Music or Life?

For the past several weeks I have changed my approach to practicing standard jazz tunes. I am learning to outline the chords of the song. Up until now, I had only learn how the chord progression works, and determined what scales I could use to improvise.

Learning to outline the chords of a song seems to unlock more avenues of intimacy with the music I am playing. I find that sometimes I am playing fresher idea when improvising. At any rate, learning in this fashion opens another level of knowledge. To outline chords on your instrument, you need to be able to spell various chords.

Chords are built on scale degrees. There are 7 notes in a major or minor scale. A triad (3 notes) can be stacked on each note of a scale, producing different qualities, such as a major triads, minor triads, diminished triads, or augmented triads. Some might describe a major triad as sounding “happy,” and minor chords as “sad.” That’s how it was first explained to me as a little kid.

I am talking about the harmonies which exist in a given song. Knowing these harmonies helps the improvising musician to explore all tonal possibilities. It requires practice and a trained ear. It requires hours of practice, a lot of work I wish I had done when I was younger. Better late than never I suppose.

I am enjoying the work, however. I only wish I was younger and full of youthful energy. In my 20s I was driven, but I was bombarded with life’s possibilities and desires which were quite distracting. I’d be a much better player if I had been able to focus on one area, music.


Life gets in the way of dreams sometimes. I am glad I have my children. I had always wanted a family. However, having a family requires your undivided attention. There is no half way. If you have kids, they are the priority, and if you don’t understand that, you will fail your kids in many ways. Raising kids is hard enough without not giving them your full attention. So, kids? No music! At least not seriously. Both require your time and attention, and if you love your kids?…

I love music. I always have. I don’t think I will ever be able to give up on playing music; even if I don’t ever get any better at performing it. Playing and listening to music gives me the escape I need from the stresses life can sometimes bring my way. Music really is a gift from God and I am forever thankful for it.


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