Cecil Alexander
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Jazz Learning Pathway

Demystify the world of jazz guitar.

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WHo it's for

Intermediate guitarists

Quickly spice up your sound or commit to the full college-level program. This program has it all.

Time

3 months

Cecil and Sam will guide you through 6 grades of instruction with daily practice plans and assessments.

Outcome

Improvise freely

You'll leave this Learning Pathway with the skills to solo over any jazz standard using advanced vocabulary.

JUST THE START

Take the next step

Once you've mastered jazz, keep progressing with advanced Master Classes and guided learning paths.

What you'll learn

In this guided Learning Pathway, you'll develop the skills and vocabulary to solo like a bonafide jazz cat in only 2 months.

  • Fluently improvise using advanced jazz vocabulary
  • Get personalized feedback on your playing
  • Level up your soloing – no matter what style you play
How it works

Your guided learning pathway

In this 8-week program, Cecil Alexander and Sam Blakelock will show you how to navigate the world of jazz rhythm and lead playing.

Jazz for Beginners

Grade 1 kicks off with a jam-ready jumpstart into the world of jazz. We won't bog you down with theory here – the goal is to get you playing jazz right away.

This grade is perfect for anyone who's looking to quickly spice up their playing, add some new vocabulary to their toolkit, and discover what jazz guitar is all about.

Scales 101

Next, we'll ramp things up a bit by exploring the melodic vocabulary of jazz soloing.

You'll build on your gains in Grade 1 with scales, some practical theory, and plenty of jamming practice to get you prepped for the rigorous, college-level approach to jazz guitar in Grades 3 and beyond.

Grade 3. Introduction to Jazz Soloing Soloing

Cecil takes over for Grade 3 to teach you how to think and solo like a jazz musician. This is where the real work begins!

While there are no cheat codes to learning jazz, we'll walk you through an ultra-guided step-by-step approach that blends the right amount of theory with musical exercises so you have fun and know exactly what to work on at every step of the way.

Grade 4. Intermediate Soloing

Take the skills you learned in Grade 3 even further. You'll study how to approach individual chords while soloing, examine iconic chord progressions, and add some truly colorful sounds to your playing.

Grade 5. Secondary Dominants

Here, we'll take a week to focus on one of the most effective tools in a jazz guitarist's toolkit – the secondary dominant chord. This grade will add a new world of dynamics to your rhythm playing and help you to highlight these tasty chords in a soloing context.

Grade 6. Jazz Blues & Jazz Standards

Grade 6 is packed with double the jazz lessons for your learning pleasure! With all the hard work you'll have put in across Grades 3-5, we'll kick off the grade with a week of fun by exploring a fun pocket of jazz called jazz blues. You're probably already familiar with blues soloing – here you'll learn how jazz musicians approach iconic blues forms. There's a ton of jamming to be done here!

Once you master jazz-blues playing, we have another full week of lessons for you to cap off the grade. This is everything you've been working toward! In Week 2, you'll use jazz standards to better understand the language and function of jazz guitar. This college-level approach is taught at top-level programs across the US and is key to becoming an advanced jazz player.

Step into the spotlight

At the end of each grade, you'll get to perform with the Pickup Music Band! You'll have a series of full band-backed songs and solo  pieces to choose from that'll help you apply what you learned in a musical context.

You'll also have the opportunity to submit your performance to our team of pro guitarists for personalized feedback on your playing with tips to improve.

Curriculum

Stay focused with this step-by-step learning program designed by our expert team of music educators.

60-Day Plan

Grade 1. Jazz for Beginners (with Sam Blakelock)

A music-first introduction to the wonderful world of jazz guitar.

Let's get set up! By the end of this grade, you’ll have a new bag of jazzy chords and soloing techniques at your disposal. We’ll dive right into soloing in a jazz context, but don’t worry, there’s no need for loads of intense study before you jump into the waters. Our focus on fun jams and quick wins will have you playing chords and lead lines like a bonafide jazz cat in no time.

