- It's a ten-year project, at least. I'm in year six as a jazz drummer. I practice, on average one hour a day. That's 3,650 hours at the kit in ten years. Breakdowns for me like this: two hours jazz band practice on Monday. Two hour practice with rock band on Wednesday. Ninety minute weekly class with Terry Clarke. Jazz camp in the summer and solitary practice. It doesn't include listening to band recordings from rehearsals, or mental practice while I sit in traffic.
- Get a teacher. YouTube just reinforces what you learn in class. Don't scrimp here. Find a teacher who inspires. A drum magazine recently ran an article on the 10 things every drummer should know. It was the basics, like how to hold a stick and sit correctly. Stuff a teacher will address in the beginning. Fundamentals YouTube never addresses when you go searching for the "cool stuff".
- Learn tunes by ear from recordings, not from fake books! By ear you will absorb the sound of the rhythm and articulation unique to Jazz. Jazz is all about "ears first". The musician who knows the most tunes wins.
- Learn to really play your instrument. No shortcuts. No excuses. I've watched many adult learners waste years looking for shortcuts. Wayne Gretzky said the secret to his success on the ice was that he loved every aspect of the game. Which means he loved the so-called boring bits.
- Listen to recordings. All the time. At least an hour or two a day. (Ten years=2 hours*365 days*10 years=7,300 hours of listening) Listen like a musician. Ask yourself, “what’s going on here?”
- Harmonic rhythm
- Solo order
- Study how to learn. It is called metacognition. Google it. It's fascinating.
- Jam with others. Jazz is a conversation, not a monologue. Being a solitaire is like learning Spanish from apps and the internet. Everything is going well on your vacation until a Spaniard talks back, then you're sunk.
- Go to concerts, be inspired. YouTube is not enough.
- Learn the theory to supplement what you learn by ear. The theory will support your understanding of what you hear.
- Memorize tunes by transcribing your part. Jamie Aebersold's beginners list is a good place to start. Tunes I've played recently at Jazz jams in Toronto?
- Now's the time
- Autumn leaves
- All the things you are
- Rhythm changes
- Miles Davis "Kind of Blue" tunes
- Tune up
- Blues in F or Bb
- Stella by starlight
- A night in Tunisia
Conclusion: It's a journey not a destination. With good guidance and a commitment to learning how to practice it is a thrilling experience. Who knows? Someday we may jam at the Rex together.