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How do I go about learning jazz?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by newyorkiddo, Jul 13, 2013.

  1. newyorkiddo

    newyorkiddo I'm actually a cat. Supporting Member

    Jul 10, 2013
    Houston, Texas
    I'm a fairly new bassist and I just recently bought my first jazz bass after being stuck with a low quality precision bass. So, having this new bass, I've decided I want to learn something new. Could any of you lead me to some YouTube videos or anything that could help me learn to play jazz?
  2. bkbirge


    Jun 25, 2000
    Houston, TX
    Endorsing Artist: Steak n Shake
    Ed Friedland's (who happens to post here a lot) book about how to walk is excellent. It's on amazon. But the two best ways are listening and participating, preferably both at the same time. I'd start out by immersing yourself in the sounds, stick with the classics, Oscar Peterson, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Brown, etc. Pre and bop-era. Learn that triplet time feel called swing until it's in your blood and you hear it in the trees creaking. If you don't know blues yet you'll want to start your practicals figuring that out. You can't play jazz without blues knowledge (and a great jazzer told me once you can't play blues without the old gospel knowledge). It's all connected.
  3. BassChuck


    Nov 15, 2005
    Ed's books are wonderful and anything he says or writes is more than worth the time spend. That said, learning jazz is an aural skill, as is all music. Listen to all kinds of jazz. Jerry Coker's book on jazz is a great start to learn names, styles and history. Jazz is not just walking basslines, and swing. Jazz is a mode of thinking, a way of looking at life. Compare the work of two of the jazz greats, Louis Armstrong and Charles Mingus. Very different music... yet a great similarity in way they dealt with their times. It's a great trip, enjoy.
  4. edfriedland


    Sep 14, 2003
    Austin, TX
    I agree... listening, listening, listening! Yeah, buy my book too, but you have to have an aural reference point. It's more than just going "boom, boom, boom". Listen to how the bass line hooks up with the ride cymbal. Listen for how the bass outlines the root motion, find the lead sheet for a tune and follow it while listening to the song.

    And start immersing yourself in the sounds, have it on in the background, play it in your car, get some playlists together and instead of zombie-ing out with Justin Beiber in your Dr. Dre's, listen to Coltrane!
  5. Thick McRunfast

    Thick McRunfast Not just good, good enough

    Sep 30, 2012
    Portland, Oregon USA
    I actually did buy it yesterday. Good stuff.
  6. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    I'd go about it by doing a lot of listening.
    Transcribe the lines , played by some of the relevant players, such as Paul Chambers, Ron Carter and the like and analyse how they negotiate the chords and melodies of any given tune.
    Learn chord notes and use them in your accompaniment.
    Learn clichès, such as II V I, I VI II V etc etc.
    Also try to hear how Jazz players interact with others and negotiate the chords of any given tune.
    Playing along with some jazz may also help.
    Blues and Rhythm changes( The chords form 'I got rhythm') are used A LOT in Jazz, so I would most certainly get these down in all keys, of courye and in all positiuons on your instrument.
    Play melodies too, to get 'the whole picture' and learn how they relate to the chord structures that underly the tune. This will help you form a vocabulary and fluency in your playing.

    I do not think that a book will get you all that far on its own but would have a look into the Ray Browns writings.
    This one is ok too
    Or this;

    For repertoire, I'd get the Real book(or the new real books, either in hard copy or the pdf cd)

    Most importantly though ; play loads with those 'in the know'. They can coach you 'on the job'.
    I found that extremely helpful, if unnerving at times...in a good way!:)
  7. ABlueJazzBassist

    ABlueJazzBassist "Always play beautifully."

    Dec 26, 2012
    Hey, those who know me from the db side know I'm super traditionalist and a huge proponent of the fathers of modern jazz bass, who are Jimmy Blanton, Oscar Pettiford, Paul Chambers, Ray Brown, Israel Crosby and many others. But that being said, in my long walk into jazz, I started by listening to Jaco Pastorius, Matt Garrison, and Hadrien Feraud. So check out weather report, Christian Mcbride, John patitucci. Go over to the db side of the forums, tons of stuff about jazz there that might be useful and isn't instrument specific.
  8. Learn basic scales, turn them into walking basslines, improvise everything.

