Tag Archives: jazz guitar practice exercises

5 Jazz Guitar Tips That Will Save You Years Of Practice

In this video, I will go over 5 things that were game-changing for how I learned Jazz so that you can use those as well.

When you are in the process of learning something, like playing Jazz, then there is a part that is just hard work for a long time, and then there are moments that really change the way you think about something and help you progress a lot faster by practicing in the right way.

#1 Think Ahead

When I started playing Jazz, I spent months practicing before I finally could play a solo on 2 Jazz Standards. I chose to start with Stella By Starlight and There Is No Greater Love, and both of those are pretty horrible choices for a beginner with way too many chords and complicated progressions, but luckily I was pretty stubborn so I just kept going until I could make my way through the song.

This was years before mobile phones when Grunge was still hip, so there are no videos, you will have to settle for a dramatic re-enactment

At this point in time, I was barely able to improvise over the chords, and I had to work hard to find something to play on each of the chords which is what I focused on, and that had a very bad effect on how the solos sounded.

Phrases didn’t really connect or have a longer story to it.

This actually remained a problem for quite a long time. I did not find a way to fix it until more than a year later when I was taught to play changes so that you were thinking of where you need to go, what target note to play towards. This way of thinking made the solos have a much more natural flow and made the melodies a lot stronger.

And that is something that is very important with most things in music: Think Ahead, make sure you are ahead of what you are playing. So play towards target notes, see the voice-leading taking you to the next chord, or learn to read ahead if you are sight-reading.

It will make your life easier and make you sound better, especially in terms of soloing if you combine it with the next tip.

I have a video on how I apply this to playing chord changes that you can check out here:

#2 Arpeggios and Scales – The Right Way

While I was studying in Copenhagen and playing Jazz Standards in the streets, I also had the luck to go to a week-long Barry Harris workshop in The Hague, and one of the things that I took away from that is also a cornerstone in how I teach and one thing that is really overlooked in learning Jazz on the guitar.

Usually, when we think about arpeggios, these position boxes show all the notes of a m7 arpeggio in a given position. This way of learning them is good for being able to see the notes on the fretboard, but it almost completely fails at helping you learn how to incorporate them into your playing, and there is a much better way to practice them.

The exercise that Barry told me to practice, was to play all the arpeggios in the scale, not as separate boxes that don’t naturally connect to the rest of what you use when you play.

Most of the time, the chords will change, but the scale stays the same and when you make lines, you are not only using arpeggios all the time, so having the arpeggio placed in the context of the scale will make a lot more sense.

Working on this exercise also gives you something that is much closer to the way arpeggios are used typically used in Bop-inspired lines, which is not often using several octaves of one arpeggio, but mostly just one-octave melodies in the middle of a line.

My most viewed video on the channel digs into this and how you use it to make some great bebop-inspired lines, and last tip in this video is probably the advice that I give the most as an answer online.

You can check out the video on practicing arpeggios and making lines here:

#3 Keep it Simple

— Play a solo then stop and start talking?

It is actually pretty simple, and you don’t want to make it too complicated. In a way, I was lucky that I could read sheet music because of my classical lessons, because it helped me figure out some things from reading transcriptions that I would have had a much harder time learning by ear.

One of the things that really fascinated me when I first started to listen to Charlie Parker was how the solo would sound different from moment to moment. This was very different from what I was used to with most of the blues and rock solos that I was listening to where most of the time everything stayed in one scale across the chords not really playing melodies that were following the changes that closely.

That sounds complicated, but if you check out jazz solos then most of the time the way the phrases follow the changes is actually pretty simple. It is just about hitting the chord tones on the important notes of the melody and usually also somehow connected to the heavy beats, give or take a suspension or rhythmic variation.

In the beginning, playing simple and clear solos will help you really get that connection. And that may seem different from how you think about “complicated Jazz” with extensions, alterations, and upper-structure triads, but you want to hit those 3rds and 5ths and get that to make sense so that you later can choose to be vague and clear and use that in your solos.

So keep it simple and make sure you can hear the chords in your solo.

