Cambridge Online Jazz Launch ‘Jazz-Funk’ Course!

Exciting times are afoot for all jazz and funk enthusiasts! Created with support from Cambridgeshire Music, a new cambridge online jazz course is set to kick off from 1st February – 1st March 2021.

If you have been looking for some inspiration to up your skills and learn a little about jazz-funk theory, this is the best place to start!

We caught up with organisers of the course, Vij and Sam to explain exactly what the course is all about, why you should give it a try and what you can expect to learn!

Tell us a little more about the online courses you’ve been running…

Vij: “So me and Sam have been running courses and events in Cambridge for 3 years now in collaboration with the Cambridge jazz festival and Cambridgeshire music. We’ve had support from various places for financial support but with the pandemic, of course it all crashed.

We were running Cambridge youth jazz orchestra and doing some adult education work but we felt like there was this need for an online course, so back in April at the start of lockdown we decided to try one and since then month on month it seems to be becoming more popular.

We’ve got a lot of returning musicians which is nice and our aim was to give people something to focus on in lockdown and something to help them develop their musical knowledge. We wanted to try to create a real social element with these courses because obviously with music it’s so important to speak to other people, so we’ve created a virtual jazz ensemble which we put together each month and create an arrangement we play.”


“Each week in the course, there’s an advanced and an intermediate stream. Everyone has access to everything so you can pick your way through the course, or do both if you’d like to! 

There’s video lessons, practice lessons and play along videos to use. Each week we set a challenge and people film themselves and we’ll send personalised feedback on what went well, where to improve and where you can go next with what they’re doing. We’re trying to make it as interactive and social as possible.”

Sam: “Each week we set goals to reach – They’re not goals that have to be done, they’re just recommended tasks and you can follow along as you want. One thing that I’ve definitely loved is that all of the videos aren’t live streams, but fully edited and high quality pre-recorded sessions so you can do them whenever you want. I know people have enjoyed that instead of having to tune in at a set time”

Why Jazz-Funk?

Vij: “At the end of each of our courses, we do ask for feedback and things people enjoyed, things people are looking for and the word funk was appearing more and more so it’s been on the plans for a while.

This is the 7th course we’ve done this year and we have mapped out where we see the others going. Because jazz is such a broad spectrum, it can be quite intimidating for people so we wanted to focus each course on a different element of improvisation and ensemble playing of jazz so if someone manages to get through 10 courses with us, they’ll leave with 10 completely different skills and jazz-funk is a huge one.

We’ve both trained as jazz musicians and train at jazz standard – I’d say around 70% of our work is pop and funk jazz and most people aren’t taught to do it to find the intricacies of funk so we’re really excited for this course!”


Who is this course designed for?

Sam: “We’ve opened it up and kept things as broad as possible really. Definitely someone who is really keen to learn how to improvise. The whole reason we have intermediate and advanced courses is so you can really pick and choose your ability and swap between.

For example if you try an advanced session one week and find that it was a little too intense for you, because you’ve got access to both, you always swap back down to the intermediate levels if you need to. If you’re interested in jazz but perhaps don’t know how to put jazz theory over something like funk, this is definitely for you!

Vij: “When we first started, our primary objective was to focus on youth jazz, but obviously with lockdown we thought we have got to open this up to absolutely everyone.

As a baseline, if you have the ability to play just 5 or 6 notes on your instrument, you have the ability to access and enjoy this course, yes there will be some notated things that might be beyond you but there will be plenty of exercises you can do!

We have a selection of ear players and people who don’t read sheet music, I think our age range is everything from 11 to mid 70s so it really is broad and instrument wise, we cater for almost everyone, drums, guitar, bass, keys, frontline horns, we’ve had violinists so really we’ve had so much thrown at us that our resources are now capable to tackle pretty much everything and everyone who’s interested in being creative I would say!”
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What can someone expect to learn during this course?

Sam: “The course lasts for over 4 weeks. Each week, you’ll get a video lesson on the Monday. There will be a certain standard that the courses are based around so by the end of the month you’ll be able to play the standard and know how to do a few extra things within it.

The first week will be learning the standard and giving you some ideas to improvise over both for intermediate and advanced.

Second week, it’s an important week for us that we call transcription where players either have to learn a famous solo section or we write an example solo that might suit their ability. The task that week might be something like ‘can you play that part of the solo?’ or ‘this sax player uses this technique, can you show us that in your playing?’.

The third week for this course is going to be a big band week, which is an adaptation of the ensemble and how to phrase your playing together with other musicians. 

The final week is extra – extra things for looking at that jazz standard and looking for other interesting things that might apply to that course or applying it to other standards.

We try to make the standards interlinked, so it’s not just ‘now you can do this’, instead you’ll be able to apply it to all the other jazz standards you’re learning or have learned. That setup seems to be working really nicely.

Vij: Yeah, we also keep in touch at least a few times a week, we’ve got some students writing some amazing pieces and listening lists where we send out a piece of music and write up what you’re listening for and really try to have fun with it.

Generally the courses are focused on particular figures, but this one is really broad so we will be keeping it wide and asking people to explore new albums and techniques.”

What’s the best way to get involved?

Vij: “Just Email us or apply via our website!

Other than that, feel free to reach out on our facebook page and social media or check out our youtube channel for some of the examples of what you’ll be learning and some examples of the virtual jazz ensembles that we’ve put together so you can see that we work together during the courses!”

We absolutely love what Sam and Vij are doing and would encourage all jazz musicians to get involved in this incredible scheme! These projects have been very heavily subsidised and all profits will be going into the jazz festival’s education scheme!



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