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Forget All That and Just Wail

Play this scale.  Learn this chord.  Transcribe this solo.  Learn to play by ear.  Learn to play what you hear. All of these things we’re supposed to know as jazz musicians are important, but sometimes your knowledge can almost get in the way of making music if you let it.

Jazz is a demanding art that requires a lot of dedication.  However, if we aren’t careful, we can focus too much on the technical side and miss the whole point!

Bird said it best:

“You’ve got to learn your instrument.   Then, you practice, practice, practice.  And then, when you finally get up there on the bandstand,  forget all that and just wail.”

-Charlie Parker

Let’s not forget that music is supposed to make us feel something.  This is true for jazz, just as for any other style.  When I hear Train or Miles or Bird, I hear intense emotions coming out of their horns.  The music creates a strong vibe and the audience feels something.  So when you’re practicing all that other stuff, remember that it needs to be second nature, so you can forget all that and just wail!  You don’t want to be focusing on notes or rhythms, you want to be making music!  How can you do that in your own music?  Practice hard; the rest is up to you!

I’ll leave you with some inspiration:


Camden Hughes
Camden is a working jazz pianist, multi-instrumentalist, and music educator currently living near Boise, ID. He teaches music at the Idaho Arts Charter School, and is the jazz adjunct professor at Northwest Nazarene University. Check out his music at


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