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Handout for Teaching Beginning Jazz Improvisation

Teaching improvisation can be a daunting task. How do I teach kids how to invent a solo from thin air? I am the lead instructor at the Great Basin Junior Jazz Camp this week (I am also on faculty for the big camp, which is held a different week), and I created this handout to do just that. I do a lot of call and response with the kids in two bar phrases (based on these licks and others) and I use numbers to help kids get the idea of using licks. This also helps explain it better rather than telling each kid what notes to play in their key. They know that the blues scale:

1 b3 4 #4 5 b7 1 translates to:

C Eb F F# G Bb C
D F G G# A C D
A C D D# E G A

for C, Bb, and Eb instruments, respectively. It’s much easier to explain the lick in terms of numbers you can point to on the whiteboard rather than tell each section what notes to play. Here is the handout. The kids can use it to write out the licks in Bb and Eb.

The .pdf Handout:

Great Licks for the Blues

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