How to Create and Use an Inspiration Journal

Organize your practice and get inspired. Download the journal here:

Hey guys, Willie Myette, creator of jazz edge, I want to welcome you to this podcast for the confident improviser. This is podcast episode number 14. So today we are going to be talking about how to create and use inspiration journal and inspiration journal is a great way to organize your practice and get inspired and I’ll go through it in today’s podcast episode. First of all this podcast is works great with the confident improviser program, found the jazz edge. And the resources that I’m going to talk about in today’s podcast can be downloaded from the competent improviser exercise number 14. Lesson page. Remember, you can also find replays of this podcast if you just go back to the confident Alright, so how to create and use an inspiration journal. Right? So first of all, an inspiration journal is exactly what it is. It’s just a place where you can write down different ideas that you are inspired by, right and this might be chords, you know, chord voicings, it could be rhythms, it could be licks, it could be two handed licks. It could be comping rhythms, sky’s the limit, whatever it is that you find is interesting to you, you put into this into this inspiration journal right now, what I did for you is I created a inspiration journal, you know, basically a template that you can download printout and then you could utilize this as a start for your, your inspiration journal, keep wanting to say improvisation, right? So you’re seeing this inspiration journal that we have, you know, a Grandstaff here for measures. And then you’ll notice that it starts with an original key. And then new key number one, new key number two, new key number three. All right, so basically, what’s happening here is that this is showing you Hey, look, put in your original, and then put in at least three different keys, don’t worry, I’m going to show you some examples of how this all works in just a second. The other option is just a single line, write the original key and this goes into five other keys. So that gives you your whole six keys, right. And then the last page is all just blank, you get three staves of blank Grandstaff paper, and three staves of just a single note, you know, right hand line, you know, just one stave, okay? So you could utilize those to create out your inspiration journal. Alright, so let’s take a look at an example here, because it’s going to be a lot easier once you see an example. Alright, so here is a, you know, just this little, you know, lick over E minor seven, to a seven, flat nine. In the left hand, all I’m doing is a very simple root three on E minor, so it’s E and G, and then my root three, seven on the a seven chord, which is a C sharp and G. And the right hand, I’m starting on D. Okay, so I started the D, which is the seventh, fifth,

third, root,

third 11th or four, five, and I go to the flat nine on the eighth seventh to the root to the seventh, and then back to the roots. Okay, so a pretty basic, you know, lick phrase here, but I like the sound of it. So I want to remember that right. So okay, so now I’ve written it out in my original key. You notice what I wrote here is on the last two measures measures three and forks. Remember I told you it was four measures on the line? Well, this lick here is only two measures long, so then I’ll just leave the last two measures blank, right, then I go to my new key number one, you see that I’m in the key of F, I got one flat here. So now I’m going to play an F. So what I’ve done is I’ve written it out in the new key, I have it here, a minor to D seven, I have the left hand, I have the right hand, it’s all written out. So now if you’re listening to me in the car, or something you’ll see on this, like when you take a look at the lesson, in exercise 14, you’ll see that what you’ll find on the screen here is that I have written out the original exercise or the original lick the original idea, the original thing that I put in my inspiration journal, I have now written it in a new key, hey, which key should I write it in, write it in whatever key you want, or the original key was in the key of C major. So I went to F major next. What’s the next one? I’m done. Okay, here I’m going to E flat. So now I’m starting on G minor.

And you’ll notice that your fingering will likely have to change when you move into other keys. This is what is really great about moving these licks into other keys is that it forces you to have to figure out new fingering for these patterns, right so there are in the key of B flat, and finally, I’m going to go to the key of G. So I’m going to start on my B minor chord, it’s now what I should be able to do is I should be able to go through and play each one of these keys, one after another, I’m gonna have to scroll a little bit, so bear with me. So here it is in C. Here it is an F. Here it is in E flat. And then finally, here it is in G. Now I could keep going, and I could play in all 12 keys if I want to. But the reality is, I found that if you go into at least four or five, six different keys, that usually gives you enough to be able to kind of get the idea of the lick down, understand it, and then have it in your memory, all right, and be able to you know, you know, get the facility to be able to play it in real time, right? If you want to go through all 12 keys, that’s fine. But I usually reserve that for the licks and whatnot, that I really want to make sure that I know all all around the piano, okay, so those real special licks, or chords, or you know, whatever, those are the ones that you really want to go through all 12 keys, because obviously, going through all 12 keys can take quite a bit of time. So now when I move on to the single note line, you see I have a very simple c seven here. And then I have you know, there’s this, this basic little line here, this basic improvisational phrase here. I like that, okay, it starts on the E flat and it goes up to the E triplet, right up to the seventh. And in the fifth to the sixth, back to the fifth. So in C, it’s E flat, G, A, B flat, G, ag. Okay. So, there, you’ll notice that I don’t have any left hand written, why because it’s really not about the left hand, it’s really the right hand that I’m really focusing on, you know, trying to remember. So I might do a rootless chord voicing, I might do a root three, seven chord voicing, I might do a root seven, it could even be a baseline. Now you see that I moved into f here as well.

I can move this

around, but it isn’t cheap.

He flat. Right, so

I can move that lick all all over the place. Now what you will notice is that sometimes some of these legs are gonna work well in some keys, not well, and other keys. Like if I move this to D, write that F natural up to the F sharp may feel a little bit weird, you know, you might have to work that out and practice that a little bit more. The point though, here is that you can do two handed or a Grandstaff full staff, you know, write that out. So write out the left hand and the right hand. But you can also just write out the right hand as well. You don’t have to write out the cord. Okay, I oftentimes like doing this kind of notation, just the right hand line, when it’s just some, you know, improvisational phrase that I want to remember, I don’t really care about the left hand, because I’ll put in whatever left hand I want at the time. Right. So this is a great way of being able to document what’s the lick that I want to remember, right. So this works really well. Now, you can also utilize this technique to write down different chord voicings that you like the sound of check out some of these core voices these sounds really cool, right? So here is a C minor 11 voicing. So here in the left hand, I have C, G, and D. in the right hand, I have a flat F, B flat D. Now I’m going to tell you that this voicing is very difficult to be able to hit depending on the size of your hands, right? It’s okay, I’m still going to write down the voicing I can reach it. But let’s say that you can’t reach that voice. It’s still good to write it down. Because even if you can’t reach a chord, you can still arpeggiate it.

