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About Chris Cooke

I've never come across a person who


could explain what, and how to practice
as well as Chris 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.

weeks ago I bumped into one of your clips on


the Internet. I actually believe that the whole
thing was created for me:)

Guy Shkolnik, Israel


________________________________

I would recommend Chris to anyone


looking to take their understanding of
music to a deeper level, I don't know

After millions of methods about what to study,

finally a method that lets you understand


how to study to reach your real musical
goals! Thank you Chris!

anyone who will give you a more honest, and


passionate education.
Mike TuckerDrummer and Band
LeaderBoston, MA
________________________________

Maurizio Iosa, Rome, Italy


________________________________

"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.

Ive been a fan of Hal Crooks books and


method. Chris videos are the next step to

reinforce how to practice improvisation


that compliment these books. .a great

addition to a jazzers library of learning but


more practical than most books that try to help
you to play jazz..

Chris' lessons have been a huge help for


me.

John Kozinski Becket, MA


________________________________

Ken HiattAccordionist, Band Leader,


TeacherWaltham, MA
________________________________
Ive gone through a few of Chris courses. The
concepts in here are essential to mastering
your instrument. I struggle with knowing what
to practice from the wealth of information that
there is. Using Chris course, Ive made

more progress in the last couple months


than at any other time. Ive also gained

Man, what can I tell youIve been


working with The Monster Jazz Formula
for only 10 days now, but it changed the
way I practice. Im much more focused2

You have a direct and genuine approach to


the development and sharing of knowledge
which makes the medicine go down with great
ease. It is satisfying to have a kind of
jazz-practice guardian-angel!
Liam Fionescu London, England
________________________________

confidence in playing which feels greatthanks


Chris!

Thanks for all the advice, I feel you were


talking to me, Thanks!

Troy H., B.C. Canada


________________________________

C.L. Young
________________________________

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2008-2013 LearnJazzFaster LLC All rights reserved

Thanks for being the first person Ive


ever heard to say these things out loud,
and with such creative awareness., and

Chris, You seem to always nail this


thing down! Congrats to another great video
that keeps us thinking different.

at the same time encouraging instead of


discouraging..I will look deeper!

I used to make the same experiences and


actually know that when youre in that space
the music just flows out of your instrument.
But it needs the ability to let go of the fear of
not playing well as Kenny Werner said in his
book Effortless Mastery.

Smilin Steve
________________________________
Im a pro musician and music teacher myself
and got a degree from Laval University
(Qubec). Chris youve got a vision and a
passion that Ive rarely seen from other
teachers. I think youve got some ideas that
can be a real revolution in the jazz

I also try to promote the art of playing music


by ears as well on my website
youcantrustyourears.com, but my focus is
more on the aspiring or amateur musician to
lay out a plan on how to accomplish this goal.

education and music education in


general. Keep up the good work and the

However, your method is highly


recommended for the serious student.

inspiration!

Dave Dub
________________________________

Best wishes,
Henry Krupp
________________________________

Thanks for your enthusiasm for this subject,


and most importantly, for giving the matter so
much thought and study.

Ive made the transition from classical


to jazz keyboard largely due to your
monster formula as it help me set useful

Im an older player, burnt out from teaching


,but really wanting to get back to PLAYING.

goals after many months of wandering in a


fragmented way and getting nowhere. That
was about 1 1/2 years ago.

This is exactly what I need to get to way


ahead of where I used to be!

Alex
________________________________

My latest focus has been listening, transcribing


solos and playing what I hear in my head. As
soon as i stop singing, Im up in head thinking
instead of hearing and feel lost. I cant believe
how this has changed my playing!! Ive
ordered Ran Blakes Primacy of the Ear and
cant wait to read it. The psychologist in me is
fascinated by the process of learning by
hearing rather than more cognitive processing.

Your method works ; it is efficient and it


gives confidence.

Thank you SO much for taking the time


to share your knowledge.

Albert D. Haut-Ittre, Belgium.


________________________________

Ginny Simonds
________________________________

Milton
________________________________
ChrisI think your work will become
transcendental good job!

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Hi Chris! I own the monster jazz formula


since 2009, and it really changed my life!
Unfortunately, the modern life style is killing
the wings of mind and free spirit, and people
are not aware or do not believe what a human
mind can do..Thank you for setting up my
mind not only for musical, but life development
also! True words of wisdom from a

modern philosopher!

Now, one can understand exactly what


Michael Brecker and Bill Evans were talking
about, when they said they were concentrating
on very small portions of music and learning
them as thoroughly as possible. Great job man
and thanks a lot !!

The Monster Jazz Formula is a detailed


and motivational approach to reaching
your goals as a jazz musician. This is not

just a method 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 The
Monster Jazz Formula and plan to introduce it
to my own students and fellow musicians.
Joel Yennior--Trombonist; Instructor at
the New England ConservatoryBoston,
MA
________________________________

If you're serious about learning jazz I


highly recommend you check out what
Chris has to offer.
Braun Khan - Church Music Director,
Private Instructor, Bassist
________________________________
http://learnjazzfaster.com/jazzpracticeblueprint

Armando Salazar Santo Domingo,


Dominican Republic
________________________________
As a teacher I see myself improving and also
passing the knowledge in a more effective
way!!! Thank you for sharing jazz monster

Themis Nikoloudis
________________________________

Guy Shkolnik
________________________________

The Monster Jazz Formula for me has


been a delightful approach in learning
the basics of creation, awareness and
deep inner feelings, thank you very
much

formula!!!!

Javier Vargas (Jazz Studies teacher at


the National Conservatory in Santo
Domingo)

________________________________
Your Monster Jazz Formula is spot on! Next to
my senior recital, I've found defining and
refining my own values, goals, vision and
mission... to be the most productive and
enlightening exercises I've ever done.
Slide Ackerman, Boston, MA
________________________________

The Monster Jazz Formula materials are


in a class by themselves. Any musician
would be miles ahead having these courses in
their "repertoire".

