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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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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Keeping sharp musically as we enter year two of COVID

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…

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Bobby Shew on proper breathing for brass players

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…

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Ron Carter on how he’s practicing right now

I interviewed Ron Carter yesterday for the next Jazz Master Summit. He was gracious and full of insight. We spoke on a variety of topics, not the least of which was that second Miles quintet and how they did what they did on stage as well as their preparation for recordings. Early on, Ron told…

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Randy Brecker on practicing during the COVID-19 lockdown

I remember sitting in the back of a large music classroom at the University of Redlands in California almost three years ago. Jiggs Wigham was talking about all things trombone at that year’s International Trombone Festival. Jiggs said something early on that has stuck with me ever since. He said, “I hate to practice.” I…

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How to most effectively practice your musical instrument

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…

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