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LJS 104: 11 Listeners Give Their Jazz Tips and Advice

Welcome to episode 104 of the LJS Podcast where today we are celebrating our 2 year podcast birthday! To do that we are having on 11 different special guests on the show. They are special because they are listeners just like you! They all give excellent jazz tips and advice and have great stories to share. Listen in!

Listen to episode 104

Today is a very special episode because it marks two years of the LJS Podcast. That’s right, it’s a birthday celebration! Now, our blog and website has been around for much longer than that, but when the podcast started it brought something very special into the mix.

Around two years ago, Justin Kellerer, the tech manager for Learn Jazz Standards, convinced me I should start a podcast. I was apprehensive at first because I wasn’t entirely sure the effort of producing a weekly podcast would be worth it. But 104 episodes later, we have many thousands of listeners from around the world tuning in each week.

One of my favorite comments I get is “I feel like I know you.” Even though I don’t have the privilege to meet and talk with all of you personally, It’s a good feeling to know that I can serve you each week and that you can get a sense of who I am and what I want to accomplish. All of this has made the podcast worth it 10 times over, and I look forward to many more years of the podcast.

Today’s episode features 11 special guests who are all listeners just like you. They come from all around the world, with different levels of jazz experience and different stories to share. These are some of the most valuable kinds of guests in my opinion because they are people we can all relate to.

Here’s a list of our guests and what they talk about:

  1. Jerry from Ontario talks about how a little bit of music theory can go a long way (4:52).

  2. Anne from Berlin talks about how giving up is not an option and to approach your jazz learning from all angles (7:46).

  3. Pedro from San Paulo talks about how all kinds of music can teach us something and give us inspiration (10:11).

  4. Rebecca from London talks about the importance of learning to play by ear and getting your eyes off the page (14:25).

  5. Aidan from Louisiana talks about how listening is the most important thing you can do for your musicianship (18:48).

  6. Camila from Columbia talks about how playing music from a communal approach is the best way to go (23:19).

  7. Christopher from San Antonio talks about how when the musical journey gets tough to not get discouraged, and remember nothing is impossible (27:18).

  8. Simon from Sydney tells his story about how his saxophone took him to places he couldn’t have imagined it would (28:47).

  9. Olivia from Paris talks about the importance of setting precise goals for your playing for maximum results (32:32).

  10. Michael from Chicago talks about how ear training and transcribing solos was a game-changer for him (36:18).

  11. Grant from San Francisco talks about how composing can help you solidify the musical knowledge you have (40:25).

I want to thank everyone who contributed recordings to today’s show and I also want to thank those whos recordings weren’t shared today. There were so many and it was just impossible to do all of them.

I learned a lot from today’s episode and was very appreciative of the kind remarks given by all!

Important Links

Zero to Improv

How to Play What You Hear

Birthday Raffle

Read the Transcript

Brent: Oh yeah that’s right; it is the second birthday of the LJS Podcast today. Hey everybody, thanks for listening, thanks for being here with us; if it’s your first time ever hanging out with me or if you are a regular listener, I really do appreciate it. And yes, today’s episode is a very special episode: two years of the LJS Podcast.
Now of course the website and our blog and all that stuff has been going on for much longer than that, but two years of the podcast.

And you know, two years ago, when I first started the podcast, it was, the guy that does tech on Learn Jazz Standards, his name is Justin Keller, he lives out in San Francisco, California, he convinced me to do this podcast, and it’s honestly one of the best things I have done. Not only do I enjoy doing it, I’ve been able to reach a lot of you much better, and I hear from you on email all the time, and other mediums, telling me that you actually feel like you know who I am because I’m able to communicate with you this. And even though I don’t have the pleasure, the luxury, of being able to personally chat with thousands, tens of thousands of you, I’m glad that I can at least do it this way and be of any help and service to you as I can.

So it’s a big day to celebrate; I’m super excited. And to do all of that, if you’ve been listening for the last month or so and the last couple episodes, you know that today I’m going to be featuring listeners like you on the show to give your jazz tips and advice all episode long, and man what a treat today. We have a bunch of you on the show. I mean, we have a bunch of special guests. And they’re you guys, which means that it’s the best guests that we can possibly have.
And I personally just really love today’s show, and I want to thank everybody who participated. You know, not everybody who sent in recordings is featured, and I’ve emailed you, I’m going to reach out to all of you making sure that you know that. But I really do appreciate you; it’s just impossible to get everybody on the show and I hope you understand that.