Darryl Ruff
Kelowna BC Canada
________________________________
The Monster Jazz was nothing else than a
fresh re-beginning of everything I learned
since ever: My Music (and so my

practicing) began to live and improved


10,000-Times!!!...thank you very much Chris
now, practicing and performing is grand joy
every day!!!...
Stefan--Zrich, Switzerland
2008-2013 LearnJazzFaster LLC All rights reserved

The most thorough method to organize


your jazz practicing to attain the most
progress.
David Bond
Mexicali, Mexico
________________________________
I have been playing for over 45 years, and
have studied with some of the world's best
teachers. But as a teacher I see students
become overwhelmed with the amount of
available information and what to do with it in
the limited hours of a day. Your systems allow
for individualized pinpoint focusThis is

________________________________
Your knowledge is great, but on the top of
that, it is the way you present that makes it
unique. You do not make any tricks or give
away half-hearted information and I have
learned a lot from your materials. It is great
that you cover up the mental topics as well,
not just technical stuff. We are lucky to be

able to wade through your methods!


Bruno T. Slovakia

something that I have never found


taught in the field of music before, and I
swear by your material.
You are truly the Tony Robbins of the music
education world,---keep it up.
Chuck Decker, Woodbine NJ

Breakthrough Practice
In this short book Im going to share with you one of the most important
ideas Ive ever learned about playing jazz - About practicing jazz,
advancing with jazz and just simply getting better and better and better
with jazz. But why does that matter to you?
Well, simply put: I would bet that you want to be better player than you
are; you want to take your playing to the next level. If you didnt want
that you wouldnt be reading this book.
You want to sound good in front of your teachers, your peers, your audience and for yourself. But
you also want to be one of those cats that gets up on that band stand and just kills it - and takes the
audience on wild musical ride.
And of course youd like to get the respect you deserve from the other cats in the band and at the
gig. And theres nothing wrong with that. But you want to earn that respect - by being a tried and
true, bona fide Monster of a Jazz Musician.
But heres the catch: You cant become a serious force on the bandstand, or at the jam session for
that matter, if you dont know how to get better, if you dont know how to practice.
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Get Good at Practice. Get Great at Jazz.


Now, I think its pretty important that you understand how I came to discover this musical life
changing lesson so you can use it yourself and get the most out of it.
First of all, I gotta say that I bet you and I have a lot in common.
We love jazz. Cats like us just get it. We dig the sound and the swing and the attitude.
Personally, Coltrane was my gateway drug to jazz addiction. But, I quickly found Miles and Mingus,
Ornette and Lennie, Duke, Bird, Dizzy and all the great players of the past and the present.
And, ever since falling in love with this music, I wanted so badly to be one of the cats. To be a
monster of a musician.
I first started playing jazz when I was about 17 or 18 back at a small college in PA where I grew up.
Something about this music just spoke to me and I knew that the jazz musicians were the baddest
cats around.
I had been playing in rock bands for a couple years but didnt know a
thing about jazz. I had no idea how to go about becoming a jazz musician.
As much as the music touched me, it was a complete mystery to me.
My early teachers all had me playing out of method books. And they all
told me stories about how much this guy practiced, or how many hours a
day that guy practiced.
Well, those early lessons were cemented into my beliefs about music. My
early practice, and actually most of my practice for the next 10 years was
heavy on the method books, exercises and patterns.
And it was extremely heavy on the hours logged in the practice room. Since I didnt know anything
else about practicing I latched onto the belief that it was all about how much you practiced.
The other cats at school were the same too. We would all brag about how much we practiced the
day before. Yesterday I practiced 8 hours. Well I put in 13 hours. I didnt even eat lunch or
dinner. Well, I didnt even sleep last night. I just practiced all night. And our teachers encouraged
that type of thing. It meant we had a good work ethic I guess.
In fact we all believed that we had to put music first and sacrifice everything else.
Well, this went on for a couple years. Quantity was king. The more the better when it came to
practice. I never stopped to think about what I was actually accomplishing with that time. As long as
I was practicing 15 different topics and working as many hours as I could possibly stand I was a real,
genuine struggling jazz musician.
This went on for years and years. Struggle, frustration, spinning my practice room wheels. Paying my
dues, but not making the progress I wanted so badly.
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To tell you the truth, I did get really good at playing some of those exercises and patterns. But
mostly I never achieved any real mastery over any of it, and I was never able to take much of it to
the bandstand with me. It would be years before I would realize what I was doing wrong.
I would practice, practice, practice and then still get my butt kicked at
recitals and jam sessions. Playing jazz was still a serious struggle,
despite all the hours I was putting in for those years. But I wasnt able
or willing to stop and slow down long enough to evaluate what I was
doing, what was working and what wasnt.
And most cats arent. Most of us are like zombie practice machines.
Were like hamsters running on a wheel getting nowhere. Just plugging
along. Paying our dues.
Thankfully, I eventually came upon a big turning point in my life. I was still at Berklee in my third
year.
After getting my ensemble ratings up high enough, I registered for one of the top ensembles in the
school. Hal Crooks ensemble. I honestly thought I had finally arrived as a jazz musician. After all
these years of struggle I was finally one of the cats at Berklee. I was awesome I thought to myself.
Well, I lasted exactly one class and Hal gave me the boot. I was pissed to say the least.
Disappointed, beaten and thoroughly bummed out. Hal told me I wasnt ready for his ensemble; that
I didnt need to be a better instrumentalist; that, instead, I needed to go play with as many other
musicians as possible then call him back next year to see if I was ready.
After cursing Hal Crook under my breath for about a week and beating
myself up as a failure, I finally shook it off and got busy. In hind sight I
realized that Hals Tough Love and total honesty with me was really the
sign of a truly caring and compassionate teacher. He caused a profound
turning point in my musical development.
I did what Hal said. I played as many sessions with other cats at school
as I could. And down the road several bands and lots of gigs came out of
all that playing. And it changed my music forever. A year later I called Hal
up and we set up a trio session to see if I was ready for his ensemble. I
nailed it, got in to the ensemble the next semester and went on to study privately with Hal for over
10 years.
Studying with Hal led to other breakthroughs in my playing and my practicing. I completely
overhauled my practice routine and my practice habits.
I continued to do my own research and study as well. I read countless books about all kinds of
subjects from psychology to the zone to musician biographies to goal setting to principles of success
to self-improvement to Zen Buddhism and on and on.

