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  1. #1

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    Hello everyone,

    I really love jazz and want to learn it but it just seems so complex... What I mean is that I usually learn styles of music by transcribing songs and 'decoding' them to see what they're playing but in jazz guitar there's just so many notes and to transcribe a full 3 minute song takes hours and is almost impossible to remember them all.

    What would be the best way to learn? Is there certain websites or places to go, or is transcribing one of the main ways to learn that is just something you have to push through and do like any other type of music?

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2
    Yes, transcribing IS one of the main ways to learn jazz music and every book/teacher/blog that I've encountered ultimately tells you to transcribe. So if you've decoded other musical styles by transcribing, I'd suggest you take same approach but with the understanding that you are correct: jazz music is complex compared with pop/folk.
    Perhaps a few sessions with a good teacher can help you understand what you are transcribing - what the original soloist is doing and why it sounds good. There are common jazz techniques that, if you understand them, can help you play the music you are hearing.
    The Good News: If you're already transcribing music, you are light years ahead of most jazz beginners.


  4. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by CarterJohn
    Hello everyone,

    I really love jazz and want to learn it but it just seems so complex... What I mean is that I usually learn styles of music by transcribing songs and 'decoding' them to see what they're playing but in jazz guitar there's just so many notes and to transcribe a full 3 minute song takes hours and is almost impossible to remember them all.

    What would be the best way to learn? Is there certain websites or places to go, or is transcribing one of the main ways to learn that is just something you have to push through and do like any other type of music?
    Hey there Carter, welcome to the forum. Just so we get to know you a little better, before we start throwing advice at you, would you mind answering just one question, honestly?

    OK, How long do you think it should take you to learn to play reasonably well in the style of Jazz you like?

    1 year?

    2 years?

    5 years?

    10 years or more?

  5. #4

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    Welcome!

    It has been said many times before: learn tunes - the melodies and the basic changes. That'll get you further than studying scales and stuff plus it's fun.

  6. #5

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    Autumn Leaves.
    Many great tutorials available--I like Sheryl Bailey's on Truefire.
    Chords first. II-V-I
    Arps at 5th fret next.
    Enjoy.
    If AL was the only Jazz song ever written, I could live with that.
    AL is the "Marijuana" of Jazz guitar.
    Leads to deadlier drugs.

  7. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by TOMMO
    Welcome!

    It has been said many times before: learn tunes - the melodies and the basic changes. That'll get you further than studying scales and stuff plus it's fun.
    I get the impression that what the OP is mostly interested in is learning how to play a solo since he says ",,there's just so many notes,,,".

    Most jazz standard melodies don't have 'so many notes' and thus playing such melodies isn't very difficult if one can read music (which I assume he can), or even by-ear.

    Anyhow, I agree with what you're saying here; take a few 'good for beginners in jazz" songs, like Satin Doll, Autumn Leaves,,, learn the melody and the chord progression. Record yourself playing the chord progression. Play the melody over said chord progression. Once the melody is down-pat, solo by playing lines that stay close to the melody, creating your own very melodic lines.
    Last edited by jameslovestal; 12-14-2019 at 05:56 PM.

  8. #7

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    Carterjohn, do you know and understand the basic Jazz chord progressions like ii-V-I, I-VI-ii-V, iii-VI-ii-V? Do you know the cycle of 4ths? A basic Jazz Blues progression? Rhythm changes? Tritone and other types of chord substitions? Have you memorized the progressions and melodies of at least a dozen standard tunes? Do you know 3 or 4 different rhythms like the Charleston rhythm? Can you play any walking bass lines? If not I'd start there.

    As far as which tunes to start with I'd check out Bruce Foreman's 10 "mother" tunes. (Do a search on the forum. It's in here somewhere.)

    As a beginner myself I've come to the conclusion (after a lot of trial and even more error) that you should have a grasp of these things before venturing into soloing. And soloing seems to be what you're talking about since you mentioned "so many notes". I think you should work on building a strong foundation before trying to build a skyscraper.

