Need Help Playing Jazz

(18 posts)

No tags yet.

  1. bingefeller

    Well guys, I've been trying on and off for a number of years now to play jazz and I just can't do it! I have bought books with Pat Metheny transcriptions, Joe Pass transcriptions etc and I just can't even get close to the rythms of phrasing of those guys at any decent speed! I have a Jim Hall Signature Licks book and I can play some stuff at slow tempos, but when it comes to ramping up the speed a little I just can't do it! It's funny because I'm a rock guitarist I can actually find it easier to play most rock stuff, with even more complex phrasing, than jazz tunes. What's going on here?

    I have jazz chord books too and I can play the chords and I remember their names, it's just the lead playing that I can't get.
    I know a lot of guys say tap your foot on 2 and 4 but I always go back to 1 and 3 and I think this could be part of my problem! I just cannot manage fast tempos with tapping on 2 and 4.

    What should I do?

  2. guitar1025

    Hey bingefeller,

    The best piece of advice I can offer you is. . .relax. Don't try to take on too much to start with. I remember when I became interested in jazz I used to listen to Pat Metheny and think "the stuff he's playing is physically impossible."

    I have a Jim Hall Signature Licks book and I can play some stuff at slow tempos, but when it comes to ramping up the speed a little I just can't do it!

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with starting slow. Whenever I'm trying to learn ANYTHING new, I put the metronome on an obnoxiously low setting. I then practice it over and over again until I don't have to think about it. Then I move the metronome up 10-20 clicks and repeat. Eventually you'll get to a tempo where you can't play it and then you back up 5-10 clicks and move forward at smaller increments.

    Start simple. You don't even have to start with a guitar solo. Try transcribing some Miles Davis stuff from the 50's (Milestones, Kind of Blue, etc.). There are not a whole lot of notes to deal with AND it's a textbook of swing feel. Even if you only learn a solo a few bars at a time, concentrating on placing each note in the right spot in those few bars will do wonders for you instead of "trying" to get through licks from a book.

    I personally don't subscribe to using lick/transcription books. I feel that learning a lick/solo from a book, you lose the context. Personally, I internalize things much better when I hear music within the context of things rather than just notes on a page. This is not to say that the books don't serve a purpose for me. I think the books are a good place to devise exercises for yourself.

    As far as using the metronome, I always use it on 2 and 4 (. . .for swing, anyway). I know it takes some people a while to get used to feeling it but I used to be a drummer so it came naturally to me with the whole "hi hat on 2 and 4" thing. When I practice things at faster tempos (I'd say anything north of 250), I switch it to 1 and 3.

    Really the most important thing is not to get discouraged. Take anything new that you get out of any practice session as a win for the day. Even if it's one bar of someone's solo, or playing something at a faster metronome marking. Progress is progress!!

  3. jbroad

    the most important thing to do at this stage in the game is listen. find 5-10 jazz recordings that you love and listen to only that music for a few weeks or even months. the only way to learn and internalize the phrasing and feel is by listening. learn some of the phrases that you hear and be able to sing them away from your instrument. also, try to go out and listen to the great local players in your area and go out to hear the masters if they come anywhere near your town. i grew up in cincinnati, ohio and i would travel anywhere within a 200 mile radius if someone like sonny rollins, john scofield, wayne shorter or elvin jones would play live. i also tried to make it up to NYC at least once a year to hit the vanguard, birdland, blue note, and 55 bar. it will have a huge impact on your development and get you going in the right direction

  4. guitarmo

    Listen Listen LISTEN, don't buy books and don't study guitar players!!!

  5. jazzacast55

    I think the "don't study guitar players" line is a bit of a guitarist cliche, I think if your having trouble playing and picking up basic jazz phrasing and lines I wouldn't steer away from guitarists as ity's the instrument you play and it is good to hear how the notes fit on the fret board but I wouldn't ONLY listen to them either.
    Like Jbroad said listen to albums you like till it starts to stick, it may take a while but make sure its something you like, don't just listen to a jazz album just because it's hip, it might be an album your not ready for yet, I would check out Sonny Rollins, Miles, Cannonball, Parker.
    If your having real trouble as a guitarist maybe listen to some more less chops kinda players, Kenny Burrell, Jim Hall, Charlie Christian.
    Find something you love and listen to it a lot, it's something you will never pick up just by looking in books.

  6. guitarmo

    "Find something you love and listen to it a lot, it's something you will never pick up just by looking in books." --- Great advice!!

    ""don't study guitar players" line is a bit of a guitarist cliche" -- Cliches are cliches for a reason!! But, yes, I am being slightly snarky with this comment.

  7. guitar1025

    If your having real trouble as a guitarist maybe listen to some more less chops kinda players, Kenny Burrell, Jim Hall, Charlie Christian.

    I would add Grant Green to that too. Very swinging, and very easy stuff to hear for transcribing.

