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Tip #1 – Holiday Practice Advice (Video)
Tip #2 – Ron’s Tips – Jazz Practice Vs. Classical
Jazz Practicing vs. Classical Practicing
Jazz players tend to practice somewhat differently from classical players. But it’s not so different, really – it’s a question of emphasis, doing what is necessary to meet the demands inherent in your chosen style of music.
Both styles require two types of practice: 1) Projects aimed at mastering the basic materials of music (scales, arpeggios, etc.), and 2) Projects that are performance-oriented, aimed at mastering specific compositions.
The first type we might call “long-term,” the second type we might call “piece-specific.”
Jazz players need to develop the ability to play anything that occurs to them, in any key, so it’s only natural that “long-term” practicing tends to take precedence. However, as a player takes on more complex projects, the “basic materials” approach moves beyond scales and arpeggios, and begins to incorporate licks, melodic units that will be used in performance. These will become elements of one’s personal style.
This “patterns” approach to practicing is standard in the jazz world, and there are a great many books that detail this approach (a specific exercise program is beyond the scope of this article). Basically, this means playing any given shape in all 12 keys, starting with scale- and arpeggio-oriented shapes.
But “piece-specific” practice is appropriate for jazzers, too. As an object lesson, consider Charlie Parker’s showpiece, “Cherokee.” If you listen to various recordings made over the course of his career, you can hear it as a composition that was a perpetual work-in-progress. Much of his “improvisation” seems to have been worked out, and practiced, in advance (although he never played it exactly the same way twice). You can dig deeply into a tune, work out some nice paths for improvisation, and refine your interpretation of the melody.
Classical practicing is usually about working up a performance of an already-composed piece; improvisation is almost never an issue (though interpretation is a very big factor). Compared to jazz playing, classical performance demands a higher standard of perfection. It’s only natural that more time will be spent on “piece-specific” practicing.
But “long-term” practice is essential for classical players too. It will improve your ear and your grasp of theory, as well as your overall technique. And it is certainly worth your while to work towards having equal facility in all keys.
Jazz players can benefit from some classical study (discipline, high standard of perfection, internalizing great composers’ sense of melody and harmony). Classical players can benefit from some jazz study (projecting spontaneity, the benefits of “long-term” practicing). And if you are interested in looking into the musical styles of other world cultures, so much the better! It’s always good to broaden your horizons.
We all know that if you want to learn to play an instrument, you have to practice. But it’s important to know how to practice effectively. Your practice time will be twice as useful if you do it right –, so of course the advice here is directed especially at brass players. However, most of these ideas apply to all instruments.
I hope that the advice in this article has been helpful! Whatever your age or level is, have fun practicing!
Wishing keith fiala and all his students a very Merry Christmas and Holiday season
“Remember, the thoughts that you think and the statements you make regarding yourself determine your mental attitude. If you have a worthwhile objective, find the one reason why you can achieve it rather than hundreds of reasons why you can’t.”