It can be difficult, if not impossible to find a live jazz violin teacher depending on where you live. While there are many aspects of the music that can be studied independently, t is best to have the feedback from someone who has dealt with playing jazz violin specifically. Only a real player knows the technical specifics of how to get the right phrasing with the bow, how to get different sound colors from the instrument, creating a groove, and more.
Now that the internet and technology like Skype has connected the world to free live video conferencing, it is possible to connect with a “live” teacher this way. There are also a few pioneers in the jazz violin teacher world putting out video lessons for jazz violin. Here are a few things to look for when looking for a jazz violin teacher:
1) Actual experience playing with jazz greats
This may sound obvious, but you would be surprised how many people pass themselves off as an expert jazz violin teacher without having done this. So much of jazz is an “aural tradition” and the subtleties are learned on the bandstand, especially the skills like how to play with a rhythm section, lead intros and endings, and so on.
2) Solid classical / technical background
In order to give the melodies and difficult lines the right phrasing and rhythmic feel for jazz violin you will really have to have the technical aspects of the instrument down, so you will want someone who can show you these things. Do not be fooled into thinking that jazz violin or improvised music allows room for sloppy technique. It demands creating new melodies and lines with the same precision as a written piece when done correctly.
3) Can improvise / play songs by memory and by ear without written music
Much of jazz is performed this way and requires the ears to be able to react musically to the other musicians in the band. The skill set for this is a bit different than memorizing classical music, as it involves having a strong command of the harmony of the song and being able to create new melodies that work on top of them.
4) Understands jazz rhythm and harmony
Jazz has a specific rhythmic feel that has a lot of flexibility, but requires precision. It is an art form to make it feel relaxed yet swinging, and there is much more to it than the common description of a “triplet feel.” A lot of this is passed on by ear and feel, and there is no better way to absorb it than working with someone who has it, and can feel what you are doing that sounds stiff or unmusical. There are similarly specific things with jazz harmony that require experience and knowledge.
5) Is able to communicate what they do
There are some musicians who are so natural that they do not really know how to explain what they are doing, or understand the theory to be able to break it down. Ideally you want to study with someone who not only knows how to play and improvise, but can explain what they are doing with at least enough clarity for you to be able to take it and run with it.
You will want to look at the biography, resume, or ask a teacher you are interested in studying with to make sure you will be led in the right direction. A good teacher can skyrocket your progress, while being misguided can actually cost you money and teach you bad habits.
Because of the digital age, some jazz violin teachers offer skype lessons. As you have probably seen on this site, Christian Howes who meets all of these criteria offers some free jazz violin lesson videos which you can check out here for 3 days. Skype lessons are also offered here . However, whatever you decide to do, be sure to keep these points in mind so you can make an informed decision.
*If you are jazz violin teacher who would like to mention what you do, please feel free to do so by leaving a “comment” on this post so people can get to know you!*