  8. jorgemg1984

    If you have no problem playing rock guitar than you do need to hear and transcribe some good and simple jazz guitar... I would start with 50s 60s Jim Hall or some simple Wes stuff. Then the same with other intruments... and listen, listen, listen. And relax, relax, relax.

  9. bingefeller

    Hi guys,

    Thanks for all the helpful replies....I guess I need to go back to the start then!

    It can be frustrating for me as, like I say, I don't have any problem playing the majority of rock licks and I can work them up to speed fairly easily. Jazz looks simple on paper but it's so much more than that to play.

    Take Metheny for example, the guy has a weird picking technique, uses a thin pick, and he totally burns through these lines 200bpm + that I have problems playing at 100bpm lol. Same with Kurt, his lines are so smoothly played and quite fast too!

  10. add4

    the guys you are talking about have been working on their instrument and music in general for 10, 20 , sometimes more years before they could reach that level. And by working, i mean working, not only playing, seriously training their musical and instrumental skills, but also their concentration, ears, time feel, an awful lot of things in fact.
    I seriously hope for them that you can't reach their level after a few hours of work :)
    The good news is : theres nothing strange with what you're describing
    The bad news is : you will not reach their level for .... a looooooong time
    the great news is: this might be the one of the most beautiful journeys of your life to get to that level of musicianship

    I just want to say another thing :welcome, most of us on this forum are living the same kind of thing.

  11. dickdenver

    Miles Davis (Kind of Blue) album is a great place to start as far as learning how to phrase and learning the 2/4 (swing) feel. Transcribe alot and get a teacher to help with your ear training. Sounds like a simple process, but as everyone has mentioned, it takes time. Putting the time in is well worth the feeling you get after you've completed a transcription and are able to play along with it and study it. You're learning the tune, you're learning licks, understanding the's like owning a little piece of history. And to me, there is no better feeling in the world than putting all that information together and playing with a band that really swings hard. P.S. Grant Green is a great suggestion for a guitar player who swings hard and isn't as overwhelmingly complex with his licks/patterns in comparison to someone like Pat Metheny. Good Luck!

  12. bingefeller

    Thanks again for all the advice. I put my copy of Kind of Blue into iTunes and loaded up my transcribing software and am going to sit down and figure out some licks and see where that takes me.

    You guys are quite right in saying that when you hear a Metheny lick you have to remember the fact that the guy has been playing for years and years and years. It's just frustrating sometimes :)

  13. guitar1025

    When I was just getting into jazz I started listening to Pat Metheny. I bought his trio albums (the ones with Bill Stewart and Larry Grenadier). Because I didn't know anything at the time, I could swear guitar parts were overdubbed!! :)

  14. jbroad

    bingefeller- before you transcribe lines from "kind of blue" sit down and just listen to the whole recording a few times. turn off all of the lights, light a few candles, turn the TV off and just listen to it. trust me

  15. guitar1025

    Yes, LISTEN, LISTEN, and when you've done that, LISTEN some more.

    This is something that took me a while to learn. You need to LIVE with these recordings. I used to try to transcribe stuff line by line just because it sounded cool after a couple of listens. I have transcribed tons of solos and licks that are now useless to me because they were never internalized. What you need to do is be able to sing the solos on the recordings. You'll know that you've started to internalize it when you take a line, listen to it, transcribe it on your instrument, and you already know what, or can at least sing the next line before you press play again. I try to live with solos and recordings that I want to transcribe. With the advent of things like Pandora and Spotify, the music on my iPhone is STRICTLY stuff I want to learn/transcribe. I use those programs when I just want something to listen to.

    I feel like in the end the amount of time you'll spend evens out. If you just sit down and start pulling out licks, it will take a long time to internalize them. If you live with the recordings, you're listening to them for a long time but you internalize so much quicker!

  16. jazzacast55

    Guitar1025 is right, Listen to an album that you love, don't worry about listeneing to much or worrying about picking to much up from the player and sounding like them, your in a position where you need the lines, rhythms, forms the sound of drums and walking bass in your head, if that's not happening in your head or in your heart it a lot harder to play jazz.
    Use the program transcribe and out a favourite tune with one of your favourite solos on it and cut the solo out and save that as a single file, maybe do it to a few of your favourite solos then listen to them until as guitar1025 said you can sing along with it, doesn't have to pitch perfect but can you imaging if you had around 10 amazing solo in your head to draw from, so much information to draw from. When I realized a while back that is what I was lacking I just had jazz playing constantly sometimes just on while I was doing stuff and I feel that I personally pick up a lot through osmosis.

  17. guitar1025

    listen to them until as guitar1025 said you can sing along with it

    Very important to do, but also, be able to sing the solo AWAY from the recording too. I work a little bit singing as well as playing guitar. When I'm learning new music (lyrics, mainly) I HAVE to spend time away from the recording, otherwise I'm just teaching myself to sing along with the recording.

    So definitely sing along with the recordings in the beginning, but also be able to move away from the recording having retained some of that stuff you've been digesting!


You must log in to post.