Jazz Guitar: A Systematic Path for Beginners - Part 1

practice and mindset Mar 05, 2014

Clearly, the question that gets asked most often (throughout and throughout my Jazz teaching experiences) is:

I'm a beginner. What should I do?
What exercises do you give every
student when they are just starting out?

If only it was that easy! :-)

The main problem is that no two musicians are alike. This creates quite a lot of head-scratching and soul-searching. (Yes, for both the mentor and student!)

Music is not like, say, the human body. Go to the gym, meet the personal trainer. You're out of shape (oops!). You'll do pretty much the same exercises as most out-of-shape people do, provided they have the same training / weight loss goals. Workout a few weeks, re-assess your shape. Adjust the training program and continue.

Unfortunately, with music, it doesn't quite work that way. Too many gray areas. Too many subjective ideas ... and valid perspectives are everywhere. Oh, how complicated your are making my life, you RIGHT brain. [Laughs]

A certain take on it

So, here was my attempt at "answering" the question, dating back about 2 years:

Here's what I think we should remember from the video:

  • Practice what you enjoy in Jazz. Joe Pass? Mike Stern? Gypsy stuff? Fine by me! Simply gravitate towards your main interests. And I believe you should do that from DAY 1, don't wait. Don't wait to be finished X or Y book or don't wait to have "mastered" a certain technique before doing (or at least attempting) the things you really like.
  • Tackle only what you can. It is not useful to create unrealistic practice plans for yourself; you'll be creating unnecessary expectations. (i.e. Don't try to go through that whole book!)
  • Set the ball rolling by giving yourself a push at first. The gym analogy again! Create a positive environment and scheduling for your practice. This helps motivation tremendously! For instance, dedicate a week to creating that bit of momentum.
  • If motivation does not come easily at the beginner (or in general): get a teacher! Being accountable is one of the most powerful force in the universe. If you have children, you know exactly what I mean. (Also: Go out to jam sessions and Jazz concerts!)
  • Use Jazz recordings, as much as you can. Listen, listen, listen ... And during your practice, try to pickup parts of recorded Jazz that you like. Else, you're just learning a "synthetic version" of Jazz.
  • Use your sense of habit (momentum), once the ball is rolling. It is very natural for humans to do so. Always remember that progress is achieved in small steps ... and improvements only show in the long term! The turtle wins the race. ;-)

Stay tuned for Part 2, in which we'll discuss a way for yourself to discover your very own beginner Jazz guitar path (what to practice and how).

Click here to go to Part 2 of this post... 


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