The Development of a Jazz Improvisation Method to Teach Various Levels of Junior High and High School Students in the Classroom
Irish, Michael J.
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, College of Fine Arts and Communication
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The purpose of this thesis is to present a method of teaching single-note (linear) jazz improvisation utilizing a unified, multi-level approach designed for use with high school and advanced junior high school students. The method is intended for implementation by public school educators, private teachers and college students. Presently, there exists no single method which meets the needs of musicians of this specific age group and the music educators involved with teaching them. The two key terms in the previous statement are multilevel and unified. Multi-level refers to the fact that the method itself is designed to be used with students at four different levels of experience in jazz improvisation. The four levels and their objectives are defined as follows: Level I: no previous experience in jazz improvisation. Objectives: A) to introduce the major and blues scales, and to develop basic facility with them B) to develop basic analytical skills to determine proper scale/chord relationships. Level II: very limited experience in jazz improvisation. Objectives: A) to continue facility development through the introduction of sequential patterns B) determination of key (tonal) centers by analysis C) to learn alternative scale/chord relationships Level III: moderate experience and background in jazz improvisation. Objectives: A) to introduce more advanced and complex scalar patterns B) to introduce guide-tone principles C) to develop linear and lyric improvisational strategies Level IV: extensive experience in jazz improvisation with a knowledge of standard repertoire. Objectives: A) to apply advanced scalar patterns to improvisations B) to use upper-extension guide-tone principles in improvisations C) to develop tension/release concepts in improvisations Unified means that three types of improvisational vehicles (modal, blues and II-V-I) are used as repertoire to develop improvisational skill. The unit on each vehicle contains exercises and commentary related to the four levels of experience. The aims of the method itself are 1) to provide learning materials proceeding from the technically easiest to the more difficult, 2) to provide specific exercises at four different technical levels, 3) to provide three different structural approaches to jazz improvisation which make up a large portion of the jazz repertoire, 4) to provide the educator with a specific set of "lesson plans" to follow in teaching jazz improvisation, 5) to provide the student with a discography that is pertinent to his/her level of experience and 6) to develop-a jazz improvisation aesthetic concurrent with the development of instrumental technique. The existence of a method meeting these criteria will greatly facilitate the teacher/educator when trying to bridge the gap between method books of an informational nature and the daily teaching of jazz improvisation.