Tag Archives: jazz guitar practice exercises

The Best Exercise For Jazz Guitar – Advice From 7 Online Teachers

There are some amazing lessons available online, and I feel really proud to be in a community of so many great teachers and players. I thought it could be fun to give you a chance to check out some short lessons and both learn something useful and maybe discover a new YT channel to learn from, so I asked a few people that I think make great videos to create a short lesson on their best advice for students something that was a game-changer for them. Some of these are people I recently found and some of them are old friends of mine.

Adam Levy – Most Efficient Jazz Chords

Let’s start with Adam Levy who I hope you already know. His YouTube channel has a lot of great thoughtful advice and some fantastic interviews as well, his credentials as a teacher and the long list of successful artists he has worked with speak for themselves, the lesson is crystal clear, and also how Adam went about learning Jazz chords

 

Richard Peña – Making Everything Bebop

Later Sandara Sherman demonstrates a way to use Shells like these for soloing, but first, a recent discovery for me is Richard Peña, he is an amazing Jazz guitar player and has some great lessons on Instagram and YouTube, you definitely want to check him out.

 

Mikko Hilden – Hearing The Diminished Scale

You have seen Mikko on this channel before, I really like how he digs into topics and really explores them in a personal and thorough way, also great that he does a lot of more modern approaches. This one is about a way to not only learn the diminished scale but also how to hear it, which is much more difficult.

Quist – Rhythm First!

 

Rhythm and timing are so essential to Jazz, and this exercise from Quist is a great way to work on this in a more creative way as well. I am sure you already know Quist from his backing track channel, and amazing intro which you can also find on instagram and tiktok, you should also check out some of his lofi albums.

Chase Maddox – Technique And Vocabulary

Another recent discovery for me is Chase Maddox, which you may already know from the JazzMeme’s instagram that he runs with his brother, but his own YouTube video channel I have found to e a great resource for a lot of solid vocabulary and technique lessons which is also related to this exercise, and then we need to check out some Guide tone tips from Sandra and some Bebop triads.

Sandra Sherman – Guide-tone soloing

I doubt if Sandra needs any introduction, I am sure you already know her channel with lots of great lessons on chord melody and other topics. She sort of takes the same starting point as Adam did but applies it to soloing where it is as useful:

Alon Albagli – Bebop Triads

Alon Albagli, is another recent discovery he’s actually also kind of new to YouTube but he makes really solid videos and his chord Melody playing and the way he works with chords is just amazing so definitely check that out you probably also want to check out his recent solo album on Spotify

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5 Scale Exercises That Make It Easier To Learn Jazz

Scale Exercises are the source of a  lot of problems. I remember running into this myself when I was starting out and I also hear about it often from students.  You practice a lot of exercises, but is it really helping you play better, or are you just repeating the same exercises without getting anywhere?

For me,  there were some exercises that really were game changers in learning Jazz, simply because they could do more than just teach me how to play an arpeggio or a scale, and if you want to improve your playing then you should check if they won’t also be very useful for you.

What is maybe a little weird about them is that they are not all the type of exercise that you work on everyday for months with a metronome, because there are other things you need to learn besides technique, and there are other ways to practice than using a metronome. I think  one of them is also a very powerful and practical way to build a fretboard overview.

Is this a video with a list that get’s filled in along the way? (#1, #2, #3, #4, #5 visible from the beginning)

#1 The Scale

B-roll:

Disappointment: Frustrated Emoji!

Playing a scale slowly

List On screen:

1 Start With The Major Scale

2 Practice All Keys

3 Be Aware and Focused

With a build-up like this is then it is maybe a bit of a disappointment that the first exercise is practicing the scale,  since you are hopefully doing that already and you probably trying to not sound like you are playing scales when you solo and want to develop your musicality. But, playing the scale and knowing what notes are in there is important and as you will see it will serve as a foundation for everything else in this video plus that it is the shortest exercise you can imagine with a scale,

just make sure that you:

  1. Start with the major scale in one position before adding other positions and other scales
  2. Gradually get around to all keys so that you get flexible with that
  3. Don’t just play them mindlessly but try to make them sound good and be aware of what you are playing.

