The Top 5 Ways to Learn How to Play Jazz

By Rich H

1. Start listening to jazz albums. That’s right, there are many genres to choose from like bepop, cool jazz, acid jazz, jazz rock, latin jazz, free jazz, jazz funk, modal jazz ect. By listening to this music, you will develop a true feel for the music as well as how the instruments interact. Studies also say that listening to music has health benefits such as handling stress and there are lots of songs that are soothing and relaxing. Don’t just listen to albums, go to concerts and listen to live performances, then that way you will become more inspired by seeing jazz performers of different age levels. You can listen to musicians such as Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Chick Corea, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Oscar Peterson, Robert Glasper, Jason Moran, Billie Holiday and other old and new artists.

2. Learn to play an instrument. If you are a beginner and want to learn jazz, it would be best to learn the basics of music from an instructor first, such as note values, rhythm, dynamics, articulations, sight reading and especially music theory. Understanding music theory is especially important because in jazz you use scales a whole lot and an advanced knowledge of chords is vital to learning how to improvise and compose. You must also have a natural feel for rhythm.

3. Join a jazz ensemble or group and take other related classes. You will need hands on experience so that you can get used to interacting with other jazz musicians. University and Community Colleges usually have jazz ensembles that you can join, it would help to have some experience on your instrument before joining. You can either get a degree or you can choose the courses you want to take. Jazz improvisation classes start you out with the basic elements of improvisation that will help you understand the concept. There are also history classes available as well as jazz composition and arranging classes.

4. Read about the history of jazz. Jazz has a long and extensive history that includes decades of different styles and a wide variety of musicians. Understanding the history of jazz will help you in your comprehension and playing of the music. Books such as The History of Jazz by Ted Gioia and Jazz 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving Jazz by John F. Szwed are great resources. Libraries also carry good books. You can also search google for articles. There are also jazz history courses available in colleges as mentioned above.

5. Study with a jazz musician. A real person can teach you so much and will help you bring the creativity out of you. You can either contact a jazz professor to take private lessons or you can try contacting jazz musicians on websites in your hometown. Books are good but from my personal experience, books are more effective when learning from an instructor. They can give you advice based on their expert experience about practicing habits in jazz, explaining jazz concepts, helping you one on one with your improvisation and help you when you have a hard time learning jazz.

Follow these suggestions and I guarantee that your jazz experience and enjoyment will skyrocket as well as transforming you into the next big jazz musician. Practice, practice and practice.

by Richard Henry

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