Learning Jazz 1: The first 6 months

This is the first update in a series I have called "Learning Jazz" where I am documenting the process of learning Jazz and developing into a confident Jazz guitarist.

New to Jazz

While I am new to Jazz I am not that new to the guitar. I first started playing around the age of 4 years old with the classical guitar in school. I have some fond memories of playing guitar as a child and I'm still not quite sure why I gave it up. Nonetheless I took a break from the guitar until I was about 12 when I asked my parents if I could learn the electric guitar.

I took lessons for the next 6 years until I started my degree and moved to Newcastle which is in the North East of England. I then ended up playing acoustic for the following 7 years until 2019 when I decided to get my Fender Stratocaster out of its flight case and sent it off for a much needed setup. Later that month I purchased a Fender Blues Junior 15 watt valve amp and through that rekindled my interest in the electric guitar.

Towards the end of 2019 I started taking lessons once more as I was becoming frustrated with the lack of fluency in my playing despite having played for so many years. I'm not sure how it happened but I started listening to Bill Evans, and is how I started getting into Jazz. I thought that this could be a possible answer to my frustrations and a way to finally master the instrument after all these years. In the summer of 2020, after a bit of deliberation, I committed myself to learning Jazz.

The first couple weeks

The first couple weeks of trying to learn Jazz was difficult. I didn't know where to start, and a lot of lessons I had found on YouTube seemed to assume a lot of foundational knowledge that I didn't have. I then came across Jens Larsen who uploads video lessons to YouTube and started watching his Introduction to Jazz Guitar playlist. This helped me a lot, but I found I was still lacking guidance of what I should be learning and in what sequence.

I expressed this to my teacher, who despite not having a background in Jazz, has helped me start to improve my understanding of music theory and provide guidance of what I should be practising as a novice Jazz guitarist.

Having been through this process perhaps the single most important piece of advice I can offer someone in the same situation is to take lessons with a teacher where possible.

What have I learned in the last 6 months?

In the last 6 months we have covered the following:

What am I still finding hard?

I think the biggest surprise for me has been the realization that knowing the above does not mean you can play Jazz. Jazz is a language, and just because you know the alphabet it does not mean you know how to hold a conversation. For example, I'm still not sure how to create melodic lines over both major and minor II-V-Is despite knowing which scales can be played over each of the chords and some of their alterations. I think this is what I need to start working on before the next update.