There is a video of Pat Metheny turning scale practice into music which I think is very inspiring.

The next exercise is a logical extension of practicing scales, and also what I often refer to as “the most important exercise for Jazz”, but remember that if you are practicing scales then it only takes a short amount of time to go over a key in all positions, and you can set up systems so that you get through all keys over a few days. It shouldn’t take hours of practice every day because you also need to play music when you practice!

As you will see with the rest of the exercises then it is important to connect things, not only the scale, arpeggios and vocabulary, but also chords, you will see what I mean.

#2 Diatonic Arpeggios

I learned this exercise the first time I went to a Barry Harris masterclass in the Hague, and it was an exercise that changed everything about how I practiced and made it all much closer connected to the music that I wanted to learn to play: Bebop. And for me, the goal of all of these exercises is to help you play better Jazz, and this exercise is actually a direct link to the music, and I think it is crazy that not everyone teaches this to their students.

Diatonic Arpeggios sounds difficult, but it is pretty simple, if you play the scale in positions then you can play a 7th chord arpeggio for each note in the scale by essentially stacking 3rds.

Explainer/close-up (a bit quick since it is twice) – hand + diagram + letters?

Show the process of stacking 3rds:

For C major if I start on C, then I build a 7th chord by stacking 3rds: C, E, G, B which is Cmaj7

for Dm7 it is the same thing: D, F, A, C.

You can probably tell that there are obvious technical benefits to working on this exercise, but if you are also aware of what notes and what arpeggios you are playing then you are really connecting some very important information on the guitar to the chords you want to solo over.

Doing this exercise makes it possible for you to take a Jazz standard and play arpeggios through the entire progression, which is a great beginning for internalizing a song and having a place to start with soloing over it, where you take an arpeggio and build a phrase around it.

Besides being a very solid foundation for improvising over chords and learning songs then it will also give you a lot more material, because if you analyze transcriptions of great Jazz musicians then you will find a lot of other arpeggios being used besides the arpeggio of the chord itself, and you are completely ready for doing that if you work on this exercise.

Take a look at how this line uses other arpeggios over the chords than the chord itself.

There are arpeggios from other chord tones that sound great over the chords, and like this you already know them!

Example II V I with other arpeggios.  — First play it then cut to quick highlights with the line above as voice over

Let’s look at some exercises that are not just regular exercises, but also incorporate some chords before we get to exercises for vocabulary and fretboard overview

#3 Diatonic Chords

When you are playing Jazz then you are both playing solos and chords because you are not soloing ALL the time, and you can practice chords in scales as well, which for me was a very useful way to work on exploring new voicings, getting familiar with diatonic chords and how their extensions sound. You can even do chords in scale positions.

This exercise is actually possible with all types of chords, but the most basic version is probably a good place to start and that is to go through the major keys using shell-voicings.

If you know your major scales well enough to know the notes in there then this can be a great exercise since it is not always practical to start on the root.

For example if you want to play Diatonic chords in C major with the shell-voicings that have the root on the 6th string then you can’t start on C and F or E is a better option.

You could also explore doing this in a position, but that will not be useful for that many types of voicings, thought it is a nice exercise for the shell voicings:

The main benefits from this exercise are:

  • Know the chords in a key, and how they sound
  • Making it easier to play songs & hear the harmony
  • Exploring how chords move through a scale

Now, you have  the scale linked to both arpeggios and chords, so let’s connect it to the notes that are not in the scale since they are a part of the picture in Jazz as well.

#4 Chromatic Notes

This exercise is such a simple concept but when I first came across it then it  immediately  resonated with me and it really sounds like Jazz, already as an exercise. Of course, this comes from how frequently it is a building block in Jazz solos and especially Bebop lines. When I was given the exercise then I had already heard it 1000s of times in the solos Charlie Parker, Pat Martino and Wes Montgomery, so playing it really just made that click into place and gave me tons of phrases to use in my solos.

I am, as you may have guessed, talking about the Bebop arpeggio exercise, which I have also mentioned in other videos, and this was an exercise that I learned the first time I was at a Barry Harris workshop in the Hague.

