The 45 minute session I had with Donna was focussed but flexible. Having answered a survey on an area I wanted to work on, Donna had obviously thought about how best she could help me. The first part of the session was confirming that she had understood exactly what I was asking of her. This actually changed the session to a more overview review of my musical goals. I was impressed with Donna's flexibility and being able to think through what I was actually asking of her. I understand that often a student will describe a symptom as a problem rather than pin-pointing the actual issue. This was true in my case. I had focussed on a difficulty in counting whilst trying to improvise.
Donna not only gave me a variety of strategies to help improve my counting whilst improvising, whilst not stifling my artistic imagination. We discussed using a metronome set on beats 2 and 4. Although I have tried this before I had not seen how to apply it effectively. Donna was able to suggest how to fit it into my routine to help move me to knowing where I am in the song.
However, Donna did not stop there, she looked at my current goal and discussed how I had been very ambitious. My goal had been to learn a 100 Jazz standards. However, as Donna immediately pointed out learning the melodies alone is only half the job. I have now adjusted my goal to re-learn the chord changes to two Jazz standards per week. I currently have 77 melodies learned, but I can see the sense in not learning anymore until I have also mastered the chord changes.
We covered different approaches to studying the jazz standards, including starting off with a metronome session before adding backing tracks.
I have now completed three new style sessions each an hour and a half long, since Donna's coaching session. What I have found so far:
I decided to take the Jazz standard “Autumn Leaves”
I wrote out the chord changes and learned them before even getting to my music room. Then I confirmed them by playing the arpeggios through for twenty times. I then set the metronome and repeated the process with the added pressure of keeping strict time. I finished the session by doing the same against backing tracks.
Session two: I repeated the metronome and then the backing tracks sessions from day one. I found I had to break down the C section line one and add repetition to bring that up to strength.
I finished with improvising, but concentrating on what chords I was playing against. Amazing….I was no longer getting lost during soloing…. But did not feel stifled, in fact Better improvisation seemed to flow.
Third session was a repeat of the second. I now feel ready to tackle the next standard (and I am on target). I will continue to revise “Autumn leaves” whilst working on the next standard.
Donna was able to focus my goals and discuss with me a methodology that could help me get there. Already I have seen that this new regime is going to pay in spades. Donna has the ability to analyse what was needed and then discuss it in a way that made it not only palatable but has been the biggest positive change in my personal musical development this year.
I look forward to being able to report back to her when I have conquered my first 10 standards. She wasn't just going through the motions but made me feel she really cared about my development.