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About Chris
I've never come across a person who could explain what, and how to practice as well as he can. When I first saw Chris play at a jam here in Boston, I thought, that's the guy I want to take lessons with. Luckily for me, he's as good a teacher as he is a player. Chris has a very logical and straightforward approach to learning music. Since taking lessons with Chris I've learned to maximize my practice time, working on multiple topics through one exercise. I've never come across a person who could explain what, and how to practice as well as he can. I would recommend Chris to anyone looking to take their understanding of music to a deeper level, I don't know anyone who will give you a more honest, and passionate education. Mike TuckerDrummer and Band LeaderBoston, MA ______________________________________ "Chris Monster Jazz Formula is a detailed and motivational approach to reaching your goals as a jazz musician. This is not just a book for novices - reading through Chris Punis' books prompted me to rethink my own concepts and approaches to teaching and practicing - after 20 years of professional playing and teaching! I highly recommend this book and plan to introduce it to my own students and fellow musicians." Joel YenniorTrombonist with Gypsy Schaeffer, Either/Orchestra and Instructor at the New England ConservatoryBoston, MA "Chris is certainly the best jazz music teacher I've ever had, but he's more than that: he's one of the best teachers I've ever had--in any subject." He has a special talent for taking complex topics and breaking them down into the simplest possible parts. Chris also has a wonderfully open-minded approach to musical concepts, critically examining conventional wisdom and encouraging his students to do the same. He'll certainly offer answers to his students' questions, but he always urges them to pursue their own path, to find their own musical way. It is Chris' holistic approach to learning jazz-focusing not just on technical concepts but on all of the emotional and psychological components of learning jazz as well--that makes him an ideal guide to the world of jazz. Chris' lessons have been a huge help for me. Jazz is such a rich and deep tradition, and it's easy to get lost or overwhelmed when you try to study it. One of the things I like best about Chris' approach is that he doesn't oversimplify the whole process by telling you what to focus on. Instead, he helps you decide what you want to focus on. And then he shows you how to go about learning those things the right way. One of the most important aspects in becoming a great jazz musician is developing your own voice, and Chris really helps you do that in the learning process." Ken HiattAccordionist, Band Leader, TeacherWaltham, MA

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The Secrets to becoming a Monster Jazz Musician.


What you now hold in your hands is just a snap shot of my years of extensive research, practice, performance, trial and error and studies with many of the top teachers in the jazz world. Up till now, this information has been virtually unknown to students of jazz. Practically a Secret. You see, many of the top players dont actually know how they got to the level they are at now. If they do, they dont know how to articulate it to their students (or they dont want to). They might be able to tell you what they do now, or how they approach jazz. But they cant tell you how they got there. These secrets are certainly not taught in music school. Ill be honest, school and me are like oil and water. Sure, I know how to play the game and pass the classes. But, I have some pretty harsh opinions of the education world. I might offend some of my readers who still hold loyalty to our trusted institutions. But Im not here to be nice or politically correct or to make friends with the establishment. Im here to shed light on some of these major problems with learning jazz. And to help you become the player youve always wanted to be. I strongly suggest that you print this book out right now, and read it immediately. Theres a very big idea inside and many people have used it to become Monsters once they grasped the concepts that you are about to receive right here for free.

Who is Chris Punis?


You might know me from my free online e-course Twenty-one Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician or maybe you already own The Monster Jazz Formula. Or you might be familiar with my work with Charlie Kohlhases Explorers Club or the band Gypsy Schaeffer. To be honest, Im not really in the limelight right now. Ive spent the last few years working behind the scenes trying to really figure out a simple system for learning and a simple system for success with jazz that anyone can use to realize their musical dreams. In fact, unless youre from Boston or the East Coast youve probably never seen me perform, you might have never even heard of me. But rest assured, on the following pages youll get to know me and find out why I feel its so important for you to listen to these ideas about success with jazz. Ok, but why do I care about getting to know you? you may ask. Touch. Good question. 2008 LearnJazzFaster.com LLC All rights reserved ~ www.learnjazzfaster.com

The reason is this: I know from personal experience that my frustrations are pretty much universal in the jazz world. My story resonates with my students and can help them uncover problems and challenges of their own. If I come right out and say you have such and such problem, you have such and such frustration, that can make people put their guard up, become defensive and miss the very important ideas that are presented here. This way you can sit back and enjoy, err, I mean observe the sufferings of a fellow jazz musician. If something resonates with you, maybe I can assist you in solving that problem or frustration. Only you can be the judge of that. On the following pages Im going to spill the beans about jazz education and dispel many of the myths and misconceptions about becoming a great player. Ill shed light on why most people never become Monsters and give in to their frustrations and fears, only to spend their lives wondering what if. Or even worse, become music teachers themselves, only to spread the pain. In a just a second Ill tell you all about my own struggles and failures with jazz. Im going to tell you about my deep dark secrets, how I almost gave up after years of spinning my wheels. Believe me, I dont really want anyone to know this much about me. But I really believe deep down that its the only way to really help you with your musical struggles. You see the fact that youre reading this means that you and I are probably a lot alike. For as far back I can remember, I have always wanted to be a jazz musician, one of the cats. From the first time I heard Trane and Miles I knew I wanted to be a player. I knew in my heart of hearts that I wanted to do that. But lets start at the beginning Way back when I was 13 years old, before I ever heard of ear training, practice habits, swing feel or modern harmony, I fell in love with the drums. Actually, I was fascinated with the drums long before that. But I was 13 before I ever got to see and play a drumset. My best friends older brother got a drumset and I would follow him home everyday after school and beg him to let me bang on them. Bang being the key word. When I sat behind this seemingly giant set of silver Slingerland drums my imagination would take over. The sound of the drums got my blood pumping, got me excited. It was nothing short of amazing, powerful and awe inspiring. I would imagine myself playing in front of a roaring crowd playing the baddest drum solo ever.

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Im telling you this corny story of my childhood to illustrate a point. Do you remember the first time you played your instrument? I bet you were fascinated, excited and enamored with it to say the least. I bet it just looked and felt amazing in your hands. And the sound was just pure electricity. Music was so much simpler back then. We would play around, play being the operative word, and figure things out that sounded great to our virgin ears. We had no expectations, no judgement. We didnt know how much we were supposed to know to be a real musician. We hadnt acquired any music school baggage yet. We played for the sheer joy, for the experience. Well, that soon would change. As I started taking drum lessons and playing in the school band, little by little the requirements were piled on one after the other, week after week. As soon as I barely got through one lesson another was thrown on the pile. Then another, and another and another I just couldnt keep up. And the fact is that most people cant. But that didnt stop me from thinking that I should be able to keep up. So I practiced and studied more and more.

