Archive for the ‘Tunes’ Category

Why Giant Steps is Easier Than You Think… 4 Simple Steps to a Stellar Solo

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

giant_steps_post

Most improvisers cringe when they hear the words “Giant Steps”…

Their hearts start pounding and they frantically try to remember the patterns they’ve worked out over the chord progression.

If you’ve ever tried to play over this tune, I’m sure you know the feeling…

Chords flying by at a breakneck speed, awkward changes, and fingers fumbling to keep up – not exactly the most musical experience.

And it’s even more frustrating when you turn on a recording of your favorite players for inspiration only to hear chorus after chorus of flawless lines:

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How are you ever going to sound like that?

But what most players don’t realize is that Giant Steps is actually composed of the basic musical elements that you already know.

And today we’ll show you the 4 steps to making this tune much easier than everyone makes it out to be.

Let me explain…

What makes this tune hard?

The difficulties that most improvisers have with creating a musical solo over Giant Steps stems from three things:

  • The tempo
  • The rate that the chords change
  • The minor 3rd relationships

Many hopeful soloists jump right into the progression at a fast tempo and start fumbling around, hoping that something decent will come out. That’s not going to work…

To start making some progress, you need to take a close look at how the chords fit together in the tune as a whole and create a practice approach that will give you the tools you need.

We’ll take … 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

Stuck on Rhythm Changes? Here Are 4 Coltrane Concepts That’ll Set You Free

Thursday, December 17th, 2015

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Every improviser has to face it at some point…

We’re talking about those 32 bars of music that you know as Rhythm Changes.

Sure it’s easy enough to sing the melody…

And you’ve heard all the recordings of famous musicians playing circles around this familiar chord progression.

But when it comes improvising your own solos it can be tough.

A single scale doesn’t work and the chords are changing too quickly to think about music theory or those fancy lines you’ve memorized.

To sound great on this tune you need something else…

Time to learn from an expert

So what are you going to do?

You can look in books for patterns. You can think about music theory. You can even try to fake it with a few scales.

But that’s not music…at least not the kind you would pay to hear at a concert.

To start playing the way you envision, you need to get answers from someone that knows what they’re doing. And that means searching for the best recordings and learning why those players sound great.

When you transcribe the solo of a master musician and figure out why it works it’s like having a mentor tap you on the shoulder to say, Hey, instead of that stuff you’ve been playing, try playing it like this!”

Let’s take a listen to John Coltrane’s solo on Oleo from the album Relaxin’ with the Miles Davis Quintet:

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Sounds great, right? Now what you can learn from this … 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!

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

3 Essential Improvisation Tools that You Need to Know

Monday, November 17th, 2014

Imagine that you’re a construction worker.

You’ve just pulled yourself out of bed at 4 a.m. and slipped on your steel-toed boots. As you stretch your tired legs you let out a sigh as another long day looms on the horizon. No worries, nothing you can’t do after a strong cup of coffee.

You arrive on site as the sun is rising, just in time to get a head start before the rest of your team shows up. You quickly unpack your gear and reach into your tool box when it suddenly hits you – you’ve forgotten your tools.

“*&$%#!”

The best you can do now is just stand there and mumble some sorry excuse as you silently curse yourself for your stupidity.

Doesn’t sound like too much fun, right?

But then again it’s common sense. I mean who would show up to work without the one thing they need to do their job?

Well, it’s much easier than you think and if you’re a musician, you’re probably guilty of this very mistake. In fact most players out there struggling to improvise are showing up to solo without any tools. What’s worse, they don’t even realize it.

These hopeful soloists have their instruments and they’ve learned their scales. They’ve memorized the melody and the chord progression and they’ve stepped up to the mic. But when it comes to creating musical phrases in real time, they are stuck up there without any tools.

“*&$%#!” is right.

Think of it like

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

Why You Shouldn’t Be a Real Book Player

Sunday, January 26th, 2014

Take a peek into a high school jazz band rehearsal or grab a seat at a college jazz combo concert. Better yet, walk into your local jam session or take a close look at the jazz trio playing the next time you’re at a wedding. What do you see?

In each case you’ll find the “Real Book player.”

The Real Book player is the musician that learns tunes out of a fake book, practices in front of a fake book, and performs using a fake book. Like a ball and chain, the book is always there. No book = no music.

For years I used to be a real book player. I looked at lead sheets to memorize tunes, I practiced improvisation by staring for hours at written out chord progressions, and I relied on the book like a life preserver at gig after gig.

From my perspective, this all seemed to work out just fine, however after a few years a problem slowly began to emerge. I was performing standards from a book all the time, but I wasn’t actually learning any of these tunes that I was playing night after night.

Even worse, I wasn’t improving at all as an improviser. Week after week I was basically rehashing the same old material in the same exact way without having any musical progress to show for it.

The problem was not that I wasn’t trying to improve as an improviser, it’s that I was trying to use a fake … Read More

What to do when You Crash and Burn on a Tune

Monday, December 16th, 2013

Tell me if this scenario sounds familiar:

You walk into a jam session ready to play a tune that you’ve been sounding great on. As the band finishes up a set you gather up your courage, walk up to the stage, and call this tune you’ve been working on memorizing all week. But at the last second someone suddenly jumps in and suggests a new tune.

All of the sudden you’re up there on the spot with the audience staring at you and this tune that you don’t even know is being counted off.

What key is it in? What is the chord progression? I don’t even know the melody…

You try to play by ear, you try to find a guide tone line, you try desperately to fake it, but nothing works. You go down in flames.

This is bound to happen to every musician at some point because in truth, no one knows every tune. At one point or another, if you’re pushing yourself to get out there and play, you’ll find yourself in a situation just like the one above.

You might be getting together with friends to play some standards and a tune will come up that you don’t know, or you may find yourself in a rehearsal and suddenly you have to solo on a tune in a weird key or chord progression.

In these situations, you’re on the spot and you have to perform something that you’re not comfortable with or worse, totally inexperienced … Read More

10 Exercises to Practice When You’ve Run Out of Ideas

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

We often get a ton of great questions from our readers about what to practice. These inquiries range from players that are stuck in a daily musical rut to aspiring improvisers that simply don’t know the next step to take in the practice room.

The truth is, every musician encounters frustrating days on their instrument where nothing seems to be working. You become bored with the same old exercises, frustrated with your rate of progress and confused as to the next step to take…and some days you just don’t feel like practicing at all.

These feelings are natural for anyone trying to improve, however this is not an excuse to give up on a perfectly good practice session. Every single day, no matter what the obstacles, you can accomplish something to improve your musicianship.

Many times a roadblock in your practice is the result of being overwhelmed. The root of the problem can even come down to a simple lack of motivation. Too many projects, not enough focus and a lack of musical drive and inspiration. This is a recipe for frustration and musical inertia.

When this happens to you, stop, reset and focus on one small task and master it. Here are 10 practice ideas for those times when you’re simply out of things to practice.

1) Learn the melody to a standard

One of the best things you can do when you’re stuck in a rut is to learn something by ear. It could be a melody, 4 … Read More

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