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Discussion Starter #1
I feel like my lack of jazz music theory knowledge is hindering my improvisation.
What are important things to know about jazz music theory?
Stuff like, the circle of fourths, fifths, etc.
I just don't know where to start, I already have basic music theory knowledge such as, voicing, interval, chord structures.
 

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It might be helpful to give a little background. Where you are in theory, etc.

For example... Do you understand chords?

-Bubba-
 

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Discussion Starter #4
It might be helpful to give a little background. Where you are in theory, etc.

For example... Do you understand chords?

-Bubba-
I took a high school class the past year on music theory.
I understand chords and inversions. I'm not sure what else to add.
 

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I'm no expert... But to get you started, You should know in improvisation (at least one way of looking at it), is a chord has a scale to it. For example... C Maj = C Maj scale. If you know about modes, you realize theirs multiple minors. To start off, your best bet is Dorian minor. C Minor Chord = C Dorian Minor scale. (b3, b7).

From there you can move to some cooler concepts. Like, a ii - V - I progression. Like it shows, you take the Minor ii of the key, the V, and and I.
So in C, Dmin - G7 - C. If you write these out, you have D F A C - G B D F - C E G B. Notice they keep the key signature of the I chord.

Do you understand these things?

-Bubba-
 

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I feel like my lack of jazz music theory knowledge is hindering my improvisation.
What are important things to know about jazz music theory?
Stuff like, the circle of fourths, fifths, etc.
I just don't know where to start, I already have basic music theory knowledge such as, voicing, interval, chord structures.
"Jazz music theory" is the same thing as basic music theory. You may need to rephrase the question, or ask something more specific.
 

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"Jazz music theory" is the same thing as basic music theory. You may need to rephrase the question, or ask something more specific.
Basically true, but Mark Levine (and others) felt the need to give it a separate treatment. Hence my previous post.
 

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For what is worth, I play saxophone as a hobby but I also like to read a lot. When I started a little over 2 years ago, I knew almost nothing about music theory despite having taken sax lessons in my teens. I started by reading Alfred’s Essential of Music Theory which definitely helped me understand the basics. Thereafter I have read other Jazz theory books and would I also agree on Mark Levine’s Jazz Theory Book as a being very good reference. Of the ones I have read, with my limited exposure to music theory, I would say that it is the easiest to understand. I would also look into “Connecting Chords with Linear Harmony” by Bert Ligon.
 

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Basically true, but Mark Levine (and others) felt the need to give it a separate treatment. Hence my previous post.
My statement was based on the way the OP stated his question:

"What are important things to know about jazz music theory?
Stuff like, the circle of fourths, fifths, etc.
I just don't know where to start, I already have basic music theory knowledge such as, voicing, interval, chord structures."


But yes, the Mark Levine book is excellent. I do think Mark would agree that you learn music theory by studying the structure of music, including a lot of basic principles. You learn the jazz part by listening to jazz music and playing it on the bandstand.

I could be wrong, but I think Chunsoo wants some specific ideas from us, which is why a more specific question would help.
 

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I would say also to listen to the masters of the instrument and see how what they are playing relates to what you know about theory.

Most of the icons of jazz learned by listening to other players regardless of how much classical training they had.

And back in the day that meant listening to your favorite player on record and emulating what you hear.

Or hearing the player in a live setting is even better especially if you can jam with that player.

A lot of knowledge is gained by " catching " the music from a great player while it's " still in the air".
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I'm no expert... But to get you started, You should know in improvisation (at least one way of looking at it), is a chord has a scale to it. For example... C Maj = C Maj scale. If you know about modes, you realize theirs multiple minors. To start off, your best bet is Dorian minor. C Minor Chord = C Dorian Minor scale. (b3, b7).

From there you can move to some cooler concepts. Like, a ii - V - I progression. Like it shows, you take the Minor ii of the key, the V, and and I.
So in C, Dmin - G7 - C. If you write these out, you have D F A C - G B D F - C E G B. Notice they keep the key signature of the I chord.