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I attended master classes with Kenney Werner, Danilo Perez, Joe Lovano, Jeff Tain Watts, Pat
Martino, Dave Liebman, Rashied Ali and Ran Blake. It was light bulb moment after light bulb
moment.
I overhauled my listening habits, my rehearsals, my whole approach to learning, practicing and
advancing with jazz. Over time I slowly developed a holistic approach and understanding of the
whole process of being a jazz musician and of practice - in the practice room and beyond the practice
room.
I discovered that there was good practice and bad practice. Suddenly it was plain as day:

Good Practice Leads To Success,


Progress And Respect.
Its fun. The progress creates more motivation. And it becomes a
self-feeding cycle of musical growth and improvement.

Bad Practice Leads To Stagnation,


Frustration And Pain.
Its boring and feels like your serving a practice room prison
sentence. The frustration and lack of progress slowly chips away at
your motivation and eventually it becomes nearly impossible to find
the energy to carry on.

The choice for me was a simple one:

Get Good at Practice. Or Dont Get Good at Jazz.


Heres an analogy for you.
Would you build a house without a blueprint or a plan? If you didnt know how to survey the land or
lay a foundation, or frame the house or lay the floor - If you didnt know how to put on the roof,
install the plumbing, or electricity or insulation - if you didnt understand the process of building a
house - would you still try to do it just by working on your house for 3-4 hours a day?
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Thats exactly how most cats practice. They have no idea what to do next or how to do it. So they
just get in there and start noodling and logging hours in the practice room. Then they wonder why 5
years later their musical house still kinda sucks.
Or even worse, they came up the way I did. If I was building a house the way I used to practice
heres what my day would be like. Hammer nails 45 minutes. Saw two by fours - 30 minutes. Dig
holes 30 minutes. Sand wood 45 minutes. Etc.
At the end of the day Id have a pile of wood scraps with nails sticking out of them. But no house or
any progress towards building one.
Well, your practice sessions are not unlike that house.
There are different pieces that must fit together.
Of course you need that blueprint. And you need certain
practice skills. You have to get good at those skills.
You need to establish effective practice habits.
You have to practice things in the right order.
You have to manage your energy and time in the practice
room and out of the practice room.
You need a whole mess of different experiences to
transform you into a solid jazz musician; like listening,
playing sessions, jamming and gigging.

And you need to keep this all simple enough so you dont get overwhelmed with the
process, get bored and just quit. Or worse, procrastinate and get caught in a cycle of
musical frustration.
But heres the thing, when youve got all your musical activities working together in harmony and
youre working in a way that is getting you fast progress, the whole thing becomes super fun,
exciting and the process feeds itself.
And its actually not that hard to do. (Well get to that real soon.)
In fact when you hit that practice zone the hard part is getting yourself to stop practicing!
And as you start to play better and better at the jam sessions and on the gig, the cycle just picks up
more steam and practicing becomes even more fun and more important to you. It becomes a selffeeding cycle - an amazing alternative to spinning your wheels in the practice room, riddled with selfdoubt and frustration.

The Five Pillars of Breakthrough Practice Sessions


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Now. Id like to introduce to you something I call the Five Pillars of Breakthrough Practice Sessions.
Let me use that house and blueprint analogy for you again. If your practice room house is made up
of music theory, ear training, listening, improvisation topics, learning tunes, instrument technique, etc
- The Foundation that it all rests on is The Five Pillars of Breakthrough Practice Sessions.
Now, a breakthrough practice session is a session where
you actually get better, you move forward musically, by a
tiny step each and every day. Let me blow your mind here
with a little math. Imagine that you had your practice
sessions dialed in to the point that you were getting just 1%
better each day at whatever you were working on. After
about 9 or 10 weeks you would be TWICE as good!
Imagine where that gets you down the road when you have
that kind of practice for a few months or even a few years.
That is how you become a serious musical force.
Now let me hit you The Five Pillars. Well put these pillars to work in the section called 5 Steps to
Breakthrough Practice. But here is an overview of them.
#1 The All Important State: This is your state of mind. This is your attention, your concentration,
your energy and your focus. How mindful and fully engaged are you when you practice? Well, it
makes a world of difference. Work on strengthening your mindfulness. Increase your level of
attention & concentration and immediately you start getting better faster. Period.
#2 The Universal Laws of Musical Success:

The Law of Musical Balance always strive to find balance in all things. Balance within
your solos, balance with musical opposites (Loud/Soft, Dense/Sparse), balance within your
practice routine, balance with your practicing vs. playing, balance with your practicing vs.
listening, balance in your life, etc.

The Law of Accumulation all great musical accomplishment happens one tiny step at a
time.

The Law of Consistency musical advancement happens through consistent, mindful daily
practice through thoughtful repetition of musical elements, topics, exercises, melodies, etc.

The Law of Habit Force first you create your habits and then your habits create you, your
music and your life.

The Law of Musical Memory its all about your musical memory, your aural imagination
and your ear. Feed, expand, deepen and strengthen your aural imagination every step of the

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10

way.