Day 1. How to Think Like a Jazz Musician

Today is all about chords. We'll explore the quality (sound) of chords, how to play jazzy chords, and how to arrange t to achieve smooth and meaningful flow within a chord progression.

Day 2. Chords in C Major

Build up your harmonic vocabulary with shell voicings and 7th chords.

Day 3. 9th chords

Jazz guitarists love spicing up their chords with extensions. Today, you'll learn some new 9th chord voicings.

Day 4. Intro to Soloing in C

Today, you'll dip your toes into the vast ocean of jazz soloing using minor pentatonic knowledge.

Day 5. Modal Soloing

Playing along with individual chord changes is a common goal of aspiring jazz guitarists, but there's another piece to the jazz soloing puzzle to explore! Today, you'll learn all about the modal approach to jazz soloing.

Day 6. The Music Theory of “Stank-Face” Chords

Does it smell funny in here, or did you just play a secondary dominant? Level up your rhythm game with these beautiful approach chords that will help you introduce tension and resolution into your chord progressions.

Day 7. Final Assignments

Recap what you learned and pass a series of final assessments to make sure you're ready for Grade 2.

Performances

Here, you'll step into the spotlight and assume the role of lead guitarist with the Pickup Music band! We filmed some live jazz band backing tracks that you can play along with to apply what you've learned in a purely musical context. You'll also have a selection of licks and tasty songs to choose from. In order to graduate from Grade 1, you'll complete two performances pieces and have the opportunity to submit one for detailed feedback from our team of pro guitarists.

Quiz

Cap off your hard work with a quick assessment to make sure you've learned the key points from the grade.

Grade 2. Scales 101 (with Sam Blakelock)

Hit the melodic gym and pump up your improvisational vocabulary.

Overview

Grade 2 is all about getting you prepared for the college-level instruction you'll start in Grade 3. You’ll weave your way through all the chord progressions from Grade 1 and develop even more options for expressing yourself over them in an improvisational context. 

There’s no shortcut for getting new scale vocabulary under your fingertips, so expect this grade to be drill-heavy. Don’t worry though, we’ll show you exactly what to work on. Plus, it’ll all be worth it when we get into this week’s jams. Prepare to feel growing fretboard freedom while soloing with each new shape you absorb.

Day 1. Scale Construction

Take an x-ray look into how scales are put together using the major scale (the center of our music theory universe) as a reference.

Day 2. The Major Scale

It might seem basic, but the major scale is not just some elementary device. The chords, scales, arpeggios and vast functions revealed by the major scale will be something you’ll always be discovering – even as you develop into an advanced jazz musician.

Day 3. Aeolian

Today, you'll learn about the Aeolian mode and how to use it in your solos. Often referred to as natural minor, Aeolian is the go-to scale for minor keys.

Day 4.  Minor Pentatonic – 5th String

Take it back to basics with some minor pentatonic work. Today's lesson and exercises will help you switch between the Dorian and Aeolian modes.

Day 5. Aeolian and Dorian – 5th String

Here's where the magic starts happening! Today, you'll work on blending two modes so you can start incorporating some complex sounds in your soloing.

Day 6. Soloing Techniques and Jam

Let's make it musical. You'll have put in a ton of hard work over the past five days. Today's lesson is all about applying what you learned in a practical context.

Day 7. Final Challenges

Review what you worked on in Grade 2, and pass a series of challenges to make sure you're ready to move on.

Performances

Here, you'll step into the spotlight and assume the role of lead guitarist with the Pickup Music band! We filmed a live jazz band backing track that you can play along with to apply what you've learned in a purely musical context. You'll also have a selection of licks and tasty songs to choose from. In order to graduate from Grade 2, you'll complete two performances pieces and have the opportunity to submit one for detailed feedback from our team of pro guitarists.

Quiz

Cap off your hard work with a quick assessment to make sure you've learned the key points from the grade.

Grade 3. Introduction to Jazz Soloing (with Cecil Alexander)

Class with Cecil is now in session. Get ready for some college-level soloing.