Slowly but surely the joy and electricity were stripped away and replaced with judgements, expectations, rules and standards. But back then I didnt know this was a problem. I wasnt aware of what was really happening. I was digging myself into a dark musical abyss of un-mastered material and half-learned concepts. Then I discovered jazz. I fell in love with it, with the sound and the story. The sound was something Id never heard before. It was rich and stimulated my ears like nothing else. And the characters were no less enticing. They were one part cool and one part rebel. They were different. They did their own thing. And their music was simultaneously hip and sophisticated. It wasnt long before I knew that thats what I wanted to do. Thats who I wanted to be. Soon I found myself in music school, studying jazz. This problem I wasnt even aware of yet was only intensified. The workload increased. 10 fold. I was bombarded by musical concepts, theory, technique, harmony, improvisation, ensembles and on and on. I just couldnt keep up. And the fact is that most people cant. But that didnt stop me from thinking that I should be able to keep up. So I practiced and studied more and more. I developed an addiction to practicing in fact. I would put practicing before everything else in my life. I lost girlfriends, had no social life and even gave up a free trip to Italy all in the name of practice. I practiced 8, 9 even 10 hours a day on some days. I never mastered anything, but I kept trying to go further and build on this weak foundation. There was just soooooo much to practice, I had to try to fit it all in. I didnt have much time after all. I was already 18 years old! But soon I was already 20. Then already 22. Then already 25. Instead of building a magnificent musical castle on top of a sturdy and unbreakable foundation, I was building a rickety shack made of
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a hodge podge of materials held together with duck tape and kite string and all resting on quick sand. Somehow I knew that something was wrong, that something wasnt working. But I thought it was me, not my methods. And I sure as hell didnt have time to stop and figure it out. There Was Still So Much To Practice!!! With every day of practice, study and class there was more information about jazz and music piled on top. Just to keep things interesting I added learning piano to my list. It was around this time that I really started to question whether I had it or not. So I would practice harder. I read or heard somewhere that Bird, Trane and other top players all practiced 6, 8, even 14 hours a day. So I thought thats what I must do too. I never tried to find out how or what they practiced. I just knew that logging hours was mandatory for top jazz musicians. So I pressed on further into the downward spiral to utter confusion and defeat. And of course most teachers were of no help. They just fed the fire by throwing more information, more tests, more homework, more papers, and more practice topics. I dont blame them though. They didnt know they were adding to the problem. For many of them they view it as their job to give you more work, so you get your moneys worth. For others thats exactly how they were taught so thats all they know. And for those for whom music happen to come really easy or who happen to stumble on to the right path and take the right actions and make the right choices they didnt even know the problem existed. Soon I was beating myself up about a variety of things: I wondered if I had it, if I had enough talent. I wondered if I came from the right background. I was a white kid from the suburbs who had no other musicians in his family and grew up listening to rock music. What right did I have to think I could learn to play jazz? I would even beat myself up for not feeling music intensely enough when I listened to it. I was so cluttered up with expectations that I couldnt even enjoy listening to music anymore. I wondered if I was creative. Imagine that. Creativity, which I now believe is a birthright, simply the combination of trust, receptiveness and the result of feeding the creative well spring, eluded me. But how could I be creative when I hadnt truly mastered much at all, and I was so tripped out all the time about whether I was creative or not. Truly a vicious cycle. I wondered if I was disciplined enough. Most people cant discipline themselves to exercise for 20 minutes three time a week. Here I was locking myself in a practice room for 6-8 hours everyday, and I wondered if I was disciplined. Crazy!
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If I had a bad gig, I felt terrible. If I had a good gig, I wondered if it was a fluke. I actually purposefully would NOT tell people about my gigs and recitals. I was afraid I would blow it and look like an idiot on stage.

Unfortunately, I could go on and on about these things I would beat myself up about. But I dont want you to think Im a total basket case!

But the truth is, if most people were to lay their fears and insecurities out on the table we would all look like basket cases!
When I was at Berklee I was surrounded by people just like me. We had all accepted the false belief that jazz was hard. That it was supposed to be a struggle. That if you werent a tortured artist, you werent a real artist. One by one I watched many of them drop out of school and out of music all together. Even top players who we might think have it all together feel these same pressures. But luckily something inside me wouldnt let me quit. Believe me I thought about it. I just hated the idea of wondering what if for the rest of my life more than the idea of continuing my dysfunctional music education. Finally something happened that shook me to the core. Ever since arriving at Berklee I wanted to take an ensemble with the great Hal Crook. Finally after three years I was able to register for one of his ensembles. I showed up, got my ass handed to me and was promptly thrown out of the ensemble. This was a major turning point in my life. Hal Crook did what only a great teacher could do. He was completely honest with me. He was blunt and to the point but compassionate at the same time. He basically told me that I wasnt ready for the class. That I didnt need to be a better drummer; I needed more experience playing jazz with people. Here was this master trombonist and master teacher telling me that I didnt need to practice as much, I needed to PLAY. Something clicked in my head. Now I knew I was doing something wrong and I had a great teacher affirm that conclusion. And for the first time it dawned on me that I might be able to figure out what that was. And then learn to do the right things. This began a fantastic journey up out of the musical abyss of frustration and failure and ever closer towards realizing my musical dreams. First of all, I did just what Hal prescribed. I scheduled every session I could with every player I knew. I didnt have as much time to practice now, so I chopped my practice routine down to what I thought were the bare essentials. I was practicing less than ever but improving at a faster rate than ever before. I was starting to get results.
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Soon I found myself approaching the top players in the school to play sessions. And a funny thing happened. Most of them said yes! I had this false assumption that I needed to be great player before I could ask them to play. Boy was I wrong. You see the top players just wanted to play jazz too. All I had to do was ask. They were ready and willing since most everyone else was too busy hammering away in the shed or procrastinating in front of the TV. I began to feel good about music again. I was inspired again.

But thats not the end of story.


I still knew that something I was doing in the practice room wasnt working. But now I was ready to figure out what. I began a search to find out what the top players did differently. I began to block out what most of my other teachers were dumping on me and got busy learning jazz for my own sake, paying attention only to those teachers who I thought were really valuable to MY situation. I read everything I could get my hands on. I read biographies of great players. I read books about success and achievement. I read about learning, practicing, art, self-esteem and personal improvement. I was on a mission. The next year, after playing a ton of sessions and radically altering my practice habits I called Hal Crook up and told him I still wanted to be in his ensemble. He scheduled a session with a bass player and myself and I nailed it. He invited me to play the following semester. I went on to study with him privately for the next 8 years. I took workshops with Kenny Werner, Danillo Perez, Joe Lovano, Jeff Watts, Pat Martino, Ran Blake, Rashied Ali, among others. I even went so far as to hire groundbreaking psychologist and father of the self-esteem movement, Nathaniel Branden, as a personal coach. Every two weeks for two years we would talk on the phone about topics as diverse as success, goal achievement, confidence and personal improvement. Out of all this a vision for my music started to grow. It was crystal clear to me now that my whole approach to learning jazz was a dead end street. I threw out all of my assumptions about learning jazz and gradually became clearer and clearer about what worked. After many years Ive been able to funnel this all down into a system for musical success that I use with my students as well as for my own practicing, studies, rehearsals and gigs. I did my time in the music abyss and I couldnt be happier to be out of it. Now, dont get me wrong, Im not there. Music is an on going process and theres still plenty of things I could improve and learn. I have learned to embrace the fact that Ill never get there. I love the fact that there will always be music to learn and areas to explore. And now I can use these tools to move ever forward with music. To be excited about your future and what opportunities the universe might throw your way is a fantastic feeling. And a feeling that is very different from falling into that abyss of jazz confusion.
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If any of that sounds familiar to you or hits a chord then youre in luck. In a few moments Ill be going into depth about the undesirable effects I discussed above (you know the abyss), Ill reveal the root causes and tell you about the solutions. So why am I sharing this all with you? First of all, I care deeply about jazz. I care about the jazz world. Its my life. Ive seen my own frustrations mirrored in the experiences of many of my students. Ive witnessed them having breakthroughs and epiphanies and seeing the truth for themselves. There is nothing more gratifying for a teacher than to see his students learn, put the pieces together for themselves and simply IMPROVE with their music. When students tell me or write emails to me to tell me about there own struggles and how they saw themselves in my story I feel connected. I feel like Im making an impact. When they tell me how they were inspired or moved, or that they had an epiphany it feels awesome. They did the work, they made the effort and they found the answer. I know its them, not me. But if my ideas, teachings or writing about jazz can be a catalyst for great change in a persons musical life than I am a happy person. Secondly, there is no reason in this day and age for a person to not realize their potential. The tools are there for anyone to take and use for their own development. I feel much gratitude that I happened upon these tools. Now I feel a responsibility to spread the word. I want to tell the whole jazz world about this. I want to change the way music is taught in most learning environments. Dont get me wrong there are many fabulous teachers out there who really do care and really do make a difference. But they are far and few between. Or theyre stifled themselves by ineffective and harmful educational institutions that simply perpetuate these problems by feeding the fire of information overload, confusion and failure. To be honest, when I first thought about teaching this stuff and writing and creating courses I was very apprehensive to say the least. I didnt want to take time away from my own playing, performing and practicing. But I realized that I had to. I just had to share it. Besides, believe it or not, sometimes I feel like I might get more out of teaching than the student. Teaching and articulating ideas so someone else can understand them is one of the most powerful ways to learn. Theres one more reason for me writing this book. My personal vision and mission in life is to be a major voice in the jazz world. To make a real contribution to the world of jazz. I realized that playing music and creating my own art was only one of the ways I could realize that vision. By helping other jazz musicians who were in the same boat I was, I could impact the jazz world far greater than just by my own music alone. If I can help create 10, 50, 100 even 1000 more successful
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and contributing jazz artists I could impact the world in a more positive and profound way than I ever imagined. Let me help you to become one of them too. So without further ado, lets get into the meat of the matter. Shall we? The Jazz Musicians Lament:

