21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis

Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC


21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis

Editor: Ken Hiatt Illustrations: Chris Punis Cover and Interior Design: Chris Punis © 2008 by Chris Punis All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without written permission from the publisher and Chris Punis. Chris Punis Learnjazzfaster.com Printed in the United States of America

Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC


21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis


The Monster Jazz Formula
21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician

Chris Punis

Edited by Ken Hiatt

Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC


is still burning. you didn’t get into music because your best friend told you about this hip new thing called “practicing scale patterns” or “ear training interval drills. They determine what’s important to you. swing at 350 BPM. play a bossa nova. memorize scale patterns #176 from your chain-smoking. or else you wouldn’t be reading this article. despite the world’s best efforts to extinguish it. If this sounds familiar. play Trane’s solo on “Giant Steps. you haven’t seen your girlfriend/boyfriend in a month. You connected with it. All great musicians (and great people in general) know who they are and what they want. understand the Lydian Chromatic Concept. shout. and jump around your room like a fool (or am I just weird?). Your values are your priorities in life. The Most Important Secret to Becoming a “Monster” (AKA Prioritize Your Values) Let’s face it. most importantly. let alone what yours might be. who you are and. then your values may be out of whack. There was something different about this music. what you do.” You got into music because you heard something that made you stop dead in your tracks and say. Then a few years later—while trying to simultaneously learn to voice lead. And to make matters worse.” transcribe the head to “Ornithology. you might have no idea what a value is.” It made you want to dance. It lit a fire in your belly. coffee-chugging teacher’s book and learn to play a second instrument—you realized that something wasn’t working.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis How to Have Your Practice Routine Make You Want to Sprint to the Practice Room with a Smile on Your Face Instead of Procrastinate with a Lump in Your Stomach. They determine what you believe. done your laundry or paid your electric bill (hope you play an acoustic instrument).” groove in 7. “Damn that sounds good. In fact. Their Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 4 . which.

Here’s a sports analogy for you. catcher. And in doing so they became monster jazz musicians. But you come to a point where you must focus more and more on music that’s truly important to you. Now. play different styles and learn different concepts. composed like Monk. 1st baseman. outfielder.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis actions reflect it. He wasn’t known for any of those things. gymnast. center. Was he known for his ability to play at breakneck tempos? How about virtuosic piano technique? Then he must have been known for his beautiful voicings. goalie. or played as “colorfully” as Monk. the press and their peers. improvise in 5/4. me too. Charles Mingus. not world class athletes. Nobody played rhythm like Monk. Whether they thought about it or not all of the masters played with great integrity and an intense code of values. But they don’t fit into the world-class athlete category. don’t get me wrong. etc. Just think about Ornette Coleman. sprinter and a square dancer? Yeah. Charlie Parker. For instance. Imagine if Monk thought he had to have chops like Art Tatum. Lester Young. meet the right people and experience success and great achievements. Elvin Jones. Miles Davis. right? Wrong. shortstop. for that matter. take the right chances. even in the face of intense criticism from the audience. They created and transformed the art-form of jazz. or play funk. Duke Ellington. Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 5 . They practice the important things. Eric Dolphy. think about Thelonious Monk. He was known for his completely original sound and approach. Disclaimer: it is very important to expose yourself to a wide range of music. Gym teachers have a noble profession. He knew what he wanted his music to sound like and he played it that way. Have you ever heard of an athlete who was a pitcher. fullback. quarterback. They all stuck to their values and played the music that was important to them. We call them elementary school gym teachers. Luckily for us he didn’t. Or the “monster” category. He played “his thing” only and he did it better than anyone else.

you are destined to become a truly individual and original voice in jazz. What do you like about these players? What qualities in their playing are you drawn to? What could you do to develop those qualities in your own playing? Your answers will give you some big clues as to what’s important to you. To quote the great twentieth century spiritual master Mr.” He was right. Your values will change as you learn and progress. Use these answers to decide what to practice. and live by your own code of values. who to study with and who to play with. Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 6 . If you are true to yourself. Each of us has a unique set of experiences. Action Step 1: Write down the names of your favorite players. “Is that the most important thing I could be practicing? Is that skill important to me? Will it help me make the music that’s important to me? Or is it something I think I’m supposed to practice?” Again. listening and all of your musical activities. as you go down the list. You are. ask yourself. and you’ll be sprinting to the practice room with a smile on your face (not to mention that you’ll also get more gigs). And when this happens you progress faster and faster and become more and more productive. use your answers to make choices about what to practice. Action Step 2: Plan out your practice session before you start to practice (more about that in a few days). Then. Choosing your values now brings focus to your practicing. who to play with.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis “But I’ve only been playing jazz for a year. much more productive. You’ll change and rearrange them over and over again. and then your actions—become clearer and clearer as you go. each time picking up speed and progressing faster.” you might ask. Determining your values is an ongoing process. Rogers. Your values—and then your goals. “How can I choose my values?” Very good question. Faster than you ever thought possible. “You’re special. It never stops. goals and values. dreams. Soon your practicing will be more focused.

Spend some time thinking about it. Anyway? In the last lesson of “21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician” we talked about musical values. to repair the XYZ doo-hickey on the space station and to complete a particular experiment. you will end up nowhere. Think about it this way: When NASA sends a shuttle on a “mission” to space. the next step is to create your mission statement. This is a sentence that explains what you are aiming to accomplish. Without a mission it’s as if you are on a road trip with no destination or reason in mind. We talked about how making choices based on our values will focus our musical efforts and ensure an individual and original sound and approach. this is the ultimate purpose and objective of your practicing. listening. So why would you want to spend thousands of hours practicing and thousands of dollars going to school and studying with no purpose for your music? Write down your mission.” They send it up for a reason. Writing down your mission or “major definite purpose” will have profound effects on your musical progress. In this lesson we will talk about being “on a mission. we’ve got nothing to do today. If you intend to make a major Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 7 . Now.” Now that you have determined your values and what’s important to you musically. Write down in words what it is you plan to accomplish with music. “Hey. In a nut shell. let’s send the shuttle up into space. They send it up to put a satellite into orbit. with no mission. They don’t just say. This might sound like fun for awhile. it seems ridiculous to send the space shuttle into orbit and spend millions of dollars and thousands of hours of work for no purpose—in other words. the goal of all jazz musicians.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis Why the Heck Did I Just Spend 4 Hours in a Stuffy Practice Room Working on Chord Scales. What is your main focus? Don’t rush this. they have a reason for it. for fun. studying and composing. but unless you are extremely lucky and the exception to the rule. gigging.

Refer to it when you are making your practice routines. you must have a purpose and a mission. Next. Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 8 . At the top write your new mission statement. this is the ultimate goal of your musical journey. How do you want to be remembered? Action Step 2: Get a blank piece of paper. use it as a springboard. Refer to it when you start a new musical project or even buy a new method book. Action Step1: Write your own eulogy. Here’s a great exercise to help you get started on your mission statement: Write a eulogy for yourself. Refer to the list of your favorite players from Lesson One if you need inspiration.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis contribution to jazz and become a monster jazz musician. These will be your guides and signposts on your mission. you are in the minority and on the fast track to realizing your musical dreams. Use it to help you make all of your music-related choices. write your list of values. Once you have crafted a mission statement. What would you want people to say about your music after you’re gone? What do you want to be remembered for? What will be your legacy? If you know the answers to these questions. In our next lesson we’ll start to get down to the nitty-gritty and talk about deciding exactly what you want to learn and achieve with music. Remember. You have now begun a strong foundation to support yourself on your way to success.

