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Jazz Guitar Workouts

Why You Need To Think In Terms Of "Jazz Guitar Workouts"

practice and mindset Dec 26, 2016

A Guest Post by Ny Fanilo Andrianjafy


You might be wondering, "What are 'Jazz Guitar Workouts?'" It is a concept I discovered that consists of creating structured and timed routines for your jazz guitar practicing. A jazz guitar workout has similar framework to an exercise workout you might use at the gym.

I have two real-life stories that explain how I figured out a parallel between working out at the gym and "working out" on my jazz guitar.


Real-life Story #1: Working out as a teenager

When I was 14, I asked my parents for training weights. A few weeks later, they got me a nice set of dumbbells. I already had a few books that showed me plenty of exercises, but no plan. I just lifted the dumbbells over and over. It felt great! After a month or so, I was seeing some positive changes!

However, it did not take long before my progress slowed down. I tried new ideas to continue my growth, but found there were no real improvements. I began to think that I needed to train for hours! Having longer sessions of working out got me very exhausted -- and still, no results.


The cure

Luckily, I was taught by my coach how to plan my workouts and make them shorter. During the next 10 years, I had many workout routines. I had fun combining exercises and formats. I knew what to mix together to build new routines to either lose fat, to bulk up, to developing strength ... or whatever else I felt was in need of attention.

For example, this is one of my chest workouts for strength building:

  1. Incline dumbbell press and Incline dumbbell flies in super-sets — 3 sets of 10 reps
  2. Decline barbell bench press — 3 sets of 10 reps
  3. Overhead chest press — 3 sets of 12 reps
  4. Push-ups — 3 sets of until I hate my stubborn self

It took me less than an hour to perform.

The results were terrific. I was in good shape and strong. My goals always had a nice clear path I could follow ( I still had to work, of course!). The most important point of all: I had fun!

Here's what I learned from that journey:

  1. An hour of focused working out three times a week is better than long sessions at random times.
  2. Being focused and avoiding distractions is a must to reach your goal.
  3. Putting a twist on exercises you already know will create new ones.
  4. Drinking water is good. ;)


Real-life Story #2: Learning Jazz Guitar as a young adult

When I decided to learn jazz guitar, I played every time I had a chance. I would play/practice(-ish) for 16 hours a day. My "sessions" varied from learning songs, to practicing theory, to working on new exercises, and even just noodling around. I was progressing so fast! It felt amazing!

Then, after some time, my progress became slower. Even with all the material I had, I found it hard to play when improvising or comping on some complicated pieces. In short, I knew a thousand things, but didn't know how to use them.

My problem was that I had no structure. I just practiced "stuff." (Does this sound like YOU?)


The revelation

Here enters the Systematic Path For Beginner, which I interpreted as a simple idea:

I can build my own jazz guitar workouts.

With all the material I had access to, I realized I am able to build as many jazz guitar workouts as I please. I can also put a twist on exercises or examples from a book and come up with a new one!

For example, here is a routine I did to work on my timing and repertoire.

  1. Warm-up: The Meditative Rhythm exercise while picking a Bb7 Bebop Scale (5 minutes)
  2. Pick a new standard. Learn the chords. Play them with a metronome clicking on beats 2 and 4. (20 minutes)
  3. Stick with the same standard. Learn the melody. Play it with a metronome clicking on beats 2 and 4. (20 minutes)
  4. Play a Bebop head I already know on a "slow" tempo a few times. Increase the metronome’s tempo by 5 BPM. Repeat until I hate myself, then progressively decrease the tempo. (10 minutes)

That's it! 55 minutes of focused practice. My jazz guitar playing starting improving for real once I started using a structure! Important elements of playing, such as comping and improvising were no longer sources of fear for me! I set out with a new confidence to all of my gigs and jam sessions.

What I learned in this journey:

  • Practicing for an hour max, three to four times a week is better than hours of noodling.
  • Being focused and avoiding distractions is a must to reach your goal.
  • Discover exercises and put a twist on them to create new ones.
  • Drinking water is good. ;)

So ... Why did it work?

  • Being focused for a short period of time with no distraction is more productive than hours of distracted work. Take a look a the Pomodoro technique for an example of that.
  • Structures create goals. Goals create challenges. And challenges get you closer to where you want to be.
  • Not everything has to be shown to you. You can create your own exercises and become your own teacher!
  • Drink water, it is good for you. ;)


A Guest Post by Ny Fanilo Andrianjafy

Ny Fanilo Andrianjafy is a guitarist living in Canada. His main influences are traditional music from his birth country, Madagascar, and blues. He discovered Jazz at the age of 19 and has been in love with it ever since.



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