Paying too high a price for musical success that never comes
If I asked you right now, What one thing determines the level of success youll achieve with your music? How would you answer? Your Your Your Your Your Your Your Your Your Your Your Talent? Intelligence? Skills? Strengths? Creativity? Persistence? Discipline? Knowledge? Teachers? Technique? willingness to practice 20,40 even 60 hours a week?

What if I told you it was none of the above?


What if I told you that your talent, creativity, technique, strengths and discipline do NOT determine how far you will go with your music? Now dont get me wrong. These things are important but they are almost never the deciding factor in why some players become great players. Why? Because these things only determine your potential with music. They do not guarantee that you will become the player you want to be or how far youll go with your music. The fact is, there are literally thousands of musicians who possess all or most of these traits and yet fail to realize even a tiny fraction of their potential. My point is that your potential in music and your actual success in music are two very different things. You dont get the gig because of your potential. You dont become one of the cats because you have potential. Potential alone cant make you a Monster Jazz Musician or guarantee that your music will go down in the history books. Now, ask yourself this

Does your current musical level equal your potential?


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10

Are the actual results youre achieving with your musicyour growth and your quality of gigsequal to your potential? Do you believe your current levels of musical growth, your gigs, your band, your experiences on the band stand, are all that youre capable of? If you can honestly answer Yes! to those questionsif you know in your heart of hearts that you have already achieved everything that youre capable of, if youre improving in music at the fastest rate possiblethen please stop reading this book right now. Theres nothing here that will help you. But if youre like most jazz musiciansif your answer to these questions is No! If you are fully aware that you have only achieved a tiny fraction of your musical potential, then this book is going to be a godsend to you. Because by the time you finish reading this book Im going to give you an Ah-ha moment that will explain why youre not getting the results you want, why youre not the player you want to be. Youll understand precisely why youre practicing more and more and improving less and less as a jazz musician. Or why you might be paralyzed by the music, overwhelmed and unable to practice and advance in any real way, why youre a chronic procrastinator. And this will be a giant step forward for you, a giant step to opening the floodgates of musical advancement and achievement. Youll be able to get busy improving and hitting your musical targets one by one. While other frustrated jazz musicians continue to bang their heads against there own limitations, this simple realization will empower you to sky-rocket your music into the stratosphere as if those limitationsreal or imaginedsimply dont exist. Specifically, Im going to show you how false assumptions and false beliefs are more responsible for your hindered musical progress then anything else. Becoming aware of these things may be difficult to stomach at first. But once you see them for what they are you are going to be free and able to achieve your big musical vision. Im going to show you specific tools and strategies that you can apply immediately to your music so you can begin getting results right away. Ill show you how to take your foot off the breaks and get real momentum happening to carry you further and further forward. If you arent already aware of it, information overload is becoming a major problem in the world today. We are constantly bombarded by new information. It comes at us from all directions. This problem is systemic in the whole world not just the world of jazz. But within jazz its a very real thing. It was a problem even 50 years ago, but now its downright out of control. Musicians dont need more information about music, they need a way to deal with what they already have. Theres already thousands of books about composition, harmony, eartraining, technique, styles, rhythm, improvisation, and every other topic and sub-topic of music you can think of. Then theres DVDs, online courses, blogs, youtube videos, music sites. There are schools and lessons, workshops and clinics. Then of course there are thousands if not millions of recordings to check out and learn. (Which consequently is where you should be focusing much of your attention anyway).
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11

Im going to show you a way to deal with this exploding brain feeling, the feeling of overwhelm and exhaustion. Once you know how to sort through this mountain of stuff and keep only whats truly valuable to YOU, music becomes easy again. You might even fall in love with music all over again. I knowyoure skeptical. Youve heard thousands of big promises from teachers, books, sites and so on. But please hear me out. If I can deliver on even one tenth of this promise to you, the time spent to read this book will be the best investment youve ever made. And you wont just benefit today. Youll benefit for the rest of your life. In fact these ideas and concepts will only become clearer and clearer to you over time. Youll only become better and better at using the tools and strategies. This will create momentum in your music the likes of which you may not have ever seen before.

Have you ever wondered why you arent making the progress with music that the other players around you are?
Has your frustration level reached high enough levels to begin doubting whether theres something wrong with you?

Have you ever asked yourself Why am I not a better player? What am I doing wrong? Whats wrong with me? Will I ever succeed in music?

And have you ever found yourself wondering

Why is becoming a jazz musician so hard?


Frankly, if youve ever asked yourself these nagging questions before, you are NOT alone. Just about every email I ever get from my students telling me about their biggest challenges are from people struggling to keep their head above water. They are overwhelmed and even angry that they cant seem to get where they want to go. 12

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They wonder if they have what it takes. They wonder if they are practicing the right stuff. They dont know where to begin or how to choose what to practice. They are frustrated that their playing is so inconsistent. They are frustrated with certain problem areas in their music that theyve been struggling with for years. Sometimes they even feel like its not fair that some players got all the luck and talent and left them with their confusion and frustration. They are downright pissed off that they cant seem to get it together! Until, just a few years ago I wouldnt have been able to give you an answer to these problems. I was just finally beginning to figure out how to get results with my own music! But I decided to try to put it all together so others could learn from my experience (and plentiful frustrations!). Now, as I tried to organize this into something that would be truly beneficial and easy to use for other jazz musicians I quickly realized that this would be a Tall, Tall order. It took me much longer than I ever could have anticipated to put all the pieces together. The culmination was something I created and call The Monster Jazz Formula. You may have heard of it. In a moment Ill tell you more about The Formula but I dont want to take up too much time with that now. First lets take a good, hard look at how NOT realizing your full potential is effecting your life. Then well move on to the root causes and the solutions.

