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Fundamentals of Jazz Composition

An Exploration of Musical Language

Sam Jackson, 2022


This book presents an in-depth analysis of the vocabulary, methods, and tools of jazz composition. Written from the perspective of the composer, it explores the ways in which the jazz greats wrote the music that has become the standard repertoire.


Harmonic devices, the use of scale, modes, and chords, arrangement, and the vast array of compositional nuances are systematically laid out, explored, demonstrated, and explained, allowing the reader to build themselves a toolbox of compositional tools to bring to bear on their own work.


This is a beautifully presented paperback book with a pinched crown quarto trim. The 314 pages present a comprehensive, intellectual, and accessible account of modal and tonal harmony as it applies to the jazz canon.​

As a textbook, it guides the student through the fundamental concepts required to build a functional compositional dictionary of jazz language.

For experienced composers, this book provides a wealth of nuanced ideas, from simple chord substitutions to entire modulations, as well as providing a rich reference for the myriad tools available.


Fundamentals of Jazz Composition contains 23 chapters covering such topics as:


  • Rhythm and Meter

  • Pitch and Harmony

  • Turnarounds and Cycles

  • Key Modulation

  • The Blues

  • Melody and Song

  • Chord Tones and Non-Chord Tones

  • Harmonising Melodies

  • Melodic Phrases

  • Arrangement

  • Substitutions

  • Elaborations

  • Modes and Modal Jazz

  • Non-Functional Harmony

  • Scales

  • Melodic Techniques

  • More Harmonic Techniques

  • Chord Voicings

  • Writing for Rhythm Section

  • Writing for Melodic Instruments



Paperback, 314 pages.

ISBN: 978-0-9957273-4-2


Fundamentals of Jazz Composition: An Exploration of Musical Language

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