Introducing the Blues

George Murphy
[email protected]
Ahern Middle School

TI:ME Technology Areas Addressed:



Middle School




Computer and Keyboard entry system


40 Minutes

Prior Knowledge and Skills:

As instumentalists, they should be able to play an octave, Bb to Bb. They do not need keyboard skills, as they will be learned in the lesson.

MENC Standards Addressed:

MENC 1: Singing, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.
MENC 2: Performing on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.
MENC 3: Improvising melodies, harmonies, and accompaniments.
MENC 4: Composing and Arranging Music within specified guidelines.
MENC 5: Reading and notating music.
MENC 6: Listening to, analyzing and describing music.
MENC 7: Evaluating music and music performances.
MENC 9: Understanding Music in Relation to History and Culture


Any simple blues tune will work as an introduction to listening, and playing the pattern yourself on an instrument.


Instrumental students in 5-8th grade will learn to hear and play a simple blues pattern, and recognize the 12 bar blues form.
When they can hear the form change at each 4 bar interval, and end, you will know they understand the form.


1. Introduce the blues by listening to a recording…C Jam Blues by Duke Ellington, or Every Day I Have the Blues by Joe Williams with the Count Basie band…there are literally thousands of recordings to choose from, including 50’s rock ‘n roll tunes.
(5 min.)

2. Point out the 3 four bar sections through listening to the bass line especially, and the lyric.
1.) I wake up in the morning, and wash my face and hands.
2.) I wake up in the morning, and wash my face and hands.
3.) I step into the kitchen, and rattle some pots and pans.
(5 min.)

3. Have them play or input by simple entry, the notes of the one chord (Bb7) 1 beat per note, in this pattern:
1.) Bb, D, F, D / Bb, D F (2 beats)(example attached)
(10 min.)

Next is the four chord (Eb7) for 2 measures, back to Bb7
2.) Eb, G, Bb, G, / Eb, G, Bb (2 beats)/ Bb7 / Bb7 which they already know.
(5 min. they are only learning 1 new pattern)

Last is the turnaround, F7, Eb7, Bb7 and F7 (this could be simplified, or changed to fit the level and needs of your students)
3.) F, A, C (2 beats) / Eb, G, Bb (2 beats)/ Bb, D, F, D / F, A, C (2 beats)
(10-15 min. this will take the most time, and may not be ready for performance the first time.)

4. Have them listen to and play the pattern on their own instruments…if time permits. This is really a multiple class project, and can be expanded as needed…see examples below.


Have students listen to a blues and ask them to raise their hands as they hear each of the 4 bar sections, and have them close their eyes, and tell you when the end of the form occurs.
They can demonstrate on their instuments…have them memorize the complete pattern…they do not have to know the chord names.

Follow Up:

1.) Improvise different rhythms on each note of the chord…ex. add eighth notes, or anticipate/syncopate others.

2.) Expand the improv to their own melodies, using some of the notes of each chord.


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