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7 Things Beginners in Jazz Should Spend Time Focusing on

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03(1)For jazz learners, practicing a lot may turn out to be one of your major mistakes. Blindly practicing a lot doesn't develop the real skills to become a great guitarist, it just wastes time and creates bad habits. In the following content, I introduce 7 skills that can help you become a better jazz guitarist. Some of these skills you may already be practicing, but you need to check whether you are missing some attention.

1. Control note length

In fact, I think this skill is the easiest to practice and refine. If you ask a classical musician who doesn't play the guitar what their "nickname" is for the guitar, they'll probably tell you "staccato festival," meaning that the instrument has absolutely no sustain (which is true compared to the trumpet or violin).

Short sustained, "broken" notes seem to be a shortcoming of the guitar, but for jazz it's the opposite, and I believe it's a bit weird when you hear long notes in jazz. Short notes can better convey rhythm and connection to rhythm, which is very important in jazz.

How to better control the length and rhythm of notes is a question that often arises with my students. Their previous guitar learning will require them to maintain the sustain of the notes as much as possible. In the first step, I usually have students practice some phrases that end in short notes. Of course, sometimes you also want to play long notes. The important thing is that you can control it. You can choose the length of the note, and you should not let sustain become a habit.

2. Jazz is not a loop II-V-I

Jazz is a style of music that has a repertoire, and part of learning to play the style is learning to play the songs in the repertoire, so if you want to learn jazz, you need to start looking into how to learn jazz songs.

One of my favorite quotes comes from Peter Bernstein: You haven't really learned anything until you use it to play real music. In Barry Harris' solo master class, everything taught is about songwriting, not practicing, but creating music! So you need to work hard to learn songs, whether from sheet music or by ear. As long as you learn songs in large quantities, theory is no longer theory, but music.

Every now and then someone asks me if I can give you some advice on how to play more modern, darker, or something like that on II-V-I, and it's obvious that the person asking isn't learning any songs, just practicing the loops of II-V-I. Notice! The cycle of II-V-I is not a song, a song is a story, it develops, has twists and surprises, whereas a cycle is static. And if you learn the entire song rather than a static 4-bar loop, it won't get boring quickly.

3. Learn a language

This is a commonplace topic. Almost all jazz players will point out that jazz is a language. When you improvise, you test your mastery of this language, including rhythm, flow, phrases, and the melody used. This is true for most stylized music, such as blues.

If you want to learn to play jazz, then you need to check your "vocabulary" in order to incorporate vocal expression into your playing and make your playing sound more "like". Probably the fastest way to learn is by ear, something I talk about a lot. So if you want to sound jazzy, get good at learning jazz vocabulary so you know what it feels like to play jazz and how it should sound.

If you learn to play by ear, you'll have the added benefit of improving your phrasing, rhythm, and swing. Of course, this is part of the jazz language.

4. Practice Swing with a metronome

A big theme in jazz is the feel and groove of swing. This is something you should improve on, and a key point that can help you develop this skill is using a metronome. Once you get used to it, you will find that it is easier than you think. Much more interesting.

For jazz, it is often practiced using a metronome on beats 2 and 4. This method will help improve your ability:

Grasp the timing, feel the rhythm and play to create a sense of rhythm

The difference between a metronome and a backing track is that playing with a metronome is much more difficult, and if you feel the metronome start to wobble, that's because your beat is off. Look at how famous jazz guitarists practice, always using a metronome, with few exceptions.

5. Use chords

Chords are just as important as solos, if not more so. Therefore, you not only need to learn more chords and inversions, but you also need to apply them to II-V-I progressions or other exercises, and work on applying the newly learned chords to songs.

Believe me, learning chords will help you develop more in terms of melodic leading, adding melody and color tones and other things to your chords, and you'll fall in love with jazz and jazz chords like I did. Eventually you can start to freely explore harmonies and apply them to rhythm.

6. Your own phrases

This is a problem I often encounter myself when learning new content. Like learning a new way to play an arpeggio or a chromatic phrase, I know how to play it, but when I use it, it doesn't really work in a solo. This is because an important step is missing between practicing technique and translating it into a solo.

The missing step is creating your own phrases and thus solo passages. You would of course want to perform every exercise you learn as a solo immediately, but this is unrealistic. What you can do is slowly write melodic phrases or passages, try to incorporate the new skills into them, and iterate and fix the melodic lines to make them sound better. This can help you figure out what you have learned. Where is it more suitable to apply.

This is a very effective way to internalize newly learned material, and composing solos is also the basis of Barry Harris' solo masterclass. Therefore, they will also work well as part of the exercise.

7. Chords should also be musical phrases

The worst way to think about the chords of a jazz piece is to think of it as having some extended chord symbols, because that's not music. What you want to do is open up those chord symbols, and you need to turn the chords into music.

For many beginners in jazz, accompaniment is a mystery and difficult to improve, but this may be because the problem is often not rhythm, but how you think about accompaniment. If you start by practicing accompaniment on beats 2 and 4 with a metronome and start thinking about chord progressions in terms of phrases, it will become much easier to develop rhythm and sound without getting bogged down in complex thinking about which rhythm to play or what to add. Which extended tone.


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