Tag Archives: jazz guitar practice

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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3 Things that Ruin Your Jazz Practice And Stops Your Progress

We all want to play fantastic lines in our solos!

But one of the worst things you can do if you want to play better lines is to practice songs at full speed and then just hope that it becomes better.

#1 Too Fast = No Control!

It won’t make your lines better, but it might make you bitter, and that is how a lot of people go about it, I have certainly done that myself quite often.

When you do that it is a bit like trying to learn Chinese by watching a Chinese movie with Chinese subtitles. You will probably get there but it is going to take a few years.

Setting up a better method

So, you should slow things down and really work on playing stronger lines by having time to really listen to them, and figure out how to make them better before you are blasting away at full speed.

The best way to work on your lines is by composing lines, and I am going to show you how I do that and talk about how you benefit from that and what to pay attention to so that you get the most out of it because this is about a lot more than just practicing slowly!

In the example below you can see how I composed an 8th-note line using different building blocks.

It starts with a chromatic enclosure and continues with an Fmaj7 arpeggio before ending with a descending Dm triad melody that also involves a chromatic enclosure.

Refining The Arpeggio Melody (stealing from Benson & Bird)

The next thing to add to the mix is a bit more energy with the rhythm. You can do this by playing the arpeggio as a triplet as you can see in the example below:

This is almost identical to a line that both Charlie Parker and George Benson use very often.

A More Original Idea

Let’s try to create a line that is a little more original and a little less like a transcription. Here the example is combining the Fmaj7 arpeggio with a scale melody that continues into a descending melody in the 2nd bar. The descending melody is in fact a pentatonic phrase with an added chromatic enclosure.

In the video, I talk a bit more about how important melodic direction can be for this.

What Are You Really Practicing

It is important to remember that in the end it is not really about composing the perfect lick, what you are working on is practicing to put things together so that you get better at doing that when you are soloing.

#2 It is NOT just the notes!

You need to focus on more than just playing the right notes. You can get a robot to play the right notes, but it won’t make it a great solo.

You want to develop your skills when it comes to taking those notes and turning them into a SOLID MELODY.

In the example below I am adding a note to the arpeggio because that is a great way to explore and find some good melodies.

The Power Of Pivot Arpeggios

Using Pivot Arpeggios and Octave Displacement is another way to get some more interesting melodies. In the example below I am doing that with the Fmaj7 arpeggio at the beginning of the line.

#3 Fix Your Phrasing!

Now that you are slowing down you practice then you can also start working on adding better phrasing to the lines.

The first thing to work with here is to get used to ending lines on the off beat. In the example below it is on the 4-and:

Another thing to work with is to add accents to the line. When you play a stream of 8th notes then what makes it rhythmically interesting is how you add accents to get the syncopation in there.

What you are looking for is a note that is on the off-beat and that is higher than the following note. In the example below the Eb is a great candidate, also because it is a chromatic leading note so it has some tension and therefore more energy:

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Jazz Beginner Mistakes – How To Learn Scales

When I started playing Jazz then I came from improvising mostly with the pentatonic scale, playing phrases, and licks in the scale without really worrying about what I was playing and especially what notes.

Once I got interested in Jazz, in fact, mostly in Charlie Parker solos, then I realized that I needed to use 7 note scales, and that was a lot more tricky to get to sound right and especially to get to sound like great jazz lines

Just practicing the scale, up and down doesn’t teach you how to do that and there is a much better way to practice the scales, one that helps you learn to play Jazz faster and sound in the right way.

Which Scales Do You Need?

First, you need to figure out which scales you need.

Playing Jazz is associated with scales, and often also with a lot of scales with a lot of fancy names. But when you start then you are better off not drowning yourself in different scales, simply because it is more work to learn to use a scale than to learn to play it. Just start with the major scale, and if you are new to major scales then start in a single position

You can add to it later and knowing the scale well in one position will help you learn the others as well. Starting with 5 or 7 positions in one go and trying to be able to play and improvise in them all is not as efficient in the beginning, and you might get overwhelmed and lose the overview, and getting an overview is why you practice scales in the first place.

If you practice in the way that I outline later in this video, then learning other scales and being able to use them will become a lot easier because you can leverage what you already know.

CAGED, 3NPS, Berklee doesn’t matter

A discussion that sometimes appears at this point is what type of scale system should I use, and there are quite a few, CAGED, 3NPS, and Berklee being the big 3. This can sometimes lead to heated discussions, but In the end, it doesn’t matter too much, do what feels more natural to you, you can even change along the way.

Basic Exercises

How do you start? The first thing is to practice the scale, for example, this position of C major:

Try to play it slowly, evenly with alternate picking. Connect the notes, because otherwise, you are going to sound choppy when you have to play faster

Be aware of the notes you play, so first the root

You can even practice the scale while saying the notes you are playing.

The first technical exercise that you should do in the scale beyond playing it is to play it in 3rds.

