How to Approach Jazz Music

jazz music
Written by Stef Ramin of

How to approach jazz music ?

To learn jazz music, it is necessary to like this music and thus to become imbued with jazz culture, it is obvious. But what is necessary to listen to first when we come from the classic or from the rock? Here are some ideas.

Find footbridges

If you are totally foreign to the world of the jazz, it is better to avoid beginning by listening to certain jazz styles as the free jazz or bebop.

First, try to approach a jazz style which gets closer to the music that you are used to listen. For example, if you like rock music, try to listen to jazz musicians or bands who have a rock sound as Mike Stern, John Scofield, Jeff Beck, John Mac Laughlin, Jaco Pastorius, Magma. This way you will hear jazz, but with a more rock approach it will be more affordable for you. In particular because of the sound jazz, which can block the musicians used to the “big rock sound”.

Inversely you can listen to jazz musicians who plays famous rock songs as “Wonderwall”  (Oasis) or “Black hole sun” (Soundgarden) by Brad Meldhau, “Iron man” (Black Sabbath) by the Bad plus, “Come as you are” (Nirvana) by the Charlie Hunter trio. When making a search on the internet, you soon find more jazz rock covers. In that case, it will allow you to follow more easily the chord progression and the melody line which is already familiar to you.  A musician who is not accustomed to jazz music can quickly lose the train of harmony and can’t understand the musical sense of the tune that he listen to.

When you found a jazz musician who please you, don’t hesitate to find playlists (on YouTube, for example) which suggest you find in a few clicks all the titles played by this musician or all the groups or projects he have participated in.

Think through styles

If you like the voice of a singer, it is better to begin with uncountable artists who sang jazz as Norah Jones,  Harry Connick Junior, Tony Bennett or Diana Krall. The voice is sometimes easier to feel than a trumpet for example. Chet Baker mixes both permanently in an inimitable atmosphere.

If you like rock-blues then listen to blues-jazz musicians that are at the limits of these two styles : Robben Ford, Duke Robillard, Tal Farlow, Melvin Sparks.  Blues language is more popular, closer to rock music and easier to hear than jazz music. Listen to music that mixes jazz and blues will helps you to understand jazz. Artists such as Kenny Burrell, Grant Green, Jimmy Hammond Smith, Wes Montgomery have been mix highly successfully these two kinds of music styles.

If you like latin music, why not look in this direction with musicians as Stan Getz, Carlos Jobim or Joao Gilberto. The salsa too or even the Argentine tango of Astor Piazzola among others are ” music footbridges ” between the binary and the ternary.

When you appreciate a jazz artist, try to explore his world to find references more or less jazz. Herbie Hancock for example, have played any kind of music styles,  from the funk to the modern jazz. Miles Davis, who have played bebop, swing,  jazz-funk, modern jazz or jazz-rock.

Movie music

When we listen to jazz for the first time, it is sometimes difficult to follow the complex phrasing of certain improvisations. By listening to jazz while looking at a movie, the eye is absorbed by the image and by the story. The music becomes secondary, less present and by the same often more accessible.

Then watch movies about jazz players as “Bird” (Charlie Parker), “Ray” (Ray Charles) or movies which have a jazz soundtrack jazz as the famous ” Elevator to the gallows ” by Miles Davis, “Alfie” (music composed by Sonny Rollins) or more recently ” Whiplash ” including the famous old jazz standard standards “Caravan”, a composition by Duke Ellington. How to not talk about Henri Mancini and ” The pink panther “, a humoristic  jazz moment of excellent quality.”A streetcar named desire” , the story takes place in New-Orleans, birthplace of many jazz styles.  Lalo Schifrin and its unforgettable themes of television films as Mannix, Mission : impossible, Bullit.


Therefore,  you have numerous entrances to the world of jazz and it would be surprising that one of these elements does not suit you.


About the author

Stef Ramin is the webmaster, guitar teacher and author on, online resource with videos, articles and eBooks to learn to play jazz guitar.

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