Tresillo Rhythm in Jazz
This African rhythm is found throughout the popular music of the Americas for centuries. Here it is applied in a jazz context. You will hear it in the introduction of "The Entertainer" by Scott Joplin, The Charleston by Green Hill, and Chinatown by Teddy Wilson. It is still heard today loudly emanating from the cars of young men. Jelly Roll Morton called it the "Spanish tinge." You can hear it in "The Crave." It is also called the Habanera Rhythm as heard in the introduction of St. Louis Blues.
Eleven Jazz Pieces to Learn by Ear
Learning the melodies to jazz standards will save you a lot of time and bother. The thesis is this.
A student writes, “Hey David, I wanted to check my learning strategy with you. My goal right now is to play better at the jams I attend. Most of them are funky with someone creating a groove, and everyone jumping in.
I noticed the keys players are all very good at hearing the bass and figuring out the progression— or finding a groove within a set progression. At my level, I’m usually asking others what key we’re in (although it doesn’t always work since it changes) and then playing the root chord and inversions of it. I’ll sometimes create groove lines from the respective blues scale, but that’s about it for my understanding.
Taken together, I’m thinking the number one thing I need to work on is: Ear training.
For that, I’m thinking I focus on training my ear to understand:
Yes, this is a good start. Here are some more ideas to consider.
One Chord Songs
There are sixty jazz chords that you will need to recognize by ear. The ability to hear them, sing them, and play them will form the cornerstone of your jazz improvisation and aural recognition of jazz chord progressions.
1. Major 7th
2. Dominant 7th
3. Minor 7th
4. Minor 7th b5
5. Diminished 7th
Five types, 12 keys = 60 chords.
These exercises will help you get there. If I can help you, call me.
FYI: Page two contains the diminished 7th chord.
Question: What are the elements I need to consider, as a musician, to improve my aural skills?
Answer: To improve your aural skills as a musician, you should consider the following elements:
Sounds like the Royal Conservatory of Music curriculum to me.
The teacher practices Jazz
Last weekend I went to my first jazz jam with my Vibraphone aka my Malletkat GS Grand. We were a quartet of Tenor Sax/Flute, Vibes, Bass, and Drums. I survived with my dignity intact, but I’ve a few discoveries and confessions to share.
On the plus side, I knew all the tunes from years of playing and teaching jazz piano plus my jazz time and feel is strong.
Here is the practice regime I began to follow to improve my jazz experience.
Tune: Satin Doll by Ellington/Strayhorn
If I can help you with your jazz piano journey, call me.
BTW: In the era of Ai content generation, a human wrote this blog.
What to listen for.
Yesterday my student and I listened to the first two measures of each recording. What a revelation. The differences in the performances became more obvious with each listening and these differences were large. I invite you to try the same.
Super video demonstration but...
Let's consider the assumptions he is making about you the student/listener.
What is my job?
I prepare students to understand and execute what he is talking about. The first thing we will do is assess your situation and then we'll draw up a logical plan.
BTW: in 2017, I studied with Peter Martin in Rome Italy. He's a great guy and a very skilled musician. When I grow up, I want to play piano like him. FYI. I was in Rome studying jazz drumming with Greg Hutchinson. Greg played in Ray Brown’s last group.
Sight Singing Week 2
If you are curious about this, click here.
Creating a "Roadmap"
Creating a "roadmap" gives you a visual representation of the form or structure of a performance. You will discover the: who, what, when, and how much in the recording. This is valuable information. You will learn to count, recognize the instrumentation and more. You will begin to develop an awareness of how musicians organize their performances and recordings.
1. Pick a favorite piece
2. With a pop song listen for the following sections and their order; introduction, verse, chorus, bridge, ending (tag). With a jazz piece, notice how many times they play the "head" or main melody and then note the order of solos. How many times do they play the head after the solos?
1. Make a note on your "map" of dynamics.
2. In a jazz piece, count how many times each musician solos on the form.
3. Do they trade "fours" with the drummer? If you are unsure what this means, click here.
1. Make a note on your "map" of anything interesting you pick up or hear.
Here is a more detailed roadmap that includes a guide to my drum part.
Sight singing is fun when we sing along with something great like the fifth symphony of Beethoven. We might call this tympani karaoke.
Trivia question: What does C jam blues and the Tympani part for Beethoven's 5th symphony have in common?
First Edition 1798-99
None of the artists played with a completely steady beat, in other words, the tempo varied both from section to section and within sections.
Bag's Groove Seminal Recordings
There is much to learn from listening to each of these recordings, especially the counter-lines played by John Lewis. I would encourage you to learn, by ear, the diverse ways musicians approach the simple blues melody.
When learning to play Brazilian jazz it is best to go to the primary sources, the original and other seminal recordings recorded in Brazil, both past and present. At the end of this sample of Brazilian recordings is a fine recording by Kenny Barron, who it must be said, has listened to the original recordings.
Spend an afternoon playing the melody with the recordings, mimicking as much as possible what you hear. Then add the chords.
The following is a series of exercises to help you "experience" intervals, taking them out of the theoretical and into the practical. I recommend that you transpose these passages as you learn new patterns.
Getting Started with Intervals
The Major 3rd, Minor 3rd, and Perfect 5th is just theory until we hear them, experience them, and then apply this understanding to our playing. The following exercise is one way to "experience" these intervals.
How To Practice C Jam Blues
How to play with a metronome
This exercise will work on any instrument. You should vary the tempo of the metronome as your skills increase. Counting aloud is imperative. No counting in your head or mumbling. Speak boldly and clearly as you play. The first two measures are counted only. You begin playing in measure three.
Learning tunes from a fake book is the hard way to go about things. Here is the Bill McBernie method of jazz practice in which you play by ear to multiple recordings.
I could recall the basic outline of the tune "A foggy day" from playing it years ago. That helped. (If you don't know the tune, you must listen until you can sing along.) Below are the recordings and the order in which I played them. Some were played numerous times as I recalled more of the melody and figured out the key. The song was played in the keys of F, C, Eb, and Bb. I played along on vibes, not piano. I focused only on the melody . As the practicing progressed, I began to recall and understand the chords.
Today I was playing it on the piano, from memory, with the chords.
Listening and Analysis
The following exercises were created for a professional student. These exercises will work with almost any kind of music. If you choose classical music, I suggest music of the Baroque, Classical or Romantic eras as the scores are easily found online. If you choose pop music, the website www.musicnotes.com has the first page of every pop song that they publish, which you can use to check your answers later. The following lesson is meant to be done without reference to the written scores or your instrument. The scores are only consulted at the end to check your work.
You will need: a pencil, blank manuscript paper, YouTube access, and ear buds.
Listen to the first 10 seconds or so of the piece you’ve chosen. Rewind and listen again. Then start in. Repeated listening will be required.
Instrumentation and orchestration
Next step is to sit with your instrument and figure out the melodies that you are hearing. Then, at the piano, check your chord progressions.
After you have answered these questions download the score and compare your answers.
Have fun. If I can help you, please call me.
Playing in different keys is an invaluable skill. You will learn to visualize musical shapes, key signatures, and hear rhythm in new ways. Try playing just the melody in the following keys with the recordings. Modify your note and rhythm choices to fit in the best you can.
The assignment is to play and mimic the melody with the recordings. You will learn jazz rhythm, jazz articulations and phrasing all by ear.
Revised August 2022
You've got to learn your instrument. Then, you practice, practice, practice. And then, when you finally get up there on the bandstand, forget all that and just wail.
I'm a professional pianist and music educator in West Toronto Ontario. I'm also a devoted percussionist and drum teacher.