So you can still utilize the court in arpeggiated form. So don’t think that has to this only has to be four chords that you can reach. No, it can be, you know chords that maybe you can’t reach, but you still want to write them down, just to remember what’s going on. Now you’ll notice here what I did in the analysis here as well, I wrote in the analysis in terms of, you know, each note how it relates to the chord, so I have the root, the fifth and the ninth, and blow this up a little bit so you guys can see it, right. And then I have flat 311, flat, seven, nine. Now, remember this too, you can always look at these chords and say, okay, maybe if you can’t reach that, but take off the top note the D, and then move the four notes in the right hand, and then just in the left hand, play root five. Now you get that beautiful sounding chord. Now, take a listen to that, versus the a version, B version. You can hear that top note in that B version of that voicing, okay. But and don’t get confused with the A and the B, I use that in my rootless voices, I’ve just using a and b just like, here’s voice of one, here’s voicing two. Okay. So maybe I should just say, here’s one. Here’s the alteration is the voicing. Here’s the alteration. Or I should say, here’s the voicing, here’s the alteration however you want to look at. But the point is that I could take out that top note right? That D, kind of rearrange the way that my fingers are playing that chord, I can now hit that chord no matter what size hand I got. And it still sounds really good. Okay, so you see how I could take the voicing, I could use it as an inspiration, I could play around with it, and then I could come up with something that works in my hand size. Here’s another voicing this f seven sharp 11. Now here, the point I want to make is that the analysis doesn’t have to be Oh, route 379, sharp 1113, okay, which is what’s going on here, what, seven, nine sharp 1113, you can also just analyze it using more of a text based approach. So here I said, are three, seven in the left hand, three, seven, right, when a major triad built on the second, that’s a major major triad built on the second, which is G. So it’s a G

major G

major triad. So this type of analysis makes it a little bit easier for me to kind of be able to quickly recall that and utilize it somewhere else. All right, route three, seven, in the left hand, with a major triad built on a second, let me do this on C seven, the root three, seven in the left hand, C, E, B flat major triad, built on the second D major triad. There we go. Let me do it on B flat, B flat, D, a flat and the left hand is my root three, seven major triad built on the second, the second is C. So your analysis does not have to get into you know, the third day seven sharp 11 You don’t have to you don’t have to dive in that deep. You can kind of just, you know, write notes for yourself to something that you’re going to be able to understand later. Especially when you get into like things like portals. Rather than writing out all of the portals

CFB flat,

you can just simply say portal built on the route right now I know of if I were to write down for myself quartal built on the root, I know that it’s two stacked perfect fourths built on the root. Here it is and see, okay, so portal built on the root, and then maybe in the right hand, minor triad on the on the ninth. It gives a nice such for sound. Third, and they’re gonna create like a minor 11 voicing. Okay. But anyway, the point is that I could kind of write notes and use more of a text based approach. And it’s a little bit easier to understand my analysis. Last thing is, you can also use this inspiration journal to write down rhythms that you like, so here’s a rhythm that I like, but triple A d by d by dy, but triple ed d by d by dy. Okay, so here’s a rhythm I like, Alright, well, now, you know, I can write that down, I could write down a bunch of different rhythms that I that I enjoy, and and I can use them as inspiration for practice. So let’s talk about that for a second. So, you know, I said that you can utilize this inspiration journal to help, you know, organize, but then also Well, when I say organize your practice, and get inspired, so how do you I think you understand the organization, but let’s talk about that. So when you sit down to practice, you know if you have, I don’t know, a half an hour an hour to practice Maybe you might say, Okay, look, you know what, I want to take 510 minutes and go through my lick journal. So then what you can do, I literally use the lick journal or inspiration journal. All right, I want to take 510 minutes and go through my inspiration journal. So I’m going to pull out that inspiration journal right now that might be all of those sheets might be in a binder, maybe what you might decide to do is get a spiral bound staff paper notebook and do your own inspiration journal, whatever, if you utilize the ones that I’ve created for you, and you download and print them, I suggest putting them in a three ring binder, so you keep it all nice and organized. Alright, so then what you do you, you know, pull out that inspiration journal, and maybe you go to the corn section and you like, you know, have that, that chord there again, and maybe what you do is, you know, for five or 10 minutes, you just try messing around with that chord. You don’t see like, Can you move it around to other, you know, other places on the staff. Right? So here I am on C minor. Well, let me go ahead and do this on F. Alright, so now what do I got? So there it is on F. Now what you might notice is when you move to another key, oh, lo and behold, that’s a little bit easier to be able to hit that, you know, in the right hand, here it is. In G, that might be tough again, to be able to hit that. But the point is, you take the chords during that practice time you’re looking for something to practice, this is a great way to organize your practice, write down those chord symbols of those chord voicings that you’ve been wanting to learn, write, write down in the original key, write it out and transpose if you want, or transpose it on the fly completely up to you how you do that. But the point is, you go back to that journal, and that’s a great way of knowing Oh, these are the voicings that I’ve been wanting to learn, rather than sitting down at the piano or not knowing Hey, hey, what what what am I doing? Okay, those are the voicings that I wanted to learn. Now, you might also sit down and say, hey, look, I just want to like be inspired right now. And I just want to like, you know, maybe I’ve done my practice time. And I’m going to come back to the piano a little bit later in the day. And I just want to like have some inspiration. Well, this inspiration journal, you know, you don’t have to write down licks or ideas that you’ve gotten from other people.

These could be your own

licks and ideas. Right? So maybe you have like a C seven chord here. And you think, Okay, well, you know what, I’m going to use that altered scale. That’s interesting. Okay, let me let me take that. Let me let me move that idea around into a bunch of other chords, right? Or maybe you might start the beginning part of a song. Maybe you write in your inspiration journal, something like this.

