John Scofield Explains How to Practice, or Learn How to Learn

There's a video on YouTube of a clinic that Scofield gave in 1983 somewhere or another that is frankly not very good for most people. I don't think he was accustomed to teaching at that point and a lot of what he says clearly goes over the head of much of the audience. So I approached this audio of a clinic he gave in the mid-90's at Cabrillo College with some hesitation.

Turns out it's fantastic for a lot of reasons.

The whole clinic is available at Casa Valdez, a great jazz blog and is worth listening to for any type of musician, no matter what your instrument. Scofield presents a lot of very clear ideas on how he approaches learning tunes and music in general.

This particular part jumped out at me because I think about how to practice all the time and have often wondered about the practice routines of musicians I admire.

I'll let Sco lay it out:

All the musicians I know, what they're about is learning how to learn...and getting good at learning and to keep that keep learning...keep absorbing music and learn how to learn something so that it comes back through you. Learn what to learn in your practice time—what to work on. You get better at that. So you don't have to play arpeggios for an hour, scales for an hour and then get to the real weed out the unimportant things you work on and to really work out, up here what it's going to take to improve. So you got to keep your wits about you in this practicing thing.
 Later I'll post an analysis and transcription of his improvisation on Stella by Starlight and how he goes about getting the tune under his fingers. It's a killer.


  1. Where is the transcription?

  2. Thanks for the reminder. This one got away from me. I have one transcription done and I'll work on the rest. Check back in a few days.

  3. Ehy jazz-man! What is the guitar's model (john scofield's photo)?

  4. Awesome post Sean, thanks for sharing!

  5. Ehy jazz-man! What is the guitar's model (john scofield's photo)?

  6. It's a 1981 Ibanez AS200. Ibanez now makes a guitar with Scofield's name based on it called Ibanez Artist Series AS200.