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--- Mar 24 1999 Go to category
Subject: Advice for playing jazz?
Category: Improvisation/Soloing
From: Jazz Online (sf,ca)

I am 15 years old and have been listening to your music for a long time. I have been inspired by you since a very young age. I like that you have a balance of technical skill and compositional skill. After hearing 'Letter from Home,' I decided that guitar would be my instrument. I have been playing for two years, and am mostly interested in playing jazz. Do you have any advice for young people (or any people) who are interested in playing modern jazz?

Pat’s Answer:

it sounds like you started pretty much at the same age i did (12 or 13). it's great that you decided to focus on jazz so early.

my first suggestion would be to listen alot to as much great recorded music as you can and to try to learn about how the music has gotten to this point. besides being educational, this part of the whole deal is really fun, cause you get to see how much great music has gone down over the past 80 or 90 years in the jazz field and the incredible variety of it all. i think there is always the natural tendency for young people to focus on music that is relatively contemporary to their time. in my case, i was crazy about wes montgomery. he was also the number one guy in contemporary jazz at the time i started (1967). i used to read about how HE thought charlie christian was the cat, and when i heard charlie christian's records i could see how it was great but wes "spoke" to me more in a language that was of my time. i have a feeling that this kind of thing still happens. but for sure, the more you know about the history of the music and particularly the way your instrument has developed the better foundation you'll have to develop an informed point of view that might lead you to playing good yourself at some point.

the next most important thing i would suggest is to spend as much time as possible around musicians who are better than you are. despite all of the excellent educational materials that are out there, jazz is still essentially a "spoken" tradition, and the "apprenticeship" system that has been a part of that tradition is in place for good reason. if you are the best guy in the band, get in another band!

and of course, you HAVE to practice like crazy. during the years between when i was 13 til 19, i would guess i averaged around 10 to 12 hours a day with the guitar in my hands or sitting at the piano studying harmony.