But I do appreciate everybody who did, and man it’s such a treat. And I was definitely not fishing for any compliments or anything like that; I just wanted to hear your guys’ tips and advice, but a heartfelt thanks to everybody who just said a lot of really nice things about the show. And I just really appreciate it; it gives me lots of motivation. And it gives me a lot of energy, moving on to the next years of this podcast, just to keep moving forward and doing what I’m doing, serving you guys with free jazz educational content.

Okay, so one last thing before we jump into all of you guys sharing your tips and advice. This is the last chance to get involved in our raffle; go to, get a chance to win our jazz e-course, our e-books and even our jazz playalongs. I think there’s going to be about 17 winners in the end, so if you want to get involved in that raffle by doing just simple tasks like liking our Facebook page or better yet, giving a rating and review of our podcast on iTunes, stuff like this, then that’s how you can raffle entries, so join us there, last chance,
Okay we’ve got a lot of interviews to go through, so without further ado, let’s get into today’s show.

Now one of the things I love the most about all these submissions, and I already knew this about this podcast and about, is that we have an international audience, people from all over the world are listening to the show. And not only that, all kinds of ages too; we have the younger people, we have older people. I mean everybody is involved. And I was really happy to hear, just so many different voices from all over the world sending in recordings, and I love that the most.

And that speaks so much to what jazz music is. It is a music about expression; it is a diverse music. It is African American music, and let’s give a shout out to that because it is Black History Month, by the way, this month. And then they have created this music that has now spread across the entire globe. And I just absolutely love that; that gets me all fired up and just completely excited. So, I’m really happy to say that we have a lot of different people from all over the world today, which is so exciting.

Now also, before we jump into the first interview here, keep note that everybody is just doing home recordings here. You’re going to get some different, varying qualities of sound, so be a little bit forgiving on that.

Now today’s first guest, he is from Ontario, Canada; this is Jerry. Jerry take it away.

Jerry: My name is Jerry; I am from London, Ontario, Canada. And I play the guitar; I’ve been playing it for many decades. But I’ve only been listening to the podcast and playing jazz probably about five or six years.

My favorite jazz musician is someone you’re probably less familiar with, a Canadian jazz guitarist, Ed Bickert, B-i-c-k-e-r-t. You should check him out, because his voicings and his melodic use of chords is really quite remarkable. He plays an old beat up Telecaster and it’s worth watching him on YouTube.

What I’m working on at the moment is a bossa nova, and in particular “Wave.” I’m trying to do a chord melody type of arrangement for it. Top piece of jazz advice is that it takes time, and you know, going from simple chords, the open G-seventh to the barred G-seventh, and eventually to G-seventh sharp-five flat-nine, takes some time to understand. But eventually it all clicks in place, and all these extensions are really not that mysterious if you take the time to learn the little bit of theory behind it.

My number-one goal for this year is to greatly improve my improvisation. I know all about targeting thirds and sevenths, and scales and arpeggios, but when it comes time to play on the grandstand, that little bit of panic sets in and I have to control that.
As an aside, I just wanted to let you know that I am playing with the London, Ontario Jazz Orchestra, and therefore mostly play rhythm. And when it comes to solo time, it’s quite a gap to perform well.
That’s my goal for 2018 and I wish you all a great year.

Brent: Jerry thanks so much for contributing; I really appreciate it. I love Ed Bickert; he is a great guitar player. And yes, everybody should indeed check him out.

And now listen Jerry, everybody has this; everybody gets nervous when they start to play. You know why? Jazz is a very vulnerable music; you are really putting yourself out there. And it’s tough. But you know, keep working on it. I go through that too; everybody goes through, it doesn’t matter what level you’re at. So keep on plugging in there and I’m so glad to hear that you’re out there playing in the orchestra.

And you know, I really do believe that you will feel more comfortable soloing this year; it sounds like you’re doing all the right things. So thanks again Jerry; I really appreciate you contributing.

