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Intro to Improvising Over Jazz Standards

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Let’s face it. Improvising over jazz standards will not be the easiest thing you’ve ever done in your life. Especially if you are a beginner, or someone trying to get started with jazz, it can be overwhelming.

Maybe you’ve heard me say stuff like “learn jazz solos by ear”, “take licks in all 12 keys” and all these other things that you are just overwhelmed and you are thinking, “I just want to get started right now. What are the basics of what I need to do?”

Well, in this video, that’s exactly what I’m going to tell you: 3 things you need to do to get started with your jazz improvisation.

Important Links and Resources

Suggested Resource:

Sign up for my free “Accelerate Your Jazz Skills” mini-course by clicking here.

Further Reading:

Jazz Improvisation Made Simple: A Step-by-Step Guide

Brent Vaartstra
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. Such good advice Brent.
    I jam a little and throw in reasonably simple riffs when I get the nod. I feel comfortable and locked in doing this with players of varying levels.
    I promote your vids and podcasts.
    Hope everyone is safe and well.
    All the best

  2. I would tell a beginner to take the advice you are always giving but not always applying (like today). The exercise you give today is good for someone further advanced and even then it’s not the most important one. I would say: copy solo’s and phrases off the record. You hear something good? Learn it! And start simple, so not with Coltrane on “a Moment’s Notice”. Start with some Kid Ory, or the Thrill is Gone by BB King. Even I can play that solo on guitar and my guitar playing is lousy. But it taught me a lot about music. Then learn a load of Armstrong. Then move on to Lester Young. For bebop JJ Johnson is a good idea, because trombone is slower than trumpet or saxophone. And he plays real precise so he’s great for learning (and for listening!)

  3. The part about understanding and picking out chord tones has always been my advise to beginner improvisers. It seems that most students want to jump into scales and modes way to early in their development. Your simple 3-step explanation is right on.
    Regards, and keep working…
    Nick Forte

  4. Hi Brent,,
    That was very informative and helpful information so I hope I will be able to follow more.
    Thanks keep safe


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