It’ll always amaze me how many people believe they can take one lesson from me and somehow get some magical tips or tricks that will give them everything they need to improve their playing. I see this everywhere. The look of disappoint on their face saddens me. It’s as if I have let them down by telling them the same thing they have probably heard over and over again. Learn your major scales, learn your major and minor triads and learn your 7th chords in both hands. “Ohhh really? That’s it?” Well yes if you want to be decent. In this post I’m going to reveal some truths that may be hard to read for lots of people. On the positive side, the more you can accept these truths, the quicker and better you will become.
Truth #1 – Jazz is a lifelong journey
If you’re thinking you’ll eventually reach a point where you are satisfied with the way you play, I got some new for you. You won’t. All the greatest jazz pianists, and jazz artists for that matter never got to a place where everything felt comfortable. Trane was still searching when he died. You will always feel an inadequacy about your playing. That’s the nature of this music. To this day I could write a 100 page document on everything I need to improve upon. Do I let it get me down though? Absolutely not! I keep pluggin’ a long, practicing, searching, and trying to get better. Never give up!
Truth #2 – There is no nugget that is going to completely transform you’re playing…ever.
As great as an educator as I am, as arrogant as that sounds, I can say on the flip side very humbly, in one lesson, I would never be able to tell you one piece of advice that will completely transform you’re playing. I can probably help you tremendously, and improve certain areas that are lacking. But in now way would your playing be magically transformed so you sound like Art Tatum. So stop the endless search for that one thing that you believe will get you to the top, because I’ll tell you this, you’re chasing a dream. There is only one way to honestly get better which leads me to my next truth.
Truth #3 – Hard work and practice is what makes you better, nothing else.
It’s a pretty simple truth. If you practice…you get better. If you don’t practice…you don’t get better. Now if you are practicing and not making much progress than you’re probably practicing the wrong thing. In those cases, that is where I can position you on a fast track to improving like never before. That’s only for people who are willing to put in the work. All of the education that I put out there for you means jack unless you take it practice it. Without hard work and practice, the information just sits there gathering dust.
Truth #4 – You cannot get away with just playing by ear.
I love when I give someone some music, or I’m trying to explain a progression and a fellow musician says to me, “Oh, don’t worry about it man, I just play by ear.” Oh really? Is that so? So is that why you missed the progression the first time around? Is that why you’re comping is completely interfering with my ideas? In my opinion, someone who says they just play by ear is simply not disciplined enough to study the music in depth. Now obviously there are certain situations where someone will only be able to play by ear, and they can play the s#*t out of anything. In my 20 years of playing music I’ve seen this once. I’ll say it again…I’ve seen it, once. Everyone else has lacked by a very, very large margin. Learn the theory and harmony behind music and you will have no limits to your playing.
Truth #5 – If you stop taking lessons, you won’t get better on your own.
Everyone needs a teacher/coach. Tiger Woods has a coach. Lebron James has a coach. Oscar Peterson had a teacher. Art Tatum had a teacher. Herbie Hancock had a teacher. Everyone has a mentor that they can go to who will constantly help them and support them. Without that mentor/teacher you will have no guidance, you will have no direction, and you’re playing will become lost. You need another set of ears telling you where you are lacking. Telling you how to get better and what to practice. I’ve gone through times where I thought I could do it on my own. I’m sure you have too. But guess…you can’t. Neither can I. No one can. In order to make progress we all need help. So stop thinking you can do it on your own. Swallow your pride and let someone teach you and help you. You’ll make progress much faster and in turn feel HAPPY!
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