Keeping sharp musically as we enter year two of COVID

By Michael Lake | February 16, 2021 |

It was February 3 of last year that 9,800 people had the virus and 200 had died worldwide. Then on March 11 the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a Pandemic, with WHO Director-General declaring at a briefing in Geneva that the agency is “deeply concerned by the alarming levels of spread and severity” of…

How your eyes make it so much harder to improvise jazz

By Michael Lake | February 10, 2021 |

Here’s an experiment for you. Take a look at the following chord chart. Does it look inviting and pleasant to improvise over? Probably not, and that’s because you are evaluating it through your eyes and analytical brain. The message most likely is THIS LOOKS HARD. If you were to improvise over these changes, what notes…

A shiny new website and how to save money upgrading yours

By Michael Lake | February 9, 2021 |

I couldn’t take it any longer. Richie Beirach’s broken-down website built sometime late in the Bronz Age was begging to be taken out of its misery. Broken links, decades-old news, and the original “Under Construction” header message were not doing him any favors. Like a lot of musicians, Richie didn’t think it mattered. After all,…

Audiobooks and the new one by Dave Liebman called The Art of Skill

By Michael Lake | February 7, 2021 |

As an experiment about two months ago, I recorded my reading of the book Richie Beirach and I produced called the Lineage of Modern Jazz Piano. I then made it into an audiobook. The audiobook market is growing by about 25% over the past couple years, so that must mean that people are becoming more…

How well do you TRULY know these standard tunes?

By Michael Lake | February 1, 2021 |

You show up at a jam session and Autumn Leaves, All the Things You Are, and Bye Bye Blackbird are called in their standard keys. You know the melody for each of those tunes and make your way pretty well through your soloing. Looking back, however, how well did you know those tunes? For most…

The many benefits of recording yourself playing your instrument

By Michael Lake | January 31, 2021 |

Last week I sent out a video lesson from my course Improvisation Savvy. The lesson took players through the process of playing on their instrument the music that lives and is often trapped within their musical imagination. A few people completed it but not nearly as many as I had hoped for. In thinking about…

Here’s how to play the authentic improvised music that’s inside your head

By Michael Lake | January 27, 2021 |

I put out a challenge last week that was tied to a new lesson for my online course Improvisation Savvy. It involves singing an 8-bar improvisation over a provided rhythm track and then playing on one’s instrument a transcription of what was sung. The point is to hear your authentic music coming from your instrument.…

How I create my video lessons

By Michael Lake | January 23, 2021 |

Someone asked me recently about the technology I use to create my video lessons. He was reacting to the recent lesson from my online course Improvisation Savvy that I shared publicly. As I wrote in my response, which I’ll post below, I have always believed in putting forth the highest possible quality in everything I…

Hearing and improving your time and rhythm

By Michael Lake | January 20, 2021 |

A jazz musician’s sense of time is one of if not the most important defining aspect of his or her playing. As a soloist, you can play “wrong” notes with a good time feel, and it will sound much better than “right” notes with a poor sense of time. What do I mean by a…

Bobby Shew on proper breathing for brass players

By Michael Lake | January 17, 2021 |

Bobby Shew is a well-known trumpet great. What people may not know is that he is also a world-class teacher. I had an opportunity to sit down with Bobby and ask him questions for close to three hours. We covered a lot of topics, but the nearest and dearest to his heart was on his…