How to Transition from Classical Pianist to Jazz Pianist


Piano music doesn’t have to be all classical, all the time! Here’s what you need to know about getting started with jazz piano chord progressions, courtesy of St. Augustine, FL teacher Heather L...


Thelonius Monk, Herbie Hancock, and Duke Ellington are just a few of the great jazz piano players. What beautiful and fascinating sounds fill our ears when their names come to mind! The seemingly illusive progressions and spontaneous elements, like syncopation and improvisation, sound virtually like magic. To those of us who were trained in the classical tradition only, the journey from classical pianist to jazz pianist may seem like a long one. But it’s not be as difficult as it seems. By learning basic blues scales and jazz piano chord progressions, you’ll be taking the first important step in transitioning to jazz piano.

For those of us who’ve learned Hanon exercises, there’s an excellent resource called “Hanon to Jazz” (published by FJH Music Company Inc.). Specifically written for classically trained players, its fun and brilliant exercises and songs are a terrific introduction. They’ll have you playing the blues in no time. It’s a great map for your journey.

For those of you who’ve yet to learn Hanon exercises, Dariusz Terefenko’s created a great workbook, “Jazz Theory: From Basic to Advanced Study”, published by Routledge. I also recommend Tim Richards’ “Exploring Jazz Piano: Volume 1”, published by Schott.

One of the first stretches of road on your journey is learning jazz piano chord progressions.

The two, five, one, and six (ii-V-I-vi) chord progression, is one of the most famous and useful. An example is:

D minor-G major-C major-A minor

Here’s a video of how to play it:

The one, six, two, five, and one (I-VI-II-V-I) chord progression is another that could be tried with an improvised melody in the right hand. An example of the progression is:

C major-A minor-D minor-G major-C major

Here’s a video of how to play it:

Next, take a look at the chord chart below. It shows which keys to play together to create each chord. It’s fun to mix and match to make sounds that appeal to you.

chord chart

The second stretch of road is paved with learning jazz scales. Here’s a picture of several blues scales:

Blues Scale

As with the learning of any genre, listening is so utterly important. This is especially true for those of us who are adopting a new style. The best jazz musicians in the world listen to jazz all of the time. Think of yourself as a hungry traveler and that music is your sole nourishment. You won’t get very far without it.

HeatherLHeather L. teaches singing, piano, acting, and more in St. Augustine, FL, as well as through online lessons. She is a graduate of the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, and has performed with the New York and Royal Philharmonics, the New Jersey and Virginia Symphonies, the American Boy Choir, and the internationally renowned opera star Andrea Bocelli. Learn more about Heather here!

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Exploring Jazz: Improvisation Tips for Beginners


Whether you play saxophone, piano, bass, or another instrument, jazz can be a really fun genre to explore! To get started, check out these jazz improvisation tips from Brookings, SD teacher Carl S… 


One of my favorite things about making music is jazz improvisation. Jazz style is a lot of fun, but adding improvisation to that is essential. I, like many of my students, was afraid to improvise at first. Here are some helpful jazz improvisation tips for starting out.

Before Step One

Before anything else, be honest with yourself and identify what level you’re at. If you’re a true beginner, the worst thing that you can do is try to instantly memorize what all of the chord symbols mean. Yes, they are important, but this is not step one. Even if you’re just starting out with your instrument, you can begin by training your ear.

Step One

The first thing I have a student do is jam out on one note. I set up a play-along track, or even just a metronome, and then I play a measure of some rhythmic idea. Then, I have the student copy me. We repeat this several times, paying extra attention to style and articulation. Then, I expand to playing three note, then five, etc. All students can do this, and it is easy to customize to their needs.

Remember to Have Fun!

How do you get better between lessons? When I was in middle school, one of my favorite things to do was play along with the radio. I’d play mainstream radio melodies on the saxophone, not even realizing how important this was to my future as a musician. I was training my ear and having fun doing it!

Start with Simple Music Theory

Once you can do this, it’s probably time to start checking out some chord symbols. A lot of people start with the blues progression, but that’s a lot of fast changing chords for a beginner. I prefer to start with a slower paced AABA form, such as a tune like “Impressions” or “So What”. Learning two scales and having plenty of time to clearly hear the harmony changing makes this transition much easier.

