[Dixielandjazz] How somje musicians "Learn" Jazz

Steve barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Tue Dec 6 21:07:39 PST 2005

Jeff Matthews asked how musicians learn jazz and asked about transcribing
and then playing licks and other people's solos.

IMO, the best way to learn to plan and/or enjoy jazz is to develop your
ears. As Larry Walton said, hear where the song is going.

There are many levels of hearing and then there is "really hearing." For
example, those who "really hear" can sing or play back song portions
immediately after first hearing them.

Plus, those fortunate few hear the chord or scale roots; they hear whether
it was major or minor, even what kind of minor, pentatonic, diminished,
whole tone etc. They can laugh at those who don't appreciate the single note
runs that someone like Monk does because they will identify them as logical
whole tone runs beautifully done. They can tell you what's happening in a
middle of a solo like "that was the 6th resolving to the 5th". They hear the
band individually as well as collectively and can describe the harmonic

How can one learn to hear? Simply listening to music, though important, is
usually not enough. If it were, jazz would have a much bigger audience.
Folks today don't want to think about music, they just want to enjoy it. (If
ear training was taught in primary and secondary schools, their level of
enjoyment through understanding would probably change)

How then do we musicians learn to "hear"? First of all, by learning all the
chords, scales and modes. Then by studying some information about ear
training, or how to listen. Jerry Coker's book "Listening to Jazz" is a good

Then get Jamey Aebersold's play along records . . . like Volume 21 "Gettin
It Together". Listen and sing along the chord roots. Then replay and sing
the first 5 notes of the scale. Then again and sing the triads. Then sing
within the chords, 5ths or 9ths etc.

Then use Aebersold's guide to song intervals. e.g. a perfect 4th is found
with the first two notes of "Here Comes The Bride". "Hear" that 4th. Later
when listening to Round Midnight, you'll realize that its first two notes
are a perfect 4th too. Then get his guide to ascending and descending
intervals and songs which use them. e.g. Ascending minor 3rd = A Foggy Day.
Descending minor 3rd = Misty. Or perfect 5ths. Ascending = Twinkle Twinkle
Little Star. Descending = Have You Met Miss Jones.

You might also check on ear training books by David Baker which come with a
cassette, or develop your own list of tunes with the intervals from minor
2nd to octave 8th. (Somewhere Over The Rainbow going up, and Willow Weep For
Me, going down.)

It is a long process, but once faithfully completed, you will "hear". You
can also play along on your axe. One thing for sure, once you "hear", your
enjoyment and/or performance expertise of music will increase dramatically.
And as an OKOM musician, you'll be able to readily identify melodic lines
and play just about anything you want.

And, you might even hear the melody in "modern" jazz solos. ;-) VBG.


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