Doug Stone Releases Groundbreaking Book on Developing Jazz Improvisation

By Cullen Sadler

September 07, 2023

doug stone

Doug Stone, Associate Professor of Jazz Studies

LSU Associate Professor of Jazz Studies Doug Stone recently published "Stepping Stones," a book designed to help developing jazz musicians build their improvisation skills, in cooperation with Low Down Publishing, a publishing house dedicated to the development of books and materials specifically for music teachers and self-guided learners.

We caught up with Professor Stone for a quick Q&A about this exciting new resource!

What was the motivation for writing this book?

The book essentially addresses two elements that I teach students - 1) a process for learning chord changes and preparing for harmonically accurate and meaningful improvisation and 2) riff melodies that can be used to make improvisations idiomatic to the jazz style.

My friend Danny Ziemann, who owns Low Down Publishing, encouraged me to write this book in order to share these foundational elements of my teaching, which I have been presenting to individuals, groups, student musicians, and music teachers for many years, so that more people could have access to this helpful material.


How did you approach putting these techniques into print, rather than the typical in-person lessons? Did the change in medium require any major rethinking?

My former teacher, Ray Ricker, wrote a book called "Lessons from a Street Wise Professor," which breaks down many details of life as a professional musician. One of things I appreciate about Ray's book is how he explains common sense concepts with great clarity. I wanted to present my musical ideas with similar clarity, not leaving anything to chance or forcing the reader to do any guesswork.

Presenting ideas that I teach in person, using lots of musical examples and playing, in book form, was challenging. But I think the Low Down Publishing team and I have all the information dialed-in to give readers a rewarding learning experience with "Stepping Stones for Jazz Improvisation."


What do you think is the biggest challenge for aspiring young jazz musicians?

The biggest challenge for all jazz musicians is improvising with rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic depth and meaning.  We spend our entire lives chasing that goal! I hope that "Stepping Stones for Jazz Improvisation" can help less experienced jazz improvisers build their musical foundation on firm ground... and I have enough material for two more volumes!  So, stay tuned for more Stepping Stones in the future!

"Stepping Stones" is now available at Amazon and other booksellers. Multiple versions are available for different instruments and tunings.