The Law of Resistance you will experience internal and external resistance as you take
action to change and progress as a musician and a human being. Accept it and learn from it.
Adopt a pro attitude and show up to play and practice even when you dont feel like it.

When you understand these laws you understand how musical success works. As you start to bring
your practice sessions into harmony with these laws, which is actually pretty easy when you know
how they work, your progress begins to accelerate exponentially (to sound a little nerdy). In other
words you get better faster and faster.
#3 Habit and Mastery: The whole point of practice is to make that which is unfamiliar into a that
which is easy and habitual - whether its your embouchure or a fingering, or swinging or playing in a
certain key.
We practice so we can internalize these things and then let go on the band stand and let the music
happen. Thats the 1st level of habit.
The second level of habit is your practice habits - how and what you do in the practice room each
day. These are your rituals, your habits of preparation, follow through, persistence, patience, and
consistency. First you make your habits. Then your habits make you.
#4 Practice Room Strategies: These are the ways you approach your practicing.

Focus on your musical constraints - whats holding your playing back more than anything
else? Hit that first for maximum progress.

Headroom. Take concepts, technical elements and practice topics a little further than youll
need for the bandstand. This will give you a little headroom and make you more relaxed on
the gig.

Wear many hats. Tap into the amazing capacities of the human brain by practicing like an
artist, an athlete, a scientist or an actor.

Topic Integration. Integrate some or all of your practicing across the board: your technical
work, ear training, listening, tunes, jam sessions, and writing. All of it can be connected with a
common musical thread for maximum musical progress.

#5 Practice Room Tactics: This is the nitty-gritty of the practice room. Here were talking about
things like:

Your practice routines.


Your warm ups.
The power practice paradigm.
The natural learning method.
How you maximize practice and handle time & energy by using practice/rest cycles.

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Things like the inner hearing process, pre-improv tune workouts.

These are the tactics. Well go over the details of using these tactics and tools in just minute.
As you bring these 5 Pillars into harmony and into your practicing youll begin to have some of the
best practice sessions of your life. And of course having the best practice sessions simply means
youre gonna sound better and better at sessions and gigs and lessons. Youll have more fun playing
and youll start to get the respect you want from other cats. And that feels pretty damn good.
Especially when you earn it.
Make this your mantra:

Get Good at Practice. Get Great at Jazz


And youll change your music forever.

5 Steps to Rapid Musical Progress


About five years ago I started publishing the Monster Jazz Online Newsletter.
At first, I had no idea what area of jazz to focus on. So, I decided to ask my subscribers what they
needed help with most.
Overwhelmingly, the answers took the same tone: I dont know
what Im doing in the practice room. I dont know what to practice,
how to practice or if Im even doing it the right way.
I thought to myself this is good. I can help these cats. I had been
down that same road. And now I can share the formulas,
blueprints, plans and practice strategies I discovered over the
years.
What Im going to lay down for you today will hopefully do nothing
short of transform your practice sessions, and by default your
music.

Get Good At Practice. Get Great At Jazz.

*Good Practice Is Truly The Key To The Jazz Kingdom.


Lets get started.

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12

Five Steps to Rapid Musical Progress


Step One: Get Fully Engaged
The most powerful thing you can bring to the practice room is
full engagement.
In the simplest terms this means you are fully paying attention
to whatever the focus of your practice is. You can really only
focus on one element at a time. So the first step is to choose
what you want to focus on.
Im going to explain this in detail in just a second, but its
important that you understand what NOT to do.
Mindful practice is not running scales and exercises mindlessly
while watching TV.
Mindful practice is not letting your fingers run over patterns that youve practiced while looking out
the window and thinking about what youre having for dinner.
Mindful practice is not rushing through whatever youre practicing, while actually thinking about all
the other stuff you still have to practice.
As you practice, so you play. If your practice is distracted and mindless, thats what youre gonna be
like on the bandstand. And if youre like that on the bandstand no ones gonna want to play with you.
Now, if youre thinking to yourself, damn it, I guess Im never really paying attention in the shed.
Im screwed. Dont worry. Like everything else in jazz, mindfulness is learnable and improvable.
One: Begin strengthening your mindfulness by working some breathing meditation into your day.
This doesnt have to be fancy, complicated or take a lot of time. Just sit quietly in a comfortable
chair and focus your attention on your breath. Inand out.
As your mind wonders - and it will - bring it back to your breath. Just do this for a few minutes each
day in the morning or right before you practice. You will quickly start to see an improvement in your
mindfulness by making this a daily ritual.
Then bring this meditative spirit to your practice. Focus only on the detail you have chosen to put
under that practice room microscope. As your mind wonders - and it will - simply bring your attention
back to your practice, just like meditation. Take your time and be patient. This is the jazz musicians
paradox. Slow and steady is actually faster in the long run.
Two: Close your open loops. Have you ever been working on your computer and noticed that it
became really slow and sluggish? Maybe it even freezes up? Then you realize that you have 24
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13

windows open and 9 different programs? Thats not unlike how your brain works in the practice
room.
You could be thinking about any number of different things: A phone call you need to make, a bill
you need to pay, something you want to practice, a concert you want to get tickets for or maybe an
unresolved argument with a friend.
Open loops are all the unfinished, unresolved things floating around in your head that distract you,
limit your concentration and drain your energy. Make a list of all of those open loops. Write it down.
Then go through the list and resolve them one by one. Either do the thing thats occupying your
attention immediately. Or schedule a time to do it later so you dont have to worry about now. If you
cant resolve it this way, then just consciously decide to just let it go.
Three: Respect your limits and build your mindfulness muscle. The idea is to practice for as long as
you can while maintaining mindful engagement and concentration. And no longer. For you, that could
be 30 minutes at a time. It could be 1 hour. It could be 15 minutes.
If you can only focus for 15 minutes dont be worried. Concentration is like a muscle. Practice in 15
minute chunks for a few days with a short break in between each chunk. Then take that up to 20
minutes until that becomes comfortable. Then up to 25 and so on. Pretty soon youre back up to your
original amount of practice but youre 5X as productive because youre actually present and engaged.
Four: Use a practice/rest cycle. The typical limit for productive practice is just around an hour - for
me its about 45-50 minutes. Then my brain gets tired and I start drifting away. At this point practice
becomes less and less productive. Its time for a break.
I structure my practice this way. Practice for 50 minutes - short 10 minute rest. Practice - short rest.
During the rest you can do whatever you want. Get a glass of water, go for a short walk, or meditate
for 5 minutes. The practice part should be as long as you can maintain mindfulness.
This practice/rest cycle will allow your brain to recover and allow you to refocus when you return to
practice. Experiment and find the times that work best for you.
Lets move on.

