The Office

Jamey at Indiana University Southeast!


Jamey Aebersold came to Indiana University Southeast to treat the music students and faculty to a miniature clinic over the lunchtime hour.  This event was free, and open to  the whole campus.  For my part, I told everyone I knew on campus that they should come. And they did.  Both of them.  Even though the turnout was low, I thought it was fantastic.  Jamey came out and said, “This reminds me of a joke.  A friend asked me, ‘why did you go into jazz?’ and I replied, ‘well, it wasn’t for the crowds!’ The people who were there laughed.

The reason I mention the turnout is to encourage everyone to come out and experience one of Jamey’s clinics next time that you get a chance.  They are musical, historical, and certainly entertaining!

As a reader, who may not have ever seen or been to one of Jamey’s clinics or shows, you might be wondering what was so great about this particular hour long concert? It’s just jazz right? On the contrary, it’s much more than that, and I’d like to tell you about it.

The Introduction


After Jamey introduces his band, Steve Crews on Piano, Butch Neild on Bass, and Jonathan Higgins on Drums, (Obviously, Jamey Aebersold on Saxophone), he has them start a blues in C.  He gets out his microphone and starts to put up slides on his overhead projector.  This slides range from pictures of famous jazz players, (he would then talk about that player), musical maxims or tidbits of wisdom, (such as “Music Can Be A Friend For Your Whole Life”) or musical examples, (actual written music).

Jamey talks about what they are doing, playing a repeating blues pattern, and explains what you need to improvise, and how natural it is.  To show us this, he starts scatting.

“I don’t know why we’re not all singers!” he declares.  My face becomes rather dubious at this point, but that’s a long story. He explains how the free flowing, improvised scat singing comes from the right side of his brain, the creative side.  “But when I pick up my horn, the left side kicks in because I have to start thinking about fingerings and the like”. He has a lovely slide for that, too.

Brain Slide

It’s hard to tell from the photo, but it goes into great detail about how each side of your brain contributes to music making.  Immediately after saying this, he jumps up, grabs his saxophone, and goes into an improvised solo with his group.

Next Jamey introduces a tune that he wrote called “Smooth As Silk,” and the band plays the tune.  Each member takes a solo, and Jamey encourages everyone to clap at the end of each solo.  For those of you who don’t know, IUS is much more of a classical school than a jazz school.  Most students are used to waiting until the end of a piece, not even clapping between movements.  It’s pretty intense for classical kids to clap that much.

More Tunes

Jamey and his friends play us a few more tunes, varying in style, speed, one he started by himself, and one he played with just Steve (The piano player).  At one point during “Autumn Leaves” Jamey goes back over to his overhead projector and puts up the lead sheet.  He points out each chord in the song as they play along so we can visually see where they are in relation to the lead sheet.

He tells us a few more stories from his earlier days in the jazz world.  I would try to repeat them, but I feel I would rob them of their humor and intimacy in Jamey’s storytelling.

The Final Plug

Finally, where would we be without a whole-hearted crusade against smoking from Jamey Aebersold? He gives a short speech about how many jazz musicians tragically died young from substance abuse, be it smoking, drugs, or alcohol.

Kicking up one last tune, Jamey invites anyone who has further questions to stay afterward and talk to Jamey or the band members.

Next Time!

If you ever get the chance to go see Jamey play, or attend a clinic or class, I highly encourage you to do so.  It is fun, it is entertaining, it is instructive, it is good music, and a great time.


How To Practice



Playing music is a skill and an art.  Practicing music is also a skill and an art.  Practicing is so important because it affects almost every aspect of one’s musical study and performance.  No matter what teachers you have, which albums you listen to, or which books you read, practicing is on you.  Now, this is not to say you should not take lessons or read books about practicing (*cough, cough, click here to purchase your own copy of “How To Practice Jazz” by Jerry Coker).  But you, being the good musician that you are, really want to practice, but there seems to be a void of information where practicing is concerned.  So today, we will look at “How To Practice Jazz” by Jerry Coker.

In many ways, practicing is directly related to your success as a musician.  If you are in a band, ensemble, orchestra, broadway show, a studio, or any other number of applications, and you do not practice, you can easily be replaced.  There will always be someone who is willing to work hard and put in the time.  This becomes even more important if being a musician is how you put food on the table, and it’s not just a hobby for kicks and giggles.

Busy, Busy, Busy!

