Jazz Composition

Course Progression

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Live Sessions Begin: 

Tuesday, February 16th at 7:00pm EST

This composition course is designed to accommodate students at the intermediate/advanced level of jazz performance on any instrument — no composition experience is required. In this class, students will produce four original compositions in lead sheet format. We will draw inspiration from some of the quintessential pieces that form the repertoire of jazz performers. During the class meetings, I will play on piano and give feedback on the student compositions. Please note, jazz composition is NOT jazz arranging, though there will be opportunities to address some aspect of arranging.

The four styles of composition you will create are:

  • Song form – AABA or ABAC type of songs typical of the Great American Songbook that take advantage of jazz functional harmonic structures
  • Modal – typical of modern jazz compositions from composers like Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock
  • Blues – this could be a basic 12 bar blues or a distant relation to blues
  • Open choice – for the last piece the sky is the limit; you could revisit previous assignments, or odd-meter or uneven phrase lengths, free jazz, South American influence, through-composed; etc.

Requirements for this class:

  • Understanding of chord symbols and their general relation to the scales from which they are derived. Of course, we will be reviewing and discussing the relevant theory to the particular assignment.
  • Access to and comfort with music notation software or the ability to create lead sheets by hand. I am an expert in Sibelius but no other software so we will be looking at PDF’s.
  • Desire to explore jazz composition and willingness to make mistakes!

Type of Class:

  • Live Zoom meetings with comments and discussion.
  • All classes will be recorded and archived for those who could not participate live and for those wishing to review.

Target audience:

  • Open to intermediate/advanced jazz performers
  • Open to all some familiarity with keyboard is very helpful
  • Limited to 25 participants for the live classes.

Course Length:

  • 8 weekly 75 minute sessions.
    • Lesson 1 – Song Form. Chord Symbol and Scale Review.
    • Lesson 2 – Discussion of student compositions.
    • Lesson 3 – Modal Composition. Modes of Major and Melodic Minor.
    • Lesson 4 – Discussion of student compositions.
    • Lesson 5 – Blues. Exploration and Analysis of wide variety of blues components.
    • Lesson 6 – Discussion of student compositions.
    • Lesson 7 – Other compositional techniques in the jazz idiom and review.
    • Lesson 8 – Discussion of student compositions.

Students will have the option of receiving feedback on:

  • Their compositions
  • I will perform their compositions in class on the piano

You will receive:

  • PDF handouts and links for lead sheets of classic composition
  • Links to YouTube for recommended recorded versions