Do you understand these things?

-Bubba-
Yes, I understand every single word there, since I already knew that too.

Here's a specific question,
what amount of music theory knowledge would you need to fully understand the structure of jazz improvisation and just improvising jazz in general?

I can't think of anything else right now.
I feel the need of learning my modes, I could name them all, but that's about it, besides the dorian and mixolydian.

Oh yeah, I forgot to add,
I put in Jazz Music Theory in the title because I wanted to improvise (comping and soloing) on the piano as well,
and I'm hearing stuff like "Tritone Substitutions", "Reharmonization", etc.
 

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Chunsoo;1690154Here's a specific question said:
what amount of music theory knowledge would you need to fully understand the structure of jazz improvisation and just improvising jazz in general?
[/U]
10. LOL

Order the Berklee Harmony 1-4 books from the Berklee book store. As I recall, they are loose-leaf, hole-punched, shrink wrapped and like $10 or $15 each. El dirt cheapo... and great books. Read each chapter, then play examples of everything you just read on the keyboard, try to write a tune or improvise some lines using the concepts you just learned and then crack open a real book, make some photocopies and try to write in as much harmonic analysis as possible. Then do the next chapter.

Alternatively, pick up "Ready, Aim, Improvise," by Hal Crook. In my humble opinion, it is the best book of its kind... it covers practical theory and drills for practicing, and includes tons of examples of appropriate repertoire to learn (probably one of the most overlooked and important parts of learning to improvise is just learning the damn tunes!) at every given level of knowledge/ability.

A last option is to click the link in my signature to "Expanding your jazz vocabulary," or whatever it says... read, write, practice, repeat.
 

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The Levine book is good, but I now prefer this by Scott Reeves:



Be sure to get the fourth edition. Among the nice things about this book is that it includes transcriptions and discussion of several seminal solos and a great deal of vocabulary. The fourth edition presents the transcriptions and vocabulary for Bb, Eb and bass instruments, as well as for C instruments. The Levine book is written in C and seems to be aimed at students who have piano accessibility.

BTW, I respectfully disagree with JL: I think there is a difference between jazz and classical theory, although it may be mostly in emphasis, and this is reflected in the Reeves book. Things like which scales work best over which chords, treatment of major and minor 2-5-1, blues and pentatonic scales, tritone subs, modal improvisation, etc. The table of contents is here.
 

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I'm no expert... But to get you started, You should know in improvisation (at least one way of looking at it), is a chord has a scale to it. For example... C Maj = C Maj scale. If you know about modes, you realize theirs multiple minors. To start off, your best bet is Dorian minor. C Minor Chord = C Dorian Minor scale. (b3, b7).

From there you can move to some cooler concepts. Like, a ii - V - I progression. Like it shows, you take the Minor ii of the key, the V, and and I.
So in C, Dmin - G7 - C. If you write these out, you have D F A C - G B D F - C E G B. Notice they keep the key signature of the I chord.

Do you understand these things?

-Bubba-
I don't like being a trouble maker but here goes nothing... I personally would like to again caution the world against the scale-chord approach to improvisation. There's a guaranteed set of notes that sound good over a chord: the notes in that chord. Knowing chord structures is easier and more useful than knowing a million scales. A powerful melody will always trump a correctly played scale. Although a lot of solos can be broken down into scales, that probably was not the thought process of the soloist.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
10. LOL

Order the Berklee Harmony 1-4 books from the Berklee book store. As I recall, they are loose-leaf, hole-punched, shrink wrapped and like $10 or $15 each. El dirt cheapo... and great books. Read each chapter, then play examples of everything you just read on the keyboard, try to write a tune or improvise some lines using the concepts you just learned and then crack open a real book, make some photocopies and try to write in as much harmonic analysis as possible. Then do the next chapter.