All right now our next guest is Anne Ruth from Berlin, Germany, and actually when she sent in the recording I recognized who she was because she has emailed me multiple different times about when she is visiting New York, what rehearsal spaces she can have when she’s on her off time so she can practice her piano, which I always have respected so much, that while she’s on her trips to New York, she’s like wanting to get right in the practice room in her downtime. So without further ado here is Anne Ruth.

Anne: Hello Brent, this is Anne Ruth from Berlin in Germany. And I wanted to participate in the listeners’ participation on this show. So I’m from Berlin, Germany; my instrument is the piano. I have listened to your show for the past year and a half and find it a great help and encouragement.

My favorite artists at the moment, and have been for quite a while, are the pianists Mulgrew Miller and also David Hazeltine. And I understand Hazeltine is much appreciated throughout America. Not so sure he’s so well known in Europe.

My number-one goal for this year is to start to improvise and to attend the Berkeley College summer program in Boston this year. My piece of advice and learning is, giving up is not an option. And approach jazz learning and jazz practice from all sides. And I find the improv book that Brent put out, I think last summer, a tremendous help and it is a key resource for me.

Thank you very much for putting out the program and I enjoy the show tremendously. Bye-bye.

Brent: Anne, thanks so much for contributing; I really appreciate it and it’s good to hear you. And she was actually talking about my ebook, Zero to Improv, if you want to check that out. And I’m so glad that’s been helpful for you. I really do appreciate that you’re taking the time to work though that book.

And you’re right, giving up is not an option. You know why? Because music is what we do, right? Music is what gives us joy, what gives us energy, what gives us life. And sure, maybe it’s hard sometimes to improve. But the journey of the improvement is what the most fun part is. And so if we can have that attitude of playing music as a journey, and not as this specific destination that we’re trying to work towards, well then music is always going to be fun, it’s always going to give us energy. And it’s always going to bring us life. So Anne thanks so much for contributing your thoughts.

Our next guest is Pedro from São Paulo, Brazil. And Pedro just forgive me, I’ve had to edit yours a little bit; it was a little bit longer so I’ve edited it a bit, but I do want to say that Pedro mentioned that one of the musicians he’s listening a lot to lately is guitarist Mike Moreno who lives out here in New York. Okay, Pedro take it away.

Pedro: Hello Brent. Hello people from Learn Jazz Standards. Hello Learn Jazz Standards listeners. My name is Pedro. I’m from Brazil; I live in São Paulo. And I play the guitar. I’ve been listening to the podcast, not for very long I must say; it’s been about a month or maybe a month and a half. And I’ve been listening a lot to the previous podcasts. So trying to get as much information as I can.
I’m currently working on a few standards that I’m going to record for applying to the City College of New York. You see, I live in São Paulo and I want to study jazz in the U.S.A. So I’m applying to the university and I’m working on a few standards that I have to play and record for them in order to apply to the university.

A piece of advice that I am sure that will help many people is, don’t listen only to jazz music, just because you think it’s for some reason the best music in the world. I think it is one of the best musics in the world, but you have to listen to other stuff that will have you as much as inspired as jazz music does. I’m from Brazil so I listen to a lot of Brazilian music, which is not only bossa nova but also [Brazilian style], these styles of music that have so many rich melodies and rich rhythms and harmonies that are so, so brilliant.

And it has a lot to do with jazz playing. Even though it’s not exactly a, I don’t know, how do I say this, it’s not a music that relates to jazz directly. But it is music; it is great music; and it has so much stuff to learn and to be inspired by. So I would say, listen to a lot of Jobim and other composers from Brazil that will have you inspired for sure. Especially [Brazlian artist], because he has a lot of lines and melodies that fit somehow into the jazz style of music.

Brent: Pedro thanks again so much for contributing your thoughts; I really do appreciate it. And you know what? The City College of New York is my alma mater. So best of luck trying to get into the school; I know you will succeed and keep up that practicing. It’s a great school. When I was there, I was studying under John Patitucci and a lot of other great musicians, and there are still great musicians there like Steve Wilson among others. So definitely, great choice and I know you’re going to do great.