Step 2: Focus on Your Biggest Musical Constraints


Typically there is always 1 area of your playing that screams out for
attention more than any other. Focusing on this area will have the
most dramatic affect on your playing possible. This is your biggest
musical constraint.
The first thing you must do of course is identify your biggest
constraint.
Here are a few ways to do that:

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1. Record yourself playing. Listen back and critique your playing. What is the most glaring issue
that pops out to you? Dont over think this. Something will pop out to your ear that needs work. It
could be your tone. It could be form. It could be your feel. It could be accuracy with the changes.
2. Think back to the last session or gig you played. What did you struggle with? What was
hard for you? What did you sound best doing? What one area of your musicality, if it were stronger,
would make the whole gig easier?
3. Ask other cats on the scene for their feedback. If you could only practice one thing what
would they suggest you work on based on hearing you and/or playing with you?
And, listen; dont worry about getting this perfect. Even if you dont nail this youre bound to pick
something thats still very important.
Once you have your musical constraint make it a priority in the practice room and get busy attacking
it from all directions.
Focusing on your musical constraints will have the biggest impact on your playing and will go a long
way to keep you motivated and moving forward.

Hint: Many cats work on the same old crap in the practice room every day. They play tunes they
already know. Or they work out of method books theyve already been through. Or they just play.
The real way to get better is to work on stuff you CANT play. Thats what the best players do. And
they do it at the edge of their ability. Theyre always pushing that edge forward day by day. More on
that in a second.
By targeting your biggest constraint youre maximizing this idea of working on stuff you cant do.
The next piece of the Breakthrough Practice Puzzle is:

Step 3: Practice for Mastery.


Mastery is a confusing word. It gets thrown around a lot in jazz and is
perhaps one of the most intimidating and misunderstood words in the jazz
practice lexicon.
You gotta master your scales. You gotta master rhythm changes in all 12
keys. You gotta master the basics. But how the hell do you do that? Those
goals are too vague, too broad and too overwhelming.
Let me share with you a better way to think about mastery. You start by

taking one small musical detail putting it under the microscope in


the practice room.
In other words youre taking a whole solo or a huge concept like thematic
development; or a whole tune and youre zooming in on one tiny little aspect that you can improve
today.

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Then you work on that tiny little detail until it is easy. Not until you can play it a couple times pretty
well before making a mistake. Not until you can hack your way through it, sort of, most of the time.
You practice it until you can you easily play it over and over, practically in your sleep.
Now the size and scope of that detail must be challenging but doable. It should stretch your musical
abilities during this learning phase. If its too easy you wont grow. If its too hard youll go into
practice panic mode and you wont improve. Its got to be right at the edge of your ability. Thats
where real learning and musical progress happens.
This is why when you hear serious cats practicing, they never sound bad. Theyre always pushing
forward, but never so far that they reach panic mode. Theyre at that edge. They live in that practice
sweet spot.
So to the sum that up, the path to mastery is 1) choose a target and find the very next step. The
detail youre gonna put under the microscope. 2) Practice it until its easy, until you own it. 3) Then
you find the NEXT step. And so on until you hit your target - learn the solo, the tune, the
progression, etc. Thats the power practice paradigm.
Its so simple, yet so powerful. When you learn to live on that edge in the practice room and always
reach the point of easiness with your topics you start to expect that feeling from everything you
practice.
Practice like that for a while and suddenly playing a ripping solo at a session becomes easy. Then you
can focus your attention on making music instead of focusing on just hanging on for dear life.

Step 4: Record and Critique Yourself.


A lot of cats know they should be recording their practice. They know
that their teacher recommends it and that many of the best players
around do it religiously.
But how do you do it, right?
How much do you do it? Do you record everything you practice?
Do you have to listen back to everything? Just once? Twice? More? If
you do, youre talking about more than doubling your practice time.
So lets shed some light on this.
Recording and critiquing your practice and/or sessions is one of best things you can do. Its a
fantastic way to find out where you are with a topic. Its a fantastic way to find out if youre going in
the right direction. And its a great way to become aware of details in your playing that you didnt
even know were there.
So here are a couple ways to use this powerful tool.
1. Use it to discover your constraints. Record a gig, a session or just yourself in the shed playing
over a tune you think you got down pretty well. Then listen back a few times - listen with the express
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goal of hearing more and more detail. What pops out to you as needing your immediate attention in
the practice room? Dont over think this. Trust your gut instinct. Then use that info to choose practice
goals and get to work using The Power Practice Paradigm.
2. Check your progress/Expand your awareness. So now youve chosen some goals, youve
broken them down into small targets for each days practice. Maybe youre working on the first 8 bars
of a Monk tune. When you think youve got it coming together, record it, listen back and critique it.
Whats good? Whats working? Whats not? Be objective and be compassionate. If you listen and
realize that the 6th bar of the phrase is really sloppy and something is just not right with the rhythm,
well thats where you focus. Bar 6. Zoom in on that, find the next step and practice it. Then record
and critique again.
Becoming a solid player requires expanding your musical awareness. And there is perhaps no better
way to do that than recording and critiquing.
If you have the means to do it and the hard drive space, record your whole practice session. You
dont need to listen to the whole thing. But if youve got the tape rolling you can check in whenever
you feel you need to.
Heres one way I use it in my practicing.
(This is a two hour routine. Feel free to cut this in half if you only one hour to shed.)
Hour 1: Play five 8-10 minute solos using an improvisation concept Ive been working on. For
instance, motive development. Record all five solos. Listen back to the worst or the best or randomly
choose. It doesnt really matter. Just listen back once to get your ears going and to work some
listening into the first hour.
Hour 2: Play one more solo using that same improvisation concept. But this time listen back to the
solo five times. Keep your mind and your ears open. And just listen. Five repeated listenings will
teach you tons about your playing.
You can adjust the times however you need to fit your schedule. Do this for a few months and I
guarantee you will be a different player.
Okay, this last section is really more of a law than a step. But its powerful and it blew my mind the
first time I heard it.

