Solo Transcription

As hard as it is for an author to admit, you can’t learn to improvise by reading a book or a magazine column. You learn the jazz language the same way you learned your first language: by listening and imitating. For most jazz musicians, this happens through the process of transcribing jazz solos. Read more »

The Language of Jazz

Let’s start with the premise that you are already an expert improviser. Every time you engage in conversation, you improvise. You don’t work from a script or recite memorized sentences or phrases. You can walk up to anyone in the world who speaks the same language and improvise a conversation. Read more »

The Fear Factor

In this post I address a common phenomenon amongst beginning jazz improvisers: fear. Fear is a potential element in all music performance; you fear that you will sound bad. Is jazz improvisation inherently scarier than playing written music? That depends on whom you ask. To one group of players, notes on a page represent security because they tell you what to play. To another, chord changes represent security because they let you choose what to play. Read more »

The Four Ts


The jazz musician needs two basic abilities in order to improvise a solo:

  • She must be able to play what she hears.
  • She must be able to hear something worth playing.

Following the Four Ts will develop both your ability to play what you hear, and to hear something worth playing. Each day you should:

  • Learn music by ear (Transcribe)
  • Memorize Tunes
  • Transpose: develop your key fluency
  • Study musical Theory and harmony

Read more »

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