    Okay maybe not quite.
  9. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    Funny that the OP hasn't bothered to respond. Maybe it seems like a great deal of work. I'm here to tell you that it is a helluva lot more than a great deal of work. I had 12 years of electric bass experience, and 17 years of reading and 15 years of guitar experience before I dropped all of my past, bought a double bass in '92, and wood-shedded for two years before playing the DB outside of my home.

    My approach was to buy five or six Sinatra CDs - the 50s standards. My thought was, learn how to play straight in the new chord structure on tunes that don't get way out too quickly. I was already able to improvise pretty effectively in the rock/blues idiom, but improvising in the jazz idiom requires a level of understanding and, dare I say it without labeling, sophistication, that is hard to understand until you try it.

    It's a bitch, and you need to study and listen and think; then get it wrong, and then figure out how to get it right. When that lamp goes off, and it goes off 4 or 5 times over the course of several years. Then find some like-minded players, and learn what it means to play without your feet touching the floor.

    A rare find, but it's worth the effort. And I do mean effort. Then after Sinatra, you've got a wealth of crazy brilliant players to listen to. I've already posted long lists of them.
  10. Eyeman


    Sep 17, 2001
    Brooklyn, NY
    I appreciate where you're coming from, but I disagree and don't think this is very good advice.

    Jazz is music. Music is fun. Becoming a great musician in any style is hard, hard work, but it also is and should be fun.

    Find records you like. If you're not into everything you hear, be true to that, but really dig into what does turn you on. Maybe you aren't really hearing Bird yet, but you like the swagger of Louis Armstrong's hot five recordings, or the attitude of Charles Mingus playing Haitian Fight Song. You've got your whole life to play music, you should start now with the stuff that speaks to you.

    I truly believe that the great jazz musicians like Charlie Parker, Lady Day, Miles, and Mingus (to name but a few) have made music so compelling that it can be enjoyed by anyone. But sometimes to get inside the music you have to understand a new language first.

    There's lots of jazz connected to other styles of music, I'm sure some of the stuff you already like. That's an excellent place to start, because they may be improvising using the language of songs you already know. Soon you'll begin to recognize the things you like about music are already there inside of the music of all the greats (this also applies outside the world of jazz in my experience).

    Whatever you listen to, start playing now. Go to jam sessions. Gather your courage and play a blues. If you really suck, you might get cut up (just vibed by the other musicians, maybe a dirty glance and your tune could be short. Remember this has happened to everyone in the room with you), but I guarantee someone will be happy to point out what you should work on, and if you do so they'll be happy to hear it when you come back next week.

    Jams are a great place to find other musicians on your level working on the same things. Play with them now, learn together. It's easier then only learning alone (though you have to do that to).

    And most importantly, have FUN!
  11. somegeezer


    Oct 1, 2009
    Keep playing all the wrong notes, until they start sounding like something you're happy with. You will have learnt Jazz.
  12. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    We are asked for opinions on this site very often. Advice is typically opinion-based. It worked for me. I had a great deal of fun from day one. I started with a few Sinatra CDs because learning standards seems a good approach to learning jazz. Why this would be considered to be bad advice is beyond me.

    And yes, I love and played Mingus, Monk, 'Trane, Bill Evans, 60s Blue Note, on and on. My main advice was to be prepared to work hard and perhaps starting with standards is a good way to go. If someone doesn't dig Sinatra, then certainly some other recordings of standards are available. My advice was not "you have to start with Sinatra." It was my route, from which a simple model can be built and customized by anyone.
  13. Eyeman


    Sep 17, 2001
    Brooklyn, NY
    Sure, and I'm just saying I disagree with your opinion that you have to spend years working at jazz before you go out to play, or that to tackle jazz you must necessarily work harder than at other types of music.

