How is your sense of jazz time?

I’ve been listening to Youtube videos of jazz players. Not the stars, but players who most people would consider to be very capable. If you consider music skill and talent to be a smooth continuum, I want to talk about the players in the circled part of the line below. Not the greats at the…

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Finding meaning for your jazz playing

I just read Viktor Frankl’s classic, Man’s Search For Meaning. It’s been on my reading list for a long time so my recent sojourn to the northern Arizona flower-covered mountains gave me the opportunity to finally read it. In essence, the book is Frankl’s horrifying account of his life in Nazi concentration camps and what…

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Warm up your ear for improvisation

We are all pretty good at warming up our bodies to play our instruments. Brass players require a little extra as we limber up the vibrating mechanism called our lips. For that, we play long tones, lip slurs, tonguing, etc. While each instrument has different needs for warming up physically, each one of us can…

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So you REALLY think staring at chords helps you improvise better?

Learning to play jazz starts with the exploration of chords. You learn D minor to G7 to C major and all sorts of permutations of that progression and many others. Once you learn the theory of chords, you improvise over them using scales that are associated with each chord. Dorian, Mixolydian, Locrian, Diminished, Blues, and…

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Memorization and jazz improvisation

I received an email this morning from a classical pianist eager to improve her jazz skills. Her question involves memorization, which she considers her ‘weakest area’. She asked, “How do I train my brain to play without music?” I’m turning my answer into a post because this is such a common question. She is certainly…

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About a metronome

I originally meant to write this as a reply to a comment Richie Beirach wrote on my blog. But as I started writing, I realized that this could be the springboard for something much more important. I wrote a blog post last week suggesting that of all the tools we jazz players have at our…

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Don’t blame the tool if you use it for the wrong task

There are lots of ‘tools’ available to someone learning to become a better jazz player. Recordings of great players Method books Scales A pitch tuner Transcribing Harmonic knowledge Patterns Band in a Box A metronome A keyboard (for non-piano players) A recording device Jam sessions A teacher Are they good or bad? It depends on…

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Your mind plays jazz, not your instrument

This is a recurring theme to my writing, interview questions, books, and courses. As Hal Galper famously (to me at least) once said pointing to his head, “THIS is the real instrument we play.” He meant that improvisation comes from your musical mind, not from your instrument. I see evidence of this constently from myself…

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