What Charlie Parker was wrong about

by | Dec 8, 2017 | Articles, General Updates |

Don’t get me wrong – Charlie Parker is one of my biggest musical inspirations.

I’ve spent years delving deep into his solos, each of them a masterpiece. The fact he improvised them on the fly makes it all the more incredible.


He wasn’t right about everything.

In particular, I think he missed the mark in terms of the example he set to other aspiring jazz players.

Firstly, and most obviously:

Parker was notorious for his heroin addiction. Other musicians desperately wanting to play like him tried to mimic not just his music, but his lifestyle as well – at great cost.

But that’s not all (and this is the main thing I want to discuss):

For three to four years, Parker was practicing up to 15 hours a day.

Think about that for a second – that’s barely enough time to sleep, tie your shoelaces, have some breakfast cereal, or well…anything else really.

It goes without saying that Parker was a man completely dedicated to his music. Perhaps his role as a trailblazer in the jazz tradition may never have happened without this arduous practice routine.

But here’s the thing:

I think he gave a misleading impression to other musicians about what you need to do in order to become a great jazz musician. Not only that, I think his extreme lifestyle took its toll. Like so many jazz masters, he died well before his time at 34.

It didn’t necessarily need to be like this though.

I know it’s equivalent to jazz heresy to say what I’m about to say, but here’s my personal opinion for what it’s worth:

If Parker had taken better care of himself and taken a more moderate ‘middle way’ approach to his practice and his lifestyle, perhaps he might have made an even bigger contribution to jazz in the long run.

Who knows?

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is this:

You don’t need to practice as much as Parker did to get great results. Only a fraction of what Parker did is necessary – but only if you have the right ingredients.

If you have clear, step-by-step instructions and the ability to get guidance from a teacher that knows his stuff, and you practice smart – not hard – you can build your jazz skills quickly and have a fun, relaxed time doing it as well.

If you’re struggling to find a way to get decent jazz instruction, my new online jazz guitar club could be a good alternative for you. It’s got all the resources you need to build your skills on what I call the “Three Pillars Of Learning” – a qualified teacher, A-class materials, and a fantastic community of students from all around the world.

Check it out:


Greg O’Rourke,

Founder, Fret Dojo

World Leader in Online Jazz Guitar Education


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