    I think this is a myth in general about jazz, that jazz musicians spend more time and effort on their craft than musicians of other styles do.
  14. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    Well, it was exactly my experience, so there's one data point that suggests that jazz requires more study and time. Much of R&R, blues, blue grass, etc. came almost as second nature to me, and playing a fair bit of classical (e.g., Brandenburg Concertos, Haydn symphonies) required only a modest amount of practice and rehearsal time. Jazz was an entirely different animal to me. It required learning a new dialect of a language I thought I knew better than I did and then translating it a brand new instrument. Maybe you missed that part of my post; not only did I completely drop all other forms of music but jazz, I also was translating it to the double bass, which I had never played.

    Ravi Shankar spent something like 17 years learning sitar before he dared play in public, so two years isn't crazy. Nor is it a rule.
  15. Eyeman


    Sep 17, 2001
    Brooklyn, NY
    fair enough, but I have a feeling that as a result of all the time and effort you've put into jazz, you're probably a better jazz musician than you are a classical musician, though certainly that's pure speculation and I could easily be wrong.

    I've found that musicians at a comparable level to myself tend to work just as hard as I do across genres. Jazz, bluegrass, classical, r and b, electronic, whatever. They're all just as focused as me and my jazz friends.
  16. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    Actually, I shift gears every five or ten years. I've pretty much dropped DB for the last 10-12 years and I've been focusing mainly on fretless electric. I was never an excellent classical musician; you're correct, but the material I learned in jazz has made improvisation in the R&R genre very much fun at this point in my life.

    But again, the primary reason I took so long to play out was because I was learning both a new idiom and translating it to a new instrument.
  17. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny

    Nov 20, 2000
    Vancouver, BC
    There's no substitute for studying with a player who has done the work to become a good jazz bassist. You need to listen a lot to get the music in your head and books can give valuable information but only a real teacher who's been down the path him or herself can evaluate your strengths and weaknesses and help you find your path. A teacher will push you where on your own you might give up. Most players wanting to learn jazz have no real conception of the staggering amount of work it takes. On your own it's too easy to become sidetracked and lost. This is an accurate indication of how much work you have ahead of you. Not everyone needs years of regular lessons (many of the most difficult questions you have to solve one your own) but everyone needs some to start.

    There's also no substitution for playing with other people as soon as you can. Think of jazz as a language. You can learn the fundamentals from books and recordings but as long as you don't use it with others you'll never get very good at using it with others. Important subtleties will elude you. That said some recordings I did get a lot from playing along with are the Abersold Music Minus One discs....ok,well vinyl LP's in my case.
  18. groooooove

    groooooove Supporting Member

    Dec 17, 2008
    Long Island, NY
    +100 ed's book is a great way to start.

    if i were you i'd listen to a fair amount of jazz first. hear the music, start with the old- new orleans, ragtime, early louis armstrong, fats waller. go through the eras, hear charlie parker and the wave of players that came after him. try and hear a couple (good!) examples of each era / type of jazz.

    then, get yourself a good, qualified teacher, and go from there.
  19. Red_Merkin


    Nov 12, 2012
    I'm surprised I haven't seen Mingus being mentioned here yet.
  20. kevteop


    Feb 12, 2008
    York, UK
    I'll be 40 next year so I decided I should learn to play some of my favourite jazz styles rather than end up in a ****ing wedding band, so I have been working on it in isolation (well, with a lot of Aebersold tracks, and occasionally with a drummer and guitarist) but yeah, you need to really know your instrument, and you need to listen to a lot of the music you're trying to play (sounds obvious but y'know, humans, what are they like).

    I'm still a terrible jazz bass player but the stuff I'm learning as part of the process has made me better at everything else. So even if it takes a long time to get where you want to be, it's a massively beneficial way to practise.

    Also can I quickly apologise for the number of commas in that first paragraph. :bag: