Learning music is a process that should follow a sequence based on level of importance. A performance suffers If essential parts of the whole aren’t represented.
Example: a musician can play the pitches to a part because it is a familiar melody or because they have heard other members of their section play it, but they guess on the rhythm during practice and performance. No matter how much attention that musician puts on expression, style, articulation, and tone; their performance will always have a fundamental flaw that will have negative effects on the rest of the ensemble. These steps are a suggested sequence for practicing music. With enough experience, some steps will be able to be done during sight reading while others will still require active attention.
Check out the video on how to use seesaw and the Shed's skill indexes to create digital portfolios for your music classrooms.
There are many hacks that you can use while practicing. They work differently for different situations and for different people. Try some of these in your next practice session.
1. Elemental isolation
Sometimes it helps to break down a section into it's different musical elements: clap only the rhythm, play the pitches on the same rhythm. and/or practice the articulations and dynamics with a steady stream of air.
2. Slow it down!!!
Your brain is smart and your hands are dumb! The only element of the music you can change to make it easier is the tempo. Slowing a section down to a tempo that you can play it correctly allows you to keep your brain in front of your fingers. Slowly ramp up the speed until you reach performance tempo. REMEMBER TO USE A METRONOME!!!
3. Interval training
Take one section of a piece and practice it using different time intervals of work and rest. Here is a sample interval training schedule.
START // 2 min- practice // 20 sec- break // 2 min- practice // 10 sec- break // 1 min- practice // 5 sec- break // 5 min- practice // END
4. Circuit training
Choose 2-5 different sections either in the same piece or in different pieces of music. Switch from section to section using a set amount of time.
START // 3 min- section 1 // 3 min- section 2 // 3 min- section 3 // 3 min- section 1 // 3 min- section 2 // 3 min- section 3 // END
5. Error targeting and transitioning
Only play what you aren’t good at. Find the problem spot and focus your energy on making it sound as good at the rest of the piece. Practice transitioning into and out of the problem spot by starting a measure or two before the error and going a measure or two after.
6. Take a break
Have you every repeated the same mistake over and over and over again? Space your practice time out with frequent short breaks. The break allows you to reset your brain and get rid of any negative loops that you created while you were practicing. Keep the breaks short so that you don’t get distracted by other things.
7. The plow through
It doesn’t matter where you are at in learning a piece, it is always a good idea to try to get through the whole thing NO MATTER WHAT! If you make mistakes, so what. If you get lost, keep going. Getting to the end puts everything into perspective.
8. Mental practice
Some of the best practice that has ever been practiced by practicers happened without playing a note. Running through a selection in your head is very useful. You can imagine your sound and the sound of the group in your head while thinking of the fingerings for each note, the rhythms, and the tools of expression. This is especially helpful when memorizing.
9. One measure at a time
If a song if difficult, take it one measure at a time. Thinking about learning the whole piece all at once might be overwhelming because it’s too hard or it’s too much. It’s just music and you are a musician. Take a breath and learn it one measure at a time.
Learn your piece section by section. You can seperate them by logical musical phrases, label them, and sort them by difficulty. Once sorted, it is easy to see what to practice first!
11. Start at the end
So many people start learning a piece at the beginning and work linearly throughout the work. Shake it up a bit and start at the end. The last thing that the audience will remember is the end anyway, so make it strong.
If your piece is supposed to be played at 120 BPM, try nailing it at 150! Being able to play your piece at a higher level of difficulty allows you to prepare for performance. During the gig, you might be nervous or there might be weird things going on in the audience. If you have overtrained yourself, you will be able to think ahead and acknowledge these distractions and not make mistakes.
13. Whole part whole
Alternate playing the whole piece and playing a part of the piece. Practicing this way allows you to see how the part functions in the whole and it helps you to work on thinking ahead and transitioning into problem spots.
There are parts of tunes where ii-V licks won't work. In order to play through these sections, you need to be able to write your own licks. Using arpeggios and digital patterns combined with bebop ornamentation will give you a good starting point for lick creation. It helps to have a good foundation in chord spelling when dealing with these concepts. Check out our chord page for help!!! You can also change chords by using the five rules of chord substitution.
A digital pattern is a sequence of notes in a scale. The first step is to find the parent scale of the chord. D-7 is the ii in the key of C. Let's use the sequence of 1235 for this chord.. You would take the notes of the C major scale, but start counting on the root of chord resulting D E F A . Any number combination will work for a digital pattern. Experiment with the sounds that you like.
An arpeggio is when notes of a chord are played in order going up or down. The notes in a chord starting on the root are: The R, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, and 13th. An arpeggio can start on any of these chord tones and you can use as many or as few notes as you want.