Alternatively, pick up "Ready, Aim, Improvise," by Hal Crook. In my humble opinion, it is the best book of its kind... it covers practical theory and drills for practicing, and includes tons of examples of appropriate repertoire to learn (probably one of the most overlooked and important parts of learning to improvise is just learning the damn tunes!) at every given level of knowledge/ability.

A last option is to click the link in my signature to "Expanding your jazz vocabulary," or whatever it says... read, write, practice, repeat.
A real book, you mean the one with the chord's of a tune and the melody?

@LampLight
I have a piano at home.
So if there was a 100% chance of a piano being available to use, would Levine's book be better to use?

I don't have any questions here anymore, I just need to decide which books to buy.
 

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Here is my 3 step approach:

1 Start with something easy like Jamey Aebersold Volume 1: How to Improvise and play jazz. Yes it will have some shortcomings, but every system does eventually. It's a good start and an easy read and accessible method.

2 Start with Mark Levine's jazz piano book. Read it through and understand how to voice standard tunes from the lead/fake sheet.

3 Learn as many tunes as possible on the piano before learning them on saxophone with the thought of proving or disproving anything said in the two books you have.

Once you've learned and memorized about 50 tunes on piano and sax, it will become clear what you need to work on next. Don't collect too many books, they're merely guides and methods that help you find the path you are already on anyway.

FWIW, I believe classical theory and jazz theory are the same. That is, the mathematics. Conventions, terminology, proper names, labels, and practical application are sometimes different but the math (theory) always comes out the same.
 

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Not to clutter this with more advise than you would need, but here goes. Knowing the modes and some theory is great, so now I would say learn how they sound. You know what a dorian is, now learn how it sounds, and get it under your fingers. Know your scales and modes on the horn like you know your way home without looking at the street signs. Once you have those patterns, (which ever you choose to learn) under your fingers, and know how they sound, you'll have a better idea of what you want to play when improvising. And be aware, this is an ongoing thing. The greats are still learning, still pushing, still craving knowledge. And most of all, HAVE FUN!
 

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BTW, I respectfully disagree with JL: I think there is a difference between jazz and classical theory.
Just to be clear, I never said anything about classical theory. I said music theory, which is applicable whether you're composing a classical piece or improvising in the jazz genre. Now that the classical music thing has come up, and I've said this before, a classical musician these days does not need to know music theory, unless of course they are going to compose music. They need to be able to read the music, and in some cases memorize the music, but they don't need to know the chord progression, the harmonic context or any of that to play because they aren't improvising. Of course if they want to compose or improvise in a classical context they need to know theory, but otherwise they don't.

OTOH if you want to play by ear (improvise), some knowledge of music theory will be very beneficial.
 

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Here's a specific question,
what amount of music theory knowledge would you need to fully understand the structure of jazz improvisation and just improvising jazz in general?
.
I guess that's a more specific question, but man it's hard to find a specific answer. Sort of like asking, what amount of physics, math, and general science do you need to fully understand astronomy?

I guess the answer (to both questions) is: A lot.

I think what's missing here is a bit beyond the theory part. You need to assimilate the jazz vocabulary. And that's a huge task, but take it a piece at a time. Maybe learn a really good blues solo by Gene Ammons or Dexter Gordon.

I also totally agree with what wheels410 said in the post above. Get the SOUND in your mind. It's not enough to know a dominant chord is spelled 1 3 5 b7. You need to know what it sounds like, and what each chord tone sounds like, as well as each extension (the 9th, 11th, 13th) and altered extensions, sound like against the basic chord and in context with the tonic. The sound of minor, diminished, augmented, etc. And the sound of each interval.
 

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what amount of music theory knowledge would you need to fully understand the structure of jazz improvisation and just improvising jazz in general?
This is actually two different questions. Understanding the "structure of jazz improvisation" requires analysis, whereas improvisation itself requires no such thing.

Music is an art, not a science, whereas music theory is pretty scientific. If you just want to improvise as a piano player, use your ear and go. Maybe lay off the left hand a bit.
 
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