Advantages of using the Jazzmaster Workout

This logical, fast-moving method was originally developed to be used in a workshop situation. Teachers can use Section I, as a Theory Text, alone, as it covers all the general concepts (basic through advanced) of tonal music and improvisation, while leaving the door open for the instructor's personal interpretation. The first few chapters present basic concepts and can be moved through fairly rapidly. Later chapters are very intensive and should be augmented with plenty of outside examples from the recommended tunes for study.

Students and instructors will find the combination of the Section I and Section II, the Jazzmaster Workout Improvisation Practice Method most helpful for structuring individual practice sessions or as a framework for larger group workshops and classes. A recommended approach to a college-level workshop might alternate between a theory class and a performance lab using the Jazzmaster Workout method to provide focus, direction, and progress analysis.

Go beyond connecting the dots

Most methods teach scales and licks that can be played against particular chords and chord progressions; these patterns are then applied to different chords of a tune as a sort of decoration. For example, you may learn a lick for a II-V chord pattern, memorize it in all 12 keys, then plug it in whenever you come across that pattern.

While useful as far as it goes, this approach can lead to a mechanical sort of playing; the music sounds like a string of stock phrases instead of a coherent statement. This stereotyped playing might be called "connecting the dots."

This is not the sort of playing we hear from great improvisers. The best musicians create clear, original melodies with a personal, distinctive style. They communicate memorable musical ideas. Of course, their improvisations "fit" the chords—the players are well aware of the appropriate scales and devices available to them. But instead of plugging in ready-made licks to "connect the dots", the greats sound like they're spontaneously singing powerful, melodic lines through their instruments.

Functional Harmony and Chordscales

Many of the theoretical concepts presented are based on the idea of functional harmony as taught at Berklee College of Music. Functional harmony is the analysis and the hearing of a chord's activity or movement in a key. Once a chord's function is understood, a logical choice of scales and substitute scales can be determined for improvisational purposes. Once a chordscale is chosen, a variety of voicings and melodic possibilities become available. The concepts shown here reflect common usage in most typical standard tunes of American popular culture.

Play what you hear and not what you know!

That statement, attributed to Miles Davis, is an eloquent expression of true musical improvisation. It means to hear and play the music that comes out of yourself and not out of books. The Jazzmaster Workout practice method is aimed precisely at developing that goal.

The Jazzmaster Workout emphasizes the importance of the ear, since sound is the medium of musical expression. This method is designed not only to help you understand, but also to hear, most of the typical musical contexts within which you'll be expressing yourself.

By combining theoretical concepts with ear training and practical, efficient exercises, you will rapidly grow in a well rounded way. Relative pitch perception, intonation, rhythm, chords, scales, harmony, and melody are all developed together, rather than as isolated fields of study.

The result: players at all levels (beginning - advanced) can quickly move beyond playing by the dots and on to creating freely, "speaking" their ideas in musical phrases and sentences.

Build Relative Pitch

The logic of the concepts presented should stand the test of the ear. That is they must be heard to be fully understood and used by the student. Each chapter of the text systematically introduces and explains new concepts meant to be studied, sung, and applied in the practice method.

Starting simply with a major scale, each new concept introduced builds on and extends the idea of relative pitch perception. All musical structures are shown as number (pitch) relationships to a tonal center. By singing and transposing them in 12 keys, you will gain a clear understanding and aural recognition of musical structure.

Furthermore, for improvising musicians, these concepts must also be completely integrated into instrumental technique through disciplined practicing. The Jazzmaster Workout practice method is designed to accomplish these goals as efficiently and as enjoyably as possible.

Begin playing now!

Even though the musical concepts become very advanced, the Jazzmaster Workout approach is also based on the premise that you can begin to play your own ideas from the start of your study, rather than at the end. From the very first practice session, players at every level—even beginners who are just becoming comfortable with the major scales—will start to make up their own melodies and patterns spontaneously.

Any player who adopts the daily "workout" will soon notice a dramatic difference in the way he or she hears and plays music. Rather than thinking of tunes and chord progressions as a series of isolated events strung together, you'll perceive them as movements in tonality—movements triggering your own original ideas. And you'll be able to express those ideas, to speak the language, to communicate.

Best of all—it's FUN!

It's fun to learn music, fun to grow musically and the better you get, the more enjoyable and satisfying it becomes. Improvising music is not only a joy, but a continuing discovery of our spiritual source and our own individual worth.