Taking stock, thinking about where you might be over time, setting up goals and objectives, all of that really doesn’t mean anything without consistent actions.
One of Thomas Edison’s famous quotes: Vision without execution is hallucination.
I would add to his quote: small actions, applied consistently over time, yield amazing outcomes.
And so it is with this journey of mine to become a better jazz guitarist.
I am making it a point to go to the guitar gym at least five times a week if not more. I have a great program to follow and I am learning a ton about the jazz guitar.
Building extensions from shell chords has helped to demystify jazz comping.
Learning difficult chord melodies has improved my fingering and hand strength.
I’ll document my progress as I go.
At times, I am playing like an absolute beginner. At times, I am showing signs of being fluid and dynamic.
It is certainly a process not unlike what Benjamin Zander demonstrates here (the difference being my age as I am a wee bit older than 7):
Just beginning the journey to becoming a better jazz guitarist.
I’ve taken stock of where I am as a player and where I want to be in six months and out five years — should I still be on planet Earth.
To build a program to keep me on track, I needed to address four elements:
- Define practice areas
- Create a framework
- Follow specific exercises
- Feedback and refine as needed
Define Practice Areas
Based on my six-month objectives, this was pretty straightforward. Here are my practice areas:
- Standards (repertoire)
- Chord Melody
Create A Framework
How will I spend my practice time? Not on duration but as a percentage of the time?
- Warm-up — 5 percent
- Repertoire — 50 percent
- Comping — 20 percent
- Chord Melody — 15 percent
- Phrasing — 10 percent
Follow Specific Exercises
In my case, I have an online teacher even if most of what I am doing is self-directed. The courses are very specific and well designed. I can readily measure my progress with this online course.
Feedback and Refine As Needed
Don’t rush. Keep each session focused. Don’t take on too much at once.
In other words, be patient. Build the skill on an incremental basis. Small changes performed consistently will yield impressive results over time.
I might revisit my framework and adjust the percentages here and there. I may not need to spend as much time on comping over the next few months as I already have a pretty rich chord vocabulary on the guitar. I might need to spend more time on chord melodies and phrasing as they are both areas of development for me.
Every two weeks, I will give myself an evaluation and see where adjustments need to be made.
Although aimed at the jazz guitar student, the lessons I have been taking are widely applicable to other pursuits in life.
I was asked to do the following as part of my jazz guitar training:
- Take Inventory
- Define Long-Term Goals
- Define Short-Term Goals
Here I was asked to identify my musical victories, failures and strengths. It was relatively easy to identify musical victories over the past 50 years. There were specific highlights, special concerts during my touring years, my first paid gig as a session player in a recording studio, my first album as a sideman, teaching and mentoring younger players, serving as a guitarist in various churches, and so on.
Failures? Well, there have been many. Some were tough to write down but basically my failures all centred around one basic theme: I was never good enough. The positive side of being so harsh on myself is that I had a strong incentive to become better. And it grounded me in terms of the journey of life. We all start from somewhere and, if we apply ourselves, we can improve and we can help others to improve. I would consider that desire to improve to be a strength. The inner critic, not so much.
This was hard for me to do. It is difficult to dream about where I might be as a player in 5 or 10 years when, without being unduly morbid, I could be dead. Joe Pass, an incredible jazz guitarist, died at 65.
So I have to choose the mountain carefully. My dream is to play with enough skill that I can be a strong contributor to a skilled jazz trio or jazz quartet before 65 years of age.
Ten of them. I had to think of ten long-term goals. And by long-term goals, specific objectives within 5 years.
Here we go:
- Have 50 standards memorized and under my fingers in my jazz repertoire.
- Cut a 10-song smooth jazz instrumental project.
- Play out with a jazz group at least once a month for a year.
- Be able to improvise effortlessly over the most common jazz progressions.
- Master arpeggios across all the jazz chord types.
- Learn to play effortlessly off a fake book.
- Create chord melodies from scratch for 10 songs.
- Learn to comp across all dominant jazz styles.
- Study the improvisation of five jazz masters by learning solos note for note (2 songs per jazz master).
- Move from novice to advanced skill level with the instrument.
Five goals for practicing over the next six months. Which, in theory, supports achievement of the long-term goals.
