Learning Blues to learn Jazz?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Matthew_84, Dec 16, 2012.

  1. Often when someone expresses a desire to learn Jazz they are advised to begin with learning the Blues.

    I must admit that I don't understand this advice. If someone wanted to learn Jazz, wouldn't studying Jazz greats like Oscar Peterson and Miles Davis be more beneficial than studying Blues greats like B.B. King and Muddy Waters?
  2. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Supporting Member

    Jan 13, 2008
    They probably mean it's a good idea to start with simple, blues ideas first so that you can build on top of them until you get to the point where jazz won't be too complex or scary of a thing to tackle.
  3. uOpt


    Jul 21, 2008
    Boston, MA, USA
    All this "learn X to learn Y" stuff is BS.
  4. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    It's not necessarily bad advice. A fair bit of jazz is just an extension of blues. Take a "standard" 12-bar blues:

    | C7 | / | / | / |
    | F7 | / | C7 | / |
    | G7 | F7 | C7 | G7 |

    Here's a companion Jazz Blues:

    | C7 | F7 | C7 | / |
    | F7 | / | C7 | E-7(b5) A7(9) |
    | D-7 | G7 | C7 | C7 |

    So learning the blues structure provides a framework for building upon. One of the risks of becoming too attached to Blues is the b7. That note is a significant part of the sound of blues but it must be used a bit more judiciously in jazz. This is a generalization, I know.
  5. hgiles


    Nov 8, 2012
    I had some educators start teaching jazz by starting with the blues. The blues song form is common across all genres, so it's readily accessible. In that sense it could be an easy starting place.

    However, you can get away with a lot of stuff in blues yet great blues playing is hard to do and even tougher to explain. Those same educators today question whether starting with the blues is a good idea.

    I start my students on 'bluesy' stuff like Summertime or Autumn Leaves. It's really hard to make mistakes on these after a bit of initial guidance; yet it's so difficult to sound seasoned on them.
  6. cire113


    Apr 25, 2008
    Learning blues first is fantastic advice....

    A large part of jazz vocab is most definetly blues

    It's like trying to learn calculus without knowing how to add or subtract....

    You have any idea how many jazz blues songs there are? Ridiculous amounts...

    The influence the blues has on jazz is astounding!!
  7. Groove Master

    Groove Master Commercial User

    Apr 22, 2011
    Author of Groove 101, Slap 101 and Technique 101
    Jazz comes from the Blues so, yes it makes sense to learn the basics since there is still a lot of Blues in Jazz.
  8. A lot of times when someone says "Learn blues when you're starting with jazz" they're refering to blues as a song form (12-bar blues), rather than the blues as a separate genre. Just about all the jazz giants incorporated blues forms into the tunes they played.

    If you want to check out a textbook example of "jazz blues," get the album "Night Train" by Oscar Peterson. The album has his classic trio of Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen, and is a classic.
  9. eee

    eee Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2009
    the_stone just nailed it. They definitely mean the 12 bar blues form with jazz changes, not "learn to play like Stevie Ray"
  10. if you can't walk a bass over a blues, you're wasting your time trying to learn play like Reggie Workman
  11. Cycho


    Nov 30, 2010
    You wouldn't be much of a jazzman if you couldn't play the blues!
  12. Right. I guess what I mean though, is instead of spending a year to develop the skill to play the Blues well, wouldn't that year just be better spent getting into Jazz right away?
  13. MusicEd


    Nov 30, 2012
    See below.
  14. eee

    eee Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2009
    Just get into jazz. Jazz has so much over lap with...well, pretty much everything, actually. You'll only be doing yourself a favour by pushing yourself to learn.
  15. aprod


    Mar 11, 2008
    You can't run before you walk. Learn your I-IV-V chord progression and from there you can expand to I-iii-vi-ii-V jazz changes, such as Thelonius Monk's "Straight no Chaser". Like the other post said, "the_stone just nailed it. They definitely mean the 12 bar blues form with jazz changes, not "learn to play like Stevie Ray".
  16. Think of it this way (and this is an EXTREMELY simplified and broad way of thinking about jazz, but might answer your question): if you think of jazz as a genre of music that is either based in or incorporates a large amount of improvisation, then you could play "jazz" over any tune you wanted - you could improvise over the harmony of the Scherzo of Beethoven's 5th symphony if you wanted to. "Summertime" is an often-played jazz tune which was originally written for a Broadway show ("Porgy & Bess"). Brad Mehldau is a very well-known and respected jazz pianist who has recorded his versions of Radiohead and Paul Simon tunes (check out Mehldau's version of "Exit Music for a Film" on youtube as an example). Having beginning jazz students start with the blues as a song-form lets them learn to incorporate the vocabulary, phrasing, and listening skills over a song form and set of chord changes that most students find very familiar, owing to the "blues" being the basis for a lot of well-known tunes.
  17. hsech

    hsech Work hard. My Social Security needs a raise.

    Jun 27, 2012
    Central Iowa
    I played in a Jazz trio earlier this year. Keys, drums and bass. If you are going to be playing jazz from fake books or in a good keyboard players keys you best start practicing in the keys of F, Eb, Ab, Bb. Rarely do you get to play open notes. Also learn to walk using augmented and diminished progressions. It's great fun, just takes a little work.
  18. Audio example:

    The Ray Brown Trio playing "Blue Monk," which is a jazz tune written on a blues form.

    And as an aside, if you're wanting to get into jazz bass playing, Ray Brown is about as good a place to start as anyone.
  19. Anonymatt


    Jan 3, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    Yeah, you don't have to spend a year playing blues before learning Autumn Leaves, but it wouldn't hurt.
  20. cire113


    Apr 25, 2008
    a majority of the jazz vocabluary is blues... alot of that 2-5-1 language and melodoic stuff is pentatonic bluesy stuff

    The 2 most used song forms in jazz are blues and rhythm changes ... If you learn those forms oh man will be shocked how much you will learn.....

    Id say like 25% of all the jazz i listen to today has blues form ...