Here are some basics to help you know what's going on, contribute, + have fun sooner.
(For a quick look at the COHJS / SwingColumbus Community Jam & Social Dance in action, hit this up.)
These songs all have very common chord progressions. The same or pretty similar sounds (chords) come up in tons of songs. So you get a lot of mileage out of these songs when you get where you can:
1. recognize these sounds,
2. know what the chords + notes are doing in the key you're playing in at the moment, and
3. know how to make them on your instrument.
Everybody suggests you invest 5x more time listening + playing along, than reading the lead sheets + trying to memorize it that way. SO MUCH of this music is in the feel, the rhythm, and the groove, and that just ain't there on the page!
Let's start with a straight-up "blues" song - here's the High Sierra Jazz Band playing Dallas Blues in Bb.
This whole 6+ minute performance is playing just 12 bars of music.
They play thru those same 12 bars a bunch of times, just not the same each time.
That 12 bars is called "the form", for this song.
Follow along and see what they're doing:
The first 4 times thru, the whole band plays it together.
The next 2 times thru (begins at 1:42), the clarinet plays a solo.
- the rhythm section supports, + other melody players sit out for the solo.
At 2:30, the trombone solo's for 2 "choruses" (that is, for 2 times thru the form).
- rhythm section supporting, other melody players sitting out.
After some more solo's, at 4:53 the whole band plays "the form" 3 more times to finish up.
The "form" - that basic 12 bar chunk of music - is rock-solid all the time, all the way thru.
The band never deviates from it, no matter what else is going on- solos, full band, anything! That is the ONE BIGGEST THING that enables them to keep together for 6 minutes and know where they are all the time.
So from that one specific song, let's GENERALIZE about how these approaches get used across lots of different songs:
It's very helpful to memorize this Circle of 4th's.
(The Circle of 5th's is the same thing - you just go the other way around.)
Chord progressions in MANY musical phrases go right around this circle. Look at the first 2 lines of Five Foot Two:
• You start on C (home chord in the key of C). Then -
• The first change is a "jump" to E7, and from there:
• The whole rest of the phrase goes RIGHT around the Circle of 4ths:
• E7 - A7 - D7 - G7 - (back home to) C.
When a chord has the "7th" - like that E7 and those that follow in this progression - the next chord is VERY OFTEN the next one around this Circle of 4ths.
So it's VERY helpful to really memorize this Circle, something like:
From C, C7 goes to F ...
... F7 goes to Bb ...
... Bb7 goes to Eb ...
... Eb7 goes to Ab ...
... and so on, around the 12 chords in the circle.
Knowing the "chord progression" of this circle DOWN COLD really speeds up understanding what you hear, and being able to play and contribute to it.
• When you learn to read + write, you memorize the order of the alphabet: "A B C D, E F G ..."
• When you start counting and arithmetic, you learn the order of the numbers: "1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10"
You get these things down COLD, so you can USE them without thinking about them.
The Circle of 4th's is the music / chord progression equivalent of "ABC" and "123".
"Knowing it" means knowing the chord letter names (that helps). But keep at it and you'll be able to hear a "regular" progression (going around the circle), and hear the "jumps", and know what the different jumps sound like. The next steps are to learn what notes are in these chords, and where to find them on your instrument - to learn the major and minor scales and chords in each of these keys. But that's another 'chapter.'
You don't have to know a bunch of songs or bring your own books - you can always look on with somebody and there's often a spare tablet or 2 on the bandstand with concert pitch and Bb music (Eb isn't so common). But if you want to, here are a couple good resources:
iRealPro is great for jams (and practicing) - transposable chord charts app for phones + tablets.
Install the app ($14) then download songs and playlists free from iRealPro forums.
This page has 100's of Dixieland/trad jazz songs including most of what comes up at our jams.
For practicing it also plays a backing track with the chords (keyboard, bass, drums) - you set the key, tempo, + style. It's like a metronome plus a pretty decent "robot rhythm section" playing the chords.
Creole Jazz Band books - FREE books with lead sheets for a couple hundred trad jazz songs.
Available in concert pitch and Bb and Eb transposing instruments (trumpet, clarinet, sax, etc).
The Preservation Hall Foundation's Brass Bandbook is an online learning tool for educators, students, and jazz lovers alike. This essential collection from the New Orleans Brass Band Repertoire includes transcriptions and information by the leader of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, trumpeter Mark Braud. We are grateful to them for sharing their stuff!
Here are some great programs we know about:
New Orleans Trad Jazz Camp - a terrific weeklong program of small ensemble and instrument-specific instruction, workshops, jamming, going out + sitting in, in the French Quarter of New Orleans, the birthplace of it all. Usually June or July. Invitation, "Trad Jazz 101".
Welbourne Jazz Camp - A week full of BOTH dancing (swing, tap, solo, partner, etc!) + trad jazz music, at the Welbourne Inn, a beautiful 200+ year old southern mansion B&B in eastern Virginia. Usually early-mid August.
New York Hot Jazz Camp - A week of instruction, work in a small combo, jams, and a very active nightlife right in the heart of Manhattan. Usually Easter Week. Daytime program happens at the Greenwich House Music School. Lodging in hotels or airBnB etc. Invitation
Lindy Focus - A week-long all-encompassing celebration of Swing featuring world-class dance instructors and live music. Five nights of authentic big band music with classes, social dancing, and open music jams til the wee hours. Asheville NC, usually Dec 26 - Jan 1.
Teagarden Jazz Camp - A week with top-shelf trad jazz pro's for youth ages 12-20 in beautiful Sly Park in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada near Sacramento CA. The granddaddy, been around since about 1980. Usually late July-early August.
San Diego Trad Jazz Camp - 3-4 day weekend with big-name faculty: demonstrations, supervised sessions in rotating groups, sectionals for front line and rhythm. Thursday nite - Sunday mid-day at the Lafayette Hotel in San Diego; usually mid-January.
Elkhart (IN) Jazz Fest Workshop - Middle and High School musicians: big band, combo, and instrumental sectional workshops, final performance at the kickoff of the Jazz Fest. Wed + Thurs before the Elkhart Jazz Fest, late June.
EARLYJAS Jam: Generally the last Sunday of the month, 2-5 pm. A relaxed afternoon playing with talent from top NE Ohio bands to noobs. British American Club, 8564 Ravenna Rd, Twinsburg OH. Free for musicians. Little over 2 hours from Columbus.
Know of others? Please let us know.
► Suggestions? Want more help? Get in touch!
The Central Ohio Hot Jazz Society is a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation dedicated to enjoying and sharing traditional American jazz of the early 20th century. Comes in many styles and called by many names - traditional jazz, Dixieland jazz, classic jazz, hot jazz, New Orleans style jazz ... or San Francisco, Chicago, Kansas City, New York style jazz.
We LISTEN, PLAY, + DANCE to it, especially LIVE and NEAR HOME!
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