You don’t learn to play Jazz Guitar in 20 minutes, it is a process and a set of skills that you build over time through practice. That is why you want to get used to doing things the right way, build the habits that help you progress faster so you are not wasting your time.
In this video, I want to discuss some of those habits that can help you level up your playing a lot faster because some of these are not obvious but they are all incredibly effective!
When I was studying mathematics at the university in Århus there was a summer where I decided that now I REALLY needed to start practicing every day, something my teachers had been telling me forever. And I still remember going to practice with my band for the first time after practicing daily for a few weeks. The instrument had just opened up for me, and I could play all these new things that I had never been able to play before, which felt amazing!
To be honest, I never had that again, but I immediately learned the lesson of consistent practice and what it could do. Which is maybe one of the most important things I have learned?
But it is more than just playing every day. If you want to improve something then you need to work at it until it really gets in there, and that often takes fairly long, like weeks or months.
The main thing to keep in mind with this is that you want to keep working on the same exercises for some time and track how you are progressing.
Here you keep playing the exercises to get better, and you track your progress to stay motivated. What you want to avoid is that you just scratch the surface and practice something new every day without really getting better. That is a lot less efficient.
This has often been a part of how I have worked when I have really improved my playing, especially with technique and speed but also with other things like improvising over difficult chord changes.
It is useful to often remind yourself that nothing will suddenly be something you can just do, you always have to practice, but you will see that later in the video as well.
Evaluate Your Practice
“Insanity Is Doing the Same Thing Over and Over Again and Expecting Different Results”
This is often put forward as an Albert Einstein quote, but it probably isn’t.
While Jazz Guitar may qualify as some type of mental illness, then what this will teach us is something else. You need to check if what you practice also helps you get better at the skills you want to improve.
If you are following the advice of practicing consistently then you also need to look at what you practice and compare that to what is improving in your playing, and maybe look at what you want to get better at and change or come up with exercises that focus on that skill.
You can do this by trying to have a list of goals that you want to improve. That is anyway a good exercise, because the more specific you can be about what you want to learn, the easier it will be to learn it. It is amazing how much time is wasted fumbling around in the dark. You won’t learn to improvise over a Jazz Blues by practicing scales or get better at comping by just practicing chord voicings.
This is very important so that you don’t spend hours working on something that won’t help you get better at the things you want to level up, and one of the main things to have in there is the next habit:
Use What You Practice
I say this very often in my videos, and it is something that I have to remind students of all the time!
“Work on using the things that you practice if you want them as a part of your playing!”
And this goes for diatonic arpeggios, drop2 voicings, or pretty much anything else. If you don’t have a strategy for getting it into your playing then you are probably wasting practice time.
Building this habit often means that you have to find a way to go from a basic technical exercise into something you use while playing, and often the missing link here is to use some form of composition and explore how you can connect the new material with all the other things you already have in your vocabulary.
This is something you want to keep in mind with your evaluation of your practice routines and pay attention to so that you make sure that you get the most out of all the exercises you do and that you are not wasting time on stuff that you can’t use.
It is also something that you want to think about when you come up with exercises, if you practice something that you have no idea how to use then you should wonder if it is really what you should be practicing.
Borrow Other Peoples Ears
I guess I am old-fashioned with this, but I am pretty sure that the most efficient way to learn is to take lessons with a good teacher. You can always disagree in the comments.
The important thing to realize is that if you are learning something new then you have to rely on your own ear to figure out if it is good enough or what is wrong, and sometimes we forget that you need a trained ear to recognize things like phrasing problems, swing-feel or even just how melodies lock in with the changes.
That is the biggest part of why you take lessons to get access to an experienced listener that will tell you what to work on. That is also why I use the community in my online course to give feedback on how the students are doing, which even helps with things that I don’t always talk about in the course.
If you don’t have access to a teacher in some form then you can also find people to practice with or even use Facebook groups like my Jazz Guitar Insiders group. Posting a video and saying what you are working on can give you a ton of useful feedback. With posting videos on the internet you do want to be aware of the amount of nonsense you can also get, so it pays to know who is commenting so that you know who to listen to and who to ignore
Play With Other People
Jazz is not a solo art form. It was developed in bands and it is about making music together and communicating with each other while improvising, but there are more reasons why it is very useful to make music with other people.
For me, this was always the most fun part of playing Jazz; Making music with others, and that is also clear from the fact that I learned a huge chunk of my repertoire playing in the streets of Copenhagen with a bass player before I started studying in the Hague.
What I see as the most important advantage is that you
- Are forced to play and make things work
- Have to take everything to where you can use it
- Have more fun and stay motivated.
And these are all 3 more important than you might think when it comes to learning, so if you don’t play with other people and you want to play better Jazz, then seek out the opportunities and find people to play some songs with and both learn and enjoy that experience.
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