August 23rd, 2017

Charlie Parker’s Secrets to Confirmation

Written by Forrest

Secrets to Charlie Parker's Confirmation

Confirmation is one of those tunes that gives most people a difficult time. But somehow Charlie Parker had no problem playing the most beautiful lines over it time and time again…

His lines flow naturally and effortlessly as if he’s composing a perfect solo in real-time. In fact, I remember Eric Alexander telling us students in a masterclass that when he first saw the Omni Book, he thought that it was a conspiracy. That no one could possibly have played solos this perfect without writing them out first.

But the scary thing…Bird actually did come up with this stuff in real-time…

His musical intuition somehow guided him from one perfect line to another, coming up with what seemed like endless perfect melodic ideas.

Today, we’ll take a look inside the genius mind of Charlie Parker, uncovering some of his secrets to playing over Confirmation.

Breaking down Confirmation Changes

Have a listen to the tune a few times and take a look at the changes to Confirmation.

Can you hear the changes?

Pay attention to the slight differences between the first and second A sections and the use of ii Vs to travel from one place to another.

Confirmation Changes

The changes are not actually that daunting, I mean, it’s not like they look like a Wayne Shorter tune.

So why do Confirmation Changes trip you up and what can you do about it?

The most challenging aspect of Confirmation Changes is the tricky little descent of ii Vs … Read More

August 8th, 2017

Want to Master Rhythm Changes? Here are Six Solos that You Should Know…

Written by Eric

Here’s a question for you…

Are you making the process of learning to play jazz standards harder than it has to be?

…searching for answers in theory books, obsessing over scales, and turning your daily practice session into a soul-searching quest for your personal sound when you just want to be playing music?

The thing is, learning to play a great solo doesn’t have to be overly abstract or even complicated.

If you want to see results in the practice room, it comes down to something much more concrete: Find someone who sounds good and figure out what they’re doing.

It’s as simple as that. The process is the same for learning to play over a single chord as it is for learning to navigate the progression to a jazz standard.

And it’s the same for learning to create a great solo on Rhythm Changes.  

So if you’re frustrated with your playing, stop guessing, stop worrying about hundreds of scales and stop mindlessly jamming for hours with a play-a-long track.

With some key techniques ingrained from the right sources, you’ll go from scraping by in frustration to playing better than you ever could’ve imagined. 

In today’s lesson we’ve taken 6 incredible solos from the masters and highlighted dozens of specific techniques that you can begin practicing today. 

Ready to get started? Here we go…

1) Lester Young: Lester Leaps In

Before you get obsessed with scales and before you start worrying about turnarounds or ii-V licks, Read More

June 21st, 2017

How to Memorize Even the Most Difficult Tunes Right Now

Written by Forrest

Memorize Complex Tunes Now

Some tunes seem to make absolutely no sense, like the chords changes are some random crazy collection of complex sounds…

But with a little know-how, using the same tactics we showed you in our recent lesson on learning tunes quickly, even the most difficult tunes can be deciphered in just a few minutes.

Today’s lesson comes from a recent question we received from a reader:

”I enjoyed your latest post and would like to start memorizing standards this way. However, lots of standards don’t seem to fit this method…or rather I can’t see how to fit them. Case in point, the tune ‘Infant Eyes’. Could you show how to apply the method to a ‘non-standard’ song?

That’s a great question, and if you haven’t read our recent post on how to learn the chord changes of a tune in less than 5 minutes, make sure to check that out before diving into this lesson.

Once you have a firm grasp on the method we use there, you’re ready to apply the concepts to something a little trickier…something like Wayne Shorter’s beautiful composition Infant Eyes.

These chords make no sense…

When you first look at the changes to this tune, the common reaction is, “What the ^%$# is going on?!?!?!”

Infant Eyes

This is a complicated tune in the sense that at first glance, there are few typical progressions like ii Vs or other common chunks of chords that we are familiar with.

In fact, even the key center of … Read More

June 9th, 2017

The Secret to Unlocking the Lydian Sound: From Boring Modes to Killing Solos

Written by Eric

Open up any music theory book and you’ll find the term “lydian.”

A funny sounding word that refers to the fourth mode of the major scale…

You’ve, no doubt, played this scale. You’ve probably even practiced it in every key and studied it’s relationship to the tonic.