The creators of the bebop sound used different embellishments around certain notes in their licks. Here are the four most common bebop ornamentation.
The first chord of All The Things You Are is F-7 which functions as the vi in the key of Ab. You could turn this into a ii-V or you could write your own lick
Listening. If you ask any jazz artist, thats one of the first things they will say. Check out these listening playlists to get the sound in your ear.
When you're on the gig, you don't have time to count rhythms out. They need to be accurate and in the pocket every time. It usually takes years of experience with counting rhythms to get to this level of mastery, but there is a faster way. Follow these steps to become a rhythm machine.
1. Counted Rhythms- Familiarize yourself with beat, meter, note values, ties, and dots. These are the building blocks of all rhythm.
2. Subdivision- A beat can be divided in equal parts. Being able to feel the different parts, or subdivisions, will allow you to play your notes on time, every time.
3. Sight Rhythms- Connecting what a rhythm looks like and what a rhythm sounds like is a process that takes a long time. Learning sight rhythms streamlines that process and makes it easy to play what you see.
Blues Call And Response
One of the best ways to acquire new language is through call and response. Our call and response page moves students from single note recall to hearing the changes in a I-IV-V progression.
One Step Blues Etudes
Are you only using the blues scale to play over the blues? There is so much more to playing the blues than a scale. What about the change in harmony in measure 5 (the IV chord) or the ii-V that is often used over the last four measures? Check out the following guides on composing a jazz solo over an F blues. All you need to do is plug in the blues licks, ii-v's, and simple chord tones and wa la, you have the start of a pretty good solo. Don't forget to practice it till you own it!
Two Step Blues Etudes
1. Choose a lick from each other the three phrases of the blues!
2. Transpose it into the desired key!
Transposed to B Flat
These three skills will elevate your musicianship to the next level!!!
1. Memorize all 12 major scales. It's one thing to be able to use mnemonic devices or intervals to figure out major scales and it's another thing to CRUSH your major scales. You don't want to have to think about major scales when improvising or composing. This skill needs to be mastered: being able to do something as many times as you want, without having to think about it, and without making any mistakes. CLICK HERE TO LEARN YOUR SCALES!!!
2. Master the order of thirds. Having the order of thirds in your back pocket frees up your mental capacity. The order of thirds will help with anything to do with chords: reading, spelling, comping, and improvising CLICK HERE TO LEARN THE ORDER OF 3RDS!!!
3. Know the circle of fourths. There are so many shortcuts that use the circle of fourths. If you know the circle like the back of your hand, you will be able to do much more with less thinking. The Circle of fourths will help with identifying ii-V's and finding the parent scales. CLICK HERE TO LEARN THE CIRCLE!!!
Have you ever looked chord changes and had no idea what to do? Have you ever taken a solo and it sounded like you were playing a different song than the rest of the band? Jazz solos are usually spontaneously created, but if you don't know where to start and what to play, why don't you figure it out before you play. Start by writing out a jazz etude.
0. Start by writing either a one step or two step blues etude
How to write a jazz etude
1. Pick a tune
Pick a tune from our guided lead sheet page.
2. Boil down changes
WTF- what the function? Some lead sheets or big band charts have a lot of unnecessary harmonic information.
3. Identify and classify ii-V's
Find the ii-V chord progressions in the chart. Look for minor 7 to dominant 7 to major 7 chord qualities that have roots which are a fourth interval apart. To find the key center of a ii-v without a I, go up a fourth interval from the dominant 7 chord.
The ii chord in a minor key is a minor 7b5 (ø7) and the V chord is a 7b9.
4. Chose a lick and transpose it to the required key
5. Write licks for non ii-V based chord changes
6. Connect licks
Using the same lick over a new chord or using the same lick over a different part of the chord is called a sequence. Sequences can be either diatonic (in the key) or chromatic (outside of the key).
Certain notes in a chord have a tendency to lead to particular note in the following chord. The 3rd of one chord leads to the 7th of the next or vice versa. The 5th and 9th have the same relationship. Using these tendancies when going from one lick to the next helps keep continuity in your lines.
6. PRACTICE TILL YOU OWN IT!!!
The only way for an etude to work is to make it sound like YOUR solo. Memorize it and be able to play it at multiple tempos. Sing your solo. Test yourself and try to write out your solo IN A DIFFERENT KEY!!!
7. LISTENING AND TRANSCRIPTION
Listening is the best way to get the sound and feel of jazz into your ear and into your playing. Here are some listening examples to get your started. Find one tune you like and dig in. Don't just listen to it once.! Work on transcribing your own licks using our guided transcription page. Transcribing is THE BEST thing you can do to improve your ear and to acquire new language.