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Home LJS Podcast Jazz Tips and Advice LJS 76: 5 Huge Benefits of Playing With Musicians Better Than You

LJS 76: 5 Huge Benefits of Playing With Musicians Better Than You

Welcome to episode 76 of the LJS Podcast where today we are talking about the huge benefits of playing with musicians who are better than you. If you want to improve and improve quickly, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to play with musicians with more experience and ability than you. Listen in!

Listen to episode 76

[vc_cta h2=”Enjoy listening to this podcast?” h4=”If you get value from the LJS Podcast, help us out by leaving a rating and review on iTunes or your favorite podcast service. Thanks for your help!” shape=”square” add_button=”bottom” btn_title=”Rate and Review on iTunes” btn_style=”outline” btn_shape=”square” btn_color=”primary” btn_size=”lg” btn_link=”|||” el_class=”podcast_call”][/vc_cta]One big temptation for musicians is to avoid situations that will push them out of their comfort zones. It can feel so much easier to play with musicians you know you are better than, or not to play with others at all.

But when it comes to improving as a jazz musician it’s all about stepping out of that comfort zone and playing with others who will challenge you. The fastest way to improve is to find musicians who are better than you and play with them regularly. There are so many benefits from doing this, and that’s what this episode is all about; to help motivate you and point out these advantages that will help take your musicianship to the next level.

In this episode

  1. It pushes you out of your comfort zone.

  2. It will give you humility.

  3. It will cause you to improve more quickly

    • It will motivate you.
    • It forces you to reach a higher level, even if subconsciously.
  4. It helps you gain confidence.

    • Confidence is a muscle you need to exercise.

Listen to Episode 75: How to Internalize Jazz Language

Have anything to add to today’s show? Leave a comment below.

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. Hey I’ve kind of been binge-listening to this podcast, so as you can see, I’m multiple episodes behind. Regardless, this is an awesome podcast, and I’m learning lots!
    So I’m going to dive into the most recent story I have of playing with musicians that’re better than me. Some of them were a lot better than me, while others were only a little better than me. For background knowledge, I’ve been friends with all of them; 2 of them I’d known for a couple of months, while the other two I knew for over a year. It was a jam session, but it was different from the ones often mentioned on this podcast. We weren’t calling standards, we’d just call out a few chords to make a progression and just jam over that. I, being the only horn player of the group, was kind of responsible for making a melody/ A section before a solo section. Making melodies during my improv solos has been something I’ve struggled with lately, so that’s within itself was a good challenge for me. What also challenged me about playing with these musicians was comping as a horn player and listening and building off of their ideas.
    There’d be times where the guitarist or pianist would take a solo, and I knew I should keep interacting and not stop playing. Being a horn player, I’m not typically a comping instrument, so listening to the other comping instrument for ideas while also staying out of the way was a challenge for me. I could tell the better players comping, whether piano or guitar, would try to throw me some ideas with their playing, so that was helpful. I feel like if I would’ve been playing with a pianist or guitarist as good or worse than me, I wouldn’t have been challenged to do what I did comping-wise during that jam session.
    I’ve just recently been challenging myself to get my eyes out of the music and focus on listening more than I usually do, and with there being no written music, all I had were my ears. I ended up getting in my head for some of the jam session, especially since they were all better players. Instead of pulling my eyes out of the music, I had to pull myself out of my head and into the moment.
    Jamming with these better musicians challenged my ears more than anything. I had pretty decent ears to start, but the only thing I could truly rely on in that jam session were my ears. It was a good eye opener for me and also reminded me to not focus so much on the theory of jazz. Lately I’ve been all about guide tones and how I can convey to the audience that I know the chord changes, which is good to practice, but what good does the theory do me if I never apply it melodically to make my solos interesting? This jam session showed me that I also need to listen to others to make melodies and to, more importantly, make music come alive.


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