Monday, 26 March 2012

Jazz Workshop Hints - Listening to jazz

Butlers Jazz Workshops

Listening to jazz, and learning to play from the recordings

It doesn't seem an accident to me that the history of jazz almost coincides with the history of recorded music, originally the gramophone and phonograph.

The early jazz pioneers were recorded and then would be players, rather than using sheet music (as one might for classical music) listened to those recordings and tried to play a jazz piece from the recording on their instrument.

Musicians wanting to learn jazz today might well follow the same principle, especially when learning how to improvise.

Don't listen to a piece once, and think that is sufficient for you to play it, you may well have to listen very carefully to the same piece many times to get a real feel for it!

After listening carefully here are some tips that might be useful.

Take a simple piect to start of with and then find out key that the performer is playing in, (go the end of the piece and see what chord it finishes on may help) . You would need to know if its a major or minor key.

Here it would be good if you have a knowledge of all the 12 major keys as scales (see previous posts) and by using the mode starting on the 6th note of the scale, would gie you the relative minor key (as a natural minor scale).

A useful thing to know, the relative minor (the minor key with the same number of sharps or flats as the major) is always the same as the mode starting on the 6th note of the major scale. Determine whether the piece is in a major or minor key. (Some jazz, especially more 'modern' might not be in a key at all), so maybe stick in the first instance to jazz standards.

Find, by playing along with the recording, the melody or improvisation that you hear, and try to memorise it. If you read and write music you can write it down, but its much better anyway to try and get it into your head!

You might well notice that the notes don't always follow the major or minor scale that the piece is in, that may be because the tune might 'visit' other keys during the piece, to give it interest.
(A process called modulation) This is all part of the understanding of thispiece of music.

Hopefully, with due diligence, this will give you a basic idea of the piece, but to get to the heart, you will need to undersatnd the chords that support the melody, or improvisation, and this can be quite a challenge, and will be the subject of later posts.

All this work may be made easier by going on a jazz workshop and interacting with other players as they learn.

Good luck!

Peter Willson

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