One easy and wonderfully effective way for both instrumentalists and vocalists to improve is through long tones. This discipline is as important as learning scales as it develops a clear, strong sound. Try even 4-5 minutes a day. Of course, the more the merrier.

Long tones with others is somehow easier and more fun. Click here for more on long tones.


Each Major scale has seven notes in it. In C Major you play C up to the next C, an octave.


If you use the exact same notes, but start on D and end on D, you will get a different scale, and different type of sound. Starting and ending on D is called the Dorian mode. It is also a minor scale.

Each note you start on within the major scale will give you a different quality and sound. These are called modes. There are many more modes, but only seven derived from the Major scale.

Dorian Phrygian Lydian

Mixolydian Aeolian Locrian


FOR PIANISTS: Here is a practical exercise for pianists those with access to a piano which I hope will be fun:

  • Play a C and the octave above
  • Sustain the notes with the pedal
  • Alternate the notes
  • Play the Major scale, up and down in tempo
  • Make up melodies with the right hand
  • Anything goes, but listen for the rhythm and your tone

   Do this with each note of the scale.


Have a friend sustain a note on a bowed or wind instrument

  • Have them play each note of the scale for a slow 8 measures or so
  • Improvise on that
  • Switch roles. You sustain and the friend improvises
  • Always remember you are trying to have a beautiful sound as you do this, and in tune of course!


It is very important to listen to music that you want to learn. Take time to choose a recording of great musicians doing what they do best. And listen to that recording many times, let it soak in. That's what all of us have done for many years, and it never gets old! The more you listen, the more you internalize the melodies, harmonies and rhythms. If you don't know what to listen to, you can check out the list below or listen to KXJZ (90.9 FM) after 7 PM weekdays.

Also, KVMR -FM, Nevada City at 89.5 offers the Jazz Workshop every Thursday from 8 - 10 p.m.

  • John Coltrane: "Coltrane Plays the Blues"
  • Keith Jarrett trio: "Live at the Dear Head Inn"
  • Wayne Shorter: "Juju"
  • Duke Ellington: "Ellington Indigos"
  • Miles Davis: "Kind of Blue"
  • Sonny Rollins: "The Bridge"
  • Miles Davis and Gil Evans: "Porgy and Bess"
  • Ella Fitzgerald: The Cole Porter Songbook CDs
  • Bill Evans: "Waltz for Debby"
  • Dexter Gordon: "Go"
  • Thelonious Monk: "Live at the It Club"

Here are some fascinating Books:

  • Barry Green: "The Mastery of Music" (Pick of the Month!!)
  • Duke Ellington: "Music is my Mistress"
  • Miles Davis: "Autobiography"
  • Gary Giddons: "Visions of Jazz/The First Century"
  • Paul F. Berliner: "Thinking in Jazz
  • Lewis Porter: "John Coltrane - His Life, His Music"
  • Kenny Warner: "Effortless Mastery"
  • Art Taylor: "Notes and Tones"