Archive for the ‘Transcribing’ Category

Killer Triadic & Pentatonic Concepts Made Easy: A Lesson With Kenny Garrett

Friday, June 24th, 2016

Kenny Garrett Triadic Concepts

Kenny Garrett is an incredible musician. He’s arguably had one of the largest impacts on alto saxophone since Charlie Parker…

In fact, when he started to gain popularity, most every alto player in the world had to rethink their concept.

All of a sudden, copying Charlie Parker didn’t seem that cool anymore.

But the thing is, Kenny Garrett built his unique style using the jazz language of his heroes. Besides his huge beautiful dark one-of-a-kind tone, that’s why it sounds so awesome.

Because he mixed his own unique style with the bebop language, it sounds like a natural and progressive evolution of the music.

Today we’ll have a listen and a look into what makes some his lines tick…

Getting into Kenny’s head

It’s always difficult trying to understand a modern player by listening to them play on their own esoteric compositions.

What’s easier?

Studying their playing on a standard or a tune you’re ultra familiar with.

In this lesson, we’ll check out what Kenny plays on the Charlie Parker tune Ornithology, which is based on the tune How High the Moon.

Here are the chord changes to Ornithology so you have an idea about what’s going on with the harmony if you’re not familiar with the tune.

Listen to Kenny Garrett play Ornithology and how effortlessly he weaves through the chord changes and commands the direction of the entire band.

Every phrase he plays has intent behind it and leads perfectly into the next one.

And, somehow … Read More

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

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

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

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

Thursday, May 19th, 2016

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

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

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016


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

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

Thursday, February 11th, 2016


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

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

10 Killer Tips for Transcribing Jazz Solos That I Wish I’d Known All Along

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015


Transcribing jazz solos is an essential part of learning to improvise…

But here’s the catch: it’s trickier than it sounds.

…especially if you’re just getting started.

Many hopeful players attempt to learn solos from recordings, but often give up in frustration. And this is exactly how I felt when I was beginning to learn how to improvise.

I would try to start learning a solo, spend hours struggling with a few notes and give up in despair. Then a month later, discouraged with the way I was improvising, would try again with a new solo.

And the cycle would continue…

If you’ve spent any time on JazzAdvice you know that learning solos from recordings is necessary to improve and that transcribing involves more than writing the notes down

But what most players don’t realize is that there are some key skills that will make this entire process much easier and much faster.

Here are 10 killer tips for transcribing jazz solos that I wish I had known all along…

#1) Know why you are transcribing

What is the purpose of transcribing jazz solos and why the heck is everybody talking about it?

You’ve heard all the hubbub about transcribing, but before you devote valuable time to transcribing or lock yourself for hours in a practice room, you should ask yourself one question:

“What am I going to get out of the process of transcribing solos?”

I used to think that by figuring out the notes to one solo I … Read More

Overwhelmed with Transcribing Jazz Solos? – Here’s the Secret That Will Speed Up Your Improvement

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015


“What solo should I transcribe?”

You’ve probably asked yourself this question. And you’ve probably searched far and wide for answers.

If you look in the Aebersold Jazz Handbook you’ll find a list with over 100 historically significant recordings to choose from…

Search the internet and you’ll see page after page of important players. For instance trumpet players have to deal with Louis Armstrong and Clark Terry, Miles and Dizzy, Lee Morgan, Kenny Dorham, Freddie Hubbard.

And that’s just scratching the surface…

So where do you begin with all of those options? How do you choose the solo that’s going to make you sound better?

Maybe you could start with just one player, like Clifford Brown. There’s his solo on Joy Spring or Cherokee or Sandu or Stompin’ at the Savoy or Jordu or Pent Up House…”

Suddenly you’re overwhelmed and right back where you started. Before you’ve even set out on your journey to learn the jazz language, you’re already falling behind…

Why less is more in learning jazz improvisation

What most people aren’t telling you is that you don’t have to transcribe hundreds of solos to start speaking the jazz language…

But you do have to learn a few of your favorite solos. Extremely well.

And that’s the key to getting started. Realizing that it’s OK to start at square one and understanding that you don’t have to rush to play catch-up with every jazz solo under the sun.

As a musician looking to improve quickly, picking one

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.


How To Create Your Own Jazz Exercises From a Transcribed Line

Monday, September 14th, 2015

Create your own jazz exercises from transcribing

You hear it over and over…

Just transcribe. You want to get better? Transcribe. You want to have a better sound. Transcribe. Can’t seem to play over Rhythm Changes? Transcribe.

And yes, when people tell you this, they’re correct. You can learn pretty much anything you want from transcribing. But, what they don’t tell you is that you need to use what you transcribe to inspire your own creativity.

Last week we talked about running from your own creativity, and today we’re going to show you how to combine your own creativity with what you’re transcribing to create your very own jazz exercises.

Why create your own exercises?

When I was 16, I had the privilege of meeting and talking to saxophonist Sam Rivers. You likely don’t know who he was, but he was pretty awesome and had a very unique way of playing and composing.

I’ll never forget what he told me about his own musical journey. He said:

“Eventually I realized I had to make my own exercise book.”

Say what? Your own exercise book? Yes. Your own exercise book. Hearing this was a huge revelation. Not one I fully understood until over a decade later. And, not one that I’ve implemented even half as well as I should have, but nonetheless, this concept is a big deal.

By creating your own exercises, you apply your own creativity, you cultivate what is yours, you develop things in your own way, you move closer toward your … Read More

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