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 Beginner Wants To Learn Jazz
Author: Richard Starkly 
Date:   2017-12-02 21:27

Not quite a total beginner, but almost. I've been teaching myself clarinet for a while, I've worked my way through the first twelve chapters of A New Tune A Day For Clarinet and I'm starting to wonder if I've chosen the best route to go where I want to go with my playing. Most of the music in the book isn't really to my taste, up to now I've figured it's just something I'm going to have to push on through but I'm looking at the next chapter and wondering if I'll have the stoumach for Danny Boy. No offence to anyone who loves it, but that's really not my type of thing.

Looking online I've seen a few books on playing jazz clarinet which look potentially more interesting but find it hard to tell if they're aimed at my level or at more accomplished players looking to learn a new style.

Does anyone out there have any recommendations?

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 Re: Beginner Wants To Learn Jazz
Author: LC007 
Date:   2017-12-02 23:43

Hi Richard, and welcome to the forum. I too am a beginner and love the clarinet. I can't recommend any book but did you check out any sites on the internet. I like this one :

There is stuff for beginner to advanced and it shows the music and has a backing track. Also a tempo thing so you can slow down the song and play along until you get it.

You have to subscribe ( I think it's 20.00/year) but you can play 3 songs/day for free. You tube has a lot of stuff too.

Good luck and have fun.


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 Re: Beginner Wants To Learn Jazz
Author: Fuzzy 
Date:   2017-12-03 07:04

Hi Richard! Welcome to the bboard!

What type of jazz are you interested in? Early jazz (New Orleans/Chicago/West Coast/Trad), or Swing, Bop, Fusion, Free, etc.?

What kind of tunes are you comfortable playing right now? (What range of notes do you feel comfortable playing?)


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 Re: Beginner Wants To Learn Jazz
Author: Richard Starkly 
Date:   2017-12-03 17:39

Thanks for the welcome, guys! I haven't spent a lot of time looking for info on the internet but that site looks interesting, I've bookmarked it for later.

As a jazz listener my limited experience is mostly 60s free jazz and 70s fusion. Barely any clarinet jazz, the only things that come to mind now are a few albums with Eric Dolphy on (bass) clarinet.

So in the long term that's the kind of direction I'd love to take my playing, but at the moment I'm totally open to early jazz. Especially as I realise that's where I'll find most of the jazz clarinet repertoire.

As to where I am now... I'm just starting to get comfortable with the register key and I've spent the last couple of days mastering a version of Reveille. I'm comfortable with a grand total of nineteen fingerings ranging from a low E♭ through to the upper middle F (shown on my fingering chart as F2). Exactly how comfortable depends on how fast I have to play them! Probably the most challenging bits I've gotten semi-okay with so far have been two versions of Can Can, in G and B♭.

Should also mention if it isn't already obvious that this is effectively my first instrument, so most of the theory is new to me too, hence looking for a book which works methodically through the fundamentals...

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 Re: Beginner Wants To Learn Jazz
Author: Fuzzy 
Date:   2017-12-03 20:24

Thanks for the additional info, Richard.

You have a lot of freedom in your path to learn jazz. I've met professional musicians from a myriad of backgrounds. Some never learned to read a note of music, and never viewed a note of written music theory, but developed their "ear" to understand how the sounds all fit together. Others didn't learn to read Bb Clarinet music...and learned from the beginning to read C music (music written for non-transposing instruments). While yet others came from the strictest of music theory understanding, and read Bb music.

Each path resulted in a final product with its own strengths and weaknesses...and I'm sure there's a lot of other paths somewhere in between/in addition.

Continuing with the books you have might help you work a few more notes into your range. It might also be a good time for you to start developing your ear - matching fingerings on your clarinet to sounds you hear being produced. For instance, listening to a slow song that you like, and trying to play along with it. Something like Pete Fountain's version of closer walk: Or even picking out "Happy Birthday" starting on low G (all fingers down except pinkies). I'd recommend a song that you really "know" in your head. Something with a limited range between highest and lowest notes/tones.

Most of the jazz books I have (or that I've seen) are pretty technical and difficult. However, Marcos (here on the bboard) over in the "Jazz Clarinet" thread ( would most likely have a more knowledgeable opinion on how to help you get started than I do. He also posts a blog which you might find helpful.


[Edit]: corrected spelling

Post Edited (2017-12-03 20:50)

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 Re: Beginner Wants To Learn Jazz
Author: Richard Starkly 
Date:   2017-12-04 19:10

Thanks. A lot of info to digest but I'm in no hurry, I'll have a look at the jazz clarinet thread and maybe post asking for more info when I've got some time at the weekend.

What you're saying about developing an ear really rings true for me. I had a eureka moment a couple of weeks ago when I accidentally played the first couple of notes of a tune I like, spent a couple of minutes figuring it out and then a couple of days playing nothing much else. Eventually I started playing along with the instrumental version of the original record and did a little bit of clumsy improvisation in the space where the vocalist would usually go. I felt like I was walking on clouds for the rest of the day.

