School of Danderfer: How to play jazz, part 1


Hello, good morning, and welcome to the Saturday Morning News Post!

Readers, I’m not just a know-it-all, I’m a know-it-all and tell-it-all.

And since I’m coaching jazz combos at the VSO School, I thought maybe I’d codify what I know about learning jazz and share it with the world. So world, if you’re reading (and I assume you are), here’s the 1st installment of What I know about learning to play jazz.

Chapter 1: Welcome

If you’re just getting started then let me be the first to say Welcome to Jazz! The music you’re about to learn is an incredibly creative, rich and exciting music. Beautiful melodies, syncopated danceable rhythms, improvisation, cross-cultural influences… we’ve got it ALL folks! And like any art form, it’s available for you to learn no matter who you are or where you come from.

So let’s get started!

What is jazz? A lot of people have strong opinions on this subject, many of whom feel the need to voice these opinions loudly, rallying their cause or… just seeking attention. Either way, surely, it must be important to define what jazz really is, right?

No, not really! Good news! What matters most is whatever kind of jazz thrills and inspires YOU. That’s all you’ll need to know for now. Hold on tight to that inspiration because that will take you a looong way my friend.

But if you insist, why not?! I’ll just check Google it for a second, aaaand… okay, here’s a definition…

“Jazz is a type of African-American music that originated in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in the Southern United States as a combination of European harmony and forms with African musical elements such as blue notes, improvisation, polyrhythms, syncopation and the swung note.[1] Jazz has also incorporated elements of American popular music.[2]

As it spread around the world, jazz drew on different national, regional, and local musical cultures, giving rise to many distinctive styles: New Orleans jazz dating from the early 1910s, big band swing, Kansas City jazz and Gypsy jazz from the 1930s and 1940s, bebop from the mid-1940s, Afro-Cuban jazz, West Coast jazz, ska jazz, cool jazz, Indo jazz, avant-garde jazz, soul jazz, modal jazz, chamber jazz, free jazz, Latin jazz, smooth jazz, jazz fusion and jazz rock, jazz funk, loft jazz, punk jazz, acid jazz, ethno jazz, jazz rap, cyber jazz, M-Base and nu jazz.”

As you can see from this definition, there are many different types of jazz music. This is why saying “I don’t like jazz” is like saying “I don’t like books,”… possible, but unlikely. There’s something for everyone!

Anyways, inspiration, follow your inspiration and learning this music will be an enjoyable, exciting challenge.

Let’s continue.

Chapt 2: Jazz is a language


  • Victor Noriega