Frequently Asked Questions About Jazz Camp
How do I get to JazzWorks Jazz Camp?
The JazzWorks summer Jazz Workshop is held at the CAMMAC Music Centre on Lake MacDonald in Quebec. CAMMAC stands for “Canadian Amateur Musicians/Musiciens Amateurs du Canada.” CAMMAC runs a variety of programs for all types of musicians and makes its facilities available to organizations such as JazzWorks. Jazz Camp has been located here since 2006.
To the right are the Google map app and a link to a pdf to CAMMAC. It’s a pleasant drive from Ottawa, either on the Ontario or the Quebec side of the Ottawa River, just under two hours, 1 1/2 hours if you’re coming from Montreal.
There is lots of parking. If you need a ride, we can help you arrange one
How are the accommodations?
Not lavish, but comfy. You will probably be sharing a room in one of two dormitory-like buildings. There are shared shower and washroom facilities. The rooms have electricity, bedding and pillows. Meals are in a cafeteria setting. Three meals a day are provided, including dinner on Thursday night. Coffee is also available at breaks. If you choose to camp, the camping area is equipped with electricity and washrooms/showers, and is close to the main building.
There is a pay phone at the camp that can be used for outgoing calls.
I’m not an experienced jazz player. Is this camp for me?
You will meet a few campers who are experienced musicians. They can read, improvise, play in all the keys. And you will meet some campers whose musical knowledge is just past beginner level and have never improvised in their lives. You will meet high school students and senior citizens, all keen on the music and all eager to learn. The overall atmosphere is informal, friendly and supportive.
Obviously, you should know your instrument. Reading ability helps: even though jazz is about improvisation, ensemble playing is also part of the music.
As far as improvisation goes, the most important thing is to have open ears and be willing to learn. Both in combo rehearsals and workshops, there are ample opportunities to learn. There is no need to feel uncomfortable. You can participate or not in jam sessions. In your combo, you will be grouped with other musicians who are at your level, based on audition tapes you all submit.
What about that audition tape?
It’s not really a tape any more. Because we need to share your music with faculty in other cities, digital audio works best — an MP3, for example. In a pinch, a CD will do. It needn’t be elaborate or recording quality. Just send along a short sample of your playing or singing. That, along with a questionnaire you fill out when you register will help us place you in the most congenial musical context. If you have any problems with this, give us a call and we can help.
What musical things should I bring?
Your instrument, obviously, and all that goes with it. There are music stands at CAMMAC. If you prefer to bring your own, be sure to mark it. Pianists will be told whether they need to bring their electronic keyboards. Music paper is helpful for working on arrangements or just jotting down ideas.
How does this combo thing work?
When you arrive, you are assigned to a combo under the direction of a faculty member. The other members of the combo will be at more or less the same level as you, as ascertained by audition tapes. Most combos will have a rhythm section, a couple of horns and sometimes a singer or two. The combo will rehearse each day, sometimes twice. The combo might be playing standard tunes or, in more advanced groups, compositions written by combo members. At the end of camp, on Sunday afternoon, there is a closing concert in which all participant combos take part, each playing for about 15 minutes.
What about charts?
If there are tunes you are interested in playing in your combo or at a jam sessions, bring some charts along. A typical combo might have trumpet or trombone, a couple of saxophones, vocalist, guitar, piano, bass and drums. So there will need to be a part for each. It helps if the tune is transposed to the various keys of the instruments, but don’t shy away from bringing a favourite tune if you are unable to transpose it. Your combo will probably perform two or three of the tunes the members bring in. Even if one of them is not yours, you may get a chance to play it in rehearsal or at a jam session.
If you are bringing an original composition, you should have parts for C, Bb and Eb instruments, several copies of each, because you won’t know until you get there how many instruments will be in your combo. There is a photocopier on site, but copies are costly. Singers, if you are doing a song in other than “book” key, bring a chart in your key. It helps if you can provide Eb and Bb parts as well, but is not absolutely necessary. A good chart is one that has the melody written out, with four bars per line, and with chord changes written above the notes. It is best if it fits on one page, although two are sometimes necessary depending on the length of the tune.
Fakebooks are helpful, particularly for chord instruments and bass, especially for jam sessions, although the goal is to learn how to do without them.
Can I play with my friends?
Combo placements will be assigned before the camp begins, so if you have a preference for playing with certain people or are a member of an established combo that will be attending, please let us know on the questionnaire. The instrumentation of combos will vary depending on registration and we’ll do our best to accommodate your wishes.
What non-musical things should I bring?
Most of what you need is there, unless you are camping. But remember that you are many miles from the nearest convenience store.
Jazz instrumentalists and vocalists may find this table, generated by JazzWorks’ Chris Thompson (bass player in the Wave trio – www.wavejazz.ca, and drummer in the 14-piece plus vocalist Standing Room Only – srobigband.ca, useful for choosing good keys for songs. A ‘good key’ for a song is one where a) the range of the song in that key is best suited to the vocalist’s own range, AND b) the charts for concert instruments (piano, guitar, bass), Bb instruments (trumpet, tenor sax), and Eb instruments (alto sax) have no more than four flats or sharps. Note that the good keys are nicely spread out so, for example, if a vocalist determines that the best key for them for a song is Gb which has five flats in the concert key, the vocalist could instead go down a half tone to F which has only one flat in the concert key, one sharp in the Bb instrument key (G), and two sharps in the Eb instrument key (D). How cool is that!”
Jazz Camp Quick Links
Useful Tips and Tricks
Transposing Charts for Brass and Wind Instruments
When you are preparing charts to bring to jazz camp or jams, it is important to supply charts for the variety of instruments pitched differently than concert instruments. The chart at left shows that, for example, if a tune is in Eb, you must provide an F chart for Bb instruments, C chart for Eb instruments etc.
Common Bb instruments include the tenor and soprano saxophone, the Bb clarinet and Bb trumpet. Eb instruments include the alto and baritone saxophones, and an Eb clarinet. Supply C charts to the pianist, bass player, guitar player and vocalist. Some horns are F instruments - but they are not as common. In general, then, prepare charts for C, Eb and Bb instruments for any tunes you want to perform.
For more information on preparing charts for performance and jams, download our tip sheet, So You want to Sing at a JazzWorks Jam Session
The Thompson Table,
created by Chris Thompson