8 YouTube Channels That Will Take Your Playing To the Next Level

Stop. I mean, stop clicking random YouTube videos and losing your precious practice time, because here we have a solution that will instantly save you time and lead you to best places to learn about jazz and see it performed by the greats. You’re welcome. Here are some of the best, most-informative must-follow channels on YouTube today.

1. June Lee – Transcriptions, Music Theory, Interviews

If you’re too afraid to transcribe it, chances are June Lee already has. And if you’re looking for a dream-like variety of transcriptions set to music, June Lee is your man. He’s becoming fairly well-known for his interviews of up-and-coming legend Jacob Collier, in which they discuss some serious details about jazz harmony and reharmonization, and more. An aficionado of jazz theory, he posts invaluable information that inevitably saves the rest of us a great deal of time and allows us to dig right into the nitty gritty of practicing. This channel is less about old-school transcriptions and more about digging into modern, difficult-to-hear jazz improvisation and harmony.

2. SmallsLive – Live Streams of the Best in NYC

Any NYC-based player you ask will tell you there’s something unique about the atmosphere. This is your chance to experience it live, no matter where you are. Smalls is a legendary jazz venue where NYC’s best gather to play, calling tunes on the spot and stepping up for solos on random songs. It truly is the classic NYC jam session. As the channel itself states, “Smalls Jazz Club is the world-famous basement Jazz club located in the unique Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. Since 1994, Smalls has been having non-stop Jazz music 7 nights a week starting in the afternoon and going to the wee hours. Smalls is the meeting point for professional musicians in New York.” Make sure to keep tabs on this channel. Smalls streams many of their performances live, and you can catch some of the greatest players in NYC, whether it be for a featured performance or simply because they’ve stopped by a jam session.

3. JazzAheadTradeFair – Explore Up-and-Coming Artists from Around the World

How many of the world’s best international artists do you know of? This channel is centered around a trade show, conference and showcase festival for the global jazz scene in Bremen, Germany called Jazz Ahead. But what this channel contains is a wealth of live video performance archives of up-and-coming jazz performers who have played at the festival. Many of these people may be people you’ve never heard of, but we guarantee you’ll remember them after you check out these videos. If you want to stay ahead of the curb, knowing the best young players, this is a great place to hang out.

4. Jacob Collier — Insane Reharmonization and Arranging

Most of you jazz aficionados probably know of Jacob already, but if not, you’re in for a big treat. Listening to this guy will teach you everything you need to know about jazz harmony and reharmonization. He tends to arrange for a vocal choir that generally consists of many versions of… himself. Don’t forget that June Lee’s channel (mentioned earlier) features a number of interviews with Jacob and transcriptions of his arrangements. If you’re interested in reharmonization and the vast possibilities of changing how a tune sounds, there is no better place to learn.

5. Learn Jazz Standards – Serving All of your Play-Along Needs

Who needs to buy play-alongs anymore when you have Learn Jazz Standards? Well, OK, you still can’t beat Jamey Abersold, but this channel features a variety of play-along tracks for our practicing needs, with different instrumentations to suit all. It doesn’t stop there, however. You will also find a great number of fantastic podcast episodes posted on this channel with an array of interviews discussing interesting and inspiring subjects.

6. Jazz At Lincoln Center’s Jazz Academy – Learn Directly from JAC’s Legends

Maybe you don’t live in New York… but you’ve always wondered what it would be like to study with some of the greats at Jazz At Lincoln Center. Well, look no further. This channel features interviews with some of the best players in the industry. Even better though, these same people are delivering lessons straight to your computer screen. For example, this video demonstrates some fantastic collective improvisation by Evan Christopher, Jon-Erik Kellso, Eli Yamin and others. All that said, this channel is mostly focusing in on the basics, so if you’re looking for advanced concepts, this may not be the channel for you.

7. WBGO – New York’s Premiere Jazz Radio Records their Guests for YOU

If Jazz Ahead is ahead of the curb, and Jazz At Lincoln Center is a little behind, this channel will place you directly on top of it. WBGO is NYC’s very own jazz radio station, but they’re not just on the radio anymore. THIS is the place to come if you’re looking for videos of today’s top modern jazz players performing live. Take, for instance, this intimate video of Tigran Hamasyan, or this mesmerizing video of Christian Scott.

8. Tigran Hamasyan – Considered by Many to be the Best Young Pianist on the Scene

Speaking of Tigran Hamasyan, if you haven’t heard of this guy yet, you’re seriously missed out. The winner of the 2006 Thelonius Monk competition, his music is largely inspired by his Armenian roots and Armenian folk music. His YouTube channel features a wealth of his own content. Whether or not you like his music, there is no denying the genius of his artistic vision. His rhythmic and harmonic senses are like no one else’s before him.

All of these channels are must-follows. Hopefully, these channels will keep you busy while helping you steer clear of the multitude of jazz junk out there. Happy surfing.

-Noah Kellman

Picture of Noah Kellman

Noah Kellman

5 Responses

  1. Wow, Brendon, you have provided a treasure-trove of sites that would take forever to find separately from scratch. Thanks so much. Love your stuff!

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