Step 5: Tap into the power of habit force.


We are creatures of habit - through and through. Much of what we
are is habitual - its programmed into our brains in the form of neural
pathways and connections.
Every pattern of thinking, believing and reacting is a program. How we
brush our teeth, how we eat, how we walk and talk its all part of
our program.
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And of course how we practice and play music is too. All of it is habit existing in the form of wiring
and connections in your brain.
Your habits inevitably lead to your outcomes. And so the cats with the best practice habits - in the
practice room and out of it - have the best musical outcomes in their lives.
The cats with the worst habits have the worst musical outcomes.
Now, Ive got some good news and some bad news.
The good news is that the brain is ever changing and ever evolving. Connections are constantly being
created and strengthened or weakened.
And since as human beings we have the wonderful gift of free will we can choose new thoughts, new
actions and use mindful repetition to create new habits.

Remember:
First you create your habits. Then your habits create you.
And since you have the ability to change your musical habits, you can
change the whole game and transform your music.
Now the bad news. The bad news is that, being creatures of habit, we
hate change. And we resist change literally at the cellular level.
But that doesnt mean that we cant change. It just means that change
will always and necessarily push us out of our comfort zone. In fact your comfort zone = stagnation.
The edge outside of the comfort zone = progress.
So as we try to bring mindfulness into our practice, our brains and habits will resist and we will tend
to revert back to habits of distraction and lack of focus.
As we try to focus on our musical constraints instead of practicing stuff we can already play, our
brains and habits will resist and draw us back towards the familiar - the comfortable.
As we try to use the practice paradigm, find the next step, own it and push the envelope - you
guessed it - our brains and habits will resist.
So whats the secret to getting around these pesky habits?
First, simply being aware of this resistance will help you endure it. And, some more good news for
you, it only takes about 30 days to create a new habit.
Heres an analogy that may help you form new practice habits.

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When a rocket is leaving the earth on the way into space it goes through several phases before it can
break free of earths gravitational pull. We get locked into our habits by a sort of gravitational pull.
And to change, we must break free of it.
In the first phase the rocket burns most of its fuel just to simply lift
off the ground and get going.
In the second phase it is still hitting quite a bit of resistance from
gravity and still burning lots of fuel, but its gaining momentum and
the really hard part is over.
In the third phase the resistance starts to diminish and it finally
reaches escape velocity, the speed needed to escape the earths
gravitational pull, and it now breaks free of that pull.
Well, creating a new practice habit - such as practicing for 30
minutes every day - is just like that rockets trip from earth to space.
Days 1 10: At first it takes a considerable amount of energy and
will power on your part to get going and start practicing.
For the first 10 days or so its like that. You are literally defying the
gravity of your old habits. Habits of watching TV, wasting time on Facebook or whatever it is you do
instead of practice for 30 minutes every day.
Days 11 20: Then as you get into the next 10 days things ease up slightly. You still experience
resistance and get pulled back towards old habits. But youll start to gain some momentum as new
habits form.
Days 21 30: In the final 10 days - days 21-30 you start to coast. It gets easier and easier to pick
up your axe and shed for 30 minutes. Youre now over the hump. That doesnt mean youre home
free. You still have to be diligent. But the wiring is there now to support you. The longer you
maintain that habit the stronger it becomes and the more naturally you are drawn to practice 30
minutes every day. Eventually it becomes completely automatic.
Now it takes will power to get through this process. And humans actually only have a small amount
of will power available. So dont bite off more than you can chew.
Make new habits at the edge of your ability too. If you dont practice at all, start by trying to practice
5 or 10 minutes a day. No point going from nothing to 6 hours a day. Youll fail and derail your
efforts. Start with 5 or 10. Then go to 15, 20, and 30. 1 hour, 2 hours, etc.
Pretty soon youre up to the desired amount of practice again, but youre doing it with great habits.
You can quickly transform your music with these 5 steps to rapid progress. It can be very fast
indeed, but not over night. Slowly put these new practice habits into place and you will pick up
momentum and steam.
Once mindfulness, musical constraints, mastery and recording & critiquing are natural and habitual
parts of your practice, your progress will skyrocket.
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Small improvements can have profound effects on your music and your life.
Even small 1% improvements can change your music and life.
In fact, the power of 1% is truly amazing. I know its weird to talk about musical skill in percentages,
but its pretty easy to imagine getting 1% better in a given topic every day or so.
1% better for 10 weeks is twice as good. For one year its 37 times!
What would that mean for your playing? Seriously, think about that. If you worked on your biggest
musical constraints and you were twice as good in that area in 10 weeks. How would that potentially
change your music, your life?
When you start to practice this way, and you start to put some of these different pieces of the
practice blueprint to work for your music, dramatic changes can happen.
What we just covered is basically the engine for your practice. Lets move on and some rocket fuel.

