The key to satisfying jazz improvisation may not be learning all the scales.

By Michael Lake | December 27, 2019 |

A trombone player who bought Trombone Improvisation Savvy a while back wrote that as an orchestral player proficient at reading music, he feels overwhelmed when looking at chord changes. He wrote that the book isn’t giving him what he needs in terms of chord scales to practice until they become part of muscle memory. He…

How to most effectively practice your musical instrument

By Michael Lake | December 22, 2019 |

I received an email from a subscriber asking an excellent question. He asks how he can optimize his time in the three hours per day he dedicates to practicing. Is it better to have fewer things to work on and spend more time on those, or to practice on more things and extend the total…

How to prepare for sitting in on a jam session

By Michael Lake | December 17, 2019 |

One of the most important activities a jazz musician can take part in is a jam session. Spontaneity is the essence of jazz and if you’re not in a band that plays regularly, you probably don’t play live often enough with other musicians. Play live with and in front of people is what strengthens your…

The five minute daily habit to make you a much better improviser

By Michael Lake | December 12, 2019 |

Writing yesterday’s post, I had no intention of writing a post script. But as I thought more about the section in which I suggested a 15 minute daily routine to build your jazz improvisation, I wanted to suggest an even easier routine. In the previous post, I laid out a 15 minute daily routine that…

Master this discipline and be a much better improviser

By Michael Lake | December 11, 2019 |

A flautist (aka flute player) I’ve been working with wrote me recently that she is excited to notice that her “ear to instrument reaction time” is improving. She is habitually working on a few exercises such as the Brahms Lullaby in 12 keys and Jazz Patterns for Ear and seeing some delightful results. This article…

An electronic orchestration of The First Noel

By Michael Lake | December 3, 2019 |

Knowing Christmas was coming, the time when I annually reach inward to give birth to a new rendition of a holiday tune, I first bought a couple of interesting synths for inspiration. One was Straylight by Native Instruments, a sample-based granular synthesizer. I’m a sucker for the X-Y modulation matrix. The other is Trailer expressions…

How to develop your unique musical personality and style through right brain connection with your instrument

By Michael Lake | November 27, 2019 |

Think about playing using your right (creative) brain. It’s the part of your brain that, if connected well to your instrument, allows for the most authentic improvisation. You hear a note, you’re better able to play that note. Your instrument becomes the amplifier of your musical “voice”. But there’s another aspect to improvisation that benefits…

How to improvise more melodically – part 2 of 2

By Michael Lake | November 14, 2019 |

30 percent of your brain’s cerebral cortex is dedicated to visual processing. A paultry three percent is dedicated to hearing. That says a lot. One, it explains why it’s harder to retain the content of an audio book than reading a physical book. It explains why people often say, “I’m a visual learner” (of course…

How to improvise more melodically – part 1 of 2

By Michael Lake | November 11, 2019 |

The title of this post reflects the majority of responses I received recently when I asked the question of 1,500 musicians: What are you struggling to accomplish with your jazz playing Some people put it in terms of playing solos that were more inventive or riveting, or creative. One respondent wrote, “Combining ideas into melodies…

The core skill of jazz improvisation you have probably not yet been taught

By Michael Lake | September 1, 2019 |

It’s been way too long since I wrote something here. My musical life has shifted and blogging has taken a back seat. It wasn’t that long ago that I felt guilty if I hadn’t written anything that week. As you’ll see throughout the next thousand words, my lack of blogging has not been for a…