Now I couldn’t agree more with you with what you have to say about listening to all kinds of different music. You know, there’s nothing worse than a jazz snob, someone who looks down on other styles of music. You know it’s okay if you like jazz and that’s your favorite music, but you know what, there’s so much we can learn from music from all over the world, and there’s different kinds of music, different styles of music, that can teach you just as much as jazz can, or can enlighten you in different ways. So I totally agree with that, and I love Brazilian music, and thanks for giving me some pointers personally on some stuff I should be listening to more of.

So yes indeed, you know, jazz is not the end-all, be-all of music, of course not. We’ve got to be listening to all kinds of music. And if we are truly musicians who want to learn and continue to grow, we should be listening to a lot of different styles of music, regardless of personal preferences.

All right our next guest is Rebecca from London in the U.K. Rebecca, take it away.

Rebecca: Hello. My name is Rebecca. I am from London in the U.K. and I am a pianist. I’ve been listening to the Learn Jazz Standard podcast probably for only about four or five months, so I’m relatively new to it. In the practice room right now, well I’m a classically trained pianist; I’ve been playing all my life, which means I’ve been playing for over 40 years now. And I teach piano as well to adults and children from a beginner to a sort of intermediate level, in the main.

I’ve only recently started exploring jazz piano in much more depth, so I actually consider myself to be a beginner jazz musician, even though I’ve been playing classical piano for all of my life.

So in the practice room right now I’ve just kind of been working on the standard “Autumn Leaves.” I’ve just kind of finished that now; I actually transcribed the piano solo from the Eva Cassidy track; that was my first ever attempt at transcribing a solo by ear. So I was quite proud of myself for achieving that. And I’m actually going to start working on a new standard fairly soon, so I just need to pick a new standard. But I was very much inspired by the podcast in terms of that approach.

In terms of any advice, I don’t really consider myself able to give advice because I’m so new, other than I suppose my only advice would be to people in a similar situation from me, i.e. those people who are classically trained musicians and are looking to explore jazz, and my big tip would be put the music away, because it really easy for us classically trained musicians who are very, very tied to notation, probably reasonable sight-readers, to be able to pick up a piece of music written in jazz style, and work out how to play that. Playing by ear and improvising are, I find, completely different skills, which is why I consider myself a beginner in jazz. It took me a long time to transcribe the Eva Cassidy solo, even though it’s not terribly difficult. But it did open up a whole new kind of area for me. So that’s my only advice, but as I said that’s really only to other classically trained musicians. I certainly am not in a position to give any advice to more experienced jazz musicians.

And my number-one goal for playing this year is just to do more of the same. So I can sit down at the piano without any music in front of me and have a collection of, not just jazz standards, but a few pieces that I can play. It’s really just to get away from the notation. I’ve been doing that all my life; I’m comfortable with that; I can read and play a piece of written music. I want to be able to sit at a piano anywhere, anytime and have a few things that I can play. So that would be my goal.

So thank you for the podcast; I’m getting a lot out of it, it’s great. And I won’t see you soon but I’ll carry on listening.

Brent: Well thanks Rebecca; I appreciate you listening and thanks so much for your submission. And you know what, I don’t know; I actually think you just gave a lot of really amazing advice to everybody. And one of the things that I think is most valuable about these specific entries, you being a guest on this show, is that you’re in the thick of it, and you’re doing it, and there’s someone else who can totally resonate with what you’re talking about.

And it’s definitely not just a classical musician problem; a lot of musicians, I know this is a big topic because all the data I get on Learn Jazz Standards is that a lot of people struggle with getting their face out of the page. And it’s true, jazz music is an aurally learned music and it is best when we’re improvising to stay away from music as much as possible. It’s not a terrible thing to use music or to help that, to help you learn stuff, but it’s best when it’s done aurally.

And I want to congratulate you so much for diving in there, learning some jazz standards, and really working on that Eva Cassidy solo, because I think learning solos by ear is one of the best practices you can do. So congratulations; that is awesome stuff and keep on pressing on. And thank you so much for your advice.

All right our next guest on the show is Aidan from Shreveport, Louisiana. All right let’s hear what he has to say.

Aidan: Hello, the LJS Podcast. My name is Aidan Fitzgerald; I’m from Shreveport, Louisiana. I actually play six instruments: guitar, bass, piano, drums, violin, and trumpet, as well as sing. I primarily play trumpet and sing for jazz. I’ve been listening to the podcast since the beginning and it’s been an amazing resource for my musicianship; I look forward to listening to it every week.