Mr. Busy

If you are a high school student, headed for college, or a college student getting a full time job to pay the bills, or going on to graduate school, or whatever your next stage of life is that you are entering, it is going to be busy.  This has been the case in my life, at any rate.  No matter what it is, my level of busy has always increased, never decreased!  As you become busier, practice times become even more important to shield, protect and honor.  It is easy to say, “I’m just going to skip today and write this paper, do this project, run this errand, whatever, and it won’t effect me…” but the next day is the same, and you begin a downward spiral, circling the drain!



One of the first questions Coker brings up in his book is, “Why do you want to study jazz?”  If your answer is “to pick up chicks” or, “so I will be super cool,” you may start strong, but your fervor will die out quickly.  Music is hard.  Especially if you want to be good at it.  You will need a solid desire, reason, passion, or what-have-you to sustain you when times are hard.

Another question that Coker asks is, “Are you attuned to jazz?” This question is relevant to whatever style of music you are trying to learn better.  If you want to sing Opera, you should probably listen to some Golden Age Opera.  If you want to play classical Baroque piano, you should probably listen to Bach.  If you want to be a Bluegrass mandolin player, Bill Monroe and His Bluegrass Boys would be a great place to start.  But, you get the idea.  Learn the history, the famous players and composers, styles, techniques, and some of the most popular and greatest works.

Tick Tock

The book contains several practice aids that one can get to help you in your practicing endeavors.  Many of these are quite outdated (The book was published 24 years ago), such as a variable-pitch tape machine, which helps get your cassette tapes in tune with your instrument.  However, play-a-longs, transcribed solos, and methods for ear training will still be helpful through the end of musical time, even if their delivery method changes.  But, the biggest one for me is the metronome.  I am going to be perfectly frank.  I hate practicing with a metronome.  Why? Because I am bad at it! This of course speaks to a baser issue of imperfect timing, but I do not like to talk about that… In the words of my teacher, “If you’re not using a metronome to practice, you’re just playing around.” *sigh* I hate it when he says that.

What Should I Practice?

Well, I am so glad that you asked! The following is a list from Coker’s book.  Now, he makes it very clear that you should not try to tackle all of these items at once, but instead focus on a few to check off of your list.

  1. Tone Quality
  2. Intervals
  3. Chord Arpeggios
  4. Scales
  5. Patterns and ‘Licks’
  6. Fermata Practice
  7. Practicing in All Keys
  8. The Jazz Language
  9. Transcribed Solos
  10. Learning Tunes
  11. Characteristics of Tunes
  12. Chromaticism
  13. Chord Progressions
  14. Overlapping Phrases
  15. Tempo & Time

His list goes on for quite a while, and these are just techniques focusing on Jazz music.  One thing that Coker warns against is that you do not become too comfortable in your practice routine.  Many have the tendency to practice what they are good at, but nothing else.  In a sense, to prove to themselves that they can play that specific technique or tune.  While this may stroke the ego, it does not help significantly in learning new skills, techniques or tunes.

The Routine

Unfortunately, no one can tell you what the best practice routine for you would be.  We all live different lives, with different priorities, and different amounts of time to devote to practicing.  Coker provides some models in the book that you could use as a guide, with the techniques and skills previously outlined in the book.  For instance, you may take five of those options, and practice four of those for 10 minutes, and one for 20, if you have an hour to practice.  Then you could rotate routines every other day, or as needed.  If you have more time, you can dedicate longer periods to each technique, tune, etc…


The old adage goes something like, “Practice makes perfect!” Is this true? Probably not, the market on perfection is a bit of a niche… But I can promise you that you will be a lot closer to perfection than those who do not practice.  It is good.  Do it.  Practice!




The Lobster Theory


The Lobster Theory is Greg Fishman’s latest book, using eighteen of his greatest analogies to describe different elements of jazz music theory.  The illustrations are done by notable artist Mick Stevens, who has been an illustrator for the New Yorker for over thirty years.

As Greg Fishman says,

Many of the analogies are lighthearted and humorous, making them very user-friendly and easy to remember.  The book is designed so that the chapters stand alone.  You can read it cover-to-cover, or just go directly to any chapter that appeals to you.

Throughout the book, the imaginative illustrations by Mick Stevens convey the pure essence of my analogies.  This unique combination of cartoons and analogies presents advanced musical concepts in an accessible way that everyone can enjoy.

