Ah, if I only had a Jamey Aebersold play-along for every time I was asked this, I’d have the whole series.
Practicing and playing music with your friends can be difficult. Finding a place to play and organizing everyone’s schedules can be tricky and on top of that, all of the musicians need to be of similar ability levels and have compatible goals and interests. Many community colleges and local music schools offer classes in jazz and other contemporary styles but while these can be valuable resources, they might not provide you with the individualized attention you need. A good private teacher can be a tremendous help, but not everyone has the money for that.
However, the good news is that there are many great online resources to help students practice improvisation. While cyberspace can’t provide the experience of interacting face-to-face with other musicians or give you feedback on your performance, it can be a reasonable alternative especially if you have limited opportunities to play in ensembles.
Learn Jazz Standards has an extensive collection of Youtube videos containing play-along tracks and a website where students can download chord charts for free and play-along tracks for $1.99. The site also contains videos for each song that help students get more in-depth looks at the chord progressions.
QG Videos also features play-along tracks to jazz standards; the videos show the chord charts for the tunes. The Youtube channel offers several alternative versions of each track, including up tempo or slow and no piano.
Sometimes you might not want to practice an entire chord progression but just a section, such as a “ii-V-I” progression. Learn Jazz Now’s channel features several such videos, such as this one in the key of C – and for those who want something a little different, the same progression in the key of G-Flat.
Jazz Everyone offers a mix of instructional videos, play-along tracks and downloadable sheet music, including etudes based on popular chord progressions and concepts such as chromaticism and ii-V-I progressions. Some of the material is free; some of it can be accessed with a paid membership.
Jazz Practice Loops also offers play-along tracks, including ii-V-I progressions in all twelve keys as well as several articles about theory, scales, intervals and more.
While it’s not as interactive, Jazz Advice features articles about many aspects of musicianship, improvisation and jazz. including this one about how to hear chord changes and this list of ten essential jazz standards.
What about resources for smartphones for musicians on the go? Jazz Apps Mobile offers a series of fairly inexpensive apps that focus on aspects of improvisation including scales, progressions and even a jazz theory quiz.
These are just a few of the many products and sites available to help musicians with improvisation. Technology has made us a global society and music is the universal language so it’s only natural that cyberspace can provide the answers to the challenges one faces in becoming a great musician.
It should be noted that the sites listed above were picked by Outside Pedestrian because of their musical and educational value. The band did not accept any compensation or recognition by any of the publishers. However, if any of said publishers happen to be reading this and would like to reciprocate us in any way, feel free to.