Harpists have been asking me to teach jazz harp for years. But every time I took students, I realized they were missing some fundamentals about music.[FREE Jazzy Stuff & other useful Links at the bottom of the page!]
For me, jazz is built on those fundamentals, so without them, teaching jazz is like trying to teach cooking to someone without having any ingredients or utensils.
When I started building my online school for harp players in 2012, I focused on filling in those fundamentals: basic arrangement structure, musical roles, harmony, rhythm, blues and improv on simple progressions.
I created each one of my online courses as a pre-jazz fundamentals course: jazz fundamentals without the jazziness.
The fact is, you can make any music sound jazZY by using idiomatic jazz rhythms and extending the harmonies – and my piece “New Blues” is a perfect example of written out jazzy music – music that sounds improvisational, but that can be read from the page – and it’s one of my biggest selling sheet-music titles, because of that.
The fun, for me, is when music really becomes jazz – when you can play with it in the moment, when you can improvise spontaneously, when you can spontaneously play with others.
So that gets to the question of “What is Jazz.”
For me JAZZ is all about improvisation based on a predictable musical structure –like a language. The more you play, the more you get to play with that predictability and the more you can communicate and express.
Like with any language, the fun, the beauty, the expressiveness, the communication, the connection – comes when you have enough fluency to actually have a conversation – where you can both speak and listen, so that you’re not constantly looking up words or monitoring whether what you’re saying is ‘correct’ or not, you’re not constantly trying to figure out and keep up with what the other person is saying.
The fun starts when you can both move along together IN THE SAME CONVERSATION and follow it to places you never expected it to go.
That’s the whole point of learning to play jazz, for me: that you can jump onto it and ride it to places you never expected, that each time you play a piece, it’s a chance to go someplace else.
So … that brings me to this very moment, 3 years down the road from starting to create my online courses. I’ve finally created the basic pre-jazz curriculum and hundreds of harp players all over the world have taken some or all of those courses now.
In less than a week, my studio will be resounding with 3 advanced harp players, here for an extended jazz-harp instensive.
Two of the students, Shelley Fairplay and Nicole Mueller, both from Europe, are in my yearlong “Harness Your Muse” mastermind and they’ve been through all my online courses. The third, Rebecca Mortitsky, is a soloist from Colorado who I met when she performed my concerto “Soñando en Español” in 2014.
Here’s the moment I felt like I’d really made headway: Rebecca signed up for the masterclasses, I said, “Great. And here’s the prerequisite: You need to go through ‘Hip Harp Toolkit’ and ‘Hands on Harmony’ before you get here. I’ll link you to the classroom.”
After I said that I heaved a sigh of relief. Finally … we’ll be able to start the conversation with a basic vocabulary to begin with.
I’ll be videotaping many of these masterclasses for the other musicians in my “Harness Your Muse” mastermind. If you’re interested in the possibility of purchasing access to some or all of these click here and let me know.
[Some the content from this post was re-used in another post: Free Jazzy Harp Stuff]
FREE JAZZY STUFF!
Your KEY to Jazz Harp Standards!
I had NO idea what KEY to play jazz standards in when I first started playing them on the harp, and how I finally created my own chart so other harpists could learn from my utter confusion! It’s a one-page chart that outlines everything I wish I’d known when I started playing jazz on the harp: a list of standard tunes, their standard keys, their standard styles (Latin, Swing, Waltz), and their difficulty to play level.
Psych Out Jazz Chords – Harp Playsheet!
I created this little 6-page PDF as a gift for harp players in one of my courses. It’s all about how to psych out jazz chord symbols. This is the guide I WISH I’d had when I started learning jazz and harmony – especially on the harp. And sure you can download it even if you don’t play the harp – it’s a fun way to learn about harmony from a harpist’s vantage point. DOWNLOAD NOW!
- Hands on Harmony is available by replay now and “Play with Passion” will begin soon. To get on the “First to Know” list for courses HERE.
- CDbaby: Purchase Deborah Henson-Conant jazz CDs like: Round the Corner & Just for You.
- Download Gallery: Download DHC sheet music & audio HERE!
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