My favorite jazz artist and album; there’s so many but I’ve been listening to a lot of Wayne Shorter, specifically, his album Speak No Evil. If you haven’t heard it I highly recommend you go check that one out.

I’ve been working a lot on learning tunes. At the time of this recording I was working on “East of the Sun and West of the Moon.” I’m also working on a lot of ear training and trying to get my ear better at hearing the chord progressions by ear as well as not needing the chord chart or sheet music when I’m playing. I’m also working on solidifying my upper register on the trumpet, around like high C and higher, really getting those notes accurate and really getting better at that.

If I had to give a piece of advice, I would say listening is a huge part of jazz; it’s key. Always listening, whether in a live situation or just always having your ears open is crucial. I do actually if you don’t know this, there’s the Herbie Hancock Masterclass, and there was this interesting part of the class that stuck out to me in that he said don’t cut yourself off from any one source of inspiration. And he was speaking in the sense that, just because you’re a jazz musician, you don’t have to always listen to jazz. And in fact don’t look down or cut yourself off from all those other genres; it could be a great source of inspiration.

And he even had this webpage where they had all these genres listed out in this web kind of thing, and you’d click on the genre and it would give you kind of a taste or a sample of what that genre sounds like. And it was just a great way to see that there are so many different styles of music and art and to cut yourself off from anyone could be cutting off a source of inspiration. So I highly recommend to never cut yourself off from any one source of inspiration or music. It could be highly, highly helpful and creative for you.

My number-one goal for me, my New Year’s resolution was actually to learn a new jazz standard if not every week, every other week, or as much as I can. As well as helping my ear and actually getting more gigs, trying to gig more and get out and play more at jam sessions as much as I can this year.

I want to thank Mr. Vaartstra for the amazing resource that the Learn Jazz Standards website has been, with all its free, amazing resources, the articles. Of course the paid and amazing resources that are worth every penny. And of course this amazing and wonderful podcast that I look forward to every week and hope to keep hearing. And I want to thank you Mr. Vaartstra for everything you’ve done.

Brent: Well Aidan thanks so much for your submission; I really appreciate it. And you know, I’ve never been called “Mr. Vaartstra” before, but I think I kind of like it, so thanks for that.

And yes, Wayne Shorter, amazing you should be listening to Wayne Shorter; everybody should be. Speak No Evil is a great album; I definitely used to cut my teeth on that one quite a bit. And we definitely have a theme going on here, you know, listen to all kinds of music. I love that, “Don’t cut yourself off from any one source of inspiration,” that’s really valuable advice. And I think you have some great goals for 2018 and again, thank you so much for the kind words on the podcast, on Learn Jazz Standards; I do appreciate it so much. So thanks Aidan again for submitting.

All right our next guest is Camila from Colombia. Here she is.

Camila: Hi everybody. My name is Camila. And I’m from Medellin, Colombia. Greetings from here.

I play the electric guitar, and I’ve been listening to the podcast almost one year ago. And I have one favorite jazz musician, but one of my favorite jazz albums is Undercurrent by Jim Hall and Bill Evans.

Right now I’ve been working in my practice room, besides the scales and arpeggios and all that stuff, I’ve been working about melody structure. Because in my case, I tend to forget sometimes that behind all of that theory and concepts about jazz and music in general, one of the most important things is melody. And it’s obvious, right? But with the tons of material and information, melody becomes something in the second stage. And it should be like that, so I’ve been working about that.

I would like to share a story about my country. And it is that jazz is practically something new here. It doesn’t have a lot of years comparing to the U.S. history, but virtually we have a lot of great masters. For example, Antonio Arnedo or Edmar Castañeda. There are very inspired figures in our country, and inspires to keep moving forward in this gender.

One of the consequence about this, is that we need to still work harder about culture, because as Brent used to say, jazz isn’t just something about playing; it is beyond that. And if we understand that it is the idiom and it is the way to communicate stories or feelings or whatever, and then we can understand that it is a way of sharing. So we can together build a real jazz culture, because sometimes, for example, if we are in a jam session, it becomes just a backing track, and everyone is playing just for them and not for the group itself. So yeah I think it’s something that we must work harder.