The Blues

Now’s the time to try the blues. Many band directors will teach you the “blues scale” at this point. While this is a quick fix for band directors to get students to play something for a concert, it is not really considered playing the changes of a blues form. I suggest looking at Jamie Aebersold’s Play-Along Volume 54 “Maiden Voyage”. These books and many other great resources are available at This series of play-along books is very well known to jazzers, and there are well over 100 volumes made for all instruments. Check out the third tune called “Bb Blues”.

More Difficult Chord Progressions

From here, chord progressions get more difficult. The Aebersold books can be very helpful, since they spell out the scale for each chord symbol. At this point, it is very easy to develop a habit of only improvising while staring at the page. Don’t forget to use your ear!

Learning Tunes

The Real Book Volume I (6th Edition) is available at as well as many other places, including iBooks. This is a book with hundreds of standard jazz tunes, and there are several volumes and categories. The tempting thing to do is to learn these tunes by reading, however, it is better to learn them by ear. To do this, start by picking an easy tune that’s in the book, find it on YouTube being performed by the original artist/composer, and go from there.

Additional Resources

Aebersold has created play-alongs for these books, but there is a cheaper and more customizable option. I use an app called iReal Pro, which is inexpensive and always with me on my phone. First, download the app, then add the content, which includes over 1,000 songs. From here, you can transpose, add dozens of repeats for practice, change tempos, etc.

This is a lot of information, but if you first identify what level you’re at and keep these jazz improvisation tips in mind, you’ll be gigging like a pro in no time!

CarlSCarl S. teaches saxophone, music theory, piano, and more in Brookings, SD. He completed his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in saxophone performance at the University of Kansas in 2014, and his Master of Music Pedagogy and Performance from Oklahoma State University in 2011. Learn more about Carl here! 



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The San Francisco Jazz Scene: Venues, Festivals, and More

San Francisco Jazz Music ScenceNo doubt about it, San Francisco loves jazz! The City by the Bay is home to one of the most thriving jazz scenes in the country. With numerous radio stations playing everything from big band to post bop to the latest smooth jazz, an almost year-round slate of jazz concerts and festivals, and some of the best listening rooms in the world, jazz in San Francisco is not only surviving, it’s thriving!

Bay Area Jazz Radio

The San Francisco Bay Area has many jazz radio stations broadcasting everything from Big Band to smooth jazz. Many colleges in the area also feature jazz radio shows playing both the masters and the latest local and national up-and-coming talent. Here are some to check out:

  • KCEA 89.1 FM – The love of jazz in San Francisco starts early at this high school-run jazz station! KCEA is broadcast from Menlo-Atherton High School and features Classic Big Band jazz from the 1930s and 40s.
  • Radio Sausalito 1610 AM – Even the AM side of the dial features jazz in San Francisco; Radio Sausalito plays “Foot Stompin’ Jazz” 24/7!
  • KCSM Jazz 91.1 – A listener-supported radio station, Jazz 91 features the best in local, national, and classic jazz, along with specialty shows.
  • KISQ Smooth Jazz 98.1 FM – If you prefer contemporary jazz, KISQ is the station for you!

Jazz Concerts Around the Bay

San Francisco boasts a number of concert halls and alternative venues that host amazing performances year-round. Here are a few of the best to check out:

  • Sonoma-Cutrer Vinyards – This vineyard is home to the Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards Jazzy Summer Nights, a series of Saturday evening concerts featuring the best local talent along with national and international jazz stars.
  • SF JAZZ Center – The SF JAZZ Center is the first concert hall of its type in the United States: a freestanding performance venue featuring flexible seating and staging. Built specifically for jazz music, it brings jazz artists from around the world for concerts and residencies year-round.
  • BCA/Rafiki Wellness Center – Home to a yearly Jazz & Blues Concert Series, an annual event featuring the best local talent San Francisco has to offer!
  • Old First Presbyterian Church – This venue is the home of the Old First Concert Series, which features a mix of jazz and classical performances throughout the summer. It’s a great place to catch a show!

