This is unpublished post from 2015.
It shares one of the ways I practice jazz guitar – the same basic format I recommend many of my students to work on.
Hope this is helpful for those new to jazz guitar.
I wasn’t a natural at music.
I’m not what people might call ‘gifted’ or ‘talented’. Music was a very challenging thing to me & I still feel the challenge daily.
The best part of this is that I had to figure out how to learn. The best part was that I had to understand how everything worked.
Over the years of learning jazz, I’ve formulated a way of practicing and organizing the mass amount of information out there. It can be overwhelming and intense to digest so here’s a little diagram to help you out.
It outlines 5 main things that I practice:
1) Chord Voicings
Practice new chords – find interesting voicings, expand my guitar fretboard awareness and most importantly: develop my ears.
It’s not enough to just know the chords in a vertical manner (stacked notes), it’s also essential to be able outline the harmony in a linear melodic fashion. Arpeggios are great for clearly stating the harmony and as a skeletal structure for all the melodies that happen in between.
Beyond the arpeggios, scales provide the extended colors of the chord. I view this as an extension of the chord and not the primary element, at least in improvisation. For arranging, scales can be the source of creating different elements in the music.
4) Lines & Etudes
Write melodies – I write melodies, transcribe solos and licks and write etudes to challenge my ears and my fingers. This is part of the process to develop my musicality.
Real life is right here. Anyone can practice all of the above but still not be able to apply it in context. Jamming is a way to experiment and have fun with the material I worked on. It’s precedes the actual performance situation and in a way simulates the environment. Everything in the end should fit in a context. Jamming provides the context for all the material practiced.
In addition to all this, the core glue is the song, the repertoire. All this is to support the music, whatever song I want to play.
Hope this helps!
May 17, 2015, 2:59pm
[Related Q&A on this topic]
Q: I always struggle to organize my practice time to fit everything in. How much time do you put into each stage of your practice routine?
A: Great question! I generally vary the practice time for each of these. For example, I often will do a short 20-minute (approx) morning practice routine where the emphasis is to write a new line or lick to practice. In this case it would be:
[20-minute Line/Lick Writing Practice]
Chord Voicings – 2 minutes
Arpeggios – 2 minutes
Scales – 2 minutes
Lines & Etudes – 6 minutes
Jamming (includes recording the jam) – 3 minutes
Listening back to jam recording & critique/comments – 5 minutes
The timing is really a general guideline.
When I’m working on a new chord voicing/arpeggio/scale, it might be something like this:
[90-minute New Material Practice]
Chord Voicings – 10 minutes (writing down new voicings/inversions)
Arpeggios – 10 minutes (practice and writing new arpeggios/shapes/sounds)
Scales – 10 minutes (filling in the blank for the general tonality)
Break/Rest – 10 minutes
Lines & Etudes – 15 minutes (I aim for 3-5 lines about 2-4 bars usually)
Jamming (includes recording the jam) – 10 minutes
Break/Rest – 10 minutes
Listening back to jam recording & critique/comments – 15 minutes
Again, the timing is approximate. I do factor in the time to rest as part of the practice routine. I get really specific with the timing when I have an upcoming gig or when I’m trying to squeeze in practice time between teaching and I only have an hour or 30-minute break.
At times, if I only have 10 minutes. I will only work on a single topic, for example:
a) altered dominant voicings
b) diminished lines
c) Lydian arpeggios
d) II-V-I phrases in 16th notes
In this case, I don’t go through the entire practice routine I outlined.
I usually try to notate ideas down or record them whenever possible. My general aim is not necessarily to memorize everything but simply to explore the sounds and get them in my ears and fingers.
Hope this helps! =)