Jazz Improvisation Mindset Tips


At, we all have one common goal: to improve our abilities to become better improvisers. Over the last 32 years as a student of music and the last 18 as a teacher, I have learned one thing: there is no silver bullet to learning how to improvise Jazz. There are certainly a lot of techniques that will help us improve at a faster pace that we'll be sharing over the course of this summer, but having the right mindset is key to maximizing your potential and practice time. Here are three simple tips that will help contribute towards maximizing & motivating your practice: ​ 1. Leave Your Instrument Out If you've ever heard the term, "Out of sight, out of mind," then you know what I'm talking about. How many times have we all gone through a slump of not practicing because getting over the "take the instrument out" activity is an immediate block to creating music instantly? ​ The simple act of taking your instrument out of the case (or if you sing, put up something that reminds you to sing) or flipping open the piano lid will help motivate you to practice more. This is a tip my saxophone teacher gave me in high school and I immediately noticed how much more often I'd pick up my instrument and start a whole new practice session. Put your instrument in a safe place where you'll continually see it, watch how easy it becomes to get started and how much more you'll practice! ​ 2. Work to Master Improvisation by Obsessing Over Less Once the instrument is out, focus on mastering small acheivable goals. It is way too easy to become overwhelmed with all the things we "should" do in one practice session. This can stress us out and add to that creativity block that becomes a part of the instrument staying in the case. For example: pick a melodic line (a 1 or 2-4 bar lick that is written out or transcribed) and apply one of the many "Obsess Over Less" ideas over the course of 15-20 minute chunks of time: ​ • Listen to the lick being played until you can sing/hum it by memory. (This can be done without your instrument out.) ​ • Eliminate the rhythms and play the line as slow as possible, almost like longtones to give yourself time to think/imitate a great Jazz Master's tone, train your fingers, and for more advanced students: analyze intervals while relating each note to the chord they would work over. ​ • Very slowly speed up the line: but only after you've perfected it by memory at a slow tempo without mistakes. If you make mistakes at a new tempo, revert back to a slower tempo to retrain your fingers/mind. If you are making too many mistakes at the slower/familiar tempo- take a break and come back to it! ​ • Close your eyes and play the line by memory with the above technique in front of a tuner. Open them and take note of whether you are in tune or not. ​ • Perform the lick with the recording (or a looped snippet) of the recording. ​ The are countless strategies to apply, and we'll be addressing the process of fundamental, intermediate and advanced approaches this summer in our "Virtually Free" workshop. If you aren't registered, please visit this link to sign up!​ ​ 3. Practice Persistence Practicing persistence contributes to a positive growth mindset, an important skill for all musicians. Some of the skills listed above will definitely help you get the instrument out and break down these tasks. One thing is for sure though: it is OK to be frustrated. If you were to ask any great Jazz musician how they might feel about their playing, you would most definitely get an answer that they are unsatisfied with where they currently are even though us mortals may perceive their acheivements to be out of this world. ​ Everyone experiences frustration in practicing, and when we feel frustrated over our growth as a musician it is time to practice being persistent by recognizing small acheiveable goals that we know we can acheive. This is the difference between the greats and those who stagnate. If you do this, eventually your wins with those small acheiveable goals will add up to you playing through Giant Steps at full tempo... and as a little side note to that: Did you know that John Coltrane practiced and planned his famous recording of Giant Steps as a memorized etude?? (More on this next week!) ​ Best, ​ Chad Bloom Instagram: @jazzimprovorg ​

79 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All