- Memorize 3 standards: Misty, Autumn Leaves, Take The A Train
- Complete Jazz Improv 101 course
- Complete Jazz Comping 101 Course
- Complete Chord Melody Crash Course
- Complete 25 Exercises For Better Jazz Guitar Phrasing Course
That is what frames the context for my musical journey over the next few years. Although a similar approach could be taken for almost any area of interest: where am I now, where do I want to be in the future, what specific goals do I want to achieve in the next five years, what will I achieve over the next six months.
In tomorrow’s post, I’ll write about the program I created to guide my daily practice activity.
I forgot to add: “you can be” to the title above.
I’ve been playing guitar for a long time now. Almost 50 years. And, in a moment of excitement at the prospect of having more time in retirement, I set a goal of becoming a better jazz guitarist over the next few years.
I’m not completely unfamiliar with the genre. I listen to a lot of jazz and I am secretly envious of the immense talent that I see in jazz players. They have discovered some sort of magic that allows them to improvise beautifully and construct incredibly intricate chord melodies seemingly at will.
This is an example of me attempting to do something similar:
Not too bad for a novice jazzer I suppose. What you don’t know is how much time I put into playing this piece. I spent over an hour a day on this one song for a period of two months.
I could not play it today. I would need to re-learn the tune and likely spend a few weeks to get it under my fingers again.
To help me in my journey to become a better jazz guitarist, I signed up with Marc-Andre of Jazz Guitar Lessons. I have the unlimited membership. Which is a problem. Being unlimited means that there are so many course modules and I really don’t know where to begin.
I have picked one chord melody, Misty, and one improvisation course. Both of them are really tough.
It is almost embarrassing to be at the beginning of something. At least that is the way it feels to me. I’m not sure whether the content is hard because it is unfamiliar or whether the content is hard because, well, the playing is hard to master.
So different from what I have been used to playing over the years.
But I will persist and I will make it happen. I am a determined fellow.
I will chronicle my progress with it and, hopefully in six months or so, be in a better place with it than where I am right now.
Having recently retired, I thought I would get all of this free time back into my life.
In a way, that much is true.
Only I have been filling it up.
This weekend I will be recording and doing front of house for a concert event on the Saturday evening and then an audio training session on the the Sunday afternoon.
Fortunately, the console I am using for the Saturday evening event is the same console that I will be working on for Sunday’s training session.
The problem with all of the new digital consoles these days is that they are really software platforms with physical controls.
And learning the ins and outs of digital boards is more and more like learning the ins and outs of software applications.
Back in the analog days, most consoles had somewhat familiar control structures. A bit like going from one car to another. It didn’t take much time to get a handle on the basics.
With digital boards, well that all has changed.
I find that the software platforms, although very powerful, can also be somewhat cryptic in terms of the user interface. Inconsistent terms, menu trees, and proprietary user interfaces can make for a bit of a tense experience when using some of these boards on a more casual basis.
I’ve spent most of my years working on analog Neve and SSL desks and I am very familiar with how they operate. With live sound, anything from analog Midas to Soundcraft boards. Oh, and a lot of time on smaller analog desks from Allen & Heath, Mackie and others over the years.
But now, the digital desks from Yamaha, Midas, Digico, Avid and others all have very different approaches to the workflow of audio engineering whether live or studio.
It’s almost like once you have learned one platform, you really don’t want to learn another. It can be like starting over.
At least this weekend will be on desks that I can work around pretty well.
But I spent most of the day today programming the console for Saturday’s event.
Yup. Programming a sound board without the soundboard in front of me.
Just like running a software application. In fact, it was a software application. Offline configuration.
A friend passed along this shot of Lorraine and me way back in the seventies.
Man, look at all that hair!
I did not have the tools to tighten the cassette ring and so I dropped by my friends at J&J Cycle to pick them up. They insisted that they would do the work on the Neo for me.
We pretty much followed the guidance from the Tacx support page and the Shane Miller video on basic maintenance for the Tacx Neo.
The cassette was a bit loose when we took a look at the unit. And, upon removing the cassette assembly, part of the freehub had never been greased.
A good cleaning, followed by a thorough greasing of the requisite components and a firm tightening of the cassette, and then the big test.
I rode “The Trick” on Sufferfest this morning. A tough ride and one that puts a lot of load on a trainer.
Everything was smooth and quiet.
In my job jar today. Hopefully this will fix the strange sounds coming from my smart trainer.