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SEVEN STEPS TO HEAVEN

(with thanks to Jiggs Whigham)

1. Memorize the melody. Listen to a wide variety of recordings of the song.
Work on playing the song in different keys, tempos and styles. Try to
exhaust the melodic possibilities of the song and absorb it into your
subconscious.

2. Memorize the form of the song (blues, AABA, etc.) and the chord
progression. Play through the entire form using root/third/fifth patterns on
the changes. Play through the form using whole notes & half notes
(background figures) and quarter notes (as in a bass line).

3. Play through the tune using short, repeated rhythmic patterns (riffs) and note
groupings (non-repetitive) of three to seven notes.

4. Play using long, connected lines (mostly eighth notes) without breaking the
flow. Concentrate on creating as much density (ala Coltrane) as possible.

5. Play using very few notes and relying primarily on color (vibrato, bends,
growls, sub-tone, etc.) and space. Concentrate on creating as much space
(ala Miles) as possible.

6. Work on varying articulation by playing through the tune entirely in a legato
style and then again in a marcato style. Experience the extremes of each
method of attack and work to integrate them more naturally into your
playing style.

7. Work on the elasticity of your time conception by playing “on top” of the
beat, “behind” the beat (laying back) and “ahead” of the beat (rushing).
Practice with a metronome set for “2 and 4” (ie: the drummer’s hi-hat) and
on all four beats (ie: a walking bass line).