My last jazz jury ended a week ago, and I am not planning on returning to music school.
It was by far my best performance at a jury, yet I prepared in a somewhat unconventional way. Instead of spending a long period of time over weeks preparing my tunes and transcription, I basically ignored it completely until two days before.
Instead, I focused on simply improving my abilities daily. Learning and practicing tunes/progressions, licks, improvisational ideas, and ear training. The sorts of things I've written about before. I also gained a ton of stage experience this past semester, which has helped me develop certain ways of "sounding good" even when I'm "under-prepared". When it came time to refresh myself on the 7 tunes I chose weeks earlier, it took merely several hours to have them all memorized and performance-ready.
The transcription, Clifford Brown's solo on "Jordu", was a little more in-depth. It's true that I didn't practice it until two days before, but I had obviously listened to it countless times in order to transcribe it. So the solo was very familiar to me already.
First, I played it through slowly just to get a feel for it. I was checking for which parts are easy, which parts are difficult, and what sorts of ideas were at play (for example, certain sections are fast, others emphasize articulation, some highlight harmonic ideas, etc). After gathering this information, I was ready to dig in.
Beginning with the hard parts, which were usually the fast parts, I started to play them quite slowly. Mistakes always delay learning the correct notes, so I was careful to avoid them. Using a metronome, I gradually increased the tempo. Typically I would only play 2-4 measures at a time in this way. Sometimes even less when I felt that more would cause a mistake.
The night before the jury, I employed a very specific practice schedule. I blocked out 4 hours of time, and after each hour took a short walk. It allowed me to focus intensely and learn deeply while I was in the practice room, and clear my head on the walk. This is a tip I picked up from interviewing Jake Victor.
Essentially my practice comprised of continuing to shed short chunks, and then expanding that chunk to include parts before and after. I would start the expanded sections slowly as well. Occasionally, I would give the whole solo a run just to check my overall progress. At about the 2 hour mark, I started to attempt playing along with the recording (in other words, at tempo). It didn't go well at first, which I expected.
In the last 30 minutes, I felt like I had mastered the solo. So I ran through it several times and a few of the tunes that were less solid. To wrap up, I asked a friend who was around to hear me play through some stuff. There were definitely a few places I messed up purely out of nerves, so that was a great experience to get over those nerves.
By the way, my tunes were:
- Con Alma
- Nica's Dream
- On The Sunny Side of the Street
Because she had listened to me, I felt very confident during my jury. I thought "I've felt these butterflies before, no big deal". And as I mentioned already, it was my best jury ever.
So here's to the end of music school. I'm not 100% sure what the future holds for CollegePracticing. I intend to update at least several times this summer, and hopefully do a few more interviews.