The Jazz Language

English: Cover of a 1922 edition of F. Scott F...
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When you're playing simple jazz chords or looking at a jazz composition, sometimes you need to pick up a jazz book and learn the language!

When I first started playing in a band as a keyboard player, I was not familiar with the speaking part of the music language, as a musician. Sometimes as musicians, we get introspective and start looking at why we play patterns or chord progressions the way we do.

A wonderful comparison between speech language and improvising in music is that everyone learns to speak and have a conversation, as well as write in our given language. Unfortunately, many musicians never learn the "speaking" portion of the musical language.

When I first started taking piano lessons, I was classically trained to read all the notes on the music staff. After several years of advancing through different levels of music books and applying lots of music theory, I still wasn't able to find a music teacher who wasn't afraid of improvisation.

In short, music educators were not taught the history and evolution of improvisation in "classical" music. During the baroque period of music, improvising was a basic part during that time. Musicians needed to learn this skill in order to work together effectively.

Some say it is a skill that one learns unconsciously, without effort and fear. So it is with my grandchildren who are learning a verbal language. Hopefully, no longer talking like a baby but the English language. They seem to improvise with that language every time they have a conversation with someone.

So, we learn to read and write the language and that means we need to learn grammar. But with music, we learn it differently. Most musicians, including myself, learn to read the music notes at first but we can't speak with one another unless we're looking at the notes. We simply do not know how to "jam."

When I first came across a very popular website online that teaches one how to play by ear, I would read about how easy it is to read the language of music and that it was not difficult to play by ear.

I was challenged at first because I could hear the difference in my playing without sheet music compared with the pros. It is necessary to have something worth saying when you speak the Jazz language. There is a huge difference between a beginner improviser and a great one. It's not about skill, technique or memorization, but it's about the concept and content.

As a piano teacher, I am trying to stay balanced with my students in finding the balance with their technique and developing their musical personality and composition.

A great tip is recording your self. Play the keys and playback your song and analyze the harmony and rearrange things a bit. The more you practice and get familiar with your instrument, your style becomes more fluid. Then you'll merge more with the other band members.

When I play with a group of musicians that I have known for quite sometime, you can just feel the chemistry. A transformational event takes place when we are playing live and we become one unified voice.

After all, improvising is the art of making up music on the spot. It is fun to learn the Jazz language.

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Monday Music Quote Meme

"Though the Jazz Age continued it became less and less an affair of youth. The sequel was like a children's party taken over by the elders."

F. Scott Fitzgerald
Looking for some free jazz chords to songs by Adele? I found Someone Like You.

"Jazz washes away the dust of every day life." -- Art Blakey
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Sounds Around Town


If you stop and think about it, we are surrounded by so many different kinds of sounds. Just close your eyes, be real still and listen very closely. What do you hear?  I hear people talking and children playing when I arrive at the kindergarten music class where I teach rhythm.

On my way to the school, I hear the sounds of cars, construction workers and tractors in the fields nearby. While I’m inside the classroom with the kids, I play the piano and I listen to the music I am creating while the students sing their patriotic songs excitedly.

Our world is full of a variety of different sounds and the sounds are made in many different ways. On the first day of school, I asked the children, “ What is music?” I was pleased to hear their responses such as, birds singing, your heart beating and music coming from the radio CD or TV.

A dog barking produces sound, as well as a clock ticking and a door closing. I suppose one could say that water from a faucet produces a rushing sound, too. The sounds described above, are made by movements called vibrations.

I have introduced homemade kazoos to the class since we are learning about sound and music.  The tight wax paper that has a thin rubber band around it at the end of the paper-covered toilet paper roll, changes the sound of one’s voice. Try it sometime. It’s a fun activity. Yes, one can buy plastic kazoos at the dollar store now a days but I remember placing wax paper over a comb and listening to the altered -sound of my voice. When I was a kid, I would place wax paper behind the mallets inside the piano to hear an old player type piano.

Have you ever listed all the sounds that human voices make? Here are just a few I’d like to mention:

1.    Talking
2.    Singing
3.    Shouting
4.    Crying
5.    Sneezing
6.    Coughing
7.    Whispering
8.    Screaming
9.    Humming
10.  Blowing

So your voice comes from a part of the throat called the larynx. You’ll find inside the larynx that there are flaps called vocal chords. Your vocal chords vibrate when you speak or sing. In addition, your mouth and tongue help to make the sounds we hear. One way to make the sound of music is to sing. So, go ahead and sing out loud!

You hear sound when it enters your ears. The shape of your outer ear collects sound waves. From there, the sound waves travel down a tube to delicate parts of your ear inside your head. While inside, those sound waves cause the eardrum to vibrate and then sound messages are sent to your brain from your eardrum.

Children can make musical sounds by blowing, too. For example, blow across the top of some bottles. By placing different level amounts of colored water in the bottles and then blowing, makes the air inside the bottle vibrate. What you have is a long column of air vibrating to make a low note. Experiment with this a little and you’ll find that short columns make high notes.

One can make sounds of music by playing a musical instrument, like hitting drums with sticks. What happens is that the sticks make the skin of the drums and the air inside vibrate that causes the sound.

Many musical instruments have strings stretched over a box or board that make the sound louder. The strings vibrate and make sound. You can strum or pluck strings on a guitar, mandolin or banjo to make vibrating string sounds.

So, you can hit an instrument, such as a drum or tap a triangle or shake maracas, you know, that gourd shaped percussion instrument that is filled with beans or pebbles. Most important of all, as you go through your day, enjoy listening to the various sounds around your town, especially your own unique voice.