One Big Idea That Will Change Your Music


Question:
Is it possible to get better much faster than you are right now?
Yes.
Is it possible to conquer tough musical obstacles and play at the level you really want to?
Yes.
Is it possible to stop struggling with the same old musical issues and start killing it on
the bandstand?
Yes.
Can you even do it without practicing?
Unfortunately, the answer to that last one is no. We all gotta practice. But you CAN get better faster,
have fun doing it and ultimately become the player you want to.
Now the choice becomes simple. Are you going to practice in a way that wastes your time, makes
little progress and creates bad musical habits in the process?
Or are you going to practice smarter, get results in the practice room faster and transform yourself
into a killing player.
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For me the answer is obvious.


The concept Im about to share with you is not new or magical. In fact its how most cats learned
back in the day.
Unfortunately, nowadays, the way a lot of would be jazz musicians learn music is unbalanced and
completely backwards. And, unfortunately their musical growth is often permanently stunted and
they never, ever learn to improvise fluently. Their playing is drowning in theory and exercises. But
they never learn to speak jazz.
You see, jazz is a language rich with tradition and vocabulary. There are sayings and phrases and
meanings and deep, deep culture and history. The same way there is with a spoken language. And
one of the best ways to learn jazz is to do it the very same way you learned your 1st language.

Learning jazz is all about vocabulary. Your vocabulary.


Its about building your vocabulary by drawing straight from the tradition. Then making it your own
and learning how to communicate with it. To tell musical stories on the bandstand. With the
end result being that other players say, Man, that cat can play!
You learned to speak your 1st language by observing and absorbing. You heard parents and siblings
and Aunts and Uncles and Grandparents talking all around you. You heard language on the radio, on
the TV. You heard it at the grocery store, on the street and everywhere your parents took you.
Then you imitated what you heard. At first by just making weird abstract sounds. Baby talk. Then by
forming simple words.
Gradually you started to attach meaning to these simple words - words like Mom and Dad, hungry,
toy and tired.
At the same time you were practicing and applying this new vocabulary in a real world context.
There was some theory thrown at you. Like the alphabet and maybe spelling simple words.
Maybe your parents read to you and you followed along, slowly connecting the words on the page to
the sound and to the meaning.
But most of your practice was intuitive and natural - observation, imitation, application. And it was
done out of necessity. You were hungry or tired or thirsty and you needed something from your Mom
or Dad.
You started with sounds, then simple words, then simple phrases.
Gradually your communication skills grew in complexity and you were able to communicate more
articulately and on a deeper level.
You learned how to form sentences, communicate with others and develop more complex thoughts
by observing, imitating and practicing.

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And this is as it should be with music too.


Most cats start off playing jazz with scales and theory. Play this chord
scale on that chord. Practice all these scale patterns and arpeggio
patterns. Then play the right notes on the right chords and viola, jazz.
Do it all in every key and take it around the cycle of fifths and youre
golden.
Hows that working out for you?
Dont misunderstand me. There is a place, a very important place
for scales, scale patterns, theory and all that stuff. And, of course
you can use the Power Practice Paradigm, Mindfulness and all the other
jazz practice blueprint techniques to master that stuff. And you should. But that alone will not make
you a jazz musician.
The foundation mandatory for speaking the language of jazz, comes in the same way you built your
1st spoken language.

Your Vocabulary Originates From The Jazz


Tradition, From The History, From The Culture.
And you get that by observing and absorbing the music - recorded music and live music.
Then Imitating what you hear - the sounds, and then simple phrases.
Then practicing and applying those phrases to music in the practice room, with your friends, at jam
sessions and ultimately at the gig.
This is a big, big concept. I want you to meditate on this for minute.
If youre the kind of cat that has put in some time shedding your scales, and patterns and all that
stuff. If you already have those kinds of chops on your axe but youre struggling to play jazz that
sounds, well like real jazz this could be a pivotal change for your playing.
Start to absorb and develop some vocabulary and your playing will profoundly change.
Not over night. But quicker than you probably think possible. Especially, if you use the other practice
strategies weve talked about.
And suddenly youll be playing music instead of just pushing down the right buttons, keys or strings
at the right time. Youll be connecting and communicating with the other cats in the band. Telling
your musical story. Youll be playing jazz.
Should you work on scales and theory at all? Absolutely!
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But think about it this way. Do you think great writers get that good by spending most of their time
conjugating verbs, or practicing grammar rules and syntax?
No. They read the masters. And they imitate the masters. They write. They critique what they write.
They read more and write more. They build on the tradition. Until finally they develop their own
voice.
That reminds me of the great Clark Terry quote:

Imitate. Assimilate. Innovate.


