Sometimes every moment feels like a challenge. Going from history straight to practice straight to an exam straight to practice then rehearsal. My brain was exhausted. But I made it through the day and accomplished everything I set out to do.

Continually inspired by Jason Gay and the results so far, I started today with long tones again. I was slightly more deliberate than usual. This time, every time, I began each note softly, reached the max volume I could produce with still a great tone and in tune, moved down a half step, and slowly got as soft as possible with great tone and in tune.

After long tones, I again practiced my teacher’s lick. Below is a video of the lick in concert Bb, and the method I used to practice it. Pretty similar to yesterday. But I love the improvement; it feels easier in my body and in my mind.


Later, I picked up a new tune, Out of Nowhere. I chose this tune the same way I’ve chosen every tune I learn: I simply ask someone who is better than me what I should learn. I said “Hey Constantine, what tune should I learn?” and he said “Do you know ‘Out of Nowhere’?” and I said no and he said well there you go.

The first thing I did is listen to a lot of recordings. I didn’t even look at the music. I listened to Ella, to Sonny Stitt, Paul Desmond, and a couple more. Then I looked up the changes and played through all the chord tones from low to high and high to low.

I played the melody along with the Sonny Stitt recording several times because I liked his the best. His embellishments illuminated many things for me.

I played Donna Lee for a couple of weeks while always looking at the changes. When I tried to play it memorized, I couldn’t. I had to actually practice not looking at the music.

So today I stopped looking at the music as fast as possible. Even though I forgot some of it later, at the end of the practice session I made it through the melody and changes entirely from memory.

My method was simple: Play it from memory until I got to a point I didn’t remember (usually every 2-4 bars I needed to look). Then I would look, play that part from a measure or two back, then replay from the top without looking.

I also analyzed the way things were functioning (for example, “this is just a ii-V to B minor) which helped ease the cognitive load.

Later, I decided to return to my practice of swing feel with licks. However, I felt inspired to use all the language I’ve gained recently to create my own V-I and ii-V lick. I thought about which chord tone I wanted to end up on (for instance, I decided to play a V-I in C major and end up on E on the downbeat of the C chord). So I reverse-engineered a lick with an enclosure setting up that E. I continued to work backwards.

The lick I settled on was somewhat different than what I set out to do. As I experimented with pentatonics, diminished patterns, and more simple concepts, I discovered a great deal about the sounds I like and wish to employ.


This was an early attempt:


The whole time I made sure to play very slowly with my best swing. Even when I played notes I decided I didn’t like.

So I ended the day with a new tune mostly under my belt and two new licks I invented myself.

Happy practicing!

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