8/2/05

8th note lines & practice tips


My college housemate Dimitri Metheny would use a kitchen timer when he practiced his trumpet. He would play for 15 minutes and then take a ten minute break. As a brass player this allowed him to practice longer before his chops gave out. I think that it's a good idea for all instruments. Usually when I practice I lose track of time and suddenly it's been 45 minutes and I'm ready to pack it up. If you take short breaks you will not burn out so quickly.

  • Get a timer!

  • Jazz musicians tend to practice 8th-note lines more than anything else. This can lead to a string of 8th-notes common on most band stands. Here are a few things you can think about in order to make your lines sound more interesting.


1. Practice anticipating the chord changes by an 8th-note

2. Practice delaying the chord changes by an 8th-note

3. Practice purposely slowing your 8th-notes down and then speeding them up to catch back up with the time

d4. Focus more on the direction of your lines. Don't just swoop from top to bottom over and over. Really try to change direction unexpectedly.

5. Play a line and then answer it in another octave. Create a dialog with yourself in different octaves.

6. Try varying your dynamics with the shape of the line, higher=louder, make this effect very pronounced.

7. Displace notes unexpectedly into different octaves while playing a smooth line.

8. Try writing repeating 5, 7 or 9 note patterns. These will shift around in the bar and create very interesting effects.

9. Practice repeating notes unexpectedly in your lines. This can make the most cliché Bop lines
sound very fresh.

10. Be more aware of when you are playing horizontally and when you are playing vertically.
Most players tend toward one or the other. Change this up consciously.

11. Shift between swinging very hard to playing straighter legato 8th-notes (straighter, not like an old unswinging Caucasian)

12. Remember the farther outside you go, the harder you need to swing!



  • If you are trying to learn licks or patterns keep a journal for yourself. Each day that you practice memorize just three new patterns. Each day after you work on the three new patterns go back through all the previous patterns and refresh your memory. If you try to learn too many every time or don't go back over the old patterns, you will never retain what you are learning.


  • Make sure you take time to compose your own patterns and licks to memorize along with the classics. Start developing your our style at the beginning. I don't agree with those who say that you should first learn to play like the masters before developing your own sound. You can put your own touch on everything that you are picking up from the masters. No one wants to hear a player that sound just like another player. Why bother?


  • Spend time using CDs as ear-training tools. Try to play back lines that you're hearing on the spot. I'm not talking about transcribing. Just try to pick out pieces of what you're hearing and play them back.

2 comments:

Andreas said...

thanks a lot for all of your daily bloggs. I am really enjoying them and take a lot of practicing tips with me. So please continue!!!! Do You know the forward motion concept of Hal Galper? What Do You think of it?
By the way will You ever come to Germany to play here? I would love to hear You!!
Just in case You want to contact me or see who I am look at my webpage: www.milesdavisapotheke.de
Thanks again, Andreas.

David Valdez said...

I just posted about Hal and included a link to his site. You can read many of his articles there, including Forward Motion. Very interesting stuff. Forward motion is so important in Jazz. If you have strong forward motion you can get away with playing just about anything.