Hey Jazz Guy’s Top Ten

Hey Jazz Guy,

I know that learning jazz takes years of study, but is there anything I can do to improve quickly? –Eager in Elmhurst


Dear Eager,


We all share your desire to speed up the improvement process! Although musical study is a life-long sport, these are a few of my favorite things you can do today – to be better tomorrow. Become more familiar with the guitar. Playing major scales, minor scales and ii-V’s in all keys is a good start. This scale exercise [Ex 1] goes up one key and down the next around the cycle of 5ths. Memorize a tune from the American Songbook; many of these songs have become staples of the jazz repertoire. For bonus points, learn the lyrics. They will really help you phrase the melody. Understanding that chords are scales and scales are chords, as reveled in the upper structures [Ex 2] will get you a long way with functional harmony. Here we use GMaj7 and spell it vertically to get a G Lydian Scale. When the tempo is fast, think in slow subdivisions, like half notes. When the tempo is slow, think fast, like sixteenth notes. On the topic of resolutions, play natural tensions when resolving to major chords, and altered tensions when resolving to minor chords [Ex 3]. Always shed the four big jazz ‘motions’, they are the blues, rhythm changes, Coltrane changes, and modal harmony. Immerse yourself in swing rhythms [Ex 4], and sing through the articulations to get the feel. Listen to all the jazz you can find, and play with others as much as possible. Tomorrow is only a day away, so jazz hard!

Link to PDF Example: HJG -Top 10

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Categories: Philosophy/Technique

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