I'm going through Linear Articulations by Pat Martino. He says "upon completions of this section, one should move to the next phase" after showing a bunch of 8th-note exercises oriented around chords and inversions.

How would you go about taking on a book like this, or any exercise set? I've heard 300bpm is a good tempo for playing jazz. Would you master these at 300bpm and then move on?

Looking for advice from someone who can play really fast.

  • @DrMayhem: Traditional jazz themes are often based on 8th notes. So 300 bpm is not that uncommon as you may think. It's not rock or pop (where we use lots of 16th notes). It's just about the way it's notated. A fast theme notated with 8th notes (as is common in jazz) will go up to about 300 bpm, which must be compared to 150 bpm if we notate in 16th (as more commonly done in rock/pop music). This is not to say that the OP should not move on before being able to play that fast. – Matt L. Feb 2 '17 at 11:37
  • @Matt L.: Forgive my lack of expertise in time signature. I'm not an accomplished musician. However, this discussion is confusing me. Doesn't bpm mean like quarter notes for 4/4 time? It seems like you are changing the bpm number based on more granular divisions like 1/8th notes and 1/16th notes. Perhaps you are right, but I've just never heard of this. – Frank Henard Feb 2 '17 at 15:02
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    @FrankHenard: bpm is just beats per minute; so if you have 4/4 then you'll have that many quarter notes per minute, e.g. 300. This means 600 eighth notes, 1200 sixteenth notes, etc. If you have 150 bpm then you have as many 16th notes per minute as you have 8th notes at a tempo of 300 bpm. – Matt L. Feb 2 '17 at 15:08

There are two things to consider here. First, very fast jazz compositions (such as Coltrane's Giant Steps ) are indeed often played close to 300 bpm. This is of course a consequence of the way the theme is notated. The standard notation for Giant Steps found in most real / fake books (see here) is to use half notes in the first two bars. Of course, if you used quarter notes instead you would end up at around 150 bpm, but that's just not the way it is done.

The other important thing is how to work with such a book. Even though you might come across eighth notes at 300 bpm, I would not recommend to wait until you master the first few exercises at that tempo. First of all, it's not only about speed. You want to cleanly execute all examples, and you want to learn how to choose the notes and how to play idiomatic solo lines. Try to play them cleanly and with good timing, and choose whatever tempo is appropriate for you, then move on. You move on to learn more phrases and to improve your solo vocabulary. At the same time you should try to improve your technique and increase the speed, but that's something you do while working through the book. If you try to play the first few examples at very high speeds, you will have almost no solo lines in your repertoire until you've learned enough technique, and that's frustrating and not useful. Because in practice, most pieces you'll come across are NOT played at 300 bpm.

  • Thats a good tip. I think in my obsession with mastering one little exercise i hold myself back from expanding. Im at like 230 - 250 so I will probably move on now. Thanks for the insight! – MingMan Feb 2 '17 at 15:08
  • @MingMan: Clean 8th notes at 250 are not bad at all! – Matt L. Feb 2 '17 at 15:10

300bpm ? thats insanely fast, I wouldnt expect jazz (and its a broach church from slow jazz blues to fast ragtime) to ever go faster than about 140. If it were me, I would raise it by 10bpm each time.

  • Ever listened to Coltrane's Giant Steps? The way it is notated (half notes in the first two bars) you get close to 300 bpm. – Matt L. Feb 2 '17 at 11:34
  • @bigbadmouse You would raise it by 10 but then what? Would you move on to the next section when you hit 150 (im assuming youre playing 16th notes, which equals time wise my 8th note 300 bpm) would you move on before? My question was less detail oriented and more when do you say "I got this down, time to move to the next exercise"? – MingMan Feb 2 '17 at 15:06

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