Advice For Jazz Students #1: A is for Alphabet

This blog has been entirely lacking in structure, a usp or a reason for existence and so I thought I might do an “A to Z” of whimsical thoughts, put them in order, albeit an arbitrary one. When trying to make things out of fragmentary pieces this kind of planning can be useful, “Z” is an ending, a light at the end of a tunnel I am digging myself. Compositional you might say, but it’s a bit early for letter “C”. I might also attract more adds for foot fungus cream and the like.

“A” is for alphabet, so that’s a happy coincidence. Already this thing is writing itself.

In addition to the 26 letters I’m making some other rules.

I don’t want to be unnecessarily prescriptive or to put anyone off studying jazz (or anything else).

I don’t want to be too woolly or pretend that studying jazz (or anything else) is easy.

I don’t want to preach, but I probably will because the blog is one of the comfiest pulpits on the internet.

I don’t want to give advice that you have to take because every thought does not replace, but merely adds to, those that you have already. Finally, maybe people who don’t want to study jazz will get a little window on the weird world of those who do.

If you notice any breakages of these rules please tell me in the comments, I don’t have an editor or a fact checker. (Indeed there are no facts planned in any of this.)

Consider this the first entry, letter A, 25 tenuously linked pieces to go.

More Advice For Jazz Students (And Me)

I thought about “enrolling” on an online course in Logic Pro: recording, mixing, mastering, you know, the whole thing in one, perfect hit or your money back. It’s reduced from $350,000 to £10.99. I know people who could teach me properly, but I don’t want that. Seriously I don’t want it. I want to know what the silly version is first. Because I know it’s silly. I don’t trust anyone to teach me everything. I just want to know how the silly version as a kind of overview.

Everyone who teaches you anything can only ever teach you their view of it. Even jazz musicians, whether teachers by trade or by financial necessity, can only give what they have. There are holes in it, in all of it.

Some people give you the marker pen version. This is a thick line of certainty that gives a failsafe “system” of chords and scales that will work. And it will, very well. A marker pen covers completely the area of paper it crosses, but there are huge spaces on the paper left undiscovered.

Then there’s the watercolour version. A broad spread across the whole canvas, not much depth or detail as such. This is also excellent.

I tend to have a blotchy approach, like spits of paint. I like certain things, and those things I teach in detail. But the spaces are real, I have no idea about 13/8 and my grasp of atonal counterpoint is instinctual (and often haphazard) rather than systematic.

My advice to students, then, is to know that you engage in an act of storytelling that should be designed to make you and us curious, to enjoy what you are doing. Do not receive the words like a Gospel or a sacred text, we all know how that goes. There is a confidence that comes with knowing you are only hearing one person’s story, that each story in its own way points to the impossible and unknowable totality of music, that to play everything is an artistic failure and to make beautiful a small part of it is immensely satisfying.

It’s only magic after all. Sorry, I meant music, the auto correct playing up again.