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LJS 59: 5 Tips for Playing Jazz Ballads Like an Expert

Welcome to episode 59 of the LJS Podcast where today we are dishing out 5 tips for playing jazz ballads like an expert. Jazz ballads can be tricky, largely because slow tempos can open up a number of challenges. Treat these tips like a checklist the next time you play a ballad. Listen in!

Listen to episode 59

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In this episode

  1. Listen to how the pros do it. Check out different artists and how they approach ballads.
  2. Realize it’s all about the melody. The melody is especially important in jazz ballads. Know the melody and use it in your solo. Try the exercise mentioned in the show.
  3. Don’t just play your regular stuff. Focus on creating melodies, not summoning up your usual licks and lines.
  4. Embrace the space. Don’t be afraid of laying out if that’s what the music calls for. Don’t let a slow tempo scare you into playing more.
  5. Practice subdividing. Help yourself lock in the time by practicing different rhythmic divisions over the form. Try the exercise mentioned in the show.
  6. 10 jazz ballads Brent likes to play.

Listen to episode 58: How to Use Triads to Improve Your Jazz Improvisation

Mentioned in the show

Zero to Improv eBook

Our flagship eBook, Zero to Improv, is a book that teaches you how to become a great jazz improviser from the ground up. No stone is left un-turned. This isn’t your ordinary music book. Zero to Improv calls you to action! Packed full of improv and jazz theory lessons, you’ll start from the beginning and build up all of the skills and knowledge you need. Audio examples are included for all music notation.

Versions are available for C, Bb, Eb and Bass Clef instruments. Designed for all skill levels.

Have anything to add to today’s show? Leave us 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."


    • Hi Gabriel,

      Here are the ones mentioned in this episode:

      Body and Soul
      Darn That Dream
      My One and Only Love
      Polka Dots and Moonbeams
      Blue in Green
      Prelude to a Kiss
      In a Sentimental Mood

  1. Hi Brent, awesome as always, thank you 🙂 Just wanted to add that remembering and singing the lyrics can help to start at the right tempo and keeping it (besides counting here and there) 🙂


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