So you need to determine exactly what you want to do or accomplish while you’re in those cities. Then you can keep getting more and more detailed. Suppose for a minute that your mission is to visit the largest cities in the US. There are a few unanswered questions.” That’s clear and measurable. First of all. It’s your purpose for playing music. or something else? Once you’ve determined that. population size. What do you mean by “largest”? Is it according to geographic area. let’s talk about the map analogy. You can tell when you’ve accomplished your mission. You might decide to change your mission in a year or in a week. Wrong. Now. that’s a bit general.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis Has anyone seen the map? Should I turn right or left? Wait a minute. the top 5 bebop tunes and the top 5 musical skills you need to acquire. Now you’re getting somewhere. I would also add a number. you can’t get anywhere if you don’t know what road you’re on and what city you’re in. Read more Let’s say you now decide to visit the most popular jazz club in the top 5 largest US cities. you can connect the dots. Next. you need to decide who you are going to see perform at these top jazz clubs in the largest US cities. Like WHERE ARE YOU? Even if you have a map. Suppose your mission is to become excellent at bebop. you’re done. what clubs you want to visit in what major cities. Ok. all the Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 9 . But it’s still pretty vague. right? Let’s pack the car and get going. How are you going to get to the 5 largest cities? Do you have a car? Do you have money for gas? Do you know the way to each major city? Once you know exactly where you are and exactly where you want to go. You can pick the top 5 bebop musicians. your mission could be “to visit the top 5 largest US cities. But all of your musical energy right now is focused on fulfilling your mission. where are we? In the last lesson we talked about being on a mission. You could simply drive through the city and consider your mission accomplished. Great. now you know who you want to see.

get a great teacher. on where you’re starting from. Either way. and so on. Tomorrow learn the notes. Then repeat with the next four bars… Two week later you have the tune memorized. but equally importantly. buy a good map and before you know it. or the library doesn’t have any books about jazz. best of all. you must know where you are going and you must know where you are. If you want it bad enough. you’re not going to start off by learning “Ornithology” by ear. What if you don’t know where you are? Or what if you can’t figure out how to get where you want to go? Simple: Don’t be afraid to ask for directions. And the next one even faster. or the closest jazz club is 50 miles away? Or what if you only have one computer in your house and little brother is always on there playing video games? Fooey! Those are all just excuses. your plan will be a little different. Search on the Internet. well.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis way down to what you are going to learn to do in the next 30 minutes of practice. Now. Figure out where you are. and you can play it along with your Charlie Parker CD with the same articulation and accents as his and up to tempo. Sample Practice Plan: Learn the rhythm of the first 4 bars of “Ornithology” by ear. Or. figure out where you are going. Read a book. Now here’s the kicker: When you go to learn your next bebop head. If you don’t know how to put your saxophone together by yourself yet. if you’ve just spent the last 10 years studying classical piano and can improvise in the style of a Bach fugue. you’ll do it faster. Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 10 . But what if you’re from a small town with no musicians. what you decide to practice depends first on what you want to achieve and secondly. Find another musician and ask him or her. Find someone who is already doing what you want to do and learn from him or her. you’ll find a way to make it happen. However. you’ll be putting a check next to that goal and you’ll be planning your next. The next day learn the accents. The next day learn the articulation.

Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 11 . choose a goal that fits into your “Major Definite Purpose. most importantly. Using your mission statement as a reference. make sure it is measurable. You should be able to track your progress and know exactly when your goal has been accomplished.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis Action Step.Decide exactly what you want.” Be sure that you make it as specific as possible and.

For instance.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis Attention Future Monster Jazz Musicians: You are about to learn about the most powerful tool in the world. If you’re new at this. Make sure that it is measurable. Goals and plans serve to focus our energy and focus our creativity.” Nothing else can mobilize you and move you forward faster than a good plan and a little discipline. With as much detail as possible. If you only absorb one concept from this set of 21 let it be this: “Set Goals. Now let’s talk about how to make a plan. Make it detailed and specific. They actually help us produce more and better art. the greater the likelihood of achieving it. decide to memorize the melody to the song “I Got Rhythm” in all twelve keys and be able to perform it at 160 BPM in any key from memory. Write it down on paper. 1 Decide Exactly What You Want. If you don’t believe that you can achieve it. What exactly will you be able to do when your goal is accomplished? How will you know when you’ve accomplished your goal? How will you measure it? The more clearly defined your goal is. Musicians seem to think that goals and plans are anti-creative or anti-artistic. that you will be able tell when you have completed it. Make Plans to Achieve Them. “The Goal and the Plan” Ok. You don’t have to reinvent jazz with you first goal. I’ve had monumental arguments with fellow bandmates over planning and I’ve even had bands break up because of it. Something challenging but doable. Pick something that you know you can achieve.” Instead. start small. Physically writing it down on paper can not be over-emphasized. Pick a goal. once the hair on the back of your neck has gone down we can get started with the planning process. you will not. don’t say “I want to become better at playing in all twelve keys. I don’t know what it is about “planning” that gets so many of us creative types squirming in our seats. Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 12 . and Work on Your Plans Everyday. That couldn’t be further from the truth. 2 Write It Down in Vivid Detail.

Not to say that deadlines should be changed on a whim. there’s plenty of light and your blindfold is gone. This will keep your mind focused and your “eyes on the target. With a plan. You can work until you hit the target. Work on your plan. 5 Put Your List in Order Now turn your list into an actual plan. This is how you accomplish a big goal. Break your goal down into tiny bite-size pieces that you can complete in one practice session. simply create a new one. Action. Action and more Action. What will you have to do first? Second? And so on. It’s kind of like firing a bow and arrow with a blindfold on. With action you will accomplish great things. 6 Take Action Go practice. Put every step in order. Action is the key to success.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis Write and re-write your goals daily. You should always strive to hit your goals on time. simply by taking action. Decide when you will achieve your goal. but chances are you will hit nothing. This will now serve as your blueprint. With out a blueprint you are at the mercy of luck and chance. add them to your list.” 3 Give Your Goal a Deadline Without a deadline a goal is simply a wish. As you think of more steps. This blueprint will move you forward fast. List every single step. It’s worse actually. 4 Make a List Write down everything you can think of that you will have to do to achieve this goal. Without action you cannot accomplish anything. it’s as if you have a target in front of you. On what date will you be able to perform “I Got Rhythm” in all twelve keys from memory? If you find that you are not going to hit your deadline. You are simply meandering around aimlessly. Get busy. Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 13 . You have to break it down into the actual steps that you will complete in your daily practice sessions. It’s like firing a bow and arrow with a blindfold on and no target. You could hit anything. but there will be occasions when you will have to modify your plan. As you practice this method you will get better and better at estimating how long a goal will take to complete. Even if your plan is flawed you can accomplish a lot. and then move on to the next one.

You will be amazed by how much you can learn and how fast your music can progress by utilizing this formula. This is the most powerful tool to help you progress on your musical journey and become a monster jazz musician. do it. tiny step forward. Learn something or take a tiny.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis 7 Practice and Work on Your Plan Everyday Develop the habit and discipline of practicing and working on your plan every single day. Even if you only have twenty minutes to practice. Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 14 .

But if you want to go for the top and become a “monster. They have “long-term perspective. really. Chops are easy to get. Anyone with a plan. The past will act as a springboard to the future. Dream. Creativity is not magic. let alone what you’ll be doing in 5 years? 15 . All great jazz musicians. and all great men and women for that matter. Creativity doesn’t happen in a vacuum. you can begin to carve your own path forward. Think BIG. were and are visionary leaders. even 10 years or more. no matter what your current level.Winston Churchill How far ahead you go depends on how far back you are willing to look. They have BIG plans for their music. The farther backward you can look the farther forward you can see. How far will you take your music? Start thinking about that now. Neither does vision. The “fuel” for your creativity will come from the past. take it further. Study the early pioneers. There are no limits to what you can accomplish.” you need vision. Musicians of all levels should exercise their creativity. A few years. Decide to become a visionary leader. Expand your vision or keep your day job. They think about where they are going and what they want to accomplish. Dig deep into jazz history. Like a muscle. While digging into the tradition and studying the masters. a teacher and some dedication can become a competent musician in a relatively short period of time. Jazz leaders and pioneers have vision.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis It’s Time to Get Your Vision Checked. . It is a mindset and a habit. it Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC Don’t know what you’re going to practice tomorrow. 5 years. you already have vision. Now. the modern ones and everyone in between.” They think in terms of years: 1 year. If you want to become a monster jazz musician. Move in both directions at once.

records. The law of attraction states that we attract into our lives the people. Keep it on your mind. If today’s practice session is tied into your vision for the future. Ok. More on that in a future lesson). concerts. Embrace that fact. Adjust your vision and dream new dreams. The law of attraction. Practice and work on your plans everyday. etc. You will seem to ‘stumble’ upon the players. teachers. circumstances and resources that are in harmony with our dominant thoughts. Create. and embrace the opportunities. You will move forward faster and faster. Turn your vision into goals. As you put energy (hard work. Dream big. Dream about what is possible and what you would like to create and accomplish musically. Hold your vision in your sights. ideas. experiences. Turn your goals into plans. 3. that you need to realize your vision. you must connect the future with the present. 4) connect your vision to today’s practice session. Talk about it with your friends and family (but only the positive and supportive ones.” opportunity will come to you from all directions. Your values (lesson 1) help determine your vision. Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 16 . Jazz pioneers and leaders have vision. etc.) out into the “universe. Especially from places you never imagined. So think about your vision. and sooner than you think you will be living your musical dreams. posters. practice. Connect the dots. goals and plans (lessons 2. Your mission. you become a leader yourself. books. Chances are you will end up somewhere completely different from what you initially thought. you will be excited and inspired. It’s OK (and recommended) to be flexible. By thinking about the future and developing your own vision. I’m gonna get a little ‘new age’ on you here. signs and quotes on your practice room walls and throughout your apartment or house to remind you. Turn your dreams into vision. Once you have vision for the future. compose and improvise with your instrument everyday. Hang pictures. You will bring more focus to the practice room.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis can and should be exercised regularly.

