Creating a musically immersive environment

Well, I arrived in Alaska last night where I’ll be spending the next 2 weeks teaching and performing at the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival. This is my 20th year at FSAF, and my 23rd time up here if you include 3 winter visits. It’s very warm and sunny during the summer and very cold and dark in the winter. (“How cold?”, you ask? The coldest I’ve experienced was 53 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. And in case you were wondering, 40 degrees Fahrenheit and 40 Celsius are the same. Either way, it’s c-c-c-c—cold!)

The summer is warm and sunny, though, and the flowers are in full bloom.. And pink fireweed everywhere, which is technically a weed but looks like a flower. It’s beautiful and symbolizes Alaska for me.

Festivals like this are great in that they help us immerse ourselves in music. But you can do this too for the next couple of weeks, even at home.

The idea is to experience the music you love from many angles at once. Let’s say that you want to learn to play jazz-funk better. Then write out a plan such as this:

1. Practice 3 jazz-funk songs, like “Chameleon,” “Just The Two Of Us,” and Blues in F in a funky style.

2. Set aside 10 minutes per day to listen to Herbie Hancock’s funk albums, like Headhunters. Listen carefully to the drum beats, bass lines, and keyboard parts. Focus on each one individually and then pay attention to how they interact with one another.

3. If possible, set up a jam session or two and bring a few funk tunes to the session.

4. Go out and hear some live jazz-funk music. Sometimes you can even hear music like this in a restaurant or bar.

While it can be difficult to sustain an immersive environment like this year-round, it’s very possible to do it for a week or two, several times per year. After you make the initial effort, the energy kicks in and you gain momentum so it becomes more “play” than “work.”

For some inspirations, here’s my solo piano performance of Herbie Hancock’s “Butterfly.”

Have fun, and “let the music flow!”

Learn the 5 Essential Left Hand Techniques with my free ebook: Left Hand Techniques for Jazz Piano
You’ll also get my weekly jazz newsletter with practice tips and inspiration

Leave a Comment

Sign up for Blog Updates