The Jazz Musician’s Guide to Creative Practicing

The Jazz Musician's Guide to Creative Practicing

The Jazz Musician’s Guide to Creative Practicing by David Berkman isn’t a drum book, but it’s one of my favorites of all time and I count it right up there with Kenny Werner’s Effortless Mastery.

What this book provides is a way to approach practicing that actually makes the best use of your time and helps you to avoid pitfalls.

I first heard about The Jazz Musician’s Guide to Creative Practicing from drummer Phil Hey, who studied extensively with Ed Blackwell.

When he told me to get the book, I did not take the recommendation lightly. That said, if you’re like me you might be thinking something like “I already know how to practice” or “I’ve got my own system that works.” I get it and I put off picking up this book for a long time, which I regret.

The Jazz Musician’s Guide to Creative Practicing breaks down practicing many of the areas that jazz musicians struggle with in a way that makes them manageable and easier to master.

Some of the topics might lead you to believe that this isn’t a book for drummers. While it’s true that not every chapter will be as valuable for some, the book as a whole is wonderful. It’s filled with hundreds and hundreds of concrete things to work on, along with anecdotes illustrating the ideas presented.

The Jazz Musician’s Guide to Creative Practicing covers a really wide range of topics:

  • Basic jazz theory, clearly explained
  • How to practice tunes
  • Rhythm, deep groove, metronomes and odd meter
  • How to play fast without losing your ability to make the notes sing

Once again, do yourself a favor and get this book.

David Berkman is also the author of the famed Jazz Harmony Book, which I got to help me with piano and writing tunes.

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Open Studio Jazz Lessons

Wanted to give a quick plug for Open Studio, a great site that features jazz lessons from world-class artists that you can take at your own pace.

I’ve personally purchased courses by jazz drummers Ulysses Owens Jr. and Gregory Hutchinson. I even bought a course by pianist Peter Martin after getting a keyboard and wanting to dive deeper into jazz theory.

I can’t say enough about the quality of the courses offered. They’re worth every penny and you can check out a sample lesson on any of the course pages.

If you decide you want to get one of the courses, here’s a link that will get you $30 off. Full disclosure: I’ll get a credit I can use toward other courses if you do use that link.

Meet the Bass Player

Meet the Bass Player by Allan CoxWhile I still practice with a metronome every day, I like to mix it up, especially when practicing jazz independence and sticking exercises. Lately I’ve been using Meet the Bass Player by Allan Cox. It’s a staple of my practice routine.

This playalong is simple, just bass and rhythm guitar that doesn’t get in the way.

There are a good range of tempos from slow to fast that make it usable whether I’m working on something for the first time or trying to push myself.

I’m currently working a lot on feathering the bass drum (with a strong hi-hat on 2 & 4 and a standard cymbal beat).  Meet the Bass Player has been invaluable.

I end each practice session by focusing on my feathering technique with the bass tracks at 180bpm, 220bpm, 260bpm and 300bpm. Just two weeks ago my max was 260bpm, so I’m encouraged.

Here’s a detail of the tracks and tempos:

Meet the Bass Player by Allan Cox

The other thing this jazz bassline playalong is great for is when working on brush patterns. Having a clean bass line to focus on really helps to hear the brush rhythms and highlights any weaknesses that may need to be worked on.

This is very easy to recommend and a great value at around $10.

Clave Metronome App

I recently started practicing Latin patterns and working out of the book New Ways of Brazilian Drumming by Sergio Gomes. I’ve also been working on Latin independence exercises while reading from the Ted Reed Syncopation book and playing those patterns with my left or right hand.

I quickly got tired of listening to a straight click while practicing and instead of programming the various clave patterns into my drum machine or computer, I searched for an app and found one that’s perfect!

The Clave is highly recommended. It’s also free.

The interface is brilliantly simple and gives me everything I need. Tempo adjustment, several different patterns, the ability to invert the clave from 3:2 to 2:3 and an option for low or high pitched claves.

Here are some screenshots:

 

Clave metronome

Click here to get the Clave app

Here’s the book I mentioned above. It came highly recommended to me by one of the faculty of the Jazz Studies department at the University of Minnesota.

Triplet Warm Up Exercise

For most of my life warm up exercises were always something I did before gigs. I never really thought too much about warming up for a practice session. Lately, I’m finding that I can practice much longer (physically and mentally) if I warm up.

As with my last post, I try to make sure that I’m not just going through the motions while warming up, but working on something with purpose that’s helping me grow in some way at the same time.

Here’s a simple one that’s great to start slow to work on control while building up the muscle memory to effortlessly pull off singles, doubles and paradiddles between the snare drum and bass drum while playing the standard jazz cymbal pattern.

Download as PDF

Triplet Warm Up for Jazz Drummers

Download as PDF