January 27th, 2016

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

Written by Eric

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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:

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

January 22nd, 2016

10 Surprising Secrets to Jazz Phrasing I Learned From John Coltrane

Written by Forrest

John Coltrane Phrasing

John Coltrane is probably best known for Countdown and Giant Steps, or his earth-shattering intensity on A Love Supreme.

But often overlooked is the depth and beauty of his phrasing and lyricism.

When I first heard the album Kind of Blue, I was blown away.

And I still am to this day.

There is so much there. Every time I listen to it, I hear more.

One solo that has always hit me dead-center between the eyes is Coltrane’s solo on Blue in Green.

Bill Evans Quote Blue In Green

This solo transports me to another world…

But this is not the Trane that we think of. The one that’s pounding down the door, in your face, playing faster than what seems humanely possible!

No. It’s a different side of him, yet the intensity of his playing is still just as present.

And much of this intensity has to do with how he phrases.

What’s the secret behind Coltrane’s beautiful phrasing and how does he sound so lyrical?

Does Coltrane phrase like a pro?

Over five years ago, I wrote an article about how to phrase like a pro.

In that I shared four points about phrasing that pros do and amateurs do not:

  • Avoid starting phrases on beat 1
  • Break up the eighth notes
  • Connect one idea to the next
  • Play into beat 1 and beyond

They seem simple, right?

But, as many things go, the simpler they seem, the more difficult they are to put into practice.

Do pros … Read More

January 20th, 2016

How to Avoid the 4 Harmful Mindsets that are Sabotaging Your Practice Routine…

Written by Eric

4 Bad Practice MIndsets

If you’re serious about reaching your musical potential or stepping up your jazz improvisation game then the majority of your time as a musician should be spent in one place…

The practice room.

It’s where you’ll do the dirty work of pursuing your musical goals and where you’ll build your foundation as a performer. It’s no secret that consistent practice is one of the most important factors in determining your musical success this year.

But here’s the catch: Not all practice is “good practice

In fact, the way you define “practice” might actually be holding you back and in some cases, even doing you harm. And this can drastically impact your performance and creative confidence when you get in front of an audience.

Remember, good or bad, the time that you spend in the practice room will ingrain habits and it’s these habits that will determine how you perform, and the fun you have with music.

Sounds pretty serious, but don’t worry, you’re not alone on this journey…

It’s the same for all musicians

From the complete beginner and the music student toiling away in the practice room, to the professional walking onto stages all over the world…

Musicians encounter the same creative obstacles each day. The pressure to play a certain way, sudden nerves before a big performance, or unexpected setbacks that cause self-doubt. Being a musician isn’t easy and creating your own music takes more than just technique.

However, the only advice we often get when … Read More

January 10th, 2016

A Lesson With Bill Evans: 14 Techniques to Master the Minor ii V Progression

Written by Forrest

A Lesson With Pianist Bill Evans

What do you play over a minor ii V?

Minor ii Vs are notoriously tricky. As compared to their brother, the ii V in major, the ii V in minor adds quite a few more challenges.

First off, instead of a minor 7 ii chord, it has a minor 7 b5 ii chord. This causes a world of pain for most people. They simply don’t know what to play over this chord.

It’s actually not that difficult if you master the chord tones instead of thinking of scales all the time. Sure, you can do what everyone teaches you to do and think of the Locrian mode, but that will only get you so far. You need to get beyond that and not suck at half diminished chord.

Ok, so once you’ve learned how how not suck at half diminished chords it’s time to understand what’s going on with the dominant chord in a minor ii V…

As you’ll see, I simply label them as dominant chords and don’t add any alterations to the symbol. Why? Because alterations can be implied even on a standard V chord. Simplify your life by just thinking of them as a dominant chord with all sorts of flavors you can add to it or modify.

When you look at charts of jazz standards, you’ll see that the editors add in alterations to the V7 chord in a minor ii V, and in general, you’ll hear alterations at this point, however, who’s to say … Read More

January 7th, 2016

How to Play Outside Like a Pro: 4 Techniques That’ll Make the ‘Wrong’ Notes Sound Right

Written by Eric

how_to_play_outside

You’ve heard solos with wrong notes…

Unfortunate note choices that make you cringe, questionable scales that clash with the chords, and licks that sound forced and unnatural.

But I’m guessing you’ve also heard players that can make any note sound good over any chord, as if they can simply improvise whatever they want.

Here’s the interesting thing…

Those notes that sound like mistakes in one player are often the same exact notes that another player will use to get cheers from an admiring audience.

So what’s the secret? Why do some soloists sound hip when they play outside while others are stuck landing on wrong notes?

The answer goes back to the way you approach these “outside” notes and the process is simpler than you might think. Let me explain…

It all starts with your definition of wrong…

What exactly is a wrong note?

Theory books and music instructors will tell you that there are certain notes to avoid or treat as passing tones if you want your solos to sound good…

The 4th on Major 7 chords, the #11, the b9, the Major 7 on V7 chords…

However, if you take a quick listen to some of the great compositions and improvisers of our time you’ll hear that these rules were broken over and over again.

For some musicians these wrong notes led to new harmonic possibilities that transformed their musical approach.

“They may be the wrong notes for her, but they are the right notes for me!” ~

Read More
December 31st, 2015

Goal Setting 101 for the Jazz Musician

Written by Forrest

Goal Setting 101

Everyone wants to set goals, and many actually do set them, but only a handful of people achieve them.

And out of these people that achieve their goals, only a portion of them are truly satisfied with their accomplishment.

What is this exemplary group of people doing differently than everybody else and how can we join this satisfied achieving group?

When it comes to goal setting, I’m no stranger. Flashback to 5th grade, I can remember the guest speaker telling us the importance of goal setting and how it could get us anywhere in life. She was right!

Oh, and the guest speaker? My mom.

I’ve been goal oriented since day one. After dozens of questions seemingly going in circles, a recent personality test—a friend insisted I take it—classified me as “The achiever.”

This was no coincidence.

I spend much of my time thinking about what it is I truly want and how to best get there, all the while, doing my best to not ignore the beauty, joy, and happiness that’s right there in front of me, every single day.

Am I the best at it? Certainly not. I know tons of people that are better at putting into practice what I know in theory, but I’ll do my best to share with you what I’ve found works for me and what I see working for others.

We have one life (as far as we know) and we have the opportunity to architect it how ever we see fit.… Read More

December 29th, 2015

7 Musical Devices That Will Give Your Solos Irresistible Style

Written by Eric

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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

December 25th, 2015

How to Practice: A Diagram Illustrating the 3 Essential Pieces to Practicing Jazz Improvisation [Free Download Inside]

Written by Forrest

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

December 21st, 2015

8 Things No One Tells You About Learning Jazz Improvisation

Written by Forrest

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

December 17th, 2015

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

Written by Eric

rhythm_changes_post

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:

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

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