Practicing ever more and ever faster; advancing ever slower


Many jazz musicians approach learning jazz as if it were a raceone that keeps getting harder and harderwith no end in sight. We want to be so much better than we are right now. We are in a hurry to figure it all out. We reason that once we get a certain level of musicianship we will be happy. That the gigs will fall into our laps and we will live happily ever after as one of the cats. We practice more and more but always come up short. We go down this path and that path, buy this book, that book, take lessons with this teacher, that teacher. We practice this topic for awhile then that topic. We constantly change directions. We may even get to the point where we are changing our practice routine daily and never achieving any results with any of it, certainly not any results that come out in our playing effortlessly with inspiration like its supposed to be. Perhaps we have become so overwhelmed by this process that we become numb, like zombies. We just go through the motions and wait for some day when it all magically works itself out. 13

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By going deeper and deeper into this musical abyss we get ourselves into a vicious cycle, a selfperpetuating cycle. By switching topics before ever achieving any kind of mastery we never experience whats possible with mastery. We lose, if only temporarily, our creativity and our innate ability to learn. Our playing is inconsistent to say the least. And we struggle. But the struggling becomes a way of life. It becomes our reality. We expect this struggle even. Since we struggle and never achieve mastery we never play at a level thats good enough. We assume we must be practicing the wrong things or not enough of them. So we switch. Again not achieving mastery. And so on goes the cycle. As our frustration increases we seek out the magic bullets. We know there must be that one thing that will make us a Monster. If only we had that magic bullet everything would be great and we would become one of the cats, garnering the respect of our peers and the admiration of the audience. So we jump into learning to play Giant Steps, or maybe we figure that the hippest players are masters of cross rhythms, or maybe we try to master every single permutation of every single chord structure weve ever heard of in every single key. If we can get that down than surely we will have arrived. We practice things that are way too advanced for us, way too broad or way too vague. We never go deeply into any one topic, any one small area of music. So again we dont achieve mastery and we perpetuate our cycle down into the abyss. We completely lose sight of the point of music in the first place: To express ourselves, create and connect with other people. This is a very painful place to exist. Each time we perpetuate this cycle we chip away at our self-esteem and confidence. This can have the effect of rippling out into our whole lives. This brand of ineffective and fear centered practice can literally effect the quality of our entire life. We can begin to obsess about music. Its all we think about. We might even go so far as to put it before everything else in life. We can lose sight of the REAL priorities in life, the important people in our lives, like our girlfriends, boyfriends, wives, husbands, children, siblings, parents, friends and so on. We might sacrifice our social lives to practicing. And even turn down a free, all expense paid trip to Europe like I did. Now dont misunderstand me. Becoming a great player does require commitment and some sacrifice. Its just that the things we should sacrifice are things like television, or getting high and watching Jackass, or watching dancing babies on youtube, or reading trashy magazines. We dont sacrifice our lives.

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14

I read an interview with Wayne Shorter once where the interviewer asked him to talk about his life as a jazz musician. Wayne said something along the lines of Music isnt my life. My life is my life. Music is just a part of it. But how many of us lose sight of our lives and become obsessed with becoming a great jazz musician to the detriment of everything else. The level of stress and pressure that musicians and artists can put on themselves can be ridiculous. This pressure can literally lead to depression, health issues or even substance abuse. Its no secret that the art world is full of drug addicts and alcoholics. But there is another way. There is a healthy way that can actually lead to more fulfillment in life and Monster Music Skills! There is a mindset and a set of healthy beliefs that can put you on this path. There are tools and strategies that pioneers before us have figured out, that we can use right out of box to achieve our musical goals. Believe me, the Healthy Way is infinitely more desirable than living and practicing and performing down in that deep dark musical abyss. Looking back on it, I cant believe how long I endured those frustrations myself before I said, Enough is Enough! It is my hope and intention to short cut that process for you. So you can achieve your musical goals faster than you ever thought possible. And have a life while doing it.

Now lets talk about each of these major problem areas in depth and surface the causes. Major Musical Challenge #1

The Myth of Talentfear of not having it.


Probably the most wide spread and debilitating problem with jazz musicians is the fear that they dont have enough musical talent. Now talent is a very slippery concept to cover. How do you quantify talent? How do you know if you have enough of it? The truth is, if you love jazzin other words you get it when you listen to it, it resonates with you then you most likely have all the talent you need to go as far with music as you wish. This fear of not having it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. In other words a fear of failure can actually create the real failure. Self-doubt can keep you from doing the right things, taking the right risks and following through on your plans and goals. If you believe you arent talented enough you will most certainly create that reality for yourself. I believe it was Richard Bach who wrote Argue your limitations and surely they are yours. The great jazz piano player Bill Evans actually believed that he was not particularly talented with music. So he had to rely on his analytical musical mind to dissect the musical ideas and concepts that he was attracted to and build his music piece by piece through patient and thorough practice and study. And look what he did with music. Hes one of the Giants! Today, to think that Bill Evans was not talented is a preposterous idea.
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Evans chose to focus on his goal of playing great jazz, rather than focus on his limitations. Instead he did whats called leveraging your strengths. He focused on specific areas of music that he was naturally inclined to explore. He explored those areas as deeply as he could and the rest is history. His methods might have been a complete disaster for a more natural player like Lester Young and vice versa. The Law of Dharma or Purpose of Life. This law states that each and every one of us possesses a unique set of abilities and a unique way of expressing them. If you ponder that idea for a moment and then consider some of the most original voices in jazzThelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Ornette Colemanit becomes quite evident that these pioneers of jazz discovered their musical purpose. They gave back to the world ten times over in the form of beautiful, inspiring music. Not all of them had blazing chops or virtuosic control of music. But they did have a profound understanding and intimate knowledge of their true voice. So whats the solution to this problem? Remove the word talent from your vocabulary. It doesnt matter. How does the saying go, The bars are packed with talented people. Instead, focus on finding those things in music that really hit you where it counts, that flow to you and out of you almost effortlessly. You dont have to be someone youre not. Through consistent and purposeful practice and observation you can surface your strengths and then get busy leveraging them to put you on the path to becoming a one of a kind jazz musician, A Monster. Thats what you really want in the first place, right?

Major Musical Challenge #2

Information Overload: AKA Exploding Brain Syndrome.


Information overload presents a serious challenge. But its also one thats not quite as elusive as talent. You can use simple tools and strategies to deal with this one. Well get to these tools in a second. Information Overload rears its ugly head in several ways. First of all, there is an incomprehensible amount of information about learning jazz available to us. Think back to how it must have been to learn to play music in the 20s or 30s. Students of jazz would have only been exposed to a tiny fraction of the musical ideas floating around the world today. They might have been able to hear a small sample of the music being played at the time on the radio. Maybe they got their hands on one or two books from the classical tradition or some sheet music. There were few if any books about learning jazz so that wasnt a problem. 16

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A student most likely learned by watching and emulating local jazz musicians, playing the music with peers and perhaps taking lessons with one of the local professionals. Their choices for what to practice were, again, tiny compared to the overwhelming choices that exist today. Over the years jazz musicians took the art form in incredibly diverse directions. Slowly but surely there were more players. Recording and duplication processes improved dramatically and with these improvements the number of records available to study increased exponentially. More and more teachers began to analyze the music and create methods to teach it and to write books about every musical topic under the sun. Soon there were many different styles of music and many different approaches to learning it. Its amazing to think that players in the 50s came up against this challenge of information overload too. They had to deal with the music of Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, John Coltrane and all of the other thousands of great jazz musicians. Jazz slowly made its way into the formal education world and with it thousands more books and resources were created and became available to the student of jazz. This process has continued to grow out of control to where we are today; there are many thousands of books, DVDs, methods, teachers, classes, courses, workshops, lessons and of course opinions. Most Teachers and authors also make a wonderful case as to why their particular book or approach is the right one. And almost all of this information is available to you right on your computer thanks to the Internet and the World Wide Web. This problem is only going to get worse as more and more people produce information at dizzying speeds and this information gets passed around cyberspace as fast as it can be created. (Yes I am aware of the irony of creating more information about information overload.) Now on the surface, all of this information appears like a valuable resource to learning. And it is, IF you know how to filter through it all and find the truly valuable gems that are relevant to YOUR situation. Now, so far Ive just talked about information overload as it relates to the jazz world. Obviously jazz musicians arent the only ones busy creating more information. Everyone is. Now we have cable TV with hundreds of channels. We have Internet television, peer to peer networks, youtube, thousands of news sites, millions of blogs. We have cell phone calls, text messaging and email. We have the web available on our cell phones and even music and videos. We have mp3 players that can carry months worth of music. We can download sheet music, order any book on any topic we can think of from amazon. Its no wonder we are overwhelmed and swimming in a sea of information trying to keep our heads above water, let alone about trying to advance as players and really say something with our music. Attention is becoming a scarcity. We are fragmented, distracted and disconnected. But attention is one of the most important things you have. Where you put your attention and the quality of attention you focus there will determine exactly where you go with your music. Attention is a precious asset many waste daily. If you focus on the wrong things you will not be successful. If you focus on too many things you wont be successful. 17

