The Beginning Jazz Improviser’s Biggest Mistake

Improvisation can seem like a mysterious, almost impenetrable process to those new to studying it. The idea that a musician can generate cogent, beautiful melodies on the spot seems almost superhuman. But in fact, it is one of the most  human characteristics we possess. We’re actually natural improvisers.  We speak and move spontaneously everyday with no […]

How Often Do You Stop Listening To Yourself As You Practice Your Instrument?

I was giving an Alexander Technique lesson this morning to a young violinist who had come to me because of some problems with pain and tension (particularly in his left shoulder) as he played. This morning I wanted to see what he does with himself as he practices, so I had him practice an arpeggio […]

Want To Find Your True Voice As An Improviser? Transcribe Yourself

One of the standard practices in studying jazz music is to transcribe improvised solos played by great performers. From the more “classic” masters such as Louis Armstrong, Lester Young, Charlie Parker and  Bill Evans, on up to contemporary artists such as Brad Mehldau, Mark Turner or Dave Douglas. Transcribing a solo that you really like […]

Want To Improve Your Time? Call Upon Your Imagination

To me the most fundamental skill for an improvisor to have is good time. Specifically, being able to perceive and control tempo. It’s probably impossible to create rhythmic interest and thematic development without first having a strong internal clock as a point of reference. (You never hear a beautifully improvised solo where the player’s time […]

Being Still Is Not The Same As Being Stiff

Playing music involves movement.  No matter what instrument you play (even your voice!) you have to be able to move to make music. How would you describe the quality of your movement when you play music? Are you fluid and free, or are you somewhat stiff and strained? Do you “plant” yourself in one position, […]