Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)



Document Type



The purpose of this study is to explore the personality, background, influence and playing style of Johnny Dodds (1892-1940), a New Orleans jazz clarinetist. Jazz is an art form that has been passed down aurally for over a hundred years. Although the development of jazz and the performers who played it have been the subject for numerous jazz historians, there are still scant resources available for a musician to learn jazz clarinet style. The ease with which a musician can emulate an early jazz clarinetist depends on the amount of time devoted to listening and emulating whatever recordings are available. This study is an attempt to shorten this learning process by providing a series of transcriptions and analyses that identify and document specific melodic and harmonic traits that form the solo vocabulary of Johnny Dodds. The infusion of blues-playing techniques that Dodds used gave his sound an emotional intensity and expressiveness uniquely his own. As a member of many of the finest New Orleans style jazz bands, he contributed to the early development of the classical New Orleans ensemble-style jazz. The first chapter contains related prefatory material, including a brief history of jazz and its first recordings, an analysis of the difficulty in assessing particular clarinet jazz styles, and the need to provide written study materials for musicians who wish to learn early jazz clarinet styles. It concludes with reasons for picking Johnny Dodds as the subject of this study and brief descriptions of the pieces that will be transcribed. The second chapter focuses on Johnny Dodds. It describes how he grew up, how music and the clarinet became a part of his life, and the social, economic and educational influences that impacted his development as a musician, The third chapter contains examples from the analyses of each of the six recordings noted chapter one. Each analysis contains details showing how Johnny Dodds gave this piece his own stylistic interpretation. The fourth chapter contains a summary of the preceding three chapters. A transcription of the clarinet part from each analysis is contained in the appendix.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Steve Cohen



Included in

Music Commons