Tip 17On the Shoulders of Giants

As a jazz musician, I spent a lot of time listening to music. I didn’t just play music in the background while I was reading or driving. I would really listen to the music. If jazz improvisation is all about playing what you hear over the chords of a song, then actually listening to music is a critical source of inspiration and knowledge of what works and what doesn’t. What sounds great and what just sits there.

The vast history of jazz recordings serves as an incredible body of knowledge, there for the taking by anyone with the skill to hear it. Listening to music, therefore, is not a passive activity for a jazz musician. It is study. Furthermore, the ability to understand what you’re hearing is a skill that ...

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