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Composition question: What should a classical musician expect to gain from learning jazz improv?

Discussion in 'Tips, Tricks & Talk' started by Sean Getchius, Jul 10, 2019.

  1. My neighbor happens to be a jazz music teacher and I'm gonna start learning improv. It will open some doors to some new styles of music that I've never tried. As somebody who has followed the classical performance path, and wants to get into composition, what should one expect to gain from learning jazz improv?
  2. Expect is a loaded word, but I get the gist of what you mean.
    Well......there are at least two big new areas that will be new (in addition to the "improv")

    Simply exploring/learning jazz repertoire is going a big deal.
    The harmonic language and rhythmic aspects are very different.

    Another thing is it is a great way to make music with another person. (people)
    Playing without sheet music will be easier for you.

    Hopefully you will enjoy it.

    One surprising aspect I noticed was an increased ability (for me, not compared to say Richter) was in memorizing
    classical works. You just hear the background a little more, and can be helpful to "chunk" up a level of abstraction to see little larger patterns.

    Bach is actually a very compatible classical composer with jazz, as is a lot of baroque music as it relied on figured bass which is sort of like reading a lead sheet.

    As is often talked about around here, transcribing is a wonderful practice, and jazz musicians are far superior (more than not) at this than classical musicians.

    Another surprise, that jazz players seem not talk about much, for me was how much sight reading actually made my improvising better.

    They seem to be thought of as opposite sides of the coin, but I feel that they make great "cross-training"

    Classical improv is a real thing. Czerny's first book is on the subject
  3. Didn't realize these skills were related!
  4. #4 Sean Getchius, Jul 18, 2019
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2019
    Is there any specific that I should seek out and aim for? I'm hoping it will make it easier to analyze music and break it down into parts, which would hopefully help me to compose some interesting music that tells a story and has a logical structure. And of course, learning some subgenres of jazz and have some moody, thick textures, that I can incorporate into my repertoire.
  5. #5 Doug Gibson, Jul 19, 2019
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2019
    I don't think you can really approach it like this.
    Ideally there is a natural good fit between what the person you are taking lesson from and your musical goals. Sort of "I want to play/sound like you".

    Also ideally you are going to learn new things that you never would have know to ask.

    There are just too many "Wide open" terms to answer. YOU need to know, or you may go in a different direction (could be a good thing, or a bad thing). Sort of Alice in Wonderland : If you don't have a final destination in mind does it matter which way you go.

    Therefor the I will write out a few questions, and I hope they may bring you some clarity on what you are after. (no need to answer me....its your life)

    In 5 years time what music would you ideally like to be writing/playing?

    How much time per day are you planning to devote to this ?

    Is this a casual - hey you are my neighbor - type agreement, or is this a "this is what I want to do with my life". (of course it's most likely in the middle.)

    "Jazz" is like talking about "men" or "Women" in the abstract general way. So let's break it down

    Do you already listen to any jazz music ?
    What sub-genres of jazz do you like ? (for example Swing, Bebop, Blues, Modal, Fusion, Big Band etc)
    Which do you not like ?

    Would an arranging class, (and you could do both - piano and arranging) or a jazz harmony/theory class be more towards your goal.

    How much are you looking to "learn jazz improv" to actually pull towards another (and the real) musical goal.
    Is your goal to write like film composer XYZ, and take these lessons to pull you towards that ? If so (and that is possible BTW)
    how much can handle something not closely related at all ?
    (For example Charlie Parker is truly a jazz god. It's also really fucking hard music, and so far away from a film music sound.
    Can you stick with it if your teacher is really into Bebop.)


    Long story short - Jazz Piano Improv is a goal in and of itself.
    So there is going be a "standardization" of terms and techniques and shared history.

    It can be very helpful, if you know from the outset and communicate to the teacher if you know you are looking to just "dip" into the subject.
    If you know it's just a dip, then it can be good to put a frame (ie. 6 months of lessons ).

    Basically - are you looking to buy a house here, or be a tourist. So much of Jazz instruction is "implicit" rather than the "explicit" mode
    of classical training. The 8th notes on the notation are not actually played in that way. You might have C as a harmony on your lead sheet (no one plays just C - the very least C6 is going to be required)

    Watch the video below. This shows some of what I mean. The references to players and styles of the past. This is a casual, and not too "in the weeds" either. Just be honest about how much you are interested.


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