“Ear” training in jazz? I don’t think so…

by | Aug 29, 2017 | Articles, General Updates | 1 comment

The one piece of advice I see consistently in jazz education is the importance of “ear” training.


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 a jazz improviser.

Jazzily yours,


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

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1 Comment

  1. nicholas

    I t was serendipitous to find an amazing second hand book by Pat Martino “Linear Expressions” which Joe Pass, Tal Farlow, Johnny Smith, Herb Ellis, Howard Roberts and Les Paul all recommend highly as an alternative approach to improvising — more than one way to skin a cat right ? and all ways should be explored, both complex and simple.

    WOW what a select group of jazz guitarist it is.

    I am working through the ideas presented in the book – unlike William Leavitts’ books II to III , where he talks of chord scale relationships and all the possible all scales usage in ii-V-I progression, which by the way takes time and is complex to master –Nope, I can’t see short cuts here I am afraid.

    Pat’s book amazingly uses minor chords and minor lines only. What this means is Pat substitutes either directly or indirectly for the following chords: major; minor, dominant, augmented and diminished minor chords and lines !

    Sounds much more simpler approach than Leavitts’ approach.

    Also Jerry Coke’rs book on jazz Improvising talks about building up a collection of melodic motifs you create yourself — you will personally evaluate and keep building a personal library for future improvisational use.

    This your unique vocabulary. Just jazz soloist tell their own solo story, why plagiarize someone else’s lines ? You don’t sound like them !

    You have your own emotional story to tell.

    Good Luck on the journey.


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