So... You Want to Play Jazz?

Congratulations, you’ve decided to embark on a musical journey that has the potential to last a lifetime. You’ve decided you want to play JAZZ! Now I know this journey can seem intimidating; it can even be scary. But stay cool, I’m here to give you a few ideas on how you can get started on becoming the next jazz legend.

Listen As Much As You Practice

Have you ever loved a song SO much that you can’t stop listening to it? Or maybe you’re tired of listening to it but they won’t stop playing it on the radio? One day you’ll find that without having done any work at all, you’ll know every single word. You’ll know exactly what rhythms to sing, exactly when the singer enters the song, exactly when the bridge comes along. THIS type of learning is the easiest that you can do and is essential to learning jazz. The best first step that you can take to becoming a jazz player is to LISTEN TO JAZZ.

Learn By Ear

Now that you’re listening to a lot of great music, keep track of the tunes that you really love! Take the time to pick out the melody of a few of those tunes on your instrument completely by ear. This can take some dedication, especially if you are not used to learning a song by ear. Pick out the song into small sections and learn note by note. Don’t feel bad if you need to go over a section a few times before you remember it. This kind of practice will allow you to learn tunes quicker in the future and will increase the benefits that Idea 1 provides.

Don’t Skip Your Scales

Improvisation requires two things: imagination and technique. Imagination grows as you do, it changes as you change, and you exercise your imagination through your living. But if we are not able to express our imagination on our instruments, frustration is sure to follow.

Practicing your scales is a wonderful way to build technique on your instrument while also improving your ability to solo. When we solo, we are focused on moving through the chord changes smoothly. Chords themselves are just deconstructions of scales, so making sure that you keep up to date on your scales will do you a world of benefit in the future.

Good teachers are more than capable of guiding your journey in the right direction, and they are always available for additional advice. The three ideas that I have outlined above serve as aids for lifelong journey. They can and should be implemented at every level of learning. Don’t forget to have fun and learn to love learning. Happy practicing!

- Andy Greenwell, Music Instructor at Vibe Music Academy.