Is Jazz Music Good for Studying?

Is jazz music good for studying?

With the schoolyear starting back up again, you might be thinking about how to improve your study skills. Maybe you want to try out meditating to declutter your mind before hitting the books. Or maybe you’re one of those people who motivates themselves with an M&M after each page.

Some people like to study early in the mornings, others like to stay up all night, and some prefer silence while others can’t stand it. Well, if you’re someone who likes noise, you might be glad to find out that jazz music is excellent for studying because it helps reduce stress!

One neuroscientist found that the improvised nature of jazz engages the brain and minimizes stress in ways that classical music does not. And stress, as you may already know, is the enemy of memory ability. The happier and more relaxed that you are, the more likely you are to remember an important fact or vocab word. And we all know that the swinging style of jazz always puts a smile on your face!

The only thing to possibly be wary of is jazz songs with singing because the lyrics may confuse and distract your brain. The best jazz to listen to while studying is definitely instrumental. 

So, sharpen your pencils, get out your highlighters and headphones and turn on these snazzy instrumental tunes!

 WJ3 All-Stars – Broadway

This vibrant, fast-paced 2022 tune will warm up those brain waves. Your eyes will glide easily through the dense paragraphs as you listen to the dazzling sax solo.

John Di Martino, Joe Magnarelli & Wayne Escoffery – Tell Me Why

Now that you’re in the groove, you’re probably becoming more curious about what you’re studying and learning. Like this jazz song, you’re digging deeper into the layers of meaning that exist in the world and you’re wondering, why? Why are things the way that they are? Well, keep up the hard work and contemplative thought and soon enough, you’ll be the expert with all the answers!

WJ3 All-Stars – I Should Care

I don’t know about you, but after studying for a while, I can start to get into a slump. Maybe you’re getting a bit drained and apathetic. But don’t worry, this song will give you the second wind that you’re craving! It’ll make you remember why you care so much about your studies.

John Di Martino, Joe Magnarelli & Wayne Escoffery – Please Don’t Go

The backbone of this song is definitely the energetic drumming, which creates an upbeat tempo that’ll perk you right up and get you through that last assignment. And then, once you’ve completed your work for the day, you can celebrate by dancing a little jig! The librarians will be so entertained that they just might not want you to go!

If you’re looking for more spunky instrumental jazz tunes to listen to while you study, check out our albums My Ship and Old New Borrowed & Blue, both of which are available in our store and on all major music platforms!

What is polyphony?

What is polyphony?

Get your notebooks out and your pencils sharpened, because today we are continuing our lesson in musical theory! If you haven’t already, please read our post about the differences between the melody and harmony.

So, last time we talked about how the melody is a sequence of notes that sound pleasing, while the harmony refers to a blending of notes. Before we go any further today, I’d like to also mention that the harmony can also informally refer to any parts of the composition that accompany the main melody. Remember, the melody is the backbone and leader of the piece, while the harmony refers to the vertical relationship between different pitches. The harmony creates chord progressions that complement the melody.

Now that we’ve refreshed ourselves on those basics, let’s take a look at a slightly more complex musical term—polyphony.

In Greek, ‘poly’ means many and ‘phony’ means voice, which contrasts with monophony, meaning one voice. As the etymology indicates, polyphony refers to music in which more than one entity—voice or instrument—plays melodic lines at the same time. This differs from harmony in the way that harmony is usually dependent on the main melody, whereas polyphonic music has each entity playing their own independent melodic lines.

However, things get tricky, because even though in polyphony, each “voice” is independent to a certain extent, these melodic lines are still connected by the overall harmonic framework. A polyphonic musical texture, therefore, still has harmony. The harmonic framework—meaning the blending of pitches to make chords—is what makes the music sound good! If a song didn’t have harmony, it would merely sound like an unpleasant cacophony of sounds. And, in case you didn’t know, ‘caco’ in Greek means bad.

Technically speaking, any music that consists of multiple “voices” is polyphonic, which would be most music. But in the Western music tradition, polyphony often refers to a particular technique called contrapuntal, or counterpoint. With this technique, there is no foreground or background lines, as with most pop songs today, but rather involves a mutual conversation between the lines. With counterpoint, the notes in each independent melodic line also coincide to create chords. Bach was a composer who loved writing in the intellectually stimulating counterpoint technique.

But chances are that if you’re reading this post, it’s because you love jazz music, so you may be wondering, what exactly does this have to do with jazz?

Well, polyphony was used in the traditional jazz that developed in New Orleans at the turn of the 20th century. In these early jazz compositions, the trumpet often played the melody, while the clarinet and trombone improvised semi-independent lines that were counterpoint in nature. And in bebop jazz—originating in the 1940s—the bass played a consistent countermelody of quarter notes that produced a polyphony with whatever other musical texture was played on top.

After that lesson in music theory, you deserve to sit back, relax, and let the polyphony of this 1993 jazz tune wash over you. Listen to the independent melodies of the bass trombone and bari sax in Mingus Big Band’s “Moanin’!”

Now that you understand musical theory better, why don’t you take a listen to the sample tracks from our newest album, My Ship, and see if you can identify the melody, harmony and chord progressions! Or just simply try to identify the different instruments that are playing simultaneously.

This post was written by Blog Editor, Jacqueline Knirnschild.

Playful Jazz Tunes for April Fool’s Day

From whoopee cushions to huge plastic spiders, pizza made from candy to confetti on the ceiling fan, April Fool’s Day pranks may seem like a juvenile thing of the past, but really, what’s so wrong about having a little harmless fun at someone else’s expense?

