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What happens when you put a jazz improviser in an MRI scanner?

I thought I would share this very interesting video with you today.

It’s a scientific study by medical researcher Charles Limb on what neurologically happens in the brain when you improvise, as opposed to playing pre-learned musical material from memory.

What was the scientific method for this study?

The answer:

Putting experienced jazz improvisers in an MRI scanner to monitor their brain function, as they played jazz on a magnetically resistant MIDI keyboard lying down, whilst trying to keep their head as still as possible.

No easy task for a pianist. (Keith Jarrett comes to mind!)

Although it’s a preliminary study, I think it does shed light on what we could learn from an experienced improviser’s brain functioning.

This is a couple of big takeaways I got from the video:

1. When an experienced jazz musician improvises music (as opposed to playing pre-learned material), areas of the brain associated with self-expression become activated, whilst areas associated with self-inhibition reduce in function.

I found this fascinating as it correlates with my own and others anecdotal experience that improvised music flows best when you are able to transcend your own self-monitoring, be prepared to explore musically and to allow mistakes without inhibition.

2.Improvised music activates areas of the brain associated with language learning

The idea of jazz functioning as a spoken language is often used by jazz performers and teachers. In fact, this concept heavily influenced the way I designed my Fundamentals of Jazz Guitar Improvisation course that I’m currently taking students through at the moment. In the course, students learn a collection of often used jazz ‘words’ and phrases from general jazz vocabulary, and then learn how to string these basic musical words together in various ways as they improvise.

Anyway, over to you – what did you think about this video?

Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Let’s get the conversation started…

Greg O’Rourke,

Founder, Fret Dojo

World Leader in Online Jazz Guitar Education

Walking Bass For Jazz Guitar – Three Easy Steps

Recently I put together a how-to guide to building walking basslines on jazz guitar. Today’s post is a sneak peek of the first lesson. Find out how to get the full series of these lessons on walking bass by clicking here.


In this lesson, you’re going to learn:

  • How to assemble single line basslines on guitar in 3 easy steps
Lesson Resources:

(Right Click + Save As…)

Though walking bass might seem a complex technique, it doesn’t take much work to get a convincing bassline under your fingers.

As you’ll see in the above video, you can break down the basic approach to walking bass in just three simple steps.


Step 1: Play Root Notes On Beat 1 of Each Bar

The bulk of the bass player’s job is to emphasize the root notes of the harmony. So establishing the sound of the root note on beat 1 of each bar makes a lot of sense for a bass player.


Step 2: Add Approach Notes On Beat 4 of Each Bar

The next step is to add some sort of approach note on beat 4 that leads to the root note of the next bar. It sounds most jazzy when you add a chromatic note as the approach note, however, you can use diatonic notes as well as approach notes. (Diatonic means using the scale notes that relate to the current key).


Step 3: Add ‘Walking Notes’ on Beats 2 & 3


To complete your walking bassline, you just need to add two more notes in between the root note of beat 1, and the approach note of beat 4.

These can be any of the following:

  • Diatonic notes from the scale of the given key
  • Chromatic notes, or
  • Arpeggios.


Task:  Watch the above video, then learn to play each of the musical examples given in each of the three steps above. Once you’ve done that, experiment taking the principles covered in this lesson to compose or improvise your own basslines over the progression used in these examples.

In the next lesson, you’re going to learn how to play chords at the same time as this walking bass line – sounds hard to do? If you know a few simple tricks, it’s not hard at all. I’ll show you how to do it in the next lesson of this series…


This concludes this free excerpt of my ‘Walking Bass For Jazz Guitar Primer’ lesson series. To get instant access to the rest of the lessons in this new series (as well as a large number of other lessons), they are all included in my new online program, the FretDojo Academy Club. Find out more about the Club here…

Greg O’Rourke,

Founder, Fret Dojo

World Leader in Online Jazz Guitar Education

Uncle Joe’s wise advice

Do you know what my favorite piece of advice from Joe Pass is?

“You should learn as many melodies as you can.”

Next time you are in a mood for a vision quest, I want you to think of this saying next time you take a solo trip up some deserted mountain somewhere. You need to sit and meditate on this one for a while.

Let’s think about this for a minute. What does Joe mean here, by ‘learning as many melodies as you can’?

