So, I want to get better at playing jazz. I've played for about a year now, self-taught, and I'm sort of at a loss in terms of how to learn. Currently, I'm trying to memorize the notes on the fretboard because that'll help me integrate my knowledge of music theory into my playing (which is good for every style of play), especially with improv. My jazz theory is minimal but I'm learning; my music theory in general, however, is decent. It's just the actual playing that I'm stuck with.

What should my next step be? Is there anything in particular I should practice? What jazz standards should I learn? Also, as long as where talking about jazz standards, what should I listen to? (jazz and jazz fusion included) I already listen to Davis, Coltrane, and Return to Forever (my favorite of the three).
Well here are a few suggestions to get you started:

First of all, I suggest that you get a teacher. It's not essential, but if you can find a teacher with a good background in jazz and theory it will help an IMMENSE amount. They can teach you what you want to specifically learn and can guide your through proper technique and practice habits.

Listening as well is always incredibly important when dealing with jazz. All of the bands/musicians you mentioned are great, and it really depends what you want. If you're into funk and fusion, check out Pat Metheny, Herbie Hancock, Jaco Pastorius, Al Di Meola, Weather and Report to start. If you like some of the classic stuff, along with Davis and Coltrane check out Cannonball Adderley, Thelonius Monk, Charlie Parker, Horace Silver.. The list is infinite.

For some standards to start on, I suggest Autumn Leaves and All The Things You Are. Don't just learn the basic chords though, work on incorporating your theory knowledge in there. Add extended chords, tritone subs, diminished subs.. etc. If you're looking for a massive amount of jazz theory check out Mark Levine's Jazz Theory Bible. Also work on proper rhythm.

For soloing, I suggest working on chord changes as they are some of the most difficult things to deal with when soloing. Learn some arpeggios and work on integrating chord tones into your soloing at first before adding colour.

I know that was a lot.. But I hope I helped
Last edited by TheLlamaMan at May 30, 2010,
Can you read music properly ? If you cant you should work on that. If you can i suggest you to do A LOT of transcribing and play along.

The Mark Levine book is very good.

* Watch Ken Burns documentary for listening references.