Jazz and Improvisation Reference booklet.


Jazz and Improvisation 

History Of Jazz And Its Roots 
Enslaved Africans sang songs filled with words telling of their extreme suffering and praying for a better life. In the Mississippi field slaves were forced to work in unbearably difficult and cruel conditions. Slaves used calls and responses known as the field holler to keep their spirits, to take their mind off work and to keep a steady rhythm. The field holler evolved to become the spiritual, which developed into the blues. The popularly accepted theory that Jazz stemmed from a simple combination of African rhythms and European harmony is in need of a little revision. Both African and European rhythms were employed. African music supplied the strong underlying beat (absent in most European music), the use of polyrhythms, and the idea of playing the melody separate from or above the beat. European music provided formal dance rhythms. Combined, these rhythms give Jazz its' characteristic swing. Likewise, the harmonies and musical ideas of both continents are present, the blue notes derived from the pentatonic scale, "call and response" and unconventional instrumental timbres of African music together with "conventional" harmonies and, most important, the formal structure of European music.

Development Of The Art form. 
Jazz was a mixture of many different kinds of music. This brief history attempts to draw your attention to important styles and artists. MINSTREL SHOWS Before the Civil War white performers blacked their faces mimicking the music, dance and culture of the slave population. Composers like Stephen Foster however, only ever visited the south once and were in fact born in the Northwest. The popularity of these shows led later generations of black musicians to themselves imitate these white musicians and this element exerted an influence on jazz. WORK SONGS, FIELD HOLLERS, PRISON WORK SONGS, DANCE An important element of African musical tradition is its role in the lives of the people. Music is integrated into their working lives and in their rituals. In Western culture music is seen as an “art”. When music performs a function, like background music in a supermarket it is usually mundane and boring. The link between African music and dance is very strong. In 1817 the New Orleans City Council established an official site for slave dances (Congo Square). These circle dances were known as RING SHOUTS. Another feature of African music is the use of instruments to emulate the human voice. This trait plays a key role in jazz. An open tone and natural quality mark all African speech, singing and playing. (Islamic tradition is for a thin nasal wavering quality). In many African languages each syllable and word has a specific pitch association, and accordingly word meanings change with pitch variation. By contrast Western art music has a studied, cultural tone. The emphasis on improvisation and spontaneity in African music is also apparent in jazz. In African culture virtually any object can be a source of rhythm, and as a result their rhythm patterns are complex and subtle when compared to Western ideas of rhythm. Shuller explains this by showing that in Western thinking rhythm is thought of by dividing the beat, were as in African culture rhythm is thought of as adding beats. These polyrhythms and syncopation’s are very evident in jazz.

The Blu ues 
The blue developed from its es slave tra roots to become a ade b popular f form of son and ng, therefore a commercially viable e form of e entertainme ent. Blues m musicians began to us b se electric guitars and to shift th d he emphasis of the songs from m sadness and despair at the eir oppressiv treatmen to songs o ve nt of broken hearts and unrequite d ed love. Most his storians agre that the ee Blues wa one of the few forms as s to remain relatively constant n from the 18 f 890’s to 192 20’s, and although its origins are unknown it seems like to have been a new type of son that began with the a t ely b ng Negroes new life in the American South. N w e To T us the Bl lues means a 12 bar for that uses the Tonic, Subdomina and Dom rm s ant minant chor in a fixe rds ed pattern. p Another cha A aracteristic o the Blues is the use o “Blue no of s of otes”. In earl recording musician would ly gs ns “bend” a not sliding be “ te etween two tonal centr Later th res. hese Blue no were th otes hought of as flattened 3rds 3 and 7th and the fl hs lattened 5th. When sung t Blues us a specifi form for i lyrics. The first line is stated, th repeate and W the ses fic its Th hen ed followed by a rhyming l fo line. Ex. E Robert Johnson “D Drunken H Hearted Ma an” My M father d died and lef me,my poor mother done the best that sh could. ft r he My M father d died and lef me, my p ft poor mothe done the best she co er ould. Everyman l E likes that g game you ca love, but it don’t mean no ma no good. all m an . The T recordin made in the 192’s o Robert Jo ngs n of ohnson, Blin Lemon J nd Jefferson, C Charlie Patto Son on, House, and L H Leadbelly e exhibit the f following ch haracteristic (Delta Blues) cs. 1) 1 Sometime Blues are 8 bars, 12 bars, and 16 bars. Som es e metimes 13 ½ bars. 2) 2 They acco ompany the emselves on guitar and can frequen miss ou beats or a extra be to a bar. n ntly ut add eats 3) 3 Themes a general s are spirit of alie enation, lon neliness and desolation. . 4) 4 Distinctiv vocal sou often ra ve und, aspy and low but in the case of Blind Lemon Jefferson, high and w e h th hin.