But what if I told you that you don’t know this scale. That the way that most theory books and teachers teach this mode is putting you into a harmonic straightjacket.

If you’ve only practiced this scale as an exercise, you’re missing out on a sound and harmonic approach that has been utilized by some of the greatest modern improvisers and musicians like Woody Shaw, Joe Henderson, Mark Turner and Jacob Collier.

And today we’re going to show you the secret to unlocking this sound – turning a mundane theory concept into a real musical technique that you can use in your solos.

Let me show you what I mean…

The lydian mode: What you really need to know

In Western music theory, “lydian” refers to the fourth mode of the Major scale:

It’s one of the seven musical modes of each key, defined by a raised 4th scale degree. In jazz theory the term lydian becomes synonymous with any number of scales that feature the #11.

This definition is fine if you want to memorize your major scales or pass a test, but if you want to improvise over this sound, you need a different approach – … Read More

June 1st, 2017

How to Learn a Tune’s Chord Changes in 5 Minutes or Less

Written by Forrest

Learn a tunes in 5 minutes or less

What if I told you there’s a simple little trick to learn chord changes to a tune in a just a few minutes?

That the countless hours you’ve spent reading tunes out of the Real Book can finally come to a close and you can begin to have chord changes live in your head, where they belong.

And the truth is, this little trick’s been staring you in the face. It’s not new, complex, or even something that takes time to learn. You can start using it TODAY.

So is this thing called love?

Take the tune What is This Thing Called Love?:

What is this thing called love chord changes

For years, you’ve probably opened up the Real Book to “W,” flipped around, to the tune— or grabbed your iPad —and read the chord changes as you solo.

This is a fine place to start, but wouldn’t you think that after years of doing this, the chord changes would finally get into your head and you could stop being a Real Book player?

The thing is, simply playing a tune from the Real Book or even trying to memorize the chord changes in a drill-and-kill fashion won’t get you that far.

So many people try this every single day. They recite in their head over and over…

”G half diminished, C7 alt, F minor…”

Thinking that if they just do it enough that the changes will somehow stick.

But, it’s like cramming for a school test. You may have the information the next day, but … Read More

May 10th, 2017

10 Things Every Comeback Player Needs to Know

Written by Eric

You’re a musician.

Or at least you used to be one…

You played an instrument in high school, faithfully took private lessons, and performed at dozens of recitals and concerts.

Maybe you even went on to study in college.

There’s a guitar sitting in your closet, a piano in the spare room gathering dust, and a collection of music books stacked on your shelf.

You’ve spent hours memorizing music theory, taken your fair share of auditions, and played in a few bands. You were actually pretty good, but then you had to face the facts and get a job.

There was even a time when you had a solid practice routine, devoting multiple hours a day to your instrument, but that too fell to the wayside. Now you’re lucky to play a couple notes a few times a month.

Somehow life just got in the way and your instrument got lost in the shuffle. It happens to the best of us.

But deep down you know you’re still a musician and that music is still a part of your life. Now you’re ready for a comeback…

Music is a pretty powerful thing

You’ve probably read about the mental and creative benefits of playing an instrument.

But music has more than benefits for your brain. It’s an activity that will enrich your life, connect you with the people around you, and introduce you to new cultures.

Music can alter moods, change minds, inspire hope and bring about focus and motivation. … Read More

May 3rd, 2017

How The Chord-Scale System Has Failed You: 6 Steps to Freedom With Scales and Modes

Written by Forrest

The Chord Scale System Has Failed You

The Chord-scale system has become the most established and widespread method for teaching jazz improvisation…

And it’s no mystery why. So often, scales—more specifically the modes of the major and melodic minor scales—get passed-off as the most important aspect of learning to improvise.

It’s as if by magic, you learn a couple scales and their modes, and you’re playing jazz!

Scales and modes, are NOT the secret to learning to improvise. They are important, but don’t fall into the trap that so many do, thinking that they are the system that will give you improvisational freedom— they’re nothing more than a starting place.

The modes are the equivalent to learning your times-tables when you’re learning how to multiply.

Recall back to when you learned the basics of math. Remember how your teacher made you memorize the times-tables and drill the information until you didn’t have to think about it anymore?