I can personally attest to the uniqueness in his analogies and musical writings.  The very first chapter, focusing on practicing, is probably the analogy I can relate to most of all.

Practicing And Lifting Weights

About two years ago, I went on a backpacking trip with some friends of mine in the Smokey Mountains.  Of course, I’d been camping, even backpacking before.  I am an Eagle Scout, after all!  Long story short, after hiking miles each day, (it was a three day trip) all uphill, in the freezing cold, my body was pretty wrecked.  This was my fitness crucible, and since then, I have been on a quest to become physically fit.

One of my friends from the trip is a Marine officer, and he invited me to come and train with him.  He trained with a combination of heavy weight training, CrossFit style WOD’s (Workout Of the Day), and Olympic Lifts.  I started lifting with him three times a week.  He started me with some primary barbell training using basic techniques, and going up in weight each time.  Quickly, I could feel and see myself getting stronger, it was great!  Then school started again, but that was fine, because I was still going two or three times a week.  Well, now tests were coming up, or a project, or whatever, and I’d take time from the gym to devote to that.  When I finally went back, I tried to squat or deadlift what I previously lifted, and I’d fail! I couldn’t do it anymore.  My muscles were weaker, I struggled to complete lifts with the right form, and I feared that I would hurt myself.  I had to work my way back up to the weight.

Weight 1

Greg’s analogy for practicing is almost the same as my personal story.  When you practice everyday, even for a short amount of time, you will improve.  Due to the way the human brain works and processes information, practicing for an hour on Monday and an hour on Tuesday is much better than not practicing on Monday and practicing for two hours on Tuesday. Once you miss a day, you can’t really “make up” for lost time in the same way.

Weight 2

Unfortunately, I can relate to this in the musical world as well as the lifting world.  I am ashamed to say there have been many weeks in my schooling where I have presentation due, or a big project at work comes up, and my practicing gets shunted to the wayside.  It’s the day before my lesson, I try and work super hard to learn the pieces I should have been working on, but it’s never enough.  I get in my lesson, and my teacher says, “What happened?”

Now, as Greg says in his book, missing a day of practice here and there isn’t going to be the end of your musical world.  However, you will play better, and enjoy your music more if you commit more time to practicing.  Even if it is merely ten minutes a day, it will make a huge difference in your performance.

The Lobster Theory

Imagine you’re at a super swanky restaurant, you’ve gone the whole nine-yards, held back no expense.  You order the lobster, because you love the buttery, delicious flavor of this clawed crustacean.  The waiter brings it to you, and you partake, but… something just isn’t right.  You ask the waiter, “Why does this fresh lobster taste funny?” He replies, “Oh, it’s not fresh, we use frozen lobster.”  If you consider yourself to be a connoisseur of fine dining, you probably will not return to this establishment because you know that lobsters spoil almost immediately.  To maintain freshness, the lobster must be cooked live, else it will taste stale.


In jazz, solos work in very much the same way.  If you get to an “improvised solo” with all of your licks and lines planned before hand, you will lose the spontaneity, or “freshness” of the solo.  Does this mean that Greg is suggesting in his book that you shouldn’t practice patterns, or scales or anything else of the like to avoid “dead lobsters” in your music?  Certainly not!  If you don’t expand you musical vocabulary, you won’t have any ideas to work with in the moment of your solo.

Whether you have a live or dead lobster doesn’t depend on the musical idea itself.  Any idea could be live or dead.  What makes it a “live” idea is the point in time when you think of it.

This is one of the truest forms of “improvisation” employed by not only jazz musicians, but actors and comedians as well.

These analogies, the second of which is also the title of the book, have far more information and ideas than I have presented here today.  These are highly abridged versions infused with my interpretations and experiences.

To see the full analogies, grab your own copy of this fantastic and innovative new jazz book today! Just click on the link below to take you to the Jazzbooks website, where you can also watch a video by Greg Fishman explaining more about the Lobster Theory.


From Jamey

Keynote Speech At The Hague, Netherlands 2004 by Jamey Aebersold



50 years ago jazz education was practically unknown. Jazz musicians were often reluctant to pass on or giveout information on how they were able to play the way they did. I think some were afraid if they verbalized theirplaying, they might dilute their font of inspiration or lose a part of their musical self. Words just weren’t the propermedium to convey one’s musical wellspring. “Can’t you HEAR what I’m playing? Why do you want me to talk when the music best speaks my musical thoughts and intentions?