Okay, yeah,

I like that. I don’t know where I’m gonna go with it yet. But I like you might you write down something you played around with an idea, you’ll write it in your inspiration journal. And then when you’re looking, you know, to, you know, work on some improv or create a song or you know, whatever, you pull out that inspiration journal, and there it is waiting for you. Okay, so, to wrap up, how do you use this, this inspiration journal, you use it, whichever way works best for you. My suggestions are this number one, when you come across some licks that you like, or chord voicings, or rhythms, you know, whatever it is that you like, that you see written in music and might be, you know, in the jazz edge music, it might be in a real book, it might be something you transcribe, transcribed, it might be something that you saw somewhere else, doesn’t matter. Okay, what you’re doing and the idea that you should have in mind of this inspiration journal, is you’re taking all of these other sources, right? All these disparate sources, you know, multiple sources, you taking the information that you like, that you want to, you know, review, and you’re bringing it into your inspiration journal. So this inspiration journal is what inspires you. Okay? This isn’t stuff that like, well, I really should practice this. No, this is the stuff that you really want to practice. Now, as I said, in the TCI, 14, inspiration lesson, you don’t have to write out the lyrics, right? If you want to, like if you’ve got it in sheet music form, you can print it, cut it out, and literally just paste it right into your inspiration journal. That’s fine as well. You could use things like Sibelius, Muse score, whatever you Create your own, it’s completely up to you this inspiration journaling that I that I’m giving to you, though, you could download it, you can print off all those sheets. Page Number three is blank, it doesn’t have any title, no logo, nothing like that. So you can print out those, many of those, put them in a binder for yourself. Or like I said, you could just get a manuscript book and that would be absolutely fine also, but you use the inspiration journal, however it works best for you. I like to do it for lyrics for chord voicings, for rhythms, maybe tune ideas, maybe even reharmonization ideas, whatever it is, but that journal is a great place of bringing all that material back to one centralized location. Okay. And then when you’re going to sit down and you’re going to practice and you’re looking for some inspiration, you’re looking for something to practice, you’re looking to, you know, compose or improvise or whatever, you go back to that inspiration journal, and bam, there you go, you got something that can help you organize your practice, and definitely inspire you. Alright, so that’s it for. That’s it for me. Be sure to go back to the confident improviser exercise number 14, you can download the inspiration journal and and also download the examples that I was showing in this podcast. Right. And then of course, if you’re a member of jazz edge and working through the confident improviser, please be sure to join me on Thursdays, you know, always check the links on the site, make sure there is no change in times. But Thursdays at 1pm is when I do my live q&a session for all of my jazz edge members. If you’re not a jazz edge member, take a look at jazz edge comm it’s a great site, great community, a lot of incredible students from all over the world, you know, sharing their ideas, staying accountable to one another, learning new stuff. So we’ve got a great group of students. And if you’re not a member already, I’d love to see you in the site. Alright, so that’s it for me. Thanks for joining me. I’m Willie Myette from jazz edge. I’ll see you in the next podcast.

How to Create Flowing Jazz Improvisation Lines

6 techniques to improve your improvisational flow.

Hey guys, Willie Myette creator of jazz edge, I want to welcome you to episode number 13 of the confident improviser podcast. All right, so let’s get started here today what we’re gonna be talking about is how to create flowing jazz improvisation lines, I’m going to give you a six different techniques that you can use to improve the flow of your improvisation, right. And what that means is like, you know, when we’re playing

like, rather than a being like, like you feel how stiff that is, we want to make that nice, and

we want to start to get those lines more flowing more even. And just feeling more relaxed. These techniques are going to help you today. Alright, so first of all, who’s this podcast for this really goes in conjunction with the confident improviser program over at jazz edge. So if you’re a member of that program, these podcasts kind of follow along with the exercises. And if you’re looking for a video replay or you want some more information on the confident improviser, just go back to the confident Alright, so how to create flowing jazz improvisation lines, the first thing you need to know is that you have to know your chord tones in order for this to work. If you don’t know your chord tones, then you have to start there. And I would suggest checking out my piano essentials program for that. So now when I say chord tones, I say like, Okay, if I’m asking you, what’s an F major seventh chord, you should be saying F, A, C and E natural, okay? If I say E flat seventh chord, you should be saying E flat, G, B flat, D flat. All right? If that is confusing to you, or you do not know that, then you want to make sure you go through piano essentials and really focus on those chord tones. So you can learn those chord tones. Why is that important? It’s important because when we improvise, we can utilize chord tones in our improvisation and it’s always going to sound good. So Isn’t that awesome? To have a technique that we can use? It’s always going to sound good when we improvise, you know, and they’re always going to work. Alright, so maybe you don’t believe me? So let’s pull up I real pro here. Let me put on this is just the first two measures of days of wine and roses. Take a listen, just using chord tones.

Alright, so now sounds pretty good, right? I mean, again, you know, you’re probably not going to win any improvisational awards. But the point is, it sounds good. It works at it, you could always grow from them. Alright, so what’s the first step in making this happen? The first step is you have to pick your starting note and your target note. Now, one thing that I like to do when it when teaching improvisational lines and kind of thinking about improvisation is that there’s always a start, and there’s always an end. Okay, so you want to think of your improvisation lines, like a sentence. Like I just said that sentence. I’m going to go to the movies with my friend. Okay, well, there’s the my sentence, I had a starting part of it. I had an ending part of it. And then we also know that if we write do something like that I started sent it, and then I don’t finish it. Well, that feels kind of weird, doesn’t it? It’s like, what what, what are you going to say? So we need to hear the beginning part. And we need to hear the end part, we need to hear a full thought. And that’s what we’re trying to do with our improvisation if we don’t think about the starting note in the ending note that we might be starting or ending on a note that’s not going to sound all that great. Let me give you a quick example of that. So here’s Jason winder, Rosa again, listen this.

