What is the jazz vocabulary and how you can learn it?

I recently listened to a podcast from Brent Vaartstra of LearnJazzStandards.com. Brent does a nice job with his podcasts, and his latest should give us all some food for thought. From his podcast, he shared the results of a survey he sent out that was responded to by over 1,000 jazz musicians. What caught my…

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Thoughts for a prosperous New Year

“Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go. They merely determine where you start.”       – Nido Qubein Happy New Year to you! For me and perhaps you, a brand new year is a marker impressing upon us  to continue making positive changes in our lives. With the craziness of the pandemic continuing…

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The four stages of competence

Mastering a skill involves an integration of awareness and competence. Being aware of your current level of competence is necessary for improving any skill from riding a bike to brain surgery, including of course, jazz improvisation. In the 1970’s, an employee with Gordon Training International named Noel Burch developed what he called the Four Stages…

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A personal note to share from David Amram

The great composer, instrumentalist, and humanitarian David Amram replied to my post the other day on the book Richie Beirach and I put together on the film Whiplash. David occasionally writes me long expressions of his reactions to certain things I post, and since his 91st birthday is coming up in a week, I asked…

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Demonstrating the tangible elements of good jazz time

On Monday’s post I asked readers the question, what is your feel for time? I wanted to raise the idea of being aware of one’s personal feel for time and of the importance of good time in jazz improvisation. I also made the point that good time trumps carefully chosen ‘right’ notes. Even the most…

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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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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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