When I was a teenager, I had many questions about how the famous and not so famous musicians could playthe way they did but I had no one to ask questions of. I listened to the records over and over and here and there an answer would appear but the answers came too slowly to suit me.

I was raised in a musical family. My mother player piano and sang but not professionally and my father playedpiano and banjo. My two brothers took music lessons and played in school bands when they were young. I startedpiano lessons at age 5 and was fired by my teacher at age 10. She said, “you’ll never be a musician, you don’twant to practice, go on home!” I immediately made the natural switch to tenor banjo, which my father played. Itook lessons on banjo and played it for several years. At age 12, I began to experiment with my older brothersalto saxophone. I joined the band in the 6th grade on sax but thought it was pretty boring. In general, my schoolband experience was fun but I never felt I learned much because everything we played was so easy and boring.I wanted to be challenged.

Around the age of 14, I was reading Down Beat magazine and came across the sentence “jazz is the comingthing.” I thought to myself, “if jazz is the coming thing, I’d better get with it.” The next day I went down to therecord store and bought my first jazz records. Those were 78’s of Duke Ellington’s big band and some smallerjazz groups with people like Kid Ory and Louis Armstrong. The song, Bugle Call Rag was one of my early favorites that I played over and over.

My first real jazz teacher was records and radio listening. My second jazz teacher in real-life form was David Baker who was teaching at his home in Indianapolis, Indiana. David explained chord/scale relationships in a way

that opened up my ears and my playing received new possibilities. He offered a logical reason to know those scales and arpeggios …if I had control over them, I could better express myself and I would sound more like my heroes I listened to on records. Practicing the basics suddenly made good sense …and it would help me make music-my music!

I was probably 20 years old when I had my first lesson with Baker. From that day on, I thought in terms of “what scale goes with that chord symbol?” What is the correct or first choice arpeggio or chord.? This way of thinking quickly lead to solos that contained better note choices and overall phrase construction and this quickly led to the understanding and exploration of altered tones, blue notes, chromaticism, etc. A whole new world of musical possibilities was opening up to my ears, fingers and mind.

I began teaching privately in 1961. I taught beginning woodwinds-sax, clarinet and flute at a store in Seymour, Indiana on Saturdays. I quickly learned that I needed to sharpen my ears because I was too slow in hearing exactly what wrong notes the students might play. I needed to be able to instantly identify their mistakes and then offer the solution. This is when I began ear training in earnest.

In Seymour, at the music store, I discovered these teenagers from this small farm community in the Midwest could IMPROVISE! I found their natural ears were excellent, just untrained. None had listened to jazz but they all could instantly make melodies and phrase properly over simple scales while I accompanied them on piano. They could correct themselves when they would hit a strange note. I felt they were actually playing the rhythm and note choices their mind was hearing. To me, this was a revelation because I thought in order to improvise you had to have a stack of jazz records, drink a lot of coffee and never be satisfied with your own playing. These kids taught me a valuable lesson: Everyone can Hear and everyone can Improvise.

This is a basic premise I’ve kept in mind my entire teaching career. I see and hear the hope and promise of solos being played for money and for pleasure; for fun and as work; by pros and beginners, at home or in the concert hall; by young and old; with or without a rhythm section; for a huge crowd or for no-one but the pictures on the walls; lots of notes or not so many notes; by the educated and the uneducated; with or without government funding; on expensive instruments and on instruments falling apart. MUSIC DOESN’T CARE WHO PLAYS IT. People have a need to be creative and jazz offers us a natural outlet. Creativity is where the fun is.

Around 1964 I was asked to help teach at a big band camp called The National Stage Band Camps. I rehearsed four big band sax sections each day. Some famous jazz musicians were on the faculty: Oliver Nelson, Ron Carter, Charlie Mariano, John LaPorta, Marian McPartland and others. I enjoyed teaching there for several weeks each summer but I felt something was missing: ‘The teaching of Jazz – Improvisation!’

Anyone could learn to read a big band chart but I felt sorry for all those kids who never got to stand up and take a solo. All they did was read music, play their part, follow the leader. After a year or two of teaching at the summer camps, I made the suggestion of making a combo of some of the better students and rehearse them before dinner each night. This quickly led to a ‘listening class’, which would meet after dinner. I recall one faculty member cussing me out because I was showing some sax student how to finger high ‘A’ and other notes above the normal sax range. He felt we shouldn’t show them the future until they had mastered the basics.

