#1
I'm trying to play to jazz backing tracks like this very simple one:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ToCzrgq2Rwk

But one thing makes it not so simple for me. During one chord, the piano in the track (not just this one but most I've found) will play multiple chords/voicings over it, making it really difficult for me to be able to tell when one chord ends and the next begins. In some of these tracks it specifies how many measures each chord lasts for, so I suppose I could just keep time in my head, but I'd rather tune my ear in to what the piano is doing so that if one day I'm playing live with a jazz pianist I'm not completely lost.

Any advice?
#2
Main advice is don't follow the piano. I've played in many different jazz trios/quartets/quintets etc and my attention is not mainly on the piano, but rather on the bass and/or drums.

Even if jazz is very much about improvisation, it is also a lot of practice and structure behind it. (Maybe less so in free-jazz, but bear with me). We often agree upon a template to play over, lets say it a four bar progression like you linked or maybe the progression to a famous standard. We know the progression really well, how long each measure lasts and what we can play over it. So it shouldn't matter if the drummer adds a fill that alters with the meter of the tune or if the piano player adds some syncopated substitutions. We know the form and improvise around it.

The reason i recommend using the bass as your foundation is that he is most likely to:

1. Spell out the harmony (arpeggiate the chords)
2. Play a very straight rhythm that follows the beat
3. Not take that many liberties when it comes to comping, unlike a guitar/piano or horn player might.

By all means, you should listen to the piano so you can react to what the pianist is doing, since jazz is much like a conversation. But the main thing is to know the form and know the changes. Set a metronome on beat 2 and 4 and play through the progression until you can just feel the changes in your body, the reason why jazz musicians are good at improvising is not that they have superpowers or anything like that, they are just really well prepared. Learn to hear the main progression and not all the fancy substitutions/ad libs.

Hope that helped, cheers.
Fusion and jazz musician, a fan of most music.

Quote by Guthrie Govan
“If you steal from one person it's theft, and if you steal from lots of people it's research”


Quote by Chick Corea
"Only play what you hear. If you don't hear anything, don't play anything."
#3
Yeah. Chords are easiest to hear when you listen to the bass. This doesn't only apply to jazz - it applies to all genres. When I'm trying to figure out the chord progression in any piece, I always listen to the bass.


But yeah, it depends a lot on the pianist you are playing with. Others take more freedom, others stick with one rhythm (it also depends on the level of the musicians you are playing with, and how many members there are in the band - if it's a small group, there's a lot of freedom, and if it's a big band, you have less freedom). Also, this backing track is really nothing like playing with a real jazz band. Because in a real jazz band there is a connection between the musicians. The comp players listen to the soloist and react to his playing. They also react to each other's playing. This doesn't happen when you are playing over a backing track, and that may be part of the reason why you may feel a bit lost. The backing track just keeps going, no matter what you play.

If the pianist you are playing with notices that you are lost, he reacts to it and simplifies his comping. But yeah, in a real band everything happens naturally. When you start playing more complex stuff, the band will follow you.

I'm not an experienced jazz player, but we did play jazz gigs in the military band. When somebody started playing a solo, at first the rhythm section gave him space (ie, kept it simple). Then it was pretty much all up to the soloist. If he started playing more complex stuff (which would most likely happen), the rhythm section followed him. As I said, it's all about connection.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
#4
I am more of a rock player, but my teacher have been focusing on jazz. I have been really frustrated. Sorry for hijacking your thread, but I feel we have the same problem.

Even when I know the structure of a song ( let's say a standard AABA Jazz), I have to focus really hard on counting, and I always get lost. On melody and rhythm, also.

I have been thinking about quittind Jazz for a while, and study other stuff, but I really don't like to give up on any matter...
#5
Quote by YellowCat

Even when I know the structure of a song ( let's say a standard AABA Jazz), I have to focus really hard on counting, and I always get lost. On melody and rhythm, also.


There ain't really more i can give you as advice than really listening to the tune you are playing. Every jazz tune i know i know on the same level as i know "Happy Birthday", it is just something that i know the sound of so much that i can't get lost. And that comes from years of listening and practicing.