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So how the hell do we deal with all of this? There are two things we need to do to deal with this challenge and to move towards our goals. One is to create a musical foundation to help us choose whats important and sift through the mountain of information. The other is to protect and defend our attention. We need to develop bulldog instincts to

If Everything in Music is Important Then Nothing is Important.


fend off people (and devices) that try to steal our attention and our time. Lets talk about foundation first. In a quick nutshell the way to deal with all of this information can be distilled down to three steps. 1. Determine your goals with music. What are the desired results? 2. Determine the actions needed to get there. What do you need to practice? What skills do you need to acquire? 3. Determine what information you will need. What books will you need? What records will you need? What teachers should you seek out? Ok, that sounds simple, but how do I choose my goals. There are so many musical topics to choose from. It all starts with figuring out whats important to you, what your values are. Your values are your priorities in music. The clearer you are about your values the clearer you will be about what to practice. And a good starting point is to figure what it is that you like about your favorite players. What is it in their playing that draws you to them. Put on your favorite recordings and just listen. Ask yourself what it is that you like so much about this recording or a particular player. As ideas come to you write them down. Write anything that comes to mind. Dont judge your answers or edit them yet. This will give you real insight into what it is thats important to you. Be sure to be honest with yourself. Do YOU really like that player or that music or is it one of the hip records that your teacher or peers told you youre supposed to like. Im talking about finding what it is in music that really gets your wheels turning, gets your blood pumping. Make a list of all of these things that move you about music. When youre finished listening you can add to your list if you like or repeat this exercise with another recording or player. Next, choose the top 5 7 items from the list and put them in order of importance. In other words, if you could have one but not another which one would you choose.

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Just to clarify, something like learning all the major and minor scales in all twelve keys would probably not be a value. It is a necessary condition for achieving other things in music, but in and of themselves you probably dont care about scales. You are most likely not inspired by scales. Thats not why you got into jazz in the first place. You care about things like powerful swing feel, or beautiful and lyrical Melodies, or seamless interaction and deep communication between the musicians. Now remember. Your values will change and grow as you change and grow as a player. This list is not set in stone. You should review it from time to time and make any changes you see fit. In fact, print a copy out and tack it to your wall. That way you can always use it as a litmus test to see if you are operating in harmony with your own personal values. From this list of values you can now create your musical goals. What would you like to accomplish with your music within the next year? A year is a good timeframe for a long-term goal. While it is a good idea to have a long-term visionlike 5, 10 yearskeep your goals to a year or so. Otherwise it becomes way too hard to conceptualize all of the details. Then again, one year is farther than most people think into the future so even that may be a stretch. At first you may decide to start with a shorter time frame like one month or even one week. Next you need to turn that goal into a step by step plan. If you have any aversion to making plans like many of us creative types who prefer to fly by the wind remember this: plans are simply tools to keep you moving forward. Nine times out of ten the way your plan unfolds turns out dramatically different from how you wrote it down. Thats fine. Its just a tool. Use it and enjoy the results of its power. Heres a quick but deceptively powerful way to make a plan using the backward planning method. You start with the end goal in mind. Describe it in as much detail as possible. The clearer you are about your goal the more likely you will hit it. What will it look like? What exactly will you be able to do? When do you plan on hitting it? The next steps are easy. You simply work your way back to today, where you are right now in relation to the goal. What step will you have to achieve right before you reach your goal? What will you have to achieve right before you reach that step? How about the next step? Continue this simple process and work your way backward. The steps that come just before you reach your goal will be bigger and less detailed. The steps that are closest to today should be as detailed as possible. So that you can answer the question What exact result am I going to get in my practice session TODAY?
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As you move forward towards your goal, you will make adjustments to this plan. You will flesh things out into greater detail as you approach them. You might add steps, drop steps, change directions slightly or adjust the order. Before you get started though, go through your plan and apply a little dose of good old fashioned logical thinking. Go through it step by step and check for dependency between the steps. Ok, I know that doesnt sound like fun but its easier than it sounds. Simply ask do I really need to complete this step in order to reach the next step, or am I adding unnecessary steps. Ask Does this step really need to come before this step in order to move forward. If you find two steps in the plan that dont seem to be connected than you may be missing a step. See if there is something that must happen in between these steps in the plan. So to recap you want to make sure that the order makes sense and that you arent adding anything extra. Its like my grandmother used to tell me when she was cooking pasta and meat sauce You have to cook the onions just enough. Not too much, not too little. Its the same with plans. Dont worry about getting it perfect. Perfect is the enemy of good. And good in this case is good enough. Just by adding this framework and forward momentum to your practicing you will move forward at a faster rate. For me and many of my students, that rate was faster than ever before once we applied these tools and strategies to our music. In a moment well talk about the law of the straight line and go into more depth about this. But a very common pitfall for jazz musicians is to add unnecessary steps to their practicing. So after having completed this plan, your practicing will be greatly focused and youll find that you begin to move forward faster and faster. This is a deceptively simple concept. But learning jazz should be simple. I know, I know. Theres so much to learn and practice! But remember, you cant possibly conceptualize or take responsibility for your entire ascension from beginner jazz musician to jazz master guru all at the same time. Your brain will simply explode! But what you practice today and this week should be simple, simple enough for you to dig in deep and to attain mastery. That means really simple. Thats a lesson that I learned from a variety of places but most notably from checking out Bill Evans. He taught that in practicing less truly is more. By digging into the simple concepts in a very real and true way you provide a musical foundation that you can take as high as you want. Do that kind of practice for a few years and you get Bill Evans. Thats sounds good to me.

The other side of information overload.


So a minute ago I mentioned that you needed to develop a bulldog mentality to fend off interruptions of your attention and time. I wasnt kidding. Every time you are interrupted during practicein addition to the time stolen from you by the actual interruptionyou lose time trying to get back into the practice mindset, sometimes up to twenty or thirty minutes! Add that all up and thats a lot of attention and time lost.
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Lets start with people. Most people are not striving towards a goal. They are not attempting to become an artist. They are not aiming at mastery. And they do not value their (or your) time. Therefore, they will steal your time and interrupt your practice sessions without flinching. Now Im sure most of them are not trying to sabotage your practicing (except maybe that musician who lives across the street and hears how fast youre improving with your new plan and your new practice habits;-). They just dont get it. Well its your job to educate the people around you that you are never, ever, ever, ever to be interrupted during your practicing. Maybe if your house is on fire you can let them interrupt you. But only if its a serious fireone that would burn the house down or reach your practice space before youre finished practicing. Now lets talk about devices. Twenty years ago you had two likely interruptions, someone might knock on your door, or the phone might ring. Now there are dozens of ways people will try to contact you. You still have a door and the phone still might ring. But now you have a cell phone too. And you have a computer. You have email (probably multiple email addresses), you have instant messaging, you have RSS feeds, you have desktop updates, you have google alerts, you have text messaging, you have video phones on your computer, you have skype, you have myspace, facebook, twitter, etc, etc. Turn Every Single Last One of Them OFF! They will destroy your practice sessions. When you sit down to practice. You are there to do one thing and one thing only. PRACTICE. You are there to get some specific result that will take you that much closer to your dreams. If its that important theyll call back (or text, or email, or whatever). Major Musical Challenge #3