#4 Jazz Chords Done The Wrong Way

The people I checked out before getting into Jazz probably offered me a shortcut when it came to this. When you first start out learning chords on the guitar then everything is based on grips which is a practical and visual way to learn chords, but when it comes to playing Jazz harmony then that approach is not that useful. In Jazz, connecting the chords across the bar line with both melody and voice-leading is much more important. And you will realize that the chord voicings are something that you can change and mess around with. Something you can use creatively and get to fit together, turning them into beautiful music. This will open up your comping and your fretboard to a sea of possibilities and not just a few grips.

Before I got into Jazz I was checking out a lot of Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan and both of these have more of an open way to work with chords which include improvising with them and not playing the same voicings all the time, and in that respect, I already thought of chords as something you could change and move around which in hindsight made the transition to Jazz comping a lot easier since that works exactly the same.

The last tip is probably the advice I give the most as an answer online and also the most effective way to learn Jazz.

What Was A Shortcut That Helped You?

Maybe you have another tip that really changed things for your playing or you don’t agree with any of this? then let me know about that in the comments

#5 The Thing That Ties It All Together

At the beginning of the video, I talked about how I spent a long time learning two songs that were actually a bit too difficult and that in hindsight being stubborn and powering through to get those two songs down, even if it sounded pretty badly was very useful. The same can certainly be said for building a repertoire while playing in the streets of Copenhagen. One thing that I see very often, especially now that there is so more jazz educational material available, is that it stays too superficial, you practice some licks and exercises but it does not become a part of your playing and maybe you don’t even really focus on learning songs. That is a huge mistake.

Think of it like this:

if you only learn a few new things but make sure to be able to use them on all the songs you know then you will sound better and play great solos on all those songs, which is pretty much everything you can play.

If you learn something that you can’t put to use on any songs then what are you really spending time on?

For me, learning those two songs and later spending a lot of time playing songs in the streets of Copenhagen was a huge help in getting to use everything and in that way really getting better, so that first song is worth really pushing through. Of course, if you want some help in getting through that then you can check out the Jazz Guitar Roadmap which is about exactly that process of really getting a song down.

Check out the Jazz Guitar Roadmap

Bonus Tip: A Bit Of Healthy Realism

With all the exercises that you are told to do and ways of learning very specific things then it can mean that you get a little detached from the actual music.

Just like playing songs is the way to learn to use what you practice then often it is a very good idea to also find the things to start practicing in the music that already exists.

And of course, the way you do that is by transcribing solos, that way you get insight into what arpeggios go where, how they sound and how to use them.

This also helps you not going down strange rabbit holes like using all the diatonic arpeggio on each chord and other strange time-consuming unrealistic goals that I have seen people waste time on.

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3 Important Exercises for Jazz Guitar Beginners To Get Started

You need many skills if you want to play Jazz, and some of them can be hard to find good exercises for, or even realize that you need to work on them. In this video, I am going to go over 3 Easy exercises that will help you play better solos and develop skills that are difficult to fix by just practicing scales, arpeggios, or chords.

#1 Playing Changes – A Little Easier

Hope you are having a great day playing some Jazz! This video should help you develop your melodies, your rhythm and your phrasing.

This is something you get hit by very hard the first few times you try to improvise over a jazz standard. I know I certainly did, thinking that it must be impossible to follow the chords that move so fast! When you try to play a solo, chords are flying at you left and right and it seems like you have to be a math genius or a computer to figure out what to play and where to play it.

But improvising over chord changes is a part of Jazz and you want to be able to not only follow the chords but also play melodies that make sense.

This first exercise makes that a lot easier, and mastering this and the next exercise will already make you sound really good when you solo.

Let’s use a bit of the Standard How High The Moon:

The chords are:

The Trick is to do the “calculations” beforehand because eventually, you can get by without having to solve crazy equations whenever you see a chord progression, that is mostly a matter of experience. If you practice like this then you build that skill and it becomes something you can quite easily get into your playing (B-roll on top: complex equation overlay on How High The Moon)

I am not going to cover how you find chord tones, diatonic arpeggios and how to analyze chord progressions in this video. I want to focus on how you practice soloing, but if you want to dig into that then check out the playlist I link to in the description with videos that help you get started with that:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLWYuNvZPqqcHYOlEVg5uHPBy_AudysODz

Of course, you want to play something on the chord progression that makes sense and has a natural flow. The best way to do that is to play phrases that begin on one chord and end on the chord change.