The exercise is simple, you play each diatonic arpeggio as an 8th-note triplet and add a leading note in front of it, but it is also a great example of an exercise that is already vocabulary,

something you can use in countless lines and actually also illustrates why Barry’s method is so powerful: It is based on making exercises that are already solo lines, like this:

Obviously this is just the tip of the iceberg, and you can do so much more with adding chromatic notes or even chromatic phrases to arpeggios or intervals, and they will all be good exercise, in fact any vocabulary that you like is probably worth taking apart and turning into exercises.

Most of them will not be used as often as this one in solos, but they are still fun and useful to explore.

You can let me know in the comments if you want a link to a playlist with some of the Barry Harris videos I have done that go deeper into his method and  his system for chromatic notes.

The Bebop arpeggio exercise is the typical “scale exercise” that you can work on in all keys and positions with a metronome. You could approach the next exercise like that as well, but I am not sure I think that is the point of it really. However, It does really fit with the Barry Harris ideology and it is the BEST exercise for building a practical overview of the fretboard.

#5 Vocabulary

I remember when I was starting out and with a lot of the songs I could solo over, then there would be chords where I did not have the freedom to move around on the neck, I was stuck in a single position. if I had been given these exercises then that would have developed a lot faster than it did, in fact this is probably the most practical and efficient fretboard knowledge exercise that you can work on.

The idea of learning a phrase and taking it through all 12 keys isn’t usually considered a scale exercise, but it really is a great exercise for your overview of the scale and it will help you get better at finding the things that you want to use in your solos on the instrument.

Of course, phrases don’t always fit in a single scale, but then the different scales that are in the phrase anyway go together in the music so linking them up is incredibly useful.


There are two ways you can approach this, which are different takes on the geometry of the guitar, and both are equally useful. In the end, you can use both long and short phrases and explore how it is to move them around, but for this I will stick to a relatively short phrase which is a pivot arpeggio

and an altered dominant line

like this:

Example Bebop line  + Bebop line in one position and lots of keys and Bebop line in one key and several positions (Maybe Joe Pass Etudes in several positions)

The first variation is the traditional approach, so take the phrase through all 12 keys (and yes, for stuff like this the whole 15 or 30 keys or whatever that was, doesn’t make any sense at all, so 12 keys!). For this one, I am going to focus on staying around the same area of the neck, it probably won’t make sense to insist on staying completely in the same position, instead the priority should be to stay in the same area while keeping it playable and also possible to play with decent phrasing. This is much more useful, and you want to be practical!

This phrase combines an altered dominant with the key of the II V I which is a really useful connection, and taking it through the keys help you identify important building blocks in those keys and also know what the altered dominant is in those keys, which is (obviously) going to be very useful, we are not all playing in bands like AC/DC where 85% of the songs are in A.

If you are working on this exercise with licks that have common progressions and common building blocks then this is a great exercise for your playing, fretboard overview, ear training and vocabulary. It is good for a LOT of things.

The Guitaristic version of this is also really worthwhile, because you can also use this to develop the visual skills associated with the guitar and your overview of the neck.

As I mentioned in the beginning of this section then I found myself in a place where I was practicing scales in all positions, but I was only able to solo in some of those positions. I only knew how to play the scale in some places without having any vocabulary. Taking a simple phrase and then sticking to one key, but exploring how to play it in all positions is in a way the guitar version of moving a lick through 12 keys, and that can be an exercise that really opens up scale positions for you. When you find the building blocks that you need in each position by moving some lines through the positions, then it gets easier to solo in those positions. In fact, I was given this exercise by a teacher later when I moved to Copenhagen and it did indeed quickly start to do exactly that for my playing. This is also the kind of exercise that you can explore doing with the shot solos from the book the Joe Pass Guitar Style to get more out of them, but you can check that video out later.

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This Solo Exercise Changed Everything

“This was fixing two of the things that I wanted to improve in my playing, and I also discovered two new things that I could learn from it!” 

Some years ago I had a period where whenever I sat down to practice in my room, I felt stuck with my playing. I could improvise through the changes and make lines but it didn’t really sound the way I felt it should, it was just a lot of notes and something was missing.

