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Jazz Improvisation Is The Key to Playing Jazz

Mar 7, 2008
Jazz is an original American form of music. Some believe it was first played in South America, but there's no question it was developed into a distinct and mature genre in the United States. It has developed into a popular and relevant part of American music. In the early history of jazz it was greatly influenced by blues music. In the late twentieth century jazz was an important and popular form of music enjoyed initially by African Americans in the southern U.S. and honed to a fine art in cities up and down the Mississippi River.

The music that was called jazz was popular in many countries, including the United States. At the same time it quickly spread to many countries in Europe, and then to many parts of Asia, South America and Australia.

What makes jazz unique? Among other things the unique features of Jazz include 'blue notes," improvisation and syncopation. Jazz relies primarily on the spontaneous expression of the musicians - usually playing in small groups - and does not necessarily use a written score. The 1930s saw a rapid rise in the popularity of jazz. Although black musicians dominated the jazz scene, the 1930s saw an increase in the number of white jazz singers and players. But during this time jazz still remained true to its roots and to the African-American blues musicians who created it.

That is why jazz music reflects not only American classical, popular and traditional music, but it also boasts of a mix of African and even European music styles reaching back hundreds of years. Because of the complex nature of jazz, and its improvisational character, the only way to properly understand jazz music is to be immersed in it, hear it played by jazz masters and actually play with other jazz performers, because jazz music is ultimately a communal experience.

Self expression through the use of improvisation is an important component of jazz music. Improvising in the unique jazz way is a special skill which a musician can only acquire through exposure to other jazz musicians, while interacting with others musicians in a typical jazz "combo". Jazz is even difficult to practise without knowing how the individual parts interact with each other.

Obviously it is better for a musician learning how to improvise to begin with simple songs. Learn some basic techniques by experimenting, listening to other musicians, or taking a few lessons. Then apply those simple techniques in a more advanced way to more complicated songs. But remember, as a jazz musician it is not as much about technique as it is about self-expression.

To begin learning the basic techniques of jazz improvisation, it is important to alter the notes of your song here and there when playing. This holds true whether you are learning the jazz guitar, piano, trumpet, violin, saxophone, or any of the multitude of instruments used in jazz.

The best way to learn about jazz and how to play it is to list to all forms of it. Start with the traditional and then add the contemporary artists. You may also want to look into schools for jazz instruction and learning. You may want to specialize in jazz improvisation, or soloing. A school might just be the thing to develop your love of jazz into a career.

One of the richest, most expressive and satisfying genres of music for the musician looking for creative expression is, without a doubt, jazz. It creates a magic which cannot be expressed in words. When people are really interested in actually listening to the music, jazz can be the most appropriate and entertaining type of music you can choose for almost any occasion. Being equally challenging and rewarding for the musician - what could be better than that!
About the Author
One of a kind jazz workshops - Music school in St Leonards, Sydney, Australia, specializing in jazz and improvised music. We offer private lessons on all jazz instruments, ensembles, school holiday workshops and masterclasses. Our teachers are among the best jazz educators in Australia.
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