So in the song, when you move from Gmaj7 to Gm7 then the chords sound like this:

and a clear line going from Gmaj7 to Gm7 could sound like this:

So you play towards a very clear note in the next chord often a chord tone, and you can hear how it gives you a natural-sounding melody and also makes the change of chord very clear.

With How High The Moon:

Essentially this is two bars of G major, the key of the piece followed by a II V I in F major.

The simple thing you can do is to target the 3rd of the chord, but you should also check how well the 5th might work because that is a very strong melodic note, the 7th is for solos often not a very strong target note. If you play like this then that could give you:

So when you want to develop this skill then take the chord progression and

1 – Find target notes (especially 3rd and 5th)

2 – Make sure Target Notes are in the same area of the neck

3 – Practice playing short phrases to hit each target note

To develop this keep it simple, in one position and one target note at a time. If you develop a skill like this you can expand on it later.

You also want to give yourself time to think ahead, so just stop on the target note and think about making a melody to the next target note. Later you can open this up and become much freer and also not only play to target notes on beats one and three.

This approach is one of the best ways to develop a natural flow when you improvise over changes and learning to think ahead is incredibly important for so many things in Music, not just playing solos over chord changes.

Working like this you can end up with some very heavy phrasing that doesn’t really sound like Jazz which is why you want to check out the next exercise.

#2 The Most Important Part Of Jazz

The most important ingredient in Jazz is rhythm, but it can be difficult to develop mainly because you forget it when you focus on the chord changes and that can really ruin how you sound.

In general, a great way to develop a skill is to reduce your freedom with other things so that you are forced to focus on training and developing that skill.

When it comes to rhythm, then a very useful exercise is to limit your note choice so that you only have two notes and have to focus on being creative with rhythm to get what you play to work, and if you try this exercise then you will probably be surprised how much you can learn. Let’s check out an example and then talk about what you need to focus on to really develop your rhythm.

You Stepped Out Of A Dream

When you set up this exercise for yourself:

1 – Try to choose notes that are mostly chord tones and close to each other across chords so that you have an easier time connecting.

2 – Explore how to use a lot of off-beats especially ending phrases on an off-beat

(this is the sound of bebop phrasing and will help your solos sound 10x better)

3 – Try to play melodies with quarter notes

You always focus on learning to play 8th note lines and forget how great it can sound to play quarter-note rhythms

#3 Passing Notes – Grown Up Jazz Licks

When you can already play a solo over the harmony and you are beginning to use some more interesting rhythms

Maybe cut in: “I mean that you are working on exercise one and two from this video…”

Then you can start working on making the melodies more surprising and more complicated, and you do that by playing a lot of wrong notes and then resolving them to some right notes.

Obviously, this is a HUGE topic, but an easy way to get started is to do two really simple things:

1 Add a chromatic note before the start of a phrase like an arpeggio

2 Add a chromatic note between two notes in the scale.

And if you if put that to use over Ladybird then that sounds like this:

In the beginning, you want to resolve to chord tones and have the resolution on the beat, as you see here where:

The first Cmaj7 bar starts with adding a chromatic passing note between D and C, and later between A and G

on the Fm7 I am adding a chromatic leading note before the Fm7 and making the arpeggio an 8th note triplet which is a great Bebop sound.

The Bb7 has a passing note between the C and the Bb, and transitions back to the Cmaj7 by moving up from the 5 to the G on Cmaj7

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Scale Exercises – Make Sure They Help You Play Better

Most of us practice scale exercises, but how much of that is just running up and down the scale or playing 3rds or diatonic arpeggios, and is that the best way to go about it?

