Music Theory : Why Producers Should Learn Jazz

These three Jazz music theory elements will give every producer a way to enhance songs in almost any genre.  

Good producers draw from a variety of styles, genres, and backgrounds to help artists shape their vision. Having a diverse listening background helps you bring a variety of ideas to the table. The benefits of gaining experience in a complex musical style like jazz can reverberate through your production at every level. Here are three elements of jazz that, if you gain a deeper understanding, can enhance your modern productions of nearly any genre.

Jazz Chords

It’s no secret that one of the more challenging aspects of jazz is comprehending the more complex harmonies involved in the tunes. While many modern productions utilize more simple 3-note chords, getting some thicker harmonies with chord extensions like 9ths, 13ths, and altered notes can really make a chord stand out! Check out ‘You’re Everything’ by Return to Forever and Chick Corea to hear some of the more complicated harmonies at work. The beginning of the tune uses single chords underneath the vocal lines, but those chords are rich and full of interesting tones. Learning how to master more complex chords can create fantastically interesting music.


Bebop Melodies

There are plenty of times where simple is better, but if you’re looking for some inspiration to break out of the ‘same melody, different day’ rut you might be in… look no further than Bebop! Bebop melodies are known for dynamic contrast, astonishing speed, and dense complexity. A good bebop melody can be exhilarating and yet still catchy enough to be memorable. Charlie Parker’s “Ornithology” is a great example of a melody that is chromatic, complex, longer, and yet - extremely catchy and memorable. Learning to use chromatic tones, voice leading, melodic contrast, and more will be time well spent for any producer.

Syncopated Rhythm

Syncopation is the art of accenting notes that are ‘between the beats’. If you are counting in eighth notes, in a “One and Two and Three and Four” fashion, the ‘and’ words would get accented if you were playing a syncopated rhythm. Rhythmic hits and accents that are syncopated can help to show cultural roots as well as to make a piece of music seem like it is in an ‘exotic’ time signature or setting.

Check out ‘Some Skunk Funk’ by The Brecker Brothers for some really wild rhythmic accents and feels. That tune somewhat ties together all three concepts I’ve referenced above. The chords can be complex, the melody is out of this world, and the rhythmic stops and hits are extremely challenging to ‘pin down’.

Jazz music

It’s What You Do With It

While these three examples are great, sustained listening and appreciation is what will help you bring some of these concepts to your productions. From country to trap music, producers utilize elements of jazz constantly to set their creative works apart. Listening to these three examples won’t make you a master of the genre, but it will help get you on the path of understanding what further study can bring to your productions!



Matt Vanacoro is one of New York's premier musicans. Matt has collaborated as a keyboardist in studio and on stage with artists such as Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater), Mark Wood (Trans-Siberian Orchestra), Mark Rivera (Billy Joel Band), Aaron Carter, Amy Regan, Jay Azzolina, Marcus Ratzenboeck (Tantric), KeKe Palmer, C-Note, Jordan Knig... Read More


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