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Kit Kat for Jazz Guitar Cats

Today I want to talk about something critically important for your jazz guitar practice session.

And it happens to be the easiest, most relaxing thing you could possibly do in your session.

It doesn’t require any theoretical knowledge, any technique, or..well…anything.

And yet, it’s perhaps one of the most important things you can do in your session. And skilfully using them can double your results in the practice room.

“What is this mysterious silver bullet you doth speak of?” I can hear you say.

Well, my friend, it’s simple.

Taking short breaks during your practice session.

“Huh? What’s the big deal about that?” (I knew you were going to ask that.)

Here’s the thing:

One of the biggest things I get asked about from my readers is this:

“There’s so much material I need to learn and remember in order to play jazz guitar! Not only is it overwhelming, I’m finding it takes too long in my practice sessions to memorize even a small part of what I need to advance my playing. What can I do?“.

The answer:

Scientists have discovered something very interesting when observing how humans learn – the primacy/recency effect.

When we spend a practice session learning material (e.g. vocabulary, scales, tunes, whatever), we tend to retain the most of what we covered in the start of the session, and at the end of the session. In the middle of a session, there’s a dip in retention.

But here’s the thing:

If you add a short break in the middle of your session, that means you create an extra ‘end’ (i.e. at the end of the first ‘mini’ session) and an extra ‘beginning’ (at the start of the 2nd mini session).

Which means…

You can double your retention of material you cover in your practice session, simply by adding a short break in the middle.

Go for a quick walk. Make a cuppa. Have a Kit Kat. Whatever.

Just do something that you like doing, that is relaxing and completely unrelated to your practice session.

Not only does it give your hands a break, it will take advantage of the primacy/recency effect described above.

That’s not all:

Because your mind is refreshed, having a short break will help better consolidate what you just covered – AND you’ll have more ‘attention energy’ available for the next piece of material you want to tackle on your to-do list.

Once you come back from your break, make sure you briefly review what you covered in the previous session – if you do, it will be far more likely to stick in your memory.

So go on, give it a try – take a short break mid-practice session. This is perhaps the easiest practice tip I could ever give you, but one of the most important ones!

Speaking of practice, you also need to make sure you are practicing the right things, the right way.

Help is at hand…

In just 2 weeks, I’ll once again be opening the doors to my online course, Fundamentals of Jazz Guitar Improvisation.

If you want to have a practice session worth having a Kit Kat in the middle of, then make sure you sign up to this revolutionary program.

Subscribe to my site to be informed when the next round of enrolments to the course will be offered (blue box on this page).

May the jazz be with you,

Greg

 

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

 

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Put away dem backing tracks…

Last week I was editing together the recent interview I conducted with jazz guitar superstar Howard Alden, when something he said really stuck out at me:

“Spend some time playing without backing tracks, without even a metronome. Do this even if you’re just doing some single line soloing or playing a melody. This will build your internal sense of rhythm.”

I think this is one of the best pieces of advice you are ever going to hear to improve your jazz playing.

Too often, players get into the trap of using some sort of backing track any time they go to practice.

In a way, logically it makes sense. Unless you’re trying to play jazz guitar solo, having some sort of backing track to play along with would help prepare you for playing with other musicians at a gig.

Here’s the thing though:

There’s a problem with this approach.

You see, backing tracks are kind of like a ‘crutch’. It’s the same kind of thing as driving a couple of blocks down to your local store to pick up a few things, instead of walking. Sure, you’ll get the thing you were looking for, but in terms of your fitness? Not that good.

Similarly, if you use backing tracks to practice along with all the time, your ears will always subtly be responding to the cues of the chord changes on the track, rather than hearing them internally.

Likewise, your rhythm feel will be propped up by the backing track as well, and your internal sense of rhythm will never develop.

So, put away dem backing tracks for a little while.

If you’ve used backing tracks a lot up till now, it can feel strange and kind of… ‘naked’ to do this.

But naked is good.

Practicing single line soloing or melodies by yourself, and on your own, can do wonders for developing your inner sense of the music.

The result?

Once you have a strong internal feel for the changes, you can then start to be much more creative with both your phrasing and rhythm. You’ll no longer be responding to cues from backing tracks – your own creative impulses will be the driving force.

If you haven’t already, check out my interview with Howard Alden at the link below as today’s tip was just one of a truckload of practice techniques he talks about that every jazz guitarist should be aware of:

Click here to listen to the interview with Howard Alden now.

And while you’re at it, leave a comment below to let me know what you thought about this simple, but incredibly important practice tip I’ve shared with you today.

Greg O’Rourke

 

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

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Interview With Howard Alden, Internationally Acclaimed Jazz Guitarist

Interview With Howard Alden, Internationally Acclaimed Jazz Guitarist

This week on FretDojo, I’m happy to share with you an interview I recently held with internationally acclaimed jazz guitarist Howard Alden.

Howard is one of the leaders of jazz guitar in the modern era. His accolades include:

  • Student the Guitar Institute of Technology in 1977-78 with Herb Ellis, Joe Pass, and Howard Roberts
  • Collaborations with Dick Hyman, Dan Barrett, Bucky Pizzarelli and many others
  • Alden recorded the guitar performances for Sean Penn‘s character Emmet Ray in Woody Allen‘s 1999 film Sweet and Lowdown and taught Penn how to mime the performances for the film(!)
  • Recorded many albums with Concord Records as well as other labels, including four with the famed 7 string jazz guitar innovator George Van Eps
  • Has been the recipient of many awards, including:
    • Best Emerging Guitar Talent, JazzTimes (1990)
    • Guitar Player of the Year, American Guitar Museum (2003)
    • Top 75 Guitarists, Down Beat (2008)
  • Jazz critics have said of Howard Alden that “He may be the best of his generation” and “the most impressive and creative member of a new generation of jazz guitarists.”

In the interview below, I go on a deep dive with Howard about his journey with jazz guitar from a youngster to where he is today. I also ask Howard to reveal his secrets for how to maximise the results you get in the practice room – there were some fantastic tips Howard gives in this interview that you should definitely pay attention to.

Interview With Howard Alden (Audio Version)

 

Download the audio file here – so you can listen to it on your mp3 player or phone (Right Click + Save As…) 

Resources mentioned by Howard Alden:

Find out more about Howard at howardalden.com

*STOP PRESS* – Jazz Guitar Improvisation Online Course Re-Opening Soon!

Before you go, a quick reminder about something very exciting – I’m about to open the doors to the next release of my online course, The Fundamentals of Jazz Guitar Improvisation. The last time I ran this course earlier this year the students that went through it achieved huge improvements with their jazz guitar improvisation skills, and I’m sure that you can do the same.

Make sure that you’re subscribed to my mailing list by entering your details in the box on this page so you know when I will begin to take bookings for the course. 

Let me know what you thought about this article by leaving a comment below… 

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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.

But:

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.

But:

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

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

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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.

But…

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

==
Greg O’Rourke,
Founder, Fret Dojo

World Leader in Online Jazz Guitar Education

Come Hang Out With Me

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

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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.

Cheers,

Greg

==

Greg O’Rourke,

Founder, Fret Dojo

World Leader in Online Jazz Guitar Education

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