Overview

Over the next 10 days, we’re going to dive into essential theory that’ll help you get started with jazz improvisation. You'll learn all about the function of chords within a progression and how you can approach them in a soloing context.

Day 1. Introduction to Jazz Music Theory

Before we start shredding hot jazz licks, it's important to understand how jazz guitarists think about music. Today, you'll review key information and add some new chords to your toolkit.

Day 2. The Core of Music: I IV V

Did you know chords have jobs within a progression? Today, you'll learn about the iconic I-IV-V progression and explore the role each chord within it plays.

Day 3. The I Chord

We’re stepping it up today with some scale work, arpeggios, and soloing techniques. Specifically, you’ll leave today with a set of tools you can use to solo over the I chord with the major scale.

Day 4. The V Chord

Along with the I chord, the V is one of the most important chords to understand in jazz. Today, you'll focus on learning how the V chord functions in a chord progression, utilizing G Mixolydian over G7, and adding tension/color tones to the V chord.

Day 5. The IIm7 Chord

This lesson is all about the IIm7. You’ve probably spotted a pattern here, right? Just like in previous lessons, we’ll focus on the function of this chord and examine how we can approach it in an improvisational context.

Day 6. The II V I Explained

Take your new chordal knowledge and apply it to the iconic major II-V-I progression.

Day 7. The Minor II V I

Today we’re shifting our focus from the major II-V-I progression to the minor II-V-I progression.

These two chord progressions are very similar to one another, but there’s a subtle difference in the way we tackle them when soloing. Our goal today is to learn how minor II-V-I’s function by examining the progression and getting comfortable with the corresponding arpeggios/modes for each of its chords.

Day 8. The Turnaround

New day, new iconic jazz progression. While it might sounds like a hip dance move, a turnaround is a short chord progression that’s used at the end of a song’s form to indicate a return to the top of the chorus. You'll learn all about its harmonic function and how to approach it in a soloing context.

Day 9. Let's Play a Bossa

Today, we'll whisk you away to an idyllic Brazilian beach as we practice jazzin' out over a bossa nova-style track. You'll also learn how to figure out where unfamiliar chords come from in an otherwise diatonic progression.

Day 10. Final Assignment: Autumn Leaves

This last lesson will be about applying all of our new learnings of arpeggios, chords and scales to the well-known jazz standard Autumn Leaves.

This is everything that we’ve been working towards in Grade 3. By the end of today’s lesson, you’ll have all the tools you’ll need to build your very own jazz solo! You'll also review what you learned and pass a series of assessments to make sure you're all set to move on.

Performances

Here, you'll step into the spotlight and assume the role of lead guitarist with the Pickup Music band! We filmed a live jazz band backing track that you can play along with to apply what you've learned in a purely musical context. You'll also have a selection of licks and tasty songs to choose from. In order to graduate from Grade 3, you'll complete two performances pieces and have the opportunity to submit one for detailed feedback from our team of pro guitarists.

Quiz

Cap off your hard work with a quick assessment to make sure you've learned the key points from the grade.

Grades 4-6.

Take your jazz skills to the next level. Build on your Grade 3 progress with creative soloing applications, master the art of secondary dominants, play a jazz blues, and study jazz standards.

Grade 4. Intermediate Soloing

This grade is about expanding on the concepts that we learned with Cecil in Grade 3. Your goal is to transfer your knowledge of arpeggios, scales, and chord progressions to the key of A major. You'll also tackle some brand-new etudes and jazz theory concepts to shed!

Day 1. Introduction to Harmonic Generalization

Harmonic generalization describes an improvisation concept that can be applied to a chord progression in one key. The idea is that one scale can be used over an entire progression to allow you to play ‘generally’ through the key. Today is a fun one with plenty of jamming to be had!

Day 2. How to Make the I Chord Hip

Is your I chord soloing boring? Today, Cecil will show you how to change that by superimposing some tasty color tones in an improvisational context.

Day 3. Building Tension on the V Chord

So far, we’ve addressed the I chord and how to make it sound hip. Today, we move onto the V chord with strategies to introduce greater tension on the V chord. This will help you build up into a super satisfying sound of resolution when you hit the I chord.

