Beginner Band Improvisation

Beginner Band Improvisation

Steven Archambault
[email protected]
Turkey Hill Middle School

TI:ME Technology Areas Addressed:

Electronic Musical Instruments


Middle School




MIDI Playback Device (Keyboard or other controller)


15-30 Minutes

Prior Knowledge and Skills:

Students can play concert Bb, Eb, Ab, (or 1,5,b7 in any key the director chooses), can tongue various rhythms and have experienced call & response.

NAfME Standards of 1994 Addressed:

NAfME Standards of 1994: Performing on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.

NAfME 2014: Performing 

NAfME Standards of 1994: Improvising melodies, harmonies, and accompaniments.
NAfME Standards of 1994: Composing and Arranging Music within specified guidelines.
NAfME Standards of 1994: Reading and notating music.

NAfME 2014: Creating 

NAfME Standards of 1994: Listening to, analyzing and describing music.
NAfME Standards of 1994: Evaluating music and music performances.

NAfME 2014: Responding 

NAfME Standards of 1994: Understanding Music in Relation to History and Culture

NAfME 2014: Connections


1. In advance the teacher will need to create a 12-bar Eb Blues MIDI file using Band-in-a-Box that repeats at least 6 times.
2. Students will need their instruments, a lead sheet of “C-Jam Blues” by Ellington that includes; the Eb Blues scale or appropriate abbreviated version (this can also show fingerings of “changed” notes and the basic melody (chord changes can be included for more advanced group).


First year Band members introduction to jazz improvisation.

Student musicians will be able to; play a simple jazz melody, using their instruments experience improvisation in a call & response format and after a short historical discussion of early jazz groups create and authentic “jazz” arrangement which has an intro, a chorus of the “head”, several choruses of improvisation, and ending with a repeat of the head.


1. Hand out “lead” sheet.
2. Review melody.
3. Play melody with rhythm section accompaniment.
4. Preview concert Eb.
5. Director plays a one measure “jazz” rhythm and the band echos back (Call & Response)while the MIDI Blues is playing.
6. Quick historical dicussion on the roots of Jazz & combo’s (early jazz groups did not use written music, created arrangements in their head, everyone took turns soloing, etc.)
7. Band creates a quick jazz arangement and plays while the accompaniment cycles through.


Student musicians will reflect on and self assess their performance. Discussion will center around those musical elements the director would like to emphasize at that time (ie. keeping a steady pulse, ending/stopping in time, syncopation, listening, etc.)

Follow Up:

For a few minutes each week students can expand their experiences by changing the tempos, timbres and key of the accompaniment, adding other “blues” notes, playing solos that utilize more than 1 note, playing individual solos, having various students be the “leader”, mix up the format (solo, head, solo, call & response, etc), research other.

A place can be set aside for student musicians to practice with the accompaniment.

Directors can provide audio copies or post MIDI files online for student musicians to practice outside of class.

Students could research a particular style or performer and help change the accompaniment to match.

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