Listen, Listen, Listen
It may seem obvious, but one of the most “educational” things you can do to become a better musician is to listen to the kind of music you want to master. I’m not talking about having some music on while you do something else. The most important kind of listening you can do is to actively engage with what you’re hearing. Listen analytically. Listen creatively. Listen critically. Try to really hear the shape of the melody, the harmonic motion, the rhythmic underpinning. Whatever you are working on in your practicing is a good thing to focus on in your listening.
We are living in a great era in terms of the availability of music. No longer do you have to venture out to your local record store (are there any of those left?) or search your FM dial for a station that might play a little jazz once in awhile. Now all you have to do is go to Pandora on your computer and set up a personal “radio station” for yourself. In fact, you can set up many different stations as you like. Each will call up tracks directly related to the artist or specific genre you identify. I’ve got my “Bill Evans” station playing as I write this. I’ve already heard great sides by Oscar Peterson, Keith Jarrett, Hank Jones, Billy Childs, Monk and, of course, Mr. Evans himself.
I also have a bebop channel, a Dave Holland channel, and one devoted to the music of Stravinsky. I’m getting to hear stuff I’ve never heard in addition to tracks I haven’t checked out in years.