In 1970 or 1971 I suggested to Ken Morris, the owner of the summer camps, we form a combo workshop. This he did in 1972. We held our first combo camp in Normal, Illinois and probably had 65 students, mostly all teenagers. Our faculty consisted of approximately ten people. It was a success and we are now nearing our 32nd year of combo/improv summer workshops. The early years attracted primarily teenagers. In the eighties, we began attracting more and more adults and the trend has continued. The fact we attract so many adults convinces me that humans have a strong desire to be creative with music. Improvising is a natural way to express your emotions, intellect and your spirituality. Mankind has improvised since inhabiting our planet, so making music, sounds, and improvising seems to be very natural.

This past summer, 2003, we held two week-long combo workshops and accommodated 700 people. Half were under age 21 and half were over age 21. Things have changed dramatically over 30 years. Our faculty this year consisted of 65 teachers. We hold our combo workshops at the University of Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky near the end of June and the first week of July. At our combo camps we have up to 55 combos all rehearsing at the same time, twice a day. The emphasis is on improvising, learning how to make your own music. It’s not mystical or only for a few. You do have to have desire and it helps to develop a passion for this music. We also offer jazz theory, ear training, and master classes on each instrument, student jam sessions and many faculty concerts. Working at the National Stage Band Camps in the mid-sixties led to my producing the first Aebersold Play-A-Long LP/book set in 1967. Incidentally, I rarely used the word improvisation back then because it just wasn’t used. People said the word ‘jazz’ although the word jazz didn’t always explain what we were doing. In time, the word jazz and the word improvising became intertwined.

I can remember taking some volume 1 Play-A-Longs to workshops and would literally sell them out of the trunk of my car. Kind of like a Gypsy salesman. I took a few to music stores in Louisville, KY to be sold on consignment. I also put a very small ad in Down Beat magazines classified ad section. We sold Volume 1 at $6.95, which included postage. I can recall saying to my wife: “wow, if we could only sell one copy a day! That would be $49 a week,” minus postage of course. One time a lady at a sub-postal station wouldn’t put postage on a package of Vol.1 I was mailing. I asked her why she wouldn’t send it and she said, “it’s JAZZ!” I didn’t know what to think …the manager appeared and took care of me and a week later that sub-postal station was out of business. To many people, jazz was a dirty word: something to be avoided; even jazz education, at times, was dirty back then. Volume 1 was a single item for several years and I really had no desire to broaden into other educational products or volumes. I assumed if Volume 1 were a good idea, the Berklee School of Jazz would put out their own series and improve on ‘Music Minus One’, which was offering some jazz Play-A-Longs at the time. MMO had some sets but I felt there wasn’t enough time or space on each track to actually solo. Clark Terry and others would solo and then leave some choruses for the student to solo. I felt there was a need to have a rhythm section background recording, which allowed as much time to practice as possible. So, when I made Volume 1, each track lasted about 4 to 5 minutes and the emphasis was on soloing, not playing a written melody from the book. Incidentally, there were no written melodies in my Vol.1 book.

In 1970 I put out Volume 2 ‘Nothin’ But Blues.’ It was a hit and I immediately sold more of Volume 1. A few years later Volume 3, ‘The II/V7/I Progression’ arrived and I wondered if anyone would use it because the title was “Greek” to most people. My classified ad in Down Beat magazine grew just a little larger. It seemed to boost sales of Volume 1 and 2. Not being a businessman, this was all very interesting to me. By 1976, nine years after inception, I was ready to put out Play-A-Longs using songs by Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins – my musical hero’s …Volume 6,7, and 8. Using musicians like Ron Carter, Kenny Barron and Rufus Reid helped legitimize the concept of using Play-A-Longs to learn jazz. By this time, many pros were using them to practice with at home and to warm up for jobs. They were becoming part of the ever-broadening  musical landscape of jazz education. Now, with 107 Play-A-Long volumes, people all over the world are enjoying playing with professional musicians in their homes, classrooms and for profit as street musicians and in coffee houses. Remember, then as now, many educators thought you ‘can’t teach jazz.’ Teaching, to them was often following a ‘lesson plan’ where everything you do in the classroom is mapped out and written down in advance. My Play-A-Longs didn’t map out a lesson-plan. I assumed the teacher had a sense of adventure and exploration and would find various ways to incorporate my Play-A-Longs into their teaching. Often, this has proven to be the case. I also realize there are many who have bought the Play-A-Longs and have no idea how to utilize them. Our present education system does not show the novice teacher how to be creative in the classroom. This seems to be something you have to learn on your own. No Play-A-Long offers spoon-fed solutions to guaranteeing the next generation of jazz players. Since jazz employs invention, imagination must be used when using any type of Play-A-Long recording.

