Tag Archives: practice jazz guitar

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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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?

The Wrong Way To Practice Something New

When you practice Jazz Guitar, then the most fun part of practicing is to work on new things you can add to your playing and enjoy using it while playing music. But often the way you start working on new material actually also stops you from getting it into your playing, and that is what I want to discuss in this video, and of course, give you a few easy ways to fix it.

Other useful articles on Practicing and Learning

This is a Good 10-minute Practice Routine

Avoid Long Practice Plans – This is what you should focus on

Jazz Practice Routine How To Find The Perfect Balance

Content

0:00 Intro

0:30 Setting Yourself up to Fail?

1:20 Using it in a Solo

1:51 The Solo

2:42 Analyzing the solo

5:55 Using it on a Single Chord

6:25 Cmaj7

7:00 Am7

7:50 Bb7(#11) (or E7 altered?)

9:04 Like the Videos? Check out my Patreon page.

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

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The Worst Mistake When You Study Jazz

It is probably mostly a problem you are teaching yourself but organizing your Jazz Practice and getting the right things in there is something that is often going wrong. At the same time, this is so incredibly easy to avoid and all you need to do is take a step back and look at what you are trying to learn without getting lost in the details.

I say it all the time: Learn Jazz, Make Music but for you to make music you need to focus on learning some pieces to make music with and that is very often not on the list when people start practicing and studying Jazz.

Other Important Practice Lessons

This is a Good 10-minute Practice Routine

Avoid Long Practice Plans – This is what you should focus on

Guitar Practice – How To Be Your Own Teacher

Content

0:00 Intro

0:26 Forgetting What You Want to Learn? 

0:42 It may seem ok, but it isn’t

1:15 Skills for Jazz

1:40 Exercises are not Music

2:19 What you will miss and what you should be doing

2:38 Playing Real Music

3:07 Jazz Harmony is more than II V I and Turnarounds!

3:37 How many II V’s in a Jazz Standard?

4:30 How To Really Learn Jazz

5:10 What is playing Jazz, what is the goal.

5:53 Is this missing in online education?

6:12 Like the video? Check out my Patreon Page

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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 Google+ or Facebook to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.

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 Google+ or Facebook to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts, and releases.

You Need To Practice Developing Phrases in Your Solos

If you listen to great jazz musicians, and it doesn’t matter if it is Joe Pass, Barney Kessel, Pat Metheny or Kurt Rosenwinkel. They play jazz phrases and connect them, making their solo one long piece of music not a bunch of licks.

So you should probably ask yourself if your solos are just you playing something on this chord and then something else on the next chord.

That is what makes it a solo and what makes it really great, and you really don’t want to sound like your solo is you throwing licks on a chord progression.

Let’s fix that!

The Song and the raw materials

The Song I am using is Strayhorn’s Satin Doll. Mainly because it has a lot of II V progressions which makes it easy to move things around on and you can use the same arpeggio shapes often while soloing.

I have made other very useful lessons on Satin Doll with chords and soloing that you should consider checking out:

Drop 2 Magic On Satin Doll – This Is How To Use Jazz Chords

Satin Doll – Easy Jazz Chords (and a little beyond)

Standard with Pentatonics – Satin Doll

Barney Kessel – How To Make A Bebop Solo Catchy

Arpeggios! (Just ask Mr Metheny)

The Material I am using in this lesson is almost exclusively arpeggios.

To practice the arpeggios in an easy way you can check out this exercise:

Developing phrases #1 – Reduction

The example below uses reduction in groups of two bars, so the main statement is the first bar of Dm7 G7, Em7 A7 and on Am7 D7. For each of those statements the following phrase is a reduced development, so a variation on the original phrase with fewer notes.

Developing phrases #2 – Change Direction

Another way to develop phrases is to by reversing the direction of a part of the phrase.

This is seen below between the first bar of Dm7 G7 and the inverted ending of the first bar of Em7 A7.

Another similar relationship is found between the Dm7 G7 bars (one is descending the other ascending) this is the other way around between the two bars of Em7 A7.

Developing phrases #3 – Displace the Rhythm

Example 3 is based around one motif that is then developed through out the example. The basic idea is using the 5th and 7th of the m7 chord to encircle the 3rd of the dominant.

I play the basic motif in the first bar and from there on is mover around and developed in the following bars.

Developing phrases #4 – Inverting a melody

The example below is using a zig-zag shape in the melodies. All the melodies are changing direction in each phrase. The first one is up-down, the mirror of this is very clear 2 bars later. I use the same type of development in the Am7 D7, Abm7 Db7 bars.

Motif exercises

You can develop your ability to work with motivic development by taking a simple motif through the changes. In many ways, Satin Doll is a great song to practice this on.

You can move a motif through the song like this:

Experiment with constructing arpeggio melodies

I have often found it extremely useful to work on just making variations of basic arpeggio melodies.

The exercise here below is a transcription of some melodies only using Dm7 and G7 arpeggio notes.

Getting more out of Arpeggios on a Jazz Standard

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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 Practice – Why You Need To Keep It Practical

What if the way that you practice makes sure that you don’t feel like you are practicing something that you never get to use? Jazz Practice is difficult to get right and there are some mistakes that I see people make again and again.

What if you could work in a way that you could feel that your playing was improving? Maybe it is often better to take a more practical approach and practice in a way that is really focused on fixing a problem in the music that you are playing.

If you start with the music and choose goals to fix problems you encounter while making music you are much more likely to improve and also able to feel yourself improve.

In this video, I am going to talk about how to learn jazz guitar and how to choose the right strategies for some of the problems we encounter. It is easy to get lost in empty exercises and not work on something that is directly related to the music you play, but that can quickly leave you drowning in exercises.

Content:

0:00 Intro
0:12 Solve problems in your playing?
0:38 Strategies and how to Improve specific things in your playing.
1:23 Two Types of Solutions
1:54 The Two Examples in this video: Soloing and Comping.
2:13 #1 Soloing: How to Learn New Vocabulary
2:45 Long-term Goal and solution
3:51 Short-term Approach – Specific and Fixing the problem in the song
4:49 Less information more focus on using it while making music
5:42 #2 Comping: Learning New Voicings
6:18 Long-term for Learning All Voicings and Inversions
7:22  Short-term Approach – Think about what you already play and Add to That!
8:54 Be Practical if you want to improve your playing fast.
10:33 Teachers does this as well!
10:56 Like the video? Check out My Patreon Page!

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Don’t Waste Your Practice Time On These 3 Things

It is important to know how to practice jazz guitar so you don’t waste your time or focus on the wrong things. Here are three topics that I think too many jazz guitarists spend practice time on and think that they need to know which they really don’t. Most of this is related to a myth or misunderstanding and I think this is really worth talking a bit about because it doesn’t help you and it really works against you.

This may also be the first video I ever made telling you to not practice something instead of giving you stuff to practice.

Of course I would love to hear what you think, because maybe it’s different for you or maybe I am completely wrong?

Content:

0:00 Intro – Don’t Wast Your Practice Time

0:58 #1 Sight Reading – What Do You Actually Need?

1:23 The Big Myth about Sight Reading

1:53 How the real process is.

2:20 Learn Music By Ear

2:31 A More Useful Goal and Approach

3:15 #2 Voice-Leading

3:50 A Time and A Place for Everything

4:35 Don’t think just play

5:23 #3 Scales – What You Need and What You Don’t

5:54 New scales ≠ New Melodies

6:32 The Gypsy Mixolydian #4 b9 scale

6:39 What Else Are We Wating Time on?

7:01 Like The Video? Check out my Patreon Page.

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