Dixie Blues

by Karen
(Auburn ca)

I love Dixieland and listening to dixie clarinettists. I cannot play by ear so I gave up trying to play it. If I had a goal, it would be to play in a dixie band. Any suggestions???


Hello Karen,

Dixieland is not an unreachable goal for you. Probably, you need to start with a very simple goal, and that is to learn how to play simple tunes by ear.

A common one to start with in the Dixieland jazz vein is When the Saints Go Marching in. Do not try to play it too fast. Concentrate on getting the tune in your ears, mind, fingers, and soul. Once you feel good about the basic tune, start playing around with the rhythms of the tune.

Then, you can fool around with pitches. Just remember keeping a good structure of the melody is very important.

For a real brain teaser, try to play When the Saints Go Marching In in all keys. If this is too daunting, try Joy to the World by ear. "Joy" is simply only a descending major scale with the "Joy" rhythms. If you can play Joy to the World in every key, you can learn other tunes this way.

Honestly, I'm not a jazzer, but I do know the basic techniques to become better at it. Make sure you listen to Dixieland jazz. You will pick up the musical style by doing this.

Also, consistent practice is important. If you really want to play Dixieland, practice working on it every single day.

Best of luck to you and let me know how it works out for you.


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Jun 01, 2011
by: Anonymous

Thanks, Chris. My problem is I don't memorize well. I can play "Happy Birthday" in the key of C with mistakes, even though I have played it a thousand times. And forget trying to play it in a different key!!! The tune is definitely in my head, but my fingers don't know where to go. What now?


Well, here are some goals
1. Play Happy Birthday from memory no mistakes in the key you know it.
2. Try another key from memory and learn it with no mistakes.
3. Try another key from memory and learn it with no mistakes.
4. Try another key from memory and learn it with no mistakes.

Hopefully, you are getting the picture. Practicing consistently over a long period of time is the best way to accomplish anything. Once you've gone through a couple of keys, eventually you start figuring out the tune. By the time you are back to the original key, you can play it WAY EASY with NO MISTAKES.

Then, the next goal, tackle another tune.

I'm not going to lie to you, getting through any simple tune once through in every single key is a GREAT CHALLENGE. But, very well worth your time to get your fingers connected to your ears.

Best of luck to you and give it a try even if it is one key per week or one per month. Do not back down on trying to get the tune correct in that key before moving to the next key.


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