Brent: Camila, thanks so much for sharing and for submitting; I really appreciate it. And forgive me, I did have to edit yours down a little bit to make it a bit shorter, but Camila did say that one of her big goals for 2018 is to compose and release more of her music and man, I can totally relate with you on that one, Camila. And thank you so much for all the advice that you just shared and keep up the great work and the great practicing you’re doing.

And you’re totally right; jazz is a communal thing; it is a community thing. And so it’s not all about you when you’re out there playing with other musicians, it’s really more about everybody else. And sounding good with each other and building each other up to sound great. I think that’s one of the great, beautiful things about jazz music, and about a lot of other kinds of music as well, not just jazz. So thanks so much; I think everything you said was just completely golden.

All right, our next guest up to bat is Christopher from San Antonio, Texas. Take it away, Christopher.

Christopher: My name’s Christopher Soriano; I’m from San Antonio, Texas; I play guitar, fretted and fretless. I’ve been listening to the podcast for, I want to say about eight months. My favorite jazz musicians I would say as Miles, Davis, John Coltrane and Wes Montgomery, Django and Joe Pass.

Right now I’m working on the moveable seventh chord shapes. Also working on an A-sharp major scale, which is the common C-major scale. But since I am in a D-standard tuning it does make me work a little bit harder to actually memories those notes.

My advice would be, don’t get discouraged. Even when things get extremely difficult, remember nothing is impossible. And my jazz goal this year is to learn chapter two of my jazz guitar chord dictionary, which is dominant seventh chords with alterations.

Brent: All right Christopher, thanks so much for contributing. Lots of guitar guys out here today and I really appreciate that. And keep up that work, you know, as a guitar player as well. I can resonate with the technical difficulties of navigating the instrument; every instrument has its own technical challenges, but I certainly can resonate with you on that. Keep up the great work, and yes indeed I love what you said there, it gets tough, but remember that nothing is impossible. I love that attitude, that’s so great.

All right our next guest is representing from the land Down Under, it’s Simon from Sydney, Australia. Take it away, Simon.

Simon: Hey Brent, it’s Simon here from Sydney, Australia. I play tenor saxophone and I’ve been listening to your podcast for about six to eight months and enjoying every minute of it, so thanks very much.

My favorite music, no surprise, would be a tenor saxophone player Stan Getz. But my favorite album is by Sonny Rollins, another tenor saxophone player, The Bridge. I like The Bridge because it comes in movements, I feel, and I enjoy it, a bit like listening to a symphony, having those moments. So yeah, The Bridge is my favorite, from Sonny Rollins.

Right now I’m practicing augmented and diminished sounds as well as fourths. I’m a reasonable saxophone player, reasonable. Trying to learn the chord tones backwards and forwards, one, three, five, and seven, and backwards again. And using a structured way to play sequences, over places like the two-five, the two-five-ones, where I can be a bit more experimental outside of tonality. And that sort of gives it a bit of flavor to the solo, more so than just sticking to the majors and minors. That’s how I feel at the moment anyway. Attitude changes continuously as you improve, but at the moment it’s augmented, diminished to add flavor.

Jazz advice? No, I’ll leave it to you guys; you guys on your website have fantastic professionals on. But my success story would be that I was able to play in Korea. I had an all-expenses trip paid for with a band I joined. We went to South Korea, a wonderful country and people. And I just always remember, I was sitting in a hotel room after playing at this festival, it was nighttime, lying on the bed, looking over and seeing my saxophone in the corner of the room there. And thinking that thing got me all the way to Korea to play music, and that’s a wonderful thing. And that was a while ago now, about five or six years ago, and it just shows you; I went and did a course, found some band members to play with, and we ended up in Korea a few years later. So, that was fantastic.

Brent: All right Simon, thank so much for contributing; I really appreciate everything that you shared. And I definitely can resonate with you on Stan Getz; I love Stan Getz. You know, one of my favorite Stan Getz albums, believe or not, is, I think it was one of the last ones that he recorded, and it was a duo album with the pianist Kenny Barron called “People Time,” and I like, learned, I think I learned a big chunk of his solo on “East of the Sun West of the Moon.” That was a long time ago, but, anyways, love Stan Getz and yes, I also, The Bridge is also one of my favorite albums; I mean, you just really can’t get any better than that, The Bridge by Sonny Rollins. So yes, check that out everybody if you haven’t checked those out before.

And I loved your story about how you, you were laying in your hotel room bed and you looked over at your saxophone, you’re like, “Wow, that thing got me all the way over here.” And I’ve definitely, certainly done the same thing; I’ve looked over at my guitar and been like, “Wow, you know, who would have thought that this guitar could bring me to where I am now in my career, in doing what I do now.” And so it’s a beautiful thing; it’s a wonderful, magical thing, and so anybody listening right now, you know, if you’re working hard on music, you know, you never know where it could take you. It might take you to another country to play music; it would do something small like supplement your income. Or it could be a full-time living; you never know what’s going to happen but Simon’s story is a great example of that kind of success, so thank you Simon for contributing.

Our next guest is Oliva near Paris in France. Here’s what she has to say.

Olivia: Hello. My name is Olivia; I am a French piano player living near Paris.

First of all, I want to point out that I have no idea what I’m going to say. I’m improvising like we all do whenever we play jazz on our instruments. I want to keep on saying thank you for sharing all this knowledge and all this advice with us, mainly for free.

My favorite jazz musician, as I’m reading I’m supposed to tell you this, is I would say Thelonious Monk because I had a feeling even before I started studying harmony that his harmonies were very powerful. I had no clue why and I still don’t really understand everything, of course, but whenever you listen to him, you feel that his way of playing and the harmony procession, I’m not sure whether this word is accurate in English, are very surprising. And this is something great, whenever you’re listening to music; you like being surprised in a good way.

And the top piece of jazz advice I could give, that I think might help you, from my beginner’s point of view, is it is really important to set precise goals whenever you’re starting to work. And it is also really important to be able to work alone, of course. So my advice would be to, if you’re starting to play jazz, you should be sure of what your aim is. So you should really think of your goal and set smaller goals to achieve it. And in order to do this, I would advise that you enjoy what you’re doing, and listen to a lot of music, as much as possible.

So my number-one goal for me this year, yeah it would be to be practicing all the time, so finishing my PhD in order to be able to play all the time as I said and improve on my self confidence maybe. And the main goal would be to be able to play in a concert, to play life with people, in a jam session for example. This would be my main goal this year.

Brent: Hey Olivia thank you so much for contributing, and I love Thelonious Monk as well; I couldn’t agree more with everything you said.

Yes indeed, setting goals for your playing is really important, and I’ve definitely talked a lot about this on the podcast and how it could just be a game-changing thing, if you know what your aim is when you’re going into the practice room. And so I wish you all the best of luck on all of your goals for this upcoming year and your musicianship, and just for your contribution; thank you.

Now next up is Michael from Chicago, Illinois. Go for it, Michael.

Michael: My name is Michael. I am from Chicago, Illinois. I am a bass player; I play the upright bass and electric bass. I’ve been listening to the podcast for about nine months. Favorite jazz musician or album, that’s tough. You know it changes a lot, but right now I really like the Ben Webster Meets Oscar Peterson record and have been transcribing some of that, some of Ray Brown’s bass work on there.

In addition to the transcribing I’m doing, I also take what I’ve transcribed and break it down into smaller chunks, so I’ll transcribe let’s say a chorus of a tune, and then break down the two-five patterns and practice those and isolate those and just try to really ingrain them so when I go to play another tune that would have those sequences in them, I have that vocabulary, I’m hearing that.
So that’s a lot of what I’ve been doing the last year, but I also have a warmup routine where I just run through, like, whole-tone scales, arpeggios, diminished scales. You know, stuff that I’m a little weaker on.

In terms of advice, well you know one thing for me is ear training. I’ve enrolled in the ear training course here on the site and have been working with that, but also just transcribing and really singing and trying to ingrain the material that I transcribe into my ear. This is something that I didn’t start doing when I started playing jazz; I started really just reading books and when trying to learn tunes would learn them from a fake book. That’s all well and good in moderation, but I really ignored the ear aspect of it, and ran into some significant roadblocks as I tried to play jazz with other people. So my number-one piece of advice is really to always incorporate some sort of ear training with what you’re doing.

So, I hope that’s helpful. Really enjoy the site, enjoy the ear-training course that’s offered here. And have a good day.

