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Where does that next screw go? Argh…

I had a funny experience yesterday.

After weeks of them being shoved under the couch in heavy, ominous cardboard boxes, I finally decided to stop putting it off and get to work.

What am I referring to?

The answer:

Some flat packed furniture my wife and I recently purchased from a ‘well-known budget furniture store’ (I’m sure you know the place I’m talking about).

With excitement and a sense of trepidation, I carefully opened the first box.

Piles of MDF wood, about 100 screws, 50 nuts and bolts (not kidding), and some scanty instructions.

I tried to remain optimistic…

Fast forward the clock by 4 hours, and I was frustrated, needless to say.

After several bouts of getting the pieces back to front, missing a locking bolt and having to improvise, and the monotony of drilling in hundreds of fixtures into flaky MDF…

Sweating, overwhelmed and at my wit’s end, I finally finished…

The first cabinet.


There were two cabinets to make.

All of a sudden, I realized something…

Sure, the furniture might have been cheap, but it just meant that I ended up essentially working for less than minimum wage for the furniture store that entire afternoon.

Not good.

* * *

And so likewise, my friend, is the nature of getting free information off the web about learning jazz guitar.

Sure, it may not cost much in dollars, but it costs you way more in the precious resource that you can never replenish – your time.

There’s loads (loads!) of information on jazz guitar on the internet. You could download something new every day for the rest of your life, and there would still be enough to sift through 10 times over.


Information alone is not enough to help you progress.

Information which fails to ‘join the dots’ and help you see the full picture of learning to play jazz guitar and improvise like a pro is more hindrance than help.

Information without a chance to discuss with other likeminded people, or to be able to ask questions to make sure you’re on the right track, is a slow, confusing route to mastery. Who has that much time anyway?

So, do yourself a favor…

Put yourself on the waiting list here for the upcoming re-release of my groundbreaking online course, The Fundamentals of Jazz Guitar Improvisation.

This was a sell-out last time it was released earlier this year, and given the level of interest in it at the moment it’s likely that it will quickly sell out out this time too.

If you want to stop wandering in the abyss of disconnected, conflicting advice on jazz guitar and get on the fast track to creating the foundation for your improvisation skills, then look no further.

Get on the waiting list for the upcoming online course now and get special early bird pricing, exclusive just for you as a FretDojo reader.

Join the waiting list for the online course now by clicking here.

Talk soon,


Greg O’Rourke,
Founder, Fret Dojo
World Leader in Online Jazz Guitar Education

Come Hang Out With Me


Get my New eBook: The Easy Guide To Chord Melody Guitar


356 Page Guide to Complete Chord Melody Mastery!

“Ear” training in jazz? I don’t think so…

The one piece of advice I see consistently in jazz education is the importance of “ear” training.


Is it ​really​ your ears you’re training?

I don’t think so.

Think about it:

The ears are just a fleshy protuberance on ​each side of your noggin. They can’t really be trained ​per say.

So what does this term “ear training” really refer to?

What is being trained?

The answer:

​Your mind.

​It’s your mind that needs to be trained. It needs to be trained to recognize the unique sounds of jazz, and have the training to reproduce those sounds on the fretboard without any obstruction.

I’ve found it very helpful to think in this way when it comes to studying jazz. It clears the mystique away – ‘training your ears’ is a bit too fuzzy-wuzzy a way of describing the actual process.

So what am I getting at here?

Well, when you say ‘mind training’ instead of ‘ear training’ it makes the study of jazz much easier to understand – and far more doable.

Here’s the thing:

When you boil things down, there are only two “mind trainings” you need to do in order to become a great sounding jazz player.

*Drumroll*…Here they are:

​#1: Aquire (i.e memorize) great sounding jazz vocabulary

#2: Use the jazz vocabulary you’ve acquired as a springboard for your own soloing ideas.

​That’s it.

That’s how to get good at jazz.

The best part?

​Anyone​ can do this. And if you’re smart about it, it doesn’t need to be a 16 hour a day Charlie Parker-esque marathon.

Here’s the thing:

Many players forget about #1 – they try to improvise without acquiring a stock of solid jazz vocabulary. (And even if they do do it, they aren’t practicing in a way that will retain the material effectively in their mind.)

They try to go straight to #2 – and they fail.

The reason?

