Enter the Jazz Guitar Dragon

Enter the Jazz Guitar Dragon

Enter the Jazz Guitar Dragon

I’ve been ruminating today on this quote by Bruce Lee:

“Not being tense but ready.
Not thinking but not dreaming.
Not being set but flexible.
Liberation from the uneasy sense of confinement.
It is being wholly and quietly alive, aware and alert, ready for whatever may come.”

The point where true spontaneity happens in jazz is along the lines of what Bruce Lee talks about in this quote.

If you’re tense, you won’t feel the rhythm – but you still have to be alert to keep up with the changes.

Agility and flexibility in how you play your lines are the keys to making improvisation sound fresh and alive.

I particularly find the second line very interesting:

“Not thinking but not dreaming…”.

Thinking about things too much when you’re on the bandstand is a big problem. If you’re often crashing and burning on stage, this could be the main issue.

The problem with most jazz instruction is that it encourages you to be too cerebral when it comes to your music making.

Knowing the theory, scales, and language behind jazz concepts is important, but if you’re not careful you can suffer from “paralysis by analysis” on the bandstand if you are preoccupied with those things in the heat of the moment.

You need to eventually transcend the concepts. When you do, jazz becomes something deeper, and as natural as breathing.

Anyway, just something to think about in your practice today.

~ Greg

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The shocking proof that your jazz ability is all in the mind

The shocking proof that your jazz ability is all in the mind

The shocking proof that your jazz ability is all in the mind

Here’s a little story about an intriguing conversation I had today with a fellow musician, that I hadn’t met up with in years.

Today I went with my son to a local music shop to inquire about piano lessons for him. (It’s quite hard finding a good piano teacher as it turns out.)

I got a nice surprise to see Kayla, a jazz violinist that I’d done a number of gigs with years ago, but haven’t heard from much since then.

“Kayla! So nice to see you again. How’s your music going?”

“Nice to see you Greg. Yes, the music’s going well, I’ve been doing a lot of symphony orchestra gigs lately, and other bits and pieces.”

“Nice one!” I replied. “And how’s your jazz playing coming along?”

Momentarily, I noticed her eyes turn down to the floor before she responded.

“Well…I actually stopped playing jazz a few years ago,” she replied. “Hehe…it came to a point where I had to stop pretending that I could play that kind of music.”

I departed the music store, reflecting on that strange comment.

You see, we both got into jazz roughly around the same time, and from similar backgrounds, i.e. transitioning from classical music.

And it made me wonder…

Why did Kayla ditch jazz entirely, while in the same space of time I was able to build one of the largest jazz guitar education websites in the world?

It didn’t make sense. I was impressed with her playing those years back, and I remember thinking how far she was going to go with jazz.

The clue to this puzzle is when she said: “It came to a point where I had to stop pretending that I could play that kind of music.”

This indicates that, deep down, she had a fixed idea about the kind of music she could play. She believed she didn’t have any ability as a jazz player.

But it wasn’t true. She was a rising talent in jazz, with a promising career ahead of her.

The moral of the story:

Regardless of what technical obstacles you might face on the instrument, how much practice time you’re able to get on the guitar, or what kind of connections you have to other musicians or lack thereof….

There is one thing, above all else, that will make or break you as a jazz player.

It’s this:

What you believe about yourself.

This is by far the most important thing you need to make sure is sorted out.

There was only one thing I did differently to Kayla:

I believed in my ability to learn, and my ability to progress (whereas Kayla didn’t).

The outcome:

I got results, and nowadays I’m enjoying playing jazz every time I pick the guitar up.

And it’s how YOU can get the results you want with jazz guitar, too.

~ Greg

 

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You CAN teach an old dog new tricks

You CAN teach an old dog new tricks

You CAN teach an old dog new tricks

As the old saying goes…

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”.

We all know that, right?

But…

It’s 100% untrue. For humans at least.

Check this out:

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20170828-the-amazing-fertility-of-the-older-mind

This article dispels many of the myths surrounding an older person’s ability to learn. One of the examples given is a lady called Priscilla Sitienei from rural Kenya that learned to read and write…at the age of 90!

To quote the article:

“The latest studies from psychology and neuroscience show that these extraordinary achievements need not be the exception. Although you may face some extra difficulties at 30, 50 – or 90 – your brain still has an astonishing ability to learn and master many new skills, whatever your age. And the effort to master a new discipline may be more than repaid in maintaining and enhancing your overall cognitive health.”

Here’s the thing:

If you believe you can’t learn new things, then the mind will happily reinforce that belief for you. Lack of confidence in learning is probably the biggest stumbling block when it comes to older people mastering skills.

And it’s a worry if you think like this – learning new things, especially in old age, is very important to maintain your cognitive and overall health.

So dust off that ol’ jazz guitar, it’s time to get to work.

 

~ Greg

 

FREE Course:
The BIG Secrets of Jazz Guitar Improvisation

•  3 part video series - a step-by-step guide on building improvisation skills

• Learn the biggest mistakes made by aspiring jazz guitar improvisers and what you should be doing instead

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Do you need to go to jazz school to become a great player?

Do you need to go to jazz school to become a great player?

Do you need to go to jazz school to become a great player?

I read a very interesting article today (that might raise some eyebrows), called “Are Schools Necessary?” by V. Orval Watts.

Here’s the link by the way:

https://fee.org/articles/are-schools-necessary/

I think the question needs to be raised:

Do you need to go to a prestigious music university in order to be a great jazz player?

The answer for me is…

A resounding NO.

The idea that schools, universities and so forth are essential for learning – is flawed.

Of course, they offer a lot of great opportunities and connections with other players. And for sure, they can help accelerate the learning process.