I guess it would be the same as that rock players normally know the form of "Smoke on the water" and "Stairway to Heaven" really well, they have just listened to those songs so much that they know where all the riffs are, where the drum fills are, etc. It is no different for jazz players, when i started studying jazz in college "Listening" and "Repertoire" were subjects that dealt with this.

Not the answer you were looking for perhaps, but i hope it helps you.
Cheers.
Fusion and jazz musician, a fan of most music.

Quote by Guthrie Govan
“If you steal from one person it's theft, and if you steal from lots of people it's research”


Quote by Chick Corea
"Only play what you hear. If you don't hear anything, don't play anything."
#6
^ Exactly. Jazz isn't anything special when compared to other styles. It has it's own "language" just like rock or pop does. You just have to learn it. And to learn it, you need to get used to the sound of it. Just listen to jazz, and you'll get familiar with it.

The more familiar you are with the sound of the song, the easier it is to improvise over it (regardless of the style you are playing).

No kind of theoretic explanation of jazz is going to make you familiar with the sound of the style. You just need to listen to it. And this applies to everything in music.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
#7
^Yep. The piano player is comping and supporting the soloist, so he's going to play a lot of chords, and most of them probably won't be in the chart. He's going to imply a lot of different harmony.

So, as the soloist/melody guy, you need to know what MAIN harmony is going on, and then how to hear and work with their implied harmony, as well as imply your own counter harmonies.

So, in a sense, it's hard. But it gets easier everytime.
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp
#8
as the above folks have said..with experience you will "hear" what the piano is doing..and not feel lost..if you hear "lots of chords" it could be just a series of inversions of just one chord..which will give you moving voices and the impression of "different chords" in effect..so until you can hear substitute changes and altered harmony .. the bass will be your friend..now you can ask the players for a thumbnail sketch of the progression..im sure they will help you.
play well

wolf
#9
Skip the infinite 3 chord backing tracks and get straight into playing tunes. That'll help even more.
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp
#10
Quote by Jet Penguin
Skip the infinite 3 chord backing tracks and get straight into playing tunes. That'll help even more.


Agreed. Tunes you can get more familiar with, and you can learn so much more from tunes because there are loads of versions of tunes to transcribe ideas and concepts from.
Fusion and jazz musician, a fan of most music.

Quote by Guthrie Govan
“If you steal from one person it's theft, and if you steal from lots of people it's research”


Quote by Chick Corea
"Only play what you hear. If you don't hear anything, don't play anything."
#11
Absolutely, no one's going to just vamp II-V-I in C forever during a jazz gig.

And if they do, how could you even live? Zzzzzzzz....
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp
#12
II-V-I is sorta the Jazz equivalent of a 12 bar turnaround. Always good to have something in your bag to play over this because it comes up a lot but it is one small piece of a very big pie.
"Your sound is in your hands as much as anything. It's the way you pick, and the way you hold the guitar, more than it is the amp or the guitar you use." -- Stevie Ray Vaughan

"Anybody can play. The note is only 20 percent. The attitude of the motherfucker who plays it is 80 percent." -- Miles Davis

Guthrie on tone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmohdG9lLqY
#13
Right, nobody plays straight II-Vs like that, so you wind up practicing different from performance, which isn't the best way to go about doing things IMO.
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp
#14
Well, being based on circle of 5th progressions, you can analyze a whole lot of "ii V" in any jazz tune, just based on different keys. But that's beside the point.

It sounds like the OP here needs to pick up some charts and get used to counting. Just sit down with a chart and work through it counting 1 2 3 4 the whole way, until you have it memorized. Then start playing along with the backing tracks or recordings. Even if you're playing the chords in much simpler fashion than the recordings, you'll start to hear how you're both making the same harmonic changes.

And definitely get the chords and rhythm down before you start to improv a bunch. Keeping track of the downbeat is the most important thing you can do, even if you're completely lost otherwise.