The 12 Ba T ar Blues   Sequenc ce 
Following a the CHO F are ORD SEQU UENCE FOR THE 12 BAR BLUE This seq R B ES. quence is at the heart o t of all a Jazz mus Try to p sic. play through the seque h ence using either single finger cho e e ords (using single finge er accompanim a ment on the keyboards) or full cho ) ords. Remem mber to kee a steady beat and make sure yo ep m ou hav 4 beats in each bar. ve n

Im mprovisin ng. 
Im mprovising m means mak king it up a as yo go alon That sounds ver ou ng. s ry sim mple but th here are som guideline me es tha you can follow to help you at n o ur im mprovisation sound good, rathe n g er tha a set of jumbled ra an andom note es. As for a b sk blues scale template t to he you lear the notes against th elp rn s he ke eys.

1. Use t correct notes, eithe the er; a. a Notes fro the blue scale. om es b. b Notes th fit with t chord se hat the equence. 2. Use a chord seq quence, eithe er; a. a The 12 b blues sequence. bar b. b Another given chor sequence. rd 3. Keep a steady p p pace that ma atches the te empo of the music.


The e Correct t notes to o use. 

The T basic b blues scale is built up five pon simple notes s s. C Eb F G & Bb You can st Y tart to imp provise with these h notes first by starting o step one and as n on e you gain more conf y nfidence an the nd im mprovisatio sounds good the add on en another step a p.

Improvising on So I ome Popu ular Chor rd Seque ences  Now that y have learnt how to impr N you w rovise on the blues chord seq t quence, yo can now ou w have some fun work h e king with s some mor sequenc used in pop music. re ces n

• • • •

Sele the STY first. Eg Pop B ect YLE . Ballad. Sele a VOIC ect CE. Pres either O ss ONE TOU UCH SETT TING (OT or AU TS), UTO ACC ON. C Pres SYNCH ss HRO-STA ART.

Now N play one of the chord seq e quences b below (eith single fingered o full cho her or ords). Keep p repeating i while yo partner (or your r it our rself !) imp provises a melody o over the to op.

A) Pop Ballad p Ton : A nic Sca : A, B C, D, E, F, G, A ale B,

How H to play Am c chord (play A&Ab together on b single finger chor s rds)





B) Pop Rock p Ton : D nic Sca : D, E F#, G, A, B, C, D ale E, ,

How H to play Em7 chord ( E+Eb+D together) D

D F# A

Em m7



C) 8 B Beat Ton : G nic Sca : G, A B, C, D, E, F G ale A, F,





Ext tension Ta ask Try to shape y y your melo into an AABA st ody n tructure. The T person playing the chords should a add FILLS whe approp n ds also F ere priate.


Some pieces to perform. 
The Entertainer by Scott Joplin. 
Scott Joplin (born between June 1867 and January 1868[1] – died April 1, 1917) was a black musician and composer of ragtime music. He remains the best-known ragtime figure and is regarded as one of the three most important composers and founders of classic ragtime[2], along with James Scott and Joseph Lamb. His mastery of the ragtime genre led to his reputation as the 'King of Ragtime'. Ragtime is an American musical genre which enjoyed its peak popularity between 1899 and 1918. It has had several periods of revival since then and is still being composed today. Ragtime was the first truly American musical genre, predating jazz. It began as dance music in popular music settings years before being published as popular sheet music for piano. Being a modification of the then popular march, it was usually written in 2/4 or 4/4 time (meter), frequently with a predominant left hand pattern of bass notes on odd-numbered beats and chords on even-numbered beats accompanying a syncopated melody in the right hand. A composition in this style is called a "rag". A rag written in 3/4 time is a "ragtime waltz".