21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis

Action Step: Write down ten goals for your life. Let your imagination run wild. What goal would you dare to dream if you knew you could not fail? Later you can edit this list and begin to sharpen your vision. But for now there are no limits.

Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC


21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis

How to Keep Your Creative Musical Fires Burning Strong
In the last lesson of “21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician” we talked about the importance of going “in both directions” at the same time—in other words, simultaneously creating your own original music while studying the tradition. The past serves as your springboard to the future. It’s the fuel for your creativity. This is such a critical part of becoming a great musician that I don’t mind repeating myself for a moment. Digging into the past is one of the most important things you can do as a player. Creativity doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Highly creative people have simply fed their minds with fuel for their creative fires. That fuel comes from the past. This is how you get “roots,” even though you came up in the 2000’s, not the 1940’s. Other factors exist—like “the zone,” trust and confidence—but without fuel there can be no creative fire. Now let’s talk about some practical ways you can dig into the tradition and feed your fire. Create a history playlist. When I was coming up, my teacher (an absolutely amazing teacher and musician named Hal Crook—check him out if you can) had me create a history “tape.” He had me choose a track from each 20-25 year period of jazz, from the beginning to the present. I then compiled those tracks onto a cassette tape (obviously you would now use a CD, a playlist in iTunes, etc.) in chronological order. Next, I would listen to this tape everyday as part of my practice routine. The key to this exercise is to have a “focus” for your listening. For instance, you would want to listen with one topic in mind, such as vocabulary, time-feel, articulation, phrasing, etc. Ask yourself as you listen how your topic changed over the years and from player to player. What stayed the same and carried over? What are the similarities? What is different? For me, this exercise had the effect of “blowing the doors open” to the whole tradition. Before this

Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC


21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis

I was stuck in the 50’s and 60’s. Suddenly, the entire tradition became fair game for study and I loved it all. Check out the “in-between” guys. Miles and Trane are great. They are two of the greatest musicians to ever live. But they aren’t the only two musicians. There are literally thousands of great, masterful musicians who simply didn’t have the same commercial success as Miles and Trane, or whom popular history has seemed to have forgotten for one reason or another. There is a lot to learn and benefit from studying these lesser known jazz masters. Start with the sidemen of the greats you already know. Google them and find their discographies. Who else did they play with? Then ask, who else did those musicians play with, etc. It’s an endless pursuit. You will never run out of music to check out. Pick a master to focus on. Another idea is to pick just one player to focus on. For instance, you could have a “player of the month.” Say you decided to focus on Lennie Tristano. For one month you would devote a period of your practice session each day to listening to and studying Lennie Tristano. Buy a few of his recordings. Read his biographies. (Biographies tend to be hit-or-miss. Some have great substance. Some are just fluff.) Search on youtube for footage of him performing. Transcribe a few of his solos. Learn to play them. Emulate his articulation, phrasing, rhythmic feel, tone, dynamics, etc. Then, after a period with Lennie, move on to someone else. Perhaps move on to a contemporary of Lennie’s. Or jump around in the tradition to, say, 1970’s McCoy Tyner. Become a “vinyl head.” If you don’t already, start buying vinyl records. I’m not one of those audiophiles who thinks that vinyl sounds better than CD. It certainly sounds different from digital music. But I personally like them both. I buy vinyl because of the music that is available there that isn’t available on CD. There is a ton of old music that is out of print but still available in used record stores. You can find a lot of great old stuff, cheap. You can also pay
Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC


Well. as a monster jazz musician.” Unfortunately. Become a lifelong student of the tradition. The most creative people are the ones most steeped in the tradition. The act of explaining something in written words to an audience (the reader) will help to focus your thinking and knowledge of a subject immensely. for that matter) with the hopes of teaching someone else your ideas is one of the best ways to learn music. and then write your paper. Besides. school often has the effect of turning people off of learning. “That sounds an awful lot like homework. You could write an informational essay describing the ballad style of Elvin Jones. people think. You’ll discover that a lot of the hippest “new” music actually was conceived of and played in your grandfather’s day. take notes. Choose a focus for your essay. do your research (listen to the records. You could write essays comparing and contrasting two great saxophonists. Action Step Create a history playlist. There is really no reason not to buy records. You’ll discover ideas and musical avenues that you can explore.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis $87 or more for one record if you’re a serious collector.). Become a serious student of jazz. when I say this. someday you may be writing your own book about music. Put together a chronological collection of masterful jazz tracks from the 1920’s to the present. write your outline. But there are a lot of records available for a few bucks or even a dollar. or two solos. Write essays and articles about music. think. Pick a focus and follow its evolution through your playlist. Feed your creative fires with the past. Writing about music (and talking about music. Write about music. Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 20 . etc. No one ever became a monster jazz musician without being a serious student of jazz first. or an article for JazzTimes magazine. And again. You will never run out of music to check out or ideas of your own. It’s time to throw your school “baggage” away and become a serious student of jazz. Writing essays and articles makes you think and then focus your thoughts. there’s stuff you just can’t find on CD or iTunes. not monster jazz musicians. Ok.

transcribe a few solos. Then move on to another master whose music is important to you. find videos on youtube. Buy recordings. Rinse.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis Action Step Choose a player of the month. emulate that player. Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 21 . read a biography. Lather. Repeat. Immerse yourself in one player’s music for a period.

” Many young players practice as much as possible. It does. Going fast usually means slow progress or even complete paralysis. you will be able to summon up the necessary discipline to Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 22 . advanced jazz musician. Slow and steady wins the race. “As little as possible. Herein lies the paradox. They are certainly not happy where they are. Trust-Based Practice You are already there. Wrong. He answered. conversely. And they scramble along from topic to topic trying to get there as fast as possible. With trust you can move ahead surely and swiftly—taking the time to thoroughly learn the material. of course. taking action.” is actually pretty easy. but someday they will “arrive” and live happily ever after. a lot of time in the shed. usually means faster progress.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis The Jazz Musician’s Great Paradox The Great Paradox Young and less developed musicians always seem to be in a hurry to get somewhere. Even if this methodology worked and they somehow became great players. coupled with discipline. you will not be in a hurry. the great jazz pianist. Becoming a high-level. Bill Evans. Even worse is the fact that being in a frantic hurry to achieve their goals (although they probably don’t even have clear goals) is akin to shooting themselves in the foot before running the Boston Marathon. I’m not saying that becoming an accomplished musician doesn’t require a lot of practice. Going slow. excellent teachers. excellent practice. They will become great players and then their life will begin. acquire excellent skills and lay down the solid foundation required to build greatness. taking chances and. But how and why you practice is sometimes more important than how much and what you practice. a prerequisite for “monsterdom. and study of a lot of topics. was once asked what he practiced when he was coming up. If you are not in a hurry. It still wouldn’t be enough. experience. If you accept this fact and trust yourself. You are at exactly the point in your progress where you are supposed to be. they still wouldn’t be happy. It requires trust above all else.

Fear keeps us from taking chances. Soon you will keenly know the difference between fear and trust. “Change your thinking and change your life. You will become a magnet for opportunity. Fear makes us doubt ourselves and change directions and practice topics too soon. As the great success guru Brian Tracy once said. vision and goals will feel inevitable. Your practicing will become more focused.” Trust will ripple through your Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 23 . You are responsible for and in control of your own state of mind. You will see the subtle ways in which fears manifest themselves and hold you back. strong and confident. Decide today to become more aware and conscious of your thinking and your state of mind. It keeps us locked in a practice room. We become afraid of rejection (from the audience and our peers). You will walk tall. and you will be able to stop it before it arrives. trust yourself and move slowly but steadily forward. really screw things up. It keeps us down. Fear makes us practice too many things at once. You will take chances. And we even become afraid of success (of “making it” and then being found out to be a fraud or a mere mortal). Fear-Based Practice Fear is the opposite of trust. You can decide to act from a place of fear or from a place of trust. Soon you will see fear coming around the corner. Fear makes us live unbalanced lives. forget our values and. The good news is you have a choice. You will feel invigorated.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis acquire excellent skills. You will actually become a monster jazz musician faster than you ever thought possible—if you let go of your fear. Your dreams. You will make mistakes. in worst case scenarios. knowing that your goals lie ahead and that you will come to them when the time is right. Choose to act from a place of faith and trust. Your whole life will begin to change. inspired. Fear makes us practice things that are beyond our present abilities. pick yourself up and continue on your path. Fear makes us afraid of failing. Fear paralyzes many people and holds them back from ever achieving their goals. fall down. Like destroy a relationship or become an alcoholic or an addict. It will become more pleasurable and inspired. You will move through life with purpose and poise.