Jazz Festivals

San Francisco hosts a large number of music festivals, many of which feature jazz performances, as well as several festivals dedicated solely to jazz.  Here are two of the most popular:

  • San Francisco Jazz Festival – The LA Times calls this the preeminent event of its kind in the United States – it’s a pretty big deal! Featuring over 40 performances over the course of 12 days, the San Francisco Jazz Festival brings artists from around the world to perform.
  • Fillmore Jazz Festival – Every summer more than 100,000 enthusiastic fans descend on San Francisco for the Fillmore Jazz Festival, which celebrates a prosperous tradition of jazz, culture, and cuisine against the picturesque backdrop of Fillmore Street.

Jazz Clubs In and Around San Francisco

Jazz in San Francisco can be found almost everywhere, with so many restaurants, bars, lounges, and hotels hosting live jazz on a regular (or semi-regular) basis in San Francisco and the surrounding area. Here are some of our favorites to check out:

  • Club Deluxe – Located on historic Haight Street, this intimate space offers amazing music most nights and weekend afternoons.
  • The Jazzschool – This Berkeley-based school is devoted to teaching the art of jazz, and also offers fantastic jazz concerts on a regular basis. It’s a great spot to hear the masters alongside the best up-and-coming musicians!
  • The Sound Room – Located across the bridge in Oakland, the Sound Room is home to Bay Area Jazz and Arts, a non-profit dedicated to fostering music appreciation through intimate performances. The Sound Room is a great place to get up-close and personal with the musicians every Friday and Saturday night.
  • Yoshi’s – With two locations in San Francisco and Oakland, Yoshi’s hosts the best of the genre. You can’t go wrong catching a show here!

This is just a small sample of jazz in San Francisco. No matter what style of jazz you’re into, you’re sure to find it in this amazing city!

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4 Tips for Learning Jazz Piano Chords

5858866114_719df8d4e8_bReady to spice up your piano practice? Learning jazz piano chords is a great way to explore new genres and styles on the keys. Here, Tulsa, OK teacher Chris F. shares a few tips to get started…


Jazz piano can be a fun but difficult thing to learn. The trick to becoming a great jazz pianist is mastering jazz piano chords. Here are four tips to get you playing jazz chords with ease:

1. Know your theory: In order to even think about jazz piano, your music theory has to be strong:

  • Practice playing major seventh, dominant seventh, minor seventh, half and fully diminished seventh chords in root position across the keyboard.
  • Practice major ii V I chord progressions (ii minor 7th, V dominant 7th, and I major 7th) and minor ii V i chord progressions (ii half diminished, V dominant 7th, and i minor 7th) in all 12 keys.
  • Be aware of all the possible chord symbols: Major 7ths (Cmaj7, C△, CM7), Minor 7ths (Cmin7, C-7, Cm7), and half-diminished 7ths (Cmin7♭5, C∅). Luckily, dominant 7ths and fully diminished 7ths only are notated one way (G7 and G° respectively).

2. Know your voicings: The root position chords above are great to familiarize yourself with the notes, but don’t smoothly connect the harmonies.

In C:
Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 12.07.17 AM.png

To make these chord progressions smoother, move the least distance to the next chord.

Screen Shot 2014-08-23 at 11.59.27 PM.png

Often with smooth voice leading, 7ths in one chord resolve to the 3rd of the next chord. There are many unique sounding jazz voicings to experiment with. Use your ear to be the judge. To experiment, here are some possible voicings to try out with both major and minor ii-V-I progressions.

Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 12.38.33 AM.png Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 12.43.28 AM.png

3. Know your extensions: Chordal extensions are harmonies added to 7th chords that add texture, color, and a characteristic jazz sound. In fact, 7th chords are rarely played plain, but with one or more of these added notes.

As a general rule:

  • Major 7ths, minor 7ths, and dominant 7ths often come with added 6ths and/or 9ths. A 9th is just a 2nd an octave up. The 7th is almost always included in any chord, regardless of what extension is being added. When a 6th is added to a dominant chord, it’s always added above the 7th, creating a “13th” interval. Thus, a 13 chord is a dominant 7th with a sixth added above the 7th (see below). Also note that a plain 9 chord indicates a dominant 7th with a 9th added.

Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 12.14.52 PM.pngScreen Shot 2014-08-24 at 12.21.53 PM.png

  • Dominant chords (plain 7th chords that often function as the V in a ii  V  I chord progression) sound great with many different extensions. In fact, the 5ths and 9ths of dominant chords can be raised or lowered, leading to many unique harmonic possibilities, including 7♭9, 7#9, 7♭5, 7#5, 7♭9#5, 7♭9♭5, 7#9♭5, and 7#9#5.

Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 12.35.58 PM.png

  • Often, in jazz lead sheets and chord progressions, the dominant extensions above aren’t specified, but can be added to taste.  This goes for the 6ths and 9ths in major and minor 7th chords. There are almost always extensions added to 7th chords. Many times the 5th is excluded from the voicing, especially if extensions are added. If it sounds appropriate in the progression and leads smoothly to the next chord, it’s probably a great choice.

4. Know how to practice: The easiest way to become familiar with these jazz piano chords is to practice ii-V-I progressions in every key.  Another great resource is playing pre-written arrangements found in books such as Piano Stylings of the Great Standards (Vol. 1-6) by Edward Shanaphy or The Jazz Piano Book by Mark Levine. These books provide you with many great voicings that are clearly labeled.  And of course, having a quality hard copy or digital “fake book” full of jazz standards, such as The Real Book by Hal Leonard, is a must for practicing your jazz voicings. Happy practicing!

ChrisFChris F. teaches guitar, piano, music theory, and more in Tulsa, OK. He has been active in collegiate percussion ensembles, marching and concert bands, various choirs, chamber music groups, jazz combos, an award winning jazz big band, bluegrass combos, drum and bugle corps, and private lessons on several instruments, as both a section leader and as a teacher. Learn more about Chris here! 

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Essential Scales for Jazz and Blues Piano Players


Curious about playing jazz or blues on the piano? Learn about some of the essential scales to learn in this guest post by Augustine, FL piano teacher Heather L...


Jazz music has been called the only truly American art form, born and raised on this very soil. A combination of the historical music forms of both African and Caribbean slaves and European immigrants, it may be the only way in which the “melting pot” objective was ever successful. To listen to jazz is to listen to America. For pianists, it can be a challenging and illusive genre. Many classically trained piano players never even attempt to learn it, while some would love to try, but just don’t know how. There are essential scales that jazz and blues players should know.

While jazz and blues (considered a sub-genre of jazz) may sometimes sound complex, it’s built very simply from the bottom up, so to speak. Major and minor scales and chords are most certainly used, but some things must be different in order for it not to sound like anything else. Here’s a list of essential scales for jazz and blues piano players. When you read “played over ______ chords,” it simply means to play the scales indicated in either hand while playing a chord in the other. Try different combinations, like playing a chord in the right hand, while playing a scale in the left.

The following scales are best played over major chords.

G blues scale
G Bb C Db D F G

C blues scale
C Eb F Gb G Bb C

Lydian mode scale
C D E F# G A B C

Mixolydian mode scale
C D E F G A Bb C

The following scales are best played over minor chords.

Aeolian mode scale
C D Eb F G Ab Bb A

Dorian mode scale
C D Eb F G A Bb C

The following scales are just fun!

Dominant Bebop Scale
C E G B C B Bb A G (then descend) F E D C

Major Bebop Scale
C E G B C B A Ab G (then descend) F E D C

Lydian Dominant Scale
C E G Bb C (then descend) Bb A G F# E D C

Get creative. The real idea here is not just to play the scales ascending and descending, but to improvise using the notes of the scales. The more that you practice these essential scales for jazz and blues piano players, the more comfortable that you’ll feel playing them and the more sounds that you’ll create. I’ve met plenty of people who’ve told me that they “can’t” improvise or play jazz, and while I know that some people have natural gifts, I also know that the best work hard. Oh, and have fun, too!

