Hands Down the Best Practice Secret I Know

IM 150x150 Hands Down the Best Practice Secret I KnowNow, if you tuned to the last post you’ll remember we were talking about musical talent.

I told how I believe that each and every one of us has all the talent they need to go VERY far with music.

Farther then we probably think possible.

We chatted about “The Plasticity of the Brain” which basically means that we have the ability to continue to learn and grow and change for literally our entire lives.

I also dropped the term ‘aural imagination’ on you.

I’ve come to realize over the years that the aural imagination is where it’s at. That’s where your voice comes from as a player. That’s where your creativity comes from.

The best part is that you can feed that imagination and exercise it so it becomes deep and rich and overflowing with musical ideas.

And when you can connect that aural imagination to your instrument then you get to really improvise, really communicate and create some swinging sh*t. And then comes the part where the other cats in the band look over at you during a solo and think to themselves “Damn he/she sounds good tonight!”.

Now. You know my story by now. I pretty much did everything wrong for like 20 years. But I finally found some things that really worked for me. The simple process I’m about to run over with you has profoundly changed my musical life.

Don’t underestimate the power of this process. If you do it, a number of times and then finally make it just a part of how you practice jazz everyday you WILL never be the same musician again.

Okay, check it out:

1. Focused Listening. Choose some music that you really love. Choose a few lines, phrases that you really like and that have musical elements you would want to bring to your own playing. Choose stuff that’s “challenging but doable”, appropriate for your current level. Then listen, actively and mindfully, many, many, many, many times! Let the sound sink into your ear. Look for details, look for structure, look for relationships.

2. Practice hearing the phrase back in your mind’s ear, your aural imagination. Take a small enough piece that you can do this. But practice hearing it back. As you practice inner hearing, work on making the phrase louder and clearer in your mind. As loud and clear as possible. If what you hear in your imagination is vague and fuzzy that’s the best you’ll be able to get out on your axe. Loud and Clear! Go back and forth between listening to the recording and listening in your mind until you have it.

3.Practice singing the phrase along with the recording until you can match as much detail as you can perceive.

4. Practice singing the phrase without the recording until you can match as much detail as you can perceive.

5. Record and critique yourself. Practice as necessary. I believe it was the great alto player Jackie Mclean who said – If you can sing it, you can play it.

6. When you know the thing inside and out, take it to your instrument. At first you may have to search around for the notes. Once you have the phrase worked out on your instrument, systematically practice it until it becomes habit, until you can play it without thinking about it. Then mentally rehearse the phrase in your mind. Again hear the sound in your head as loud and clear as possible. But now also imagine yourself playing your instrument in as much detail as possible. See your instrument. See your hands. What does it feel like to play the phrase. You want to start to get those things connected to one another.

7. Repeat constantly with more and more music that you love and would like to assimilate.

8. As your inner ear and connection gets stronger and stronger begin to experiment with these new pieces of vocabulary. Take them into other keys. Practice plugging them into standards. Create variations. Improvise on them. Learn longer phrases or pieces of music. Have fun building and deepening your jazz vocabulary!

I know it seems like a lot of work. But do it once or twice and you will find it addicting.


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