They don’t have any solid foundations to build their improvisation skills upon.

The good news:

Due to popular demand, in a few weeks I’ll once again be opening the doors up to my ​Fundamentals of Jazz Guitar Improvisation ​online course.

This course will show you the exact steps you need to do in order to achieve points #1 and #2 outlined above.

No longer will you waste precious time going around in circles and getting nowhere with your jazz playing.

Instead, you’ll a) learn the essential ingredients of jazz vocabulary, b) learn how to effectively retain that vocabulary in your mind through some neat shortcuts, and c) learn how to be creative with the vocabulary so you can then develop your own unique voice as as a jazz improviser.

All you need to do is go on my waiting list to make sure you’re the first to know when it’s coming out.

Click here to go on the waiting list for upcoming improvisation course now.

Jazzily yours,


Greg O’Rourke,
Founder, Fret Dojo

World Leader in Online Jazz Guitar Education

Come Hang Out With Me


Get my New eBook: The Easy Guide To Chord Melody Guitar


356 Page Guide to Complete Chord Melody Mastery!

Why transcribing solos is so important – and why you don’t need to do it…

I’m sure you’ve heard how important transcribing is for any serious jazz musician learning to improvise.

And it is important.

The reason?

Transcription is one of the time-honoured means for improving your jazz vocabulary.

It can rapidly build your jazz vocabuary, and teaches you the subtle nuances of how to speak the language of jazz.

But here’s the thing:

Why does it work? Why is transcription so essential?

I’ll get to that in a moment. But first, I need to clarify something important.

Transcription works best when you do it by EAR – i.e., not writing it down (at least not until you can play along with the recording you’re transcribing). This point is important, and you’ll see the reason below.

Ok, so anyway back to our topic – What is the main reason transcription works so well in improving your soloing skills?

It works like this:

When you transcribe a solo from a recording by ear, it’s essentially forcing you to memorize the material off the recording!

Simply put, that’s all it is doing.

In fact, when transcribing a recording by ear there is no way to play that solo except from memory.

And this highlights the biggest mistake that so many jazz players make when they attempt to improvise.

Often aspiring players think improvising is coming up with something entirely new, that’s never been done before in the history of mankind…

But that can be very misleading.

The best jazz musicians have learned to improvise via a 3 step process often cited by the great jazz trumpeter Clark Terry:

“Imitation, Assimilation, Innovation.”

So, if you want to improvise and sound like a jazz player, you need to start from somewhere (i.e. imitate). This is the material you have transcribed and memorized.

From there, you seek to internalize and understand what is contained within the solo and use this as raw material throughout your own improvisations (assimilate). Finally, you then draw out the general concepts from the material you’ve learned but use those concepts as starting points for your own ideas (innovate).

Often players try to go to the very last step – innovation – without first going through the process of 1) imitation and 2) assimilation.

So, in summary, this is why transcribing works so well.

If you do it properly, it provides you with a large storehouse of memorized music, that serves as the raw material for your own improvisations – and, thus, is the first step on your path as a jazz player.

But here’s the thing:

Is transcribing the only way to memorize musical material?

No! It’s just that the process of transcribing naturally forces you to memorize large amounts of it.

So, ironically it is possible to get the main benefit of transcribing…without transcribing.

But you have to be careful in your approach. Here’s what you need to do:

Start by learning a few short lines that are based on the key chord progressions in jazz, such as major 251s, minor 251s, and dominant lines.

But (here’s the important part)…

Memorize them in a very attentive, methodical way, and make sure you’re able to play them without looking at the sheet music or TAB as soon as possible.

Then, test yourself by seeing if you can play the lines exactly as you learned them as you play along with a backing track.

The result?

This will give you the main benefits of transcription, i.e. imitation, without you having to spend hours going through the process transcribing.

From there, you can then go through the process of assimilation, and finally, innovation.

Cool huh?

Here’s the thing though:

Whichever way you go about increasing your jazz vocabulary, the main point to keep in mind is that you rigorously memorize good quality material. That will create a secure ‘treasure house’ of jazz vocabulary in your mind to naturally draw from and eventually make your own.

(Of course, there are other benefits to transcribing recordings which you won’t get through my ‘transcribing without transcribing’ technique, such as how great players structure a solo, learning the subtle aspects of articulation and feel, and so on – but that’s another story…)

But now, enough of my ramblings – I have a question for YOU…

For those of you that have transcribed solos, what are the most useful ones that have taught you the most when it comes to building your jazz vocabulary?

