Here are three things you can do to improve your jazz playing if you are a student. We won’t say they are “easy” because they all involve effort, but they aren’t hard to do and are simple enough to understand. Remember that improvisation in various forms is at the heart of jazz, not just playing written notes. Also know that being good at jazz isn’t magical or mysterious, and isn’t just for a lucky few who were born with it.
1. Do it with other people
2. Listen to jazz and play by ear
People you hear who are good at playing jazz have practiced doing it. That means practicing the techniques that go into playing such as scales, arpeggios, tone production, sequences, register, endurance, touch, time, and so on. It also means applying those techniques in a structured way to practice improvising, interpreting melodies in different styles, ensemble interaction, etc. Forget the myths about it all just being “from the heart” or entirely spontaneous: that’s just publicity. Like just about everything else you can do, success requires a lot of hard work over time. Even if, in the end, it turns out that your “heart” or “feeling” isn’t as “great” as Miles Davis’s was, you’ll never find out if you can’t play your instrument and don’t know your stuff. And anyway, who cares? There was only one Miles, just as there will only be one you. So get busy and enjoy the journey because there’s nothing else like it!