When I started learning to play jazz, I would lay awake in bed at night thinking about scales and chords. People would ask me why I was so tired all the time and I would be a little embarrassed to admit “I can’t sleep. I’m too excited about jazz.” I would have to explain that I was practicing all the time and staring at the ceiling thinking about music instead of sleeping.
In no time, everyone was asking me to play some jazz for them, and I started to get frustrated that I didn’t know any songs. I really only practiced scales and chords – piano chords! In reality, I didn’t remember any guitar chords, and I was so slow on piano that it couldn’t be called playing. I did some research on a jazz guitar forum and bought a book that was supposed to be awesome (Mickey Baker’s Jazz Guitar, and it is awesome).
When the book came I glanced through it and my first thought was “no fucking way”. The first lesson was almost doable, it was to just put your fingers on the guitar in the right way. Ok, so when I was a kid (aka 25-year-old) learning guitar, I had become familiar with all kinds of twisted formations that my stubby little hands were not capable of. There were definitely some of those in this batch of fancy jazz chords.
At first I told myself to just focus on the ones I was capable of and later I would find substitutes for the other ones. The problem was that lesson 2 had one of these impossible chords in several places and I wasn’t at the point where I knew how to figure out a substitute.
A new approach
Then I had a strange thought, totally foreign to me. I figured, why don’t I just try these chords that are really hard, practice them for a while, more than a day Jennifer, and see what happens.
What do you think happened? Now I can play them easily. I had never fucking tried to do anything hard. Seems really stupid now, looking back, that I had never even thought of trying to do something hard, not just in music. Sometimes I have ended up doing hard things, having fallen into a situation where it was just happening and I took on the challenge. This, on the other hand, was a decision.
Now I have a habit. Every time I find myself thinking something is too hard for me, I focus on learning it. Almost invariably, I am able to do it in no time.
If you have any questions about the book, send me an email!