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© 2018 by Miles Donahue

Do You Have a Method?

Updated: Nov 15, 2018


When you go to a physical therapist for an injury the physical therapist will assign certain exercises to cure the problem. This is because the therapist has a method for alleviating the problem. If you are a draft choice of Bill Belicheck you will be assigned drills by the coaches to teach you how to be the player they want. The great player Julian Edelman never played the position of receiver in college but the coaches for the Patriots were able to coach him into being one of the best receivers in the NFL by learning a method. In many professions teaching techniques, repeating exercises result in learning a method that enhances performance.


Trying to learn something without having a method is usually not going to result in success. There are some people who are able to learn difficult skills because they have a natural ability to do it without a need for instruction, but for the rest of us, we need a method taught to us in order to learn.


Learning to improvise is an autodidactic skill (self taught), and the people that know how to practice achieve success, and those without a method do not. In an interview with a very famous jazz musician when asked what part of teaching he did not like, he responded teaching untalented students. The statement says a lot about the teacher. Some of those “untalented” players probably had talent but had not learned how to learn. I tell my students I am teaching them the “tools” of Jazz so that they can eventually teach themselves.


When people hear that during my lessons there is often no improvising taking place they question why not. They do not understand that before you can teach yourself to improvise you need the vocabulary(tools) necessary for this most difficult task – a method.


What method? There are many definitions and many methods. In my opinion it is narrowing ones focus to have the least amount of variables in order to learn a very specific skill necessary to becoming a better jazz musician. To understand harmony, the jazz sound and tension release, it is necessary to play the piano. To be a composer of music it is necessary to play the piano. Literally all the great composers of music play the piano (Monk, Mingus, Bach, Mozart, Billy Joel, Paul McCarthy, and Gershwin to name a few). My method is designed for the horn player or classical player who does know how to read a lead sheet or for a singer who wants to accompany him or herself


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