Archive for the ‘Tips’ Category

8 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Practicing Jazz Improvisation

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016

8 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Practicing Jazz Improvisation

Let’s be completely honest…

My amazing teachers did tell me many of the things that I’m about to tell you…I just didn’t listen!

Why didn’t I listen?

I don’t know. Immaturity. Stubbornness. The belief that there had to be something else. Something more important. Something more complex. Something better, that mattered more…

But these 8 pieces of advice matter more than I ever could have known and I continue to rediscover their importance time and time again.

Whenever I veer of course, it’s usually one of these things that I’m ignoring.

And hopefully, by sharing them with you today, you’re inspired to continue to grow and develop your musical potential in the direction you want to take it…

1.) Listening to jazz is the most important thing you can do

I know you think you listen, but do you really listen?

When you get in the car, do you turn the pop hits of today on– I’m guilty of this too, and I swear they’re the same 5  computer-generated songs playing on every single radio station. Do bands even exist anymore?!– or are you listening to Bird, Trane, or supporting the local jazz station?

Each day do you feel the need to listen to jazz? Are you truly compelled?

Do you, in fact, listen to jazz every single day? And not because you feel you should, but because you love it?

Don’t underestimate the power of listening to jazz.

So much of what we play and who we become as … Read More

4 Steps to Mastering the Solo Break: A Lesson With Clifford Brown

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

Clifford Brown Solo Breaks

Improvising over any chord progression can be a challenge…

But the true test of your skills as an improviser comes in those moments when the band drops out and you’re forced to improvise alone, without any accompaniment.

The solo break.

All of a sudden the spotlight is on you and you’ve got a split second to come up with a musical line.

What are you going to play?

For some players the answer ends up being a guess and for others, a panicked attempt at throwing in some scales. But there has to be a better way…

Today we’re going to take a look at how a master musician navigates the solo break – Clifford Brown’s solo on After You’ve Gone from the album More Live at the Beehive.

Take a moment and listen to the opening of Clifford’s solo, paying special attention to how he navigates the solo breaks:

 

The distinctive feature of this particular arrangement is the four bar solo break that happens at the end of every chorus:

 

Each chorus concludes with a hit in Bb and is followed by a four bar break for the soloist that resolves in Eb Maj7.

Below we’ll show you 4 simple techniques that Clifford Brown uses in his solo to sound great over every solo break…

Solo Break #1: Creating Harmonic Motion with ii-V’s

Clifford opens his solo with the following line:

Clifford Brown solo break #1

 

You hear a long melodic line that stretches over … Read More

How to Completely Change How You Think About Practicing: Words of Wisdom from Harold Mabern

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

How to change your practice

As he stood in the hallway, the students gathered round…

You could see the crowd growing, one-by-one as the people walking by heard what was happening.

Harold, animated and speaking with vibrant energy, was sharing his experiences with a group of lucky students that happened to catch him in-between classes.

While I was at music school, pianist Harold Mabern’s spontaneous hallway-lunch-time talks became something you did not want to miss.

A walking encyclopedia of jazz history, tunes and techniques, Harold actually lived it.

He played with greats like Cannonball Adderley, Roy Haynes, J.J. Johnson, Sonny Rollins, Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, Hank Mobley, and Miles Davis, just to name a few!

And Harold, as you can tell from the scene described above, loves to share his experiences and knowledge that he’s picked up along the way.

Having the fortunate opportunity to study and spend time with him for several years, he taught me all sorts of things.

But sometimes the things that have the greatest impact on you are the simplest of ideas…

An then it hit me…

Box after box I unpacked. What could be in this one? More lead sheets, another 10 play-alongs, a manuscript notebook filled with messy lines and chord symbols. What is all this junk? And then, in small barely-legible handwriting, scribbled on a piece of paper, I read something profound…‘Harold told me today that it’s not how much you gain, it’s how much you retain’

This was me as I went through my boxes … Read More

How Thinking Like a Writer Will Make You a Better Jazz Improvisor

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

Think like a writer

Sometimes a change in perspective is all you need…

Jazz improvisation is a demanding pursuit, one that combines intellect, feeling and expression.

