Some Tips on Studying Jazz Music


Studying jazz music is a life-long endeavor, and filling an entire page with tips about how to learn to play jazz would not even scratch the surface of the many requirements that every jazz player must tackle.


However, here are some basics:


We are looking for players who play with a good tone, can play well in tune, and have good control over their instruments.  Any study you can do to master all of those is primary.


In a jazz performance, we need to hear a lot of evidence that you are in command of the chord changes over which you are improvising. Saxophonists are advised to do a lot of listening to the recordings of great jazz masters of the saxophone (Rollins, Coltrane, Webster, Parker, Mobley, Getz, Hawkins --the list goes on!!) and figure out what they are playing to enunciate the chord changes so well. You need to do the same.


One quick way to learn that language is to transcribe their solos, note-for-note, from the original recordings, and immerse yourself in what those jazz masters are doing.  Learning those solos by ear (without writing down anything) is a more difficult and arduous method, but anything learned this way will be more thoroughly "planted" into your musical ear and imagination, and will stay with you longer.


There are certainly many modern masters whose music you can study as well (Chris Potter, Kenny Garrett, Joe Lavano, Branford Marsalis, Joshua Redman--the list goes on!!).   


Admittance into the Jazz Studies program at the UW is very competitive, so we suggest you do as much of this work as you can in preparation for your audition.