Jump to content

Please note: You can easily log in to MPN using your Facebook account!

Jazz first tune


Recommended Posts

I am looking to get into jazz learning, what would be a good easy song to play and learn?




"And then the magical unicorn will come prancing down the rainbow and we'll all join hands for a rousing chorus of Kumbaya." - by davio



Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 30
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Music educators correct me if I'm wrong, but it has been my experience that the school band starts at about 5th grade (typically ages 10-11). The program is based on reading standard notation. Early songs may be traditional, like "Mary Had a Little Lamb", and then slowly progress towards classical, with a good lot of Sousa and such along the way.


The first opportunity for jazz is in high school, which either starts in 9th or 10th grade (ages 14-15 or 15-16). The format is Big Band to allow the most student participation: approximately 5 saxes, 4 trombones, 4 trumpets, and a rhythm section (drum kit, bass, guitar, piano). The style is usually swing, but other styles can be accommodated.


Continuing in the note-reading tradition of the school program, jazz is presented as fully notated parts, i.e. no improvisation. As such the first day of rehearsal is spent explaining how to "swing" eighth notes, how to play a syncopation, etc.


The first song my high school jazz band practiced was either "Satin Doll" or "Sophisticated Lady" of Duke Ellington (and Billy Strayhorn) fame.


Eventually we got into ear training and improvistation, but it was kind of bare bones and the kids that did really well were getting supplimental instruction in their private lessons.


I admit it's kind of a cheesy way to learn jazz, but if you're of the note-reading bend you may want to visit your local (or online) sheet music store and see what's available. If you're going to DIY, you'll also need a recording of the song.


You may notice that there is no "studio version" recording many times, and that the same song may be recorded several times by different musicians (e.g. "Tiger Rag"). Some of us here may be able to point you in the right direction, or else you'll need a jazz discography of some sort. You should be able to borrow one from the library.


The "real" jazz learning comes in college, it seems. I'd highly suggest looking into joining a college jazz band. It can be at a community college, so no worries about admissions. You'll have to audition; they'll let you know what to expect.


And of course there is always private instruction.


[For a history of jazz that covers the various styles, see if you can rent a copy of the Ken Burns Jazz series on DVD.]

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I recall one of my college professors saying that if you're going to play jazz, you should be able to play "I've got rhythm". That chord progression has become so ubiquitous in jazz that very often a bandleader will call a tune and just say "Rhythm changes in (enter your own key here)". The other recommendations earlier on in the thread are good starting points, too.


In my school system, jazz band started in high school. I sat out band in high school though, since I had had enough of playing alto sax and lost interest for a while. But I tried out for the jazz band in college on bass during my senior year. I had gotten back into music and had been playing bass for three years at that time. But since I couldn't sight read I didn't pass the audition. The change in clefs totally threw me off, and I had been playing by ear and tab for a while. The guy who got the bass chair had a solid groove, his walking was much better and he could read. So the choice there was a no brainer. The rest of the band? Pretty solid. Out of the horn players there were only 3 that I thought were really good. The drummer was solid, and so was the piano player. The guitarist was unremarkable though, and so were most of the horn players. But that experience showed me that the ability to sight read is a major asset and you should never take that for granted.

Obligatory Social Media Link

"My concern is, and I have to, uh, check with my accountant, that this might bump me into a higher, uh, tax..."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Rhythm changes are essential but thet're by no means the easiest or the best place to start.



1 Autumn Leaves

2 Blue Monk

3 All Blues

4 Tune Up

5 Blue Bossa

6 Footprints

7 All the Things You Are



The order is, of course, unimportatnt. Others mentioned will be fine too. Get used to playing various jazz blues sequences. The book/CD Will-bass mentioned would be ideal.


Another approach would be to choose one of the tunes that you like to listen to - and learn that if it's fairly simple - I learned Contemplation by McCoy Tyner for this reason and some Coltrane tunes before I learned standarrds.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My first was a watered down version of "Spain" (off the same Light As A Feather LP as Jeremy's song above). It was completely notated and I was 11. I think the P-bass I played was bigger than me. Not that I'd recommend this as a starting point, but echoing Phil's recommendation to pick things that interest you.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I recently bought this to work through. I haven't started yet, but it is recommended for beginners.


Excellent choice!


Beginners often play the songs on that cd, but advanced jazz players play the songs as well.


Learn those songs and others that have been mentioned and you will be able to jam with jazz musicians anywhere on the planet and maybe even on some other planets as well.


(If you want to)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

More jazz tunes that I first learned in a University Jazz Combo - song for my father was one of them!:


1) So What - with my own improvised intro

2) Cantaloupe Island

3) Watermelon Man - personal favorite

4) Work Song

5) St. James Infirmary

Jackson C20 Concert Bass / Polytone Contempo B Solid Body / Peavey MAX 750 Watt Head / Ampeg 810E


Sometimes you just need to let go and jam






Link to comment
Share on other sites

I should emphasise that learning a song for me implies (at least to get the most out of it) - learning the melody, learning the changes, learning the bassline, wlaking over the changes (if appropriate) and improvising over the structure.


All the tunes mentioned are fairly straightforward on bass. I woulkd probably simplify the melosy of Song for my Father a little if I had to play it on bass though.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

When I started playing with my jazz band I had next to no jazz experience. Some songs on our playlist that were pretty easy and fun to play were:


Girl from Ipanema

Just My Imagination

Mr. Magic

Some Sam Cooke from his Copa Cabana performance in 64

Sitting in the Park

Lady Love

All Blues


It's a decent variety of styles with simple enough bass lines that provided me with a good foundation for jazz. After I was comfortable with all the chord changes and melodies I could make the songs more of my own and improvising over it, as Phil mentioned just above. Also, once you're comfortable with jazz, I recommend you get a copy of the Real Book - Bass Clef if you really want to continue playing. It has sheet music for a couple hundred songs of a large selection of styles and paces. It has suited my taste quite well and expanded my abilities and knowledge of styles within the jazz realm.

Ibanez BTB450

Ibanez SR905

Ibanez SRX400

Brownsville ABG2CRBS

Palatino VE-500 EURB

Crate BX-2115L

Crate BT50

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 months later...

Hi David,


If you are still London-based you might want to consider the Jazz workshop evening class on Wednesdays at Morley College (near Waterloo). Download the music section of the pdf catalogue for more info.


As it's an evening class it's not too expensive, and you get to work with a variety of other musicians of different standards on a range of jazz standards (including many mentioned above).


It's run by Paul Westwood, a renowned session bassist and author of "The Bass Bible".


Ok, it's not as good as private lessons or being in a jazz band, but I learned a helluva lot from it in a sociable and inexpensive environment.


If you do want to try it you need to be quick, as the enrolment evening is soon. And you will need to be ther early, it fills up quickly.






www.talkingstrawberries.com - for rocking' blues, raw and fresh!
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 10 months later...
Thank for that, I tried to learn autum leaves by ear and gave out of frustation...I think the best way is to find charts with the chord changes and build the bassline around them.




"And then the magical unicorn will come prancing down the rainbow and we'll all join hands for a rousing chorus of Kumbaya." - by davio



Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...