It’s easy to grasp the music theory side of things, but it’s much more difficult to grok the more dubious concepts…things like strong phrasing, connecting ideas, having a unique musical perspective, or the concept of “telling a story.”

The thing that nobody ever thinks about is that you’re not limited to the confines of jazz or music to draw inspiration from to help clarify these more esoteric concepts.

In fact, there’s inspiration all around you, from the books you read to the people you meet and the places you go.

But one of the most obvious and most effective places to draw inspiration from you’re already highly familiar with: the craft of writing.

Drawing inspiration from writing

Jazz is a language, but because it’s a musical language it’s difficult to define exactly what that means.

By turning to an actual spoken language and understanding the precise use of syntax and strategies skilled writers use to shape this language, you can gain a whole new perspective on how to think about improvising a solo.

This idea comes from one of the greatest tenor saxophonists to ever live: Joe Henderson.

Joe Henderson Quote

“I try to create ideas in a musical way the same as writers try to create images with words. I use the mechanics of writing in playing solos. I use quotations. I use commas, semicolons. Pepper Adams turned

Read More

2 Simple and Effective Practice Plans for Jazz Improvisation [Free Download]

Friday, June 10th, 2016

Effective jazz practice plans

There seems like there’s so much to practice, but it’s actually an illusion…

In today’s day and age, we’re bombarded by information. In approaching or learning literally anything, there’s a million resources for how to achieve it.

Looking for the perfect way to slice an apple, or the best diet to get a six-pack? A simple stroll of the internet will give you more information then you know what to do with, and that’s exactly the problem.

More information is not necessarily better.

You see, before the books and the DVDS and the countless play-alongs, musicians learned by studying the music they loved. Of course they had a couple technical books and a strong understanding of harmony, but they weren’t drowning in a sea of practice topics to choose from.

This feeling of drowning that’s so familiar to us all, is exactly what this reader expresses:

“I feel like there’s so much to practice, arpeggios, scales, transcription, learning tunes, walking bass lines, working on time, and the list goes on. I find my self trying to work on everything in one day but each thing gets half-assed.

Is it okay to pick different things to work on each day? I always thought that you should do as much as possible in one day but that obviously can’t be the case.”

Even when you know what to practice, it can still be a mystery of how to structure your time. And that’s why today, we introduce two simple and effective practice … Read More

How to Think Like a Pro Jazz Musician: Michael Brecker and The Power of Simplicity

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

Think like a pro jazz musician

It sounds so complex. So difficult. So advanced…

Great jazz musicians sound as though they’re implementing highly complex and difficult concepts that mere mortals could never hope to access, but in reality, professionals think simpler than you’d ever imagine.

It’s the beginners and intermediates who study the pros and abstract what they think is going on in a convoluted and complex way.

Jazz improvisation is a real-time activity. This means there’s no time to think.

And even in the practice room where you do have infinite time, simplicity is your best friend because when the heat of the moment comes and you’re on stage, it’s the simple stuff that will be there with you.

Professionals use simple concepts.

They use them effectively and they disguise them…

Michael Brecker and simplicity

When you think Michael Brecker, you probably don’t think simple.

He plays so fast. So effortless. So perfect.

But, when you closely study what he’s playing and take away the lightening speed that he’s known for, you’ll see many simple concepts you’re familiar with.

Listen to his solo on Giant Steps with saxophonist Bob Mintzer, from the album Twin Tenors.

A lot of what he’s playing sounds extremely angular and complex, but it’s actually not at all. He utilizes some very simple techniques, but knows exactly how to get the most mileage out of them.

Complexity = Disguised Simplicity

Studying music theory and analyzing jazz solos defines how we view what we discover. It’s a catch-22. Without knowledge … 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

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

Monday, March 21st, 2016

escape_diatonic_post

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

pro_post

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

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