I had started to realize that, while longer 8th note lines work pretty well in a higher tempo, they don’t sound nearly as interesting in a medium tempo and I had mostly been focusing on getting better 8th note lines by checking out Pat Martino and Joe Pass. When I was playing a slower tempo, I wanted a different sound. It felt like the 8th note lines lacked dynamics and it sound like too much thinking in a tempo when you want to hear more groove and rhythm.

When you are trying to improve something then most of the work you need to do is to really understand what needs to be fixed. There is a famous Einstein quote where he says that “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.” And this certainly applies to Music as well. The better you understand what is wrong the easier it is to fix it. What I hadn’t realized at that point was that I actually had a solution right in front of me.

I wanted to get a better idea about what should change. I knew that I wanted to get better at playing phrases that were not Bebop lines. But I was stuck with only knowing what I did not want, and I needed to figure out what I did want because doesn’t make sense to practice not doing something, you need to practice doing something else that works. So I needed examples of what I wanted the phrases to sound like. Examples that I could emulate and get some inspiration from. This meant diving into my cd collection (this was before the internet and Spotify).

Here I ran into a problem, I was looking for people who played fewer notes, and still had that sound I wanted. And I realized that I did not really have a lot of music from people who play like that, it was much more Pass, Martino, and Metheny, and not as much Jim Hall, Barney Kessel, and Charlie Christian. In hindsight, that of course explains a lot….

I did have a lot of Wes and that came pretty close. On a lot of the albums that I really liked he was playing a lot more short statements. So I started to listen and learn solos from Wes, trying to find things I could make my own, but I also wanted exercises that were more open open-ended and could help me develop this. And there was one really solid exercise right in front of me.

I was teaching a lesson when I realized that I had an exercise that would help. We were working on improvising over a Jazz Blues with a student and building it up from soloing with chord tones.

For a beginner in Jazz then improvising with chord tones have a lot of advantages:

There are only a few notes

They all work great on the chord

It is pretty easy to make melodies with an arpeggio

You learn to hear the chords in your solo.

But While I was demonstrating to the student by improvising a solo, I realized that  this really connected to what I was trying to learn myself:

Because. when you have only 4 notes then you are not going to play a lot of notes simply because that doesn’t really sound great

If you are playing the arpeggio you are not going to get lost trying to add the material that you usually use with extensions, chromatic enclosures, etc

After I was done teaching that day, I immediately sat down to try this out. It was in many ways a perfect exercise, and I could work with it in a few different ways to really improve my playing like this. And this is an exercise that I find myself returning to fairly often.

Getting this exercise to develop your playing, especially when it comes to rhythm and phrasing can be seen as a 3 step process:

Step #1: The Raw Material

The first thing to do is to choose a song or progression, and then make sure you have all the arpeggios in one place like I am doing here with the first part of Days Of Wine And Roses.

Fmaj7

Eb7

Aøv

This is just to make sure that you have all the arpeggios in one place and to make it easier to go from one chord to the next without having to jump around the neck.

But you need to do more than just know where the notes are, they still need to become music.

Full position arpeggios

For this exercise, it is useful to have the full position of the arpeggio because that gives you more freedom to be melodic once you start improvising, and I am sure that you also already worked on this at some point, so now you get to use it!

Step #2: Refining It

I worked with this exercise in two ways. The first is to build vocabulary, so compose licks or improvise slowly:

So you can hear that I try to use small 2-3 note fragments and then either use them as a motif to go from one chord to the next, or use call response so that one phrase is a call(b-roll)and the next is a response(b-roll)

When you work like this you focus more on making melodies, seeing the connections, and how the notes move from one chord to the next. Because that will help you make much more interesting solos

There are easy ways to work with this. Take this motivic line on Fmaj7 Eb7

Here I am using that A and C can move up to Bb and Db and then I can make that into a nice repeated riff tying together these two chords.

But of course, this is mostly about the notes and becoming better at making sense with short 2 or 3-note phrases, so you need to work on the next step as well to get the final ingredient:

Step #3: The Finishing Touch

Now you can take a medium tempo and start to solo using just arpeggios. If you have the first two steps down then this becomes the place where you really start to develop your solos and integrate them into your playing.

