The five minute daily habit to make you a much better improviser

Writing yesterday’s post, I had no intention of writing a post script. But as I thought more about the section in which I suggested a 15 minute daily routine to build your jazz improvisation, I wanted to suggest an even easier routine.

In the previous post, I laid out a 15 minute daily routine that involved three exercises or activities that will strengthen the connection between mind and instrument. I consider that connection to be the key to unlocking improvisational excellence.

I provided that routine because I realize that time is short for all of us. You probably don’t have unlimited time in which to practice your instrument. I provided it also because of the power of habit. In fact, the idea of building habits was central to the post.

But, I want to reduce the idea of daily jazz ear training habits to an even shorter routine. How about a five minute daily practice routine? Do you have five minutes each day to build the connection between your musical mind and your instrument. I would contend that if you don’t, you won’t have much of a chance to improve your jazz playing.

Here’s the five minute routine if you don’t have the 15 minutes I suggested in the prior post:

  1. For one minute, sing a note or simple pattern and then play that note on your instrument.
  2. For another one minute, sing a random note and start on that note to play a simple song you know well. Children’s songs or holiday tunes work well for this (Jingle Bells, Happy Birthday, Three Blind Mice, etc.)
  3. For the remaining three minutes, work on Jazz Patterns for ear. If you don’t have that book, I’m currently offering it for free on my home page in exchange for your email address.

Five minutes each day won’t turn you into a world class jazz master. What it will do, however, is ingrain an excellent habit into you that can expand to ten, 15, or 30 minutes. That just might eventually make you a jazz master!

The point is that habits need to be given birth and slowly nurtured. If you want to start eating better, your starting point probably won’t be immediately dedicating yourself to a 100% raw diet. It’s too much too soon. You’ll hate it and quit in two minutes. So, maybe you start by replacing your daily sodas with water. And maybe start by doing that just in the mornings for a while. Then all day. Then replace several of your ice cream craving treats with a piece of fruit. I said “most” because if you try to replace all and resolve to never again have ice cream, that’s probably not sustainable. Do you get the idea?

If you really want the manual for how to start and sustain good habits and reduce bad ones, read James Clear’s great book Atomic Habits.

Try the five minute daily habit and listen for the results in your jazz improvisation. Once you start to hear them, I bet you’ll increase the time and not want to miss a day!

1 Comment

  1. George (Dittamo) Pagan on February 19, 2022 at 1:09 pm

    At 16 as a classical ehuphonium musician of 8 years already I was “thrown into the Italian feast folk song den (like a lion’s den .. the connection to what notes are forming what key , and the soul of the music was key .. It was Ear/echo training on the go.. jump ahead a couple of decades (and more) and for weekend warrier I’m doing soul funk with a euphonium or valve trombone or flute.. again ear training, approximately what notes/scale, rhythym’s and rock/roll and blues chord I, IV, V etc. – bar transitions for background/rhythym, countermelody the melody.. then going in to 3 to 6 piece bands where the solos go along with jazz-funk like James Brown funk, Herbie Hancock e.g. Chameleon, or Santana latin jazz funk, or Grover Washington or such or even Dixie with Al Hirt.. there’s changes in the tunes.. but not extreme.. If you have 5 minutes past the 5 min warmup play-along , like Winton Marsalis says, showing that you know how to play.. No FEAR it’s only you and the CD or mp3 or such.. just do it like field of dreams and your heart will start to blend with your mind into the music – put on headphones to feel and hear the music.. be creative, find your groove and keep on digging it : ) . Another day pick your own simple tune (with or without background rhythym) and do cycle of 4ths or 5ths .. it’s OK if the tune turns out different and you find yourself “improving” to the tune. e.g. Van Morrison-Moondance and doing it in as many keys as you have time for.. then one person, 3 and so on..

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