At this point, you’re in a position to start killin’ it with your music.
Let’s recap what you’ve done so far:
At this point you’ve got everything you need to get your process Dialed In so you can start making more progress than ever before. So you can Learn Jazz Faster!
But before we finish up I just want to share a few ways for you to turbo charge your practice, become even more effective and get even more done in the shed!
So without further ado:
5 Ways to Maximize Your Practice Sessions.
Work On Yourself
If you recall from the section covering The Big Jazz Puzzle and The 9 laws, we talked about the law of the vital few. This law states that, in general, 80% of our progress comes from 20% of our practice activities. It therefore makes sense to try to do more of that 20%, more of The Vital Few.
Well, over the years I’ve come to realize that your biggest point of leverage is YOU. Let me explain. No matter how much you practice. No matter how good your mentors are. No matter how good your practice plan is or how disciplined you are. If your musical confidence and self-esteem are askew you will almost always sabotage your efforts.
When I look back in hindsight, my own issues with self-esteem are more responsible for my struggles with jazz than anything else. Hands down. Problems with self-esteem and self-efficacy will cause you to make poor decisions, change course too soon, give up too early, get stuck on certain areas, avoid taking chances (seizing opportunities), procrastinate, develop poor practice habits, shoot your self in the foot, etc.
BUT, the good news is that self-esteem is not set in stone. It’s changeable. You can proactively improve and strengthen your self-esteem. You can become more confident over time.
Now, I could never do this topic justice in just a single post. It’s a personal journey that YOU must choose to take. You must choose to make self-esteem a priority. And choose to take action to strengthen it each day. But here are just a few ideas to get you started.
Daily Mindfulness Meditation. Sit and observe yourself. Your physical self, emotional self, mental self. Just observe, accept and love. This is a time to be alone in the silence and to learn about yourself. After sitting, breathing and observing for a little while I like to take some time to get grateful. To think about all of the things in my life that are truly wonderful. Because our lives are truly gifts. No matter how tough things can seem sometimes. And the more grateful you are for what you have, the more success will come your way.
The following are six pillars of self-esteem. Think of these 6 pillars as 6 action areas you can choose to do each day. Every time you choose to honor these 6 pillars you will strengthen your self-esteem a little bit. Each time you choose to ignore them you will weaken it ever so slightly.
(This is based on the work of the late Dr. Nathaniel Branden. I highly recommend his book ‘The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem‘. It changed my life. After reading his book I actually ended up working with Dr. Branden 1 on 1 for about 2 years via telephone coaching and counseling sessions. He was a tremendous influence on my life.)
1. Always seek to expand your AWARENESS. Your awareness of how you think, how you feel, how you react, how you respond. Seek to see the truth in all things, to see what really is, not what you wish was there. This applies as much to your everyday life as it does to your playing. You can’t improve an area of your playing if you choose not to hear it. CHOOSE TO LIVE CONSCIOUSLY.
2. Always seek to ACCEPT the reality of your situation – with compassion. You don’t have to like what you see/hear, but you do need to love it and accept it. Practice loving yourself for who you really are. And from that place of acceptance you will be positioned to grow and improve – as a person and as a player. You can’t fix a problem with your playing if you deny it’s existence. Make sense? CHOOSE TO ACCEPT YOURSELF.
3. Always seek to ASSERT yourself – personally and musically. Play what you believe, what you hear, what you feel. This does not mean ‘do/play whatever the hell you want to’. But it means staying true to yourself and saying/playing/doing what you believe in, with regards to context. You won’t find YOUR voice if you’re trying to be/play somebody Else’s voice. CHOOSE TO ASSERT YOURSELF.
4. Always take complete responsibility for yourself and your music. Your life and your music are yours and yours alone. No one is coming to rescue you or show you the way. Yes, you must ask for help and develop productive relationships with peers and mentors. But your music – along with the good, the bad and the ugly – is YOUR music. Your challenges, obstacles and problems belong to you and you alone. No matter where they came from. CHOOSE TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY.
5. Always be purposeful. Live with purpose. Practice with purpose. Decide what you want to achieve, figure out WHY you want to achieve it. Then make a plan and get to work making it happen. CHOOSE TO LIVE WITH PURPOSE.
6. Play and practice with integrity. Honor yourself, honor your values, honor your beliefs. Do you believe that great time is important for a jazz musician? Than work hard to make that the reality of your music. Live up to your musical values and principles. CHOOSE TO ACT WITH INTEGRITY.
Work on Your Process
This entire series is all about dialing in your process. If you’ve gone through this series and followed along by doing all of the steps than you’ve got the framework for your process already in place.
But that process is always a work in progress. You can always become more effective, productive and creative.
Always seek to become even better at your process. And over time your playing will reach unbelievable levels and your ability to learn and progress in music (and as a bonus all areas of your life) will continue to improve and accelerate.
The best way to do this is to pay attention. Reflect on your process & progress each day, each week and each month. What’s working? What’s not? How could you get even better? What could you try that might improve it? After practicing with this framework in place and regularly reflecting on it’s effectiveness, you will begin to experience powerful insights that will help you further tweak and improve it.Like your playing, your 'process' can always be developed and improved upon. Click To Tweet
Divide and Conquer
Essentially, we’re talking about taking bite size pieces here. Were talking about breaking your practice material – whether it’s a melody, a chord sequence, a rhythm, a form, a tune, etc – down into a simple, easy to digest piece.
