Making Mistakes – The Path To Success

Making Mistakes – The Path To Success

Making Mistakes – The Path To Success

It happens to all of us at some point:

Getting too wrapped up with not sounding that great sometimes when we practice.

The reason:

It’s the curse of…

Being an adult.

The Curse of Being An Adult

Compare this to the following:

Notice what a child does when they first learn to do things.

Kids make so many mistakes. When speaking, at first they can barely put a word together.

And even after they can eventually say a few basic words, they often make mistakes on the order of the words.

But here’s the reason they improve so quickly:

They don’t care.

Mistakes are an excellent learning opportunity. Don’t be afraid of them as they are a great opportunity for growth.

 

Kids just keep experimenting, making mistakes, falling over, and trying again.

Ironically though, this is the reason kids learn so fast.

The faster you make many mistakes, the more quickly you can learn from them.

Here’s the thing:

Adults are too often afraid of making mistakes when it comes to playing music.

Why is that?

The reason:

Adults are painfully aware of what good music sounds like, having listened to perfectly produced recordings their whole life (with all the mistakes conveniently edited out!)

But:

Young kids don’t have a high awareness of what ‘correct’ sounds like.

This allows children the freedom and lack of inhibition to make a lot of mistakes, to be corrected by their parents and teachers, and thus learn at a rapid pace.

So:

Adopt the child’s mindset in your guitar practice.

 

The Child’s Mindset

Don’t worry too much if something isn’t sounding good (yet). Often daily practice will iron things out if you don’t tie yourself up in knots about it.

If you work on something over the course of a week or two and despite daily practice you’re seeing no improvement, adopt a curious mind – and treat it as
‘a puzzle to be solved’.

When you notice something isn’t improving, make a hypothesis as to what could be the causing the problem.

Then:

Devise an experiment, consisting of exercises or practice approaches that you think could solve the issue. Run the experiment for a couple of weeks and record your observations.

Remember:

Mistakes are an excellent learning opportunity. Don’t be afraid of them as they are a great opportunity for growth.

In fact:

Learning from your mistakes is the key to success on the guitar – or anything else you apply yourself to.

Over to you – What did YOU think of this practice tip? Leave a comment below with your thoughts or tips of your own…

 

Greg O’Rourke

Founder, FretDojo
World Leader in Online Guitar Education

jazz guitar instruction
jazz guitar books mobile
Warm Guitar Tone – A How-To Guide For Jazz Guitar

Warm Guitar Tone – A How-To Guide For Jazz Guitar

Warm Guitar Tone – A How-To Guide For Jazz Guitar

It’s crazy really –

You can have…

  • the best ear in the world
  • the most sophisticated ideas in your solo
  • great rhythm and;
  • have a wonderful expressive phrasing

The list goes on.

But:

If you don’t have a good tone (i.e. the quality of the sound your guitar makes), then none of these elements will truly make an impact.

Here’s the good news though:

It’s not that difficult really to get a good sound on your instrument and create a warm jazz guitar tone. Especially these days with so many good quality instruments and amps.

I should let you know though:

You’ll find a whole spectrum of views on the subject of tone.

Some guitarists are ‘gear extremists’, and will proclaim that the quality of your guitar leads has a serious impact on your sound.

Others (and jazz guitarists especially have often been criticized for this) hardly pay attention to tone at all.

Let’s take the ‘middle way’ though – here’s a few tips from a self-proclaimed guitar gear luddite:

 

Tip #1 – Check with what and how (and where) you are striking the string

I play fingerstyle and use fingernails – so I make sure my nails are polished as smooth as

glass and they have a nice even curve – this has the biggest impact on your sound especially on acoustic instruments. This is one sure way to get a warm jazz guitar tone.

If you are using a plectrum, it should be smooth and of good quality. If your playing sounds too ‘slappy’, try a slightly thicker pick. Resin picks can have a great tone.

Also check where you are plucking the strings – I avoid plucking them too close to the bride which can sound a bit tinny. Side note: I use 0.12 gauge D’Addario XL Flatwounds for a nice thick sound.

 

Tip #2 – Quality of your guitar

More expensive does not necessarily equal better tone.

Your guitar needs to be decent – however the make and model isn’t as important as you might think.

Make sure the action is set appropriately so the strings don’t buzz on the frets. Also check the strings aren’t old.

(Reason: old strings will sound out of tune as you go up the neck).

Whichever instrument you play, choose a guitar of which you enjoy the sound and feel.

More expensive does not necessarily equal better tone – when I picked up my first archtop I tried every one in the store, and the Ibanez you see me playing on my videos was a MUCH better tone than guitars at four times the price.

 

Tip #3 – Tone Knob (especially for jazz!)

Regardless of instrument, if you are playing jazz and want the typical jazz tone, roll your tone knob down quite a bit (I do this even on my archtop) and as I mentioned before, play more towards the neck pickup rather than the bridge – you’ll get that warm, ‘sweet as chocolate sound’. Ooooh yeah.

 

Tip #4 – Your amp (if using an electric guitar)

Here’s the thing:

A good quality amp is actually more important than the guitar when it comes to tone. For jazz, a valve amp can definitely give a great sound, however these days I’m using a Boss Katana solid state amp and get a fantastic result.


Tip #5 – Experiment!

There is no universal ‘good tone’. Experiment with the above and come up with a sound YOU are happy with.

There is no universal ‘good tone’. Experiment with the above and come up with a sound YOU are happy with.

Tone is a very subjective thing, and there is no one right way.

My approach:

Experiment with all the above factors until you settle on a sound which best serves to deliver your musical message, and go with your gut.

Then, record yourself and listen back and evaluate your tone. Rinse and repeat a few times until you pin down a suitable tone.

Be careful though:

Embarking on a quest for the ‘perfect tone’ can be quite a rabbit hole to go down. Near enough is usually good enough – spend a bit of time finding your sound but then turn your attention to the most important bit – actually playing music!

Over to you – what did YOU think of this article on getting a good jazz guitar tone? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.

 

Greg O’Rourke

Founder, FretDojo
World Leader in Online Guitar Education

jazz guitar instruction
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

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

 


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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


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