And this is where the limitation part of the exercise really starts to pay off.

A limitation exercise is an exercise where you limit yourself to focus on improving something specific. With music, you do this all the time and it can be a great way to develop many skills. Think of exercises like a chromatic exercise where you play something really simple to focus on your right hand.

In this case, the limitation is that you play the song and improvise over it, but you only use the arpeggio or the chord tones.

The advantage is that you play fewer notes and you don’t have to think too much about the notes, so you can really focus on the rhythm and how you play those notes, making your solo more dynamic and more interesting when it comes to rhythm.

I guess, I had an extra bonus because I was doing this exercise for myself, but also using it with my students, so I could actually practice while I was teaching.

And this was fixing two of the things that I wanted to improve in my playing, and I also discovered two new things that I could learn from it! Playing shorter phrases and more statements than long lines was already getting better, but I also discovered two other things that I had never thought about with Jazz melodies and Bebop lines.

And this was fixing two of the things in my playing that I really wanted to improve by letting me play shorter phrases and use more interesting rhythms. But I also discovered two other things that I had never thought about with Jazz melodies and Bebop lines.

The Sacred Quarter-note

The first thing was about rhythm: When it comes to rhythms then often we think that everything has to be complicated, odd note groupings and syncopations

but one thing that I found to be incredibly effective and overlooked was phrasing using quarter notes.

Quarter notes are very useful and if you go back to people that are closer to the swing era like Charlie Christian and early Jim Hall, then you will hear a lot of quarter note rhythms as well.

The quarter notes often get to work as a resolution so that your off beats sound more interesting as a sort of tension. They are also just a great way to sound more grounded and connect to the groove and the tempo.

Less Notes More Times

The other thing that I discovered improvising like this was that when you improvise 8th note lines then you rarely repeat notes. Mainly because that doesn’t sound great in an 8th note line:

but if you are improvising with shorter phrases and trying to make melodies that are focused on rhythm and locking in with the groove then repeating notes is a great thing to do, actually also something you will hear Wes do as well.

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What Is Effective Jazz Practice And Are You Wasting Your Time

Even if you are practicing for years to learn Jazz then you may still not see a lot of progress, and there is a real chance that a lot of the time you spend working on learning to play Jazz is a complete waste of time. This is probably because you don’t take a step back and look critically at how you play and what you are practicing.

It doesn’t matter if you are just starting out or if you already have experience playing and a repertoire of songs you gig with. You need to get this right to get as much as possible out of your practice time and keep you progressing.

There are a series of questions that you can ask yourself about your practice and your playing that will help you determine if you need to change something, let’s take a look at the first one:

Do You Know What You Want To Improve?

This seems simple you are probably thinking “what do you mean? I want to get better at Jazz guitar” But that is nowhere near specific enough! You want to be very precise with what you want to improve.

Think of it like this: If you want to get better at using arpeggios in your solos then It is easy to find some exercises so you can play arpeggios, check out some examples and start writing some licks with the arpeggios.

You could summarize the process like this:

  • Practice Arpeggios
  • Check Out Examples
  • Write Licks With Arpeggios

That all seems obvious, but which exercises will make you “Better at Jazz Guitar” That doesn’t tell you what to practice, so essentially you want to keep digging into what you want to improve until you can figure out exercises that will help you grow that skill.

But before you lose yourself in only doing exercises that are specific to one skill then there is something else you need to ask yourself.

What Are You Learning From Your Practice?

The previous question was there to make sure that you understand your playing and how to focus on getting better, but it is as important to look at what you are practicing and then be able to recognize what you are learning from each of the activities you do.

Let me go over a basic example and then one of the most important exercises you should work on::

Let’s say that you are practicing diatonic triads in a major scale.

An exercise like that is helping you develop:

So there are many things that you will work on within a single exercise. This is also what justifies why you should be spending a large part of your practice time playing music, which is probably the most important exercise to work on.

Without being specific then the goal is “I want to get better at Jazz guitar” and what is “Jazz Guitar” That is playing songs and improvising over the chord progression, so even if that is not a very specific set of skills, then if you want to be better at that then you practice doing that.

