Jazz Improvisation is Hard…and Why That’s a Good Thing!

Think about this for a moment. Your favorite musicians. Michael Brecker. Freddie Hubbard. Chick Corea. Sonny Rollins. Each and every one of them started at the bottom. Every single one of them began without any musical knowledge or technique on their instrument. And all of them toiled for years before anyone knew their names.

It’s hard to imagine now listening to their records and reading about their musical accomplishments…

But in the beginning they had to start with their first notes. They listened intently to the records of their heroes and wondered in disbelief “#$@*!, how am I ever going to play like that?” They had to go into the practice room everyday and do their best to improve.

And the truth is, you’re no different.

Steve Coleman

Learning to improvise is a challenge

There’s no way around it.

Setting out on a path to create music – your own music – is not easy.

It means getting up on stage in front of people and sharing something personal. Taking a chance with no guarantee that you’ll be successful. And spending hours alone in a practice room sharpening your skills.

That’s difficult for anyone performing a skill in front of an audience, let alone someone that’s improvising on the spot! But what you might not realize is that this challenge is crucial to your development. It’s the one barrier standing between you and your musical goals.

By pushing yourself to confront these difficult areas in your playing, you are setting the stage for your next musical breakthrough.

However, you could always take the safe route as a musician and be content with just reading the notes on the page and calling it a day. Yet that’s not you…

If you’re reading this I’m guessing that you desire something more from music. Whether it’s improvising, composing, or performing you want to add something of your own to the music.

The harder it is to reach a goal, the more you’ll want to achieve it. The more effort it takes, the more fulfillment you’ll get when you make progress. The same rule applies to music as it does any other skill: the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it.

The great thing about an artistic pursuit like playing an instrument and creating your own music is that there is no end to your journey. You keep learning new ideas and you keep developing yourself. The limit to what you discover is entirely up to you.

So what sets these great players apart from the rest of us?

We’ve all experienced those times when you run out of ideas in the practice room…

When the instrument just isn’t working. When you fall apart in a performance or stumble over chords at a jam session. When you’re the worst player in the room and you know it.

All musicians encounter these barriers at some point in their life. No exceptions.

But here’s the catch: The thing that sets great players apart from everyone else is that they keep going.

They push through the pain and frustration. They push through the boredom and mental blocks because they love it. There’s simply no other way.

Clark Terry

What are your musical barriers?

Right now you probably have some musical barriers hanging over your head.

Trouble improvising in all keys, wishing for better technique, difficulty learning tunes by ear, frustration with transcribing language…

Or you maybe you’ve built up a solid foundation of skills, but are bored with your playing and don’t know where to go next.

These are all challenges that will push you to improve. And the truth is that many of these skills will take a lot of work, but the key is starting with the right resources.

Taking shots in the dark will waste a lot of time and energy. Trying to learn tunes by ear or transcribing solos without ear training is going to be painfully frustrating. And trying to improvise over tunes without language is confusing and discouraging.

Don’t spend hours practicing the wrong things, be sure to have a plan before you start – that’s why we’re here to help.

Sure, improvisation is difficult for any musician, but remember, it’s because of this challenge that it’ll become one of the most worthwhile pursuits in your life.

So You Want to Keep Improving?

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