Practicing Jazz Standards: Solar

For my first blog/video tutorial I decided to demonstrate a very simple yet effective way I normally practice soloing over jazz standards. I started practicing this way years ago when I was studying with the great jazz teacher Charlie Banacos, especially while we were covering chromatic approach and chord-tone playing.

I’ve noticed on YouTube that a lot of people use play-alongs, the iReal Book and other backing tracks while working on jazz repertoire. While I use these practice tools from time to time, I find it a lot more beneficial to practice with no chordal accompaniment at all. I find that practicing this way forces me to outline the harmony in the clearest manner possible, as well as come with more interesting rhythmic and motivic ideas.

The tune I picked for this first demonstration is Solar by Miles Davis, simply because I’ve been practicing the tune for the past few weeks. For those of you who do not know the chord changes to this song, I’ve provided a basic chord chart below. Try to see if you can hear the changes as the solo goes by.


The drum track you are hearing is called CD Metronome by Paul Carman Music, which I like because it is a live drummer playing at gradually increasing tempos. I’ve been using this practice tool for over ten years and love it, although I regret to say it is no longer available for purchase.

I normally do this exercise for 30 minutes to an hour; usually after doing whatever technical exercise I’m working on to warm up. I start at a medium tempo (90-100BPM) until I reach a faster tempo at the end of the session (240BPM+). I also find it useful to work on one tune for long periods of time, two weeks to a month on average

I like to try and add a new piece of vocabulary to my practice session everyday and try to get as much mileage out of a single idea as I can, hence why you hear me repeat a few ideas in the video. I will cover different ways I use this exercise in future entries similar to this, using different songs I’m practicing. This entry is simply a demonstration and an introduction, I promise to get more specific as time goes one.

Comment below or contact me directly if you have any questions or are interested in private lessons either online or in person. Happy practicing and see you on the next one!