Higher education must take the lead and insist that improvisation be taught as part of formal, musical education. There is nothing to fear in incorporating improvisation into the general musical curriculum. I feel young music students who have been studying their instruments for several months are ready to be shown and encouraged to improvise with the notes they have learned. In addition to learning to read music and rhythms on the written page, they should be strongly encouraged to explore their own musical wellspring using what they have learned thus far. I heard from some music educators that improvisation shouldn’t be taught or encouraged until the student as a firm grasp of the basics and has been playing for 3 or 4 years. I don’t feel this is appropriate. When the student can play five notes, let them improvise with those five notes. Melodies don’t have to contain all the notes of a scale or chord. Let the student’s imagination blossom at each stage of their musical tutoring. I feel this is where a good teacher is extremely important in constantly encouraging creatively and use of imagination. Of course, if the teacher doesn’t improvise, what I’m suggesting is probably not going to take place and those students under his/her tutelage will not benefit from the lessons improvisation can provide. I firmly feel learning to improvise early in life can lead to playing music for ones own pleasure throughout ones’ entire life. Music is part of life and there is no valid reason to stop playing music after graduating from school just because there is no organized ensemble to play with. If you learn to improvise, you can use it as a part of the enrichment of your daily life. Walter asked me if I felt my Play-A-Longs have reached my goals. Since entering the publishing business in 1967, I’ve been interested in helping people all over the globe to realize their musical dreams. If their dream is to improvise and play music that originates in their own minds, I feel the Play-A-Longs help fulfill that need. When I began with that very first Volume 1, A New Approach to Jazz Improvisation, I never dreamt it would be the beginning of a series of book/recording sets that would influence music education all over the world and set higher standards of practice in an organized manner. The Play-A-Long idea allowed people to practice jazz in their homes, in private. They could experiment with a good rhythm section without others hearing them and thus it gave courage to young and old alike to try this music called jazz. Currently, every second of every day, someone around the world is playing music with my Play-A-Longs. Had you told me this in 1967, when I first produced Vol.1, I would have said you were crazy. I am delighted that the Play-A-Longs have brought so much happiness to thousands of people the world over.

My career as an educator, publisher and professional musician has been along the lines of jazz itself-unpredictable, improvised, spontaneous and exciting. Here are several final thoughts concerning jazz education:

Everyone can improvise.


“You either have it or you don’t” is a myth and needs to be deleted from our consciousness.


The two most prominent fears when beginning to play jazz are hitting wrong notes and getting lost.


Use overhead projectors to shown your class the chord progressions, scales and chords to songs. Use


the visual and the aural in teaching jazz. Chord tones (1,3,5) played on beats 1 and 3 (in 4/4 time) have always been important in Western


Music. When chord tones are played often enough on these beats the listener can HEAR the intended harmony. When students get lost, point to the music and help them get back on track.


Recordings are some of the best teachers.


For many around the world, my free, red, Jazz Handbook is the guide to learning jazz.


I’ve never thought of my Play-A-Longs as being a method. They are tools that can guide a musician to


tapping his or her own originality. I doubt there will ever be a foolproof method for teaching jazz. Publications are tools. The instructor is the guide. Imagination is the source. The most important Play-A-Long sets for beginning improvisation are: Vol.1, 21, 24, 84, 3, 16, and 54.


Never assume the student can’t do something you ask.


The state of jazz education is fine. We need many more qualified instructors who play the music and have a passion for passing the information on to others via the classroom. The idea that you “can’t teach jazz” needs to be erased. A new mind-set needs to be inserted into higher education and that is ‘everyone can improvise.’”



R.E.D. on Jazz

Now, you might be asking yourself, “What is R.E.D. on Jazz?” If my title got you this far, it has indeed done it’s good work.  R.E.D. is an acronym I created, it stands for Really Excellent Dissertation.  Many people may think of a dissertation as a thesis written for a doctorate program.  Which, of course, it can be, but the word is not limited to this definition.  The definition I am working with is “Any formal discourse in speech or writing.”  So, now we know that we are talking about a really excellent discourse in writing on Jazz.  And here’s the red.


