Listen to the great players of jazz
In an earlier post I wrote about how the history of jazz coincides almost entirely with the history of recorded music. In fact, the earliest recordings of the human voice, that could be played back and listened to, was much earlier than the first recordings of jazz.
It seems that the Original Dixieland Jazz Band made its first recording in 1917, so anybody who wanted to study jazz had the option from that time, to listen many times to hear and imitate the music being played.
And of course, a major way of learning jazz for any instrument, is to do just that!
To be a good jazz musician, I maintain, is to be a good jazz listener. Anybody who wants to play music, any music, needs to listen to the great players of that music.
How do you listen to jazz? Well if you want to do some serious study of a piece by listening, I think you have to listen to that piece more than once, more than twice, in fact, to get a feel for that piece, one has to listen to that one track many times.
There have been many books and articles with some good information about listening to jazz, many can be found on the web, but the following might prove helpful to a keen listener.
So who are the great players of your chosen instrument?
You can't learn to play jazz on any instrument, till you know of the players who are the greatest players of that instrument! That seems obvious to me, but when I've asked some of my pupils in the past who are the great jazz pianists, they said they didn't know of any!
How can you play an instrument well if you don't know who are the greatest players of that instrument?
First select a track, from one of the great players you admire, and after selecting the track, listen to the track as a whole, and think what it is that makes you want to listen to that track. Is it the melody, the chord structure, the way the performer plays or the the sheer excitement you get from the performance?
If you are not excited by the track, listen and work on another one because if you get bored it makes the whole exercise much more difficult.
As soon as you can, after listening to the track for a few times, go to your instrument and see if you can play some of the phrases you hear.
You need to now get some understanding of how that piece works, and the way that the performer has put it together. The best way to do this, is to go to a jazz workshop and the whole listening process will be made clear, so you can start on the road to be a great jazz player yourself!
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