In this special article edition from Vision Music, I'd like to share a little blast from
my not-too-distant past:
SEVEN STEPS TO CHANGES HEAVEN
"Seven Steps to Changes Heaven" is a no-nonsense dissertation targeted directly at
aspiring jazz guitarists, many of whom are spinning their wheels, confused and/or
frustrated when it comes to understanding the most optimum way to acquire and
speak the language of jazz. Why does this sad dilemma exist in jazz educational
circles? While the reason is anything but simple and logical, the great news is that
the solution is abundantly simple and logical. Read on...
Music is indeed a language, and the process of becoming conversant is no different
than learning English or any other language. For just a moment, reflect back to when
you were very young and consider how you first learned to communicate with others.
You slowly began to imitate your parents until you could say a few common words,
typically at about two years of age. Next you began stringing those words together,
first forming phrases and later complete sentences. Years before you could read,
write, or sit in an elementary school classroom studying the rules of proper grammar,
you could communicate and express yourself in a unique manner. You had even
developed a special personality all of your own. In other words, you were already
"improvising" and you weren't even thinking about it. With me so far?
Now contemplate how four of jazz guitar's greatest legends, Charlie Christian, Wes
Montgomery, George Benson, and Joe Pass, learned how to improvise in precisely
the same manner that you learned how to speak as a child. They carefully listened to
and imitated their mentors completely by ear until they acquired the sounds needed
to fluently communicate, again without even thinking about it. And yes, they also
developed an original personality and style along the way, just as you did during
childhood. Ironically, they didn't read or write music, nor did they attend school
after the fact to study theory. Why would they? It was everyone else who wanted to
sound like them, and make no mistake about it. In music, regardless of whether
you're playing or listening, the sound is the bottom line.
So what happened over the years that caused so many jazz educators and students
to miss the obvious truth, then falsely conclude that you should arm yourself with a
plethora of hypothetical, esoteric, and abstract mind games in order to improvise?
This misguided path has succeeded in making a genre of music far more complicated
than it should be, resulting in players who are discouraged and often have doubts
about their ability to even play jazz. My ongoing mission is to help simplify things for
yourself and others, and to get you on track to becoming the player you wish to be.
To download and read this entire article (included the essential Seven Steps) in PDF format,
Note: This piece originally
appeared in Jazz Improv (now Jazz Inside) magazine a few years ago, along with many of my lesson columns.
It's been extremely well-received by both aspiring players and top professionals. I like to believe that
this is due to my continuing attempt to underline language-based learning as the ultimate
path to success.
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What They're Saying...
"There's nobody on the planet who plays like you and then can communicate what he has just played. That is
an awesome skill level you've reached!" - Bob Parsons
"I knew that you were a great teacher, but it's amazing to me how you get your students to see things for
themselves so quickly. I only hope that I can inspire as many players as you have, my friend." - Henry Johnson
"There is no better guitar instructor I know of, the most influential guitarist of my music career!" - Stevan Pasero
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