Learn Jazz Guitar with 1 Practice Strategy
This article explains how to learn jazz guitar with a simple practice technique. Maybe you’re fortunate enough to be a full-time professional jazz musician and you have dozens of tunes under your fingers and in your head. Maybe you can play as if you’ve been playing them for years. What? That’s not you yet?
For those of us whose achievements in our music “careers” leave a bit to be desired, I want to tell you about a strategy that will help you learn jazz guitar.
It involves a highly complex, sophisticated, intricate amount of steps, that you need to pay close attention to, so please read on. Let me reveal this highly scientific process to you now. Are you ready? Here we go. Step #1…film yourself playing.
Step #2, no wait, there is no step #2. That’s it. Yes! Simply filming yourself playing is the strategy I’m talking about. I know, it sounds ridiculously simple, but you’d be amazed what filming yourself (then watching it, of course) does in terms of helping you assess and improve your playing. It’s often tends to be a bit sobering at times as well.
I promise you, if you implement this strategy, you’ll be amazed at how much it will change the way you approach your practicing and how it will help you learn jazz guitar. But don’t go running for the camera just yet. All kidding aside, there are some “steps” I would implement while using this strategy as a jazz musician, and here they are.
Learn Jazz Guitar Strategy Step 1 – Pick 2-4 Tunes
Don’t we all have those pesky few tunes we’ve goofed around with forever and still haven’t hunkered down to learn them like we initially wanted to? I can name about a dozen. Let’s put a stop to that and nail those suckers! Pick those tunes out, but let’s only focus on anywhere from 2-4 for now to learn jazz guitar.
Learn Jazz Guitar Strategy Step 2 – Set a Date
This is where we step up the intensity of this strategy. Look at your calendar. Pick out a night, 2-4 weeks down the road. The future date should be determined by how much practice time you suspect you’ll need to prepare for your performance. Think about how many tunes you’ll be playing, how well you already know them, or if you know them at all yet!
You’re going to be playing a “gig.” Make sure you’ll have a physical space available where you’ll be able to play at a decent volume with your amp, and set up a camera. Of course you could also record yourself direct, but that’s not as fun, and is more hassle. A good old smartphone with your amp cranked up a bit will do just fine. Either way, make a mental note of that date & time. That will be your show time!
Learn Jazz Guitar Strategy Step 3 -Know Your Role
Here’s where you have some creativity and have some fun with this idea! Think in terms of an actual gig that you’d be expected to be at. It could be a solo gig at a coffee shop or restaurant, or it may be a jam session with a group of other musicians. In an actual gig you may just be there to comp for a horn player, or you may be there to play chord melody arrangements by yourself. You get to determine what your gig will consist of.
If you’re just getting started with a tune, I would suggest being expected to play the head melody and comp through the entire chorus a couple of times, followed up by the head again. But of course, this is all determined by yourself. If you think you can solo through 2, 3, or 4 choruses, by all means, shoot for the moon! The whole idea is to prepare something that is “performance-worthy.” We want to get away from goofing around with tunes and licks, and really learn them like we should. We get a little too cozy in that “shed” sometimes, and don’t think about being “listenable.”
Learn Jazz Guitar Strategy Step 4 – Practice Makes Perfect
Step up that intensity and practice with performing in mind. The beauty of this strategy is that it’s like real life. It may sound silly, but you ARE preparing for an actual performance here. Work out the melodies, the solo ideas, the chords you’d like to use while comping, what kind of arrangement you’ll be playing, etc.
Learn Jazz Guitar Strategy Step 5 -The Recorded Gig
Time to take the stage! Put on the backing tracks if you need them, and do your thing. Make sure you stick to these guidelines while doing this.
1. Play everything one time through. You wouldn’t get any “do-overs” at a real gig would you?
2. Think about stage presence. How you look. How you feel. You’d be surprised how intimidating that camera can be. Try to play as if you have an audience of people behind that camera.
As a side-note, I play worship music at my church every weekend in front of about 100-200 people. This may sound surprising, but often times, I find a single camera in my home, more intimidating than a large group of people, because I know I’ll be watching myself afterwards. And there’s no harsher critic of myself than me. Audiences forgive mistakes, and even welcome them (within reason of course), because they know you’re human.
You being your own audience is intimidating. The bottom line is this. Don’t think because nobody else is around, you won’t feel any pressure. At the end of the article I’m going to suggest another idea to kick up this strategy “another notch.”
Learn Jazz Guitar Strategy Step 6 – Watch/Critique yourself & improve
Judgement time. How did you do? Were you as prepared as you thought you were? Did you roll through the tunes like a champ? Or did you flop? Regardless, I’m sure you were able to find things that you wish you did better. This exercise is revealing to say the least. Not because you can see yourself physically playing, but because it uncovers everything you need to work on.
Make mental notes about your performance and work on them in the practice room. I think every musician can always tell you something he or she wishes he could have done better. That’s why they say it’s not about the destination, but the journey!
Learn Jazz Guitar Strategy Step 7 – Wrapping Up
Now that you know about this strategy to learn jazz guitar, are you going to put it to use? I have put this to use, but I don’t do it as much as I need to. However, there is one instance I can tell you about where I did. In fact, it’s how I learned of this strategy.
I read an article by Matt Warnock about good beginner solos to transcribe. Movin’ Along by We Montgomery was one of the solos listed, so I decided to give it a shot. I ultimately ended up recording it, video and all. You can read about it in the article on my website, Me Playing & Transcribing Movin’ Along Solo by Wes Montgomery.
As I said, I would tell you about a way to take this strategy “up a notch.” It’s this. Post your videos online. Create your own YouTube channel with nothing but the purpose of hosting your performances. Share them with other people in forums, on Facebook, or wherever you hang out online. Show people what you’ve been doing. Knowing that you, and potentially many other people online may be watching you play on their screens adds an extra layer of realism to your “gigs” that will ultimately turn you into a better musician. Good luck!
About the Author
Brandon Bland runs the website, JazzGuitarTips.com. It is a site dedicated to providing useful tips and strategies for beginner to intermediate guitarists, looking to break into and succeed in the often intimidating world of jazz.