Archive for the ‘Tips’ Category

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

5 Simple Ways to Escape the ‘Diatonic Trap’ in Your Jazz Solos

Monday, March 21st, 2016

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You want to play exciting solos…

Ones that will make the audience sit on the edge of their seats, that’ll make you stand out from every other musician in the room.

…except when you improvise everything ends up sounding exactly the same.

Many musicians share this frustration and for many it goes right back to the standard approach to improvisation that you find in most books. The mentality that each chord has a designated scale:

  • Major scales for major chords
  • Dorian for minor chords
  • Mixolydian for V7 chords

This is a fine place to start, but if you limit your harmonic and melodic approach to these 3 scales you’ll end up feeling trapped inside of a musical box.

However, listen to some of your favorite solos and you’ll notice that the best players aren’t always following these “rules.” In fact, everyone from Charlie Parker to Brad Mehldau has used non-diatonic notes in their solos.

Notes that don’t belong in the chord, notes that don’t fit into any particular scale, yet they still sound good…

And the same can be true for you, if you know the right way to use them.

You’re too creative to settle for the same old scales in every solo! Here are 5 ways to escape the diatonic trap and start thinking outside of the box when it comes to jazz improvisation…

1) Learn to alter V7 sounds

The most common place you’ll find non-diatonic notes in the solos of great players is on the V7 Read More

What’s the Difference Between an Amateur and a Pro??

Monday, March 7th, 2016

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Mastering jazz improvisation seems simple in theory…

At least every great player makes it sound that way.

And on paper it all looks pretty straight forward.

Memorize the chords, learn a few scales, and listen to the masters. With a little practice and transcription you’re good to go – you can almost hear the dazzling solos you’re destined to play!

But when you actually try improvise…it’s not that simple.

And the truth is, it’s not simple for anybody.

But as time goes by certain players start to sound remarkably different, almost as if they’ve found a secret that makes the entire process easy. While everyone else is left struggling in the practice room with the same old exercises.

So what are these great players doing differently from everybody else?

What exactly is it that makes the difference between a polished pro and another amateur hacking away at a tune?

Today we’ll look at the 5 ways you can start approaching improvisation like a pro…

I) It all starts in the practice room

Practice like a pro

I know what you’re thinking – every musician practices.

Big deal.

But the best musicians approach the idea of ‘practicing‘ and the process of learning in a unique way. And this subtle shift can make a world of difference in your playing.

You see, most players get pushed into the practice room by external forces. Parents, teachers, peers, or even a nagging sense of duty and obligation as a musician. After all, you’re supposed to practice … 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

The Jazz Musician’s Most Important Tool: How To Strengthen Your Musical Memory

Monday, February 1st, 2016

A jazz musician's most important tool

What is a jazz musician’s most important tool?

Is it their ear? Their technique? The concepts at their disposal?

All of these are extremely important, but without this one specific tool, they’re all useless…

The jazz musician’s most important tool is their memory.

Harold Mabern used to drive this point home to us all the time.

Think about it.

You can have the best ear in the world, name any sound you hear, transcribe a progression with ease…

But if you can’t retain the information you’re learning in your mind and recall it for instantaneous use later, it’s not going to help you be a better improviser.

You can’t go on stage with a book of the things you know, the lines, the tunes, the concepts…everything has to be in your mind.

And really, that’s the only stuff you actually know.

Joe Henderson took this to the extreme in his teaching style.

Joe Henderson teaching style

In general, Joe didn’t allow the student to record the lesson or write down anything on staff paper. Everything had to be memorized right away.

So what exactly does a having a great memory in terms of playing jazz music mean?

And, how can we best develop this talent?

How to use your memory in jazz

In terms of jazz improvisation, memory means two things

  1. memorizing things with your ear
  2. memorizing things with your mind

Yes, technically memorizing something with your ear still is in your mind, but nevertheless, we’ll refer to this as the “ear part”…

There’s … Read More

7 Musical Devices That Will Give Your Solos Irresistible Style

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015

style_post

Open up a music theory book and you’ll likely find pages and pages of definitions…

Terms like Apogituras, retograde inversions, mordents, hemiolas, turns, etc.

Good information, but not exactly stuff that you’d want to put into your next solo. I mean what did stuffy old composers know about improvising anyway?

But before you dismiss all that tedious theory terminology, you should know this…

Some of the best improvisers have used these very musical devices to create their distinctive style that we love to listen to today.

And when it comes to your style, you should too…

Why style is important

There are a ton of solos out there that contain all the right notes and scales. But hardly any solos that have style.

That’s because much of jazz education has become centered around music theory and scales. What notes you play over a G7 chord, what scales to use on the bridge to rhythm changes…

And as a result you get a lot of solos that are fast, technical, and full of the “right notes.”

…but lacking personality and musical style.

However, take a listen to the most famous jazz records and you’ll notice something there that goes beyond the notes…

The elements of style

Great musical style doesn’t depend on a genre of music, a particular time period, or even a location.

It depends on the things you do in your solo to grab the ear of the listener. And there are certain devices that add this … 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

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

How to Turn Boring Theory into Your Next Brilliant Solo…

Thursday, November 5th, 2015

boring_theory_post

You may think you know music theory…

And you’re probably willing to bet good money that you know the chords to your favorite tunes.

Most musicians would…

Hell, a few years ago I would’ve looked you straight in the eyes and said without a doubt that I knew all the music theory that I need to know.

But here’s the thing – As a performing musician knowing this stuff isn’t good enough…

To create your own music in front of an audience, you have to transform this mental knowledge into living and breathing sound. You need to be able to play it on your instrument.

You need to be able to improvise with it.

And to get there you must do some very specific things…

How to learn anything in 3 steps

In our last post, we uncovered the essential elements of jazz theory that you need to know.

But this information is only useful if you can do something with it in your solos.

Today we’re going to show you how to transform those elements of jazz theory or those tunes you’re learning into usable knowledge. To get you from the point of “knowing it” to the point of improvising with it.

And this process has 3 steps…

For anything that you want to learn the steps are the same: Memorization, Repetition and Visualization.

It could be a scale that you’re learning in your private lessons, a tricky chord in a jazz band chart, or the changes to … 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.

Enjoy!

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