HeatherLHeather L. teaches singing, piano, acting, and more in Saint Augustine, FL, as well as through online lessons. She is a graduate of the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, and has performed with the New York and Royal Philharmonics, the New Jersey and Virginia Symphonies, the American Boy Choir, and the internationally renowned opera star Andrea Bocelli. Learn more about Heather here!


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How to Sing Jazz Like a Pro in Five Steps

6953888302_7fc42fb428_b Interested in learning how to sing jazz? Here, Ann Arbor, MI singing teacher Elaina R. shares how to get started…


Jazz is the cool cat of the music world. She sits in the back of the room wearing sunglasses and red lipstick. She doesn’t sing, she croons – soft and sonorous, drawing the ear in. It’s no wonder so many people want to learn how to sing jazz! At its most basic form, jazz singing is just like any other kind of singing. All singers carry their instruments inside of their bodies. Their lungs provide fuel, their upper face controls resonance, and the rest of the body has to stay relaxed. Learning how to sing jazz well won’t just impress your friends at karaoke night; it will make you better at singing in general.

1. Choose the Right Song

The first step to singing jazz well is choosing a song that you can sing well. Study your own voice, paying attention to your comfortable vocal range. Try singing along to different jazz songs. Can you comfortably reach all of the low and high notes? Does the tempo seem too fast? Consider singing a piece in a different key if necessary.

2. Remember to Breathe

If a singer were a car, breath would be gasoline. The better you get at breathing like a singer, the longer you will be able to sing without taking a breath. To breathe like a singer, stand up straight but not stiff. Place your hands on your ribcage (above your waist) so that your four fingers are on the front of your ribcage and your thumbs are on the back. Take in a slow breath, trying to feel your ribcage expanding outward in every direction. This is how you should breathe when you sing.

3. Speak Easy

Much of jazz singing occurs on the same pitches we use when we speak. Thinking of singing as projected singing makes it much easier. Using your “singer breath,” practice projecting words and phrases from a song as normal speech. Now, add the notes back in, maintaining the speech-like quality. Use a mirror to make sure your body and face stay relaxed as you sing.

4. Lift That Palate

The soft palate is the squishy muscle right behind your hard palate in your mouth. This muscle moves up and down to seal your nasal tract off from the rest of your mouth and throat. Singers use the soft palate to keep air from escaping from the nose during singing, since singing out of the nose produces a nasal sound quality. To lift your soft palate, pretend you smell something awful but have shopping bags in both of your hands. Practice “plugging” your nose this way without actually touching it. Test whether your soft palate is up by singing a note, raising the palate, and plugging and unplugging your nose with your fingers. If the sound quality changes, your soft palate isn’t all the way up.

5. Exercise Your Weaknesses

As you practice jazz songs, you might notice that some parts are harder than others. Study the parts that are hardest. Why are they hard? Are there fast-moving notes? Is there a large leap? Try practicing these parts slowly, taking the words out and using a single vowel (such as ‘E’ or ‘Ah’). Find vocal exercises that address that particular issue, and work them into your warm-up routine.

All That Jazz

With the right songs and some practice, you can quickly learn how to sing jazz well. Use your new skills to blow people’s minds at open mic night, or just to have fun while you sing along to Ella Fitzgerald in the car. No matter where you take your jazzy abilities, remember the number one rule for singing: have fun!


Elaina R. teaches opera voice and singing in Ann Arbor, MI, as well as through online lessons. She is currently working on a Master of Music at the University of Michigan, and she has a B.M. from the University of Southern California. Learn more about Elaina here! 



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Exploring the Scene: How to Find Jazz Concerts in Los Angeles

Jazz Concerts In Los AngelesJazz has always been considered one of America’s leading contribution to the world of music. As an art form, jazz is constantly evolving as new artists introduce new musical influences and styles to the genre.

Los Angeles is a hotbed of amazingly talented jazz musicians. As the center of the entertainment industry, Los Angeles boasts a great jazz scene with lots of clubs, concerts, and festivals available to help you get your jazz on!

Jazz on the Radio

Kjazz is a public radio station that broadcasts from California State University, Long Beach.  Offering listeners the entire spectrum of jazz, KKJZ plays everything from bebop to cool jazz, Latin to straight-ahead, and swing to big band styles. This is the station to hear the masters, including Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, and John Coltrane, as well as the hottest up-and-coming artists like Grace Kelly, Doug Webb, and Brad Mehldau.

