How do you play Jazz?

Here is a list of what I have found over four decades of performing, to be the most essential Jazz Guitar Skill Sets:

  • Ensemble skills - communicate and listen to the other members of the ensemble
  • Play a solid accompaniment
  • Play a convincing melody on the instrument with a full and singing tone
  • Embellish that melody with appropriate ornaments
  • Harmonise the melody with single notes
  • Harmonise the melody in an appropriate style with triads
  • Harmonise the melody in an appropriate style with seventh chords
  • Play a bass line in an appropriate style
  • Construct a counter-melody in appropriate style which relates to the original melody

Peter Inglis Jazz Quartet in performance at the Art Gallery of N.S.W.
Peter Inglis Jazz Quartet in performance at the Art Gallery of N.S.W.

You might notice I haven't mentioned scales and modes at all yet. Strangely though, scales and modes seem to make up a lot of jazz educational material available at retail. I guess those books are easy to write, and obviously they sell well.

There is a good reason I haven't listed them as for this Essential Jazz Guitar Skill Sets: Scales and modes do not make music!

Scales and modes do not make music!

Yes! A this statement may seem a surprising contradiction to the message given to the consumer by thousands of "Play jazz quick" publications.

Playing jazz successfully to an audience cannot be reduced to a simple group of formulae. It is in fact a very sophisticated undertaking, drawing on a wide range of performing skills.

Ike Isaacs and Peter Inglis recording Ian Cooper's "Soundpost" CD.