I got hooked on playing jazz guitar in my early 20's and have been playing and a serious student of all things jazz guitar ever since. Like most guitar players it was rock 'n' roll and the British Invasion that got me into wanting to play guitar around 1963-64. Discovering jazz in my 20's really opened up the possibilities of the guitar. Re-discovering the ukulele several years ago I naturally started exploring developing my jazz repertoire on the ukulele.
There' a lot of mystic surrounding learning jazz on guitar and ukulele. But it's not as hard as you might think. Is it harder than rock or country - definitely, but well worth the trip. Just think of it as artist with a bigger box of crayons, more color possibilities.
In addition to studying jazz guitar for the past, almost 40 years. I've been a private music teacher for the past 15 plus years with up 70 students a week at times of all ages and levels. That with a graphic arts background and some web programming chops, It allows me present material that is concise, well researched and tested in an organized and professional manner. And, making it easy to apply to ukulele.
Topics that are covered in a well rounded jazz ukulele study program.
Just like jazz guitar, jazz on ukulele is an advanced form of ukulele and is not usually your first introduction to ukulele. After the fundamentals of the ukulele are covered, here are what would be involved in learning jazz ukulele.
Organization is key to learn to play jazz on ukulele. This is where a good jazz guitar or jazz ukulele teacher would really help. Here is my organization of the subjects and material that you would cover in a well rounded jazz ukulele program of study.
- Mechanical Technique - Developing right and left hand technique. These are the motor skill for playing the ukulele.
- Ear Training - Hearing intervals, chords, root movement …
Here is a lesson on Ear Training.
- Chords - Chord construction, core and derived chords.
A “Jazz” chord is simply a 4-part chord used in a wide variety of contemporary music. Largely associated with “jazz” players, anyone can use these cool chords. Playing background chords in support of a singer or soloist.
- Chord Progressions - Common chord progressions.
- Theory - The principles of Music - How it all works
- Rhythm - Rhythm is intertwined into all aspects of music and a subject all to it own.
- Melody - This is one of the most recognizable parts of a song or composition. The melody along with the lyrics part of a song that you can copyright..
- Reading Music - Not reading TAB - actually learning to read music. It the lingua franca of musician around the world.
- Repertoire and Songs - Developing a jazz ukulele repertoire.
- Styles - Swing, Bossa, Latin, Jazz Waltz, Ballads and more… - Swing, Bossa, Latin, Jazz Waltz, Ballads and more…
- Stability of Tempo - Basically playing in time.
- Harmonic, Melodic and Rhythmic Analysis
- Musical Devices such as Scales, Arpeggios, Interval Development and Sequences, Scale and Chord Inversion, Voice Leading, Bass Lines, Accompaniment, etc...
- Improvisation - The essential scales for ALL jazz musicians. - Traditional, Contemporary and Modal scales that are all part of a jazz musicians bag of tricks.
As you can see, it's quite a list. Don't despair! Like the proverbial journey of a 1000 miles, it can get done one step at a time. The biggest problem is organizing those steps. Of all ukulele and guitar based forms, jazz is the most difficult to go it alone. That’s one reason that there are more jazz and jazz guitar majors in college now than at any other time in history.
My own personal development and belief supports the private teacher model. I was lucky enough in my jazz development to study jazz guitar with Chuck Anderson. I continue to use and study with Chuck regarding all aspects of my music career.
There is a great need for customized, dedicated personal teaching. The old European model of master and apprentice works well in this field. It, of course, needs some modern updating. But by and large, this model is more effective than the collegiate model. I would no recommend one try and go it alone when learning the more advanced topics that are part of jazz.
Resources and Information for the Jazz Ukulele Player
You can pretty much play jazz on any style ukulele. Here are a few built in the jazz guitar tradition. Plus, they're just plain cool instruments.
- Ukulele Jazz Players - I would as most would classify myself as a jazz ukulele player. I love playing the jazz repertoire on ukulele. M specialty is instrument jazz.
Just What is Jazz?
For me jazz is improvisational music. Whether it's a simple re-phrasing of a standard melody or full blown improv. It's all about spontaneously creating music.
Here's what WikipediA take on it.
Jazz is a music genre that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States from a confluence of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th century American popular music. Its West African pedigree is evident in its use of blue notes, improvisation, polyrhythms, syncopation, and the swung note. (from WidipediA)