Before you practice. How do you feel? Are you relaxed? What are your emotions? How are you performing? Visualization is a powerful tool for change. take a few minutes to center yourself and return to this state. How do you feel? I would bet you feel confident. This skill of “transmuting” will become easier and easier with practice.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis whole life. Do the same before a gig or any other time of the day. inspired and trusting. Try to notice as many details of the experience as possible. Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 24 . Later you can consciously return to this state. Action Step Visualize your snapshot in your imagination. Take a few minutes each morning or before practice and visualize yourself in a confident. Imagine as many details as possible. for that matter. inspired and trusting state of mind. Action Step Take a mental “snapshot” of yourself when you are performing at your best. making your gigs more inspired and bringing boundless opportunity to your doorstep. calm. Experiment and create your goals in your mind first.

You listen to music every free minute you have and would rather rehearse with your band then eat or sleep. I play in the house band for a jam session at a club here in Boston from time to time. This brings us back to the last lesson about trust.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis Play Jazz Like It’s Your Job (And pretty soon it will be) Play music like it’s your job. Your responsibility is to the band and the music first. Now. Play as if you were an audience member. They come in trying to impress their peers and the audience playing their latest Tony Williams lick or George Garzone pattern and they end up dropping beats. Musicians who are not happy where they are play things that are beyond them. Once you can do that then you can think about taking it “out”. If someone is serious about their job and intends to succeed and advance to a more fulfilling and higher paying position they are going to focus on fulfilling their responsibilities to their boss and once that’s done then they may decide to do a little more to get ahead faster. First you must do your job. and they succeed at looking like a fool. You practice hard everyday for hours and hours. play the changes and lock up with the band. Play the tune. I’m talking about your ‘job’ ethic. I’m talking about the kind of work you get paid for. But first things first. They come in with the intention of looking cool. It’s the same for musicians. playing some fancy substitutions or cross rhythms. swing your butt off. And sounding terrible. What’s worse is that they don’t even know it. What would you want to hear? A swinging player with clear ideas Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 25 . turning the beat around. I know you already have a great work ethic. The more you focus on the fundamentals and your core responsibilities the better you will sound. But they must take care of their basic job first. I see less musically mature players making this mistake all the time. If you’re like most jazz musicians. stepping all over their fellow band mates and causing musical train wrecks. you could sound better right away simply by adjusting your attitude and your “work” ethic. I’m not talking about that kind of work.

sessions. These will vary depending on your instrument. and gigs and ask your self “am I fulfilling those responsibilities?” If not adjust your playing. Soon music will be your job.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis locked in with the rest of the band. Record yourself at rehearsals. Action Step: Write a list of your top five musical responsibilities. You’ll sound better immediately. Or a self-indulgent jerk stepping on everyone’s toes? So don’t over complicate things. People will respect your musical maturity and your professionalism. simplify and repeat the process. They will want to call you for gigs because you help them sound good. Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 26 . Keep it simple.

Ignore the resources or advantages you don’t have. Seek out people who are already doing what you plan to do. Avoid negative people. If someone else has done it then you can too. Be sure to only share them with people you are confident will be supportive and encouraging. It can cause you second guess your self and choose security over success. Listen to their advice and emulate them. While you hold your ground. Focus on results. Avoid people who tell you “you can’t. Be very careful who you share them with. Focus on what you want. When you are going into new territory and aiming high you need people around you who believe in you. Success leaves tracks. (Because it does) Your dreams. They are your accomplishments and successes in the embryonic stages. Instead focus on the Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 27 . Ignore the reasons why you can’t. They must be guarded. Learn from those who have achieved it. They are what later become your life. Avoid negativity. In the big picture sense they are your life. nurtured and cared for until they come to fruition. Focus on the goal. defend your dream and maintain a positive attitude you’re wasting energy that you could direct towards your goal. Find the people who say “you can. This is especially important when you are in the early stages and if your goals are particularly ambitious. At worst negativity can actually be dangerous and derail you from your path.” At best this is simply energy draining.” Put on success blinders. Conversely people who encourage you and believe in you actually give you energy and add to your momentum.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis Guard Your Musical Dreams Like Your Life Depended On it. goals and musical aspirations are the most important things you have. Anything is possible so long as it doesn’t violate natural law.” or that what you’re aiming to do is “not possible. Keep your eyes on the target. Seek out successful people.

But if someone is keeping you down with negativity. Or least limit your time with them and guard your dreams. Obstacles will arise.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis reasons why you can and focus on what you do have. Action Step: Take a look at your musical associates. Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 28 . you owe it to yourself to do something about it. Trust yourself. persevere and you will overcome. It’s not easy evaluating long standing relationships in this way. This is one of toughest exercises to complete. Who are the people that you spend the majority of your time with? Are they positive and supportive or negative and discouraging? If you answered the later you may want to reconsider that relationship.

how am I going to teach them about it?” All the better. Here are a few ideas to apply this concept to your own musical growth. Find ‘students’ and teach them about what you’re working on. You increase your depth of understanding and achieve mastery. thus informing you where to focus next. your little brother or your girlfriend. simplifying and answering questions you will gain a deeper understanding of the basics and fundamentals of your subject. You will be searching for the principles and for ways to explain them.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis How Teaching Jazz is One of the Most Powerful Ways to Learn Jazz Teaching other people is one of the best and most powerful ways to learn. By having to articulate and explain a subject. Go into a lesson assuming or pretending that you are going to have to teach a class about that topic. Write a lesson plan. Teach your parents. taking a lesson or simply watching an instructional DVD think about how you would teach the material to a student. By going through this process of explaining. Teach your musical buddies and your friends about what you’re working on. Even before you completely understand it. you clarify the subject in your own mind. Create a lesson plan for what ever it is you are working on. Some times a student with no background in your subject can be very advantageous. Write Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 29 . Whether you are attending a class at the local music school. It means you will have to simplify down to basic principles and explain it with out the use of jargon. This will help to keep you focused and give you a purpose. Having a purpose always intensifies the learning process. You stumble upon new connections and analogies. Their questions will bring to light the areas you are unclear about. You’ll be forced to come up with creative everyday analogies that they can relate to. Now a question you might be thinking is “what if they don’t know anything about jazz drumming.

help others achieve their goals and it’s an extremely powerful tool to enhance your own musical development. Simply going through this process of organizing the material will greatly increase your understanding and clarity. It will also prepare you to work as a teacher. then listen back and decide if your points were clear and concise. Next write down all of the potential questions that your students may have.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis down an outline with bullet points that you could use to present a lesson on the material to a student or class. For many musicians teaching and performing go hand in hand. Or you could record yourself giving the lesson. Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 30 . If you want you can go further and teach this lesson plan to someone (as mentioned above). Using these methods will greatly increase your depth of understanding and mastery of any subject. It’s a great way to supplement your income. Was your information clear and meaningful? Have someone else listen to it and critique it.

“Know thyself. You’ll discover all kinds of things about your musicianship. you can listen to the recording and figure out what’s working. You’ll also start to become an expert on your own playing. and now you want to experiment with it a bit. You can’t work on something new and evaluate yourself simultaneously—at least not effectively. A combination of practice and evaluation based on your recordings is probably twice as powerful as just practice alone. it doesn’t really matter. Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 31 . Later.” as the ancient philosophers said. or an old-fashioned tape recorder. You’ll be amazed at what you hear. So don’t just record yourself practicing a specific topic. The Power of Recording Yourself A Mirror for Your Ears That’s where modern technology comes in. working on various topics over the years. and towards critique when you’re listening. Or maybe your tone is actually closer to your ideal than you realized. record yourself improvising and just playing tunes as well. Maybe you have a tendency to lose focus near the end of your solos. Today it’s easier than ever to record yourself and then listen back critically. a mini-disc. Recording yourself allows you to focus all of your attention on your practicing. Whether you use a digital recorder. you’ve spent countless hours in the shed. It’s hard to step back and hear yourself at the same time. A new musical concept or instrumental technique requires all of your attention as you’re practicing it. So all of your focus and energy gets directed properly—towards practice when you’re practicing. Maybe your swing feel isn’t as strong as you thought it was. It’s one of the most effective and efficient ways to become a monster jazz musician. How do you measure your progress? How do you know when you’ve mastered your current topic and are ready to move on to the next? These can be tough questions. you can figure out how you’re progressing with your current practice plan. and what’s not. but you’ll also notice details about your playing that you’ve never heard before.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis As an aspiring monster jazz musician. which is one of the key steps on the path to monsterdom. Sure.

