No, Jazz is ONLY Learned by Osmosis

I recently read a question that asked if formal musical training helped or hindered those who wanted to play Jazz, and there were an array of responses, but the one that caught my eye was that Jazz was learned by osmosis and not Theory… Is that True? This is something that has always bothered me. When I was younger I wanted to put my horn to my lips and have all the great notes just fall into place, but that seldom happened. Yeah, I sounded decent but I was limited in my growth and eventually quit playing for over a decade. Since returning, I have “studied” long and hard. Examined what the greats have done before and are currently doing around me. For me, osmosis did not yield the results I yearned for, but hard work has and is producing what will one day be a great musician in me. That’s my story, in brief, what about you?

As I read on, I caught another similar statement, “you can’t teach swing, you gotta feel it.” I had the great honor, in my youth, to study with an amazing teacher, Mr. Justin Diciocio (internationally recognized as one of the foremost jazz educators of our time). He was able to get a group of talented but not necessarily acclimated to Jazz, and make them swing like the Count Basie band. Yes, he taught us how to swing. Now, in truth, swing came pretty natural for me as an individual and I wasn’t taught the feel, but as a band, we would have been lost without his instruction. Have you ever seen anyone learn how to swing through instruction? Was it faulty instruction or that it just can’t be taught? What do you think?

Last Thought! I read that Thomas Edison said “Genius is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration” If this is true, then the above makes sense. You may feel it and you may grow by osmosis but that’s only 10%. If you don’t study and aren’t taught well and do not practice hard (the 90%), then you are unlikely to achieve the heights you dream of. #justmy2cents




2 thoughts on “No, Jazz is ONLY Learned by Osmosis

  1. Hey Luis, I read your blog. You ask a pretty interesting question. One that will continue to be debated for a long time to come just as it has been in the past. There is no easy, finite answer. I think that learning “Jazz” or any kind of music, is not necessarily a difficult thing. One can learn how to read music but not know how to weave the notes together in a way to create a hypnotic melody. A vocalist can have a voice that’s heaven sent but that vocalist may not be able to read sheet music.

    I think, it’s the way in which the collective of music theory, creation, execution and presentation that makes it unique and beautiful in its expression for both the artist and the listener and goes to serve as a justification of whether it’s learned primarily via osmosis or through the conduit of study, practice and hard work. Then that achievement and the road to the success is truly only understood and appreciated by that musician and in my opinion it’s different for each person. Just my humble opinion. Don’t know if I made any sense here.

  2. Thank you for your comment, I hope more will comment because I believe we all struggle with this thought to an extent.

    Exactly how much work do we have to do or should it just come naturally? Am I any less a musician because I worked hard at it, or because I have chosen not to work at it, am I then becoming disillusioned by my lack of progress (which was my scenario), etc, etc…

    Everyone’s story is different and unique and deserves to be heard. What have you found works for you?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s