Here are a few tips and encouraging words for jazz beginners. you if you are new to learning to play jazz and improvise (or if you’re teaching beginners), read on.
- Don’t try to learn everything all at once
- You don’t need to start by ‘transcribing’
- Start by giving yourself the chance to build a strong foundation. I recommend key centres first, to help you build a feel and ear for style, rhythm, and tone. Then modes and simple modal music to start building basic harmonic understandings.
- Once your foundation is in place you should be able to play most standard tunes, participate in jam sessions, and so on, without any additional knowledge or more advanced techniques.
- On that solid foundation, you then add more advanced techniques like chord changes, exotic scales, arpeggios, substitutions, cells, or whatever.
- Ignore the foundation and you are unlikely to sound like a jazz player, at least for a long time, if ever.
- You will find yourself under a lot of pressure to skip the foundation and jump too far ahead. The pressure will come from YouTubers, people posting on forums, other students, jazz musicians, and most of all from yourself.
Probably no one ever learnt by just ‘transcribing’, least of all the people who tell you that’s what you must do. They probably did engage in ‘transcribing’, but they did a lot of other things too. They just don’t remember them, weren’t aware of them, or don’t want you to know about them. Maybe they don’t want to talk about other things, like the foundation, because it sounds teachy and knowledgey, and a bit uncool.
But the foundation is a thing, great players have it, and you need it too.