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How to Make a Killer Jazz Practice Routine

practice planner 150x150 How to Make a Killer Jazz Practice RoutineAhh…the ever elusive, confusing and mystifying practice routine.

Let me give you an analogy. Have you ever been to the gym?

Some cats in the gym are in great shape. Some cats…umm…not so much to put it nicely.

Overtime some cats keep getting in better and better shape, looking good and feeling great.

Other cats just keep logging miles on the tread mill but their fat ass never seems to go anywhere.

What these cats DO in the gym and what they put in their body has a direct effect on the results they get. Some cats do it right and get good results. Some cats do it wrong and struggle for years with no results.

It’s exactly the same with jazz (and music in general).

The people who are successful – i.e. get results – in the practice room AND in the gym are the ones who keep the big picture in mind while doing the small things each day that move them forward.

Overtime those ‘big pictures’ get closer and closer and the player sounds better and better.

Here’s a simple 7 step process to make sure that you’re one of those cats who gets better each day and eventually can play music they way they want to.

1. Musical Values. It all starts with knowing what is most important to you musically speaking. What players do you love the most? What records really get your blood flowing? What styles and genres do you feel most ‘at home’ in.

Working on music that is truly inspiring to you, and music that FEELS right is the best way to unleash your motivation. I go into great detail on these first 2 steps in the monster jazz formula. But basically you want to get your musical priorities in place.

2. The Big Picture. The next step is to start to develop a vision for where you want to go with music. It’s important to have a big picture that is exciting and inspiring.

What do you want to accomplish musically in the long term? What are your really big goals?

Personally my long term vision extends out about 5+ years. But I’ve been playing for a while and can wrap my head around that time frame.

Your long term vision may extend out about a year or even less depending on how much you want to do, how long you’ve been playing and what works for you.

3. Self-Evaluation. Time to do a little musical introspection. Get out the recorder and start playing and listening. What do you like? What’s working? What could use a little work? What area do you thing would have the biggest impact on your playing if you focused on it? Seek outside help on this one if you need to. Ask your peers, your teachers, your friends.

4. Choose practice areas. Based on where you want to go and where you are currently choose some practice areas to focus on for the next several months to a year. The Big 6 as defined by Hal Crook are Technique, Improvisation, Ear Training, Repertoire, Etudes and Reading.

5. Choose Some Goals. Next choose some goals each of the areas you’re going to focus on. Define your goals as clearly as possible. And give them a target completion date.

I like 90 days for a goal. But some goals will be longer and some will be shorter. You might say: In 90 days I will be able to improvise over rhythm changes in 3 keys using chords tones and approach notes.

6. Make a plan. Now that you have goals, next you need to make a plan. What specific exercises, practice approaches, projects, etc will you use?

You may systematically go through applying different approach notes to different chord tones. You may learn a transcription by ear. You may write your own solos. Choose those and then put them in approximate order. Your plan will almost always turn out differently then you originally think. That cool. That’s how it works!

7. Use the Power Practice Paradigm every day to make sure you achieve daily results in the shed. Based on your bigger goals choose a clear target for today. Simplify it down to a ‘Next Step’. Practice that step until you own it, it becomes habituated. Push the envelope and move to the next step.

And That’s It. Not too complicated. But powerful as hell if you put it to use.

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