Jazz, Blues and improvisation

A student asked me the other day what is the secret behind playing jazz, blues and improvising.
And the secret is...NOT really a secret as every single musician who is a master in these 3 areas will tell you the same: LISTEN!
A great analogy to explain the importance of Listening to great jazz and blues musicians (if you want to become one) is the ancient art of story-telling.
Humans have been telling stories since we started developing our most basic expression skills (painting, dancing, language and music).
The written language came a very long time after that and the lack of it didn't keep us from creating, telling and recounting stories since the beginning of our time on this planet.
And the more stories you hear and learn the better a story-teller you become. The same happens with these forms of artistic expression. The more you listen to great blues and jazz musicians the better your skills get, specially your improvisation skills.
But (yes, there's a but) it's very helpful if you have good musical perception skills. This means the ability to recognise what is being played by all those amazing jazz and blues musicians. And of course, good skills on your own instrument.
So, if you want a break down on a learning strategy to becoming a great jazz, blues and improvisation pianist, here it goes:
1. Train your ear. Interval (melody) and harmony (chords) recognition is crucial to absorb everything you listen to.
2. Have your scales at the tip of your fingers.
3. Develop as many fingering patterns as possible and keep those fingers strong.
4. Listen attentively to musicians you admire and try to recognise and duplicate their play....no matter how good or bad you are at it at the beginning. Just do it!

How long does it take? For the rest of your life...and it is a lot of fun.

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