There are many essential things that you improve when doing this:

  • More Than Playing The Right Notes
  • How To Build an Interesting Solo
  • All Types of Techniques
  • Using and Developing Your Fretboard Overview
  • Create A Sound That Is How YOU Solo On a Song

You need to do more than just play the right notes

You want to make the notes and arpeggios into phrases, not just hit the chord changes and target notes.

You learn How To Build an interesting solo

A solo is like a story and has to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. You also need to make sure that phrases fit together and don’t sound like random copy/pasting of unrelated licks.

All Types of Techniques

Playing a solo you will probably use most of the techniques in your vocabulary, and it is here you can check if you really have the technique under control.

Using and Developing Your Fretboard Overview

When you are improvising a solo you are using and developing your fretboard overview finding all the things you play and a way to get all of that to come together in phrases.

Improvising is also where you create a sound that is how YOU solo on a song

Which is really just trying to play the things that you want to play in a solo and make it a whole piece of music.

 

But there is more to it than just what to practice, you also need to evaluate if the way you are practicing is actually getting you anywhere.

Are You Getting Better?

Once you have come up with exercises that help you develop the skill that you want to improve then you also need to keep track and see if you are actually getting any better.

You may think that this will be easy to spot, but that is actually not always the case. A lot of things that you work on can be stuff that takes months to get into your playing, again this can be about technique but it can certainly also be about getting new melodies into your ears and then out in your solos.

Recording your practice can be extremely useful for this, and taking notes or having a list to keep track of is also making things a lot easier. For example, I have been working on using octave displacement licks and getting that to sit better in my playing, so that is something I both consciously try to use but also try to evaluate if I listen to a recording of one of my solos: “can I play them? do they sit right in the line? Is that how I want it to sound?”

If you don’t keep track of these things then maybe you are not getting anywhere with what you are practicing. And sometimes you will get there faster if you use other types of exercises or changed the focus of what you are practicing. Otherwise, you are stuck doing exercises that are not helping you get any better and that is probably not what you are hoping to do.

I find that the next 2 questions are overlooked when it comes to finding the right types of exercises, and that is a pity because they really do help make it easier to find the things that will improve your playing.

Is This A Practical Exercise For Your Playing?

Sometimes you lose something in translating a goal into an exercise, and that can make the exercise almost useless.

A common example is how practicing scales is not always helping you play better lines. If you look at solo phrases then they are rarely a lot of scales, in Jazz anyway,

 

and there are other things that you want to learn as well or probably even focus more on so that you are building a vocabulary of things to play in your solos, and in this case, your solo should not just be you running up and down the scale so you want to learn some diatonic arpeggios or diatonic triads.

?? ??

Another thing that I see people waste a lot of time on is not planning the process of learning well enough and forgetting what may be the most important part of the goal.

Do You Know How To Use This?

Of course, you are choosing exercises based on what you want to learn and have in your playing. This is great for motivation and usually just makes it more fun to practice, but you do need to watch out that you also know where you are going with it.

I hear this mostly from students that are working on things like the altered scale

or Barry Harris 6th diminished stuff. Learning the scale and the exercises is maybe not easy, but still something you can work on and it will be ok. The problems start when you don’t have any way of using it. You don’t know any examples of altered licks and don’t really know what to do with that scale.

That is why you also want to ask yourself: “Do You Know How To Use This”. Sometimes that is easy: If you are working on arpeggios or triads and you can probably think of some licks with triads that you can use as a blueprint for making your own vocabulary and in that way get things into your playing, but without something like that, some practical references to how this is put to use in real music then that can get pretty tricky and you may find that you are wasting practice time working on that topic.

Not Getting Caught Up In Myths

Being aware of what you are learning and what you want to learn is incredibly important. It is also important to not get fooled by some weird myth that you hear, and there are a few common ones floating around about learning Jazz or even music in general. Stuff like this can really slow you down and let you waste a lot of time chasing something that is actually wrong. If you want to avoid these then check out this video that discusses 5 of them so that you have a clear idea about where you are and what you should be working on.

Jazz Beginner – 5 Myths That Waste Your Time

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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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