Bringing Jazz Into the General Music Classroom

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“It’s gotta be fun!”

So many music educators I meet – fantastic music educators, mind you – feel uncomfortable introducing jazz to their young students. This might be because jazz is a genre so many of us learned to love later in life, or because the 12-bar blues can be difficult to talk about unless you dig in to a little bit of theory.

So let’s de-mystify this amazing genre for our young people by starting with singing.

I always start my introduction to jazz lesson with the whole-song method – usually singing “Good Mornin’, Blues” with my students a few times through.

Sing the entire song for your students
Have students repeat the first two phrases
Have students repeat the final phrase
Sing the entire song together

I like this approach because it ties the learning to oral tradition – the way blues songs were first shared. “Good Mornin’, Blues” is short, and easy for students to be successful with. The whole song method also preps students to learn about the AAB rhyming scheme of the lyrics.

In addition to singing, I want my students playing. I usually start on Orff instruments – and if you don’t have any, Music Studio make virtual instruments available to you and your students, especially fun on tablets!

With two students at each instrument, teach this progression by rote:

C             E              G (x 4)
C             F              A (x 2)
C             E              G (x 2)
D             G             F (x 2)
repeat

or

I               I               I               I
IV            IV             I               I
V7           V7            I               I
repeat

 I always sing or hum while my students learn the progression to keep the tune in their ears.

There are so many other activities associated with this lesson, like analyzing the lyrics, making comparisons to poetry, and (of course!) writing new blues lyrics.

You can find a webinar where I discuss my approach to the entire lesson here. Be sure to sign up for access to the Lesson Sampler for Spotlight on Music to explore more great tunes like “Good Mornin’, Blues”.

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