Jazz Pedagogy When it Comes Term Paper

  • Length: 10 pages
  • Subject: Music
  • Type: Term Paper
  • Paper: #68702404

Excerpt from Term Paper :

This is not really a typical swing rhythm, however. Jazz musicians almost always play eighth notes straighter than that, except perhaps in the style known as the shuffle. A correct ratio for swing cannot be given precisely. Different musicians tend to interpret swing in different ways. Earlier jazz musicians tended to play with a more exaggerated swing. Some styles of jazz - especially hybrids of jazz with other forms of music - do not use swing eighth notes in this literal sense at all. For example, eighth notes in bossa nova are usually played straight. However, the slight accent on the second half of each beat, combined with other elements of jazz expression, may still convey something of a swing feel:

One of the more notable aspects of jazz in the first place, it resides within the groups seamless melding of traditional New Orleans style jazz fundamentals into playfully organized abstractions. For example much modern jazz represents hybrid, blues/Dixieland/free jazz work, although bands veer off the straight and narrow throughout. Jazz establishes a multidimensional tone poem based on rhythmic patterns and odd-metered changes. The musicians pursue a celebratory vibe, marked by free-form interplay, conventional musings, and a bevy of cleverly enacted diversions.

Fundamentals and Techniques of Rhythm Sections

Jazz can be a contradiction to the standards of esthetics and opposed to standardized esthetics. The instruments are expressive and eruptive, not filtered through any regulations or rules of sound. A jazz musician constantly feels the sound around them and understands the power of sound. Without it, instruments could not be heard. Jazz is flexible as many musicians play multiple instruments to continue feeling the sound. Musicians look to each for answers and even adapt their style to fit the mood.

Jazz rhythms tend to be syncopated, meaning they contain unexpected accents. Also important is the concept of swing, which has to do with creating a sense of momentum and dance ability. Some styles of jazz make use of counterpoint, which occurs when several melodies with different rhythms are played simultaneously. Together, the attributes of syncopation, swing, and counterpoint create a rich rhythmic background that is one of the most important elements of jazz. In the most general sense, syncopation has to do with the creation of rhythmic surprise. The most typical way this is done is through the placement of accents. In jazz, however, accents tend to fall between the beats. If you divide each beat into two parts, the accents in jazz often fall on the second half of each beat. Furthermore, they appear irregularly; one does not tend to see the second half of every beat accented equally.

There are many instruments from which to choose but the trumpet stands out as being most popular and revolutionary as far as manipulating technique and rhythm. Analysts argue that no two trumpeters are the same but really imitating each other. In the Ken Burns' documentary Louis Armstrong is revered as Jazz's most influential musician of all time. It is clear as Berendt explains, "all trumpeters mentioned throughout history actually belong to the immediate Armstrong school" (168).

Jazz Articulations, Dynamics, Phonetics, Arranging, Harmony and Form

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Improvisation is possibly the most important element of jazz, rivaled only by swing in the eyes and ears of most observers. At some point in almost every jazz performance, one or more musicians will be expected to improvise. Improvisation usually occurs in the context of a solo, where one musician is improvising a melody while others improvise accompaniment. Some performances feature group improvisation more than solos, however. In either case, the improvisation is usually the focal point of the performance. How does a jazz musician decide what to play when improvising? It is not as mysterious a process as some might think. In many ways, it is similar to conversation. We start with a basic idea of what we are going to say, and then we find the words to express our thoughts. The topic we are discussing and the people we are speaking with influence what we say and how we say it. There are also rules of grammar that guide our speech. Most importantly, though, we should have something interesting to say.

Jazz improvisation is not all that different. The style of the composition being played and the personal style of the musicians involved shape the overall sound of the performance. The composition itself will usually specify some parameters for improvisation - usually the chord progression on which a soloist is to base his improvised melodies. Ultimately, though, it is the creativity of the improviser that determines what he will play. Whereas style and structure influence improvisation by setting expectations for the soloist to meet, creativity has more to do with the unexpected. More particularly, it has to do with the balance between the expected and the unexpected. Things that are unexpected are not necessarily creative in themselves. In the absence of familiar stylistic or structuring elements, music can be perceived as uninteresting in its randomness.

Jazz Repertoire for Big Bands

The larger the ensemble, the more important it generally is to plan an arrangement in advance in order to give each player a well-defined role, and indeed most larger ensembles use written arrangements. Most commonly, large ensembles organize their groups into sections. Each section contains several players of the same or similar instruments. The parts for the players within a section are usually similar rhythmically, so the section is heard to be playing as one, although they may actually be playing in harmony rather than in unison. The various sections can then be used independently in a call-and-response fashion, or to create counterpoint. The different sections can also be used in an alternating fashion for timbral variety. One section might be featured for one part of an arrangement, and then a different section featured for the next part.

The role of the rhythm section does not differ substantially from when they are playing in a combo. However, since the other sections are handling much of the chordal accompaniment, pianists tend to play more sparsely than in other situations. Often, arrangers will give the rhythm section specific parts to play in order to fit in with the rest of the accompaniment.

Jazz Ensemble Concert Techniques

Jazz is characterized by an emphasis on improvisation. This means that much of what a jazz musician plays is not precisely notated or specified as part of the composition. But although there are freely improvised performances in which there is no composition at all to guide the performance, most jazz performances are based on composed material to some extent. Rather than specify every note of the performance, a jazz composition typically provides an outline that contains one or more notated passages and some areas left open for improvisation, as well as guidelines for the improvisation itself. The notated passages are called themes, and the outline that specifies when to play a given theme and when to improvise is called an arrangement. A written or learned arrangement may also specify things like an introduction, the order of the soloists, an ending, or other compositional details, but these matters are just as likely to be decided upon during the performance.

Unlike in many other forms of music, an arrangement of a jazz composition does not usually specify all aspects of the performance; so two performances of the same arrangement may differ considerably. In addition to improvised solos, which almost always differ between performances, some details of the arrangement itself may be left open until the time of the performance.

The first aspect of a composition to be finalized during performance is the tempo or speed. An arrangement may suggest a tempo in broad terms such as "slow," but the leader of the ensemble will have to count off a specific tempo to let all the players know what the pulse will be. The same arrangement might be played at different tempos for different performances, and this can affect how the musicians play their parts. Everything from the swing feel to the style of accompaniment can be affected by tempo. The tendency in head arrangements is for the leader to solo first, followed by any other horn players, then by the pianist, and then possibly a bass solo or a drum solo. Most bands make a conscious effort to vary this solo order between compositions during a performance or on a recording, however. The solo order for a performance of a composition can thus be affected by the solo order in the compositions played earlier - if the saxophone soloed first on the previous tune, the trumpet might solo first on the next.

Sometimes, a band will engage in collective improvisation during the solo section. Before returning to the theme, musicians occasionally will elect to trade fours, which can be…

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"Jazz Pedagogy When It Comes" (2005, February 12) Retrieved January 17, 2017, from

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"Jazz Pedagogy When It Comes", 12 February 2005, Accessed.17 January. 2017,