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How to Master Jazz Articulation


Reading notes off of a page is great for understanding theory, but mastering jazz articulation can take your playing to the next level and sound more musical. Looking at any piece of music you'll notice lines descend, ascend, twist and turn, and how you articulate and phrase those lines differentiates a beginner from a professional. To help you dial in your phrasing, there are a wide array of jazz articulation patterns to choose from to help you become more flexible. Let’s get into it!



Most jazz articulation patterns do not exist in standard notation. We pronounce the language that we’re articulating with syllables like Doo, Den, Dah, and Ooh. This technique applies to all instruments!


Ascending Jazz Articulation on Downbeats


For ascending lines, we play on the down beats using the syllable "Doo." Pronouncing this syllable helps us play the articulation much cleaner. Notice every downbeat here has the syllable "Doo" underneath it.

Ascending Jazz Articulation on Offbeats


For ascending lines, we play on the offbeats using the syllable "Den." The reason we use this articulation syllable on ascending offbeats is because the line is continuing to ascend. If the note on the following downbeat is below the previous offbeat note, we would use a different syllable which we'll look at next.




Downbeat articulation is slightly different for descending lines. We can use the syllable "Ooh" on descending line downbeats whenever that note is preceded from a note above. It's similar to "Doo" but makes it much smoother to articulate with "Ooh" on descending lines. Take a look at this descending line below and notice all of the "Ooh's" on downbeats. To hear this pronunciation in real time, click here.



For descending lines, we play on the offbeats using the syllable "Dah." The reason we use this articulation syllable on descending offbeats is because the line is continuing to descend. Compare saying "Doo-Dah" continuously vs. "Ooh-Dah" continuously and see which one you can repeat clearly for the longest period of time. You'll notice that "Ooh-Dah" is the easiest, therefore making those descending lines sound more effortless.