7. Learn the Music Theory
Music theory helps to show patterns and explain why sounds work together, so that you can generalise the principles to other tunes or play a lick in another key.
It is useful to have an understanding of basic music theory to assist you when you're practising, which will in turn strengthen your skills as an improvisor and sightreader. However, it does come second to actually knowing the tune, hence the expression "let theory follow practice."
This means that actually playing music and memorising the tune should come first (see Steps 1, 4 and 5 ), followed by the application of the theory. At this stage you can think about the tune you played analytically, so that any patterns in the melody or harmony etc can be identified and a generalisation formed that could be useful for memorising and performing a new tune in the future.
The author has found that music theory is best worked on in a practice room, to make those generalisations 'intuitive'. Thinking theory on the bandstand is a recipe for disaster.
Where to start
The free Aebersold Handbook has chapters directly relevant to theory:
Chapters 12 & 13 - Scales
Chapters 16 - Dominant Scales
Chapters 17 / 18 & 19 / 20 - Basic exercises and more scales
Chapter 24 - Modes
Chapter 30 - Blues Scales
Chapter 46 - ii-V7-I progressions
Our most popular books
Beginner / Intermediate level - Jazzology by Robert Rawlins
Intermediate / Advanced level - The Jazz Theory Book by Mark Levine
The SendMeMusic theory category