April 8th, 2016

10 Diminished Patterns That Will Transform Your Next Jazz Solo…

Written by Eric

diminished_patterns

What comes to mind when you hear the word diminished?

A chord? A scale?

“Wait, is it whole-steps and half-steps…or the other way around?”

If you’re like most players, the diminished sound often creates more questions than answers…

But it’s a sound that the greatest players – from John Coltrane to Michael Brecker and beyond – have used to add harmonic complexity and melodic interest to their solos.

And it’s one that you can use in your solos as well…if you have the know-how.

You see, the premise of a diminished chord or pattern is simple, but when you start applying this sound to your solos, the details can get complex very quickly.

And this is exactly what we’re going to look at today…

Stacking minor thirds…

Before we start digging in to these diminished patterns, you need to start with an understanding the structure of the diminished chord.

And luckily it’s pretty straightforward, a fully diminished chord is simply a stack of minor 3rds…

Diminished structure

Because the construction of these chords is symmetrical, there are only 3 diminished options: a stack of minor 3rds from C, from C#, and from D. That’s it – the pattern just repeats itself.

The most common way you’ll use this sound in your solos is over dominant chords. Applying this diminished structure over a V7 sound is an easy way to access the altered notes of a dominant chord in a logical way.

And again, since the construction of the structure is symmetrical … Read More

April 1st, 2016

5 Steps to Becoming A Lyrical Master With Altered Dominants: A Lesson With Stan Getz

Written by Forrest

Playing Lyrically Over ALtered Dominant Chords

Alterations are at the heart of jazz…

In no other genre of music can you freely alter chords in a such a fluid and flexible manner. As chords whiz by, the soloist has the freedom to add all sorts of chord alterations to their melodic lines.

But it requires a sense of how these altered chord tones behave and a certain kind of know-how to use them effectively.

The best place to start experimenting with alterations is over the dominant chord because that’s where you have the most options. But, if you’ve ever tried to alter a dominant chord before, you know that it’s not that easy.

Here’s the situation…

You’re about to play over a dominant chord. You see this on a lead sheet, or you know a tune by heart…

G7

… and your thought process might go something like this…

Which scale should I play

Your initial reaction? Scales. You think to yourself…

“What scale am I going to play if I want to alter the dominant chord?” Clearly not the boring old Mixolydian and after a moment of thought, you now believe you have several options to approach dominant alterations, and then even more scales come to mind…

More scale options

So now that you have your scale choices, you think you’re all good. But then when you go to play, why do things not sound right? Why does it sound mechanical? Why does it sound forced?

What are professionals doing that makes their use of alterations sound so good and how can I do Read More

March 29th, 2016

The Reason You Need to Start Thinking About Jazz Language Right Now…

Written by Eric

thinkingPost

Michael Brecker talked about it…

Mulgrew Miller mentioned it time and again in masterclasses…

And if you’ve spent any time on Jazzadvice, you’ve seen multiple articles about the importance of learning it.

But why should you start thinking about jazz language?

You’re already practicing technique, running scales, and listening to a ton of your favorite players…and you’ve even noticed some progress in your ability to create solos.

So why should you add one more item to your already packed practice list?

It’s a good question…and one that many players shrug off.

But not so fast! Language is the key that can take you from the player that’s frustrated with scales and chords to a soloist with unlimited creative ideas.

You just have to approach it the right way in the practice room.

Let me explain…

The 3 stages of learning jazz improvisation

Musicians of all levels are drawn to jazz improvisation.

Because we all want a chance to step into the spotlight to take a solo…

But no matter what your skill level is, every player encounters the same struggles when it comes to finding their voice on an instrument.

Mulgrew Miller

You see, we don’t get a guide book for learning how to improvise. And finding an effective practice routine can sometimes be a big mystery.

Just because you’re spending time practicing doesn’t mean that you’re automatically going to get to the next level. To improve as a soloist, you’ve got to practice the right things.

