I recently attended the Louisville Jazz Workshop at the University of Louisville in Louisville in Kentucky. The legendary bassist Rufus Reid gave a stunning solo recital. His playing was exciting, imaginative, dynamic, and colourful. Later that day he shared his practice tips with the audience of jazz students. He stressed that no matter how long our practice session might be students need to include the following:
• Technique. Practice the basics and get on top of your instrument. Make sure you can keep the beat, the count, and the groove.
• Style. Practice producing a “good sound”. Play your instrument in "a nice way". Be creative with your approach.
• Repertoire. Learn the jazz standards by heart. Listen to the jazz canon, and then play along with these recordings.
• Patience. He stressed being reasonable with yourself by not pushing past your actual ability. It takes time to learn to play both your instrument and the jazz idiom well.
Thank you to Frank for the note outline.
Watching my students perform is always a pleasure.
Piano students often ask me, “what should I focus on in my practice sessions?” Here is my reply.
Pieces, etudes, theory, sightreading, ear training, history, technique, ensemble skills
Here is my top 10 list of skills to work on ahead of camp. You don't need to be an expert, but you will need some familiarity with the following skills and activities.
1. Comping and voice leading chords.
2. Practice sightreading simple chord charts like blues in Bb and F, Summertime, Killer Joe, etc. Click out the Aebersold picture for some suggestions. By clicking on the image, you will go to a product page. I don't take a commission.
3. Play along with recordings.
4. Record yourself and listen back.
5. Practice playing louder because drums are loud.
6. Practice your right-hand broken chords for every tune on the Aebersold list.
7. Use a metronome on everything you play and practice.
8. Learn to clap and count aloud eighth note jazz rhythms.
9. Listen to jazz daily.
10. Sign up early to camp because piano spots go quickly.
What tunes should you practice?
If I can help you, call me. I've attended a dozen jazz camps over the years as a pianist and drummer.
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 percussionist and drum teacher.