Preparing for High School Jazz Band


Senior Member
Now i really hate how i am sort of piggybacking on other themes of threads, but Arrold's thread brought a vital question i need to ask.

Next year, I will be joining my high school's Jazz Band program (as a drummer, of course) and I want to start learning what I need to know. Soon I will go to the man in charge and i will talk to him about joining and getting prepared, but I was wondering if you guys could help me be prepared for the program.

Here's my situation. I have only been drumming since last June and I have relied on free internet lessons to teach myself to play. I think that I have learned a good deal of material, at least the basics, and I am going to learn the goods from a teacher this summer, which should prepare me the most.

My questions is what should I know most about for this program? Yes, I should learn to play the jazz swing beat, but I want to be as prepared as possible for this. Also, I learned for a friend that they play funk (w00t!) and Latin as well as Jazz itself.

Is there a standard list of what I should know or what? And do most Jazz Band programs operate the same? I am not really sure what more to ask right now, but any help would be appreciated.


Platinum Member

Listen to the masters do it. Listen to bands live...listen to expert instruction. Catchin' my drift? I joined jazz band my sophomore year and ended up being placed in our schools top group. I had no formal lesson and only self taught drum experience. I had a teacher for 6 months, and he was good at starting me off with the basics. But nothing came close to helping me like listening did. Immerse yourself around great drumming and some should hopefully rub of on you.

As for your programs and such go...I don't really know how things work anywhere else than mine...we play a concert then a dinner dance possibly 1-2 other gigs and then a larger end of the year gig. We prepare a bunch of material as the year progresses and usually pick the most fitting tunes.

Good Luck!


Silver Member
Ask the band director who he would recommend for lessons, and make sure the director knows you intend to audition. Get the teacher on the same page in terms of killing the audition. Practice a lot.

Get. A. Teacher.


Congratulations on your decision; jazz band is a blast!

I would definitely get a private teacher. My teacher definitely helped me out with jazz a good amount before my audition. I learned how to interpret charts, pay attention to what each individual instrument is doing, and had a good couple lessons on comping. It's great that you're doing what you can to educate yourself with free lessons, but nothing can replace a private teacher.

Good luck, man!


Silver Member
I would try start reading charts, and practicing counting measures. The biggest problems in high school jazz band are getting lost, or being buried in a chart and missing something.

Don't just practice time or independence, put it in context of a tune with phrases. You want to internalize the form of the song so you don't have to count every measure. Is it a 12 bar blues?, 32 bar form? is the song abba, aaba, that kind of stuff.

I would also start making recordings of yourself playing, you can use a tape, digital recorder, whatever it doesn't have to be fancy or even sound good. You just want to listen back to yourself playing and hear what you sound like.

as far as styles most high schools do big band, blues, latin (mostly simple latin stuff like bossa novas, samba, alot of "straight time 4/4 latin" like weather report's birdland, basic funk.

When I first started high school we auditioned for marching band and for whatever reason they assigned me to cymbals and my heart was broken so I just woodshedded every day for next two months, and when jazz band auditions came around I got 1st chair as a freshman. The jazz auditions where a blind tape audition and we just had a one page sheet of jazz time with different accent figures. I pretty much just hit all the figures straight with very little embellishment or fills.


Junior Member
One of the ways I used to get ready (because I had never played in a band before my high school jazz band) was to talk to the drummer who was already there. This helped me in a lot of ways, one of them being learning how the program worked, and what was expected of me. He also gave me some lessons on reading the charts, and setting up the shots. Hope this helps.