Scale in 3rds

The reason for this is that when you play Jazz then you are using the notes of the chord, and chords are built in 3rds so you are preparing yourself for learning the diatonic arpeggios, triads, and 7th chords that are found in the scale.

What Do You Need To Play Jazz

What do you need to play jazz phrases? If you look at this fairly typical jazz lick

Jazz Lick – chromaticism arpeggio

Then you can see that it uses a 7th chord arpeggio, Cmaj7, and some chromaticism mixed in with scale notes.

Beyond practicing the scale itself then the things you want to practice are the things you need in your solo. Arpeggios seem like a very useful candidate, to begin with.

The Arpeggios Are In The Scales

When I was first taught arpeggios the I was told to practice them as separate positions. In that way, learn them as independent things, not connecting them to scales or anything else.

A few years later, when I was in a Barry Harris masterclass in the Hague, I learned from Barry Harris that I should know how to play the diatonic arpeggios of the scales, and he talked about how to use them.

If you practice the arpeggios like that you get something like this:

Diatonic Arpeggios

If you know how to play this exercise then you have material that you can use on a lot of chords that you come across in C major, and you see the arpeggios together with the other notes that you have available when you solo. It is already connected to the rest of the material you can use.

II V I lick with diatonic arpeggios

For me, this was really a gamechanger, when you connect the arpeggio to the scale like this it is much easier to play the arpeggio with an extra scale note and also to see how the notes move from one chord to the next, which makes it a lot easier to make strong lines that outline the chords. But there is a lot more you can get out of it, as you will see later in the video. (highlight voice-leading in a lick, overlay lick while talking)

Another thing that is worth noting is that most of the time when you come across arpeggios in Jazz solos, then they are one-octave arpeggios in the middle of a line or even with scale notes in between, so practicing them like this is much more efficient and closer to how you use them in Jazz. As you can see in this transcription (Parker solo transcription?)

How To Practice and Use Them

You can practice the arpeggios from each note in the scale like this (example 4) and again you want to play them cleanly, equal in volume, not too fast, and connecting the notes as much as possible. Another way of practicing them that is useful is to practice up one and down the next

This is actually a bit easier because you don’t have the large interval skip from one arpeggio to the next. In general, you want to practice different things to build flexibility and work towards being free when you improvise, so coming up with variations is something that will help you with that.

If you start thinking of the scales and the exercises like this, then you want to find out what you want to use in a solo and then practice that in your scales so that you learn all the useful variations building a vocabulary you can use in solos.

From Arpeggios to Lines

There are many ways that you can use these arpeggios, to get started it makes sense to just play the arpeggios on a chord progression

Example 7 (no backing)

To turn this into something you can use in a solo then you can use the notes around the arpeggios and add some nice rhythms as well.

For the Dm7, this is the arpeggio:

And you can turn that into a more interesting line by adding the E in between the first two notes:

In this way you can start to work on making lines like this:

Here I am using the Dm7 phrase, a triplet on the G7, and also adding an A to the Cmaj7 arpeggio.

The Mighty Triad

Another obvious one is to also check out the diatonic triads which as you will see we can easily connect to the chords and also are great for creating super-strong lines.

Going over the triads in the scale gives you an exercise like this:

And finding triads to use with a chord is very easy:

If you look at a Dm7 then that is D F A C

Here we already have two triads: Dm: D F A and F major F A C.

For the G7: G B D F – G B D and B diminished and Cmaj7: C major and Em

And using these to make lines could sound like this:

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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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5 Things Every Beginning Jazz Guitarist Should Know

There are so many people who seem to be focusing on the wrong things and slow down their progress when they want to learn Jazz. This video is going to give you some suggestions about how to think about what you are learning so that as a Jazz Guitar Beginner, You actually work towards learning Jazz and don’t drive yourself crazy practicing exotic scales.

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Content:

00:00 Intro

00:28 It is not only about Scales

01:35 Play Music Not Exercises

03:07 A Bebop Job Interview

03:37 Learn Songs

04:17 Listen to Jazz

05:20 Vocabulary – If you ever want to sound like Jazz

06:22 Jazz Chords – A Great Place To Start

06:30 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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How To Make Music From Exercises And Practice Effectively

Getting from just practicing a scale or an arpeggio to the point where you can actually use it in music is quite difficult, and something that a lot of people struggle with. You want to set up your jazz guitar practice in a way that will actually help you get your exercises into your playing as something that makes your solos and improvisations better. That is what this video will teach you! In this video, I am going to go over a 3 step plan to show you how you can approach this and make sure that what you practice also makes it into your playing, and I am also going to discuss what types of exercises I think are practical and what you might better not waste your time on.

 

The Most Important Scale Exercise in Jazz

Let’s start with an exercise that you always want to work on anyway: Diatonic 7th chords. In the Key of C major, that would be this exercise: This is a great exercise that will help you connect chords to a scale and technique to the chords of a song. I have another video going into this exercise in detail which I will link to in the description so I won’t really dig into it here. There are a few practical things to get right if you are practicing something because you want to use it in your solos.