In this video, I am going to talk about how you can start practicing exercises that are much closer to what you need in your solos and be more free when you improvise. This can really open up your playing so that you find it easier to create and play lines that sound great.

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Content:

00:00 Intro – More effective scale exercises

00:29 A Bebop Lick and Finding a Great Exercise

01:45 Barry Harris Philosophy

02:04 Another Classic Jazz Phrase

02:59 Flexibility And Vocabulary

03:47 Building from a Benson Inspired Line

05:29 Chromatic Passing Note Exercises?

05:58 Exercises that are Great in Jazz Solos!

06:05 Like the video? Check out my Patreon page!

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Skills You Need To Develop – Important Jazz Exercises

You need to learn scales, arpeggios, and vocabulary to play solos and to get it to sound like Jazz, but there are other aspects of improvising a solo that you need to develop as well if you want to sound good.

This week, the focus is on some of the other essential skills you need to develop to become good at improvising Jazz. So it is not really about scales, arpeggios, and vocabulary. I take a standard and go over some of the exercises you can start to do to really learn how to become a better soloist.

The focus is on playing solos that:

  • Play real phrases
  • Make the solo one piece of music
  • Play what you hear

It takes more than just scales and arpeggios to play a great Jazz Solo

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Content:

00:00 Intro

00:22 The Song

00:34 #1 – Limit Yourself – 2 or 3 notes

01:14 Choosing notes for a solo

02:47Tips for doing the exercise

03:22 Challenge your Creativity

03:50What you improve in your playing

04:52 #2 – Motivic Development

05:59 Basic practice

06:42 Motivic Development on a song

07:10 Digging into the Harmony

07:21 Melodic Voice-leading

07:47 Rhythmic Displacement = Motivic Development

08:20 What You Learn

08:58 #3 – Improvise with chord tones

09:44 Two variations

09:47 #1 Arpeggios within one octave

10:27 #2 One Position

11:06 How to play over chord changes and make sense 


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25 Jazz Guitar Exercises – How To Improve Skills In A Musical Way

It is important that we practice and improve our technique, and often a good way to do this is to work on jazz guitar exercises like a phrase or musical fragment. In this video I am going to go over some technical topics you can work on and a few phrases to help you develop your technique.

The format of this lesson is different from what I normally do since it is a set of exercises to work on that will work as technical and musical exercises teaching you.

#1 Triads are great Jazz Chords

#2 Mix Triads with 3-part Quartal chords and sus4 triads

#3 Advanced 3-Part Jazz Chords

#4 Drop2 chords

#5 Drop2 chords with extensions

#6 Beautiful Inner-voice movement

#7 Must Know Drop2 voicings

#8 Medium-swing Bop Lines

#9 Chaining Arpeggios together

#10 Charlie Christian Inspired

#11 F7 Blues line #1

#12 F7 Blues line #2

#13 F7 Blues line #3

#14 Challenge your right-hand

#15 String Skips in arpeggios

#16 Quartal arpeggios

#17 Using Legato in lines

#18 Using Slides

#19 Legato in arpeggios

#20 8th note triplets in lines #1

#21 8th note triplets in lines #2

#22 8th note triplets in lines #3

#23 Sweeping Arpeggios #1

#24 Sweeping Arpeggios #2

#25 Sweeping Arpeggios #3

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This Is How You Should Use Scale Exercises

If you want to play jazz and want to learn how to play jazz solos then you are probably also practicing scales and working on scale exercises.

In this lesson, I am going to go over a few scale exercises that you probably already know or at least should check out and then I am going to talk about how to connect them to chords and really use them to make music.

It is very important that you don’t just work on moving your fingers with exercises, you should always try to practice the things you need when you are playing.

Getting Started – Basic Scale Exercises

So first I am going to go over a few exercises and then I am going to relate this to a little simple music theory and show you how you can turn that into something you can make music with.

Let’s look at some of the fundamental things you check out in a scale, just playing the scale and playing thirds.

Lets take a Cmaj7 chord and this C major scale.

You want to play these two exercises because they are going to help you develop the technique to play the things that you can use in lines. Of course, you can use both 3rd intervals and scale runs in solos, but that is something I will save for another lesson.