Let me know by leaving a comment below, or otherwise, let me know what you thought about this article – how do you rate my point of view on this subject? It would be interesting to get your thoughts.




Greg O’Rourke,

Founder, Fret Dojo

World Leader in Online Jazz Guitar Education

Come Hang Out With Me


Get my New eBook: The Easy Guide To Chord Melody Guitar


356 Page Guide to Complete Chord Melody Mastery!

I just remembered something I want to tell you…

Let me let you in on a little secret.

Lately, I’ve been completely obsessed with studying books by memory masters – you know, people that can memorize the order of 5 randomly shuffled packs of cards in the space of 10 minutes.

Why this strange fetish, you may ask?

The reason:

Because a lot of jazz guitar isn’t so much about improvising, as it is about remembering.

People often complain (rather dramatically) that when they improvise it’s like being ‘a deer in the headlights’ or having ‘a big blank canvas’, with no idea where to start.

Here’s the thing:

If you haven’t learned jazz vocabulary (i.e. the specific ‘sounds’ in a melodic line that gives it the jazz sound), you won’t sound jazzy when you go to improvise.

But there’s something I would consider even more important than this:

If you can’t remember the jazz vocabulary you’ve learned in the past and how to make it end up on the fretboard…

All that hard work you’ve done learning vocabulary has been largely a waste of time.

Even if you have 8 hours a day to practice, if you can’t remember what you’ve practiced, it will just be like pouring water into a leaky bucket.

Turn your back for one minute, and then look back – lo and behold, the bucket is empty again.

People often complain “I have a terrible memory!” – in fact, most people seem to tell themselves this.

They give the excuse they are ‘getting old’ and becoming forgetful.

But what I’ve been realizing through my fanatical obsession about memory masters is that being able to remember isn’t so much about innate ability.

Case in point: memory masters generally score no higher in cognitive or IQ tests. They have simply acquired the skill of memorization through practice.

It’s all about technique. Learning to memorize things like jazz vocabulary requires that you not only develop your guitar technique, but your memorization technique as well.

The great thing about being able to memorize jazz material faster and easier in the practice room?

Elementary, my dear Watson:

You won’t need to practice nearly as much to remember the same amount of music.

One book, in particular, I’ve gotten a lot out of when it comes to memory training is Moonwalking With Einstein by Joshua Foer – a fascinating look not only at very clever memorization techniques, but also an eye opening journey on how memorization has gradually become a lost art in modern culture.

Over to you…

What techniques, books or resources have YOU come across when it comes to developing the skill of memorization, in particular for remembering musical material?

Leave your reply in the comments below. 

It would be great to get your input, as I’m currently experimenting with some memorization techniques and thinking about the best way to apply them to jazz guitar. I’ll let you know how I go.



Greg O’Rourke,
Founder, Fret Dojo

World Leader in Online Jazz Guitar Education

Come Hang Out With Me


Get my New eBook: The Easy Guide To Chord Melody Guitar


356 Page Guide to Complete Chord Melody Mastery!

Can a bad gig…be good?

Go back in time for a moment, and think to yourself of a performance that…didn’t go quite so well.

Perhaps you lost the form.

Or played some notes that raised a few eyebrows and grimaces from the audience.

Inevitably, that little voice appears from inside your head.

“See? I was right – you’ll NEVER be good at this! Here you go again, screwing up on this tune yet another time…”

What happens next…

Sweaty palms.

Shaking hands.

The feeling like you just want to run away from the bandstand.


I’ll be honest with you…

I’ve been in this situation many times myself.

In fact, it nearly crippled my career.

Upon getting advice about performance anxiety, the general consensus was: “Just keep doing it – you just need more experience! It will get easier…”

But it didn’t get easier.

In fact, every gig that passed by resulted in me getting more and more self-conscious, and I started to second-guess my abilities.

Here’s the thing:

I’m not the only one that this happens to.

A lot of people end their professional musical careers or leave music entirely because of the crippling effects of performance anxiety.

The worst part?

Performance nerves suck out the enjoyment and passion that drew you to music in the first place.


It doesn’t need to be this way.

After training in meditation and mindfulness, I realized something.

