The Jazz Piano StudyLetter
A unique technical newsletter for intermediate and advanced jazz piano students, and all jazz musicians. Publication ended in 2000, but a complete collected edition is available. Read on.

JPSL Table of Contents - Glossary of Jazz Terms - Ordering Information

Sample Articles: Upper Structures - Review: The Jazz Theory Book - Ballad Time - No Mind - Lenny Tristano Scales - The Improvised Line

Tunes by Darius Brotman

Introduction to The Jazz Piano StudyLetter

Jazz has traditionally been taught by example and by ear, as young players hung around at jam sessions and were perhaps shown a thing or two by an older player in an informal lesson. This system favored the talented and ambitious, especially in modern jazz with its tradition of instrumental virtuosity and musical complexity. It used to be that many players would strongly defend this informal system of apprenticeship, which insured that the younger generation would thoroughly imbibe the styles, history and culture as well as the technical aspects of the music. But the amateur player and the musician of just average ability were rather left out in the cold, and the very special joys of modern jazz improvisation were just not really available to most people.

Things started to change when jazz moved away from being the music of only the hippest. In the musical history of the 60s thru 80s, jazz became marginalized—but at the same time taken more seriously, and jazz studies programs began to spring up in universities. The Real Book appeared, the elite "classical" music culture began to erode, and young musicians began to look to jazz who never would have twenty years earlier.

But there was still little instructional material available for the jazz student. What there was tended to have certain flaws—little discussion of jazz rhythm, of the blues, of form, of harmonic rhythm, and of the higher reaches of modern jazz harmony, which has evolved by the confluence of European and Black American musical streams into a remarkably rich pan-tonal system. Besides this, the artistic challenges of improvisation were barely dealt with. Psychological insights were needed to really bring this part of the music to the table for the student.

I'm an analytically inclined person and a product of the traditional classical music education establishment who turned to jazz. I decided in 1993 to start a periodical to explore all these topics. The Jazz Piano StudyLetter was the result, and it continued for 7 years and 20 issues before it seemed time to bring it to a close. The first issue wasn't much, but by the final issue (October 2000), it totalled 238 pages, about 112,000 words—and innumerable musical examples. (A number of articles were contributed by others, especially Dieter Feldkamp, a jazz pianist and teacher from Germany who was taken by my particular approach.) Regarding it as a labor of love, I never promoted it much, and drew the attention of a mere 150 or so subscribers; but these were so enthusiastic about it that almost all of them requested a complete set of back issues. (Of course, there were others who took one issue and found it not at all to their liking.)

These responses have made me feel that, with all the flaws of something produced mostly by one eccentric and disorganized person, the StudyLetter has something to offer; and rather than let it sink into oblivion, I decided to assemble it into a single volume and present it for sale. In this web site I include several sample articles as well as the actual Table of Contents .

The Complete Jazz Piano StudyLetter includes the Table of Contents, and Index.

If you find this interesting so far, I believe you will enjoy the Jazz Piano StudyLetter. Please check out the sample articles on this website; comments are welcome at

Darius Brotman
Arcata, Calif.

Yes, this page is current! (Updated February 11, 2018.)

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