A Killer App for Practice With a Rhythm Section

iRealB is one of the best practice tools I’ve come across in many years. Absolutely brilliant! If you need to practice with a rhythm section in just about any style (jazz, bluegrass, pop, rock, etc.), you’ve got to get this app. It’s available for both iOS, MacOS, and Android devices). Here’s a comprehensive video walkthrough of most of its features:

Not Your Daddy’s Metronome: Alem’s Mad Beats

The metronome is a pretty useful tool. At a workshop, jazz trumpeter Dave Douglas said he gave up practicing with a metronome because it’s too mechanical and he felt rhythm and beat was more organic, less mechanical and unyielding. I get that, and agree, but I’ve found the metronome to be useful for especially challenging…

Drone Your Way to Excellence

Several months ago I spoke with the fantastic jazz trumpeter Ingrid Jensen about practice. She mentioned that one thing she liked to do was practice with drones, using an Indian instrument called a tanpura (also tampura). She said that playing against a drone was a great way to train your ear/horn coordination. Practicing with a drone allows you to really feel how it sounds to play every note against the tonic, throughout your range. It’s meditative.

Ingrid Jensen
When I hear a great practice idea, I try it, and I’ve been using this one for a while and absolutely love it. I almost immediately noticed a greater ability to match pitch (my fellow musicians mentioned it in rehearsal), and a deeper awareness of sound in general. Part of the reason for this is that playing with the drone makes me aware of where the horn is naturally out of tune, whether because of the way a horn is made or because of the quirks of the harmonic series.

7 Gifts to Make a Musician Rejoice

Here are some gift ideas for the musician or music-lovers in your life. I either have these, or have looked into these items and have chosen what I believe to be the highest quality gear at the most reasonable prices. Hope these help you out! Happy holidays!

The 300 Pound Gorilla in the Practice Room: Inattention

Throughout my career, if I have done anything, I have paid attention to every note and every word I sing – I respect the song. If I cannot project this to a listener, I fail. ~Frank Sinatra  Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the…

Getting Loopy: More Practice Tools/Toys

I like to use electronics to make practice more fun and I think, more demanding. In this quick post I’ll show you the Boss Loop Station. It allows me to layer recordings. It can be used with a microphone (that’s how I record trumpet and various percussion), electronics (you can input beats or any other digital media), and/or guitar. Mine is set up with a microphone and guitar input. I won’t get into the details of how the loop station works, but here’s how such a device helps with practice.