|I developed an harmonic approach to improvising over
jazz changes. This approach is derived from the
generally accepted rules of jazz harmony, but modified
to suit my own ear and to solve certain musical
problems I frequently encounter.
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| Eight Steps to Playing Jazz
People never ask me: "Tom, how can I learn to play jazz?" So, to answer the
question, I came up with the following eight steps that you, as an aspiring jazz
musician, can deal with for a lifetime.
1. Before and after each of the following steps, write your own tunes. Apply
everything you learn to your own music.
2. Determine if you like jazz. It's not about impressing friends at cocktail
parties, or being "better" than the other rockers in your area because you can play
"jazzy" licks. It's about being truly inspired by the music created by jazz musicians
you love to listen to. Always be honest with yourself. Only play music you love.
3. Learn basic musicianship. There are certain musical ideas that are
fundamental to understanding western music. You can learn these by taking
beginning piano lessons or a basic theory course in school. Just find a trustworthy
source. Part of basic musicianship is learning how to read music on your
4. Learn solfege. (Do, re, mi, etc. - the moveable do system of ear training.)
Apply the system to gradually more difficult music. Eventually, at any given note
that you play at any given time, you should be able to identify ("hear") the note
using this system.
5. Buy the Real Book and pick some tunes you like.
6. Memorize the chord changes of the tunes you picked in #5 and play the
chord tones (arpeggiate) through those changes.
7. Buy How To Improvise by Hal Crook. (I have absolutely no affiliation
with Mr. Crook other than he was one of my Berklee teachers back in the day,
before he published the book.) Pay special attention to pages 54-56.
8. Apply the information in Pages 54-56, above, to the changes in the tunes
you picked in step 5. The key word is "apply." As with anything, it takes a very
short time to understand the theory. It takes much, much longer - and it is much
more painful -to successfully apply the theory to the problem. When confronted
with such pain, most people choose to denigrate the theory in favor of less painful,
less worthy methods. This leads to mediocrity. Don't make excuses. Just do it.