Now lets get down to business. Ive got a step by step method for you.
It should go without saying that you must listen to jazz. A lot of jazz. If
you love jazz as much as I do, this shouldnt be a problem.
Work it into your daily practice routine. Listen with a purpose, listen
mindfully giving the music your undivided attention.
And always listen with the expectation and desire to hear more detail in
the music. Because you will always find something deeper when you listen
with open ears and mind.
Absorb the music you love, internalize it, imitate it and then make it your own. Thats the gist of it.
Now, let me share with you a simple step by step method to cop a new piece of vocabulary and
make it your own.
This method will make sure that you fully absorb the new vocabulary into your aural imagination and
that you connect that sound to your body & instrument. This will go a long way towards helping you
play what you hear and improvise easily and fluently.
Now, its time to cop some vocabulary. I break it down into 10 simple steps for ya.
Step 1: Choose the lick, line or phrase
Choose the vocabulary you would like to assimilate and get a recording of it. Keep it short and simple
at first. It must be something you can wrap your ears around. Something at the edge of your ability.
And make sure its something YOU really dig.
Step 2: Listen to the recording Many Times
Just soak it on in. Using transcription or recording software can be very helpful so you can loop the
phrase. Also try listening a few times, then stopping the tape and letting it play back in your
imagination.
Step 3: Start Asking Some Questions
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As you listen ask yourself some questions to get your ear looking for answers. Looking for musical
details. Whats the shape of the line? What are the dynamics like? Is it loud? Soft? Is it dense? Whats
the mood and energy level? Hows the tone quality? Whats the time feel like? And so on.
Step 4: Let It Soak In To the Old Aural Imagination
Eventually, with enough listening, you want to be able to hear the phrase in your aural imagination in your inner ear - as loud and clear as possible. Take your time. Slow and study wins the race.
Especially with the ears. And the stronger your inner hearing the more rapid your musical progress
and growth will be.
Step 5: Sing Along With the Recording
Once you can hear the phrase or line play back in your aural imagination its time to start singing
along with the record. Again, take your time. Start by aiming for accuracy with the pitches and
rhythms. Then start to match the articulation, dynamics and other musical details you hear.
Step 6: Sing the phrase Without the Recording
Once you can easily sing along its time to sing it without the record. Go slow of course, pitch by
pitch if you have to. And, dont worry about trying to sound like Frank Sinatra. This is for your ears
not your singing career.
Step 7: Bring It to Your Axe
The next step is to take it to your instrument. If youve done your homework this should come pretty
quickly. Depending on your experience you may have to hunt and peck to find the notes. Thats fine.
As you learn more and more vocabulary using this system you will get faster and faster at bringing it
to your instrument. Eventually, when your ear/body connection is strong enough it will be a near
instant experience.
Step 8: Go Back and Forth as Needed
This is not always a nice, neat linear process. You can feel free to go back and forth between
listening, singing and playing as you need to.
Step 9: Move towards Mastery
Continue to practice, moving back and forth as needed, until you can easily perform, inner hear and
sing the phrase with the same ease that you can sing happy birthday. If you struggle hearing it,
singing it or playing it then youre simply not done. This is exactly where the Power Practice Paradigm
comes in. You find the next step - maybe the first three notes of the line. You practice hearing,
singing and playing it until its easy. Then push on to the very NEXT step.
Step 10: Make It Your Own
Once youve achieved mastery over this small piece of vocabulary, in other words you can play it
easily and without thinking, experiment with it and make it into your own vocabulary.
Play it backwards, invert it, chop off notes or play around with the rhythms.
Use it as source material to improvise on. Stay very close to the original at first, changing just one
note here or there. Play around and see what you can find. It wont all sound good. But youll find
some gems in there.
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You could also take it into other keys.


Apply it to tunes. For instance, if the line you transcribed was a Two Five Lick, practice purposefully
plugging it in to certain Two Fives in a tune youre working on. Its sort of like rehearsing the line in a
musical context. Much like you would practice saying things like Where is the Bus Stop or May I
have a Glass of Water in a new language you were learning.
Word to the wise. There will most likely be a little learning curve here. As in the first time, and
maybe the first few times you do this it will be a bit challenging.

Remember, If Its Pushing You to the Edge of Your Ability,


Out Of Your Comfort Zone, Youre Gonna Get Better.
And it will get easier and easier as your ear grows stronger and you connect that ear more and more
deeply with your instrument. And the effects this deep connection will have on your playing and your
creativity will be nothing short of profound.
Youre musical creativity will take off. And youll now be able to feed your creativity with new
vocabulary at will. Youre playing will be flowing and fluid. Youll start to play what you hear, and
what you hear will become more and more clear to you. Youll be communicating with your music
instead of just plugging in the right scale at the right time. And when this happens, trust me, the
audience and the band will notice.
So there you have it. Jazz Vocabulary. Work this into your practice sessions and combine it with the
breakthrough practice principles weve already covered and youre unstoppable.
Listen, the fact is that anyone can take their playing up to the next level. Thousands upon
thousands of musicians before us have proven it. You dont need to reinvent the wheel and figure it
all out for yourself. You can simply go down the path that other great players have gone down ahead
of you. Theres no need to spin your wheels in the practice room anymore.
But what about talent, you ask? The really good players out there must just be really talented right?
Forget about talent. Talent only matters if youre talking Charlie Parker or Mozart, those kinda cats.
The once every generation kind of cat. And in truth they were both very good at practicing.
Put the principles of musical success to work in your practice room. And
suddenly youve got whats called learned talent. And thats how most
cats become serious players.
I wish I could tell you that if you use the blueprint its gonna happen
overnight. Like, tomorrow youre gonna be a monster. But it just doesnt
work that way. You gotta put in some work in the shed. You gotta put
the pieces of the jazz puzzle together.
I know a lot of people dont like to hear that. They want some kind of instant magic solution. But,
hey its the truth.
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And ya know what; the work in the shed is part of what makes being a jazz musician a noble pursuit.
Its what gives your music value and depth at the end of the day.

But that time in the practice room doesnt have to be a frustrating struggle.

Practicing Can Actually Be Fulfilling, Inspired And Absolutely Fun.


You can move forward quickly day by day, week by week on your way to reaching your musical
potential.
And anyone thats willing to work at it can do it. It doesnt matter how old you are, or what country
youre from or when you started playing. When you know how to get better and how to
advance in the practice room there is no stopping you.
And it can happen A LOT faster than you might think. Just not overnight.

Get Good at Practice. Get Great at Jazz.


~Chris Cooke

P.S. Shoot me an email and let me know what you think. Id love to hear about how you practice or
how you put these Breakthrough Practice concepts to work in the practice room.
P.P.S. If you can see the value in these concepts and ideas then youd probably really dig The Jazz
Practice Blueprint. In fact what youve just finished reading is just a small fraction of the practice tips,
tricks and strategies you get with the Jazz Practice Blueprint. You can find out all about it here:
http://learnjazzfaster.com/jazzpracticeblueprint

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