The Mighty Triad – Powerful Melodic Structures

For most of this lesson, I am going to focus on how to practice and use triads because they are both flexible and powerful tools in soloing. But the process is really the same for all sorts of arpeggios.

There are a few great ways to practice triad arpeggios in the scales. First here is a basic version: play Diatonic Triads

But you can also give it more of a jazz sound already at the exercise level by adding leading notes both ascending

and descending:

Now we can start working on making some really great sounding licks with these exercises, but first, we need to figure out which triads will work over a Cmaj7.

Music Theory (just a little..)

Now, we have 7 triads in the scale. They don’t all sound that great on the chord, so first we need to find some that work.

The only note that sounds funny on the Cmaj7 is an F. I don’t like calling it an avoid note, but if we are looking for triads then that is not the greatest one to use.

We have all these triads: C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am, Bdim,

C: C E G
Dm: D F A
Em: E G B
F: F A C
G: G B D
Am: A C E
Bdim: B D F

If we remove the triads that contain an F then we get these 4 triads C, Em, G, Am

These fit!

C: C E G (1, 3, 5)
Em: E G B (3, 5, 7)
G: G B D (5, 7, 9)
Am: A C E (13(6), 1, 3)

Now we can start making lines with these exercises and then I will show you another exercise that is great for creating solid melodies

Making Lines with the triads

The first example is using an Em triad and adding a leading note to the 5th:

Another way to work with the Em triad is to play the triad as a triplet to change up the rhythm:

You can also chain together triads as I am doing here with G major and Em triads:

Another Great Exercise

Since the triads work so well in licks it is also possible to change the order of the notes. Until now it was always 1 3 5 or 5 3 1 but if you practice other patterns you can really get some great melodies as well.

Here is a simple pattern that starts on the third: 3 1 5 pattern example

If I make some licks with this pattern then you get something like this:

Arpeggios and Pentatonics!

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That is not a Musical Exercise, I don’t like it!

You hear exercises being described as unmusical very often. But how much sense does it make to label a jazz guitar exercise as unmusical? When we practice then it is maybe more about looking at the skill we are improving than whether an exercise is musical or not?

In this video, I am discussing this and also going over some common misconceptions about different types of guitar practice like metronome practice.

Content:

0:00 Intro

0:19 Avoid Un-musical exercises?

1:05  Unmusical Exercise  Exercise #1

1:20 Unmusical like Pat Metheny

1:51 The Musical Exercise in a “Facebook video”

2:38 Skills involved

2:53 What is the point of an Exercise?

3:47  Unmusical Exercise #2

4:07 Benefits of Robotic Exercises

4:56  Unmusical Exercise  #3

5:07 How It sounds and What it is

5:40 What you learn!

6:57 Unmusical Exercise #4

7:08 Innovation is the tradition in Jazz

7:26 Just Try something!

8:01 What Is Your Opinion on Musical/unmusical exercises?

8:21 Like the video? Check out my Patreon Page!

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Jazz Guitar Licks With No Scales – This Is Why Its Great

The ingredients of most common approach to jazz guitar: Scales and Arpeggios. never thought I would hear myself say this, but you can make some really great lines by ignoring scales completely. This way of thinking is quite different from the idea of assigning scales to the chords the way we usually do. At the same time it is a traditional way of making lines and a very useful approach to changing things up.

The problem with too much scale movement

The way of making lines that I am going to cover here is at the very least helping you get rid of lines that sound as predictable and boring as this:

Of course in the long run you probably want to learn you scales just the same. It is better to have more options after all. I will talk about why later.

The George Benson Connection

I came across this way of making lines while analyzing a George Benson solo and I realized that if create lines with this concept you can make some really strong lines that don’t move in a predictable way but still make sense.

In this video I am going to show you how it works and how you can start experimenting with it in your own playing.

The basic concept: Triads and Leading notes

This is a really simple concept. Instead of making lines with scales and arpeggios (my entire system for guitar just fell apart) then we can also just think in simple triad arpeggios and leading notes. So Lines are constructed by having triad tones as targets and adding small melodies of leading notes that point towards those triad tones.