Right, so can you hear some of those starting notes and any notes in the line? They don’t sound really that great, do they? There’s an awful lot of tension there. So when we’re talking about starting notes, and target notes or ending notes, think about chord tones. So you see what we have going on here right now is we’re starting on the third of F, and then we’re going down to the seventh of of E flat. Now don’t worry if you can’t see the sheet music, all of the sheet music is going to be available for jazz edge members right in the confident improviser program. So you can just go ahead, login and download all of the sheet music right. So right now on the right hand side Starting on the third of F, which is an A, and then I go down to the flat seventh of E flat, which is D flat. So just start with that very, very simple. Okay, all I’m trying to do is just create a very simple line. So here we go. I could like kind of play around with the rhythm of that. So good. So now I know where I’m going to start my line, I know where I’m going to end my line. The next thing is to fill it in with quarter notes. So in the F major seventh measure, in the first measure, remember, we’ve got two measures going on here, one measure of F major, one measure of E flat seven. So in that F major measure, I’m going to fill it in with F major seventh chord tones. And what am I doing here? Starting on the A, which is my third, I go down to the root, the seventh, which is e, and the fifth, which is C, right? So A, F, E, C, all right, for my F major seventh, you know, a blackboard seventh chord, okay, so the third, the root, the seventh, fifth, and then it resolves nicely up to that flat seven of E flat. Now, still just quarter notes. But now we’re starting to get somewhere.

All right, so sounds pretty good, right? I mean, you know, again, you’re not gonna win any awards in improvisation. But now we’re starting to fill this out more starting to flesh this out more. Okay, that’s number two. Number three, now use eighth notes to fill in the back half, or the back end of the measure. So we’re in four, four times. So the last two beats beats three and four, we’re now going to use eighth notes there. So now we go. Whoops.

With the left hand. So now you can hear that we’re getting a little bit more motion going up. So what are the notes we’re choosing? Well, first of all, again, the third and the root, but then we go down to the seventh, sixth, seventh, and then we go to the seventh of E flat, so rain, and here, we have this D in here, which is the six, you might not think to naturally play that note, the reality is that we’re really not worried about what these notes are right now, the main thing that we want to worry about is we want to worry about getting from the starting note to the target note. And then if you hang with me for a couple more minutes, I’m going to give you a couple of examples that really kind of explain that a little bit more clearly that it really doesn’t matter what the notes are, that you’re playing, okay. Of course, you know, we take that with a grain of salt, of course, the notes that you play, have meaning to them, right. It’s not like you just simply play anything. But the idea is that so many times students worry so much about the notes, and they’re less worried about the flow, and I’m going to show you how even playing notes that we would think that would be wrong. If you play them with good flow. It still sounds good. All right, so this is the third exercise here, just try filling in the back half of the measure with some eighth notes, write the number four, fill in the front half of the measure. So the first two beats, this is where I’m going to do the, you know, eighth notes now. So

here, I’m playing the third, the ninth, the route down to the fifth, and then I go back to the seventh. And then I go to the seventh of E flat. So what you notice is that it’s pretty much all chord tones is a little passing tone in there of the night. But for the most part, it’s all chord tones, right now number five, do the whole line in eighth notes. So

okay, so here we have 39667 to the fifth and then to flat seven for E flat. Okay, so, A, G, F, D, C, D, E, C, D flat, all eighth notes, right, the last one number six is Try creating your own eighth note lines, but this time use rest and upbeats. So this time, what I did was I didn’t start right at the beginning of the measure, I did an eighth note or an eighth rest, right? And then came in on the, the the upbeat of the first beat, right? So the D bar by d by d by d, but do so.

Now, here, you’ll notice that I’m starting on this chord tone, right, the A, and then it kind of goes down to the ninth, then to the seventh, then to the root, okay, in here, I’m starting on a weak beat on a chord tone, right. But it still sounds nice, even though that the ninth is on a strong beat. I like the sound of that. And let’s also see how we have that kind of going from the ninth, the G down to the E, and then I come up to the app, so we kind of enclose that F, and the rest of this f EDC kind of walking right down that F major scale, and then moving right to the E flat seven, the seventh. Alright, so now you got these six, six different techniques, what is it that we’re really trying to do? Okay, I can sum it up for you right now, we’re trying to get from here to there, right, trying to go there to there, and we’re trying to fill in the space. Now the techniques that I’m giving you here is a way to like really kind of codify it and make it a little bit easier for you to be able to approach filling in that space, if you’ve never done it before. But if you have a little bit of scale, or you just want to try winging it, then what you could do is just simply put on the railroad track or put on a backing track, and then you just kind of play and see how many lines you can come up with going from there to there. Now, what you’re going to notice is that you will get kind of jammed up right with your rhythm, right? So let me give you let me play it and give you some examples as I play it. So here’s an example of getting jammed up. Well, I wasn’t able to, I wasn’t able to get it right on the beat, right? So I gotta make sure I get there on the beat. So I had to kind of jump down to where my thumb, right? So let me try it again. Better. Whoops, we ended up ending. See, I can create this, like literally dozens and dozens of lines. And all I’m trying to do is go from there to there. Why practice that? Right? The question might be like, well, Willie, why don’t I just practice improvising, going from F to E flat and just kind of do do whatever it is that I want to do? Those target notes, the starting notes, and especially the target notes help to define your improvisational line, right, when you have those target notes, you have kind of like a foundation in place that then now you can start to build on top of if you don’t have those target notes, then what’s very easy to have to happen is on those strong beats, when you have that new chord like the E flat seven coming up, you end up hitting a D natural or something, or an E natural. Well guess what, those are not going to sound very good, it’s gonna make your improvisation sound like garbage. And you’re not going to be defining the chord anymore, because this is not part of the E flat dominant seventh chord, right. And then the flat nine is not a very strong resolution either. So by having those notes in place, that you’re trying to get your improvisation to meet those, you know requirements, you’re trying to get that to that line to that target note. Now what you’re actually practicing is how to manage the space between the notes. Okay, so you already have a shell, you already know, like, if you go back to step one here, you already have a shell, okay, I know I’m going from A to D flat, but I want to keep going with the song, you know, a minor seven, I could go to C and then D seven, I could go to an F sharp, right? So I can like kind of shell out using my chord tones or my guide tones or whichever one I want to do. Okay, you use those chord tones to really shell out and create a foundation for my improvisation that then I fill in. But you have to practice that filling in if you don’t practice the filling in and you just think hey, I’m just going to put these foundational notes in here and I’m just going to go for it. Well, you’ll probably find that you’re going to miss That target notes, because you have to get used to feeling and hearing how many notes there are in that measure those eight eighth notes, right. And especially if you’re going to do eighth notes, you know, trying to get eight notes. Now, notice this, you can use chromaticism throughout. So like you could start here, going here, you’re going down there. So now let’s just count it out. 12345678. And we end there. Well, wait a second, can I really just use those eight chromatic notes? And then another D flat? Guess what? Let’s take a listen. You tell me.