Day 4. Modal Jazz and the II Chord

Strengthen your vamp soloing skills with a day of work on the Dorian mode. Lots of fun jamming to be had here!

Day 5. How to Connect Through the II V I

Our main focus for today is to learn how to connect improvisational language through the II-V-I chord progression. This is where you're really going to glue together your soloing skills into a cohesive jazz sound.

Day 6. Adding Tension to the Minor II V I

Shift focus to the minor II V I while learning how to blend major and minor licks in a jazz standard.

Day 7. Spicing up the Turnaround

Today, we'll revisit a tricky progression and explore the melodic possibilities at your fingertips in a soloing context.

Day 8. St. Thomas

From here on out in Grade 4, we're exploring jazz standards! Today, you'll tackle an iconic tune by legendary jazz musician Sonny Rollins.

Day 9. Stompin’ at the Savoy – First A Section

Today we’ll start to look at Stompin’ at the Savoy. This is another common jazz standard that you’re likely to hear in jazz clubs all across the world!

Day 10. Stompin’ at the Savoy and Final Challenges

Wrap up work on Stompin' at the Savoy and make sure you're ready for Grade 5!

Performances

Here, you'll step into the spotlight and assume the role of lead guitarist with the Pickup Music band! We filmed a live jazz band backing track that you can play along with to apply what you've learned in a purely musical context. You'll also have a selection of licks and tasty songs to choose from. In order to graduate from Grade 4, you'll complete two performances pieces and have the opportunity to submit one for detailed feedback from our team of pro guitarists.

Quiz

Cap off your hard work with a quick assessment to make sure you've learned the key points from the grade.


Grade 5. Secondary Dominants in 7 Days

Here, we'll take a week to focus on one of the most effective tools in a jazz guitarist's toolkit – the secondary dominant chord. This grade will add a new world of dynamics to your rhythm playing and help you to highlight these tasty chords in a soloing context.

Day 1. Introduction to Secondary Dominants

To kick off the grade, we'll review how secondary dominants spice up your chordal game by introducing more tension and resolution to your progressions or helping you move to new keys. In the remaining six days of instruction, you'll learn a new secondary dominant and practice highlighting it while you jam out with Cecil.

Day 2. III7 to VIm

Here, we start our secondary dominant exploration. The III7 is one of the most recognizable secondary dominants used. We’ve seen it before in Autumn Leaves, and you’re likely to hear it happening in all the pop and R&B music dominating the airwaves. It’s used frequently because it helps you access the relative minor of the key you're in.

Day 3. VI7

The V of IIm is an extremely popular secondary dominant. You’ve likely heard it used in the music of The Beatles (like Maxwell’s Silver Hammer), Stevie Wonder, & many familiar jazz standard turnarounds like St. Thomas or Stompin’ at the Savoy.

Day 4. Combining III7 and VI7

Today you’ll learn how to combine two secondary dominants in one progression within the key of C major. Things are about to get even more sophisticated! In this lesson, you'll see how scales and chords continue to reveal themselves as interconnected.

Day 5. I7

Today, we’ll look at the specific approach of major keys using secondary dominants. It’s a familiar format with its own unique characteristics. The I7 chord, also known as the V of IV, is one of the most common ways of approaching a major chord. Songs like Ray Charles’ Georgia on My Mind and literally every blues progression contain this tonicizing tool.

Day 6. II7

Today, you’ll look at the final major approach chord: II7 AKA the V of V7. This secondary dominant is a bit of a unique case because it actually resolves into another dominant chord. This creates an opportunity to extend the suspense throughout a longer chain of dominants before resolving to the home key tonic.

Day 7. Recap and Final Challenges

Today, we'll review everything you've learned and put your skills to the test to make sure you're ready to move on to Grade 6.

Performances and Quiz

Just like in previous grades, we'll challenge you to complete two performance pieces and pass a quiz in order to graduate from Grade 5.