The way we view a situation tends to reflect itself back at us in what we experience.

The attitude and philosophy you have towards performing, and the results of performance, is critical to how you experience it, and the results you end up getting.

So, here’s my philosophy:

When it comes to performing, there are no failures – only feedback.

There are only two types of performances really:

Either your performance was 1) a great performance or 2) excellent feedback in order to prepare yourself for your next great performance.

Sometimes the gigs where you flake out are the ones where you learn the most. These experiences are actually the stepping stones you need in order for you to get better.

If you happen to have a bad gig at some point, sometime afterward (over a calming cup of coffee), pause and reflect.

Ask yourself questions like:

  • Were there any triggers that made me nervous?
  • Was there something that was distracting me?
  • If I couldn’t remember the form or had a blank slate when it came to improvising, are there any aspects of my practice technique that needs improvement?
  • How was my attitude on the day of the gig before getting on the bandstand?

Questions like this can be the genesis of you becoming a better player. And these questions can only arise when you’re faced with challenging gigs.

So in the end, it’s our attitude that can either turn towards negative performance experiences into failures, OR the seeds of successes.

So what’s the result of adopting this philosophy towards performing?

I don’t tend to get performance anxiety very much anymore, and if I do, I can manage it effectively without it negatively impacting my performance.

So, give it a try.

Next time you do a gig that doesn’t go as well as you’d hoped, sit back and reflect afterward – it may be the best guitar lesson you’ll ever have.

Over to you…

What are YOUR top tips for keeping your cool on the bandstand and recovering from mistakes?

I would love to hear from you, leave a comment below to share your thoughts…

Keep on jazzin’,


Greg O’Rourke,
Founder, Fret Dojo

World Leader in Online Jazz Guitar Education

Come Hang Out With Me


Get my New eBook: The Easy Guide To Chord Melody Guitar


356 Page Guide to Complete Chord Melody Mastery!

What REALLY annoys me…

Do you know what really annoys me, more than anything else?

It’s those huge books that line the shelves in the jazz guitar section of the music shop.

You know, the ones called something like The Complete Guide to Jazz Guitar Soloing, 100 Lessons for Jazz Guitar, The Ultimate Jazz Guitar Companion…

They feature promises on the cover such as:

“384 pages of everything you need to get started soloing today! Over 90 backing tracks, 3000 exercises and the essential scale and arpeggio patterns you need to know in order to completely master the skill of jazz improvisation on guitar!”

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that they aren’t telling the truth about what’s in these encyclopedic references.

What annoys me is that…

THIS IS what’s in these books.

384 pages.

3000 exercises.


Every scale and arpeggio pattern you could ever hope of learning in the short space of one lifetime (or maybe three.)

I’ll be honest with you:

I can’t help laughing when I see books like this.

Because they capitalize on something that you may not realize about my line of work, which is:

It’s REALLY easy for a guitar teacher to make a book like this.

The concept is simple. Just quickly write out a few scale diagrams, press the transpose button in the music notation software, do a few melodic variations and copy and paste to your heart’s content.

Voila! – a hefty looking tome of impressive scale and arpeggio patterns, which should keep the punters happy (and bewildered) for months to come.

Here’s the thing:

Although these might be good reference books to have on your shelf for occasionally looking up some patterns, they will not help you one jot to learn to improvise and actually sound like a jazz player.

The reason:

Scale patterns and arpeggios, in and of themselves, are NOT jazz vocabulary. They are more like what the alphabet is to languages.

Now let me ask you:

Is the alphabet what we use to talk to each other when we have a conversation?


Here’s what you actually need:

Words, phrases, and ideas that make sense to your listener.

So remember:

Quality of material is far better than quantity when it comes to learning jazz guitar.

Just because a book has a lot of pages doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s valuable or helpful for your learning.

Now now, don’t feel guilty about all that money you’ve spent on these great wads of paper…

They make brilliant doorstoppers!

But now I want your input:

Let me know what books YOU have actually found useful when it comes to learning jazz guitar.

Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

Have a great weekend,



Greg O’Rourke,

Founder, Fret Dojo

World Leader in Online Jazz Guitar Education

Come Hang Out With Me


Get my New eBook: The Easy Guide To Chord Melody Guitar


356 Page Guide to Complete Chord Melody Mastery!

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