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A New Jazz Musician's Guide To Finding Gigs

by Cassie McVey



I used to be a music teacher and play piano and guitar, now I’m working primarily as a writer, I was putting together a piece on a different topic when I discovered the Sandy Brown Jazz website.  It occurred to me that your readers might appreciate a piece that looks at first time gigging for new musicians and the essentials they’ll need with them to make sure they’re prepared.

Being a new musician and putting together your own tracks is such an exciting thing. As is the eventual move from your practice room/garage/Mum's front room to a stage for the first time (no matter how small!). It’s highly likely that as well as feeling super excited you’ll also be quite anxious too. Nerves are fine, in fact, the adrenaline rush will keep you sharp. Making sure you’re prepared for every playing eventuality – whether it’s knowing the right equipment to take, or simply what to pack with your guitar, is another matter.

In the UK, jazz is experiencing an increasing surge of interest sparked by younger listeners and players alike. The number of UK users aged 30 and under listening to Spotify’s flagship Jazz UK playlist had increased by 108% last year. So, if you’re a new jazz musician looking to start gigging, there’s never been a better time. Scoring gigs involves hustling, making connections, and not being afraid to put yourself out there, but it’s worth the hard work in the long run. 

Book your own gigs

Visit potential venues (like clubs, restaurants, and bars) and ask the owners if you can play. If you approach a venue that doesn’t typically host jazz musicians, be prepared to really sell yourself. Owners are ultimately concerned about their bottom line, so, explain how jazz will help their business and how they’ll benefit financially, even after paying your band. Also attend regular local jam sessions and make friends with jazz musicians. Let people know you’re ready and willing to do gigs. In fact, when it comes to getting gigs, developing relationships with people in the industry is as important, if not more, than your talent as a musician. Also consider attending upcoming jazz festivals to put yourself in front of a much larger audience. Some exciting upcoming festivals include: Bude Jazz Festival, Cornwall (August 27th-30th); and EFG London Jazz Festival (November 15th-24th).


Advice for guitarists

Jazz Guitars



You ultimately need to impress your audience to keep scoring gigs. So, if you’re a guitarist, make sure you have the right electric guitar for playing jazz music. Archtop guitars provide that classical jazz tone, especially for bop and post-bop players, that the younger generation loves to capture. Alternatively, solid-body guitars are an increasingly popular choice for jazz musicians. They’re lighter and more versatile, but won’t necessarily give that same authentic jazz tone. Semi-hollow, semi-acoustic guitars are smaller than archtops, but provide a warm tone. It’s best to try out any guitar in person before buying, so you know you’re making the right choice for you. 




Advice for pianists

Roland F 140R


If you’re a pianist with gigs in hotels or restaurants lined up, you can usually rely on a grand or upright piano already being there for you to play. However, it may not be properly tuned, so it’s always a good idea to pack a back up digital piano. If you’re looking for a portable yet affordable digital piano, there’s plenty of options out there for the touring jazz musician. To play jazz, it’s important you have a piano with 88 weighted keys. For example, the Roland F-140R is durable, has 305 various organic sounds, and a great key bed that actually feels like a real piano. Alternatively, the Kawai ES8 has a classic responsive hammer 3 key bed, which also sounds like the real thing. These are some great options to gig with. You may also need to bring a professional rig, including, your digital piano, amp, and a PA system if you’re also singing or playing in larger venues.



Also keep learning new tunes and expanding your repertoire. Knowing how to play a vast number of songs will increase your chances of landing gigs. The more songs you learn, the easier it’ll become to learn new material quickly. With these tips, you’ll start landing a steady stream of gigs and grow your career as a jazz musician. 


For Jazz Guitarists, the New Zealand website Beginner Guitar HQ who provide online guides for guitar playing has seen Cassie's article and have told us about a page on guitar Hollow body guitarimprovisation that they thought our readers might find of interest. The article begins:


'Any budding guitarist with an interest in playing jazz quickly hears about the fabled ii-V-I sequence. This humble three-chord progression is the foundation of most of jazz music, in the same way that the I-IV-V forms the basis of blues and rock.

But while beginner and intermediate guitarists can master blues improvisation relatively easily — the minor pentatonic scale works perfectly over all three chords — ii-V-I sequences present a tougher challenge.

Technically, it’s possible to use just one scale over the three chords: the Ionian (major) scale of the tonic chord. However, the major scale gives the absolute opposite of a jazzy feel to your solo licks and sounds rote and tired when played over tunes with multiple ii-V-I changes.

Improvising smoothly over ii-V-I lines is an essential skill for any guitarist playing jazz. There are plenty of ways to do it successfully, but to get a better idea for how to do it we first need to break down the structure of and theory behind the ii-V-I sequence .....'

Click here to read the rest of the article .



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Other pages you might find of interest :

Jazz Violins and Cellos
Jazz Oboe
Video Juke Box
Jazz As Art

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