You bet works quite nicely, in fact, right. So now you have all these other notes in here. And you might say, Well, wait a second,

I’m playing in G flat, I’m

playing in a flat, right? All on an F major seventh chord, how can that possibly work? It works. Because those are heard as passing tones, you’re just kind of passing through them. The main tones, again, are that a down to D flat, A to D flat, what you fill in in the middle, really kind of matters less, as long as you do it with good rhythm. So let me give you some other examples here, some kind of outlandish examples as well.

All right, so you can hear that I’m doing all I’m practicing all these different variations. And some of them are just crazy, right? Right, like notes that you just wouldn’t normally play over an F major seventh chord. But as long as you do it strong. And you start with your strong starting note, and you have a strong target note, guess what? It all works out in the wash. It all works out in the end, as long as you play it strong. Now, let’s talk about what I am not saying. I’m not saying that you could just play a bunch of garbage, and just be like, oh, wow, there you go. That’s what I want to do right now. No, I mean, like, there always has to be a good musical sensibility. But the challenge when when it comes to improvisation is that a lot of times, we think it’s really so much about the notes. Oh, it’s all the notes that we’re playing? What are the notes? What are the right scale? You know, we don’t think enough about the rhythm. We also do not think enough about the flow. Because remember, I’ve played several exams, I’m not gonna bother to bore you with it now. But if I play with bad flow, play all the right notes, it still sounds bad. But if I played the quote, unquote, wrong notes, but I play it with good rhythm and good flow, it sounds okay. You know, it doesn’t sound you know, it doesn’t sound great. But it doesn’t sound terrible, either. Right? Now, if we have some organization here in which we have some target notes, right, starting notes, target notes, and then we start to fill in between there. Now that organization as you just heard it, right, it sounds good, right? You might not love every single line. But at least you’re going to be able to get through the song. And you’re going to be able to put together a solo, because you have these main kind of like, like buoys that you’re getting to these waypoints as I like to call them, right. Like, these are points in the map that Okay, we’re gonna go there, then we’re going to go here, then we’re gonna go here, then we’re gonna go here. Now what happens in between those points? Yeah, you know, it might be a great adventure, it might not be a great adventure adventure. But the point is, as long as you get to those points, you’re going to reach your destination. I also want to remind you that I have my new standards by the dozen course, which is going to be starting this week, right? So if you’re a member of jazz edge, you’ll be able to take advantage of that course. And if you have questions on the confident improviser, be sure to join me on Thursdays at 1pm. And you can The link is right in the members area. And then you can ask me any questions and get feedback on your upline? Alright, so anyway, that’s it for me guys. Thanks a lot and I will see you soon.

Piano Mindset

Three ways to improve both your practice and performance.

Hey guys, Willie Myette, creator of jazz edge, and I want to welcome you to episode number 12 of the confident improviser podcast. Today, we are going to be talking about piano mindset. And I’m going to share with you three ways that you can improve both your performance, and also your practice at the piano. Now, I just want to remind you that this podcast goes along with the competent improviser program, which you could find a jazz edge. If you want more information, and also replays, you can go back to the confident Alright, so let’s get into this piano mindset. And first of all, let’s let’s just figure out like, what is the definition of mindset? Well, if you go to Google the definition, it says, the established set of attitudes held by somebody, so whatever it is that you decide to believe in, that’s your mindset. Now, when I’m talking about mindset at the piano, how I like to describe it is what you decide to focus on. Alright, so where is your focus? And let me give you a couple of just fun, silly examples. All right. So if you get into a fight with a friend, right, just before you sit down to practice, well, where is your mindset going to be right, you’re going to be thinking about that conversation that you had. Or let’s say that you just scratched off a lottery ticket, and you just want a million dollars. And now you’re going to sit down and practice the piano, right? Where’s your mindset going to be, it’s probably going to be on that brand new Steinway grand piano that you’re going to buy, right. So wherever your mind is at, and whatever it is that you’re focusing on, that is going to be what is going to either help you or hinder you when it comes to practicing. And also performance. Right, so let’s dive in into three different examples.

First of all,

let’s talk about performance mindset. Now, one thing that I suggest that students do is before they actually sit and play a song, that they actually take a moment and just breathe, kind of hear the song a little bit in their head, maybe hum a few bars of it. And this is good for several different reasons. Number one, the the most practical reason is it helps you to establish the tempo, it’s so easy to start a song either too fast, or too slow. So by you sitting there for a second and just kind of, you know, humming the song, it just makes sure that you kind of have it, you know, at the right tempo. And a good suggestion is make sure that you know what the bridge is, as well, right. So if you’re if you’re doing like, eight misbehaving, boo, boo, boo, boo, boo, boo, boom, right, so is the beginning of a misbehaving the bridges, dadda, dadda, dadda, dadda, dadda dadda, right. So if you start to sound off on badoo, badoo, badoo, badoo, did it really fast, and you get to the rich data, that might be too fast for you. So make sure that you go through the main sections of the song and just you know, what the tempo should be, so that you don’t get yourself into a trouble spot. The last thing you want to do is start a song at one tempo, and then have to change to a different tempo in the middle of the song, the audience will hear that every single time, right. And it’s very, very difficult to cover that up. So you really want to keep a nice steady tempo throughout the entire song. Of course, I’m generalizing as you get better, yes, you can change tempo, and all of that, but I’m talking about changing tempo, when you weren’t, you know, really thinking about changing tempo, right? The other thing that that little bit of pause before you start to play, what it does, it helps to set up the audience as well, when you have pause. Right? Do you see that pause that like kind of, like you start to fill in with your own mind, hey, what’s what’s going on? Why is there silence? You know, like, what’s he going to do? What’s he going to say? what’s he going to play? Right? So it kind of helps to build up a little bit of that drama, before you start to play. You also allow the audience time to kind of kind of chill a little bit before the next song, right? So if you just ended one song, and you’re going to play another song, kind of gives the audience a moment like to kind of rest their ears a little bit, right? So for instance, if I’m going to sit down like the song that I like to use in the site is my romance. It’s a great standard part of our step by step standards course. Right? So if I’m going to sit down, I’m gonna play the song. I’m just gonna jump right in.

