focusing on the sound / how to get better at improvisation

I think it´s tricky when it comes to practicing jazz guitar. Of course, we want to get better and hone our skills.

But how do we measure our skills? We play a solo over a jazz standard, we play 2-3 choruses over our jam track/ looper at home and we didn´t loose the form. Good start!

And still, we are not satisfied. Maybe we feel like we are repeating ourselves. Our playing is not fresh, not flexible enough. The same licks at the same place. Or maybe we still don´t sound much like a jazz player at all and we just use the pentatonic or a major scale over all those different chords.

We feel stuck.

And i do know this feeling very well. Been there. Came back to it. It´s part of the process.

BUT i think most of all we need to know ourselves (record your own playing!) and take an honest assessment of what we can and can not do.

That can be quite humbling.

Over the years i developed some routines and exercises that help me leave my „box“ and try something new.

  1. I listen to a recording of my own playing and make some notes: what do i like? What needs some work? What surprises me when i am listening to my own playing. Maybe i develop an exercise from that one thing that i liked.


  2. I really like to play what comes to my mind. Just me and my guitar. I just play what comes to me in that moment. Nothing is planned. There is no agenda. And i give myself the time to just explore that little thing. I play it in different positions on the fretboard, transpose it, repeat it. Enjoy it. One little thing is enough.


  1. I also really like to practice the basics. Every scale /chord /arpeggio can sound cool. it´s not so much WHAT we play but much more HOW we use the stuff we already know. Play it in a different way. For me, that means to play it really slow. I want to get away from the automatic movement of my fingers and really see it in a new light. If i play slow i have a chance to really understand what i am doing.


  2. Lately, i discovered that i can disconnect from the conscious movement of my finger and really only LISTEN. There are really different levels of listening. I try to listen really closely. And while i am repeating a lick i try to hear the next note in my head ( before i play it). I imagine the sound of the note before i play it. How do i want it to sound. It really works like a miracle. you should try it too.