Practice Tips

What Should I Practice?

You should never ran out of idea! There are a ton of stuff that you could be learn or improve. Here is a list on top of my head:

  • Learning Tunes
  • Transcribing Solos
  • Practicing a phrase in all keys
  • Learning major, minor, whole tone, chromatic and pentatonic scales… oh and bebop scales!
  • Intervals
  • Patterns & Licks
  • Sing back what you just played-play back what you sing
  • Practicing Tone 
  • Use a metronome at various tempos
  • Practice playing by yourself while keeping time

Jazz Practice Tips

• Daily Routine. Naturally, it would be best to spend 5 or 6 hours everyday learning new techniques, tunes and solos but who has that much time in a day? Actually you just need 5 min to start practicing but make it happen right now. Don’t delay to tomorrow. If you focus on a single task for 5, 10 minutes you can accomplished a lot! It could be a scale, a pattern or an exercise taken from the course list. 

• Practice at a variety of tempos. It is important to practice as slowly as necessary to play something consistently without error. Start at 60 bpm and make sure the tempo feels comfortable before climbing your way up to faster tempo. When a tempo feels at home augment the speed gradually so you’re ready for blowing over faster songs!

• Start your phrase at any starting points. Try to start playing your lick on beat 2, 3 or 4. Then you can experiment starting on the upbeat, the “and” of 1, 2, 3, 4. It will add more variety and surprise to your playing.

• Use more realistic backing tracks. The best method to learn how to play with a band is by playing with a real band! Chances that we don’t all have the luxury to practice everyday with a rhythm section. The next best thing would be using Jamey Aebersold play along. Most tracks feature some of the finest jazz musicians who will be backing you during your practice session such as Mulgrew Miller, Kenny Werner, Joey Defrancesco,  Billy Hart and Ron Mclure Among others.

• How to make iReal Pro more efficiently. I often use Real Pro when I want to play over a tune that I wrote or just play over a standard. Although I like the application for its great interface I start to get annoyed rapidly with the instrument sounds, pre-recorded comping and overall feel. The first thing I do is to mute the drums and piano and only keep the bass part. iRealpro becomes a kind metronome and I can play without being distracted with the software instrument sound quality and predictable repetitive rhythms.

  • Practice playing by yourself. Playing along with a really nice sounding backing track or just a metronome is fun but you need to be able to play by yourself while keeping time and outlining the harmony. First you need to memorize the form and changes then feel the pulse strongly in your mind when you play as if a super swinging big band were backing you up.
  • I encourage everyone to play basic keyboard so you’ll be able to ear how a scale, an arpeggio or a pattern sound against a chord or just a bass note. You can play a chord/bass note with your left hand and a scale on the right hand for example. Here are a couple of great jazz piano book to help you learn basic piano technics.

The Jazz Theory Book by Mark Levine

Hal Leonard Jazz Piano Method by Mark Davis

  • Practice a scale over a chord starting on each chord tone.  This way the chord tones, the notes from a  chord (root, third, fifth and seventh) will be played each beat. For example over C7, we’ll play C on the first beat, E on the second, G on the third beat and Bb on the fourth beat of the measure. Thus the non chord tones,  (D, F, A) will be played on the “and” between each beat.

  • Practice Building a Solo Often times great solos are developed like an arch from little to more complicated. Take a 3 chorus solo. Start playing in your first chorus only whole notes and half notes, nothing more. In your 2nd chorus, add quarter notes. Lastly in your 3rdchorus add eighth notes then sixteenth notes in the last section of the song.