Grade 6 – Week 1. Jazz Blues

With all the hard work you'll have put in across Grades 3-5, we'll focus on having fun in this grade by exploring a fun pocket of jazz called jazz blues. You're probably already familiar with blues soloing – here you'll learn how jazz musicians approach iconic blues forms. There's a ton of jamming to be done here!

Day 1. Basic Blues

To kick off the grade, we'll hit some blues fundamentals and compare how the genre informed and influenced jazz. Then we'll look at the differences between shuffle-blues and jazz-blues playing.

Day 2. Bb Jazz Blues

The real work starts here! Today, you'll tackle a jazz-blues progression that's sure to contain some familiar harmonic movement. You'll work on new voicings and jam with Cecil at the end of the day.

Day 3. Bb Jazz Blues – New Position

In our continual effort to help you unlock your fretboard, we'll take yesterday's material and drill it in a new area of your guitar neck. Developing the ability to play material anywhere on your fretboard will increase your improvisational fluency and fuel new ideas while soloing.

Day 4. F Jazz Blues

New key, who's this? At this point in the grade, you'll have learned about how to spice up a regular three-chord blues progression by adding in II – V’s, secondary dominants, and turnarounds in the key of Bb. In Day 4, you'll transpose everything from the past three days to play an F jazz blues.

Day 5. F Jazz Blues – New Position

Just like on Day 3, we'll adapt what you learned in Day 4 to a new area of the fretboard. Plenty of drills and jamming in this day!

Day 6. Introduction to Minor Blues

Time to make it moody. The minor blues chord progression appears across all eras of jazz history and includes many of the same harmonic movements as the major blues form. Just like the major jazz blues, the minor jazz-blues form aims to highlight the I, IV, and V chords in the 12-bar form (with some chord quality adjustments to emphasize the minor sound).

Day 7. Expanding the Minor Blues

As usual, we'll review everything you've learned and put your skills to the test to make sure you're ready to move on to the final week of Grade 6. Here, we'll step things up by expanding on the minor blues ideas we checked out in Day 6.

Grade 6 – Week 2. How to Learn Jazz Standards

This is everything you've been working toward! In the final week of Grade 6, you'll use jazz standards to better understand the language and function of jazz guitar. This college-level approach is taught at top-level programs across the US and is key to becoming an advanced jazz player.

Day 1. 8 Steps to Learn a Jazz Standard

Today, we’re going to give you an overview of the eight steps involved in learning jazz standards. Our sole goal today is introduce you to the jazz-standard process using Autumn Leaves as an example. In the upcoming days, we’ll slow things down and work through each step together.

Day 2. Blue Bossa

Today, we start hammering in the jazz-standard process with an exploration of Blue Bossa. Cecil will walk through each step with you. Toward the end of the lesson you'll learn an etude by Cecil, then improvise over the Blue Bossa form.

Day 3. How to Practice Feel and Get Beyond the Notes

A trap that intermediate guitarists often fall into is neglecting time feel. The most impressive jazz vocabulary in the world won't mean a thing unless your sense of rhythm is dialed in. Today, you'll learn about time feel and phrasing. This is a key step in defining your own unique sound as a jazz guitarist.

Day 4. Fly Me to the Moon

Today’s a fun one because you get to tackle a truly iconic standard! Just like in Day 2, Cecil will walk you through the steps, teach you some new licks, and challenge you to learn his etude.

Day 5. Stompin’ at the Savoy

You should remember this standard from Grade 4. Today, we'll continue work on our 8-step process. At this point, you may be ready to do it on your own. If you're not, Cecil will be there to guide you through every step of the lesson.

Day 6. Why and How to Transcribe

Today, Cecil breaks down the art of transcribing. This is one of the most effective ways to expand your improvisational pallet in the style of your favorite guitarists. We'll break down how transcribing makes you a better musician and how to approach it.

Day 7. Take The A Train

It's the last day of Jazz Bootcamp! Here, we'll give you one final jazz standard to digest and solo over. After that, we'll wrap up with some next steps to send you soaring into the next leg of your jazz guitar journey.

