The study of jazz music is a study of language, of history and culture, and perhaps most importantly, a study of the self. It is my goal to ensure that each of my students have the necessary tools to communicate with their instruments, understand the music’s traditions, and discover their own unique stylistic voices within the art form. I have developed an empathetic teaching style, which is tailored to each individual student, especially in the private instrument or composition lesson setting and in ensembles. I believe it is the teacher’s responsibility to adapt to each student’s learning style and interests to create ways of imparting the fundamental elements of jazz while encouraging the students’ own self discovery and creativity.
The jazz language can be broken down to elemental parts, all of which are at the nexus of my teaching priorities. Technique, scales, ear training, and reading are central to understanding jazz. I also believe a thorough study of what I call the ‘vocabularies of jazz’ is crucial to the success of students practicing in the 21st century. I focus my instruction around the three major vocabularies of the jazz language: swing, bebop and free (post-bop). These vocabularies were the building blocks of the majority of jazz styles in the 20th century and are the keys to synthesizing personal style and individuality in the post-modern jazz world of today. In my ensemble or private instruction, I encourage a deep understanding of these traditional vocabularies as a way to self-discovery. I share concepts, but I do not give away the answers by making students practice licks or patterns or only work with limited interpretations of the jazz tradition. Conceptual understanding of each vocabulary through transcription, analysis, and repertoire study can illuminate the path towards fluency while stimulating an individual approach to all jazz styles.
Keeping students inspired and passionate is at the heart of my adaptive teaching philosophy. I always encourage questions and dialogue. I also pose questions to my students at length to help me develop a deep understanding of their abilities and influences to create an individualized path of study for them. With this method, I can express the same concepts through several different and personalized ways. For example, one student may discover how to use over-the-barline phrasing by learning Charlie Parker melodies as etudes, while another may acquire that skill through transcribing, then comparing and contrasting, the solos of Miles Davis and John Coltrane on the album Cookin‘. Regardless of the method, the important outcome is that, through my guidance, the students are focused and passionate about the elements of jazz and discover them in their own way.
Individuality and personal style are the building blocks of jazz and can be heard in the innovations of all the great past and current players and composers. If my students can be grounded in the fundamentals of the history and language of jazz while developing their own style and voice, then I have succeeded in not only feeding the tributary of jazz, but I have helped a young artist to know themselves.
‘”Fitting In” – Defining A Role For The Guitarist In The School Jazz Ensemble’ Massachusetts Music News, Summer 2013 Edition
Jazz Guitar Duets – Etude #1 by Eric Hofbauer
Jazz Guitar Duets – Etude #2 by Eric Hofbauer
The Diamond – Tonal Organization For Chromatic Improvisation (Draft Phase)
By Eric Hofbauer