Jazz Concerts in Los Angeles

Los Angeles features some of the finest concert halls in the country. Most host jazz concert series throughout the year.

For more than 20 years, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art has hosted jazz concerts in Los Angeles at the Jazz at LACMA series. The series runs from April through November and has featured LA’s finest local jazz musicians along with legends like Wayne Shorter, Kenny Burrell, Les McCann, and Ernie Watts.

A great venue for listening to music, the Broad Stage boasts impeccable acoustics and seats so comfortable, you’ll be hoping for an encore or two! While the jazz series is a bit sparse, you can definitely find some talented jazz musicians.

Designed by architect Frank Gehry, the Walt Disney Concert Hall is an amazing venue to catch a concert. Home of the LA Philharmonic, the Hall also hosts an annual jazz series led by Herbie Hancock. There’s not a bad seat in the house for watching these high-profile jazz acts!

Nothing beats spending a beautiful summer evening under the stars with a picnic and live jazz. Another venue curated by Herbie Hancock, iconic performers come from around the world to play at this amazing venue. The season kicks off with the famous weekend-long Playboy Jazz Festival (more on that later!)

Jazz Festivals in Los Angeles

Along with ongoing jazz concerts in Los Angeles, the city hosts some of the most dynamic jazz festivals in the country.

2014 marks the 36th year of the world famous Playboy Jazz Festival. The two-day festival held at the Hollywood Bowl has featured some of the jazz world’s most luminary figures in years past. 2014 is no exception, with performances scheduled by Al Jarreau, Stanley Clarke, Dianne Reeves, Dave Holland, and the Arturo Sandoval Big Band.

West Coast jazz was born on Central Avenue and this festival is a celebration of community and music. This year marks the 19th annual festival and will feature performances by some of LA’s top up-and-coming artists.

Jazz Clubs in Los Angeles

Los Angeles boasts one of the most dynamic jazz club scenes anywhere! From intimate supper clubs to world-class jazz clubs, LA has something for everyone.

This club was designed by trumpeter, producer, composer, and jazz executive Herb Alpert. It’s a classy joint with great acoustics and live jazz six nights a week.

This intimate Hollywood club is one of the priciest venues in the city, but it’s certainly worth it, as it features an impressive lineup of touring jazz greats and local emerging artists.

Located in an unassuming concrete mall in LA’s Little Tokyo, the Blue Whale is one of the top jazz clubs in LA. This club is both romantic and vivacious, and has its finger on the pulse of the LA jazz scene. CD release nights are common here and the weekly jam nights offer listeners a chance to catch the newest up-and-coming musicians in the city.

Whether you’re searching for jazz concerts in Los Angeles, or an intimate club where you can discover the newest rising stars, the Los Angeles offers tons of opportunities for music lovers. Happy listening!


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The San Diego Jazz Scene: Venues, Festivals, and More

San Diego Jazz SceneConsidered America’s classical music, jazz is a living art form, ever-changing and ever-growing. From Duke Ellington to Miles Davis, ragtime, swing, bop, and progressive jazz, the San Diego jazz scene offers an expressive, enriching experience for all ages.

New to San Diego jazz? Check it out on a local radio station:

  • Jazz 88.3 FM

KSDS Jazz 88.3 is a non-commercial, non-profit station that presents, preserves, and promotes the uniquely American art form of jazz through programming, events, and education. Its website offers a great calendar of upcoming San Diego jazz events!

  • Smooth Jazz 98.1 FM

KIFM plays adult contemporary music from pop to jazz and easy listening.

  • 89.5 KPBS Radio

National Public Radio (NPR) offers music from jazz artists performed on stages around the world during JazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater. Stream it live from NPR Music.

  • 102.1 KPRi

This local, independent station broadcasts two hours of contemporary jazz every Sunday at 7 p.m. during its Lites-Out with Kelly Cole segment.