Practicing Harder; Advancing Less


Many jazz musicians find that the results they are getting from their practice sessions are incongruent with the effort they are putting into them. In other words they practice their butts off but dont achieve the musical ability they want so bad. And they are not getting these results nearly fast enough. Once you have a foundation for your music, once you know what your goals are and what your musical priorities are, you still need to deal with the actual practice session. Im talking about your practice habits. Now you know what to practice. Next we need to learn HOW to practice it, and achieve the result we want. Results Based Practicing. This concept is already implied in the goal and values concept. But I think it needs further explanation because understanding and applying this one principle alone will propel your music forward faster than you probably believe is possible. Each day when you approach your practice room you want to take a moment to be as clear as possible about the purpose of the practice session, about the desired result.
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Many, many students approach the practice room with no idea about what they will practice or what the point of it is anyway. But there needs to be a point, a purpose, a result. After completing the exercises from the values and goal planning section, you are now clearer about where you are going. So, you take that information and use it to decide exactly what you are going work on today. The point is to learn something or improve something in your music each and every single day. Suppose that you really dig Miles Davis. Something about his phrasing and lyricism really hits you where it counts. So your goal is to grasp and internalize his approach to soloing from say, one particular record that you like. Ill use Kind of Blue as an example since pretty much everyone knows and loves that record. You decide as part of your plan to understand and internalize his approach that you will transcribe and learn several of his solos from Kind of Blue. You decide that youll start with his solo on Freddie the Freeloader. Your final goal here might be defined as such: Upon completing this goal you will be able to: Play the solo on your instrument, from memory, along with the record, in tune with Miles, matching his phrasing, articulation, dynamics and rhythmic feel. Now thats no small task. But its a worthwhile task. And with the right practice habits and approach, its a target you will be able to hit faster than might think. IMPORTANT NOTE: Your goal must be realistic to your current situation. And your timeline for your goal must also be realistic. Your goal must be challenging but doable. You must believe that it is possible. So if youre just starting to play, the goal of learning Miles solo by ear might be too far a stretch. Youll need to create a goal thats realistic for your situation. Maybe you buy a transcription of the solo and work on learning just the notes and rhythms. Conversely, if youve already transcribed and memorized 15 Lennie Tristano solos this goal will be quite feasible, perhaps even in a very short period of time. Now theres a lot going on in that goal. First you have to figure out the notes and rhythms, then the phrasing, articulation, dynamics and feel. If you try to do that all at once you will most likely end up frustrated with some pretty crappy results. But if you break it down into a tiny bite size result that you will achieve today or tomorrow, and you continue in that fashion eventually you will arrive at your desired goal. So for day 1 (Thats today) you may decide that your target, your desired result is to learn and transcribe the rhythm of the first four bars. If you get that together Make Your Goals Realistic, Challenging but Doable. Then Get Busy Nailing Them One Result at a Time. Be Sure to Improve One Thing or Learn One Thing Each and Everyday. Thats the Way to Skyrocket Your Musical Abilities into the Stratosphere.

Your Musical Progress


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fast, you move on to the next four. If you dont get it today, you continue tomorrow. Then you move through the entire solo, little by little until you have all the rhythm memorized and/or written down. Then you start with the pitches. The desired result now may be to figure out the pitches of the first phrase. You continue with this process, going step by step until you reach your target: Play the solo on your instrument, from memory, along with the record, in tune with Miles, matching his phrasing, articulation, dynamics and rhythmic feel. Now heres the magical part. It wont take as long as you think to go through the entire process this way. Its not as tedious as it sounds. Once you REALLY get the rhythm from the first four bars, the second four bars will come faster. And the next phrase even faster. You will be lying down your foundation and solidifying your musical skills. As your foundation grows stronger you will move faster and faster through the material. If your first Miles solo takes you one month to get through with this method, your next one might only take you two weeks. And with each solo you will find yourself digging deeper and deeper into the music and hearing more and more of the incredible detail and nuance that is contained within his music. If you were to complete this process with the entire record you would learn more about phrasing, tone, articulation, musicality, development etc then most musicians cover in 5 years. And it would probably take you a matter of months. The greatest players in the world are the ones that are willing to do what others are not. Like follow this disciplined and deep path into Miles music, and take it to completion. Theres no magic or extra talent or luck or circumstances that make it possible. Great players simply do things differently than the mass majority of mediocre players. And if you do the things that great players do you will get the results that great players get. Plain and simple. Now to further strengthen this process, I recommend you add two simple steps to your practicing. At the beginning of your session, before you start to play write down exactly what result you plan to achieve. Then at the end of the session make a few quick notes about the session. Did you achieve your result? What worked? What didnt? What could you do different or better tomorrow? Were there any other take aways from the session? Keep this journal and review before each session. Looking back through it you will gain great insight about your practicing. This journal will also serve as a chronicle of your progress. You will be able to see real progress happening. The awareness of this progress will only serve to give you further momentum and confidence. 23

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You can apply this approach of results based practice to any area of music, whether you are learning tunes, practicing scales and arpeggios or working on an improvisation concept. Next, lets talk about four laws of success related to results based practice that when applied will further skyrocket your musical advancement. I originally came across these laws of success from a writer, entrepreneur, and all around inspiring individual named Mark Joyner. Hes got great concepts about success and goal achievement that work extremely well with musical goals. Ive taken these laws and adapted them to a musical context. Much of this next section is taken directly out of my Monster Jazz Formula. Ive reprinted an abridged version of it here because I believe you will find, when applied, these concepts will be invaluable to your musical success. Musical Success Law #1

The Shortest Path between Two Points Is A Straight Line.


By this point youve begun to lay your foundation for musical success. You are clear about your values and you are clear about your goals. Youve taken this foundation and picked your most important goals and worked your way back down to todays practice session. This work youve done alone will put your practicing on the fast track. But Id like to share with you 4 laws of musical achievement that if applied will really push your music over the edge and speed up your progress. You see weve been brainwashed by society to believe that learning and advancing with music has to take a long time. But its possible to move forward far faster than you realize. Now, Im sure youve heard of the law of straight lines. It is one of the basic laws of geometry. The shortest path between two points is a straight line. Now, Im no mathematician or physicist, so Im presenting this law loosely. For our purposes, it is an analogy and a method to approach goal achievement. Lets say then that one of the two points is where we are right now; our current skill level with a particular musical topic. The other point is of course where we are going. Its the level of skill or knowledge about a particular musical topic that we want to attain. Its the tune we want to learn or tune we want to write. Its the band we want to start; its the record we want to record. If youre in New York and you want to go to Boston you dont go there via Las Angeles. You choose the shortest path available to you. The same
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is true for learning music. If you want to learn the melody to Body and Soul for instance then that is the point you are aiming at. You would first define certain parameters, such as key, tempo etc. You might break it down into bite size pieces. You might use some memorization techniques to learn it. But once you have your plan you would simply get busy working on the tune, piece by piece, until you reached your goal. Now if you wanted to learn the tune on piano, but you have never even touched a piano before there might be preliminary steps, such as learning basic piano techniques and the necessary fundamentals of music. But assuming at least a novice level of piano skills you would simply learn the tune. You might listen to a recording of it a few times to get the sound of it in your ears, and then work through it phrase by phrase until you had it. You wouldnt need to get a hold of 30 recorded versions first, finish the Hanon piano technique book, read a book about learning tunes or any other steps. You just need to learn the tune. Many jazz musicians (including yours truly) tend to get hung up on some aspects of studying. We over-study and over-practice, always preparing, never doing. We overcomplicate matters. We add extra steps. Of course learning 30 versions of Body and Soul would be an excellent study of the tune and the many possible interpretations of ballads. If your goal was to become an expert on ballads and the tune Body and Soul this might be your course of action. But if you just want to learn the tune, than just do it. How far you go on the path to your goal, depends on your ability to find the shortest path and STAY ON IT. Sometimes society and our peers want us to believe that success is hard and elusive. But its not. Its simply a matter of taking the right steps and staying the course. Keep your eye on the prize. This principle can be summed up another way: keep it simple, less is more. Do not introduce unnecessary steps. Whether the extra steps are unnecessary musical steps or blatant procrastination eliminate them. Achieving a goal is usually far easier than we think. The shortest path between two points is a straight line.

