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How Do I Start Practicing Jazz?
Ask Damian Erskine

How Do I Start Practicing Jazz?

Q: I’ve heard some jazz (usually newer stuff) that I like and I’m thinking that I should work on it. You and others also mention that it’s a good thing to practice in general, too. But it’s so confusing and most things I find online (and your columns) are usually too advanced for me. How should I start? A: The...

Should I Learn Older Music To Understand Newer Music?
Ask Damian Erskine

Should I Learn Older Music To Understand Newer Music?

Q: I struggled with asking if I HAVE to learn trad jazz or if I SHOULD learn it, so take this question as both. And just as a disclaimer, I’m using “trad jazz” to mean the standards and the jazz being played predominantly from the ’20s to the ’60s and the styles that encompassed. I’ve been led by a lot...

Do I Have To Like Jazz To Improve My Playing?
Ask Damian Erskine

Do I Have To Like Jazz To Improve My Playing?

Q: I’ve read some interviews of yours, and you mentioned that when you started studying jazz, you weren’t actually all that into the music, but you came to appreciate it later through study, etc… I’ve been trying to work through standards, exercises through chord changes and bebop/chromatic-type stuff, but I don’t know what I’m trying to achieve, in a way....

Lesson Plans for the New Year
Ask Damian Erskine

Lesson Plans for the New Year

For this first installment of the new year, I thought that I would try and help motivate us all. I thought about the new year, new goals, fostering forward momentum and the dreaded new year’s resolutions popped into my head. Instead of encouraging all of us to go to the gym and stop eating pizza for breakfast, I wanted to...

Working with Printed Transcriptions
The Lowdown with Dr. D

Working with Printed Transcriptions

Studying transcriptions of masterful performances can provide a wealth of learning material for a musician. Musically speaking, we will gain the most by completing our own transcriptions, entirely by ear, of course. However, there is still a great deal to be gained by working from published transcriptions by other musicians, provided we approach them in the right way. Certainly there...

Overcoming Learning Disabilities in Music
Ask Damian Erskine

Overcoming Learning Disabilities in Music

Q: What advice do you have for someone who has problems with playing 16th notes and has learning disability in math? I have goals to play music in my own gigs and play at a couple venues, but I’m doubting whether it’s even possible to play on one’s own. A: I don’t think that a learning disability should hinder you...

The Lightbulb Moment: Learn Lots of Songs
The Lightbulb Moment

The Lightbulb Moment: Learn Lots of Songs

Here I am, once again, on the bandstand with a bass in hand. Two sets down, one to go. It’s a free for all… no official set list and a handful of requests. A guy with a twenty in his hand walks up to the stage and says, “Do ya’ll know ‘Whipping Post’?” The guitar player immediately looks at me...

Double Bass vs. Bass Guitar
Ask Damian Erskine

Double Bass vs. Bass Guitar

Q: I have been playing bass guitar for about 8 years, got my grade 8, toured, recorded and got myself to a semi-professional session level. As I am going to go full time as a bass player in the next 18-24 months (I am realistic as well as ambitious) I started lessons with an outstanding teacher and someone who has...

Lefty or Righty? A Discussion for Starting Out on the Bass Guitar
Ask Damian Erskine

Lefty or Righty? A Discussion for Starting Out on the Bass Guitar

Q: I play the upright bass and I use my left had on the neck and my right hand to use my bow. I’m looking to play the bass guitar, but I can’t decide if I should play right handed because that’s my dominate hand or my left because you can really only use your left hand on the neck...

Making the Switch from 4- to 5-String Bass
Ask Damian Erskine

Making the Switch from 4- to 5-String Bass

Q: I have recently made the move from 4-string to 5-string bass. I love the extended range (my bass is tuned E-C), but I’m finding I need to add more practice time to accommodate the additional string. There were exercises that I played on 4 strings and I am now expanding that to include the additional string/range. I can see...