, but it’s not that easy or even clear why it’s so important in the first place…

Many years ago, I remember trying to take a ii V line through all keys on the saxophone and it was really difficult.

I’ve even had several decent players tell me they struggle with this skill.

After years of practice, it’s become effortless and it’s just second nature for me to take lines through all the keys.

So for today, here are the tricks that I’ve picked up over the years that will help you think and play in all keys.

Why play lines in all keys?

There are many benefits to playing lines in all keys. The most obvious one is that it gives you material for every key.

But there are a lot more benefits to it than that…

Playing lines in all keys improves your technical facility

Practicing every range and fingering on your instrument yields better technique, but, often we hang out in one register and fallback on our finger habits. By taking lines through all keys, we’re forced to hit every part of our instrument and work through tricky fingerings that we’d otherwise ignore.

Playing lines in all keys gives you mental dexterity

When you play lines in all keys, do not write them out. Do them in your mind. I will reiterate this point again and again because it’s so important. You must transpose the line in your mind. And … Read More

How to Practice: A Diagram Illustrating the 3 Essential Pieces to Practicing Jazz Improvisation [Free Download Inside]

Friday, December 25th, 2015

How To Practice Jazz Diagram

Back in September we released a free presentation walking you through What You Should Practice, and in that presentation, we showed you and discussed the 3 essential pieces to practicing jazz improvisation:

  1. Getting new language
  2. Developing language
  3. Working on tunes

But they’re not the easiest concepts to grasp…

So, we thought it might be helpful to give you a flow diagram of how these 3 essential pieces fit together, allowing you to visualize and understand the information more easily.

The result: A beautiful diagram made specifically for you to print out and hang up in your practice room, after all, that’s where you need to remember this information the most!

Here’s a small preview of what it looks like, but download the PDFs below as they’re higher quality:

How To Practice Jazz Improvisation

You can download the whole large diagram, good for digital viewing, or you can download the printable version, conveniently split into 3 printable size pages which you can simply tape together and put up in your practice room.

Download the Free How To Practice Jazz Improvisation Diagram:

We sincerely hope you enjoy this resource and use it in your practice room.

And if you’ve found Jazzadvice helpful this year and  you want to show us some love, Make a small donation here, See what we have for sale, Follow us on Twitter, or Like our Facebook Read More

What Should I Practice? The 3 Essential Pieces to Practicing Jazz Improvisation: A Free Presentation

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015

What to Practice

Nearly every day we get asked, “What should I practice?”

…And, this is not an easy question to answer. In fact, it’s pretty complicated.

So, in an attempt to help everyone who has always wondered what to practice and what professionals practice, I began to put together what I had thought would be a quick short presentation.

But, as I got going, the depth of this question got more and more prevalent. It’s not that there’s so much to practice, although there is, but it’s the relationship between everything and the fact that learning how to improvise well is not a linear process.

I did my best in this presentation to illustrate this complex relationship and to showcase how you can make use of everything we talk about to architect your daily and weekly practice plans to effectively improve at jazz improvisation.

Keep in mind that the shared perspective is through how a professional might tackle things. There are no shortcuts here, just down and dirty methods of figuring out what you want to know and determining the best route there.

I sincerely hope you enjoy this presentation and if you like it, share it! Click the share icon in the lower left of the viewer to share it on your favorite social network or you can even embed the presentation on your own website!

You can Download the presentation here.


How To Create Your Own Jazz Exercises From a Transcribed Line

Monday, September 14th, 2015

Create your own jazz exercises from transcribing

You hear it over and over…

Just transcribe. You want to get better? Transcribe. You want to have a better sound. Transcribe. Can’t seem to play over Rhythm Changes? Transcribe.

And yes, when people tell you this, they’re correct. You can learn pretty much anything you want from transcribing. But, what they don’t tell you is that you need to use what you transcribe to inspire your own creativity.

Last week we talked about running from your own creativity, and today we’re going to show you how to combine your own creativity with what you’re transcribing to create your very own jazz exercises.

Why create your own exercises?

When I was 16, I had the privilege of meeting and talking to saxophonist Sam Rivers. You likely don’t know who he was, but he was pretty awesome and had a very unique way of playing and composing.

I’ll never forget what he told me about his own musical journey. He said:

“Eventually I realized I had to make my own exercise book.”

Say what? Your own exercise book? Yes. Your own exercise book. Hearing this was a huge revelation. Not one I fully understood until over a decade later. And, not one that I’ve implemented even half as well as I should have, but nonetheless, this concept is a big deal.

By creating your own exercises, you apply your own creativity, you cultivate what is yours, you develop things in your own way, you move closer toward your … Read More

5 Skills You Won’t Learn in School, Skill Four: How to Speak the Jazz Language

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

How to Speak the Jazz Language

Imagine that you’ve just stepped off a plane in a foreign country…

You grab your suitcase and step onto the soil for the first time and suddenly you’re filled with a sense of excitement and anticipation.

What new sights, new sounds, unusual food, and interesting people await you in this strange new place?

Your mind races with possibilities and you can barely wait to get out there and start exploring.

But after a few days you begin to notice something odd…

At each stop on your journey everyday conversation seems to elude you.

The sound of laughter fills the air from jokes that you don’t understand, menus at restaurants don’t make any sense, and each interaction with the locals becomes a confusing struggle.

Desperately you hold on to the few phrases you’ve hastily learned from your guidebook, but at the end of the day you finally have to admit it – without speaking the language, you’re all alone in a bubble.

You can’t connect with other people, you’re isolated, and you’re frustrated.

Sound familiar?

Frustrated and confused…

This is exactly how most musicians feel the moment they try to improvise a solo.

They get put on the spot by their teachers, they find themselves with a solo in big band, and they wander into a jam sessions.

Just like stranded tourists they feel lost, unable to speak the language, and frustrated that they can’t communicate their ideas with the outside world.

You’ve probably felt this way yourself trying to navigate … Read More

Use the Power of Visualization to Improve Faster than Ever. We’ll show you how in our New eBook…

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

Harness the Power of Visualization

Picture this…

You’re backstage before a big performance waiting for your turn to step into the spotlight. A few steps away from the curtain you can hear the murmur of the audience and your pulse starts to race.

You take a deep breath and confidently walk onstage. The heat of the lights hits you and you can feel the familiar weight of your instrument resting in your hand. As the first tune is being counted off you can see the first chord in your mind, you can hear it clearly in your head, and you know exactly what you’re going to play…

That mental picture sounds pretty good, right?

However, what you might not realize is that you’ve just practiced one of the most beneficial exercises in improving your performance – it’s called visualization.

Let me explain…

See it to believe it

Visualization is not some ancient mystical process or new age mumbo jumbo, it’s a very real technique that you can use everyday to improve your skills.

Simply put, visualization is the process of forming mental images. These images could consist of information that you are trying to memorize or a task that you are attempting to perform, it doesn’t matter. What does is that you mentally rehearse every aspect of that physical motion – seeing it, hearing it, and feeling it.

This is the same technique used by the top professionals in every field, from public speakers to professional athletes like Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan. And … Read More

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