You can take this pithy instruction a couple of ways.

Firstly, you could interpret it as learning as many melodies to jazz standards as you can.

Too often, students get bogged down by playing the same five jazz standards, trying to get them perfect before moving on.

The result? They never develop their repertoire. And in failing to do this, they don’t give their ears the opportunity to develop either. It’s counterproductive working like this.

The thing is, by filling your mind with as many melodies as possible, it’s actually a faster way to get a grip on how to play in the jazz style. You have to start somewhere, and jazz melodies are crucially important to get your ears attuned to the sound of jazz.

But I think that this saying, ‘learn as many melodies as you can’ has a a double meaning too.

Joe Pass always emphasized the importance of lines in his playing style. Short, melodic pieces of vocabulary.

These lines are the ‘words’ of the jazz language. The more jazz lines you learn, the better you will be able to communicate your ideas as a jazz musician. The bigger vocabulary that you have, the more expressive and spontaneous you can be in your musical conversations.

The good news?

My soon-to-be-released FretDojo Academy Club is going to give you both of these things – a repertoire of jazz standards AND the most important lines to study in jazz – and a whole lot more besides.

Every month, You’re going to learn all aspects of playing a well-known jazz standard on guitar (including melody, comping, chord melody, and improv), therefore increasing your jazz repertoire and internalizing those all-important classic jazz melodies.

You’ll also learn a bunch of red-hot vocabulary that is broken down for you step by step, and I’ll show you how to apply it to your improvisations in an easy to understand way.

In summary, what’s the answer to sounding melodic when you solo?

Learning melodies.

So this time, listen to Uncle Joe, and get yourself on the early bird list for this new program now.

Joe told you so:

I’ll see you in the Fret Do Joe,




Greg O’Rourke,

Founder, Fret Dojo

World Leader in Online Jazz Guitar Education

Can I let you in on a little secret?

Time to let the cat out of the bag.

Over the past few months, I’ve been working hard, but keeping something close under wraps.

I’ve been working with a small group of jazz guitar students on a new way to learn jazz guitar online.

To be honest, this was on a hunch of sorts. I wasn’t sure how it would go. But as the results from the students have been so impressive, I’m completely convinced that the ‘proof is in the pudding’ and I’m just about ready (very soon) to launch.

Is the world ready? I hope so.

I think it’s about time, in fact. Why? Reasons like these:

– Ever wonder why some players just seem to ‘know’ improvisation as naturally as talking, but you’ve been left completely in the dark as to how to improvise and be able to sound anywhere approaching half decent?

– Ever feel frustrated that you learning feels disjointed and confusing, and you’re left scratching your head on how to connect the dots in the right order?

– Ever feel embarrassed that you only know how to play two jazz tunes, whereas the other guys know the complete real book from end to end?

– Ever feel like you wish you wouldn’t have to play with backing tracks all the time, but you have no idea on how to get started with solo jazz guitar?

To be frank – this sucks. Doesn’t it?

I’ve had enough of players feeling like this. It’s time to cut the crapola and the endless paraphernalia out of how to learn jazz guitar.

Which leads to the big question:

So what’s this new thing I’ve been tinkering away with undercover for the past few months, that going to help solve these all these problems?

Answer: It’s a new online learning community for jazz guitar, featuring step-by-step video lessons on all aspects of your jazz guitar playing. By doing a deep dive on a classic jazz standard each month, you’re going to get the answers on how to take the fast track to mastery of jazz guitar.

What’s the best word for it?

One word. Revolutionary.

It’s going to revolutionize every aspect of your jazz guitar playing. So much, in fact, that fast forward three months you’re going to have a double take when you realize how quickly you built your skills.

And your significant other will be equally (and pleasantly) surprised.

What do you need to accomplish this?

All you need is a recipe, a guide, and a community. That’s all. And this new program has all three of these.

If you’ve had enough of wafting through huge dusty 297 page guides on jazz guitar…

If you’ve had enough of trying to pick the brains of disorganized teachers at expensive one-on-one lessons…

If you just want the straight answers for building your jazz skills fast…

Then, you need to this:

Click this link now and get on the early bird list for the upcoming online program:

(Note – special price and a cool bonus available for early adopters)

To the early bird that catches the worm,




Greg O’Rourke,

Founder, Fret Dojo

World Leader in Online Jazz Guitar Education

The Micro Practice

A lot of people complain to me that they just don’t have time for practice.

