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Thread: learning jazz

  1. #1
    Registered User
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    learning jazz

    I want to get into learning jazz after focusing mainly on rock/blues. I know the pentatonic/blues scale pretty well, but in jazz it seems to me that the best tool for playing is knowledge of all the various 7th chords and their arpeggios across the fretboard. Does anyone have any recommendations for how to approach learning jazz from the beginning, like how to learn the arpeggios, should I start learning some standards, or any thoughts in general? Thanks.

  2. #2
    IbreatheMusic Author
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    The first step in learning jazz is to listen. You've probably done some of that, or you wouldn't be interested in jazz.

    That reminds me of a story (Gunharth and others who have studied with me will tell you that *everything* reminds me of a story ;-) .) In the early 70's I had been teaching at Berklee for a couple of years when Pat Metheny joined the faculty. He was unknown at the time. I heard him play, and I jammed with him, and, of course, I was blown away. One day I said to him, quite bluntly, "Pat, you're so young and you play so well. How did you do it?"
    Pat said, "One thing I did was to listen a lot. I listened closely. I started with simple guys like Kenny Burrell and I move on until I listened to advanced guys like Coltane. I figured out every note they played and why they played it."

    That "why" is very important. Now, do I believe every word Pat says? Hardly. Still, he made a good point.

    As for arpeggios, yes, most jazz players start with arpeggios, more so than scales. Find a couple of places on the neck where you are comfortable with a couple of basic arpeggios. Find a tune that uses -- almost exclusively -- that kind of chord. Then start "improvising." That means trying something and paying attention to whether it sounds good to you or not. Later on you can figure out "why."

    Steve
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    Last edited by S.Carter; 09-17-2011 at 12:10 PM.

  3. #3
    Resident Curmudgeon szulc's Avatar
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    Steve,
    Are you a big Chrlie Christian fan?
    I was really into jazz for a few years and started seeing how everybody was borrowing from him.
    To me the Chain goes something like this: Charlie Christian/Tal Farlow >
    ( Not really sure who to put in here, Maybe Herb Ellis but I don't hear as much CC in them as I do in Wes, also I shouldn't leave Django out. But I hear CC in Wes and I hear Wes in George Benson, Pat Martino and Joe Pass)
    Wes>
    then it splits off from there to George Benson Joe Pass and Pat Martino.
    Then Everybody else! (Methany,Scofield,Geissman,Stern,Akkerman)
    One guy I hear that is fresh is Joe Diorio, I am not sure who his influences were.
    Last edited by szulc; 10-19-2003 at 02:40 AM.
    "Listen to the Spaces Between the sounds."
    Szulc's Site

  4. #4
    IbreatheMusic Author
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    Are you a big Chrlie Christian fan?
    Well, yes, and a fan of all the guys you mention. But in a way that's beside the point. Sure we all have to listen to the masters and learn from them, but there is more beyond that. Trying to understand what it is that makes a composition -- spontaneus or "composed" -- beautiful or meaningful or whatever inexpressible thing we feel. Stravinsky wrote something to the effect that the only meaningful comment on a piece of music is another piece of music. So Joe Pass's lines are, among a million other things, a comment on Charlie Christian.

    But there's entirely too much immitation today, and precious little real communication. Note that I do not say "expression," but "communication." You can express yourself with a yelp or a yowl, but communicating something of depth to another human being is incredibly difficult.

    Jim Hall said something like, "You'd be better off looking at a painting than listening to someone else's bebop lines."

    That's not to say a learning player should not listen to Christian's lines, and to a very long list of other players' lines, but there is a lot more beyond that.


    Steve
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    Last edited by S.Carter; 09-17-2011 at 12:10 PM.

  5. #5
    Resident Curmudgeon szulc's Avatar
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    When you say "communication" I make the assumpion that you mean communication of feelings through musical expression.
    Please elaborate on this topic(especially if I am missing the point).
    I get "feelings" from lots of music, mostly blues. In general I get moe felling from great singers than from instrumentalists, because the voice is so intimately connected with the soul.
    I gravitate toward music that moves me emotionally.
    I also like music that is spontaneously created/composed. To me that is the best form of musical expression.

    I have always been on a quest for the "why" people choose the lines they do. What I seem to be finding these days is chords and chord substitution seem to be the underlying reason for "why".

    There are a lot of simple melodic ideas that jazzers use to commonly make certain lines work over a given set of harmonic circumstances. I have been studying these to get a better understanding of "why".

    Ultimately you have to listen and make choices based on what works no matter what the rules and theory tell you. I also believe that a lot can be said for playing with authority and conviction.
    There are strong melodic, harmonic or rhythmic ideas that can carry you through complex changes even if they don't fit via theory or some forth order substitution, just because they are interesting to the listener.

    No matter what you do and how much you know, theory by itself is not enough to write beautiful melodies, and not all beautiful melodies can be made to fit theory.
    "Listen to the Spaces Between the sounds."
    Szulc's Site

  6. #6
    Registered User Dr. J's Avatar
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    The Greats

    Hey Guys
    Really cool to see a discussion such as this.
    I find it hard to put into words but the playing of Jim Hall, Barney Kessel, Joe Pass ect put the art of Guitar in another world for me.
    If you want to change the way you play.
    Change the way you think

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