[Some of the info in this post I’ve shared before so don’t be surprised if it looks familiar!]
Harpists have asked me to teach jazz harp for years. But every time I took students, I realized they were missing some fundamentals about music. That’s why I created the “Hands on Harmony” mini-course, a HARMONY FOUNDATION from a Harpist’s perspective.
*FREE Jazzy Harp Stuff & other useful Links at bottom of 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.
Hands On Harmony is where it all begins, it makes all the other courses I teach so much more fun and enriching for you.
The fact is, you can make any music sound jazZY by using idiomatic jazz rhythms and extending the harmonies. 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.
FREE JAZZY STUFF!
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.
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.
- Hip Harp Academy: Hands on Harmony retreat!
If you play the harp ... Join DHC's Hip Harp Academy
Deborah Henson-Conant's "Hip Harp Academy" online learning community is open for self-paced learning yearlong. DHC personal guides each class in the Academy once a year. Access to each guided class is limited to students who register before the 2nd week of class. Registration for the Fall Guided course, "HIp Harp TOOLKIT" is currently closed.
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