Understanding Jazz – Song Form
Understanding jazz can be like understanding a complicated maths equation. It is the most sophisticated style of popular music in our Western Music system. The chords go well beyond standard three note major and minor chords. Melodies and solos
Song Repertoire – Understanding Jazz
The catalogue of songs commonly played in jazz are known as standards. These are songs that are known tunes to be learned and played by jazz musicians. The collection of songs has its roots in the golden age of jazz. During the 1920s-1940s jazz was the hottest music form on the planet. Musicians would use songs from Broadway shows, professional songwriters and movies.
Song Structure – Understanding Jazz
Without lyrics to follow the structure of a jazz song can often be hard to follow. Where does the melody finish and the solos start? Understanding jazz song structure and conventions will help you find your way into the song.
Where blues has the 12 bar blues song structure, jazz has the 32 bar song form. The bars are divided into sections that are 8 bars in length. The breakdown is as follows.
A section – 8 bars – opening melody and chords
A section – 8 bars – repeat of opening with variations. Will often see chord and melody change at the end of the section to lead into the bridge section
B section – 8 bars – also known as the bridge.
A section – 8 bars – return to the opening melody and chords, possible variation to finish the tune.
The band will play this twice before the solo sections start. This 32 bar song form is often referred to as the head of the song. We hear this being performed by the band:
Head – Head – Solos – Head
Listen to this Dave Brubeck take on the tune “Take the A Train”. This standard is one of the most recorded of all time. Listen and identify the sections.