Musical Success Law #2

The Law of Clear Vision.


Clear vision applies to all levels of the planning process, from the big picture to the details. You must simultaneously see your vision for the future and the target you are aiming at today. To hit your target you must see it. Imagine you were an archer and you wanted to hit the bulls eye. You would take out your instrument, a bow and arrow, look at the target, aim and fire. If you missed you would simply take another shot, then another, until you hit your target dead on. While going through this process your aim would improve, you would learn how to direct the arrow where you wanted it to go and you would acquire all of the skills necessary to hit the target. 25

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Now imagine that you were wearing a blindfold and were spun around 5 times. How hard would it be to hit your target? If you hit it, it would be by luck alone. Chance. To take it one step further, imagine there were sixteen targets in front of you. You would have to choose which one to hit. If you were blindfolded you might hit any one of the targets, or none of the targets. Again, luck and chance would determine your success. This is how many jazz musicians approach their musical development. They never take the time to choose a target. And they never take the time to see the target. You cant apply the law of straight lines if you dont see your target. Lack of clear vision is the chief cause of failure and mediocrity. You cant hit 10 targets at once. No matter how talented you are. You must learn to see one target in front of you and hit it until hit it. All great musicians and highly successful people understand and practice this principle. They are able to hold one target in their sites. More importantly they are able to see it clearly. The more clearly you define your target the more likely you will hit it and the faster you will hit it. Musical Success Law #3

The Law of Focused Attention.


Now weve covered clear vision, how in order to hit your target you have to see it. Once you see your target you must hold your attention on the target long enough to hit it. You must hit it, until you hit it. You may have a clear vision of your target but if you dont maintain your focus and your actions you will not hit it. Again imagine you were an archer. You see the target in front of you, the bulls eye. Now what would happened if you were simultaneously trying to hit the target, watch your favorite TV show and carry on a serious conversation with your significant other about the future of your relationship? Chances are you wouldnt hit your target or catch much of the TV show. And How about the serious relationship? Well, you might even do some damage. Its not a recommended approach to succeed at anything. To hit a target you focus your undivided attention on it until you hit it. You cant be taking phone calls, text messaging your friend or watching TV while aiming at a target. Your results will undoubtedly be diminished. You must learn to literally ignore and block out all other distractions and single-mindedly focus on hitting your target. Having too many targets can also distract you. If you are trying to squeeze 10 practice topics into a one-hour practice session you will most likely make little progress. If you are constantly watching the clock because you need to get to the next topic in time to squeeze in all 10 you will be distracted. Timing your practice sessions and planning out chunks of time for several different topics is an excellent tool and practice. Musicians will often have several topics they are working on, especially early on. You might have a warm up routine, work on your C# major scale patterns, work on a tune and practice an improvisation technique. If you had a specific result in mind for each of the topics
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and focused your attention solely on the topic for the allotted time, this could be a productive approach. So you need complete focus and attention during your daily practice session. But you also need to maintain your focus and attention day by day. If your target is to learn all of the major scales on piano with both hands playing an octave apart with the correct classical fingerings, up and down two octaves at quarter note equals 100, than you need to focus your attention on that until you hit it. The plan you sketch out for yourself might extend over a one-month period with three keys per week. You would than have to maintain your focused attention over the course of the month or however long it actually takes you to hit your target. If youre like me, you find it much easier to start projects than to finish them. Its exciting to start a new book, transcription or topic. Somehow that initial spark of interest in a new project can fade out over time. But if you want to achieve greatnessin particular, if you want to become a monster jazz musicianyou have to develop the habits of follow-through and completion. They are the traits that truly differentiate those who realize their dreams from those who dont. If you focus your attention and maintain it until you hit your target, then move on to the next target and focus on that target until you hit it, and so on, you will also be applying what success guru, Brian Tracy calls the law of accumulation. Success is built on tiny victories and perseverance. Tiny victory after tiny victory after tiny victory equals huge progress. At first the progress may seem minimal but stick with it and soon your musical development will begin to snowball. See your target, find the shortest path to it and hit it until you hit it. This simple practice will set you apart from the majority of jazz students in the world. The ability to focus your attention on your target and work single-mindedly until completion will put your music on the fast track and youll be well on your way to becoming a monster jazz musician, faster than you ever thought possible.

The law of focused energy.


The law of focused energy builds upon the law of focused attention. It states that the more focused your energy (i.e. practice) the greater your results. If your attention and thus your energy are focused on many things the impact of your energy will be less. Lets look at an analogy. Compare a sharp knife and a blunt rock. What is the primary difference between the two? Most people would answer that the knife was sharp and the rock was not. The knife is sharp because the point of the knife and the blade of the knife allow you to focus your energy (i.e. arm movement) on a smaller surface, thus allowing you to pierce and cut. With a sharp knife you could easily cut a thin slice of cheese. What would happen if you tried to use the blunt rock?

Musical Success Law #4

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Our results from practicing are much the same. If we have razor sharp focus we can easily slice through musical material. Your energy (i.e. practice) becomes diffused and weakened as you expand it out over too many topics. In order to have razor sharp focus you must trust yourself and your efforts. You must trust that you will reach your targets in due time. This is the jazz musicians great paradox. We often want so badly to be better than we are that we move too quickly and take on too much. By doing this we are effectively shooting ourselves in the foot. Young and less developed musicians always seem to be in a hurry to get somewhere. They are certainly not happy where they are, but someday they will arrive and live happily ever after. They will become great players and then their life will begin. Wrong. Even if this methodology worked and they somehow became great players, they still wouldnt be happy. It still wouldnt be enough. Herein lies the paradox. Being in a hurry and trying to go too fast usually means slow progress or even complete paralysis. Going slowly and patiently with a high level of focus, conversely, usually means faster progress. Slow and steady wins the race. I believe it was Bill Evans who was once asked what he practiced when he was coming up. He answered, As little as possible. Many young players practice as much as possible. And they scramble along from topic to topic trying to get there as fast as possible. Im not saying that becoming an accomplished musician doesnt require a lot of practice, a lot of time in the shed, and study of a lot of topics. It does. But how and why you practice is sometimes more important than how much and what you practice. While it is extremely important for anyone aspiring to excellence to think big picture, you must simultaneously be sharply focused on your target for today. What tiny little result will you get today? What tiny aspect of music will you learn or improve today? The answer to that question will truly determine how far you advance with music.

Persistent Problem Areas That Just Wont Go Away. Arghhh!


