Hello Modern Teachers,

I hope that this post finds you all well in body and mind. Last week we took a look at chord changes and some of the problems that beginners face when reading the “12 Bar Blues.” Today we are going to focus on a tool that I found this year that will help clear up your students understandings of chords. I have broken this review into its key components for easy viewing. Although this review is not a paid review I was able to secure a discount for my readers, so check the bottom of the post for details.


The tool in question is the “Jazz Deck” by NorCalJazz. I stumbled across this product and its creator (Brian Switzer) while attending the “Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic” this past year. At the time I was looking through resource books while trying to figure out how I can simplify the complex theory of chord changes for my 6th grade jazz combo. After a two-minute talk with Brian I was sold on the concept of the “Jazz Deck.” I purchased a deck from him and eagerly awaited my next jazz lesson with my students. We invested a large portion of time in the first lesson after winter break to go over the “Jazz Deck.” At first students were a little unsure about how the cards would improve their improvisational skills. However, with a little practice the students caught on quick and were improvising solos that they had never dreamed of. Since then I have been a huge proponent of the ‘jazz Deck” with my young musicians.


Luckily, Brian has put together a fun video explaining the system. I use this video with any of my new students that I am introducing to the “jazz Deck.”


Overall, the theory and execution behind the “Jazz Deck” was thought out and sequential. It’s ease of use means that I can invest my time in the style and rhythmic components of improvisation and not spoon-feeding students notes that they could use in their solos. Moreover, this tool has been a valuable resource in my students self-discovery and understanding of musical theory. The deck also is all in concert pitch, this means that with two decks I can easily cover the majority of my students.


Although the “Jazz Deck” is a great resource it is important to use it as a tool for learning chord changes. Allowing your students to only use the cards can develop a dependency. I always use the cards as a conversation starter so that students can write out potential licks that they want to use in their solos. In that initial conversation, we also go over a lot of enharmonic fingerings as the notated chord changes are not always in the key of the original piece.


Overall, I don’t think that there is much that needs change with the original “Jazz Deck.” Remember that this is a tool and not a curriculum. It is designed and intended to use in combination with other teaching techniques and not to use a complete system. I would like to see a version of this deck that notated the chords in tab format. I believe that this would help many of use who have guitarists who are not classically trained.


To be completely honest, I use it because my students like it. It’s ease of use allows for another way to reach my students and help motivate them to practice. In the end that is enough of a reason to invest my time and money into the “Jazz Deck.”


At the end of the day the “Jazz Deck” just another tool that I have in my bag of tricks. I feel strongly in sharing what works in my classroom in the hopes that you may also find it useful. To that extent, I have worked with Brain to offer my readers a 10% discount on the “Jazz Deck” until 3/10/16. I have listed the discount information below.

Discount Information

Website: http://www.jazzdeck.com/order/
Discount Code: MODERNTEACHER10
Code Expires 3/10/16

Stay Curious,