How Can I Learn to Play Jazz?
Many people strive to learn to play jazz. However it is probably worth asking the following question:
What is Jazz?
What is jazz? Initially, for many reasons I shied away from using the word Jazz. It seemed to have been hijacked by so many different groups as being theirs that I lost sight of where the boundaries are and became even more confused. Consequently, it took a long time for me to decide the name of this site.
Is Jazz American?……….Well, for many years I lived in London and I knew hundreds of musicians who loved listening to the classic US jazz, and yet they did not always play music that sounded like it, even though they considered themselves to be jazz musicians. I also have played and travelled in 30 countries and found the same. I have heard people playing great Be-bop, from Poland and Sweden and Italy, and have also heard American musicians play music at jazz festivals, in and out of the USA, that seemed more akin to contemporary folk or classical or rock music. On one occasion, during a visit to a temple in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, I stood agape, chin-on-the-ground, as I watched a quartet of 2 hand drummers and 2 nagaswaram players, improvising with the same intensity and virtuosity as the classic John Coltrane quartet.
I thought about replacing the term, Jazz with Improvisation instead, as that was what all of these musicians where doing. Then I thought about the musicians that I have met that improvise freely, without the perceived constraints that a harmonic or rhythmic structure can have.
Also, the dictionary meaning for the word, Improvise is, …’to perform or deliver without previous preparation’……..so this is definitely not the right term for the approach used in this site.
What is jazz? – global-improvised-music.
So, I unashamedly opt for Jazz, fully aware that some people may take umbrage from the fact that this system does not explain how to play American Jazz, per se, but opens up to a wider, global approach, introducing the improviser a system of learning that will enable them to use melodic, harmonic and rhythmic ideas, regardless of what kind of groove they choose to play with, and whatever their ethnicity.
It is my aim to introduce you to some of the musical archetypes that you can work with, in order to pursue an infinite approach to the physical (ears, hands, feet, gut, etc.) and spiritual (heart) aspect of musical creation.
Teaching and learning jazz improvisation.
I would like to draw your attention to what the material on this site is useful for, and also what it’s limitations are in regard to teaching and learning jazz improvisation.
The material should be used for building a progressive and endless (or bottomless) foundation for the basic skills required, if you would like to know how to learn to play jazz. In fact, I believe that this material could be used universally for developing the knowledge and skills for any musician, regardless of the genre of music they wish to play.
You will find here a body of material for developing, your physical relationship with your chosen instrument/s, your listening and aural capacity, and also your understanding of the theory related to functional and modal music. This will hopefully enable you to create a long term plan of action for you to achieve the goals that you have set for yourself.
Learn to play jazz….teaching limits.
What you will not find though, are any direct instructions or opinions from me about how to improvise. For me, this is the most important statement that I can make.
It is my aim to be able to help you to find an enjoyable, easy and efficient way to understand the language/s used in jazz improvisation and general music theory. Along the way I hope to introduce you to many of the great musicians that have and are creating wonderful music. I may even show you in detail, through transcriptions etc. how they achieve/d this BUT ultimately I hope you will find your own way to express who and what you are, by your own means and creativity.
I would also like to state that this material can be useful for you regardless of what ‘style’ of jazz or improvisation you play, now or in the future.
It is because this material is so basic or universal that it is relevant to you as a trad jazz cornet player, a rock guitarist or an improviser who wishes to do away with any harmonic and melodic structure completely (or eventually).
Of course ‘basic’ should not imply ‘easy’, as it is infinitely complex – the larger the foundation , the larger the construction; John Coltrane, is one of the great examples of what can be achieved with time and dedication to these principals.