Brent: Hey Michael, thanks so much for contributing, and it’s really great to hear your practice routine and what you’re doing in the practice room, which sounds like all incredibly great stuff and I think everybody listening today could take Michael’s practice routine, you know, transcribing solos, learning tunes, and of course doing a little bit of technique on his instrument because that’s important too, and you could take that and adopt that for yourself.

Now, Michael, I did edit yours down a bit because it was a little long and that’s totally fine, but Michael did say that one of his big goals is to start playing with more musicians this year. And I think that’s an awesome, excellent goal as well.

And also, Michael, glad you’re getting a lot out of the ear-training course. For those listening, it’s “How to Play What You Hear,” is the name of the course, at if you want to know what he’s talking about.

So once again, thank you Michael and I wish you all the best of luck this year in your musicianship.

All right, next up is Grant all the way in San Francisco, California. By the way I was just over there visiting the guy that does the tech for Learn Jazz Standards, Justin, and man I loved San Francisco; it’s a great city. So here is Grant.

Grant: Hi my name’s Grant. I’m from San Francisco, California, and I play guitar. And I’ve been listening to this podcast for about six months now. And my favorite jazz musician is Bill Evans and the album that I’m really into now is Explorations.

So what I’m working on right now in the practice room is going through David Berkman’s book, Guide to Creative Practicing, for the jazz musician. And it’s phenomenal. I realized how not solid my fundamentals in chromaticism were, so I’ve really been working on that.

And I guess a top piece of jazz advice would be to compose a lot. Like, I do lots of big band arranging and composition, and I find that it really influences my playing, to really dig into my mind rather than just kind of play what’s on the top of it. I can get those deeper thoughts out of me, methodically thinking about what I play.

And my number-one goal for jazz playing this year is really solidifying all of my knowledge, really getting it all together, so that I can recall like, whatever skills that I really value, and I’d like to hone in all those so I can really tighten everything up.

Yeah, thank you.

Brent: Well thanks for your submission Grant, really appreciate it. And I totally agree with you, composing is a great thing to do if you ever want to solidify the knowledge that you have. And one thing that I like to do, and I always tell my students to do, is to compose your own solos. You know, because improvisation is kind of like composition sped up; that’s what they like to say, right? Well, so why don’t you practice composition in order to get better at improvising, to solidify the language that you know.

And I can resonate with that because I write a lot of books; I’ve written some books for the music publication company Hal Leonard and of course I publish e-books on Learn Jazz Standards, and every time I do that stuff it really helps me solidify further what I know how to do. It’s always been a great practice.

So I totally agree; composing, whether it’s arranging for big band like you mentioned, whether it’s composing your own original material, or whether it’s composing educational materials can be incredibly helpful for your musicianship. So best of luck Grant in everything that you’re trying to accomplish this year.

All right, these are all of the ones we have time for today. I wish we could do more, but we have to cap it off somewhere. I want to thank again everybody who contributed, whether yours was featured on today’s show not; I really do appreciate you contributing for this special birthday episode. And looking forward to having more of these kinds of episodes in the future.

All right, that’s all for today’s show. I want to thank you so much for listening. Thanks for tuning in. I really enjoyed today’s episode. I want to give one more thank you to everybody who contributed, and it’s just really great to hear, especially all the kind remarks that you guys give about the podcast; it gives me so much energy and inspiration for many more years of this podcast. And I’m just so excited to serve you guys; you guys are the ones that keep this thing going and keep me excited about this.

Remember, this is the last chance to get involved in our raffle. Go to And if you’re listening to this show in the future and the raffle is closed, you can still help us out by going to iTunes or your favorite podcast listening service and leaving a kind rating and review.

All right, well next month we are starting, in our next episode, Jazz Standards Month. That’s right, we are calling it “Jazz Standards Month”; every once in a while I like doing themes for this podcast, and we’re going to be really focusing in on jazz standards, learning them and digging deep into them to understand the lessons that they have to teach us. So please join us for our next episode, 105, and I’ll see you back then.

But last, not least, happy birthday LJS Podcast!

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. Thanks for another excellent episode! Encouraging to feel a part of a jazz community across the world and to hear very helpful advice from a wide range of people who are at different stages in their learning process.


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