Jazz Blog

— 2022 — Apr 7

Two Views of a Scale

by Anton Schwartz

We can think of a scale as a kit for making melodies… or as a way of defining harmony. Unfortunately, all the ways we have of depicting scales are well-suited to the former, and poorly suited to the latter. This post aims to rectify that. [read more]

— 2021 — Sep 27

Rootless Scales & Phantom Modes

by Anton Schwartz

Scales offer a palette of notes to choose from. And they always contain the root. So, what if we don’t want to play the root?! We discuss the possibilities of rootless scales… [read more]

— 2020 — Oct 25

“Minor Major” Chords

by Anton Schwartz

A beautiful and important sound with a confusing name. [read more]

— 2020 — May 16

Using Zoom in Music Lessons & Clinics

by Anton Schwartz

A guide to using zoom for music lessons, classes and workshops. [read more]

— 2020 — Apr 16

Some Fun with Piano Harmonics

by Anton Schwartz

The other day I played the following notes as a chord on the piano… There is no major third in the chord, but it sounds major… Here’s why. [read more]

— 2020 — Jan 7

Jazz Harmony – You Have the Answers

by Anton Schwartz

Students often ask me why they should use one sort of chord rather than another – say, a C7(b9) as opposed to a C9. Music theory tells us lots about the differences between chords. But there is an indispensable way of answering these questions that’s more direct, and people often overlook it. [read more]

— 2019 — Jul 4

Approaches & Enclosures

by Anton Schwartz

These melodic devices have been a mainstay of jazz lines ever since bebop. This article presents them, discusses how & why they work and why we need to single them out for practice, and gives a sequence of exercises for integrating them into our ears and fingers to use for improvisation. [read more]

— 2019 — Apr 10

Better Than Practicing in 12 Keys

by Anton Schwartz

Practicing music in all 12 keys is a time-tested way to integrate musical ideas into your vocabulary. Here’s a variant on the approach that not only ensures that you learn the material at a deeper level that’s more useful for improvisation, but actually speeds up the learning process too. [read more]

— 2019 — Jan 23

“Take The A Train” Chord Changes

by Anton Schwartz

A look at the chord changes of Duke Ellington’s signature tune and all the ways they show up elsewhere… including some surprises… [read more]

— 2018 — Oct 8

The “Neutral” Scale

by Anton Schwartz

A journey into quarter tone harmony lets us see the modes of the major scale from a new perspective. [read more]

— 2018 — Aug 30

Music on Hold

by Anton Schwartz

Musings about the music that drives us crazy (with a couple examples). [read more]

— 2018 — Jan 1

Minor Fourths, Major Fifths

by Anton Schwartz

We’ve all been taught that most intervals are either major or minor… but that unisons, fourths and fifths are special intervals, considered “perfect.” Let’s question that for a minute. Here’s an alternative way of thinking about it that I think makes more sense… [read more]

— 2017 — Oct 22

Music and an Accident of Mathematics

by Anton Schwartz

Did you know that virtually all of the music we listen to hinges on a big mathematical coincidence? Namely, that two to the 7/12 power is approximately equal to 1.5. Seriously. Let me show you what I mean… [read more]

— 2017 — Feb 3

Practicing Slow II: What Video Games Teach Us

by Anton Schwartz

Here’s another compelling reason why musicians ought to practice slowly. To understand it best, consider an analogy to video games. Not playing them… designing them. [read more]

— 2017 — Jan 5

Unlikely Inspiration from Coltrane

by Anton Schwartz

An early recording from John Coltrane is inspiring because it so compellingly debunks any notion that he was born to be a musical genius. His brilliance was hard won through intense practice. [read more]

— 2016 — Aug 1

Remembering the Modes

by Anton Schwartz

A different, very useful way of ordering the modes of the major scale in your mind… and a trick for remembering the modes in that sequence… [read more]

— 2016 — Jul 26

Practicing Slow

by Anton Schwartz

Here’s a tip for when you’re trying to improve your improvisation but you’re stuck: Learn to play so it sounds like you’re moving through molasses. Let me explain how & why it works… [read more]

— 2016 — Jan 8

Pentatonic Scales: A Deeper Look

by Anton Schwartz

Pentatonic (five-note) scales are the basis for simple folk melodies and nursery rhymes all around the world. So how is it that they can be used in jazz so powerfully, to create so many colors and degrees of tension and dissonance? Let’s take a look. [read more]

— 2015 — Aug 12


by Anton Schwartz

An extremely useful word for something we’re all familiar with. [read more]

— 2015 — Jul 28

Sus Chords part II: Their Uses

by Anton Schwartz

In a previous post called “Understanding Sus Chords” I discussed suspended chords—what they are and how to think of them. In this one we look at their uses in songs. [read more]

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