Peter Gunn theme from the Blues Brothers by Henry Mancini 
Henry Mancini (April 16, 1924 – June 14, 1994), was an Academy Award winning American composer, conductor and arranger. He is remembered particularly for being a composer of film and television scores. Mancini also won a record number of Grammy awards, including a "Lifetime Achievement" award in 1995. This piece was originally used for the hit tv series “Peter Gunn” and won awards at the time. It was reused in the film “the Blues Brothers”.

Jackass Blues by Fletcher Henderson 
This is a typical 12 bar blues with a catchy tune placed upon the top. There is scope to improvise in different sections to add variety but this piece is not that hard to play and should be conquered in a couple of practises. Improvise with the rhythm of the chord sequence to see if you can add variety. The person playing the vamp can also change to playing to bass part instead to add more variety.

Bill Bailey ­  Traditional (song is anonymous)  
When a song is traditional it means it has no known composer and the song usually has folk origins. In this case Won't You Come Home Bill Bailey is a popular song, often commonly referred to as simply Bill Bailey. It was written by Hughie Cannon, published in 1902, and is still a standard with Dixieland and Traditional Jazz bands.



Name ____________________________   Class_______________________  Listening Activity: Blues appraisal  Listen to the blues songs listed below and answer the questions in the table. Your responses will be assessed using criteria below. Make sure you understand this. Song title What instruments can you hear? What type of voices can you hear? What are the lyrics are about? Is there a 12 bar blues chord scheme?

National Curriculum Level Descriptions: Listening 
3: a basic recognition of sounds and the elements. 4: a correct identification and description of sounds using appropriate musical vocabulary. 5: an accurate identification and analysis of musical devices, evaluating the motives for composition. 6: a detailed identification and evaluation of the processes and contexts of musical genres. 7: a precise judgement of conventions and characteristics within musical genres, styles and traditions. 8: a precise discrimination of the characteristics and expressive potential of musical resources, genres, styles and traditions. EP: a detailed analysis showing a contextual awareness of musical genres, styles, traditions and composers.

Blues Lyrics
Blues lyrics contain some of the most penetrating autobiographical and revealing statements in the Western musical tradition. For instance, Robert Johnson's 'Come In My Kitchen,' such as a barely concealed desire, loneliness, and tenderness, and much more:
You better come in my kitchen, It's gonna be rainin' outdoors.

Blues lyrics are often intensely personal, frequently contain sexual references and often deal with the pain of betrayal, desertion, and unrequited love or with unhappy situations such as being jobless, hungry, broke, away from home, lonely, or downhearted because of an unfaithful lover. The early blues were very irregular rhythmically and usually followed speech patterns, as can be heard in the recordings made in the twenties. The first line is generally repeated and third line is different from the first two. The phrase the blues is a reference to having a fit of the blue devils, meaning 'down' spirits, depression and sadness. A feature of the blues is the use of call and response and the blues notes.
Now write some lyrics to a verse or two of a blues song (remember it can be complaining about love, work, treatment or anything else that makes you sad. Song Title

Chord Sequence of the 12 Bar blues & the Form of the 12 bar blues

There are always three 4 bar phrases

This example shows a clear 12 bar blues sequence.

But you can alter these chords to get the feeling you want. Revise the section on working with chords and popular chord sequences and then try to make your own chord sequence, try to fit it into a form of 3 X 4 bar sections. Write the chords below (each box is a bar of 4 beats).

Try to fit the chord sequence to your lyrics by playing your sequence over and over again whilst trying to sing or say the lyrics to a rhythm, until they seem to fit well. You can use Single finger chords such as; • C……F……F……C7……

or you can write the full chord out.
• C E G……..F A C………F A C……….C E G Bb

Here are some chords in short and in full.
C = C E G F7 = F A C Eb F = F A C G7 = G B D F G = G B D Em=E G B C7 = C E G Bb Am7 = A C E G

Assessment Levels……
Assess your own performance and three other performances. 3:rhythmically and melodically simple. 4: more complex and audience-focused. 5: initial ideas were developed to produce a stylish and effective improvisation. 6: a well-planned and musical improvisation, building on knowledge gained. 7: a well-proportioned, musically secure and refined improvisation with stylistic focus. 8: very polished and musically expressive, with sensitive handling of material. EP: a musically convincing exploitation of musical ideas and a sense of individual style and flair.


Style /voice

Clear 12 bar blues

Good improvisation

Did the piece develop?


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