Right, see, I just jumped right into it’s kind of sloppy and whatnot. Now imagine I do this. If you’re listening in the car, you’re going to hear some silence, right? But that silence will help to build a little bit of drama. So here I go.

Do you hear that

little bit, that little bit of a pause before I start to play just helps to set the mood. And I’m so happy to see so many students have been doing this and joining in on coaching and showing this and what a difference in their play, it sounds so much more relaxed, it sounds so much more controlled. So record yourself on video playing and try both ways, try just jumping right into a song, then take a minute, just kind of put your hands in your lap, look at the keys, or close your eyes. Use this as a time to just kind of relax the body, you know, kind of get prepared, like hum a few bars to the song, and then put your hands on the keys and then start to play. This isn’t like 60 seconds of pause. I’m really talking like maybe 10 to 15 seconds of pause. Alright, so that’s the first thing that your performance mindset. Now there are many other things in performance mindset as well. Like thinking about getting rid of all the mental garbage Oh, I can’t do it, you know, all of that negativity. That’s where you take a minute to breathe, and hey, look, it’s just it is what it is. Just play. We’re all human beings. We all make mistakes, it’s absolutely fine. Nobody’s going to get arrested or die, you know, for making a mistake at the piano. So just let it be right? just just just let it flow. Alright, Second thing, practice mindset. Okay, so like the example I was saying, you know, if you just want a million dollars in the lottery, and now you’re gonna, Okay, I’m gonna go sit and practice piano, you’re likely not going to be really focused on what you’re practicing, right? You’re going to be thinking about all the things that you want to, you’re going to want to buy with that million dollars. So when you’re getting ready to practice, it is helpful before you sit down to practice to have an idea of, Okay, this is what I’m going to do. This is what I want to try and achieve. This is my goal, okay, for this practice session. Remember, I don’t really like to use the word goal for long term stuff. I like the idea of focus instead. But goals are good for more short term, you know, things like a practice session, what is my goal here for today? What do I want to get down? You know, I want to go through and I want to do my rootless chord voicings, you know, my dominant seventh rootless chord voicings and all 12 keys, Okay, great, or I want to be able to practice, you know, four major scales, nice and smooth and slowly hands together, Okay, great, you know, or I want to be able to learn the first part of this song, whatever it is, coming into your practice session, with a clear idea of what it is that you want to get out of that practice session is going to dramatically change. You know, what you get out of that practice session, remember, garbage in, garbage out. So if you just kind of sit down, like, Okay, I’m just gonna sit down and practice. And then you know, a lot of times students will sit down, and what are they doing, you know, you sit down, and they start to play, you know, stuff that they already know, right? And then they, they get up from the practice session. And it’s like, they didn’t learn anything new, they just basically practice all the stuff that they already knew. That’s not a really good practice session isn’t that’s more of a repertoire, practice. So there are many different ways in which you can approach this. And it really depends on you, I’m not going to tell you, oh, write down notes beforehand, have a document on your computer, you don’t have a notebook, you do whatever works for you, right, if you want to write down some goals, you know, or an idea of what you want to get out of your practice session.


go ahead and do that sticky notes, that’s fine. Putting it you know, if you have an iPhone using Apple notes, putting it in there, using some other third party program that, you know, you could take notes in, you know,

Google Docs, whatever

it is that you want to do, or you can even just wing it, you know, but at least you take a minute, maybe 60 seconds, two minutes, and think about what do I want to get out of this practice session. Okay, it’s also a good time, while you’re doing that, to do a little bit of stretching and breathing, right, just kind of warming up the body, you know, like, you know, doing some nice, easy stretching, if you need some ideas for that. Take a look at my pain, tension and technique lesson, you know, but there are many different stretches that you can do, you know, stretching your neck as well back and forth, nice and easy. You know, like doing that kind of stuff, rolling the shoulders. You know, all of that stuff is just good to kind of warm up and loosen up the body. Before you sit in practice. Again, we’re not talking, you know, like, oh, you’re going to do a 20 minute yoga session nama stay. You know, yoga is great. I love all of that stuff. I’m not saying you have to do that. In order to sit down and have a good practice session, I’m saying take 60 seconds, maybe two minutes, do a little bit of light stretching. And while you’re doing that, just think about what you want to achieve at the piano. And remember, this is mindset, right? And if we go back to what mindset is, it’s like an establishment of attitudes that a person holds, right? So you can listen to all this and be like, that’s a bunch of hooey. Okay, well, now you have the mindset of like, you know, you disagree with with me, and absolutely fine. You know, it’s not going to be for everybody. But it’s what you decide to kind of have in your brain. If you think I’m full of it, then go ahead and do your own thing. And best of luck to you. If you agree with this, then try incorporating this into your practice. All right, the last one is theory mindset. There’s no question that there’s a lot of theory involved with playing the piano right now, if all you want to do is just sit down and play songs, and hey, just show me songs. I don’t care about the theory or anything like that. Okay, well, then fine, then what will happen is like, you’ll learn songs, but you’ll never truly understand what it is that you’re playing, right. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Okay, there really is nothing wrong with that. Me personally, I am the type of player where I want to know what’s going on, right? I don’t want to be beholden to somebody else to have to tell me what’s going on here. I want to know for myself, so theory, as I’ve said many times before, is really a great thing to practice away from the piano. So theory mindset means that when I am away from the piano, I’m still going to be thinking about piano theory, right. And when I think about that piano theory, and I start to visualize, you know, chords, scales, maybe even improvisation, melody, you know, progressions, that visualization process helps me get better at the piano. There was a study that was done, and I shared a TED talk on the jazz edge Facebook group, so you can take a look at that Ted Talk. But basically, there’s a study on basketball, basketball, free throw mindset. And if you do a Google search for that, I think the doctor was Dr. Babbitt, or something, Babcock, something like that. But you can find that study and read up on that. And basically, here’s the gist of the study. So there were basically two different groups or three groups, one group of basketball players just did nothing. Okay. So obviously, you kind of know what’s going to happen with them, right, they’re not going to improve, they did nothing, they just sat around and did nothing. That was the control group. The other group practice free throws for X amount of time, I don’t know how long it was, I think it was a few sessions of like, 20 minutes each or something. The other group practice free throws just in their mind, right. So they imagine themselves, they visualize themselves, practicing free throws, and then all three groups got together at the end. And they, you know, found out like, who improved and who didn’t? Well, obviously, the ones who did nothing sat around while they didn’t improve at all right, you kind of know, that’s gonna happen, the groups that actually practice the free throws, physically, you know, they

