Hi There,

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" 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, click here.


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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