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LJS 145: How to Listen to a Jazz Recording (And Learn From It)

Welcome to episode 145 of the LJS Podcast where today we are listening to some jazz together and doing some critical listening. We take Miles Davis’ rendition of “Someday My Prince Will Come” and pick a section of it apart by honing in on each instrument individually. Lot’s to learn from this recording. Listen in!

Listen to episode 145

I commonly hear from subscribers that they don’t have a lot of time to practice. I totally get that, and often find myself in the same boat.

But I always suggest to those tight on time to simply do some listening. Listening to jazz or music, in general, can be one of the best forms of practicing, especially if done in an intentional way.

In this episode, we do some critical listening to see what we can discover from a section of Miles Davis’ rendition of Someday My Prince Will Come.

We go through the last chorus of Miles’ solo and the first chorus of Hank Mobley’s solo and listen through it. Each time we focus on a different instrument in the band to see what we can learn.

Here’s an overview of today’s episode:

1. The framework for critical listening.

2. Listening to the band as a whole.

3. A really cool concept Miles plays in his solo.

4. Listening to Wynton Kelley and takeaways from his comping.

5. Listening to Paul Chambers and takeaways from his approach from one solo to the next.

6. Listening to Jimmy Cobb and takeaways from his approach from one solo to the next.

My big challenge for you is to pick a jazz standard or any recording you are interested in and apply this framework for critical listening. Listen to the song as a whole, then listen to it each time focusing on one instrument. Then find one thing you thought was interesting and figure out what it was.

For me, the interesting part that I learned was Miles’ use of the #11’s. This was something completely enlightening to me, and this process was worth even just this takeaway.

Important Links

Someday My Prince Will Come (recordings and resources)

30 Steps to Better Jazz Playing 

Brent Vaartstra
Brent Vaartstra is a professional jazz guitarist and educator living in New York City. He is the head blogger and podcast host for which he owns and operates. He actively performs around the New York metropolitan area and is the author of the Hal Leonard publication "Visual Improvisation for Jazz Guitar." He's also the host of the music entrepreneurship podcast "Passive Income Musician."


  1. Episode 145: This is a great podcast. I found the discussion of the interaction of the combo interesting. I especially found the #11 analysis of Miles' solo quite insightful. This recording is a classic and I have always been intrigued with Miles' solo in this piece (well actually all of the solos are great) but I never thought to analyze what Miles was doing. Thanks for pointing out the connections in this solo. I have to wonder if that is the way Miles would have thought about it. I always assumed that Miles would have just heard this as he played it– in other words, I think that when one is improvising like that it is a creative process that does not rely on theory. The theory is interesting after the fact, but the creative process that generates these great solos comes from some other aspect of one's being. Anyway, this was fun. Brent: Thanks a lot for putting it together even though you were not feeling well.


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