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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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Interview with Mark Whitfield, The Man Himself

Interview with Mark Whitfield, The Man Himself

It’s finally here:

As the final post in the FretDojo.com series on jazz blues guitar I’ve featured this month, I’m honored to welcome critically acclaimed jazz guitarist Mark Whitfield, in this exclusive interview.

Simply put, this was one of the best conversations about jazz guitar I’ve ever had, and I was thrilled that Mark had time in his busy schedule for our conversation.

mark-whitfield-graceThis interview also includes the title track off Mark’s brand new album, Grace  his 15th album as a bandleader and first release for 7 years.

A truly family affair, the new album features his two sons, Davis Whitfield on keys and Mark Whitfield Jr. on drums, as part of the Whitfield Family Band. I highly recommend checking it out! Get the album here>>

Watch the video version of the interview below, or click the link in the yellow box to download an audio only version, so you can listen to it ‘on-the-go’:

 

Cool Bonus: Don’t have time to watch the whole interview? Get access to an audio only version you can download by clicking here…

 

About Mark Whitfield

Mark Whitfield is one of the most highly regarded jazz guitarists alive today.

Throughout his career, he’s collaborated with legendary artists including Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey, Quincy Jones, Ray Charles, Herbie Hancock, George Benson, and many others.

In 1990 the New York Times dubbed Whitfield “The Best Young Guitarist in the Business”. Later that year, Warner Bros. released his debut album The Marksman.

I reached out to Mark after working on a transcription from one of the tracks from this album: The Blues From Way Back, a jazz guitar blues I’ve been featuring lately on this website.

(Check out the full transcription I did of Mark’s solo from the Blues From Way Back here and a breakdown of essential licks from the solo here.)

 

In the interview, you’ll learn about…

  • Mark’s special relationship with the blues, and how he’s naturally been drawn to incorporating it into his jazz style.
  • Mark’s journey with jazz guitar, studying at Berklee College of Music, sessions at the Blue Note in New York, and beyond
  • Mark’s thoughts on how to learn jazz guitar to make solid progress, regardless of the time you have for practice.
  • The essential ingredients of an effective and rewarding jazz guitar practice session
  • How Mark met Joe Pass as a young man, leading to one of the most important (and unusual!) jazz guitar masterclasses he ever had.

 

Album’s and Resources Mentioned By Mark:

 

Thanks for Checking This Out!

To share your thoughts:

  • Leave a note in the comment section below.
  • Share this show on Twitter, Facebook, or anywhere else you hang out online.

Special thanks to Mark Whitfield for joining me this week. Find out more about Mark Whitfield via these links:

Until next time!

 

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