Take Stock

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:

  1. Take Inventory
  2. Dream
  3. Define Long-Term Goals
  4. Define Short-Term Goals

Take Inventory

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.

Long-Term Goals

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:

  1. Have 50 standards memorized and under my fingers in my jazz repertoire.
  2. Cut a 10-song smooth jazz instrumental project.
  3. Play out with a jazz group at least once a month for a year.
  4. Be able to improvise effortlessly over the most common jazz progressions.
  5. Master arpeggios across all the jazz chord types.
  6. Learn to play effortlessly off a fake book.
  7. Create chord melodies from scratch for 10 songs.
  8. Learn to comp across all dominant jazz styles.
  9. Study the improvisation of five jazz masters by learning solos note for note (2 songs per jazz master).
  10. Move from novice to advanced skill level with the instrument.

Short-Term Goals

Five goals for practicing over the next six months. Which, in theory, supports achievement of the long-term goals.

  1. Memorize 3 standards: Misty, Autumn Leaves, Take The A Train
  2. Complete Jazz Improv 101 course
  3. Complete Jazz Comping 101 Course
  4. Complete Chord Melody Crash Course
  5. 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.

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