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Palen Music Center Quick Note

Monday, February 6, 2012


The PMC Quick Note is part of our mission to support the lives of band directors across the Midwest. The Quick Note contains helpful tips and suggestions from area directors, spotlights on area college and university band programs, calendars of upcoming events, advocacy articles promoting music education, links to helpful web resources, and much more.  Comments, suggestions, ideas, and articles are always welcome.


Looking for help on a particular topic? Be sure to check out our Quick Note Catalog of back issues!

Beginning Jazz Improv Tip

Greetings fellow jazz educators,

I recently had what I felt like was one of my better ideas since I began teaching, so I thought I would share it with you. After all of the great jazz improv workshops I saw at the Missouri Music Educators Association convention, I decided to reconstruct my jazz combo teaching. I wanted every student in the combo to be able to play a basic blues on piano, drums, bass guitar and a melodic instrument. Because of my own severe lack of piano skills, I sat down and tried to figure out the easiest possible way to play a B-flat blues on the piano. After I figured out what I believed was as easy as possible, it still looked too intimidating on paper to expect a person with no piano background to accomplish. So, I had the idea to mark the chords on the piano by color. I came up with the following system that you can see in the picture at the bottom of this article.

B-flat7 - blue
E-flat7 - green
F7 - yellow
F#7 - red

The only reason the F#7 is marked is because I came home from MMEA after hearing the Boston Brass and wrote an arrangement of "Blues for Ben", which has the raised "5" chord.

I tried this color coated system out in my general music class today and had students with absolutely no musical background able to play a 12 bar blues, after a short discussion on form.

If you think this is too goofy or lowering the bar too far for musicians, I probably agree, but I was able to take something I am passionate about and make it not only accessible, but made it appeal to a group of students who had shown little to no life in my classroom this school year. I can't wait to see how it goes over in jazz combo rehearsal tomorrow morning!

Dobie Carroll
Director of Bands / Tennis Coach
Liberty High School
Mountain View - Birch Tree R-III Schools
P.O. Box 464
Mountain View, MO 65548
(417) 934-2020 ext. 224

Contact Your Local Palen Music Center Representative


Can we assist you with anything?  Please contact your local Palen Music Center school road representative for all of your music education needs.


Springfield Bob Hopkins, Wayne Blades, Jason Moore, Mike Steffen, AAron Bryan (417) 882-7000
Columbia Paul Bowen (573) 256-5555
Liberty Ken Crisp and Victoria Clymore (816) 792-8301
Joplin AAron Bryan (417) 781-3100
Broken Arrow Jeff Lawless, Walter Pitts, and Mark VanVranken (918) 286-1555


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