VI. Jazz

This section introduces students to the basics of harmony, rhythm, and improvisation within traditional jazz and blues. Like any other equally broad genre, jazz encompasses more musical languages than are represented here, of course, but students will gain familiarity with idioms that structure subgenres such as swing and bebop.


This section assumes a familiarity with the topics covered in Fundamentals as well as the Tonicization chapter.


The first chapter, Swing Rhythms, introduces students to common and stylistic rhythms that are often found in swing music and subgenres that grew out of it.

Next, students learn about simple and complex chord symbols and how those symbols are idiomatically voiced in a jazz context.

The next few chapters discuss common harmonic formulas encountered in jazz repertories: ii–V–I; embellishing chords such as applied chords and common tone diminished seventh chords; and substitutions such as the tritone substitution, mode mixture, and substituting applied chords.

Improvisation is discussed in the Chord-Scale Theory chapter, which also introduces students to how jazz musicians use modes to improvise.

The final chapters of this section cover the formal/harmonic and melodic aspects of traditional blues music. This also serves as a transition into the following section on popular music, a genre that borrows heavily from the blues.



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OPEN MUSIC THEORY Copyright © 2023 by Mark Gotham; Kyle Gullings; Chelsey Hamm; Bryn Hughes; Brian Jarvis; Megan Lavengood; and John Peterson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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