Archive for the ‘Tips’ Category

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!

The Secret to Getting Good Fast at Jazz Improvisation

Thursday, August 20th, 2015

How to get good fast at jazz improvisation

Trust the process. Keep going and you’ll get there. Anything worth doing takes time…

We hear these things over and over when we’re learning and it’s all good advice…

But what they don’t tell you is that there’s one key thing that separates those who excel quickly, from those who get mildly better at a much slower rate.

So what is it? How do you get good fast at jazz improvisation, something that seems nearly impossible when you realize how much information there is to know?

In a hurry to go nowhere

It’s late. I grab my horn and brave the cold to get to the practice rooms. Another solitary night in the practice room. I need to get there. I need to get there fast. There’s so much to know. What am I going to work on tonight? I’ve got to learn that tune, I think I printed out a chart. And perhaps I’ll work out of that transcription book a bit or maybe that new Bergonzi book I just got. And maybe I’ll spend some time on that new scale I just heard about.

This was me when I was 18. Frantically racing from one topic to the next, approaching them all in the wrong way. Printing out charts instead of learning tunes from records. Using transcription books instead of using my ear and transcribing solos. Buying literally every new book on improvisation, desperately hoping that it revealed the secrets I was missing.  And doing endless … Read More

5 Skills You Won’t Learn in School, Skill Two: How to Turn Music Theory into Music

Monday, April 20th, 2015

Turn Music Theory Into Music

Have you ever thrown your hands up in frustration trying to understand music theory?

Have you ever found yourself lost and panicking in a solo as you search for the right scale or chord to play?

Many frustrated musicians run into this wall every time they try to take a solo.

From the outside improvising looks easy. You just pick up an instrument, call a tune, and play the music you’re hearing in your head…

However, the moment you try to create a solo yourself or improvise in a difficult key you quickly realize it’s a little more complicated.

So you look in text books, you take lessons, and you sign up for classes. Before you know it your head is overflowing with music theory information, but for some annoying reason it’s not coming out in your solos.

So let’s stop and think about all of this in more practical terms…

How exactly do you turn that music theory in your mind into music on your instrument?

Learning practical music theory

There are two sides to music theory.

On one side is the music theory you learn about in books and school. The construction and building blocks of music, the theory behind scales, chords and tunes, and the flood of musical terminology.

And then there’s the theory that you actually use when you’re performing. The tools you have for navigating chords and progressions, the artistic tools you have for sharing a musical message with the listener.

Music theory information is

Read More

5 Skills You Won’t Learn in School, Skill One: How to Connect Your Ear to Your Instrument

Friday, March 20th, 2015

Skill one: how to connect your ear to your instrument

You’re a trumpet player.

You play the piano or the guitar. Maybe you’ve taken up the saxophone.

Out of a dozen different instruments, this is the one that you’ve chosen to amplify your musical voice.

You identify with it, you wield it with pride, and you strive to follow in the tradition of the fine players that paved the way before you.

You’ve collected etudes, method books, and instructional videos. You have hundreds of recordings by the masters of your instrument and each week you take lessons and faithfully practice.

Before you know it this instrument becomes the center of your musical and creative output. Your life as a musician starts when you pick it up and stops when you put it down.

But what would happen if you took away that instrument? What if I stormed into your practice room and snatched that instrument out of your hand?

Suddenly you’re standing there all alone in an empty room – are you still a musician?

Think about it…

Right now, as you’re reading this, think of a melody in your mind. Can you create these sounds without your instrument?

This probably sounds ridiculous, why would you do that? Well, I used to think the same thing…

Not so long ago I was a college music major intent on becoming a great improviser. Through school I had learned all of my scales, I was on top of my music theory, and I dedicated the majority of each day to practicing technique.… Read More

The 5 Key Skills You Won’t Learn in School: A Five Part Series

Friday, March 13th, 2015

five skills you won't learn in music school

School is great.

…but it won’t teach you everything.

Private lessons are awesome and downright necessary on your journey to becoming a better musician…yet that hour a week isn’t going to teach you every musical tidbit that you need to know.

You see a curious thing happens when you take music outside of the classroom, when you wander outside the safety of your private lessons and venture into the real world.

The moment you create music with other people and perform for an audience something subtle changes. Those notes on the page, those scales you memorized, and those fancy words that you use to describe them are suddenly transformed into something living.

No more sheet music and no more theory. What matters now is what you create with your instrument and the musicians around you – and this can be a wake up call.

But you already know this…

This time it’s for real

You’ve started a band with your friends.

You’ve sat in with some local musicians and you’ve called a tune at a jam session. You’re performing for a musical, for a church service or a wedding. You’ve found yourself on the spot and you have to play a solo without any music…

All eyes are on you, so you better not miss any notes!

In a matter of seconds you realize that performing music requires more than memorized facts. Suddenly you need to use the information you’ve learned in a creative and musical way and you don’t … Read More

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