June 21st, 2016

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

Written by Forrest

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
June 17th, 2016

How to Learn Chord Changes Straight Off a Recording: A Handbook [Free Download]

Written by Forrest

Learn chord changes from a recording

Learning a tune straight from a recording is THE way to learn it. But the most difficult part is always deciphering the chord changes…

And it’s certainly not an easy task compared to the alternative of simply grabbing a fake book and looking up the chord changes.

But there are huge benefits to learning the chord changes with your ear straight from the recording rather than just looking them up.

Many times, the chord changes you find in fake books are incomplete or just plain wrong, but the main thing is that you’re missing out on a HUGE growth opportunity every time you just look up the chords, instead of at least trying to figure out the chords for yourself.

The process of figuring out the chord changes to a tune with YOUR ear and mind will help you grow as a musician, greatly improve your ear, and help you to permanently learn the changes on a deep level that you won’t forget.

So if it’s so great to learn the changes straight from the recording, how come people avoid it? Well, simply put: it’s hard.

Or, at least people think it is…

They tried it once, it was difficult, and that was it.

But with the right process guiding you through each step and a little kick in the right direction, you CAN do it.

Download the FREE Handbook on Learning Chord Changes Straight From a Recording

Download the handbook

Download it now and enjoy … Read More

June 15th, 2016

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

Written by Eric

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

June 10th, 2016

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

Written by Forrest

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

June 7th, 2016

3 Secrets to Soloing with the Pentatonic Scale: A Lesson with McCoy Tyner

Written by Eric

Lesson with McCoy Tyner

No pianist has influenced the modern approach to jazz piano more than McCoy Tyner…

From players like Chick Corea and Mulgrew Miller to non-pianists like Woody Shaw and Michael Brecker, McCoy has left his mark on generations of serious improvisers.

And one distinctive element of his approach to improvising is his creative use of the pentatonic scale.

But it’s more than the five simple notes that most musicians think of using over a minor chord. As you’ll soon learn below, the pentatonic scale can add a wealth of harmonic and melodic possibilities to your solos.

Take a listen to McCoy Tyners’ solo on Blues on the Corner from the album The Real McCoy:

 

The Blues is a form that every improviser must learn and master if they want to become a proficient player. You can approach it with blues language, bebop, or even modern and outside approaches – it all comes together in the blues.

And today we’re going look at 3 creative ways McCoy Tyner uses the pentatonic scale on the blues…

1)  Using the Minor Pentatonic Scale over Dominant Chords

If you’ve subscribed to JazzAdvice I’m guessing you’ve learned more than a few options for improvising over V7 chords.

And you probably have a few tricks up your own sleeve when it comes to creating solos over this sound…

However, one scale that many players don’t think about on V7 chords is the minor pentatonic scale. And that’s exactly what we’re going to look … Read More

June 1st, 2016

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

Written by Forrest

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

May 27th, 2016

Why These 8 Jazz Standards Should Be Your New Practice Etudes

Written by Eric

why these 8 standards should be your practice etudes

Every musician has spent time in the practice room working on etudes…

Diligently running through exercises that cover various techniques like articulation, the altissimo range, or diminished arpeggios.

This is a good start for most players, but where does the jazz musician turn to develop the techniques that are essential for improvisation? After all jazz is a music that you learn by ear, not from a dusty book of exercises…

Well the answer can be found in an unlikely place: the repertoire of jazz standards that we’re all expected to learn.

By using jazz standards as your etudes, you’ll kill two birds with one stone: learning tunes and developing the techniques necessary for jazz improvisation.

Below we’ll show you how to turn 8 jazz standards into the daily practice etudes that will transform your skills as an improviser.

Before you get started, listen to the YouTube clip of each tune. You can either learn the melody from the recording (a great way to work on ear training!) or find the sheet music. For each tune we’ll:

  • Give you an excerpt of the first 8 measures
  • Show you what you’ll learn and what to focus on as you practice
  • And highlight unique practice ideas specific to each melody

Ready to go? Awesome, time to meet the 8 jazz standards that are your new practice etudes…

1) Moving from Major to minor: Ornithology

One of the first bebop tunes many players learn is Charlie Parker’s Ornithology, a 32 bar melody … Read More

May 19th, 2016

Thinking About Transcribing a Jazz Solo? Here are 3 Things You Should Know…

Written by Eric

thinking about transcribing a solo

Transcribing is the single most effective method of learning how to improvise.

…or so everyone says.

The only problem is it can be a mystery figuring out what the transcription process actually entails. You have your instrument and a collection of your favorite recordings – now what?

The standard jazz resources are good at teaching the theory and technique of improvisation, but when it comes to acquiring jazz language it gets a little foggy…and the truth is, it took me years to figure out what transcribing was and how to use it to improve my playing.

I’m guessing you don’t have years to waste in the practice room. You need to go from guessing at the notes of your favorite solos to quickly acquiring language that you can use every time you improvise.

Before you jump into the practice room to start transcribing your next solo, here are the 3 things you need to know

I) Is transcribing really transcribing?

If you ask a hundred different musicians to define transcribing, you’ll probably hear responses like: writing the notes down, memorizing lines, analyzing solos, or stealing language from records.”

But what actually happens in the practice room when you’re “transcribing”? This is the question you should be asking yourself…

Before you pick out a solo or write down a single note you need to know exactly what’s involved in the transcription process, down to the nitty-gritty details. For starters, check out this post:

Transcribing is not Transcribing: Read More

May 11th, 2016

8 Techniques Mark Turner Uses to Dominate the Blues

Written by Eric

8 Techniques Mark Turner Uses

If you’ve ever listened to Mark Turner you’ve probably wondered the same thing as me…

“What the hell is he playing?”

Rather than coming from the mind of an improviser, his solos sound like the work of an ambitious architect. Complex structures reaching into the stratosphere, lines with impossibly wide leaps, columns of arpeggios, and winding phrases that arch over the chords…

So as a musician, where do you begin when you want to discover the techniques behind his unique sound? For starters, you need to find a solo over a standard that you know inside and out.

And that’s why exactly why we’ve chosen the blues

These days you’ll hear more and more players imitating Mark Turner’s distinctive sound. But it’s not the actual notes in his solos that will make you a better player, it’s the concepts behind them…

The solo

The Mark Turner solo we’ve chosen comes from a live recording he did with the OAM Trio. Give it a listen:

 

On your first pass it probably sounds modern, innovative or even abstract, but underneath everything he plays lies the 12 bar blues form.

And it all works because he has a deep understanding of this form.

One thing to note about this particular version: Instead of the standard I – IV – I progression in the first 4 bars of the tune, this blues utilizes the following substitution:

The result is a minor 3rd relationship that leads to the B7, serving as … Read More

April 25th, 2016

20 Practice Hacks for the Busy Musician

Written by Forrest

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

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