theory shed


Most questions about jazz improvising are answered in the enjoyable (and long) process of learning tunes. Jazz is a language like any other, and its vocabulary, grammar and conventions are found in the rhythms, melodies and harmonies of our shared repertoire of tunes and solos.

That being said, there is plenty more to think about and work on while we are engaged in this practical tune learning - jazz is a complex music that happens in 12 keys and requires considerable musical sophistication - rhythmic, melodic and harmonic - as well as a quick and flexible mind and very strong instrumental and aural skills. Jazz theory can help us not just with harmony, but in all of these important areas.

Jazz theory, taken in this very broad sense, is potentially a huge subject! Our 4 levels of learning at Jazz School UK, covering beginner to professional level, comprise more than 120 specific theory points, skills and conceptual areas.

The THEORY SHED course days we offer this season concentrate on 8 areas from LEVELS 1 -2 of our theory programme, and explore the theory foundations (rhythm, melody, harmony, musical form and culture) of jazz improvising. The sessions are suitable for jazz beginners and improvers, and also for those with more experience and a stronger playing level who have theory 'gaps' in any areas.

I will say at this point that the applied theory we teach here, as expert jazz practitioners, is very different from what you will find in most textbooks. It may be that you don't know yet what you don't know - so please give us a try - I guarantee our ideas and experience will give you new insight into your playing!

I hope I haven't sounded too negative about the benefits of harmony. I'm actually a harmony geeknut myself. We just have to find ways of learning harmony more effectively, so that it becomes a trusted friend rather than an unfathomable dominatrix whom we fear and crave. So we can get on with other more important things in our playing. Here's a video guide to harmonic description:

playing the changes



online payment





MELODIES WITHIN SCALES - origins of tempered scale and major/minor system. Harmonic analysis of tunes using combinations of major and minor key centres.

november 12

RHYTHMIC ORIGINS West African Bell Pattern as basis of blues, jazz and latin musics. 3 over 2, forward and reverse - creation of jazz pulse - rhythm practice to improve personal time - circular groove, pulse points, quaver flow.

december 10

FUMP part 1 - revealing fundamental pattern of harmony beneath melody - expressing harmonic content by linking chord tones - understanding expansions and transitions in the harmonic pattern.

january 21

BLUES PATHS part 1 - history of the basic blues form (jazz).

february 18

RHYTHM SECTION BASICS (voicings, lines, grooves) For all instruments!

march 18

IMPROVISATION, ENSEMBLE & PRACTICE SKILLS - different approaches to improvisation, blend, dialogue, dynamics and other ensemble skills - composition, transcription, practice skills.

april 22

FUMP part 2 - modifications of the harmonic pattern - back door, transitions and expansions revision, vi7b9 diminished shapes, harmonic minor in the turnaround, harmonic minor resolving to major, introduction to altered notes, minor ii-v-i and 3 phase cadence.

may 27

RHYTHMIC RESOLUTION - circular groove and pulse points revision, playing forward, round and through, dominant-tonic energy, creating energised space, quaver flow, locking in with cymbal time.



Q Where do the sessions take place?

A The venue is the Shoefactory at Rushden, a beautiful Victorian building (with a grand piano in all three playing spaces), which is also the home of Jazz School UK founders Nick Weldon and Andra Sparks. More details, maps and links can be found on our About Us page. THEORY SHED sessions run 10.30am-4.30pm. The cost of each day is £70 (20% member and U18 discounts available).

Q How do I sign up?

A Please use this booking form to register your interest in any particular days and to let us know how you would like to pay. We will get back to you confirming availability and giving payment details. Once we have confirmed you can also pay online using the link opposite.



Jazz School UK, The Shoefactory, 23b Fitzwilliam Street, Rushden, Northants NN10 9YW

home: 01933 313969

mobile: 07971 409596

You can also contact us by email.


Thanks for reading!