How to Play the Blues

When You Don't Have Them

An easy, organized approach towards jazz improvisation

and playing the blues

Guitar and bass tablature available on request.

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Jazz Bass Player's Method Here

Review comes from Thomas Mirus, jazz pianist, New York, NY.


A good teacher is one who not only imparts vital information to his or her student, but also leads the student through the process of organizing, internalizing and applying that information so that the student is empowered to learn on his own. The converse is also true: that too much information, raw and disordered, brings about confusion and paralysis. This is as true in jazz as in any other discipline, and it is typical of the Information Age that the aspiring jazz musician has access to countless wonderful books and websites devoted to teaching jazz, the vast majority of which will be of no use to him whatsoever because the knowledge therein is not organized to provide an entry point for a beginner. But the experienced artist and the novice alike seek simplicity and depth, and these are offered to the novice in How to Play the Blues When You Don't Have Them by Mark Brandt, an experienced artist who understands and possesses both.


How to Play the Blues contains the basic information about theory, scales, voicings, technique and ear training needed by every beginning jazz student, and presents this information in an organized, step-by-step format that inspires rather than overwhelms. Furthermore, Mark understands that scales, voicings, and technique do not a jazz musician make, and that they are means to the end of uninhibited, spontaneous expression. Thus his book is not only filled with theoretical and technical information, but is also permeated with the wisdom he has gained throughout his decades of experience as a jazz pianist, composer, arranger, private teacher and clinician. It is this aspect of the book in particular that makes it useful to advanced jazz musicians as well as beginners.


Having used Mark's method successfully with my own students, I can attest that How to Play the Blues will be an invaluable resource for teachers, particularly high school and middle school band directors. All too often, a new student comes to his or her first lesson loaded down with one or more gigantic tomes filled with chord progressions and scales, understandably bewildered by the prospect of doing the musical equivalent of learning to speak English by reading a dictionary. The student's relief when I reassure him that we will be using a much more organized and accessible method is only matched by his relief when I tell him that Mark's book is the only one he will need to purchase for a long time.


Along with the book itself come two bonuses. The first is a play-along CD which serves as an aid to practice and ear training, particularly for learning to play the blues in all twelve keys. The second is Mark's unfailing generosity in answering questions via phone or email, of which I have taken advantage on many an occasion.


One of the greatest jazz artists of all time, Herbie Hancock, has said: "While knowledge may provide useful point of reference, it cannot become a force to guide the future. Without wisdom, the future has no meaning, no valuable purpose." In How to Play the Blues When You Don't Have Them, Mark Brandt offers the aspiring jazz musician both knowledge and wisdom as a firm foundation for future growth.


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