The Chord and The Progression

For this lesson I am going to focus on how to use this on a II V I in Bb major, and especially the Cm7 in that progression!

Cm Triad and leading notes – Two Exercises

So the way the melodies are made are from using the simple triads for example: Cm. The basic material I am using is an enclosure and a leading note on a Cm triad like this:

Putting the idea to use in a II V I lick

And an example of a line using this could be something like this:

Above the triad targes are first Eb, then a low G and finally a C. The beginning of the F7 line is also using a chromatic enclosure to move to the 3rd.

The big advantage to Chord and Leading notes approach

What is liberating is that when we play like this then it often works to just jump from one place to the next and you don’t have to think so much about the direction of the scale run or arpeggio run, and because it is using a very basic arpeggio then the leading note melodies make a lot of sense.

Here’s another example on a II V I. Again using chromatic approach phrases to move to both Cm7 and F7 chord tones.

Of course there are also some things that this doesn’t do, and I would not only use this way of playing as a total approach to everything, but it is a nice way to come up with some lines that sound different and still work with the chords. Using this method to create lines with more more extensions gets a little difficult because the extensions also want to sound like leading notes and the leading notes for the extensions are often chord tones.

This example is using one of the lines that Benson uses a lot on the dominant. It is in fact a Parker lick that Benson learned.

How to work on this approach

So the best way to work on this is to mix it with another approach. This is also what George Benson does in his solo. I will link to my video analyzing this in the description of this video.

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You can also download the PDF of my examples here:

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Jazz Practice Routine How To Find The Perfect Balance

If you have to make a 30 minute Jazz Practice Routine, what should you include?

We are all different so there is no one solution that fits everybody, but you don’t want to waste time or leave out important things to practice.

In this video, I am going to go over what I think a 30-minute practice session should include. I am of course a guitarist so it will be aimed at jazz guitar practice, but I am sure the philosphy and topics will fit all instruments. Some of the topics that I think are important for a jazz practice routine would be:

Technique, Repertoire, Exercises, Vocabulary, Theory, Ear-Training,
Transcriptions

I am really curious about how your practice routine is, so if you have a routine then please leave a comment with a list of stuff you work on. This is useful for people looking for inspiration and certainly also for you to evaluate how you work. I will do the same 🙂

Content:

0:00 Intro – A 30-minute Practice Routine

1:24 Technique and Warm-up

1:32 Warm-up and Synchronization – 10 minutes

2:05 Arpeggios – Right hand warm-up

2:31 Working out with Spread Triads (Steve Morse)

3:00 Technique – Musical Practice

3:19 My Basic Fretboard Visualization

3:41 Practice in all 12 Keys! (are there only 12 keys?)

4:08 Diatonic Harmony

4:40 Stay Flexible and Practice open-ended

5:43 Playing Music – 10 min

6:13 Play Songs and Put it all Together

6:47 What You Focus on and Learn

7:41 Ear Training – 5 min.

7:52 Moving Melodies through the scale

8:26 Using Apps or Computer Programs

8:50 Advantages to a schedule working with Apps

9:04 Transcriptions

9:28 Figuring Songs out from Memory

9:49 Vocabulary – 5 minutes

10:00 Use Composition and Create YOUR vocabulary

10:28 Share your Practice Routine! Give us some ideas!

10:50 Like the video? Check out my Patreon Page!

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If you want to download a Free E-book of 15 II Valt I licks then subscribe to my newsletter:

https://jenslarsen.nl/sign-up-for-my-newsletter/

Get the PDF!

The PDF with examples for this video is available through Patreon. You can check out my Patreon Page here: https://www.patreon.com/jenslarsen

Jazz Guitar Insiders Facebook Group

Join 1500+ Other Jazz Guitarists 🎸Join us in the Facebook Jazz Guitar Group Community: http://bit.ly/InsidersFBGroup

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics then please let me know. Leave a comment on the video or send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make them fit what you are searching for.

Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts, and releases.