Learning to play jazz is a life-long endeavor
Last Updated: February 27, 2011 at 9:36 pm

September 1, 2010

Learning to play jazz is a life-long endeavor. You never master it and there is always another plateau to reach, another modern chord voicing to discover, another glorious combination of scales to play. You know how it’s said that to master an instrument one most devote 10,000 hours of practice. That’s roughly 3 hours a day for 10 years. Well I’ve maintained that practice regimen for three decades, so have practiced 30,000 hours, give or take a few thousand. I only mention this to illustrate my point. I never stop making exciting discoveries on the guitar, and always have areas that I want to refine and skills that need honing. For example, I want to have greater mastery in the execution of -7b5 arpeggios. Not just crossing all 6 strings, and comfortably navigating the entire neck. But deconstructing the arpeggio, utilizing snippets of it, and moving from one interior shape or position to a neighboring shape or position. That’s not to mention the ability to apply the same arpeggio over a related dom7,9 chord or -6 chord. *C#-7b5 arpeggio may be played with wonderful results over A7,9 and E-6, and Gmaj7. The student never realizes how long this process will take. The good teacher is able to explain it, and demonstrate how every improvement or advance is incremental. The good teacher conveys to the student that mastering an instrument is a life-long commitment, and incremental improvements are the stepping stones. Students often get frustrated because it takes too long to get better. Well it’s true. Studying music is arduous and time consuming, a fine art, and a discipline. That’s why it’s a fine art. The reward that the student always has in mind comes later, in the guise of playing ability and music-making prowess. But the real, often unrecognized reward is in the process. The daily dedication to bettering oneself, challenging oneself to excel at something, and a fierce commitment to do so, results in a lifestyle that ensures personal growth on a level never anticipated by the student.

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