Playing jazz music like the greats doesn’t happen overnight. Being the best at your jazz instrument takes time, perseverance, and practice. If you want to become one of the greatest jazz players, there are habits you must get into doing every day. Start with these 7 everyday tasks that you can do to start living and breathing jazz music.
1. Clean Your Instrument
When you play an instrument the oils from your fingers and your germs make your instrument filthy every time you play. Take time each day that you practice or play to clean your instrument, get a new reed, and polish the metal on your horn. Not only will your instrument stay in great shape for longer, but you will get to know your instrument very well.
2. Practice Scales
The 6 patterns for major scales are some of the first things you learn to play if you are taking formal jazz lessons. These patterns are taught early because they are the foundation for all music progression. Practicing scales helps to tune your ear to different notes and ensure your instrument is in perfect tune. Practice scales for speed to practice finger positions and memorization.
3. Play Something by Ear
Every day, choose a jazz lick that you particularly enjoy listening to over a specific chord or progression. Learn the piece by ear by listening and playing the lick measure by measure. Transpose it into concert F or C and eventually you will learn it in all 12 keys. This everyday task will help you to learn the language of jazz music. Each day you can isolate something different in the music to learn to play from the chords and harmony to the arpeggios and head.
4. Practice Improvising
Improvisation is one of the key features of a great jazz musician. When people play in a jazz ensemble, the solos and improv is the highlight of the performance. Jazz musicians can practice improvisation every day, even without an ensemble to play with. Choose a piece that you know by heart and begin playing it. As the song progresses, fill in the solo spaces with your own musical flare or make the jazz standard your own by changing it up a bit.
5. Listen to Music
You should immerse yourself in music every day. You don’t even have to listen to jazz music all day long. The best musicians can play many genres of music, although a jazz musician should be a Master of Jazz. Listening to music that inspires you will get your creativity flowing. When you sit down to play and don’t feel like practicing, listening to your favorite music can also help get you in the mood to groove. When you are listening to jazz music you should listen to the style you play and the musicians you most look up to. You should be accustomed to the sounds of your style of jazz so that when it is time to improvise, the music comes naturally to you.
6. Increase Your Repertoire
There are endless jazz compositions to learn and play and even more ways to play each. Every day, you should be pushing yourself to learn another technique. Don’t practice the same old sheet music every day. Find your favorite jazz standards and start choosing other pieces by the same composers or musicians. Learn to play jazz pieces that are outside of your style and comfort zone. When you increase your repertoire, you are increasing your skill level. Learning different styles also improves your improvisational skills. The best jazz players can come together without even knowing each other’s styles and create a performance that is outstanding. Doing this, however, depends on the breadth of knowledge and experience the musicians each have separate from the ensemble.
7. Practice Multiple Instruments
One thing you can do each day to be a great jazz musician is practice an instrument other than your main one. If you are a saxophonist, spend 20 minutes a day at the piano. If you play the trombone, spend 20 minutes on percussion. Being able to master many jazz instruments, including different classes of instruments such as string, brass, or percussion will make you one of the most talented jazz musicians. Knowing how to play a few different instruments will also help you to have a better ear for the music, learn notes and tuning, and increase your likelihood of being chosen for a professional jazz ensemble.
Becoming a jazz master takes living and breathing jazz music every day. You must be willing to dedicate time each day to mastering your instrument and sound. Being able to integrate these 7 steps into your everyday life will help you to be immersed in jazz and be on your way to becoming one of the greats yourself.