This is the free Jazz Handbook available from Aebersold Jazz.  This is a free resource that Jamey has given out for years.  It is a great resource for new and experienced Jazz players at all levels.  Let’s look at some excerpts of musical wisdom about practice, performance, and philosophy. 

General Information:

The language of jazz  or the jazz idiom is in a constant state of flux.  In order to be a part of the jazz movement one must accept change.  Jazz has changed greatly over the past 70 years and is presently in transition.  Each generation of jazz musicians  contribute their own unique ideas, feelings, and sound to the music and this is what creates change.  If you equip yourself well, you may be one of those people who influence others and set new trends in jazz.

Valuable Jazz Information:

IMPORTANT: Don’t get hung up practicing exercises and more exercised without ever attempting to improvise.  Avoid become a person who plays great exercises, but delays using their creative every until tomorrow.  DO IT NOW! IMPROVISE.  Even if you only use a few notes of the scale, begin there.  START! Don’t put it off until tomorrow or until you have the scale under better control.  DO IT NOW! The longest journey begins with a single step.  Today is the first day of the rest of your life.  The longest musical phrase begins with a single note.

Jazz: The Natural Music:

Improvising, playing jazz, is the most natural way to make music. Long before the printing press was invented people played music on various instruments and all were thought to be creative musicians. Through the ages the art of improvising on a musical instrument gradually lost favor to the printed page. In the twentieth century the art of improvising has been kept alive by the jazz musician.

Today’s jazzer is not the same as the musician of the thirties, forties or fifties. The influence of jazz education, sound recordings, videos and jazz festivals has allowed the music to reach many more people and to be experienced by almost anyone who is willing to give it a try.


For years the myth “you either have it or you don’t” was prevalent in music circles around the world. If you wanted to play jazz you had better get adopted into a musical family or by the “luck of the draw” find the right environment for your early years so by osmosis you could pick up on the hot licks and at the same time develop a great jazz ear so that when you played your instrument, you would sound like a jazzer.

Time has proven that these ideas which were very popular are not true. They never were true but many musicians thought they were and that’s what gives an idea it’s longevity. Once people from non-musical backgrounds in non-jazzy environments began playing the music and playing it well, everyone had to take another look at what goes on when someone stands up and improvises a good solo over a standard chord progression such as Green Dolphin Street, Confirmation, or the blues.

Here are several ingredients that go into making a good jazz soloist/improvisor:

1. Desire to improvise

2. Serious listening to jazz via recordings and live performances

3. A method of practice – what and how to practice!

4. A rhythm section with which to practice and improvise (via live group or play-a-long recordings)

5. Self-esteem, discipline, and determination.

Jazz musicians have always played the music of their mind—what they hear in their head. They aren’t special, gifted people who were born with more talent than others. They just had more desire and discipline than others. Their ability to mentally hear an idea and then play it comes from practice.

When you run out of ideas to practice you listen to other musicians. The joy of listening to others, coupled with your imagination, will lead to fresh musical ideas. The answer to every musical question may be found on recordings. That is why listening is so important for the beginning improvisor.


Here are several exercises every professional jazz musician has probably played at one time or another. Play these over the harmony (changes, chord/scales) to whatever song you are working on. Do this before you try to improvise.


1. Play the first five notes to each chord/scale.

2. Play the triad (notes 1,3, and 5 of the scale).

3. Play the entire scale from the root (first note) to the 9th and back down.

4. Play the 7th chord up and down (1,3,5,7,5,3,1).

5. Play the 9th chord up and down (1,3,5,7,9,7,5,3,1).

6. Play the scale up to the 9th and then come back down the chord.

7. Play the chord up to the 9th and then come back down the scale.

8. Play the scale in thirds up and down



Apart from other information given in this article format, the handbook includes and introduction to the scale syllabus, exercises in bass and treble clef reading, Blues progressions, ear training tips, characteristics of Bebop, a transposition chart, Jamey’s Jazz Theory Assignments, and much, much more.

If you have been interested by some of Jamey’s writings here, then you can request your very own free copy by following this link,

Or, if you would like to download a PDF version, simply follow this link,

As always, please keep checking back with us for more jazz information!