It’s such a shame they think like that.

Because the thing is:

The way that we think creates our reality.

So if you think you have no time…well, you won’t seem to have any time.

It’s kind of ironic really.

The mind is so powerful, that if we tell it that it’s powerless, or that we have no time, it will promptly create that reality for us.

So let me set the record straight:

You DO have time to practice.

Regardless of how busy you are, how many things you have on, or what else is going on in your life…

There is always time the practice your jazz guitar.

Here’s how:

It’s through my incredibly amazing, trademarked innovation, known as the Micro Practice.


…Okay, so it’s not that innovative, but it is very useful indeed.

Here’s what you do:

Every morning, before you get all shined up and eat your breakfast, go straight to the practice room and put the timer on for five minutes.

In that time, completely focus on learning a lick, an extra couple of bars of the transcription you’re working on, or improvise with that soloing concept you read about the other day along with a backing track (that is, of course, conveniently close at hand, ready to be fired up).

Then, put your guitar down and go about your day merrily.

Some time later…

At lunchtime, grab your git-box that’s been hiding under your desk (out of the view of your boss – I know you have one there), and for 2 to 5 minutes just revise what you covered in the morning Micro Practice.

Some hours later…

In the evening, just before you go to bed, have another quick revision of the material that you covered in the day in a final Micro Practice. If you’re really focused this should only take a couple of minutes.

That’s it.

Total practice time = 10 to 15 minutes, split across 2 – 3 Micro Practice sessions.

Now I know what you’re thinking here… How could you ever get anything remotely meaningful practiced with these time constraints?

This is the ironic thing: you CAN make great progress with this technique and learn a great deal of material over time, despite having incredibly limited time.

The reason?

This Micro Practice technique leverages the way the mind learns most efficiently.

From what we know about neuroscience, the brain actually makes all the connections and neural pathways about something after being presented with a piece material.

So, by learning a small chunk of something, and then going and doing something completely different and getting on with your day, helps those neural connections grow stronger (interestingly, this technique is most effective if you go and exercise in between practice sessions, or socialise).

But to really reinforce those pathways, it’s important to revise the material at periodic intervals, rather than just in a single session.

The revision doesn’t need to take very long at all. You can do it in the space of a minute or two and it will have the effect of making the material stick much better than if you only look at the material once.

The revision is kind of like watering the garden as opposed to your first session, which is like planting the seeds.

Even if you aren’t lucky enough to be able to hide a guitar at work, just close your eyes and visualize yourself playing what you’ve practiced in the morning, revising the material in that manner. It will have a very similar effect of helping to deepen those neural connections that you’ve been trying to make throughout the day.

How do I know this works?

Because when I’m busy dealing with all this crazy technology that I’ve got myself into from running my website, I still make surprising progress and have memorized a ton of phrases, transcriptions and soloing concepts, just though this simple Micro Practice technique.

You start to realize how much time you really need to practice guitar. Hint: it’s not much if you’re focused and organized, and understand the way the mind learns.

One more interesting benefit of the micro-practice:

I’ve noticed sometimes in the evening, I go to just practice for only five minutes, and then look at my watch and 40 minutes has flown past without even thinking about it! Sometimes setting a small minimum benchmark can be a good way to trick yourself into practicing more than you thought you had time for.

(Warning: you wife might get pretty cranky and jealous with you staying up so late with your curvaceous wooden friend…but hey, nothing is perfect.)

Anyway, that’s today’s tip. But an important note:

It’s not just the amount of time that you have to practice, it’s actually what you practice.

And very quietly, “behind-the-scenes” for a few months now, I’ve been developing a top-secret new program that I’m pretty excited about. It’s basically an all in one recipe for developing every aspect of your jazz playing.

If you want to be the 1st to know about this, plus get a cool bonus for being a curious and fast action taker, click this link:

Ugh, patience is especially hard to practice when you can hardly sleep because you’re so excited about something.

I’ll let you know more details as they come to hand…

A toast to your path to jazz guitar mastery,




Greg O’Rourke,

Founder, Fret Dojo

World Leader in Online Jazz Guitar Education

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