By Austin Consordini
When thinking about things that are American, we think about Apple pie, hot dogs, the star-spangled banner, military heroes, and the statue of liberty. We think of GMC and Ford vehicles that proudly brandish the stamp of “made in America.” One often over-looked piece of America’s culture is jazz music.
Jazz was created in New Orleans in the late 19th and early 20th century in the African-American communities. There is no denying now that jazz has since become an integral part of the American music scene with people picking up a jazz piano, saxophone, or brass instrument to learn the riveting chords all around the world. If you are interested in playing jazz music, there are 7 tips you must know to become the best musician you can.
There are common chord progressions that are vital to being a jazz piano player. Learn these chords and become a master at them. Once you learn the foundation of jazz chord progressions, you can start getting creative with other chords. Check out the tips to playing progressions found here. Knowing the melody of any song will better help you understand and memorize the chord progressions in a piece.
Improv and Solo
Jazz music doesn’t have a lot of rules and the rules in place are meant to be broken. The heart of jazz is about improvisation and feeling the emotion in every note. A great jazz musician will be able to improvise, take a solo in the moment, and mold the music as they play. The blues scale is the most likely to help your improvs be excellent. In the key of C, the scale would be C, Eb, F, Gb, G, Bb and then C. This Blues Scale pattern repeats in all keys: G, D, A, E, B, F#, Db, Ab, Eb, Bb, and F. Practicing and mastering the blues scale in all keys is essential for other genres of music such as rock n roll also.
Keep it Simple
It’s not about the notes you play so much as the way you play them. The catchiest jazz tunes often have the simplest chords, with added flourish! Use Melodic statements, blues statements, and other techniques to embellish your tunes.
Practice Scales for Speed
One of the best ways to practice getting your fingers moving across keys is to practice scales specifically looking to increase your speed. Going as fast as you can isn’t the goal, rather, playing the notes perfectly, getting the right finger positioning, and becoming more in tune with your instrument will greatly improve your playing ability. Practicing your scales for speed also builds your muscle memory which is talked about below.
Improve Your Memory
One of the most important tools in a jazz musician’s bag is their memory. Ear, mind, and muscle memory are vital for any musician. You must become attuned to sounds, notes, and chords. You must be able to tune your own instrument and identify the individual instruments in a band. In your mind, you must be able to think measures ahead, be able to improvise in an instant, and understand the dynamics of the band and how all the members work together. Jazz musicians also rely on muscle memory, so their mind doesn’t have to think about the finger placement of their fingers as they progress through chords.
Practice with Others
One of the most fun activities a musician does is hang out and jam with other musicians. Playing with others is a great way to learn new tricks, practice different techniques, get feedback from peers, and hone your craft. Jazz musicians can never become great at improvisation if they aren’t constantly practicing with a group.
Learn Multiple Instruments
We all want to master one instrument, but to be the best jazz musician, you should master at least two. Learning multiple instruments help players to understand the jazz genre of music better. Mastering multiple instruments is also great for strengthening the mind and memory. Every jazz musician should be able to play the piano. Most jazz compositions are first created and transcribed at a piano. Other instruments to learn would be a brass or woodwind instrument, particularly the trumpet and saxophone. Bass guitar is the best string instrument to learn outside of the piano as the rhythm section of jazz music is the one responsible for keeping the ensemble moving forward together.
Mastering these seven tips for playing the best jazz music will not turn you into a Miles Davis or Duke Ellington overnight. The best jazz musicians in the world practice their craft and hone their skills over many years, many picking up instruments for the first time as a young child. Each jazz master the world has seen has been able to become the greatest because they have a deep, unwavering passion for the music.
Austin Consordini is the creator of the music technology site Consordini.com. He says, “My main range of interests includes violin and guitar play, also I play the drums sometimes (especially, when it’s a necessity to express strong emotions). Music for me is like a medicine. It helps me not only to develop and expand my musical skills but also treats my mind and body.”