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LESSON ONE: ADVANCED STUDIES

Cool Jazz is Back!

Student NotesAdvanced studies will focus on the JAZZ format. However, good jazz musicians have Classical training in their background. Classical training and Music Theory are the tools which help a great jazz musician develop their "Chops." "Chops" is a Jazz term for "musical technique and skill."


Jazz is a shared learning experience. No person learns the art of Jazz without playing along with other Jazz musicians. One learning tool for doing this is to play along with recordings of other Jazz musicians. There are courses of studies that use recorded jazz groups leaving out one instrument. This one instrument might be a piano part, bass part, trumpet part, etc. Then, it is up to you and your instrument to fill-in the missing part. The QuickTime™ MIDI file below is an example of this kind of training. It is missing the "lead line." The "lead line" is the melody line that plays on top of (along with) the "rhythm section." The "rhythm section" is traditionally those players playing Drums, Piano, Bass, and Guitar. Push play on the slider bar below.

12 Bar Blues



A good place to start to learn the art of Jazz is in the "12 bar blues." A "12 bar blues" is 12 musical bars (measures) that repeat over and over to allow each member in the band to solo (improvise) during each the 12 bar period. Usually each soloist will play this 12 bar phrase over and over again until they "feel complete" or have exhausted their ideas for soloing over the top of these 12 bars of blues chords (also referred to as "changes"). There are NO RULES in Jazz. There are NO MISTAKES in JAZZ. Jazz is a subjective art. If you like what you are playing, then play it. This is Jazz.

One thing to keep in mind. Jazz is like several painters working on the same painting at the same time. Imagine yourself in a group of painters about to begin an abstract painting of anger and loneliness, fear and hurt, joy and freedom, love and tenderness, or desire and frustration. Each painter knows the canvas size. Each painter is going to add their version of the chosen topic without destroying or covering up what someone else is doing. Each painter knows that working together and supporting each other in this common effect will produce a painting that is understood by most people viewing the finished artwork. None of the painters in the group are in charge. The only restriction is the size of the canvas. After thinking about this for a few minutes, listen to the music playing above and begin to experiment by adding some of your own notes to the music. Do this for as long as you would like to. Listen a little, play a little, listen a little, play a little, listen . . .

Set aside some time each week (at least an hour) to sit uninterrupted and listen to a recording of a "small" jazz group playing any kind of jazz (Latin, Dixieland, Blues, Fusion, Swing, Scat, etc.). This will help you begin to build a library of ideas in your head. These ideas will be seed thoughts to help you build new ideas of your own. At this point it is not necessary to know how any one player played a certain group of notes or rhythms. Just listen and enjoy. Let the music bathe and wash over you. Let it hold you and take you on a journey.

 12 Note Companion

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