8 Effective Hacks That Will Help You Learn Jazz

Last Updated on February 16, 2022 by IDS Team

In recent years, people have been captivated by the magic of jazz. People who love this music genre can’t get enough of it and want to learn as much about it as possible. It’s a beautiful style that is hard to reproduce, but easy to appreciate. Are you thinking about taking up jazz? Here are 8 effective hacks that will help you learn jazz in no time.

In recent years, people have been captivated by the magic of jazz. People who love this music genre can’t get enough of it and want to learn as much about it as possible. It’s a beautiful style that is hard to reproduce, but easy to appreciate. Are you thinking about taking up jazz? Here are 8 effective hacks that will help you learn jazz in no time.

1) Learn your major scales

While at first glance it may seem like you are learning the same scales as classical musicians, this is not the case. Jazz has its own set of rules that require special attention. Major scales are important for improvisation and understanding what chords go with which keys. For example, if you play a C major scale over an F7 chord, it will not sound good. Your scale will clash with the chord, which is how you know that it’s the wrong one to use. It’s important to learn your major scales in all 12 keys so that you can avoid this problem.

You may want to sit down and just run through these scales without an instrument, but practicing on an instrument is better. If you play a saxophone, practice your scales while playing that instrument. Use a piano or guitar to practice if that’s what you play. You will get faster at the scale and be able to go over it more efficiently by practicing with an instrument in hand.

2) Use a cheat sheet to learn jazz

If time is an issue, you might consider using a cheat sheet or fake book as it is also called to help you with learning jazz. It’s basically a simple document where you put all the chord changes and lyrics of your tune in there, and then print it out. Put this sheet on a stand right next to you as you practice the chords on your instrument(s). Eventually, you will know the tune by heart.  If you are just starting to learn jazz, then now is the time to get a new fake book to use in the middle of practicing chords. It helps you remember because it offers you a collection of jazz songs you can play in one handbook. Aside from that, the fake book can help you learn music more quickly without investing hours and hours trying to learn songs or recordings. However, all you need to do is to ensure that you get the right one because there are a lot of them in the market today.

3)  Listen to jazz often to learn jazz

This might seem counter-intuitive, but hear us out. The thing with jazz is that it’s an art form based on iteration and improvisation, which means you can’t really learn the  art of improvising by studying a bunch of examples in textbooks or notation alone. You have to practice doing it yourself, over and over again. And the best way to do that is by listening to jazz, which includes musicians improvising on real-time recordings. Listening helps you understand the art more, and gives you the inspiration to try out what you just heard. Honestly, there’s no other way to learn it.

4) Transcribe Music and Practice Your Transcriptions

When musicians are first learning jazz, they often rely heavily on using jazz language to improvise. Once you have a working vocabulary, however, it’s time to expand your knowledge by transcribing. Transcribing simply means listening to the recordings of great improvisers and writing their solos down by ear .

The goal is not necessarily to learn all of the notes, but to learn how great players construct solos. Learning the vocabulary is only the first step – learning how to create with that vocabulary is where things get interesting.

5) Learn your major and minor triads

To help you learn your major and minor triads, many musicians recommend singing the root of the chord followed by the type of chord (major or minor) while playing it on an instrument. This is a great way to get the sound in your head and into your ear. Once you can hear these chords in Major and Minor form separately, you will be able to hear when a jazz musician uses chords from the major or minor scale.

Learning the major and minor triads for every key in your instrument’s range can help you with improvisation, playing backup, and even writing jazz songs in any key.

6) Learning how to improvise to learn jazz

In the words of Bassist Matt Penman , “In order to really improvise well, you have to have a good command of the changes and be able to hear them in your head.” How can we apply this? Here are our recommendations for this one:

Record. A great way to really learn the changes is by recording yourself playing with them over and over again . You will be able to hear your progress, which helps you improve much more than simply playing in front of your mirror (which I am definitely guilty of). Write out solos. If soloing on recordings is not for you, try writing out your solos on paper. That’s right, write it out note for note.

This one is really great for those who are not as comfortable writing or improvising on the spot. If this is you, write down a tune and play it over and over again . Once you have become familiar with it, start to create solos of your own.

7) Learn Common Chord Progressions and Rhythms

Jazz is characterized by a certain chord and rhythmic pattern. If you know these patterns, it’s like learning the language of music. There are four common chords in Jazz: major 7th, dominant 7th, half-diminished seventh and minor 7th flat 5 (which is also known as a minor flatted 5th).

Learning these four chords will give you the ability to improvise with the most common chord progressions in Jazz.

8) Get Your Arpeggios Up to Shape

It’s important to know what arpeggios are and how they apply to jazz. An arpeggio is just a fancy way of saying that we’re going to learn each chord as a separate entity (like learning triads in music theory). So rather than thinking, “I’m playing C Major 7 here,” instead play the C Major 7 arpeggio and hear all of the chord tones. If we learn each chord as a separate entity and get good at recognizing them, it makes transposing and soloing that much easier.

Finally, the next steps of learning how to play Jazz are putting these different elements together and getting your ear involved more. Try spending some time playing songs that you like with a teacher or bandmate. This will help you get comfortable improvising while remembering things like chord progressions and rhythms of the tune at the same time. This will help you learn the changes, melodies and rhythms in each song you are learning. Jazz is a complex style of music that takes years to master, however knowing these key elements can make getting started on your Jazz journey much easier.

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