7 Must-Do Jazz Practice Tips

checklist 150x150 7 Must Do Jazz Practice TipsI’ve got a 7 part check list for you today.

It’s all about practicing jazz (naturally…)

I’m a bit obsessed, as you know, with practice skills, habits, techniques and methods.

You see, I used to think that getting good was all about busting my rump and logging hours in the shed.

Okay, I admit it. You do have to put some time in on your axe. Common sense, right?

But the quality of that time and the quality of your ‘process’ can make the difference between one cat becoming a slamming player that gets respect, sounds good and has fun. And another cat perpetually struggling with every note he/she tries to play – sounding bad, not having fun and certainly not getting respect from other players.

So I present to you a very simple 7 part check list to help you get the most out your jazz practice sessions.

* Have very clear outcomes for each daily practice session. What exactly are you going to improve about your playing? Take a few minutes before you practice to choose these outcomes, these desired results. Then work on the outcome until you nail it.

* Take a few moments to prepare your practice space. Seems obvious. But do you do it? Get together everything you might need – instrument, CD’s, play along, metronome, strings, reeds, water, tuner, notebook, etc. It takes time and energy to get into the practice mindset, to get concentration happening. Breaking that concentration because you left your metronome out in your car is one of the biggest wasters of productivity in the practice room.

* Keep a simple practice journal. Write down your desired outcomes. Then write down your actual outcomes. Now, when tomorrow’s practice session arrives you know EXACTLY where to jump back in.

* Use a practice timer. There is only so much practice time in a day right? You gotta take control of that time and maximize it. If you’ve got 1 hour to practice and 3 topics you want to work on, you might divide the hour into three 20 minute segments. Set the timer to 20 minutes. Then work on topic number 1. When the buzzer goes off stop and move on to the next topic. That way you’re sure to keep all three topics moving forward each day.

*Practice on the edge of your ability. Not too hard, not too easy. It’s gotta be just right. You’re practice topics and contexts must be challenging but doable. Baby steps forward is the key to great playing.

*Be consistent. Whether you practice 1 topic at a time or 10 topics at a time the most important thing to remember is to practice all of these topics every day. Progress happens steadily over time. Switching topics every 2 days is a sure path to mediocre playing. Stick with you practice routine, practicing the same topics every day, until you either complete the goal or you’re completely and utterly burnt out on the topic.

*Remember that everything should be a form of eartraining. So listen attentively to what you’re working on. Forget mindless mechanical repetition. Listen deep. Record your practice, listen and critique. Work listening to records into your practice. Get those ears involved every step of the way.

* Play for the spirit of the music. Don’t forget to play for the sheer joy of playing. Work that into your session. Maybe the last 10 minutes. Just play for fun, for the spirit.

Alright, there’s the checklist. Simple stuff. But powerful as hell when used as directed. Give it a shot in the shed.


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