That’s exactly what you want to do with ALL scale and chord knowledge. Just like the times-tables, you must internalize the information and move far beyond it. Otherwise, you’ll always wonder why your playing still doesn’t sound authentic, like you’re speaking the jazz language, because despite what you may think or have been told, scales are not the language of jazz.

Scales and modes fit into an overarching melodic and harmonic framework that help you to conceptualize melody and harmony in any genre of music. This framework allows you to intellectually understand how specific notes relate to a … Read More

April 12th, 2017

How to Play Cherokee like a Pro: 24 Melodic Tricks for Insanely Fast Tempos

Written by Eric

Have you ever wondered how the best players can play incredibly fast…

Regardless of the key, the chords, or the tune?

I’m not just talking about running memorized licks and technical patterns…I mean soloing at breakneck speed with actual melodic lines over the progression.

Trying to improvise on uptempo tunes is something that can be frustrating for even the best players and the truth is, you hear more than a few players faking it. Unfortunately, most resources leave you with more questions than answers.

But this doesn’t mean that there aren’t specific techniques to practice that will teach you the skills you need. If you’ve been stuck wondering how to create long melodic lines, improvise at fast tempos or create double-time passages you’ve come to the right place…

Today we’re going to show you 24 improvisation techniques for creating melodic lines at fast tempos – taken directly from the solos of the music’s greatest improvisers.

While there are dozens of factors that go to into improvising at fast tempos – technique, time, phrasing, swing, articulation – today we’re going to put these solos under a microscope for one reason. To understand the nuts and bolts of creating long melodic lines at very fast tempos.

And to do this, we’re going to take one of the most well-known standards in the jazz repertoire: Cherokee.

Why Cherokee?

Composed by Ray Nobel in 1938, Cherokee has been played by nearly every important jazz musician to pick … Read More

January 10th, 2017

Make 2017 Your Best Musical Year – Use These 3 Simple Steps to Reach Your Goals

Written by Forrest

How to accomplish musical goals

Let’s be real. New Year’s Resolutions don’t work…

Every year, January 1st comes and people act as if they’re going to entirely reinvent themselves, that this is the year. The year that’s different than all other years. The year of making things happen and achieving goals.

But just after a few weeks, the smoke from the fireworks clears and we’re back to square one. Back into our routine and back into our old habits. Our lofty goals fade away to the background once again, patiently waiting to resurface at the turn of the next new year…

What went wrong? Is there a solution? I’m a motivated person, is there a way I can actually accomplish my musical goals this year?

I’ve got good news for you. YES. It’s absolutely possible to accomplish your musical goals this year—or at least make huge progress on them—but you need to transform how you think about musical goals.

The standard goal setting methods might work when it comes to getting up earlier or drinking more water, but as a musician, you need a method that’s ongoing. You need a method that works when you’re tired. You need a method that turns even your smallest goals into a reality because let’s face it…in music even the smallest goals take a TON of work to achieve.

In general, when it comes to musical goals, goals are much larger than they appear.

Musical goals are large

For example, it sounds simple enough to “transcribe a solo,” but what get’s lost in … Read More

December 19th, 2016

How to Steal like a Pro: 3 Incredibly Useful Tactics for Better Jazz Solos

Written by Eric

Your mother probably taught you not to steal…

That taking something that wasn’t yours was wrong or that pocketing an item from the shelves of a store could land you into a world of trouble.

But what you or your dear mum might not realize is that some of your favorite improvisers are cold-blooded thieves. And it’s not just musicians that are guilty of this sin.

You see the rules are a little different when it comes to learning a craft. In the world of jazz improvisation, musical theft is actually one of the best ways to learn the crucial skills you need to play a solo.

Think of yourself like a musical Robin Hood…you know, the whole “steal from the rich and give to the poor” thing. But in this case you (the practicing musician) are the poor one without any musical riches. You need ideas, harmonic techniques and creative inspiration.

And everywhere you look you’re surrounded by recordings of immensely wealthy players that have exactly what you need.

If you’re frustrated with the way your solos sound and you want to make meaningful improvement you need to start “borrowing” ideas from the best players. Actually scrap that…you need to storm in, steal everything you can carry, and run for the door!

What all those books and courses won’t tell you is that music theory is useless without a real-life model. You need someone to show you how to put all of those scales and … Read More

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