Dom Minasi on Learning the “Hard Way”

I’m about to vent!

For all the young – or not so young – Jazz Guitarists on Facebook and elsewhere. If in the 40’s ,50’s 60’s and maybe the 70’s, you went up to let’s say the likes of Barney Kessel or Jimmy Raney and asked what scale did you use in that opening sequence etc, they would look at you as if you were crazy and probably say ” Scales!? What Scales? I don’t play scales I play music and I play what I hear and get out of here, you’re bothering me.”

As a young teenager, I practiced all the scales. I learned every note, arpeggio and chord soloing. I taught myself theory because none of the people I knew were teaching me what I needed. I am talking about the late ’50’s. I did learn to improvise by listening and watching the greatest players in the world. I learned more from that than any book and as a teenager, I practiced 10-12 hours a day in the summers and 6hours during the school year. When I became a full-time musician I practiced six hours during the day and played six hours a night on gigs. But I realized that when I started playing with jazz legends I learned more. You see my solos were scale and arpeggio oriented alla Johnny Smith, but these people played lines and told a story. It was there and then that I played my last scale in a solo. I realized that all that knowledge had to be let go of because I already had internalized it. So I listened to myself and learned to not think so much and sing what I play and I’ve been doing that for the last 40 years.

So do yourself a favor and learn the hard way. Stop looking at videos or books that tell you what scales to use on what chord or tune. Sit down with guitar in hand and memorize every note on the neck; memorize what it sounds like; memorize every note to every chord and just play, play and play. If you don’t like what you are doing then play some more. You are only going to learn from your mistakes. Don’t expect to come out of the gate playing like Joe Pass or Pat Martino. And if you do, you’re doing something wrong (ie: imitating them)! They are great players who put in the work and the long hours!

So when someone says to me that the advice I give s BS. That Pat Martino wrote a book and Joe Pass and Sal Salvador and Johnny Smith and a whole slew of others wrote books including myself. My first thought is, “So What?” You don’t become a great player and develop your own voice from a book. If you want to be great you have to be different than them and find your own voice! It might take 40 years or very little time at all. It depends on how dedicated and committed you are and how much time you put in. Now….get off of the internet and practice! 🙂

Guitarist Dom Minasi is a native New Yorker and part of New York City’s illustrious Downtown Scene. An innovator in the field of improvisational Jazz, Dom wears many hats: musician, composer, arranger, educator, author, producer and owner and president of CDM Records, an independent record label.

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About Lyle Robinson 347 Articles
Lyle Robinson is the owner/creator/publisher and editor of Jazz Guitar Life, an online magazine dedicated to the Jazz Guitar and its community of fine players worldwide.

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