How to Listen When You Practice: Ted Nash

One of many JLCO’s Jazz Academy videos that I’ll be posting here over the coming months. Great stuff from modern masters. Here, Ted Nash talks about using the piano as a practice tool. Super advice. What Mr. Nash is talking about is covered in The Practice of Practice, in the chapter titled: Drone Power, all about using your ears…

Michel Blows a Serpent (Practice Playing In Tune)

Want to learn to play in tune? You should. Read on. Playing in tune is a skill often overlooked in practice. Here’s a great example of playing in tune: Michel Godard playing a serpent. The serpent is an ancient low-voiced instrument similar to the Medieval cornetto, and it produces a mesmerizing sound in the hands of a master like Godard (see the vid below or listen to the mp3).

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.