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Why Improvisation Matters













If you don’t play jazz, blues, or some other type of music that involves spontaneous playing, you might wonder what purpose there is in learning to improvise. Sure, “jazzheads” can sit around listening to John Coltrane or some other historic figure, but how can this arcane skill be of any value to a contemporary musician? Listen to popular songs, film scores or even academic classical compositions, and you will hear very little improvised material. Even in the classic rock guitar-hero era, most solos were brief 8-bar affairs that could (and often were) pre-composed by the soloist. So what’s the point of putting in massive amounts of time for this “obsolete” skill? Why not just work it all out in advance?

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The Tyranny of the Click Track










Like many musicians, over the decades I have worked very hard on my “time” and accuracy, seeking to play “perfect” time. There are legends of virtuoso studio drummers listening to a metronome, leaving, walking around the block, and returning without losing a beat. What is perfect time? Is it better?

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Music Production Story Time

In The Not-So-Distant Future (la la la)

(In this play, Randy will be crustily portraying the role of Grandpa)

Kids: “Grandpa, tell us again about the days before Auto-Tune!”

Grandpa: “Well, I know it’s hard to imagine, but there were these people called singers who could stand in front of an audience or a microphone and perform a song from beginning to end! ”

Kids: “But didn’t they use a computer to fix wrong notes?”

Grandpa:  “No, they actually sang the whole song correctly!”

Kids: “But that’s not possible!”

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Triads Over Bass Part II: Add 11

In our last lesson, We discussed the use of major triads superimposed various intervals above a bass note. Adding tones to these triads can make these voicings even richer. One of many ways to enhance these triads is to add the 11th or perfect 4th to the triads. Not to be confused with sus4 chords, where the 4th replaces the 3rd, these chords keep the 3rd and add the 11th, creating a four-note shape.

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The Myth of Difficulty









When confronting a task, it is common for people to describe it as “difficult,” or “hard.” While superficially valid, these labels do little to move us toward completion. In fact, they may lead us in the wrong direction. Let’s re-examine our concept of “difficulty.”

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Keyboard Harmony: Triads over Bass I

In a previous video, we discussed learning the various major triads by playing them through the cycles of 4ths and 5ths. In this lesson, we will learn some ways to use these triads to build more complex chords.

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What To Do When You Mess Up










We all have had gigs where things didn’t go so well. If you are new to the field, these may be agonizing and discouraging, and even if you are a veteran, they are still pretty bad. Let’s talk about how to handle this humiliation and learn from it, since nobody is immune…

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Three Keys to Improvisation









Improvisation is the spontaneous creation of music. Depending on the style, there will be various guidelines and boundaries that define what will work, but in all these situations, there are three skills that need to be in balance. All of these can be improved using organized practice methods, as we discussed in this post.

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How to Have a Good Rehearsal










Over the years, I have gathered some ideas about rehearsal etiquette. I know I have messed some of these up, especially as a young, excitable musician. These ideas apply to every style of music, from orchestra to rock bands. (I have done both) Some of these might seem obvious, but believe me, there are musicians out there pulling all of these stunts.

Just my opinion, as usual…

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Keyboard Harmony: Triads in Cycles

Cycle of 4ths

Here is a lesson on practicing major triads through the cycle of 4ths. The pattern of chords ascending by perfect 4ths (two whole-steps and one half-step) is fundamental to tonal harmony, and is sometimes called “strong root motion.” Practicing these patterns helps us learn to find these chords in all 12 keys, and in an order they often appear.

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