Attend a San Diego jazz festival:

November 26th through 30th, 2014, the Town & Country Hotel and Convention Center will host the “crown jewel of jazz festivals,” offering a wide variety of traditional jazz, dixieland, ragtime, swing, and rockabilly styles.

Memorial Day weekend, May 24th through 25th of 2014, the Payne Pest Management San Diego Jazz Festival will feature Jill Scott, Maxwell, Brian Culbertson, Jonathan Butler, Boney James, Ledisi, Leela James, and many more at La Costa Resort & Spa.

On Friday, April 4th, the MiraCosta College hosts the 8th annual Oceanside Jazz Festival, featuring 50 performing groups from schools around the U.S.

Learn to dance to San Diego jazz:

Jazz music can be sharp or smooth, quick or slow, subtle or strong. It incorporates techniques used in modern dance and ballet, training the body to isolate moving a single part while others remain still. It’s a great way to fit in a good workout, while enjoying jazz music at the same time!

The Civic Arts Program offers San Diego jazz dance classes at affordable prices for children and adults at 25 city recreation centers.

The San Diego Academy for performing arts offers beginner jazz dance classes for adults and children.

The California Ballet School also offers jazz dance classes for adults and children.

Looking for a more one-on-one approach? Search for a private dance teacher near you and book lessons with TakeLessons, offering many options for scheduling, pricing, location, and dance genres.

Just can’t get enough jazz? San Diego offers many jazz venues:

La Jolla’s Athenaeum Music & Arts Library presents concerts showcasing the rich and varied artistry of jazz at 1008 Wall St, La Jolla, CA 92037.

Music on Fridays and Saturdays each month features local San Diego jazz artists; you can find the monthly schedule posted online. The café is located at 8278 La Mesa Blvd, La Mesa, CA 91942.

Croce’s showcases jazz and other styles four nights a week in their Ex-Patriate room, plus a Sunday jazz brunch at 2760 5th Ave, San Diego, CA 92103.

Sunday afternoons at 1 p.m. the café offers performances by up-and-comers at 128 E St, Encinitas, CA 92024.

Enjoy San Diego jazz on Saturdays at Harry’s (4370 La Jolla Village Drive, #150, San Diego, CA 92122). Call ahead for reservations and featured artists.

Ki’s offers a Friday night concert series from 8:30-10:30 p.m. featuring a variety of jazz artists that can be enjoyed free with dinner or with a paid cover. Check out their website for upcoming artists. Located at 2591 SCH 101, Cardiff, CA 92007.

  • La Jolla Community Center

La Jolla Community Center’s Fourth Fridays Jazz Series is back once again. Doors open at 7 p.m., with shows at 8 p.m.. Visit their website for upcoming events. Located at 6811 La Jolla Blvd, La Jolla, CA 92037.

MA4’s main stage offers ticketed concerts featuring various artists from across the country, often including jazz artists. Check out upcoming shows and purchase tickets on their website. Located at 3940 4th Ave, San Diego, CA 92103.

98 Bottles offers a fantastic calendar of San Diego jazz music. Check out the website for upcoming acts. Located at 2400 Kettner Ave, #110, Little Italy, CA 92101.

The Oceanside Museum of Art series features jazz artists in an open-air cocktail format with gourmet appetizers, desserts, and specialty wines at 704 Pier View Way, Oceanside, CA 92054.

Check out the Scripps Research Institute website for information on their jazz concert series held at 10640 John J. Hopkins Drive, La Jolla, CA 92037.

Sycamore Den offers free live music, hosting bands Thursdays at 9 p.m. and Sundays at 8 p.m. at 3391 Adams Ave, Normal Heights, CA 92116.

On the 2nd and 4th Friday of each month from 7-9:15 p.m., 4-5-piece bands and music ensembles perform jazz and contemporary music as part of a complimentary performing arts program from the San Diego International Airport Art Program, located at 3225 N Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA 92101.

This Pacific Beach bar offers live music seven days a week at 873 Turquoise St, San Diego, CA 92109. Go happy, because they “reserve the right to refuse service to grumpy people in a hurry.”

Whatever your level or interest in jazz, there are so many opportunities to enrich and enliven your world with the San Diego jazz. Have fun!

