What to Listen for in Jazz

Ref: C3671088

Students will spend much time listening to the 21 music tracks selected. The 20 musicians included are generally considered to be the most important in the period 1923-1987, and all have made major contributions to the genre of 20th century Jazz Music. From this students will listen to other recordings made by the artists studied, and some analysis will be undertaken of major topics including rhythm, form, composition, improvisation, sound and style. Students do not require to be technically gifted, but any elementary knowledge of music, such as ability to read music, play an instrument, etc., will be of great value. Students will be encouraged to read the biographies of the musicians studied and, whenever possible, research the impact made by these musicians on the contribution of other artists and the development jazz during the 20th/21st centuries.

Course aim

This course is based upon 21 tracks illustrating the essentials of Listening to Jazz. It ranges from 1927 until 1976. The main essential will be careful, concentrated and extensive listening to the genre.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Use my improved ability to listen to jazz and appreciate the techniques, development and achievements underpinning the broad topic of rhythm in all instruments.
  • Recognise various forms in jazz e.g. blues, standard 16/32 bar song structure, modal and free jazz, scat vocals, etc.
  • Improve my appreciation of the composition of melodies, orchestration for different combinations of instruments, and characteristics of instruments, their sounds, and their effects on the development of the genre.
  • Understand better some of the methods used in improvisation within the limitations of students’ technical ability.

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning
  • You may be asked to undertake additional work in your own time to support your learning
  • You will be expected to carry out a range of activities in your own time

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will have opportunities to discuss your progress with your tutor
  • You will be encouraged to share your work with the group and discuss your learning
  • You will be encouraged to consider other students work and give your opinions and suggestions
  • A file of work will be kept which will help to record your progress
  • Listening to own CDs/mp3s Going to local and other jazz concerts in clubs/concert halls/etc

What else do I need to know?

  • It would be helpful if you had access to the internet (Mobile phone, tablet or computer at home or through a library etc.)
  • writing materials, notebooks

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading is required but research on the subject on the internet or in the library may be helpful
  • List to own music on CD/mp3/radio/TV etc

What can I do next?

Download full Course information sheet

What to Listen for in Jazz


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  • are paying the standard fee or are on any of the qualifying benefits
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  • have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2017
  • have read and accept the standard terms and conditions
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