Jazz Appreciation Vocabulary


Improvisation- Music is created “in the moment” based on musical structure and style.

Syncopation- Rhythmic emphasis off the beat.

Striding- Stride Pianist’s left hand playing a bass/chord 2 beat rhythmic pattern.

Collective Improvisation- The entire ensemble is improvising.

Swing Feel- emphasis on 2nd & 4th beat, un-even division of the beat, drummer plays swing pattern (ding ding da ding), bass walks, piano or guitar comps.

Arrangement- A written score for an ensemble derived from an existing tune.

Composition- An entirely original piece of music.

Comping- Jazz abbr. for “accompany”. Typically used to describe improvised rhythmic/harmonic features in the rhythm section. Most commonly applies to the piano and guitar style developed during the Bebop era.

Walking Bass- The bass player is improvising a bass line derived from the musical scale and chord progression. Usually represented by a note playing on each beat of the time.

Chord Progression- A sequence of chords making up the structure of a tune.

Rhythm Changes- The chord progression from the popular Gershwin song “I Got Rhythm” which became a standard structure for many Bebop compositions.

The Blues- A standard 12 bar chord progression with a strong relationship between the I chord and the IV chord which was utilized as the structure for many Jazz compositions. Also used as the basis for much of Rock, Country, and R&B. Use of Blues scale.

Form- The organization of the music into phrases or sections making up the overall structure of the music from the beginning to the end of a tune.

Head Chart- A standard form used in small group jazz performance. Intro/Head/Chorus/Head-Out/Tag

Introduction- A brief section of introductory music leading up to the head. Could be derived from the tune or be different music.

Head- The principle written melody of a jazz tune.

Chorus- The solo section of a head chart where the musicians improvise melodies. The rhythm section typically accompanies utilizing the structure and form of the head.

Head Out- The return to the Head following the Chorus. Also known as Out Chorus.

Tag- A short ending section completing the form of a head chart, Could be derived from the tune, fade out, or could be different music.

Vamp- A repeated rhythmic idea. Often used as an intro or to accompany solos.

Turnaround- A short chord progression at the end of the form used to harmonically set-up the return to the beginning of the form.

Top- The beginning of each chorus. Also used to refer to the very beginning of a tune.

Riff- A recognizable or repeated melodic idea.

Scale- Organization of musical notes in an ordered group. Do re mi fa sol la ti do

Extensions- Additional notes added to the upper chord structure that create the unique sound color of Jazz. 9/11/13.

Voicing- The unique arrangement of notes in a chord.

Substitutions- Improvised use of chords as alternates, or in addition to the basic chord progression.

Atonality- Musical structures derived from other than traditional scale or harmonic systems. Often dissonant, experimental, and colorful. AKA playing “out” or outside.