Like anything else. the better you’ll become at this skill. more important topics? Are there aspects of your playing that are better than you thought? Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 32 . or an improvised passage. Just a few minutes should be enough. It’s also a pain to be fast-forwarding and rewinding through long recordings just to find the important parts. and then compare it with one of Monk’s recordings of the same tune. then you might be less motivated to take the time to listen back afterwards—which defeats the whole purpose. Say you’re a pianist really digging deep into Monk. and a direct comparison like this is one of the best ways to learn. you have to learn from the masters. Record yourself playing the head to “Straight No Chaser. because you can hear yourself on a deeper level and make the appropriate adjustments. even if most of your attention is focused somewhere else. Action Step: Record yourself playing a specific exercise you’re currently working on.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis Another great benefit of recording yourself is that it gives you a clear way to compare your playing with that of the masters. Your ears just become sharper. and trying to figure out what makes his music so great. perhaps to focus on other. the more you listen back to your recordings and critique your playing. If you want to be a master. You’ll also notice that you’re becoming a better critical listener even as you’re playing. You’ll hear more and more details in your music. and you’ll become a keen judge about what’s solid and what needs more work. If you record more than that. or a melody you know pretty well. but there is probably a world of difference between the two recordings. Then your practicing becomes even more effective. How do you sound? Are the topics you’re working on showing up in your playing? Are you making progress toward your goals? Are you surprised by anything? Does your recording suggest you should change your practice plan in any way. Maybe you’re playing the same notes in the same rhythm. Why is that? What does Monk do that you don’t? What doesn’t he do that you do? This kind of study is also one of the most powerful ways to improve your playing.” listen to it a few times.

It’s a Long Story—Where Do I Begin? Practicing with a Purpose Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 33 . and see if you’re playing changes noticeably in a performance situation. Record your gigs as well.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis Make this a regular part of your practice routine. The time you invest in listening to yourself critically will pay back huge dividends.

after a certain point repetition simply becomes a rut. But how do you choose a topic to focus on? There is a seemingly endless list of stuff to practice: tone. The sheer joy of making their own music and sounding good on their ax is irresistible. or an unusual rhythmic feel. during the song. a tricky chord progression. But working consciously. You have to work on the unfamiliar and the difficult in order to improve. must have focus. or perhaps you have them as students. If you have trouble coming up with something. carefully. and therefore your practicing. Whether it’s a new tune. It can be overwhelming when you think about it. They both need to bring some purpose into their musical lives. when someone else is talking.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis When many young (and not-so-young) musicians first gain some facility on their instruments. learning tunes. I’ll even go out on a limb here and say that what you practice is less important than how you practice it. and so they fall back on what’s familiar. when no one is talking. and consistently will make you a monster musician. Practicing with purpose means being conscious of what you’re playing. even when they’re talking themselves. And so the musician who always practices the same stuff is just as unfocused as the player who can’t stop noodling. They noodle constantly—before the song. That might be why many musicians “practice” the same tunes or exercises all the time. etc. Maybe you play with one or two musicians like this in your own bands. but they don’t know where to begin. Your playing. swing feel. improvising free. While their enthusiasm and energy are certainly great assets—and you’d never want to put a damper on them—this is not the best approach for an aspiring monster jazz musician. after the song. articulation. Working on any reasonable topic will only make you a better musician. They know they can improve in many areas. So choose any practice topic that intrigues you. record yourself playing your Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 34 . The best kind of practice forces you out of your comfort zone. transposing tunes. While repetition is certainly a key component in the learning process. they often want to play all the time. it’s a topic that you have specifically chosen to focus on. improvising over changes.

but that’s perfectly fine. Continue on your path. Then. But don’t let that discourage you. Focus on this topic every day. but with some difficulty. The important thing is that you’re practicing consciously. Before you begin practicing. Play slowly—this is one of the best things you can do when practicing new concepts. Your weaknesses will be exposed like never before. Action Step: Choose a musical topic that is challenging for you. this does not mean improvising over Giant Steps at 300 bps. Coming up with goals. And be patient with yourself. with a purpose. to get your body in synch with your mind.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis instrument and listen back (see Lesson 11 for more details)—I guarantee you’ll discover several aspects of your playing that you want to improve. The most profound learning experiences can be difficult. The “before” and “after” meditations might often be quite different. even if it is only for a short time. A challenging topic is one you can work on. If you are a beginner. Slow tempos give you time to think. Stretch yourself: try things that are difficult. think about what you hope to accomplish that day in your pursuit of this topic. Before you know it. Now you’re practicing with purpose. set aside at least some time in every practice session to work on your topic of choice. your playing will be more musical than you ever imagined it could be. If you’re like me. knowing that you have already achieved a new level of musicianship. you find it much easier to start projects than to finish them. explore areas that seem just out of reach. brain-storming the individual Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC Developing the Habits of Follow-Through and Completion Are We There Yet? 35 . After you have finished practicing. to adjust. ask yourself what you actually learned about your topic. and even higher levels are right in front of you.

Maybe “All the Things You Are” is just too tricky in the key of F#. Even implementing the first few steps of a plan seems to be easier than following through on the last parts. You’ll never know when you’re done (in fact. But if you want to achieve greatness—in particular. “I want to build up my chops. Another important skill in developing the habits of follow-through and completion is the ability to adjust and reevaluate your goals. Whatever the problem. the good news is that there are specific skills you can practice to become better at finishing what you’ve started. specific goal you’ll be able to track and measure. Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 36 . and onto the computer screen. and working out a schedule are all activities that seem to flow pretty naturally from my head. “I want to become a better jazz player. They are the traits that truly differentiate those who realize their dreams from those who don’t. Well. You’ll still be accomplishing a lot and getting closer to your dreams. When the going gets tough. when your initial enthusiasm starts to wane. or take three months for the task instead of two. Or maybe two months is too ambitious a time-frame for your project. you can strengthen your resolve by checking your schedule and seeing how far along in your project you’ve come.” or. Somehow that initial spark of interest in a new project fades out over time. detailed. you’ll never really be done with projects like these—they’re lifelong pursuits). if you want to become a monster jazz musician—you have to develop the habits of followthrough and completion. “I will learn the melody and chord changes of ‘All the Things You Are’ in all twelve keys over the next two months”—now that’s a clear. Don’t just tell yourself. finite goals. So don’t be afraid to edit your goals: learn the tune in the nine most common keys you play instead of all twelve. they are too vague to be useful.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis steps of an action plan. Focus and articulate your goals so that you’ll know exactly when you’ve achieved them. and it will take you a disproportionate amount of time to get it down. through my fingers and a keyboard. those who are skilled at finishing off tasks know when they need to modify their plan. and they adjust accordingly.” While these are certainly admirable aspirations. The first one is probably the most important: choose clear.

But the best “closers” strike a balance between being thorough and finishing tasks off. describe what those changes are and why you made them. Finally. when you’ve completed your task. which should provide you with the confidence you need to learn even more. more to practice. particularly if you set challenging goals for yourself. If you made changes to your original plans. If you’re already working on something. and it’s only by keeping track of my completed projects that I realize this. even within the most focused projects. write down what you did and what you learned. play it well. keep track of your completed projects just as you keep track of goals for the future. Keeping a record of your accomplishments can be great motivation as you pursue jazz monsterdom. Your project probably shouldn’t last any longer than two or three months.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis It’s also important to defuse your perfectionist tendencies if you have them. I think you’ll find the same is true for you as well. Include a schedule. and you’ll be motivated for your next challenge. Accept the fact that you don’t have to master every new topic you pursue. All of this is not to say that you can be sloppy and rush through your schedule mindlessly. more to perfect. Action Plan: Choose a clear. You’ll have an inspiring record of your accomplishments. and be prepared to make adjustments to your plan. You probably won’t play “All the Things You Are” flawlessly in all twelve keys if you’ve just learned it recently. Obviously. There is always more to learn. Learn the tune. I’ve found that I often get more done than I might originally think. Then. Write down exactly what you accomplished and learned. specific musical goal that you can easily track and measure. you want to do the best job you can. And that’s fine. Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 37 . No task is ever truly complete. and then move on to your next project. You’ll certainly sound better in some keys than in others. Keep track of your progress as you go. You can look back and see how much you’ve learned. just write it down in detailed language.

or fancy new equipment. the latest technology.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis For aspiring monster jazz musicians. videos. These can all be powerful tools. but your fastest and Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC How Being the “Worst” Member of a Band is Actually the Best Opportunity You Can Find The Virtues of the Weak Link 38 . the best learning resources are not books.

That’s great. You’ll notice the details that define a great band: the way the drummer recognizes your rhythmic patterns and highlights them. Be the “worst” member in a band—it’s one of the best things you can do for your musicianship! Ask any athlete about competing against (or even training with) better athletes. it sounds simple. and you’ll hear the same response: It’s one of the best ways to improve in your sport. but similar dynamics are at work. your pride might suffer a bit as you’re being pushed around the court or the field. Maybe you take lessons with an experienced musician. but those feelings quickly fade as you observe how these skilled athletes play their sport. extremely powerful way to learn from great musicians: play music with them! Sure.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis most effective growth will come from associating with accomplished players. Music isn’t a competition. and it’s certainly one of the best ways to improve. You’ll step up your own playing in order to keep up with them. They’re usually just too shy and insecure to initiate a session with better musicians. as I hope to show you in this lesson. That’s also a good avenue for expanding your knowledge. the benefits are so great that you should really learn to set aside any feelings of embarrassment or fear of rejection. Sure. but it’s too often overlooked by less experienced players. But there’s another. But. or how the bassist seamlessly leads you into the chord changes. of course. Playing with great musicians is like going to the Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 39 . Or maybe you are friendly with some skilled jazz players in your hometown. You’ll also see clearly how much work you have to do to reach that level of excellence. Playing in a live situation with accomplished musicians gives you an up-close view of what it’s like to make music at a very high level. or how the horn player has complete control of his solos. and as you start to judge what you must change in your own game in order to keep up. and you can talk about music with them occasionally.

