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Published on October 2nd, 2012 | by Sam


Write the Dictionary

So what can you do with all the vocabulary you’ve checked out?  What is good way to organize it?

Write it down

First off, make sure you are writing things down.  It would be a good idea to keep a notebook or folder dedicated to this kind of work.   Always write down the lick with the artist and song, and even the time where the lick happens in the song-just for later reference.  It’s a good idea to write down the chord that is happening as well.  And to take things even further, write down where in the form that the lick happens.

This information is really helpful for referencing in practice.  First of all you get the context that the lick is in when you learned it, so if you need to go back to it you can easily find where it happens.  That way you can spend more time getting the nuances and feel of each lick.

The context is also extremely important in knowing how to use the lick.  Remember back to the first part of the series and talking about grammar.  Finding and documenting where the lick is used in a form helps you to use it in your own solos and during practice in the right places.

Ways to Practice

Let’s look at some ways to go about practicing this stuff.  You can approach it any number of ways, but here are a few that I like to use and encourage my students to use.

Learn the Lick Inside and Out

The first thing to do with each lick is to make sure you know it inside and out.  Start out by memorizing it.  Then play it at many different speeds-go for the extremes and everything in the middle.  Make sure you master the feel of the lick at fast and slow tempos.

The next steps could come in any order really, so here’s a list of how to approach it:

  • Move the fingering around the neck.  Most people use the cycle of fourths, but also try moving in other intervals or randomly thinking of a key and then playing in that key.
  • Change fingering in the original key.  A great way to thoroughly learn a lick is to play it on every string starting with every finger.  You’ll end up with 24 possibilities, not all of which will be useful.  But you will really get the lick under your fingers and into your ear this way.
  • Practice the lick isolated over chord changes.

 Put it into Context

Here’s where the rubber meets the road.  Try putting the lick into different songs.  First you can try some standard forms (like blues and other I IV V progressions).   Then put them into a song you’re working on-either a jazz tune or any style of song.

When you first start this, try forcing it in to a bunch of spots.  You learn more by failing, so find all the places where the licks DON’T work.  Then make sure you’re paying attention to where they do work.

There you have it!   Make sure to catch up on any of the other parts from this series (Part 1 and Part 2), and please comment below if you have any ways that you like to approach learning musical vocabulary.




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