On the show today we’re talking to Brent Vaartstra from LearnJazzStandards.com, one of the leading websites for people to learn to play jazz.

Now if you’re not into jazz you might already be thinking about skipping this episode – don’t!

This conversation tackles exactly that question of whether jazz has anything to offer musicians who aren’t necessarily dedicated to jazz. And also the core skills you can learn to help you find musical freedom in jazz – or any other genre.

Brent has been running Learn Jazz Standards since 2011, publishing new articles and podcast episodes every week. He also performs and teaches around New York and is the author of jazz books for Hal Leonard including “500 Jazz Licks” and “Visual Improvisation for Jazz Guitar”.

On today’s podcast, we pick Brent’s brains about what does (or doesn’t) make jazz unique as a genre, and ask him a few questions that frequently come up among Musical U followers and members on the topic of jazz.

We talk about:

  • If jazz is an “advanced” genre or one you can start with right away.
  • Whether being a good jazz musician requires mastery of complex music theory or having an incredible ear.
  • How to start training your musical ear, for jazz or any other genre, and Brent shares his four-step system.

We also talk about the new ear training course from Learn Jazz Standards and the two things that really set it apart. Brent has kindly set up a terrific freebie for our listeners that can help you get started with musical ear training – stay tuned to the end of the conversation to learn more about the freebie, and how you can get your hands on it!

Listen to the episode:

Enjoying the show? Please consider rating and reviewing it!

Links and Resources

Enjoying Musicality Now? Please support the show by rating and reviewing it!

Rate and Review!

Learn Jazz Standards' very own Brent Vaartstra shares the truth about learning to play jazz, and how lessons from jazz music carry over into other genres.



That was great fun, I feel like we really busted some myths with Brent today!

For a lot of people jazz can seem advanced and intimidating on a few fronts:

– The music theory seems complex and it seems like you need to know it all before you can play jazz

– It seems like you need a really great ear to be able to improvise, and

– The idea of improvising a solo or playing just from a simple lead sheet or chord chart can seem way out of reach.

Talking to Brent it was clear that none of these need to be a barrier if you want to get involved in jazz.

We talked about his own journey of teaching himself by ear and then learning with instructors who also placed a heavy emphasis on the ear.

He said that the greatest jazz musicians never studied the theory, they relied heavily on their ears. And that the theory doesn’t actually need to be complicated anyway.

Brent says that any genre can be complex if you look at the really great musicians in that genre. And any genre can be made simple and accessible. Jazz is no exception.

If you know your way around your instrument, meaning you have the basic playing technique, you know some scales and how to play some chords or arpeggios – that’s enough to start learning jazz.

Through the website learnjazzstandards.com Brent is providing some great teaching material to help you learn the concepts you need, and also to apply it directly to the most well-known jazz tunes.

For Brent, the key to learning to improvise and play jazz is to make use of scales and theory concepts – but not to let them limit you. Instead use your ear to go beyond and feel free.

from talking to a lot of his fellow jazz musicians Brent discovered that the key to “playing what you hear” is to do fundamental ear training. He’s created a four-step course which covers intervals, chords, chord progressions, and applying it all on your instrument.

To me what makes this course stand out is that you’ll make use of your voice to train your ears, and that you’ll connect it right away with practical instrument skills. We’ve seen at Musical U how those two things can dramatically improve the results you get from ear training.

So if you’re interested to explore jazz music, definitely head on over to learnjazzstandards.com and tune in to the Learn Jazz Standards podcast. And if you want to learn more about the 4-step process of ear training that Brent talked about, he’s set up that generous freebie for the Musicality Podcast audience. That’s at learnjazzstandards.com/musicality and we’ll have the links to all those things in the show notes.

I hope this podcast has inspired you today, and whether you want to start learning jazz yourself or you’re just interested to hear that it may not be as complex in terms of theory or ear skills as you imagined, I hope you’ll check out the LJS resources to help you learn more. As Brent said, you might find that learning just a few concepts from the world of jazz has a great impact on your musicality, whatever genre you love and play.

Thanks for listening to this episode, and stay tuned for next time when we’ll be talking about something that thankfully Brent avoids in his new course: The Ear Training Trap.

Enjoying the show? Please consider rating and reviewing it!