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HomeLJS PodcastPlay better jazz solosCreating Melodic Jazz Solos and the Art of Not Thinking (Coaching Call...

Creating Melodic Jazz Solos and the Art of Not Thinking (Coaching Call with Dan Sich)

Welcome to episode 142 of the LJS Podcast where today we are sitting in on a coaching call with 30 Steps to Better Jazz Playing student, Dan Sich. Dan asks how he can better outline chord tones, guide tones and other techniques without losing focus and getting off track. Brent gives out some exercises that take things in a slightly different direction. Listen in!

Listen to episode 142

Today’s episode is a coaching call with a 30 Steps to Better Jazz Playing student, Dan Sich. Dan is a guitar player and we have a great conversation about his playing and some things to try in the practice room.

Sometimes the things we need to help us improve aren’t more of the same thing, but a different angle.

That was the direction I went in when Dan asked how he could better outline chord tones, guide tones, and enclosures in his jazz solos without getting distracted and relying on things his fingers are used to playing.

Ultimately, Dan wants to be able to hear the chord changes come out in his jazz solos better. He’s been working on the techniques that can help him get those sounds in his ear, but now he needs to exercise his ear and put some of the theory on the backburner.

We go over a few different exercises that will help start training his brain to think more freely while improvising and focus on creating melodies.

We also discuss a composing exercise that will help him use his ear and help him incorporate some of the techniques he’s learned into his lines.

Here are some of the things we talk about:

  1. Dan and his journey as a jazz musician.

  2. A playing “free” exercise to help focus on only creating melodies.

  3. A composing exercise over ii-V-I chord progressions.

  4. Dan’s tips for other jazz students and what’s been working for him.

I really appreciate Dan for being vulnerable and doing some playing on the show. He had no idea what I was going to ask him to play and he rocked it!

I would encourage you to consider some of the exercises I went over in this episode. Knowing theory and conceptualizing jazz language is important, but what we do with it to make it musical is what matters most.

Important Links

30 Steps to Better Jazz Playing

Patterns for Jazz (suggested book)

Visual Improvisation for Jazz Guitar (suggested book)

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. I am so thankful to Dan for having the courage to be put on the spot and be okay with baring his playing to the world. I really liked some of the ideas he played on both exercises, by the way. Both of those exercises are something that I can incorporate into my practice routine.
    This episode was a great idea, Brent! Please follow up (if you haven't) and do another episode with him.

  2. I found this podcast really inspiring. I share so many of the same experiences Dan described. I appreciate his willingness to be "put on the spot" for our benefit, and I thought Brent's comments and suggestions were excellent. I am going to try some of them immediately. Many thanks you guys.

  3. Thanks for sharing your podcast setup, Brent. I can tell you with certainty my guitar sounds nothing like that plugged into ProTools! You seem to get that beautiful, woody sound, with no rumble in the bass and remarkable consistency of tone across all six strings. (It probably doesn't hurt that you have impeccable picking technique!) I've heard good things about the Ibanez hollow and semi-hollow series, so I'll definitely check them out. Keep up the good work, and I'll continue to be a loyal reader and listener.

  4. Really enjoyed the podcast, Brent. One thing that really struck me was the sound of your guitar. It's really beautiful and very close to what I'd like to achieve. Can you talk a bit about the instrument itself, including the pickups, and the amp you used?

    • Hi John, glad you enjoyed it and thanks for listening! For the podcast I don't use my live setup or an amp. I plug directly into ProTools and just add a touch of compression and some reverb. The guitar is an Ibanez Art Core AF95.

  5. What a great idea for a podcast and thanks To Dan and Brent for sharing this. It’s such an enrichment to experience this one-on-one. Aspiring jazz musicians such as myself need ways to connect with other musicians. LJS is such a valuable resource. I can’t think of a better way to break down the barriers of solitary confinement.

  6. great Pod cast Brent definitely one of the best, all of them are good, It seems all us trying to learn play jazz goes through the same stumbling blocks. I could relate to everything mentioned in the pod cast. very helpful thanks. dennis


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