Jazz Theory

I would like to recommend two courses to you because I believe that as a musician your life will be easier if you have studied the basics of music theory. Do you want to know what tones make up the chords and scales? What chord progressions are common in jazz?

There is the “Zero to Improv” course on learnjazzstandards(dot)com, which is a great way to get started. The “Jazz Theory Unlocked” course on jazzadvice(dot)com helped me understand the elements of a jazz composition. The chapter on the use of diminished chords was also enlightening.

These two courses helped me further.

The Music of Jürgen Wuchner

Recently, a German book on Jürgen Wuchner and his compositions was published by Wolke Verlag, edited by Monika Schießer-Wuchner:

Serendipity. Jürgen Wuchners Kompositionen

Click on the link and scroll down the page. You see “Bb- und Eb-Stimmen zum freien Download”. If you click on that field, you get the sheet music for Bb and Eb instruments.

I hesitated to make this free download public. I recommend buying the book so the publisher and the authors get their fair share. Even if you do not speak German, there is the sheet music for C instruments. I am writing this article to help proliferate Jürgen Wuchner’s music.


The Beginner’s Blues Accelerator

It is just a proposal inspired by the Jazz Blues Accelerator on LJS (learnjazzstandards(dot)com). This small accelerator has three steps:

1. Play the roots of the chords of a blues in all 12 keys.

2. Know the blues scale in 12 keys.

3. Improvise over the blues scale in 12 keys.

Some explanations:

1. Take a blues in C and play half notes:


F F F# F# C C A A


For bar 8 to bar 11 it is good to know the circle of 4ths, aka “the cycle.”

Then do the same for a blues in F, and so on.

2. The blues scale is the minor pentatonic with the tritone. For example:

C Eb F F# G Bb

Find it in the other 11 keys.

3. As a piano player, play the roots of the chords with the left hand, with the right hand improvise over the blues scale.

As a horn player, create a play-along, e. g. with Band in a Box or iReal Pro.

The chords are

C7 F7 C7 C7

F7 F#dim C7 A7

Dm7 G7 C7 G7

(one chord per bar)


Sunny Side

Joyful songs are important, particularly in difficult times. I wrote a contrafact over the harmonies of “On the sunny side of the street” and memorized it. I recorded it with the soprano saxophone and Band in a Box.

The lead sheets:

Sunny_Side_Contrafact-C    Sunny_Side_Contrafact-Bb    Sunny_Side_Contrafact-Eb


Richard Feynman

When I was doing particle physics, Richard Feynman was my hero. Not only did he introduce Feynman diagrams which made high energy physics so much clearer, but also did he have a lot of humour. During a hard time I read his book  Surely you‘re joking, Mr. Feynman! and I found it wonderful what a curious, intelligent character can live to see. Later I read the biography by Jagdish Mehra The Beat of a Different Drum. The title refers to Feynman’s passion for drumming and his originality. In an epitaph he was called a physicist’s physicist. Some people may have thought he was arrogant. But let us be honest, by far most people overestimate their intelligence 😉


Farewell to Darmstadt

view from balcony

Another part of my life came to an end in October. Writing about it puts the question in which attitude I do it. I want to write thankfully. In 2009, I came to Darmstadt. First I worked at the Technical University, then at the accelerator GSI. I wrote a monography. For 10 years I took part in the workshop band of Jürgen Wuchner who died in 2020. Eight times I participated in the Jazz Conceptions, a one week summer workshop. I enjoyed the vibrant music scene, especially the concerts at Jazz Institute and at Knabenschule. The Frankfurt Radio Big Band played at Centralstation. Darmstadt also has a Staatstheater (public theatre) with opera. Each summer the Jürgen Wuchner Workshop Band gave a promenade concert in Orangerie Garden if it did not rain. I feel sad that I had to leave friends. Certainly will I return as a visitor.

In My Dreams

Are you curious what I am dreaming of? I am going to tell you, musically. It is an admittedly short composition, but for three tenor saxophones. On account of the pandemic it is hard to get three saxophonists together, so I recorded myself thrice.

Here you find the written composition:



Farewell to Jürgen Wuchner

Jürgen Wuchner in 2014 (Photo by Helge Kramberger)

On 1st May 2020, Jürgen Wuchner has passed away. He was a bassist, composer, band leader and teacher. He was honoured by the Hessian Jazz Award, the Darmstadt Music Award and the Johann Heinrich Merck Award. I knew him from his workshops. I played in his Darmstadt Workshop Band for 10 years. In his emails, he addressed the participants as “Dear jazz friends, …” and everybody knew about the double meaning. I feel very thankful that I could bring in original compositions which he arranged so wonderfully.

I feel helpless regarding something absolute like death. However, I take comfort from the fact that he had a fulfilled life of a musician and that he could travel all over the world. Gilbert Bécaud once sang, « Quand il est mort le poète, le monde entier pleurait ! » (When the poet died, the whole world cried!) This is also true for other artists.

It gave me so much having made music with him. He had many good traits of character. I miss him a lot.


Learn a Lick

From time to time I compose licks. These are only a few bars long. A lick for the chord C7 over one bar served as a source for an etude which I called “Learn a Lick”. I attach three versions in different keys. The eager players may practice all three of them. Or you may use them to play a blues in concert Bb with your jazz mates.

Learn_a_Lick_C   Learn_a_Lick_Bb   Learn_a_Lick_Eb