    That's just my 2-cents as a know nothing beginner.

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by CarterJohn
    Hello everyone,

    I really love jazz and want to learn it but it just seems so complex... What I mean is that I usually learn styles of music by transcribing songs and 'decoding' them to see what they're playing but in jazz guitar there's just so many notes and to transcribe a full 3 minute song takes hours and is almost impossible to remember them all.

    What would be the best way to learn? Is there certain websites or places to go, or is transcribing one of the main ways to learn that is just something you have to push through and do like any other type of music?


    Prioritize to learn standards and as many chord shapes as possible. Everything else will evolve gradually.

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by CarterJohn
    Hello everyone,

    I really love jazz and want to learn it but it just seems so complex... What I mean is that I usually learn styles of music by transcribing songs and 'decoding' them to see what they're playing but in jazz guitar there's just so many notes and to transcribe a full 3 minute song takes hours and is almost impossible to remember them all.

    What would be the best way to learn? Is there certain websites or places to go, or is transcribing one of the main ways to learn that is just something you have to push through and do like any other type of music?
    I agree, transcribing jazz instrumentals if you're not used to it is extremely difficult and time-consuming even for experienced players. You obviously do music already so I'd say start with one song/tune. You'll learn much faster if you apply the chords and notes to something, not just learn them in the abstract unconnected to anything.

    There are very good lessons right here. There's also a free e-book. The posters here include the authors of the lessons and they can clarify things if necessary. Start with one song. Don't learn a million chords, start with the chords you need for that song. When you move to another song in another key, you'll start to see patterns and repetitions.

    Try out the solos. It's all there in the lessons section. Also listen to recorded versions by well-known artists. Not just guitarists but sax players, etc etc. Get inside that song. If you find something too difficult simplify it. A little success goes a long way.

    When you've really understood one song you have the basis for understanding all. That's a great thing to see even if different songs present their own challenges.

    Start simple. Don't have unrealistic aims. If possible record what you play. Go slowly and carefully and before you know it you'll be getting somewhere. Give the brain time to absorb this new thing. It won't happen overnight but it will happen.

    This isn't a bad place to start and there's lots to choose from.

    Autumn Leaves Guitar Melody for Beginners

    Free Jazz Guitar Lessons

  11. #10

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  12. #11

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    I would borrow a good book from a local library and learn what jazz guitar is about. I started with Jane Miller’s Introduction to Jazz Guitar (Boston, MA: Berklee Press, 2015), but there are many others. I also liked Essential jazz lines in the style of "Cannonball" Adderley by Corey Christiansen and Tamara Danielsson (Pacific, MO: Mel Bay Publications, 2002), for giving me something to play: it contains lots of easy riffs and lines and doesn’t overdo the theory. If you prefer modern stuff to standards, you might enjoy Guitar Transcriptions by John Scofield (Milwaukee, WI: H. Leonard: Third Earth Productions, 1987). Most of the songs transcribed are in common time and are surprisingly straightforward. All the songs can be found on Sco’s YouTube channel, so you can play along.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by CarterJohn
    What would be the best way to learn? is transcribing one of the main ways to learn that is just something you have to push through and do like any other type of music?
    Exactly. If you really want to learn it, there are no shortcuts. You ear is the most valuable asset in jazz.

  14. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by CarterJohn
    Hello everyone,

    I really love jazz and want to learn it but it just seems so complex... What I mean is that I usually learn styles of music by transcribing songs and 'decoding' them to see what they're playing but in jazz guitar there's just so many notes and to transcribe a full 3 minute song takes hours and is almost impossible to remember them all.

    What would be the best way to learn? Is there certain websites or places to go, or is transcribing one of the main ways to learn that is just something you have to push through and do like any other type of music?
    There's a lot to it, involving multiple components. One of the simpler ways the breakdown study is to work on what you would needin order to play with other people.