Photo by woodleywonderworks


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Getting Started With Jazz Piano Techniques

jazz piano Bored with Brahms? For some pianists, Mozart might not be enough. If you find yourself tapping your toes to artists like Ray Charles and Herbie Hancock, you might want to talk to your piano teacher about adding in some jazz piano techniques to your lessons.

Here are some great tips for getting started:

(1) Start listening – to everything and anything jazz.
Listen to jazz greats. Go to jazz gigs. Immerse yourself in the genre, no matter if there is piano involved or not. Jazz singers, jazz flautists, jazz drummers… you get the point.  Check out Art Tatum, Thelonius Monk, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis and Louis Armstrong. By doing this, you’ll get a feel for typical patterns, rhythms, style and more even before you sit down at the piano bench.

(2) Know your basics.
Whether you’re playing classical, jazz or another style, technical basics are essential to understand.  Although there are some musicians who can simply rely on their ears, it’s much better to have the groundwork set as you begin improvising and grooving. This means recognizing pitch, memorizing chords and understanding inversions and progressions, to begin with.

(3) Find the right teacher.
An instructor who is used to classical training might not be the best fit for learning jazz techniques. If you’re sure jazz is the route you want to take, find a teacher who is comfortable with the style and can really guide you to success.  (Need help finding a teacher? Search for piano lessons near you with TakeLessons!)

(4) Experiment and explore.
The whole point of jazz is being able to experiment, all while staying within certain musical guidelines (e.g. the key of the song). But how else will you learn unless you try? Try listening to a jazz beat, and then just start playing whatever feels right. With jazz, there may be guidelines, but there definitely aren’t any rules! The more you learn to trust yourself, the easier jazz piano techniques will become.

Readers, what other tips would you give to beginners learning jazz piano? Leave a comment below, or stop by our Facebook page to discuss!

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Photo by Bengt Nyman.

3 Things to Master Before Learning Jazz Drumming

Jazz DrummingImagine you’re traveling to a foreign country, and you decide to learn the language.  You would probably start with simple words or phrases – “Hello, my name is…” or “Where is the subway?”. With the basics, and maybe a reference guide at your side, you’d probably get along just fine.

But for those of you who have mastered a second language, think about how much easier it got once you delved a little deeper: grammar rules, formal vs. informal language, even the evolution of the culture and how the language developed over time.  With a true understanding, you might go from being a simple tourist to being mistaken for a local.

Similarly, a beginner musician attempting jazz drumming beats may be able to learn quickly, but it’s when you learn the underlying history and application that the knowledge really sets in.  So what should you study to really solidify your skills?  Steve Houghton, renowned jazz drummer, shared his tips in this great article found at

Here’s an excerpt from the article, explaining a few of the areas to focus on:

Rhythm Section Awareness
It is important for the jazz drummer to be aware of the entire rhythm section and their individual roles, as jazz music is not a “one man show.”  For example, the more aware a drummer is of the bass player’s role, the more successful the performance. Outstanding music can be made when the drummer and bass player are on the same page musically.

Tune Knowledge
The true indication of a serious jazz musician rests with tune knowledge; that is, a broad, in-depth understanding of all “standard” jazz tunes as well as the newer tunes of the day. The more a drummer knows about a tune’s form, melody, and even harmony, the more effective the performance.

Practical Application
This is an important part of the process because it provides an opportunity to put your ideas and concepts to the test. Unfortunately, many students learning to play jazz are limited to practice room study, accompanied only by play-alongs or CDs. Jazz is an improvisational art form, where skills are honed by interacting with other musicians; reacting to soloists, comping patterns, bass lines, time feels, song forms, developing long–lasting musical skills that can only be found in live performance.

Most of all, Houghton stresses, jazz drumming (and other styles) can’t be learned solely in the practice room.  You’ll learn Spanish a lot quicker if you immerse yourself in a Spanish-speaking country, and you’ll learn a lot more about drumming styles if you go to performances, listen to accomplished musicians, and notice the patterns and techniques out in the “real world.”  Learn as much as you can, as pretty soon you can call yourself a pro!

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Photo by Utnapishtim.