And this is where … Read More

March 21st, 2016

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

Written by Eric

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

March 7th, 2016

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

Written by Eric

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

February 24th, 2016

4 Steps To Attaining Freedom With Jazz Language

Written by Forrest

4 Steps to Freedom with Jazz Language

Becoming fluent with jazz language is the key to unlocking your musical freedom when you improvise.

It’s the missing piece of the puzzle. The lost ship. The thing everyone ignores…

And it’s totally counter-intuitive…

  • You copy, to sound original.
  • You practice the same line over and over, to be creative.
  • You use limitation, to find freedom.

If you’re already confused, that’s okay. We’ll get there…

The 4 steps to jazz language fluency

Jazz is a language and acquiring useful jazz language is essential.

The whole process of learning the jazz language can seem overwhelming and ambiguous as there’s so much to focus on.

But, just by becoming fluent with one piece of jazz language you can begin seeing results today.

When you’re fluent with a piece of language, say a dominant 7 piece of language, you now have a line and a concept of how to approach a dominant 7 chord.

You have more than a lick, you have an understanding, a visceral intuitive knowledge that allows you to play musically over a sound, instead of having a purely intellectual concept of how to go about things rooted in music theory.

With fluency in jazz language, music theory supplements and supports your knowledge, ear training practice becomes more applicable, and jazz improvisation starts to make sense.

Here are the four steps of becoming fluent with a particular piece of jazz language:

4 steps to jazz language fluency

And what do each of these steps entail? What information do they hold?

Jazz language details

The line you’re transcribing and … Read More

February 22nd, 2016

7 KIller Turnarounds for Your Next Jazz Solo

Written by Eric

turnaround_post

If you’ve spent any time practicing jazz improvisation, chances are you’ve heard of the turnaround…

Those little two bar chord progressions that pop up at the ends of tunes or in the middle of your solo, leading you back to the top of the form.

But what you might not realize is that these turnarounds can become one of the most important tools in your musical arsenal.

You just need to practice them in the right way…

“[Turnarounds] were a series of chord changes that progressed eloquently back to the main theme of a song. They were important because they let you extend a song without making it sound like you were repeating it. From a listeners’ standpoint, they created anticipation and made you want to hear the main part again.” ~Yusef Lateef

There are places in any chord progression that have the potential to create harmonic motion and melodic interest to your lines. And this is a technique that many great players have spent time developing in the practice room.

Tadd Dameron

The beautiful thing about improvisation is that you don’t have to feel chained to the written chord progression. You don’t have to play the same scale over every chord or the same chord changes in every chorus.

And one way to do this is by implying chords or melodic substitutions within an existing progression – turn backs and turnarounds.

Below we’ll show you 7 killer turnarounds that you can use in your next solo…

1) The standard “jazz”

Read More
February 14th, 2016

4 Tricks To Practicing Jazz lines In All Keys

Written by Forrest

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

February 11th, 2016

How to Take the Guesswork Out of Jazz Improvisation…and Unlock Your Creativity

Written by Eric

guesswork_post

If you’re like me, you can picture it in your mind…

Walking on stage in front of an audience and jumping right into a solo. Knowing exactly what you want to play and confident that any note you hear will simply flow out with ease.

Sounds pretty good, right?

The only problem is getting these notes to come out of your instrument in real life.

No matter how hard you practice or study solos, improvising can often feel like an exercise where you’re taking your best guess at the right notes.

Staring at a set of chord progressions and choosing from a handful of scales or returning to the same old licks you play in every other solo…

And this can leave you feeling uncreative, like you’re not really improvising at all.

But before you get too frustrated, take a step back. The problem isn’t your musical or artistic abilities, the culprit is the way you’re approaching the creative process…

You’re more creative than you think

You might not realize it now, but you have more creative potential than you realize…

In fact, your brain is a problem solving machine that’s constantly processing information and looking for new options and avenues of expression.

The only catch is that you have to give it a chance to be creative.

You can’t overload the machinery. You can’t cram in every piece of music theory information out there and say “ok, improvise!

And this is where many players go wrong…

To … Read More

February 1st, 2016

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

Written by Forrest

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

Subscribe and get free stuff!