Making your jazz improvisation on trombone easier and better

I thought of a coaching idea for jazz improvisation while watching a college big band the other night. As one after another of these dedicated hard working young guys and gals stood up and took solos I noticed that far too much of their playing was well outside of the changes – not in a hip alternate harmonic way, but in a lost and unable to find their way back to the changes way.

I can certainly relate because that’s how I sounded too much of the time when I was their age. I wish I had someone take me aside and give me a tip on how to more easily return to harmonic congruency within the tune.

Well, this video attempts to do just that. Whatever your age, if you find yourself struggling to get inside the changes, this video might very well give you the advice you need.

Drifting outside of the changes and having a difficult time returning is what I’m referring to in the video as getting lost at sea.


  1. Rodney Wolber on March 21, 2016 at 4:25 pm


  2. Michael Lake on March 21, 2016 at 4:49 pm

    Thanks, even though it’s not meant for wily veterans like YOU!

  3. George Ellwanger on March 22, 2016 at 4:01 am

    Nice. It’s what I’ve been looking for.

  4. j.d. smith on March 22, 2016 at 9:04 am

    Mike, that was an outstanding bit of instruction. The very same thoughts and ideas have crossed my mind at various times. Thank you for articulating them so cogently and succinctly.

  5. SC Mack on March 22, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    Great advice. This also applies to us “pros” (for me, I use the term loosely) that notice that they stray waaaayyy to much when playing. As I’m listening to you speak I’m thinking – where was this in my Improv 101 class 25 years ago?

  6. Avi Kahanski on March 22, 2016 at 3:10 pm

    Real nice and enriching!

  7. Bobby Welch on March 22, 2016 at 5:51 pm

    awesome ty a great sound Mike!!!

  8. Eric Richards on March 24, 2016 at 3:59 pm

    GREAT video with important practical points, Mike. You have a wonderful teaching vibe.


  9. Dr Alledor on March 24, 2016 at 5:44 pm

    Very cool.

  10. Don Jordan on July 5, 2016 at 4:38 am

    Thanks very much, Michael. You are clear and straight-forward in your explanations and full of good ideas. I’m an older player with a chequered history of playing and not much ‘theoretical’ knowledge, and I find that reminders of the basics as often as possible is so helpful to me in keeping on track in my playing. I try to give audiences the best value that I can, and this sort of lesson-ette helps my confidence very much.

  11. Jerry Walker on January 18, 2018 at 6:13 am

    Very good advice. I’ve been playing trombone for 47 years, and am a strong reader. Can sight read anything put in front of me. My improvisation is the weak part of my playing, and I have struggled with “drifting”. I’m going to add this to my practice routine. Thanks.

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