Performances and quiz

Complete your final performances and quiz to graduate from Jazz Learning Pathway and officially become a bonafide jazzcat 😎

Student stories

Learn how Jazz Learning Pathway has helped real guitarists break through their playing plateau and realize their potential.

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James Harrod

United Kingdom

“One of the things that's been the most fun for me has been the SongSquad challenges... connecting with other people in the Pickup Music community on Instagram and just encouraging each other as we're learning songs and practicing.”

Vin Thomas

United States

"Pickup Music really helped me push my musical boundaries."

Wytse Hokwerda

Germany

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Is Pickup Music right for me?

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Are you looking for fretboard freedom?

At Pickup Music, we specialize in:

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Finally, we give you support and feedback through an exclusive members community and live practice group sessions with other members. This focused approach to learning guitar will help you bust through the beginner basics, break out of the intermediate plateau, and level up your playing.

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To become a serious guitarist, you need a clear learning pathway to get to the next level. You need to free your mind and unlock your fret board - you can do this with Pickup Music's expert step-by-step instruction. Having this clear learning pathway is  key to making real progress on the guitar.

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Private lessons will cost you about $50 per lesson or $2,600 a year. Going to a music academy will cost you about $40,000 a year.

A Pickup Music membership costs just $150 for the whole year. That works out to 41 cents a day!

Signing up for a Pickup Music membership also means that you can stop wasting your time and effort trying to guess what you should practice next. Our guided programs eliminate the guess work so you know exactly what you need to focus on each day and week to make lasting progress with guitar. This will increase your efficiency and speed up your progress.

Is it easy to cancel?

Absolutely! You can cancel at any time (although we'd be sad to see you go). Cancelling is easy, no tricks. Just go to your account page and click a button.

You won't be charged anything if you cancel during your 14-day free trial.

If you cancel after your 14-day trial, you won't be billed again at your next billing cycle. Your membership will remain active until it expires on the day it was originally set to renew.

Once your membership expires, you will no longer have access to the classes you were enrolled in during your time as a member, but you can easily restart your membership at any time. Just log in to your account and renew a monthly or annual membership to pick up where you left off.

Can I buy lessons individually?

We don’t sell lessons individually. But the good news is you get access to every single lesson on Pickup Music through the one membership. If you’re only interested in one lesson, you could purchase a monthly membership and cancel when you’ve finished it – we have a hunch you’ll want to stick around though :)

Can I cancel my membership at any time?

Yes! All you have to do is click a button on your account page. No tricks, no emails, no calls. It's a straightforward process.

You won't be billed again at your next billing cycle. Your membership will remain active and you'll continue to have access to the site until your membership expires on the day it was originally set to renew.

You can easily restart your membership at any time. Just log in to your account and renew a monthly or annual membership to pick up where you left off.

Note: Once your membership expires, we'll save your progress on your Dashboard if you decide to rejoin at a later date.

How does the 14-day free trial work? What is your refund policy?

Your credit card won't be charged for the first 14 days
When you first sign up to a Pickup Music membership, your credit card will not be charged for 14 days. That means that if you decide to cancel within 14 days of signing up, you won't pay anything.

If you decide to cancel after that, you won't be charged at your next billing cycle
That means: if you’re a monthly member, you won’t be charged for the next month. If you’re an annual member, you won’t be charged for the next year.

We don’t offer refunds for payments that have already gone through. But if you choose to cancel, you will retain full access to the membership until it expires on the day it was originally set to renew.

Will I be automatically charged each month / year?

The membership is a subscription. After the 14-day free trial, you'll be automatically charged monthly or annually (depending on which plan you choose). We send you reminders before your annual subscription renews so you don't accidentally forget about it. You can easily cancel by turning off auto-renew at any time in your account page.

How do I restart my membership?

It’s easy to rejoin Pickup Music and we’d be thrilled to have you back! We even saved all of your lessons for you while you were gone on your Dashboard.

To restart your membership, simply head to this page, select the plan of your choice, and sign up with the email address you used to sign up the first time around.

Start your 14-day free trial

Cancel anytime

Start learning