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.

In summary.

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.

                           Gavin Morgan