actually threw the ball, they improved. Sure. Okay, that makes sense. But what was most surprising is that the group that practice the free throws, just mentally, right, so they just visualize it in their head, then practicing that free throw, they also improved, right? So now, there’s so much that we don’t know about the brain. And nobody really has a complete, you know, handle on it and understanding on it. But we do kind of know, and, and science is telling us that that visualization process really does help. So if you’re away from the piano, this is the point of Guinea and if you’re away from the piano, and you’re thinking about chords, scales, progressions, melodies, whatever it is, whatever you’re practicing, away from the piano, believe it or not, it will help your performance. I have even seen classical musicians have their music, and they’re practicing it on like a desk. So there’s no piano there, they’re just tapping it, you know, on on a table, and then that helps as well. Moving your fingers like that. That’s another way you know, if you’re, you know, driving in the car, of course, all of this and do it safely. But you know, you could visually practice you know, chords, you know, with your hand just trying to get the position of those chords and starting to feel that position of those chords, practicing scales fingering of scale, so you could kind of do air piano, famous jazz pianist, bud Paul. The as I know the story, you can look it up for, you know, to see if it’s factual or not, but I think A story goes from what I heard, he was admitted to a hospital. And he was there for a while. And he practiced piano by visualizing a piano on the ceiling, and playing the piano on a ceiling. There was another saxophonist art pepper who actually was in jail. And he practiced saxophone, by using a tin can believe that, you know, like, isn’t that crazy, and I was actually writing his book, straight life, which that’s a crazy book and a crazy ride. It’s a very interesting book to read. But this is an idea that, that that visualization in that, you know, air, guitar, air piano, air saxophone really does help and really does work, right. So again, think about these three different ways of mindset, performance mindset, taking a little bit of a pause, kind of thinking about the performance before you actually start to perform. Practice mindset. Think about what you want to gain at that practice session. What’s

your goal? What do you want to get out of this practice session? And finally, theory, mindset. Think about theory, scales, chords progressions, think about that stuff away from the piano, right?

You could be going for a walk and be doing theory in your head, those three different types of mindset will really start to change your playing, you know, pretty dramatically. Right? And, of course, this you know, I’m talking about piano, but it’s really for any instrument, right. And if you have any questions, be sure to join me on Thursdays 1pm. Eastern, that’s when I do the confident improviser live training. All of those links are found right inside the members area, jazz edge calm. Thanks for joining me guys. And I’ll see you in the next podcast.

Switching Styles in Music

Learn how to switch your improvisation between jazz, rock, blues and other styles.

Hey guys, Willie Myette, creator of jazz edge. Welcome to episode number 11 of the confident improviser podcast. Today, we’re going to be talking about how to switch styles in music. And you’ll learn how to switch out your improvisational lines that you’ve been learning in the confident improviser. Now, just remember, if you want more information on the confident improviser just go back to the confident And this podcast is really designed to go along with the confident improviser. Alright, so switching styles in music. So if we have I have exercise 11 here in front of me, and I’m just going to put on the medium swing tempo at 100 beats per minute, this is what we’re typically doing. This is what you’re typically hearing in the competent improviser so far, here we go.

I’d say you’re learning these licks you learn in these short phrases, short progressions, and you know, it’s building up your improvisation. Well, now, many students would be, you know, thinking themselves, you know, I know I would Well, how do I apply these licks and improvisation ideas to other styles of music. Because even though I love jazz doesn’t mean that I’m always going to play jazz. Sometimes I might play blues or rock or Latin or whatever. So how do I apply these licks to other styles? Alright, so the first thing you have to understand is, the main difference in styles is the rhythm. Okay, now, of course we can get into and we could start to split hairs, obviously, of like, Oh, well, you know, jazz has more complicated progressions, and the chords are more complicated. Yes, of course, right. The chords are different. In jazz, you’ll find more seventh chords in tensions, rootless chord voicings all of that, whereas rock pop might be more triadic bass, you know, three note chords, more, you know, I want to say simpler chords, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re, they’re always going to be simple. The point is that the chords are going to usually be played a little bit different. But the real crux of it, if we really boil it down to its most basic difference between, say rock, and blues, and jazz and Latin is really, that drum style, it’s really that beat. It’s really the underlying swing versus straight. Okay, so if I were to change this to say, a rock pattern, it’s gonna sound something like this, right?

Now, these chords that I’m playing in the left hand, yeah, you could still use them might not fit so well. In a rock pattern, you might want to move to more just octaves, or maybe some simple triads. But the one thing you’ll hear that I changed in the right hand, was the way that I interpreted and played the rhythm of the lick. Okay, so when I played it swung, it was more.

And when I played it more in a rock field, I played it more straight, it was more like this. Mm


So, that’s the main difference in your styles. Like I said, of course, the chords are going to be different, the progressions will be different. But if you’re playing and moving from rock to jazz, you probably already know that those chords and progressions are going to be different anyway. So, when it comes to moving your licks from one style to the other, you have to know well, should I be playing it straight or should I be playing it swung? Right? And then straight is d by d by d by d bar, right? And swung is d by d by d by d by right, you could kind of feel that, that swing pattern and the real difference in terms of the rhythm and the difference between straight and swung is in straight eighth notes, okay, or a straight rhythm. You’ll notice that the eighth notes are very straight, they’re very uniform, right? So, if we’re thinking about, you know, the eighth note equaling 100%, the first eighth note is 50%. The second eighth note is 50%, as well, there’s your 100%. But now when we swing it, it’s usually more like 70% on the first eighth note 30% on the second eighth note, right, so that’s where we get the d by d by d by

debugging. And the more that you give to the first one, the more it’s really starting to do, buddy, you know, you can really swing this thing out. So

when we’re playing straight, it sounds like that day by day by day by day. That’s that’s my a thought. That’s what I’m thinking.

