We often get emails from our readers and listeners wondering what they should practice. While we have plenty of answers to that in our archives such as our 21 quick-fire jazz skills and our beginner’s guide to playing jazz, sometimes it can be helpful to have a small tangible, achievable goal to work towards.

When I get stuck not knowing exactly what to practice, I always go looking into three main categories: technique, jazz repertoire, and jazz language.

Technique: working on things that will help improve your abilities on your instrument. Furthermore, working on things that will help you understand your instrument better. The more your instrument is holding you back, the more difficult playing jazz music will be. We want to break free of everything holding us back.

Jazz repertoire: learning jazz standards which are the vehicles in which jazz musicians use to improvise. Learning jazz standards is important because they will help us learn the jazz language, and understand the music better.

Jazz language: working on specific things that will help you play better jazz language. This often has a lot to do with learning licks, solos, and lines by ear from important jazz musicians. It’s all about mimicking.

To help you get on the right track, I’ve created a simple 7-day practice routine for you. As I always do, this routine follows the less is more rule. I believe that it is important to focus on only a few things at a time, and really get inside of those things. Information overload doesn’t help us learn. It only bogs us down and hinders us from truly getting the most out of what we are learning. Therefore, you will only practice 1 thing from those categories each day.

It’s important to mention that this routine is a quite watered-down excerpt of my e-Course 30 Steps to Better Jazz Playing. If you really want to get serious about your jazz practicing, I would check it out. But for now, this is a great start!

7 Day Jazz Practice Routine

Day 1

  • Technique: Practice the 1st pattern in this 6 Patterns for Major Scales handout.
  • Repertoire: Pick a jazz standard you want to learn in our Index and learn only the melody by ear.
  • Jazz Language: Find a jazz lick you like from a recording over a particular chord or chord progression, learn it from the recording by ear, and transpose it into concert C and F. You will be learning it in all 12 keys.

Day 2

  • Technique: Practice the 2nd pattern in the 6 Patterns for Major Scales handout.
  • Repertoire: Learn the chords/harmony of the jazz standard you are learning by ear. You can check your work later with the chord charts provided in the Index.
  • Jazz Language: Take the lick you learned on Day 1 and transpose it into concert Bb and Eb.

Day 3

  • Technique: Practice the 3rd pattern in the 6 Patterns for Major Scales handout.
  • Repertoire: Practice working on playing the arpeggios of the harmony in the jazz standard you are learning. You can find a good example here.
  • Jazz Language: Take your lick and transpose it into concert Ab and Db.

Day 4

  • Technique: Practice the 4th pattern in the 6 Patterns for Major Scales handout.
  • Repertoire: Simply practice playing the head, and improvising over the jazz standard you are learning, using a metronome or the play-along provided in the Index.
  • Jazz Language: Take your lick and transpose it into concert Gb and B.

Day 5

  • Technique: Practice the 5th pattern in the 6 Patterns for Major Scales handout.
  • Repertoire: Practice playing the head, and improvising over the jazz standard you are learning, using a metronome or the play-along provided in the Index. Simply playing the tune should be the bulk of your practicing.
  • Jazz Language: Take your lick and transpose it into concert E and A.

Day 6

  • Technique: Practice the last pattern in the 6 Patterns for Major Scales handout.
  • Repertoire: Practice playing the head, and improvising over the jazz standard you are learning, using a metronome or the play-along provided in the Index.
  • Jazz Language: Take your lick and transpose it into concert D and G.

Day 7

  • Technique: Review all 6 patterns from the 6 Patterns for Major Scales handout.
  • Repertoire: Practice playing the head, and improvising over the jazz standard you are learning, using a metronome or the play-along provided in the Index.
  • Jazz Language: Review your lick in all 12 keys.

I hope you enjoy this 7-day practice routine. Having focused, goal-oriented practicing is incredibly important and will ultimately reap the most results in your jazz playing. Remember, if you really want to take this kind of practicing to the next level, sign up for our 30 Steps to Better Jazz Playing e-Course.

30 Stepsto Better Jazz Playing

5 COMMENTS

  1. This is really good, but do you agree that chordal instruments need to vary this somewhat? I'm a guitarist, and so learning the melody means learning it all over the neck. Doing the scale exercises (or triads, or whatever) means (I think?) doing them all over the fretboard (say, the 7 Berklee positions). There also needs to be time to work on comping (a problem I have at jam sessions is that I run out of different ways to play the chords fairly early, which is a big problem when 8 horn players are taking solos). Any thoughts/posts on this? Thanks!

  2. Hey Brent great stuff as Always… but I couldn't help but notice that the transcription for the patterns in Bass Clef are in A natural minor (Not the key of C) was this intensional ? If So Why?… For me personally it's fine because i read both but if it wasn't intentional it might be a little confusing for some of the younger players. I'm an Upright Bass Player and believe that we… as Upright and Electric players should read both clefs… Please get back to me on this when you take time out of your busy schedule I'd really appreciate it… and Please keep up the Excellent work that you do to help others it's very much needed… Stay well my Friend.

    • Hey Madden! Thanks for reaching out. I looked into it and it looks like there was an incorrect version of that handout uploaded. Thanks for pointing that out! It has been updated and is now in concert C.

  3. Thank you for this, will definitely try this out. Instead of just one week to practice on a standard I'm going to try doing the specific standard for two weeks, and replace the technique exercises with melodic dictation.

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