Hello Modern Teachers,
I hope that this post finds you well in body and mind. As a jazz musician, I have had years of experience behind my horn improvising new melodies. Behind every great solo is months if not years of practicing riffs and melodies. Moreover, behind every great solo is quite a bit of musical theory. The hardest part of this theory for our students to understand is chord changes. Let's take a look at an example below to go through a jazz musicians thought process.
Main Example – 12 Bar Bb Blues
As a jazz musician, I can tell you that it takes a lot of practice and a strong understanding of music theory to become proficient at reading chord changes. As a teacher, I can tell you that whenever a new student starts learning how to read changes and improvise many of them are confused and scared. For many young musicians, chord changes are something that is quite mystical. Up to this point many musicians have never been exposed to chord symbols or the concepts of major, minor, diminished and augmented triads. This experience can not only be frightening but also frustrating.
It takes years of practice in order to read changes efficiently. As a result, many teachers have just resorted to either printing out a solo for students or just giving them the basic notes rather than teaching them to read the changes. I will be the first to admit that in times of frustration that I have done the same. However, this approach not only leads to a lack of creativity but also can lead the the complete dismissal of chord changes. There are so many notes that can be used with the traditional "12 Bar Blues" that can lead to a world of possibilities for our young musicians. With practice and the correct tools we can change the view of our students from the above example into the example below.
Wouldn't your jazz program benefit from all of your students being able to read chords and make interesting solos? Over the next few weeks I will be focusing on some of the tricks, gadgets and techniques that I have found useful in my classroom and in my personal practice. We will take a journey together down the rabbit hole that is jazz improvisation and will end with a better understanding for not only the theory but also the techniques that will help our students succeed. As always, if you have any comments please feel free to leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.