LJS 83: How to Improve Speed and Accuracy in Your Jazz Solos

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Welcome to episode 83 of the LJS Podcast where today we are answering a question from a caller who asked how to improve speed and accuracy in his jazz solos. Brent goes over a great exercise that you can start working on today to develop your time and rhythm feel, as well as technique. Listen in!

Listen to episode 83

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In today’s episode, we are answering a question from a listener who left a voicemail on the podcast questions hotline. This listener wanted to know how to improve his speed and accuracy in his jazz solos. Here’s his question:

“Hi, Brent. Love this show and have been listening for some time. Great technical information, and also really good psychological and emotional tips. My question is, as a newer jazzer, my question has to do with speed. I can get a fairly decent solo that sounds pretty good just playing myself, but in no way does it sound like the pro’s that I’ll see on stage or even on YouTube and that has to do often with a speed and rhythmical speed, and I don’t even mean Charlie Parker Coltrane style speed. So my question is, how do you make that leap from, yes, getting the basic understanding of the what notes to be able to play over a particular chord in progression to really be doing that with a lot more speed and accuracy. Thanks and keep up the great work!”

To help answer this question, I talk about 3 elements that I believe make a big difference when it comes to playing with speed and accuracy:

  1. Great time feel.

  2. Great command over rhythm.

  3. Great technique.

So to help answer this, I go over a great exercise that addresses all three of these elements at once. This exercise is definitely worth your time!

Here’s the process:

  1. Pick a jazz standard you are familiar with.
  2. The first chorus, play only half notes in your improvisation.
  3. The second chorus, play only quarter notes.
  4. The third chorus, play only eighth notes.
  5. The third chorus, play only eighth note triplets.
  6. (Optional) If speed is slow enough, try playing sixteenth notes.

This exercise can be challenging, but will really push you and help you grow. Play with a metronome or a backing track if that helps.

If you are not experienced with playing over chord changes, you can also play “free,” meaning improvise whatever you would like, no need for chord changes.

Give this a try this week, take your time, and let me know how it goes in the comments below!

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Brent Vaartstra is a professional jazz guitarist and educator living in New York City. He is the head blogger and podcast host for learnjazzstandards.com which he owns and operates. He actively performs around the New York metropolitan area and is the author of the Hal Leonard publications "500 Jazz Licks" and "Visual Improvisation for Jazz Guitar." To learn more, visit www.brentvaartstra.com.