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Below you will find some suggested resources for an entry level student of jazz. 

These have been chosen from our Virtual Academy library of online resources. Please feel free to explore the entire collection here.

Our definition of ENTRY LEVEL: 

  • Approximately grade 4 (ABRSM) or equivalent proficiency on your instrument of choice
  • A reasonable grasp of the fundamental building blocks of music language & harmony – i.e. scales, chords, intervals etc
  • A basic understanding of the role of improvisation in a jazz context – you don’t necessarily need to be able to improvise yet

As with any learning resource, the best thing you can do is work with a teacher who can explain the material and help you to develop techniques to practice and internalise the music.

Please share your learning journey with us via the #NYJOVA hashtag on Instagram.

Entry Level Journey Guide

Thanks for joining the NYJO Virtual Academy! We’re really pleased you’re getting stuck into all of the material we have prepared for you.

Here’s a guide to help you use what we have selected for players beginning their jazz journey.



  • Download all the written music and the backing tracks. There are parts to suit all instruments and backing tracks that allow you to play along on piano, bass, drums and either of the harmony parts as if you are part of the band. If you prefer you can also play along with the full track
  • Watch the videos – some parts are directed at specific instruments but all are useful:
    1. General introduction
    2. How to improvise over the chord sequence
    3. Piano voicing and accompaniment
    4. Bass line and different grooves
    5. Playing drums on the track


  • Start by learning the tune (try singing it and playing it) before you have a go with the track
  • To develop your soloing skills try starting with just one note and playing a rhythm, maybe one from the tune, then gradually add more notes, but keep your focus on the rhythmic pattern as much as the pitches you choose
  • Play confidently, with full tone and lots of accent, especially on the off-beat notes of you rhythms – listen to how Rod plays the tune and copy that phrasing then use that when you play your solo



The 12 Bar Blues is a jazz fundamental – a great place to start but also something jazz musicians will play over for their whole lives, and it never gets boring. There are lots of different tunes that people have written over the 12 Bar Blues chord sequence and we have chosen a simple ‘riff’ based tune called Centrepiece and a more challenging tune from the Bebop era called Straight, No Chaser. The first one is in the key of Bb and the second is in F: these are common keys for this chord sequence in jazz.


  • As with Mandela learn each tune before you play it with the backing track. Listen to the examples of the tunes on the playlist and try to sing along (please note that Centrepiece is in a different key on the video). Listen carefully to the accents and the way the swing rhythm sits in the tune and also in the rhythm section and aim to transfer all of that sound into your interpretation of the tune. Learning by listening is a key part of jazz education!
  • To begin soloing on Centrepiece you can simply use the five notes that make up the tune, but as with Mandela put the rhythmic pattern and accents before the note choice in importance. For Straight, No Chaser you can use either a ‘sweet’ or ‘dirty’ blues scale: the ‘sweet’ scale (in concert pitch) would be F, G, Ab, A, C, D and the ‘dirty’ scale F, Ab, Bb, B, C, Eb. As before concentrate on the rhythm before the notes.


Other general soloing tips:

  • Start your phrases on different beats, and on different off-beats
  • Try alternating with a long or a short note to end your phrase – make the end as rhythmic as the start
  • Vocalising rhythms can help you get the right style e.g. try saying ‘Bebop’ and playing a pair of quavers the way the word sounds
  • The foundation for a good solo is good rhythm: on this you can build good melodic direction and harmonic details

Virtual Video Series

(Video + Audio + pdf files)

Episode 1: ‘Mandela’ with Rod Oughton

Virtual Curriculum

Audio + PDF Files

BLUES - Centrepiece

BLUES - Straight no chaser

Jazz Tunes You Should Know



If you would prefer to listen along via Spotify, you can find the same playlists here:

Each performance included should take you on an important journey of learning and appreciation (no matter how many times you’ve heard it before!).

To get the most out of the experience, ensure that you take note of how each performer approaches the tune in question. Study and observe all aspect of their individual approaches to playing their chosen instrument. What makes them unique?

This application is much closer to the way people learned back in the day rather than relying on notation; so take the things that resonate with you for whatever reason and use them to influence your next practise sessions.

This will only serve to make you a more responsive, thoughtful musician over time.

Explore the NYJO Virtual academy:

virtual video series
additional resources
Special thanks to the NYJO Chairman’s Circle, Chair Sponsors, and all the Friends of NYJO