  • Don’t make the exercise too long or complicated
  • Make sure that it is something that you have a place to use
  • Don’t make it so difficult that you have to spend a year learning to play it.

#1 Don’t make the exercise too long or complicated

If you practice Triad pairs with chromatic enclosures on each triad then that is something you can only use on a piece with one chord for a really long time, and you have to think about whether that is really efficient for you.

#2 Make sure that it is something that you have a place to use

Practicing Quartal arpeggios in Melodic minor is not useful if you don’t play over chords using that sound.

#3 Don’t make it so difficult that you have to spend a year learning to play it.

If you have never practice arpeggios then don’t start with playing them with leading notes and as 8th note triplets, just start with playing arpeggios which are probably anyway more flexible.

Taking the exercise to a song or chord progression

I always find it surprising how few people play exercises on songs. It is such a great way to just get your scales or arpeggios into the context where you need them, and also to check if you have everything covered for the song you want to use it on. For this video, I am not going to use an entire song, I am just going to use  a basic turnaround in C Cut in – In the video I am using a very short chord progression, but it is really useful to have songs that you know really well to explore things on, and if you check then that is also something that a lot of players do. They have standards that they return to when practicing things to become comfortable and experiment with new material. Cmaj7 A7(b9) Dm7 G7(b9) In this progression, I am using the C major scale for Cmaj7 and Dm7, and I am using D harmonic minor and C harmonic minor for A7 and G7. And to add something new to our vocabulary then I am going to use the arpeggio from the 3rd of the chord. This is just to flex the music theory and fretboard knowledge a little. The Arpeggios we need: Em7 C#dim Fmaj7 Bdim   Played through the progression in a very basic way:   And to find some more material you can do the lower octave as well, even if that is not really there  for the Fmaj7 arpeggio: And of course, you can also combine the two and make an exercise that fills up the bar: For an exercise like this to be useful, you need to be able to play it easily and think about the next thing you have to play. It has to be in time and you can’t get away with stopping to think. At the same time, it doesn’t have to be super fast, a medium or slow medium tempo will work as long as it feels easy to play. Sometimes I hear students say that it is difficult to learn on a whole song, but if you want to use it in your solos then this is actually a fairly easy thing to learn.

Making music

Now we can play it on the progression and also hear how it sounds on the song, the next step is to start improvising and start to make melodies. The first thing to do is probably just to spend some time improvising with just the arpeggios. Then you can start to add the other things you use in your solos and really make the arpeggios a part of your material. In some cases, it may be useful to first compose or improvise in rubato to get the user to making melodies that mix arpeggios and use chromatic leading notes. Doing exercises like this is may seem like something you do when you want to learn arpeggios, but actually it is a great way to explore new vocabulary and really challenge your fretboard overview, things that you really want to keep developing in your playing all the time.

Take this to Jazz Standards and use it in Music

Jazz Standards – Easy Solo Boost

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The Two Things You Need To Practice More

In most Jazz practice routines there are two things that you probably don’t focus on as much as you should. In this video, I am going to go over what the problem is and give you some suggestions on how to solve that problem, and I think it is more a matter of how you think about practicing and structure your practice routine than anything else.

Get the PDF of the exercises and examples on Patreon

You can download the PDF and the GuitarPro file here: The Two Things You Need To Practice More

Content:

0:00 Intro – Getting more efficient with practice.

0:28 Flexibility – Remember the goal you want to achieve

0:52 The Progression and the basic exercise

3:32 How to open it up

4:31 Taking it further

5:23 Open up Technique Practice

5:51 A quote from Kurt Rosenwinkel

6:12 Application

6:25 From Scale Practice to Michael Brecker with Magic

6:41 Making using the material a priority in practice sessions

7:00 A Step-wise Plan

8:21 Limitation is efficient

9:45 The Worst Mistake When You Study Jazz

10:01 Like the video? Check out my Patreon page?

This Is A Better Strategy For Jazz Guitar

Most jazz guitar lessons will tell you that you need to know your scales all over the neck, you need to know all the arpeggios and all the chords, understand all the theory. But what nobody seems to talk about is what order you should learn this in, and does learning jazz guitar mean that you first have to learn 3-5 scales in 7 positions with 7 diatonic arpeggios each?

Content:

0:00 Intro – Can you play Jazz without 2 years of scale practice?

0:34 How Most of us get into Jazz (me included)

1:16 Wes Montgomery Practicing Scales

1:36 Jazz is not a skill

1:56 Where does it go Wrong?

3:32 What Are You missing?

4:14 How To Fix It

4:46 A more simple approach

5:32 How It Works on a Song

5:58 Quick Analysis of the Chord Progression

7:07 The Scales we need

8:02 Making it a short compact amount of material to practice in 5-10 minutes,

8:45 Like the video? Check out my Patreon page.

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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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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.