It doesn’t matter what you might be working on. It can be simplified, divided up, slowed down, etc. It can be made easy. And when you take it down to the micro level, your brain will absorb it like a sponge. Achieve mastery at that level and it will ripple out into your music.
The worst thing you can do in the practice room is to try to take on too much at one time. Learning a new tune? Take the first chord change and master that. Play it up and down your axe. Improvise with it – while recording & critiquing of course – and find out how creative you can be with just the notes of one chord. Do this until you exhaust all of your ideas and your forced to find new ones. Putting constraints on your playing like this will force you to sharpen your creative skills.
When you’re done with the first chord, do the same thing with the second chord. Then practice the first and second chord together. Go through an entire tune like this from front to back. Then repeat the process from back to front. When you’ve done this with the whole tune you will have incredible harmonic control.
Compare the results of this approach with the cat that just repeats the whole tune over and over again butchering the changes with every pass. A month later you’re killing it, and he’s still noodling away making noodling into a habit.
Divide and conquer and you cannot fail.
The Power Practice Paradigm
The power practice paradigm is something I’ve written about many times. It’s built on the idea of divide and conquer. But it spells out the steps a bit more for you. We’ve already covered this. But it’s worth covering again briefly.
Take your time and go through the entire tune – finding each next step, practicing for mastery, pushing the envelop – until you work your way all the way to your desired result.
With each tune you work on, this process will come faster and faster. Soon enough playing over most tunes with interesting chord tone solos will be part of your skill set. You’ll have much improved your harmonic control and your ability to make the changes. And it will be easy for you because of your process.
This is a practice strategy where you tie your practice topics together with a common thread. In this way, the work you do on one topic can help you progress faster on another topic.
For instance, imagine this is your basic framework right now:
- Technique: 20 minutes/Day
-Long Tones: 10 minutes
-Arpeggios: 10 minutes
- Improvisation: 60 minutes/Day
-Play/Rest Patterns: 30 Minutes
-Chord Tone Soloing: 30 Minutes
- Ear Training: 20 Minutes/Day
-Transcribing Vocabulary By Ear: 10 Minutes
-Singing Through Changes: 10 Minutes
- Repertoire: 20 minutes/Day
-Singing 1 Standard Melody: 20 Minutes
So, we know the major areas of practice you’re going to focus on. And we know the basic topics you’ll be working with.
A simple way to tie this all together is with a common tune. Let me explain.
Suppose we choose the standard You and the Night and the Music (YATNATM) for your repertoire work. Using the power practice paradigm you’ll be working on singing the melody for the next week. You’ll work through the tune phrase by phrase or even note by note if necessary until you can sing through the melody, in time, up to tempo with accurate pitch and rhythm.
Now, the way to tie this all together is to apply the tune to each other area:
- Technique: 20 Minutes/Day
-Long Tones: Use the notes from the melody of YATNATM for your long tone practice. Or you could also use the roots of each chord for this exercise.
-Arpeggios: For your arpeggio practice, use the tune YATNATM. Arpeggiate the changes of that standard, one chord at a time.
- Improvisation: 60 Minutes/Day
-Play/Rest Patterns: You guessed it. Use YATNATM as your tune. Improvise over the tune using various play/rest methods (see How To Improvise for a detailed explanation of this method.)
-Chord Tone Soloing: Again, use the changes from YATNATM for your chord tone solos.Notice that your technical work on the tune is tied to a musical topic. Your practicing your arpeggios so that you can play a tune. And that work on arpeggiating the changes of YATNATM will directly impact your improvisation practice. Cool, huh?
- Ear Training: 20 Minutes/Day
-Transcribing Vocabulary: Once again, use the tune. Find a good recording you like, and start copping vocabulary by ear one lick at a time. This will obviously help your ears but also your improvisation work on the tune.-Singing: Sing through the roots, the guide tones, the arpeggios, etc. Use the practice paradigm to find the next step, then practice at the edge of your ability until you can sing through the changes. This will help your ears, your improv chops, your repertoire, etc.
- Repertoire: 20 Minutes/Day
-Singing the Melody: Your working on this tune from various angles now. And singing/playing all of these different ways will just feed on each other. By the time you’re done this plan – even if it takes you a couple weeks – you will be so much stronger on the tune and at improvising in general.
Now, you don’t need to integrate everything in your routine. But see where you can get more leverage in your routine by integrating your topics and you’ll speed up your development exponentially.
There you have it!
By now your process should be totally dialed in. If you’ve been following along, did all of the exercises and you’ve begun putting your new practice process to use in the shed then you should already see dramatic improvements.
If you haven’t done the work what are you waiting for! You can download a PDF version of this entire series complete with checklists and worksheets to make it all easier for you.
I promise you that once you get ‘dialed in’ there’s no going back to the old, ineffective, mediocre way of playing & practicing.
Good Luck and Let Me Know How You Made Out With YOUR Process By Leaving Me A Note Below In The Comments Section.
Table of Contents
1. The Ultimate Secret to Learning Jazz
2. The Core Philosophies of Musical Success
3. The Big Jazz Puzzle: Part 1
4. The Big Jazz Puzzle: Part 2
5. The Big Jazz Puzzle: Part 3
6. Mindset & Mental Clarity
7. Laying Your Foundation For Musical Success
8. Creating Your Master Practice Plan
9. Putting Your Daily Practice Ritual In Place
10. Maximizing Your Musical Progress