    1. Be able to play the head (melody out the tune).

    2. Be able to comp convincingly through the tune.

    3. Be able to play a convincing solo chorus on the tune.

    Anyone can get this together on simpler tunes with a bit of work, and that may be a good start. Transcription is an important part, but additionally, long term, don't miss things like fundamental musicianship and basic knowledge of progressions most commonly found in jazz tunes. Some of the seeming complexity is from lack of experience with arpeggios, scales, and melodic pattern specific to the jazz idiom. If you learn some basics, you'll hear jazz better.

    Basic Roman numeral analysis of progressions isn't as "optional" as it is with other styles. From your post, it sounds like you're also talking about the complexity of the changes and larger forms in jazz.

    You would also benefit greatly from getting together basic technical work, like arpeggios and scales, which horn players and keyboardists all know coming out of JUNIOR HIGH school. These are called fundamentals for a reason. Fundamentals like these are talked down by a lot of "Internet experts" who may or may not actually play. Be careful.

    If you decide to ignore fundamentals, just understand that you are ignoring the advice of a great many professional players and teachers who recommend these things and who can actually PLAY at very high levels.
    Last edited by matt.guitarteacher; 12-14-2019 at 11:51 AM.

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by CarterJohn
    Hello everyone,

    I really love jazz and want to learn it but it just seems so complex...
    Hope your still with us! It can seem like that if it is new to you, or depending on how you approach it.

    Quote Originally Posted by CarterJohn
    What I mean is that I usually learn styles of music by transcribing songs and 'decoding' them to see what they're playing but in jazz guitar there's just so many notes and to transcribe a full 3 minute song takes hours and is almost impossible to remember them all.
    Outside of a lesson plan or method workbook, a lot of practical transcription and "decoding" is done by ear, not even written down. Jazz is a listening and hearing art, focused on the sound of things. This approach is more abstract, but it also simplifies some of the underlying complexity - for example, the almost 150 note names for the almost 50 pitches on the guitar (average of three note names per pitch, the right one determined by the key). If you memorize the note names for a transcription, those names are subject to change when you shift to another key. But you can learn to hear and grasp and internalize the musical sounds themselves as organizational, structural, and functional... in order to play the tune in any key, any style, and speed, any instrumentation, any feel, etc...

    Quote Originally Posted by CarterJohn
    What would be the best way to learn? Is there certain websites or places to go, or is transcribing one of the main ways to learn that is just something you have to push through and do like any other type of music?
    Best thing in the world is to find tunes you enjoy and transcribe them by ear without writing anything down (and don't insist on perfection). No matter how slow that seems to be in the beginning, it will save you many years if you keep with it... you need good ears to perform Jazz with others, which will include people you have just met and with whom you have never played, and they will be wanting to play tunes you have never heard.

  16. #15

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    It really depends on what you mean by "jazz guitar" and what your goal is.

    If you're just talking about jazz improvisation, there are as many paths as players. I'd suggest that, at its core, it's the ability to think of an interesting line to play, and then play it instantly. Can you scat sing an improvised line you like? If so, play it -- and that's jazz.

    That would argue for two things to practice -- one would be singing along with solos on record to develop some vocabulary. The other would be working on your ability to play what's in your mind. There are all kinds of things to help with this process, including theory, transcription, keeping a lick diary and so forth.

    But, that's just soloing. On a jazz gig, the guitarist spends more time comping than soloing. And that gets into a bunch of other skills. Knowing tunes (not just the chart, but the way jazz players play them), reading, knowing how to comp (voicings and time feel, for example), a trained ear for fitting in with a keyboard and other instruments, recognizing typical devices for endings and intros, getting a good sound, and more. These are all skills that were traditionally learned on the bandstand.
    Last edited by rpjazzguitar; 12-15-2019 at 02:46 PM.