I sound like you can hear that debt debt debt debt debt, debt, debt debt, right, my eighth notes, I’m playing them straight. When I swing, it’s more

I’d say you can hear that the eighth notes there are swung, right. So that’s the difference between straight and swung eighth notes. If you need more in depth on that, take a look at my rhythm essentials course, at jazz edge, and you’ll get a whole deep dive on rhythm and vocalizing the rhythms. So now it comes back to well, should I play the rhythm straight? Or should I play it swung for the style, then applying? Well, the first thing you could do is just use your ears. So let me change this to a Latin field. Right I’m going to do a do like a Bossa Nova field, and then bring this down, we’ll bring this down to 120 beats per minute, okay.

All right, so let’s take a look at what I’m going to do is I’m going to play this swung, right in fact, I’m going to do is going to bring it down to 100 beats a minute, just so you can really hear this swing pattern.

And of course, remember, if you’re just kind of jumping in and kind of hearing my stuff for the first time, remember, these exercises are designed to be simple. We’re not blowing off the doors here with our, you know, most creative improvisation ever, you know, it’s a step by step approach here. So sometimes some of these licks are gonna sound, you know, a little hokey, maybe, you know, they might sound a little bit, you know, not not as sophisticated as we might want them to sound. But that’s okay. We will get there. So anyway, when you listen to that, when I was playing the swing eighth notes over the Latin feel, how did it How did it feel to you that it feel like it was it was right that it feel like in the pocket in in the groove, listen to it this time and see if you could figure out what the difference is that I’m doing?

Do you hear the difference? You know, if you didn’t pick it out, and you want to go back and rewind a little bit and see if you could figure it out? So the answer is that when I played it in a Latin feel, right, or in a Bossa Nova feel, I’m playing the eighth notes straight. So I am playing the rhythm straight versus swung. So now the question is, what is a player to do? How do I know if I should play it swung or straight? Well, the first thing you could do is use your ears and just kind of listen to it and see if it sounds right and it feels right. But then there’s also some guidelines. Typically when playing jazz, blues, those are definitely swung styles, like a blues shuffle, it’s a triplet bass, it’s a swung. It’s a swing style, when you’re playing classical music that’s straight, Latin music, funk, rock, those are all straight, eighth kind of fields, and you would want to play straight rhythms. Let’s put out a funk beat here, just a little bit fast. Let’s see how this goes. And then you know, while we’re at it when I was when we put a nice electric piano sound here to

let me do this. I want to bring this up just a little bit so you can hear this.

Alright, so now let me slow this down here, it automatically goes to 140. So let me bring it down to 100 again, so you can kind of really dig in and hear it.

Now listen to this one.

right you can. It feels so weird to play it swung over the funk rhythm. But you could kind of hear and feel that Oh, wait, it just doesn’t feel right. Right. So when we switch styles, the main thing to consider is, what am I doing with my rhythm? Right? So am I playing it straight? Or am I playing it swung? And is the straight or swung? Is that the best choice for this style? Then again, use your ears and listen to the groove. Let’s try another one here. How about blues? In fact, this is a gospel feel, according to

I real pro here. So let’s see what this sounds like. I put out 125 beats per minute.

Okay, this is kind of like a shout, feel. So let’s put it on 200, like I said,

was really, really building me moving fast.

Whoa, boy that’s moving along there. Right. So let’s bring this down a little bit, because I want to really show you something and bring it down to tempo 175

started again.

Now you’ll hear that? Okay, that was 175. And do you hear how it still had some swing to it? Let me bring this down to now let’s go down to 140. Okay, I’ll bring it down to 140 for a tempo. And now listen to it.

All right, so you can you can hear that. All right, that’s more swung up. Devin.

Right, you can hear that swing field. Now let me bring it back up to 200. Again, right? Take a listen to 200. And listen to what happens.

I only put the piano sound on so you can hear it just a little bit better.

little mistake in there. But anyway, you get the point. The point is that when we move faster, we swing less. So as the rhythm moves faster, the swing starts to straighten out. Right? So when you’re playing like a, you know, a blues field and put on a different blues field. Here’s a Chicago shuffle, right?

All right, so you can hear it, it’s swung. Listen, what happens if I play it straight.

Now that one is not so bad, when you play it straight like that it doesn’t sound so so off, right? But you should swing it instead. Right? So the best thing to do is record yourself while doing this, you know, either audio or video so that you could listen back and kind of feel like how does it feel because sometimes when you’re playing it in the moment, you might not really kind of get the field down. Let’s go back to the medium swing again at 100 beats per minute, this time now if it’s a medium swing, so obviously I should be doing what I should be swinging the eighth notes. I’m going to play them straight just so you can hear what that sounds like.

All right. So this is just dipping a toe into the idea of switching styles. And I just wanted to get you guys really thinking about those eighth notes in the straight versus swung rhythm. If you have questions on this, you can join me every Thursday, with the confident improviser live q&a sessions that I do just log into the site and you’ll see it there. If you want help with rhythm, take a look at the rhythm essentials course, that’s a real great course to understand the difference between straight and swung to get down your vocalization. And there are also a bunch of rhythms in there to help get you started. Also, in level, one of the confident improviser, there’s a rhythm practice guide, I would suggest taking a look at that as well. Now what I was using from the drum beats in case you didn’t see it, and you’re just listening in the car or wherever. I’m using ireo Pro. And what we’ve done is we have the competent improviser

backing tracks that can be imported right into AI real pro, right? So you can download them right on the website, and then bring them right into AI real pro. And the beauty is once they’re in AI real pro, you can switch between a number of different styles. So you heard all the styles about switching to today. Well, those are all available in ireal Pro. Alright, so anyway, that’s it for me. Thanks, guys. I will see you in the next episode.