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LJS 15: 5 Steps to Learning Jazz Language By Ear

Welcome to episode 15 of the LJS Podcast where today we are talking about 5 steps to learning jazz language by ear. In this episode we talk about why it’s important to learn jazz language by ear rather than from sheet music, and 5 practical steps to do it. Learning music by ear is certainly the road less traveled, but the rewards are well worth it! Listen in.

Listen to episode 15

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In this episode

  1. Why you should learn language by ear rather than sheet music
  2. Listen. Familiarize yourself with the material before picking up your instrument.
  3. Be able to sing it. Make sure you can sing the material before you pick up your instrument.
  4. Learn the music on your instrument, small phrases at a time. Break it down into small, focused portions.
  5. Learn the harmony. Regardless of whether you are learning a song or a solo, it’s important to understand the context of the music you are playing.
    • Focus on listening to the bass line to find the roots.
    • Focus on listening to the comping instrument to hear the quality of the chords.
  6. Repetition. Listen, learn, practice and repeat.

Important Links:
LJS Inner Circle Membership

Free Guide to learn standards by ear: Learn Jazz Standards the Smart Way

Listen to episode 14: 10 Important Jazz Standards You Need to Know and Why

Mentioned in the show:

15 Essential Jazz Etudes eBook

How do you learn jazz language by ear? Leave us a comment below.

Brent Vaartstra
Brent Vaartstra
Brent Vaartstra is a professional jazz guitarist and educator living in New York City. He is the head blogger and podcast host for which he owns and operates. He actively performs around the New York metropolitan area and is the author of the Hal Leonard publication "Visual Improvisation for Jazz Guitar." He's also the host of the music entrepreneurship podcast "Passive Income Musician."


  1. So what exactly is "Jazz Language"? I'm thinking it's patterns,licks,phrasing and ways of playing,e.g. legato. Is it also playing eight notes and 16ths? Is "swinging" part of it?
    Just some more questions.


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