Now this is a biggie, a major frustration for many jazz musicians. Weve all got these demons and skeletons in the closet. 28

Major Musical Challenge #4

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This could really be any area of music, big or small that a musician struggles with and never successfully figures out how to conquer. It might be sight-reading. Or it might be sight-reading certain things like sixteenth note rhythms or ledger lines, or bass clef. It might a certain style of music like Latin jazz. It might be certain keys, or certain meters. Why Cant I Get It It might be up-tempo playing or maybe ballad playing. It might even be something as small as the bridge of a certain tune.

For a bass player it might be using a bow or soloing. For a pianist it might be the pedals. For a trumpet player it might be the upper register. For a saxophonist it might be intonation. For a drummer it might be brushes or certain tempos. Weve all got these things that haunt us. Weve tried in vein to get them together but we never quite get there. Occasionally they pop up at a gig or session and we cringe while that familiar knot in our stomach comes back once again. There are a variety of causes for this situation we find ourselves in. Lets deal with the more abstract and psychological one first, Self-concept. Now, your self-concept is made up of every belief you hold about yourself. Its really quite an amazing and important thing. In fact, I might even go so far as to say that it is everything! Your beliefs about your self and specifically about your music and musical abilities will determine how far you go with music. Somewhere along the line you decided that playing in three was difficult or that eartraining was hard, sight-reading was impossible or that you could never learn to play fast. Try as you might, you continue over the weeks, months and maybe years to struggle with these areas. Each failed attempt only further solidifies your negative beliefs in this area and this too becomes a perpetual cycle. So, how do you break this cycle and conquer this problem area once and for all? Begin by recognizing the fallacy in your assumption about this musical area. If you can learn to play in four, it stands to reason that you can play in three. If you can play in one key it stands to reason that you can play in another key. If you can learn to read in treble clef surely you can learn to read in bass clef. If you can play bebop why cant you learn to play Latin jazz?
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Once you understand that this negative assumption does not make sense you can get busy breaking through the barrier. What youll need to do is change your belief system as well as apply the excellent habits of practice and goal attainment weve already covered. First lets talk about changing your belief system. Now whenever we try to change our minds we find our selves in a tricky situation. Your mind can be very clever and will always resist change at first. Especially if this is an old problem area. Start by consistently reminding yourself that this is a false assumption. Then begin to change your inner dialogue. You see, the way we talk to ourselves has a tremendous impact on what we think about ourselves. Watch out for the word CANT. Its probably the most dangerous word in the English language. Of course if English isnt your first language then youll need to deal with whatever the equivalent translation is in your language. If you catch yourself saying something like I cant play fast or I cant play in tune or I cant sightread or I cant improvise, stop yourself immediately and correct your inner speak with something more positive and optimistic. Usually its a case that you WONT or HAVENT YET learned to perform well those areas. So replace that language with I Can and I Will. Next, go through the goal setting process. Determine exactly what you want to be able to do. Determine the steps to get there. Add to this why you want to learn that. Determining why you want to learn something and why your music will benefit by learning it can be a powerful motivator. Focus on the goal and the benefits not the obstacles or the reasons why you cant do something. In fact try to list as many ways you will benefit and as many reasons why you CAN learn it. Next break the problem down to the smallest most easily achievable step you possibly can. Than work on that one step, that one result until you nail it. Then go on to the next step. As you begin to see yourself succeeding in this area you will slowly build up confidence and soon your false assumption will dissolve and slip away and you will be on your way to breaking the boundary for good. Watch out for that mind of yours though, especially at the beginning. It will try to trick you into falling into old patterns. Persevere and youll get through it. Another powerful tool you can add to this strategy is visualization. Sit in a quite place and relax. Then, imagine yourself achieving this goal. Imagine in vivid detail, what it would look like, sound like and most importantly, feel like to achieve this goal. Develop this visualization to the point where you can conjure it up on cue. Practice this exercise daily early in the morning when you first wake up or right before you practice. Many people have used the power of visualization to help them achieve many goals including top musicians, top athletes and top achievers in all fields.

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There are many ways you can use visualization. Here are a few more ideas. Create a stream of snapshots that you hold in your mind for a few seconds (say 30) then switch to the next. Create a snapshot of yourself actually performing the musical concept at peak level. Create a snapshot of a your teacher or other musician telling you how much you improved in that area. Create a snapshot of a review by a jazz critic commenting on your prowess in that musical area. Create a short movie in the theatre of your mind where you are performing the concept/area at your peak. Imagine every detail of the performance. What does the music sound like? What does the room look like? Who else is there? How does your body feel? What are you thinking? Feeling? Now, visualization only works if its done frequently, like several times a day for a month. If at first you find it difficult, rest assured that like everything else, it will improve with practice. Dont worry if your visualization is vague or fuzzy at first. This is one case where it really is the thought that counts. And visualization only works if it is accompanied by action. In other words you still need to work on the problem in reality; you need to practice. Each time you address and conquer one of these problem areas you should celebrate the victory. Each time you achieve any goal for that matter, you should celebrate, congratulate yourself and feel good about the victory. With each step forward you are increasing your musical foundation, your creative wellspring and your self-confidence. And you will be on your way to achieving your musical dreams.

In Closing I hope by now it is clear to you that there is no reason for you to not achieve any goal with music you put your mind to. There are so many musicians who end up frustrated and give up on their dreams all together. This is unfortunate and unnecessary. By becoming aware of all the many false assumptions we have we remove the constraints that are holding us back from musical achievement. By applying excellent practice habits and practice planning skills we move forward faster. As we move forward we improve and strengthen our musical foundation as well as our learning and practice skills. We become more focused and more productive. Our music improves and our lives improve. Along the way we throw away more and more false and negative beliefs about our music. We become freer and freer and more truly artistic than ever before. Our musical growth and artistic output increase exponentially as we move ever closer towards our musical vision and our true potential.

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A Quick Recap of the Monster Jazz Principles

What Ive attempted to do in this manifesto is to get you thinking about your music differently than you have before. Heres a quick recap of what we covered. 1. How talent is not nearly as important as you think. Besides, you probably have more talent and untapped potential than you need. 2. The law of purpose. Focus on finding your purpose and leveraging your musical strengths. This is the path that all great players have taken, consciously or not. 3. In order to deal with information overload we must first determine what is important to us and what we want to achieve. Then we determine the necessary steps and the information we actually need to achieve those musical goals. We only need as much as we need to say what we want to say. 4. How, seemingly, the whole world will try to steal your attention and your time and how fending these distractions off will exponentially improve the productivity of your practice sessions. 5. Practice for results, plain and simple. By learning some small thing or improving some small area of our music each and every day we skyrocket our musical development forward towards the stratosphere. 6. Define your desired musical results in detail and discipline yourself to work on that result until you hit it. This habit alone will put you ahead of the pack. 7. Dont add any extra steps. Practice exactly what you need to practice to hit the goal. Remember the law of the straight line. 8. Be crystal clear about your targets. You cant hit a target you cant see. 9. Focus all of your attention on your target until you hit. Avoid distraction and avoid moving from target to target before completion. 10. The more razor sharp focused your practicing is the more quickly you will slice through musical goals. Avoid being too vague or general. Get in there deep with the music, like Bill Evans taught us. 11. Check out your self-concept and false assumptions about music. Work step by step to rewire you mind and to finally conquer those pesky problem areas. If you follow these suggestions you will be well on your way to achieving your musical dreams and goals, and it will happen a lot faster than you might have imagined possible.
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Let me be frank, the strategies, ideas and tools I shared with you today are just the appetizers. The main course is The Monster Jazz Formula. You can check it out at http://www.learnjazzfaster.com/monsterjazzformula.htm So if youre ready to take your music to the next level you need to take a look at the formula. The concepts and ideas presented in the course have changed the lives of countless musicians. Stay tuned. Ill tell you more about it soon. I wish you the best with all your musical endeavors. To Your Musical Success, Chris Punis

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