Once you’ve done this a few times. The really great musicians understand that all sincere learners are on the same path. there are plenty of other avenues. though. The more important lesson here. You’ll gain better perspective on what’s important and what’s not. Being the worst member of a band will improve not just your technical skills. in my experience at least. Get to know the good players and invite them to your own sessions. and you’ll be more focused on the music itself. I know what you’re probably thinking: Being in a band with great players will certainly help you. these people are the exception. but what’s in it for them? Why would they want to play with a less experienced musician? Or even worse. is that jazz is bigger than our own small fears and insecurities. and they’re more than willing to help others along the way. But. Playing with great musicians will help you tremendously. The more you play with great musicians. they’ll usually give you that opportunity. you’ll find that you’re less anxious about yourself and your music. Then you’ll be able to practice regularly with better players. But even if that’s not a possibility. the faster you’ll become one yourself. but also your whole mental approach. Go to local jam sessions and introduce yourself to the house band. Don’t let your musical development be held back because you’re worried about what some people might say about you. so set aside your fears and seek out those opportunities. keep going back for a few weeks. let me say that this probably won’t happen. It’s true that there are some good musicians out there who are nevertheless insecure about themselves and who take their anxiety out on those around them. Action Step: Seek out accomplished musicians and ask to play with them. If they know you’ve come specifically to play with them. If you like the scene. You’ll be less concerned about how people might criticize your playing. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to audition for a great band and land the gig.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis Empire State Building and taking the elevator to the top. what if they embarrass you or put you down? Well. first of all. Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 40 . instead of just reading about it or looking at pictures in a book. not the rule.

Playing with better musicians simply makes you better. the least experienced or knowledgeable—musician in a band. Today.e. though. provided that you’re willing to do a lot of work. we talked about the virtues of being the "worst"— i.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis In our last lesson. I want to take a look at the opposite situation: What happens when you’re the "best" musician in the room? This can also be a great learning opportunity. Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC How Being the “Best” Musician Is Also an Opportunity for Growth The Benefits of Strengthening the Weak Link 41 .

Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 42 . And that’s where a unique opportunity for growth appears: the challenge of leading a band. It may be fairly obvious that the rhythm section isn’t tight enough. even as he concentrates on his own instrument and parts. And just like any other skill. You must learn to divide your attention between yourself and your band mates. Sometimes this is too great a challenge to overcome in a live situation. the better you know your own parts. or the comping on another tune is too muddled. and the bassist is following him but the drummer is not. you’ll start to notice areas that need to be improved.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis I should probably be more specific. Of course. If you’re the best musician in a group that plays together regularly. eventually the other band members will turn to you for guidance. Your level of musical communication and interaction will deepen considerably. but someone else is directing the music. Sometimes the strongest musicians are simply brought into a musical situation as “hired guns”—they play a specific role in a band. Maybe the groove just isn’t strong enough in one particular tune. but figuring out why that’s the case can take a lot of careful listening and analysis. the easier it is to listen to the other instruments as you’re playing. since your own playing will become more informed by the music being created around you. so recording rehearsals and concerts can be a great help (see lesson 11: A Mirror for Your Ears). it can be practiced and developed. That’s not what I’m talking about today. Here is where another key skill of a band leader is required: the ability to diagnose musical problems. There are dozens of variables and possibilities. but a skilled band leader will be able to root out the problems. This can be trickier than it might seem at first. though. Maybe the drummer’s swing feel is slightly different from the pianist’s. This is a tremendous skill to have. One of the most important skills for a band leader to have is the ability to listen to the whole group. As you become more comfortable dividing your attention between your own musical responsibilities and the sound of the band as a whole. Or maybe one of the horn players is rushing a bit during his solos.

start to listen for musical areas that can be improved. It’s simple. Once you’ve earned their trust as a source for guidance. Once you’ve identified what needs to be changed. or somewhere in between. And here is another learning opportunity for you as the band leader: To help the other musicians. Knowing exactly what the pianist and guitarist are playing will give you a new perspective on your own instrument and role within the band. but they might also be so used to playing a certain way that they don’t know what to do differently. you might also have to help your band mates do the actual changing! Your pianist and guitarist may be stepping on each other’s toes harmonically. really: all playing situations are learning opportunities. you’ll have to learn their parts. you’ll also be making yourself a better musician. As you help your band mates improve. Think about what needs to be fixed and how you can go about fixing it. Try to hear the band as a whole even as you’re concentrating on your own parts. Some of you might be wondering how I can advocate being the worst musician and being the best. It’s the surest path to becoming a monster jazz musician. You’ll learn a lot about how bands work and how different instruments approach the music. the least knowledgeable. Action Step: Play regularly with musicians who are not as knowledgeable or experienced as you. You should take advantage of as many of them as you can—whether you’re the most knowledgeable musician. Try to grow as much as you can no matter where you find yourself playing. Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 43 .21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis Figuring out what exactly is creating your band’s musical problems will sharpen your ears and greatly raise your overall awareness.

They pigeon hole the music and in doing so they pigeon hole themselves. that is not. that is not. But the only reason to do that is to use that experience and knowledge to springboard yourself into the future. study the masters and dig deep into the tradition. You use the past to create the future. Are you stuck in the past? Are you afraid of ghosts? Listen.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis There’s no such thing as (JAZZ) ghosts. I’m the first person to tell you to check out the past.’ Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 44 . You don’t need to recreate the past. They get caught up in the details and lose site of the big picture—‘this is jazz. etc. They put limits on themselves and on their music. this is real bebop. So many jazz musicians and jazz educators have ridiculous opinions about what is jazz and what is not.

so he goes with it and enjoys the interest created. etc) through out a piece of music. rock feel for the tag. Now. He doesn’t care. I’ll change only sometimes on the bridge or change in different ways. In fact if he were still alive I would bet he would applaud you for creativity and originality not imitation. modulate to another meter for the C section. Monk was at a club watching a young piano player perform. Do your homework but then let your ears and Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 45 .21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis That sort of thinking only has the effect of limiting your creativity. I want to hear how you would play it. I might change for each soloist. Just because Charlie Parker did something one way (either in music or in his personal life) doesn’t mean you have to.” There are no rules and there are no mistakes. Latin feel for the bridge. I use this as a device to create interest and tension in a piece of music. This sort of limiting belief pops up in all sorts of ways. never locking myself into anything. so and so always played it this way’. what was Monk’s response? “I already know how I would play it. The only thing that matters is self-expression and connection with other people. he does it himself. He pulled out all of his Monk licks and played the tune as close to how Monk would as he could. Then throw them away as fast as possible. Seeing that Monk was in the audience this player decided to perform one of Monk’s tunes. I might change the time feel (i. The bass player I play with most often (in several bands) is hip to this and is a creative and openminded person himself. and if I remember correctly here’s how it went. But sometimes I’ll use this stuff with less creative people and I get responses like ‘actually the bridge on that tune is supposed to be a swing feel’ or ‘actually. As a drummer I like to experiment with time-feel. his feel and his vocabulary. So. Jazz doesn’t care what you do. So study the tradition and study the ‘rules’. this piano player had clearly done his homework and really checked out Monk’s music.e. He imitated his tone. Heck. Charlie Parker doesn’t care what you do. That’s it. or maybe just for the bridge. So What! I’m not ‘so and so’. I heard a story about Thelonious Monk.

Your punk rock energy combined with your jazz sensibility could come out sounding fantastic and totally original. Innovation is the tradition.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis your heart guide your music. If you grew up playing punk rock before you starting checking out jazz. recovering from form mistakes. playing in tune. ending tunes. If it comes out in your improvising…THAT’S GREAT! It’s part of you. or sprinting around the bases. Playing the ‘game’ is as important to becoming a monster jazz musician as practicing the techniques. Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 46 . There are only two types of music in the world: good and bad. It’s part of your artistic voice. Don’t forget to play music. Draw on all of your influences and roots. They spend all their time in the ‘shed’ working on the techniques and concepts of jazz and never play music with people. interacting. Jazz is all about originality and individuality. That’ akin to a baseball player spending all of his time practicing fielding ground balls. Good music is any music that moves you and inspires you. that music is still in you. but never actually playing baseball. Many up and coming jazz musicians get so caught up in learning their instrument that they forget to play music. and comping to name but a few. There are many skills that can only be developed while playing with a band. listening and reacting to the other players. For instance—locking up with the groove. blending.