I'm curious about theory, if only because I'd like to be able to talk about this stuff without sounding ignorant. The whole business about the Bb being a transposing instrument totally baffles me. I understand it in theory but I don't think I've really grasped it yet. For instance, if I've got this right that low G at the start of Happy Birthday is actually an F. So why not call it an F? Is it just some kind of historical quirk with no rational reason?

But I totally get what you're saying about there being many paths. At the moment I'm enjoying it so much it doesn't seem to matter which path I'm on but seeing Danny Boy did make me pause for a minute.

and thanks again for the advice!

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 Re: Beginner Wants To Learn Jazz
Author: Fuzzy 
Date:   2017-12-05 00:17

Haha, "...I've got this right that low actually an F. So why not call it an F? Is it just some kind of historical quirk with no rational reason?" - a thought many trumpet/cornet/and clarinet jazz players have pondered. I think it has even come up as a topic here on the bboard...though I can't remember the conclusion off the top of my head.

For a might make life easier to just think in C all the time. The main trouble you'd run conversing with other Bb players who think/speak in Bb.

I still think there might be a benefit to learning only "in C" - but I'm not knowledgeable enough about the future ramifications to make any strong suggestions. (Though the few folks I know who learned that way do very well for themselves.)

My opinion: I love that you're already starting to play tunes by ear! That's the goal, so why not aim for it sooner rather than later? You might find times in the future where knowing which notes fit into which chords, modes, etc. might be well as where the notes appear on paper. The time might come where you'd like to compose something to share with others/sell, or even to transcribe (to paper) what you hear someone else playing. That's when a little music theory or knowledge of reading will help. I'm not convinced one needs to come first, and the might be just as good (if not better) to start with the ear, and then move to paper/theory later. I guess it just depends on an individual's background and preferred manner of learning.

Hopefully some of the other more education-oriented bboard members will chime in with their thoughts. (Sometimes it can take a week or longer for everyone to check the if you check back later, there's a chance that you'll find more activity on your post.)

Good luck, and it's great to hear you're having fun!

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 Re: Beginner Wants To Learn Jazz
Author: markcr 
Date:   2017-12-05 01:50

Hi Richard. I'm also a beginning jazz clarinet player and have dabbled with it on and off for a few years now. Here are a couple of resources that I've found to be really helpful:

1. There is a great jazz based method book for clarinet called The Jazz Method For Clarinet by John O'Neill. You may be beyond this but there is still a lot of really good info and all the play-along material is based on standard jazz stuff:

2. Hal Leonard publishes lots of great Jazz Play-Along books that include a CD with a great studio band playing all the tunes (both with melody and without) - no midi recordings. The guys on Hal Leonard play-alongs are the real deal. Here are a few that can get you started:

Essential Elements Jazz Play-Along:

Essential Jazz Standards:

Great Jazz Standards:

What I usually do is start by learning the "head" or main melody of the song. Once I can play that, I'll move into the sections on soloing and will try and learn to play the chord changes of the song. I just start with playing the root note. Then I'll progress to playing the chord arpeggios through the tune. The Essential Jazz Standards book has great tips for getting started with your improvising - if that is what you are into.

Hope this helps!

Post Edited (2017-12-05 02:25)

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 Re: Beginner Wants To Learn Jazz
Author: Richard Starkly 
Date:   2017-12-05 21:44

Thanks for the advice, guys. I think my next step is going to be the John O'Neill Jazz Method book. I'm quite happy going over the basics again, and it definitely sounds like that's the path I want to be on. After Christmas when I'm allowed to buy things for myself again!



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 Re: Beginner Wants To Learn Jazz
Author: markcr 
Date:   2017-12-05 22:03

I think you'll really like O'Neill's book. You'll be playing jazz lines from the very beginning - no Hot Cross Buns or Mary Had A Little Lamb. Comes with a good CD too that helps you hear what is being taught in the book.

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 Re: Beginner Wants To Learn Jazz
Author: Roys_toys 
Date:   2017-12-06 21:57


Another vote here for the John Oneill book.
You may also like to look at an all instruments book call IFR ( Improvise For Real) by David Reed. He teaches the importance of ear development, and I think he would say that a newcomer has a great advantage if you concentrate on this before you get into all the usual tutor and theory stuff. He believes that far from being an add on for after you have learnt, improvisation / playing by ear / is the way to go from the start.
Good luck !

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 Re: Beginner Wants To Learn Jazz
Author: Richard Starkly 
Date:   2017-12-08 01:01

Thanks for the IFR recommendation, it looks like a good one. I've just read the introduction and instructions for the first exercise on Amazon, he echoes a lot of my own thoughts as someone alienated by music lessons at school who's never really felt at home in the European classical tradition. I've added it to my wish list but I think I'm going to play it safe with O'Neill and the book I have already until I've grasped the basics, though.

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 Re: Beginner Wants To Learn Jazz
Author: beejay 
Date:   2017-12-09 14:34

If you have a tablet or phone, you can find some pretty good drum loops. Practicing scales to a reggae or bossa beat is good fun, and anything you learn can then be adapted to a jazz ednvironment.

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