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LJS 62: 4 Steps for Playing What You Hear In Your Jazz Improv

Welcome to episode 62 of the LJS Podcast where today we are talking about 4 steps for playing what you hear in your jazz improvisation. This is a question that we get a lot. “How do I play what I am hearing in my head?” There is no easy answer, but these 4 steps will get you headed in the right direction. Listen in!

Listen to episode 62

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In this episode

  • Interval recognition. Why it’s important, and a few exercises to help you practice.


Interval Recognition Test

Using Jazz Standards to Memorize Intervals

  • Chord recognition. Being able to sing them as arpeggios and being able to hear them as chords.


Chord Recognition Test

  • Chord progression recognition. How the combination of interval and chord recognition can play in your favor.
  • Transferring from ear to instrument.
    • Learn jazz solos and licks by ear.
    • Melodic dictation. Like sight reading…but with your ears.

Listen to episode 61: How to Use Scales in Your Jazz Solos the Right Way

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."


  1. I'm not sure it's about recognising an interval then working out what that means on your instrument. There just isn't time for that amount of calculation when improvising. I would have said the first step is to be able to sing what you hear (which tests whether your really do know it) and the second is to be so familiar with your instrument that you can just play it. After all, I can whistle a familiar tune without knowing the intervals.


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