I got my butt kicked. you’re not ready for this ensemble. I had wanted to take one of Hal Crook’s ensembles for the entire time I was there. with saxophonists. Finally after two years my ratings were high enough. They used a numbered rating system to place students in ensembles. He called a standard (What is this thing called love-I believe) and then counted it in at breakneck speed. I figured out pretty quickly that I was being kicked out. piano players Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 47 . After a few days of feeling sorry for self and walking around with my tail between my legs. guitarists. well above my comfort zone. I would literally book 15-20 sessions per week. I got over it. but I didn’t have high enough ratings (his required ensemble ratings were among the highest). I was once that guy who practiced. You don’t need to be a better instrumentalist. After the class I went right back to the practice room. trios. When I showed up the next week there was already another drummer behind the kit.’ Needless to say that was a rather crushing blow to my ego. Play duos. but that wouldn’t be good for either of us. then call me and we’ll talk. I joined his ensemble and showed up for the first day. Honestly about half of those would inevitably end up being cancelled but I still ended up with at least one session per day and a couple of days with more than one. I met several musicians with whom I became great friends with and developed long and fruitful musical relationships. I auditioned every semester to raise my ratings.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis I learned this lesson the hard way. I played lots of duo sessions. Then I got booted. Play with other drummers. I went to Berklee College of Music. (To make matters worse the other drummer was a friend of mind who felt terrible about the situation) Hal showed up a few minutes later and took me out into the hall way to talk to me. I could keep you in the class and kick you’re a## all semester. Here I thought I had finally arrived. I practiced hard all week trying to prepare for next weeks class. you need to be a better musician. practiced. bass players. What you need to do is play one session with other players everyday for a year. then I got my butt kicked. I mean I was in Hal Crook’s ensemble. Get any playing experience you can. He said ‘Chris. practiced. and I got to work. I scheduled every session I possibly could.

and the bass/drum hook up. Chances are you already have several musician friends. Go to local jam sessions. It’s really easy to meet people. While practicing is important it must be combined with playing with other musicians (And listening. You can’t learn jazz in the practice room alone. Hang out and talk to the other attendees. I developed regular practice bands with weekly rehearsals. and playing gigs. and had a lot of fun doing it. Then simply ask people if they’d like to play a session. Introduce yourself on the break and sign up to sit in. I learned tunes. Be sure to show up early and watch the house band. There should be tons of people to play with. I nailed it. how to lead. but more on that later. I learned about group dynamics. When you’re putting together your practice plan and routine. Sessions should be thought of as part of your learning strategy. As you meet better and better players you can invite them to your sessions. Be present on the scene by attending the sessions week after week. Or you could use Craig’s List. I learned how to follow. So go out and play with people. I began to learn how to play music. a bass player and him. Try playing regular sessions you’ll see what I mean. Gradually you can become more picky about who you play with but at first just start playing. It’s a bit of a balancing act but it’s one that worth striking. If you’re in music school then that’s a no brainer. Become the ‘organizer’ and start setting up practice sessions. The result? A year later I called Hal and we played a session-just me. If you don’t have many musical friends then start looking for them. practiced following endings. He shook my hand and told me he’d call me next semester for an ensemble spot.). schedule in time for sessions. instead of just my instrument.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis and even other drummers. I took two ensembles with him and then went on to study privately with him. Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 48 .

You could focus on any element of music really. What does everyone hope to get out of it? What areas of music will you focus on? The clearer the group is on this the more productive your practice sessions will be. much more productive in fact.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis Three Powerful Ideas to Get the Most Out Of Your Jazz Group’s Practices Choose a purpose for the group When putting a practice group together it is important to decide upon a purpose or focus for the band. but here are a few ideas for you. • Learn jazz standards • Learn bebop tunes • Study the music of one musician Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 49 . So decide ahead of time.

21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis • Study the music of one period of jazz • Explore one aspect of musicianship like dynamics. Dizzy Gillespie. the drummer can only play on his cymbals. This is helpful at all levels and with all styles but it is particularly useful with free playing. thematic development. Bud Powel et al. Thelonious Monk. Lennie Tristano. Having this kind of focus will have a profound impact on your practice band. Placing limits like this on your playing. Or you could decide to play with a wide range of dynamics or at only one dynamic level like PP (really quiet). Set parameters Setting parameters for a piece of music will make the piece more cohesive and logical. Or if you are playing a tune your parameters could be as follows: • Play the entire piece with a two feel • Each soloist can only use chord tones to solo • You have to switch time feels every chorus with one person assigned to cue and communicate the change Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 50 . phrase length. You could all place limits on your instruments: So maybe the bass player can only play on the D string with his bow. For instance. or it might be the whole focus for the entirety of the project for instance you might decide to learn the Bebop repertoire and spend two years learning tunes and arrangements by Charlie Parker. the guitarist can only play rhythmically on muted strings and the saxophonist can only use her left hand. you may decide to play free with only the following stipulation: each member of the band must leave a big chunk of space (5 or more seconds of rest) in between every phrase. etc • Write original tunes • Learn familiar tunes in all twelve keys This focus might shift after a period of time say after a month with one topic. while frustrating at first. can really force your creativity to wake up and make you think about making music in a different way. This will help the band to see the impact of leaving space and will create some really cool textures.

calypso. the guitarist solos. The great thing is that once you do a few of these ‘predetermined’ scenarios you’ll start to see more options at your other sessions. two feel. Then you’re truly improvising and making music on the fly. Keep it simple at first. instead of just playing notes and rhythms. Here are some examples of ways to start tunes. • OR perhaps a scenario like this: the saxophonist plays bass lines. half-time. metric modulation (go to 6/4 or 3/4). These parameters and scenarios will start to happen naturally. end tunes and ideas for the body of the tune as well. The possibilities are endless • Bring the dynamic way down on the bridge Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 51 . the bass player plays rhythmic single note comping ideas and the drummer improvises counter ‘melodies’ to the guitarist The possibilities are endless. Talk through the arrangement ahead of time Rather than just getting together and blowing on some tunes (Which is fun and is an important part of the learning process) put your creative minds together and come up with an arrangement. • The band plays the changes from the last 4 or 8 bars as an intro • One instrument plays the first A section out front rubato then sets up the time and cues in the band • The drummer takes 8 bars out front • Play the A sections swing feel and the bridge a Latin feel • Play the A sections Latin and the bridge swing • Experiment and mix up different time feels on different sections of the tunes—swing. double time.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis • Play the entire tune with one big dynamic shape. Bossa Nova. Latin. Afro-Cuban. rock.each solo build upon the last and climaxes right before the out head (melody). It doesn’t have to be great and it doesn’t have to be on par with Duke Ellington.

and on and on. Be sure to get together with like minded musicians who are interested in learning and challenging themselves. Use your imagination and start with what you know now. execution. theory. Trying to wrap your head around all of this can literally make you feel like your brain is about to explode. You can’t possibly work on all of these areas at once. Is Your Brain About to Explode? I’ve had many students over the years who complained of being overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of learning to play jazz. Play like this for awhile and soon the band will develop a group sound. Soon your band will be killin’ it on the bandstand too. composing. keep you unfocused and halt your musical development. A much Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 52 . There’s instrumental technique. As you do more and more of this you will get better and better at it and you will come up with hipper ways to arrange a tune on the fly.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis • Have the comping instrument drop out for the first chorus of every solo • Write rhythmic kicks that the band (except the soloist) plays during the first chorus of every solo • Tag the turnaround and fade out • End on beat one of the top • Learn classic jazz endings and apply them to the tune • Tag the turnaround and switch the groove • End on the melody and have the saxophonist play a credenza That’s just a small sampling of what is possible. Trying to comprehend every step of a huge process. intonation. a myriad different styles. This approach will only serve to stress you out. ear training. playing with a band. and that’s the whole idea. reading. Eventually these things will start to happened spontaneously. The more focused your rehearsal the more productive they will be and the better your band will sound. musicality. like learning to play jazz is futile. arranging. the fundamentals. learning tunes. improvising. There is so much to learn and it can be difficult to know where to start.