Maybe you’re shaking your head right now. Maybe you’re much too mature for all this nonsense and pranks simply aren’t for you. Well, that is okay, too! You don’t have to pull a prank in order to celebrate April Fool’s Day, which, by the way has roots in an ancient Roman festival that involved disguises and the mocking of fellow citizens.

There are many ways to recognize the holiday, like listening to the playful jazz tunes that we compiled just for you! Honor that inner child of yours by tapping your toes along to these songs while you drive to work or cook dinner.

Ella Fitzgerald – I Found My Yellow Basket

We all know and love Fitzgerald’s iconic tune “A-Tisket, A-Tasket,” which was based on a 19th century children’s nursery rhyme about a girl who lost her basket, but did you know that Fitzgerald came out with a follow-up song? Co-written by the Queen of Jazz herself, this charming little tune, released in 1938, just might help to bring your childhood back to life this April Fool’s Day! I found my yellow basket / Oh yes, I really did / I found the girl who took it / I knew just where she hid.

Hoagy Carmichael – Barnacle Bill the Sailor

Inspired by a traditional folk song, this bawdy 1930 tune, which has since become a popular drinking song, tells the story of a fictional sailor named Barnacle Bill. The sailor knocks on a woman’s door and tells her, in rowdy detail, about how he dips snuff and drinks whiskey from an old tin can. I fight and swear and drink and smoke.

Cab Calloway – A Chicken Ain’t Nothin’ But a Bird

Who knew there was a jazz song out there about chicken? I sure didn’t!

All joking aside, despite its silly subject content and lyrics, this tune really showcases the rhythm and soul of the 1940s. Not to mention, it’s hard to hold back a smile listening to such a fun song. You can boil it, roast it, broil it …

Cole Porter – Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall in Love

Did you know that Porter’s first attempt at Broadway was unsuccessful and that it was only after the producer of Paris—the musical from which this song first appeared—convinced Porter to give it another try that he became famous? This 1928 hit song is precisely what brought Porter success in Broadway!

And I bet you also didn’t know that this tune is a favorite of mine because the lyrics are just so witty! With the double entendre and sexual innuendos, it almost feels like Porter is pulling a prank on the audience and listener. Oysters down in oyster bay do it / Let’s do it, let’s fall in love.

John DiMartino, Joe Magnarelli & Wayne Escoffery – Please Don’t Go

With its fast pace, upbeat rhythm and stellar trumpeting, this brand-new song will be sure to put a pep in your step this April Fool’s Day. By the end of the day, you’ll be wishing that the day didn’t go by quite so fast!

If you’re looking for more jazz songs that merge contemporary musical artistry with the timelessness of jazz classics, look no further than our new album, Old New Borrowed & Blue, which is available in our store and on all major music platforms today.

This post was written by Blog Editor, Jacqueline Knirnschild.

“Who is Singing Tonight?”

It all happened one week before a private donor appreciation event.

Musician and bandleader Bill Cunliffe was scheduled to perform with a vocalist and eight-piece band. Months of planning had gone into making sure the event would be as successful as possible, and announcements were distributed electronically and via snail mail by the Night is Alive Productions team. The vocalist had provided recordings featuring herself and Bill on Youtube and other social media as a preview for the honored guests. All was going according to plan.

The event was highly anticipated by all involved, as it was their first time in Akron, Ohio and the first time Oliver Nelson’s music would be performed, reimagined, almost 50 years after its original release. Tunes like “Stolen Moments” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYl2HZ9_Zvs&list=RDyYl2HZ9_Zvs&start_radio=1&t=0) would have new life breathed into them by Bill and his group.

On the Thursday one week before the donor appreciation event, I was out of town on vacation. As Bill’s manager, I left town believing all was under control and running smoothly. He had booked his musicians and vocalist. The music was written and scored. The venue was secured. Little did I know, Bill was leaving messages on my cell phone with unhappy news: the vocalist was sick.

By the time I received the voicemails, it was Saturday and the date of the gig was inching closer. During times like these, one of my most important managing mottos comes into play: “It is not what you know, but who you know and what they think of you.” Bill, being a two-time Grammy award winner, is highly respected in the jazz world, and musicians are (thankfully) eager and willing to join him on the band stand. He reached out to fabulous vocalist Jane Monheit, who graciously agreed to perform on short notice and flew in on the red eye the evening before the event.

A testament to her world-class musicianship, Jane performed cold with barely any preparation and wowed the crowd with her poise and grace. Bill and the musicians in the band were also exceptional, their flexible professionalism leading to a successful and enjoyable event. In the days following the performance numerous phone calls from audience members flooded in, praising the ensemble and conveying heartfelt appreciation for Jane’s willingness to take over for the vocalist who fell ill.

Though such star power usually warrants multiple gigs, this particular group was only scheduled to perform two nights. The second performance was a ticketed event in Cleveland which completely sold out thanks to the Night is Alive Productions team (“We fill the seats!” Use Night is Alive Productions for your events: http://nightisalive.com/).

“Who is singing tonight?” is not a question you want to ask in the moments leading up to a gig. But if you do your job well and work with good people who are willing to help you out in a pinch, the rest will follow. In the end, the music itself is what brings people together and builds a loyal following. The music is the reason why we are here.

Read more about Bill’s tribute to Oliver Nelson here: https://billcunliffe.wordpress.com/2010/12/13/a-tribute-to-oliver-nelson-and-%E2%80%9Cthe-blues-and-the-abstract-truth/)

For more information about Managing Director Kathy Moses Salem and Night is Alive Productions, please visit our web page (http://nightisalive.com/) or contact directly via phone.

Article by Kathy Salem, Managing Director, Night is Alive
Revised and Transcribed by Elizabeth Carney, Content Editor, Night is Alive