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Old 11-26-2012, 06:23 PM   #1
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where to start?

i recently am listening to a lot of jazz and fusion, i.e. allan holdsworth, ai di meola as well as more heavier stuff like animals as leaders. i want to learn how to play jazz, but i don't know where to begin. any tips on where to start with jazz?
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Old 11-26-2012, 06:47 PM   #2
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definitely not there. allan holdsworth is some heavy shit - i still practice OD just to get even close to what holdsworth pulls off.

start with learning your ii-V-Is in a few different voicings. learn theory if you haven't yet - it's going to be almost impossible to play jazz well without knowing your theory. you can kinda fake it, but you won't be able to get into the more in-depth stuff without driving yourself insane.

learn a couple of standards - get yourself some sheet music. i know a bit about jazz, but my expertise is more in classical music than jazz music, so i'll let someone else recommend you a book for jazz, because the chances are that whoever is going to recommend you a book will know which books are high quality and which books aren't. personally, i just buy a book and figure it out.

oh, and perhaps most importantly, start learning a shitload of chord voicings. learn (at the minimum) your maj7s, m7s, 7s, dim7s, m7b5s, maybe even a few 9s. you can progress to the harder stuff from there, but get those down first.
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Old 11-27-2012, 01:44 AM   #3
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Start learning some jazzy chord shapes and voicing like AeolianWolf said.
and learning some Jazz forms like samba can help you wrap your head around what's actually happening in the music.

Hope this helps!
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Old 11-27-2012, 03:27 PM   #4
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^Samba is a groove/style, not a form!

I'm gonna go ahead and copy and paste (and add some stuff to) my response to a recent thread that was very similar:

My first piece of advice would be to dig in and learn some harmony. I don't know where you stand on that right now, but knowing this stuff is pretty much the only path to being able to play this type of music, and it's obviously beneficial for other styles as well. Below is a link to a PDF file of Berklee's core "pop/jazz" harmony curriculum (it's an old edition from the late '80s, but most of it is the same as it is now - plus, it's free!). I've posted it in this forum a couple times before but I can't stress how useful a resource it is.


Once you have a firm grasp on the harmony you need to know, you'll be able to incorporate it into your playing. You'll be able to develop chord voicings on your own, in addition to elaborating on the shapes you already know. This knowledge will also inform your melodic improvisation; you'll know what notes fit and don't fit with each chord, and over time you'll find ways to connect them.

Also, start learning some standards. Some simpler tunes a lot of people start off with are Blue Bossa, Autumn Leaves, There Will Never Be Another You, etc. The "big three" types of changes that some consider the litmus test for being a competent jazz musician (along with basic major/minor key and modal tunes) are blues, (ex: Bessie's Blues, Billie's Bounce, Straight No Chaser) rhythm changes, (changes from Gershwin's I Got Rhythm; ex: Lester Leaps In, Oleo, Anthropology) and multi-tonic system/"Coltrane changes" (ex: Giant Steps, Countdown). All of these have many, many variations. Just so you know, multi-tonic changes are generally significantly harder than the other two types I mentioned, so I would start on them only after you have a firm grounding in everything else and you understand the theory behind them. I don't think there's anything on them in the links I posted, but some information shouldn't be too hard to find. You probably won't need it for a while, anyway (no offense).

I strongly recommend that you get a Real Book or something similar. The Sixth Edition is, from what I understand, the "standard" one. It's the one I have at home and it serves its purpose. If you can find any of the New Real Books by Chuck Sher they're generally a lot more accurate and have some more modern tunes. Also, real books can be a great way to improve your reading. For a few minutes every day, just open to a random page and try to read the tune's melody and changes. You'll see your reading improve really quickly.

One thing you could get started on is something called 16 Scale Concept. The idea is that if you know these 16 scales all over the fretboard, you can adapt them to play over the overwhelming majority of complex changes. (Note: These scales are guidelines; if you just go up and down them and don't play anything outside then your playing will be really boring!) The scales (and their corresponding chord qualities) are:

Seven modes of the major scale (yes, actually learn them as modes as well as just positions):
Ionian (maj7)
Dorian (-7)
Phrygian (-7)
Lydian (maj#11)
Mixolydian (7)
Aeolian (-7)
Locrian (-7b5)

The next five are derived from the melodic minor scale:
Melodic Minor (-6, -maj7)
Lydian Augmented (maj7#11,#5) (third mode of mel. minor)
Lydian b7 (7#11) (fourth mode of mel. minor)
Locrian Natural 9 (-7b5 with natural 9) (sixth mode of mel. minor)
Altered (7b5,b9,#9,b13) (seventh mode of mel. minor)

The remaining four are:
Mixolydian b9,#9,b13 (7b9,#9,b13 with natural 5) (fifth mode of harmonic minor with an added #9 - also called Spanish Phrygian or Phrygian Dominant)
Whole Tone (7#5 with natural 9) (all major seconds starting from the root)
Symmetric Diminished (dim7) (alternating whole and half steps starting from the root - also called Whole-Half Diminished)
Symmetric Dominant (7b9,#9,#11,nat13) (alternating half and whole steps from the root - also called Half-Whole Diminished)

This list may seem intimidating, but the first 12 can be learned (in a physical sense - you'll have to work on hearing them yourself!) just by learning all positions of the major and melodic minor scales down the fretboard. The whole tone and symmetric scales are symmetrical, so they're easy to learn; the whole tone scale can be learned with one fingering, while the symmetric diminished and dominant scales are essentially the same thing starting on different notes. All that's left is mixolydian b9,#9,b13, which you'll have to learn all fingerings of down the neck. The next step with all these scales is to derive cool chord voicings from them! Remember, if in doubt, make sure a voicing has the 3rd and 7th of the chord. Also, remember that these scales mean nothing if you don't know the harmony to back them up!

Well, I know that was a lot of information, but good luck! Let me know if I can clarify anything.

Last edited by mattrusso : 11-27-2012 at 03:34 PM.
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