 Here's a very cool article regarding How To Form A Kazoo Band

 Best Wishes,

"Jazz washes away the dust of every day life." -- Art Blakey
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Monday Music Quote: Chinese Proverb

A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.
-- Chinese Proverb 
 Happy Chinese New Year! Over at Hear and Play, they offer a singing course called Vocal Mastery System (affiliate link). I believe it is the only one that has to do with voice instruction. All the other dvd and cd music resources are geared for playing the piano by ear or for guitar and drums.

With Valentine's Day approaching, I have tons of Jazz standard songs to share from my book, so I thought I would start early.

The Best Jazz Standards Ever (The Best Ever Series)

Isn't It Romantic? 
from the Paramount Picture Love Me Tonight
Words by Lorenz Hart and Music by Richard Rodgers 

            Ab     Abm         Eb/G
I've never met you, yet never doubt, dear;
Gbdim       Fm7    Bb7#5             Ebmaj7
I can't forget you, I've thought you out, dear.
            Ab           Bb7               Eb/G
I know your profile and I know the way you kiss,
C7                Fm7                  Eb
just the things I miss on a night like this.
               Ab    Abm       Eb/G
If dreams are made of imagination
Gbdim7    Fm7     Bb7#5     Ebmaj7
I'm not afraid of my own creation.
            Ab                 Bb7             Eb/G
With all my heart, my heart is here for you to take.
Adim         Bb7   Eb6  F7  Bb7
Why should I quake? I'm not awake.
Isn't it romantic?
Bb7                   Eb     Bb7#5      Eb
Music in the night, a dream that can be heard.
Bb7         Eb
Isn't it romantic?
Bb7                       Eb          C7#5 C7
Moving shadows write the oldest magic word.
Fm C7 Fm Bb7       G7           G7#5    Cm  Eb7/Bb
I hear the breezes playing in the trees above
Ab  C7/G Fm            Bb7 Bdim7 Cm    F9       Bbdim7
while all the world is saying you were meant for love.
Bb7          Eb 
Isn't it romantic
Bb7                   Eb      Bb7#5    Eb
merely to be young on such a night as this?
Bb7       Eb
Isn't it romantic?
Bb7                       Eb             C7#5 C7
Every note that's sung is like a lover's kiss.
Fm C7 Fm Bb7         G7
Sweet symbols in the moonlight,
Cm    Cm/Bb      Cm/A   Abm6    Eb/G   Edim7  Bb7
do you mean that I will fall in love per chance?
         Eb  Abm6  Eb6
Isn't it romance?

"Jazz washes away the dust of every day life." -- Art Blakey
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Monday Music Quote: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


Monday Music Quote: Martin Luther King

"At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love."

-- Martin Luther King, Jr. 

 Song honoring Dr. Martin Luther King:

Pride In The Name Of Love
U2 (1984)

There is one little mistake in the lyrics because the assassination took place on the earl evening. I have always been a huge fan of U2 and love their style, especially this song.

Here are the music chords to the song. Enjoy!

Intro: F5 Bb5  Eb5  x2 
Csus4  Fsus2  Bb5  Gm
Csus4                    Fsus2
One man come in the name of love 
One man come and go 
Csus4          Fsus4
One come he to justify 
Bb5              Gm
One man to overthrow 

        Csus4         Fsus2
In the name of love     
      Bb5                 Gm  
What more in the name of love 
In the name of love 
What more in the name of love 

Gm7   C   Eb6   F

One man caught on a barbed wire fence 
One man he resist 
One man washed on an empty beach. 
One man betrayed with a kiss 

In the name of love 
What more in the name of love 
In the name of love 
What more in the name of love 

(nobody like you...) 

Csus4           Fsus2
Early morning, April 4 
Shot rings out in the Memphis sky 
Csus4               Fsus2
Free at last, they took your life 
      Bbadd9                 Gm7
They could not take your pride 

In the name of love 
What more in the name of love 
In the name of love 
What more in the name of love 
In the name of love 
What more in the name of love... 

 If you're looking for a site for children to practice the alphabet keyboard, visit

Have a wonderful Monday!

All the best,

"Jazz washes away the dust of every day life." -- Art Blakey
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Monday Music Quote: John Scofield

Monday Music Quote

"I don't have a 'method' for teaching; I don't believe in that."

 John Scofield's rock and R&B influenced approach to jazz guitar has made him one of the most prominent voices on the instrument for decades. I recently read an article about his approach to teaching young students the guitar and what suggestions he offered to teachers in terms of overcoming some hurdles. Here's what John Scofield had to say:

" I think I have to really slow down for younger students. Most guitar players start out by playing simple blues lines in the pentatonic shape. If you can,  somehow, show show somebody that improvising over a jazz tune at a medium tempo in a lyrical way can be almost the same as playing blues in that you get the lines in your ear and you can sing them - they can be lyrical and not just technical..." 

My favorite part of the JAZZed interview asks the question, how do you approach helping younger players begin to understand improv?

John Scofield's answer:

" I try to make an analogy between verbal conversation and improvising. When I'm talking to you, I'm talking in sentences, but I'm trying to express a larger idea that may ultimately be a couple paragraphs long or something. I go from one idea to another. Improvising with melodic phrases is the exact same thing. I'd start to explain it like that - you develop a vocabulary and then you start to form sentences and paragraphs and, on a good day, maybe you can conceive of a whole page of ideas in a larger musical conversation."
For licks, tricks and riffs, check out Jairus Mozee,  Advanced Guitar 301 

Do you have a favorite jazz guitarist musician? We have a local artist, Peter Sprague, that I greatly admire. He grew up in Southern California and is quite mega-talented. I have many of his CDs and have been to several of his concerts.

All the best,

"Jazz washes away the dust of every day life." -- Art Blakey
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