How Sonny Rollins Practices

How has the quarantine impacted your chops?  This no-gigs lock down has been absolutely disastrous for many working musicians financially.  But our chops don’t have to take the same hit our wallets are taking, if we’ll explore innovative approaches to practicing.

My practice strategy is similar to what Sonny Rollins described when asked how he practices.  Sonny said:

“I start out playing things I know to get the blood flowing.  Those things are often described as ‘clichés.’  You begin with the cliché so you can get the process in motion.  Once the process is in motion, ‘thinking’ gives way to ‘playing.’  At that point, you get out of the way and let the music play.”

Over the past decade, I’ve written down over a thousand licks I keep in a notebook, each of which I woodshed in all 12 keys.  Some of these ideas come from transcribed solos of the masters, but most simply emerge as I’m connecting with the horn.  Practicing joy.  I encourage you to try this technique, as it supercharges your chops, strengthens your improvisatory muscle, and turns you into a composer.

Here’s a lick you can play with, in order to get started down that path.  The tonal center of this phrase baffled my friends and me at first.  Eventually, I settled on a basic ii-V-I progression, which perfectly fit the melodic contour.  If you want more background, leave a comment at the bottom of this post.

To see a chart, click on “CONTINUE READING” below.

7 19 20 LICK JULY 2020 single staff

7 19 20 LICK JULY 2020 single staff

2 thoughts on “How Sonny Rollins Practices

  1. I grew up with Sonny Rollins he would come to where I lived with my Aunt as a kid to take lessons with Andy Kirk jr. To study saxaphone with a friend who was a friend It was a very upscale house on edgecombe ave NYC wher great people of color live Musicians Doctors lawyers and politician athlete doc It was what happened at the time discrimination it shod how people succeded at the times as oppose to this President Trump who does not have a inch of rhythm in his body. But we still have great musicians who created the great musi c called Jazz Sonny wAs one of them.

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