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!




By Patrick Fanning

Patrick Fanning is currently the resident intern at Aebersold Jazz. He is also a full-time student at Indiana University Southeast, studying a Bachelor of Arts in Music Business. Patrick is our guitar player, among other stringed instruments, and expert coffee drinker.

2 replies on “R.E.D. on Jazz”

It’s FREE PEOPLE! Did we mention that? Yeah, I think we did – but really – FREE. Seriously – if you don’t have a copy – get one. We’ll send it to you. FREE. Really, no strings..

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