It certainly helped me develop my long term vision for my music. I had to take from it the most important couple of ideas and go with them. but Google ‘mind map’ and you will find tons of information about them. It was like 30 years worth of practice and study. I almost fell over. When I stepped back and looked at this mind map. Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 53 . If you are thinking about learning all the major & minor scales.) Here are a few examples of potentially overwhelming. unbelievable goals: 1. If I tried to wrap my head around all of that my brain most certainly would have exploded! (Mind-maps are a powerful tool to brainstorm and organize your efforts in a very visual way. If you’re relatively new to jazz you may start with instrumental technique and the fundamentals. Suppose you want to get your fundamentals together. This unfocused approach will slow you down. If you’re a seasoned pro. at the same time think again. no matter how important you may think learning the fundamentals is (And it is). altered scales. you may focus on improvisation or composition. I won’t explain how they work here for lack of space. but there’s no way I could possibly set achieving this ‘thing’ as a goal. mastering intervals. It all depends on your present abilities and priorities.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis better approach is to limit your studies to a few areas at a time. It was huge. I once tried to write down every aspect of music I wanted to explore. the modes. arpeggios. This was a great exercise. Memorizing every tune in the real book. not because I ran out of ideas to practice and study. I made a giant mind-map and had to stop. But even these smaller categories can be overwhelming. but because I ran out of space on the paper! The more you learn about jazz the more aware you will become of just how vast it is and how many possible avenues there are to explore. scale patterns etc.

Big goals and vision are important. learning a second won’t seem so tough. Then. 4. “What ever the mind can conceive and believe it can achieve” – Napoleon Hill So start with a goal you believe in. while in the back of your mind you know you want to become a great jazz musician. Each time you achieve a goal you will build your confidence and accomplish more and more. And then one day you’ll reflect and think ‘wow. Once you know two tunes it will be reasonable to believe you can learn five. So. minor scale.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis 2. Transcribing every Charlie Parker solo ever recorded 3. As you achieve your smaller goals you can set bigger and loftier ones. Now don’t misunderstand me. it’s not that big of stretch to see yourself memorizing Volume 2. keep your immediate goals challenging but doable. (If my math is correct that’s 1. Memorizing every Bach invention 5. arpeggio. Learning every tune from the second classic Miles Davis Quintet catalog Now. If you’ve already memorized Real Book Volume 1. your goals are going to vary depending on your present abilities and what goals you’ve already achieved. Make it your goal to learn one tune.140 permutations) 6. But if you only know 1 tune by memory you will probably not be able to see yourself achieving this goal. master the fundamentals and so forth. bebop scale. Mastering every permutation of a pentatonic scale in all 12 keys. I really have accomplished a lot!’ Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 54 . Learning every major scale. inversion and mode in all 12 keys. And so on. If you don’t truly believe you can achieve a particular goal you won’t achieve it.

and local jam sessions are a great place to get some experience playing with people. get experience playing in front of an audience and to meet other musicians. It’s an important part of learning music that is far too rare these days. You can learn about Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 55 .21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis 7 Tips for Succeeding At Jam Sessions In a previous lesson we talked about the importance of getting experience playing music with other people. You will learn a lot about your instrument by watching a more experienced musician perform. it’s important to see/hear live music. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out jam sessions. Show up early and watch the house band This is important for several reasons. First of all. Learning to play jazz doesn’t happened in the practice room alone.

This is a sign of confidence not weakness. Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 56 . and get to know them. If you’re a horn player try to blend with the other horn players. and make sure you get to play. embouchure. Aim for clarity. It’s better to sit one out and jump back in on the next tune than to make the whole band suffer because you don’t really know the changes. technique. But it’s a dangerous trap. they will notice if you’re one of those musicians who rolls in right after the band finishes just in time to sit in and then takes off when you’re done. if the house band sees you showing up to support them and enthusiastically checking them out they will appreciate it. expression etc. In return they’ll take care of you. focus on locking up with the bass player and supporting the soloist. You can see how the band interacts with and responds to the audience and vice versa. Do your job as a musician first. Use this as an opportunity to learn to play in tune. After you can do that then worry about being hip or modern. Don’t try to show off After spending hours and hours in the practice room developing your chops and learning some hip new bebop licks it’s very tempting to try to impress the other musicians with your new found hipness. And who knows. If you’re a drummer. And believe me. Blend in with band so that you have a presence but be sure not to bury the other musicians. Secondly. No matter what instrument you play listen for the dynamics. You’re there for the music first and foremost. If you’re a guitarist be clear with your comping. If you don’t know the tune. sit this one out If you don’t know the tune that was called you don’t have to play. The other musicians will appreciate it. after awhile they may call you for the gig! Focus on blending and connecting with the other musicians Make it your goal to make the band sound better. Let the soloist know where you are. You will most likely come off looking bad and making the music as a whole sound worse. This is a sign of musical maturity.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis posture. So support their music.

jam sessions can be very difficult situations to perform in. You may not know any of the musicians sitting in.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis Be respectful and supportive of the other musicians This is just simple etiquette. The more of these tunes you know the more productive and enjoyable your experience sitting in will be. keep it short. Roll with the punches If you totally bomb at a session. Remember. If you do sit in on a tune and suddenly learn the hard way that you don’t really know the bridge (even though you thought you did) be proactive and practice it during the coming week. what you could practice to improve. If a tune was called that you didn’t know. Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 57 . Pay attention to their solos and get involved by clapping and cheering them on. There is nothing worse than that guy who shows up and plays a 25 chorus solo while 10 people are waiting to sit in. don’t take it too hard. Notice what tunes are called each week. Try to figure out where you went wrong. There is relatively small group of standards that will be called week after week. Especially if there are a lot of people sitting in or waiting to sit in. take the time to learn it during the week. and even have a chance to develop leadership skills (Be the guy who holds the band together). You may struggle with a tune because the bass player is unclear. Then at the next session you can sit in on that tune. Be positive. Be proactive. This professionalism will benefit you as well. By dealing with these realities of music you will become a stronger musician. You’ll learn how to recover when things go awry. or the drummer keeps turning the beat around. Learn from it. You will easily meet new musicians to play with and ultimately gig with. When it’s your turn to solo. The musicians may all be at very different levels of abilities.learn the tunes Learn from the session. People will enjoy when you show up to play. Encourage the other musicians even if (And especially if) you are much more advanced then them.

By a lot! Be sure to have a plan and a purpose for your session. the more productive the session will be. your reeds. Know exactly what you hope to accomplish that day. This may seem obvious. you will break your momentum and it you down. Having everything you need to practice will allow you to focus on the task at hand. This means your guitar pick. your manuscript paper. your instrument. If you have to stop your session to go search your house for a transcription or your metronome.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis Seven more ways to maximize your practicing An ounce of preparation… The more prepared you are when you begin your practice session. Gather all the materials you will need ahead of time. This act alone can make your sessions significantly more productive Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 58 . It will take time to get back into the ‘groove’ and continue learning. a pencil. your CDs/IPOD. but it’s so obvious that most people tend to overlook it. etc. your sticks. your metronome.

You can reread it and pick up where you left off. Don’t let people interrupt you. It doesn’t have to be fancy. so be it. First of all it helps you to track your progress. no matter how small. But make the people around you understand that you are not to be interrupted during your practicing. just a few notes about your session will be beneficial. always getting better in some way. you should pick up where you left off and push a bit farther. Ask them to respect that time. Looking back through your journal can help you to realize how much progress you have actually made. If you need to keep a big stick next to you to fend them off. Keeping a journal about your sessions has several benefits. you will achieve your musical goals. it’s a great tool to decide what to practice at your next session. Don’t bend your schedule for anyone except in extreme situations. I’m talking about a practice journal. Fend off interruptions with a stick The vast majority of people in all walks of life are too generous with their time. This will add continuity and consistency to your practice sessions. Schedule your practice sessions and stick to them. Here are few ideas you can apply to just about any practice topic to take it farther: 1 2 3 4 5 6 Increase the tempo Decrease the tempo Learn it in another key play it with a different time feel Play it in a different meter Add dynamics 59 Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC . Whatever you accomplished yesterday. That will keep you motivated. Just kidding. Explain to them the importance of focused practicing and don’t let them steal your time. Second.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis Have good records I’m not talking about vinyl here (although that’s a good idea too). Push the envelop Each and everyday you should push forward slightly. If you are in the habit of always learning something.

Celebrate your victories When you accomplish a goal. This is how you gain mastery and increase your musical confidence. no judging. Schedule time into your practice session simply to play. If you learned a new tune. You’re moving forward with your music and you should be proud of yourself. another tune. another bar. another page. You’re over promising and under delivering. or finished a method book pat yourself on the back. the way you did when you first started out.21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician by Chris Punis 7 Learn more of it (another scale. take a moment and bask in the glory. etc) Under promise/over deliver Plan your practice sessions so you can finish your routine and plan the majority of the time. It’s easy to get caught up practicing and forget to play for fun. By all means push yourself. This will cause you stress and anxiety. No limits. It feels great to accomplish everything you set out to do and then some. Just for fun! Dedicated to Your Musical Success. Play for the spirit of the music Don’t forget about the whole reason you started playing in the first place. Chris Punis chris@learnjazzfaster. If you’re always leaving things undone and not getting through your daily plan then your plan is unrealistic.com Copyright © 2008 Chris Punis & Learn Jazz Faster LLC 60 . but you want to see yourself hitting your daily goals. no matter how small.

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