What’s best: structured or unstructured jazz practice?

by | Mar 17, 2018 | Articles, General Updates |

There was an interesting discussion among FretDojo students today about structured vs unstructured practice when it comes to jazz guitar.
Some thought it was important for an aspiring jazz improviser to not have very much structure in their practice, e.g:
“Maybe classical musicians are a bit more inclined to do structured practice sessions, but jazz guys belong more to the jam session kind of musicians… ;-)”

An interesting discussion, for sure.

Here are my two cents:

In my experience, you need to actually be more structured in your jazz practice than when I was studying classical way back when.

The reason:

Being able to use jazz vocabulary (and not just recite it but to improvise with it) requires it to be, ironically, learned very very well. You need to learn it to a much deeper level in my experience than simply reciting off a pre-written classical piece.

It’s only when you have completely learned the inside and out of a line and internalized it before you can truly improvise with it.

There’s an interesting parallel here with a legend in Greek mythology. Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory, gives birth to the Muses of creativity. In the same way, true creativity doesn’t come out of thin air but actually requires deeply learned material as a prerequisite.

It’s only through a regular routine of well-structured practice that you can deeply learn material and thus improvise confidently as a result. Note though that I do include in my practice session a period of ‘free for all’ time when anything goes (and it’s important you do this), but this is just one part of a well-balanced practice routine.

Anyway, many of my students from around the world have commented how helpful my FretDojo Academy Club has been important for creating goals and structure in their jazz guitar practice. Every month it features a new tune with a beginner, intermediate and advanced learning pathway, with clear step-by-step checklists to guide you on how to master the material in the shortest possible time.
Here are the details if you’re interested in finding out more and joining in:



Greg O’Rourke,

Founder, Fret Dojo

World Leader in Online Jazz Guitar Education


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