The Jazz Musician’s Guide to Creative Practicing

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.


David Berkman’s book provides a wonderful glance at tips for practicing the art of improvising. The book is well-organized, fun to read, and is bursting with things to do and ponder. Reading through the book has definitely got my wheels turning and ideas flowing.”
— Bob Mintzer

I always knew David Berkman had a way with words, but this is incredible! The Jazz Musician’s Guide To Creative Practicing is less a ‘how to’ and more a ‘what if’ kind of book. Hooray! THIS is what we need more of in the world of jazz education. The book not only inspires but welcomes you to broaden your awareness. Man, I sure hope it gets made into a major motion picture!”
— Matt Wilson

A refreshing and edifying insight into the nuts and bolts of our daily creative pursuit. For the musician on any level, this is a gift that keeps on giving.”
— Steve Wilson

I love reviewing various texts about how to play better. This one rings a bell for me. I have played with David, and he’s practicing what he preaches. He gives some great suggestions on how to enjoy the process of learning to improvise on any instrument. Thanks, David!”
— Lee Konitz

David Berkman’s bio

Since moving to New York in 1985, David Berkman has been an important part of the jazz community.

He is an award-winning composer/bandleader (2000 Doris Duke/Chamber Music America New Works Creation and Presentation Grant), a recording artist whose 9 recordings  as a leader have appeared on numerous best records of the year critic’s lists (the New York Times, the Village Voice, Downbeat, JazzIz, Jazz Times and others) and an award-winning jazz clinician who has performed and taught at numerous jazz camps, universities and conservatories around the United States, South America, Asia and Europe.

David has played in countless bands including those of Cecil McBee, Tom Harrell and the Vanguard Orchestra and has performed with and/or recorded and/or arranged for numerous jazz luminaries, including: Sonny Stitt,, Brian Blade, Joe Lovano, Dave Douglas, Ray Drummond, Billy Hart, Dick Oatts, Tony Malaby, Robin Eubanks, Steve Wilson, Chris Potter, Scott Wendholt, Lenny White, Scott Colley, Bill Stewart, Dave Stryker, Fathead Newman, Hank Crawford, and Jane Monheit.

He’s published three books with Sher Music Publishing, “The Jazz Musician’s Guide to Creative Practicing” (2007) and “The Jazz Singer’s Guidebook” (2009) and “The Jazz Harmony Book” (2014).

David Berkman is the director of the Queens College Jazz M.M. degree program.

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