On the flip-side though…

Students often get too dependent on these kinds of institutionalized systems when it comes to learning. They think that passing tests, getting grades and earning a degree or some qualification equals mastery.

But it doesn’t. As everyone knows, getting a formal qualification does not necessarily mean you have fully understood and internalized the subject.

Furthermore, people that haven’t had the opportunity to go to these prestigious schools think that they have “missed the boat”, and they won’t be able to realize their dreams to become a great jazz player.

But:

To quote the above article: “an individual becomes truly educated only as he learns to educate himself.”

Thinking that you need to go to a prestigious jazz school in order to play music is nothing more than a self-limiting belief.

Once I took responsibility for my own learning, put in the effort and sought out the answers to my questions off my own bat, I started to make rapid progress with my jazz playing.

And you can too.

~ Greg

FREE Course:
The BIG Secrets of Jazz Guitar Improvisation

•  3 part video series - a step-by-step guide on building improvisation skills

• Learn the biggest mistakes made by aspiring jazz guitar improvisers and what you should be doing instead

• Instant access - completely FREE!

Do you need to be black to play jazz?

Do you need to be black to play jazz?

Here’s an interesting sentiment I get from jazz teachers and other players from time to time:

“In the end, you really have to be American to be able to play jazz well, people from other countries just don’t get it.” (This was the words of a Canadian by the way).

And I quote a fellow Australian jazz musician who said the following to me at a jam session a few weeks ago:

“Well, after all, when it comes to jazz and blues we are just trying to play African-American music. No matter what we do, we will never get that good at it, because we’re not black, and we’re not American.”

Since I’ve been playing jazz, I’ve heard this kind of comment quite often, even from seasoned professionals.

And something doesn’t add up.

Now don’t get me wrong – some of the musicians that have inspired me the most when it comes to jazz are African American – like Wes Montgomery, Grant Green, and Charlie Parker.

But…Joe Pass, Jim Hall, and Bill Evans? They weren’t African American, but they were master jazz musicians too.

And let’s not forget Ed Bikert – in my opinion, he was one of the greatest jazz guitarists that ever graced the earth. He wasn’t black – and he wasn’t American either (he was Canadian).

Let’s think of learning a spoken language for a moment (after all, jazz is like a language).

“You have to be American to be able to play jazz and blues” is like saying…

“You have to be French to be able to speak French”. Which is ludicrous.

Of course, you’ve got a natural advantage to mastering a language if it’s spoken a lot in your home country.

Here’s the thing, though:

If you’re prepared to put in the work and learn the words of the language, anyone can eventually speak it fluently (Italian, Japanese, Jazz) regardless of race.

In fact, that’s what I love most about jazz, blues, and music in general. Music is something that dwells deep in the human heart, it communicates our suffering, expresses our joy, and is above any superficial differences in how we look or talk or the color of our skin.

Remember:

Anyone can learn how to play jazz, including you.

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•  3 part video series - a step-by-step guide on building improvisation skills

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Jazz guitar policeman reveals his shameful ignorance

Jazz guitar policeman reveals his shameful ignorance

Jazz guitar policeman reveals his shameful ignorance

Here’s a Jazz Police tale for you.

Recently I was booked to do a duo guitar gig but my usual partner-in-crime wasn’t available.

So I asked around and got a replacement player.

At the gig, we kicked things off with a tune that I know pretty well, On Green Dolphin Street.

As we were playing I noticed he was watching disapprovingly how I was using my fingerstyle technique to play the chord melody and chord solo.

Once we finished the tune, he lent over to me and said:

“Interesting that you’re using your fingers to play Jazz. Don’t worry, once you get more advanced you’ll graduate to pick eventually.”

What an odd thing to say.

The ironic thing about this: Joe Pass actually “graduated” in reverse – he started with a plectrum, then went to fingerstyle when he got more interested in chord melody and solo guitar.

Or what about Wes Montgomery – he just used his thumb, and he got by pretty well (to say the least)…

But I do find this attitude crops up here and there with the Jazz Police – assuming one technique is “better” than the other.

Here’s my two cents:

Whatever suits your playing style, and your interest, you should focus on that.

There are great advantages to using a pick, using fingerstyle, a combination of the two – whatever works.

It doesn’t matter really – in the end as long as you’re making great music, use whatever technique that helps you to make that happen.

Now the exciting bit:

If you're keen to have a structured, step-by-step approach to learning jazz guitar, it might be worth checking out my online learning system, the FretDojo Jazz Guitar Academy.

Here's what you get when you join up:

  • Detailed step-by-step video lessons on new classic jazz tunes and essential jazz guitar skills added to the club website each month. Includes listening recommendations, demonstrations of the melody, analysis of the harmony, and detailed explanations on how to solo over the tune.
  • Key improvisation concepts and techniques for soloing, and classic licks and example solos that relate to each tune, so you can continue to expand your jazz vocabulary and have more options when it comes to soloing.
  • Detailed comping ideas to suit the style of each jazz standard covered
  • Lessons on how to make chord melody and solo jazz guitar versions of tunes featured - play a complete jazz standard completely on your own like Joe Pass!
  • Members only forum - A worldwide community of jazz guitarists from all around the globe.
  • Regular workshops, masterclasses, and Q & A Sessions - get direct answers from me on anything holding you back in the practice room. Replays of all sessions are available to access for all members even if you can’t make it live.
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The best part:

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Greg O’Rourke,

Founder, Fret Dojo

World Leader in Online Jazz Guitar Education

FREE Course:
The BIG Secrets of Jazz Guitar Improvisation

•  3 part video series - a step-by-step guide on building improvisation skills

• Learn the biggest mistakes made by aspiring jazz guitar improvisers and what you should be doing instead

• Instant access - completely FREE!

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