Here are my thoughts for acquiring jazz chops.
1. Learn and memorize tunes by ear.
2. Join a band and play as much as possible.
3. Transcribe like crazy.
4. Record everything you do.
5. Learn more tunes.
6. Technique with a metronome. Various tempi.
7. Play Bach, Debussy and Faure.
8. Keep up your lessons.
9. Join a second band that plays only original music.
10. Write some original music.
Bonus. Read and explore the history of jazz prior to school.
If I can help you call me.
Jamey Aebersold gave a great demonstration, which was so revealing to me as a jazz teacher.
He assembled the students in the auditorium at University of Louisville. He would pluck one “lucky contestant” from the crowd to join him on stage. Jamey would then hand the musician a microphone and instruct them to sing/scat/hauler a jazz solo along with the chords he would randomly play on the piano.
Everyone could scat, some very well, others so so. But the consensus was that the “singers” could scat better than they could play. Hmmm. So, the problem isn’t in the head, it’s in the hands.
Conclusion 1: Jamey was encouraging everyone to improve their general musicianship skills on and off the instrument.
Conclusion 2: If you are a pianist or guitarist, sing and play at the same time.
Jamey's second reveal.
One morning he asks the musicians, “How many of you can play 50 jazz standards from memory?” I enthusiastically raise my hand. Looking around the room of 250+ there were very few hands joining me.
How many can play 25?
Overwhelming the answer was zero.
Conclusion #3 It’s hard to play freely when your head is in a book.
Conclusion #4 These musicians didn’t trust themselves to play without a book/sheet/app in front of them. He was happy to sell them another book.
I hope this helps you begin to think through what may be holding you back.
So many students are seeking the "secret", the secret that sends them to the front of the line.
Alas, there is more than one secret. And they are all hiding in plain sight.
Here are a few of the secrets:
1. Practice technique with a metronome.
2. Master theory appropriate to your level, including harmony.
3. Read music history, knowing the repertoire and the historical context from whence it comes.
4. And most importantly, ear training. Connecting the ear with the hands.
Known by some students as the boring bits. Recognized by professionals as the exciting bits.
Below is a video of the Duke Ellington student staple, Satin doll. The video is cued for the B section or middle 8. Listen to the trombone "lick" played when the chord progression lands on F. Figure is out. It is in the key of F, starts on A. Now check out the video I've made on what to do with this lick.
If I can help, call me.
Found on pages 77 & 78
I highly recommend this book to all my Jazz students.
"Without a sound you have nothing?" Glen Hall
What does this mean? Playing simply with good tone and beautiful phrasing is more important that playing fast, playing loud, or trying to play above your level.
Artistry is possible for beginners who understand this.
You've got to learn your instrument. Then, you practice, practice, practice. And then, when you finally get up there on the bandstand, forget all that and just wail.
I'm a professional pianist and music educator in West Toronto Ontario. I'm also a devoted student and teacher of the drums.