Over 14 years of learning Jazz with many amazing guitarists has led me to believe that the essential building blocks of Jazz are the same & once understood can really speed your learning process. Here are the 7 key areas:
1) Melody (single line improvisation and composition)
This includes learning melodies to songs, ii-v lines, melodic etudes, solo transcriptions, licks and composing melodies. The idea here is to develop your personal sense of melody, to develop your melodic vocabulary. For the advanced player, this would also include being able to develop a melody compositionally so that it tells a story.
2) Harmony (chords, voicing and chord progression)
This is the study of harmony from understanding and being able to play intervals to playing larger chord structures and voice-led chord progressions. The idea here is to be able to be fluid when playing more than one note at a time.
3) Rhythm (grooves, time signatures, rhythmic patterns)
This is to develop a strong sense of time, groove and rhythmic energy. Some rhythms will feel heavy and others will make the time float. This includes study of different time signatures, polyrhythms, syncopation and beyond.
4) Improvisation (how to improvise, improvisation practice)
This is the pure study of how to improvise and create music in real time. It may include what Wayne Krantz calls ‘Compositional Playing’ which is music that assembled using certain idiomatic vocabulary (licks, cliches, patterns) or ‘Improvisational Playing’ where no particular vocabulary is attached, just recombination and assembling in real time of certain material, without idiomatic consideration.
5) Songs (learning repertoire, parts)
This is all about learning songs & parts to songs. This is learning the music directly.
6) Ear Training
Ear training includes many different aspects including:
- to your instrument
- to paper
b) Playing by ear
- by listening to something someone else played
- from memory
This is the pure study of technique without considering the music. Techniques may be as fundamental of hammer-ons and pull-offs or more involved topics such as tapping, hybrid picking, odd grouping string crossing & string skipping combinations.
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