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Elements of Jazz








1. National Center for History in the Schools, UCLA

2. NAfME: The National Association for Music Education

3. The term swing has a number of meanings and connotations, many of which require a musical background and others which are almost indefinable (for a more thorough and musical definition of swing, see glossary). For purposes of this lesson, only swing in the general sense will be discussed. As used here, the term should not be confused with its use as a label for the era of jazz in the 1930s-mid 1940s, i.e., the Swing Era.

4. The selection from this CD (the definitive recording of Song for My Father) required for this lesson can be heard on the web site (www.jazzinamerica.org).

5. Student handouts may be downloaded from the Jazz in America website, printed, and photocopied.

6. Any material from the Jazz in America website may be downloaded, printed, and/or made into a PowerPoint slide as the instructor sees fit.

TOPICS: Elements of Jazz

  1. Improvisation
  2. Rhythm and general swing feel
  3. Sounds and instruments associated with jazz
  4. Harmony
  5. Form

National Standards for United States History)1

Historical Thinking
Students should be able to:
  1. Draw upon the visual, literary, and musical sources, including: (a) photographs, paintings, cartoons, and architectural drawings; (b) novels, poetry, and plays; and (c) folk, popular and classical music, to clarify, illustrate, or elaborate upon information presented in the historical narrative (Historical Comprehension Standard 2i).

National Standards for Music Education2

Artistic Process - Responding: Select, Analyze, Interpret, and Evaluate Music
  1. Choose music appropriate for specific purposes and contexts. – Identify reasons for selecting music based on characteristics found in the music, connection to interest, and purpose or context (MU:Re7.1.E.5a); Apply criteria to select music for a variety of purposes, justifying choices citing knowledge of the music and the specified purpose and context (MU:Re7.1.E.IIa).
  2. Analyze how the structure and context of varied musical works inform the response. – Identify how knowledge of context and the use of repetition, similarities, and contrasts inform the response to music (MU:Re7.2.E.5a); Explain how the analysis of structures and contexts inform the response to music (MU:Re7.2.E.IIa).
  3. Support an interpretation of a musical work that reflects the creators’/performers’ expressive intent. – Identify interpretations of the expressive intent and meaning of musical works, referring to the elements of music, contexts, and (when appropriate) the setting of the text (MU:Re8.1.E.5a); Support interpretations of the expressive intent and meaning of musical works citing as evidence the treatment of the elements of music, contexts, (when appropriate) the setting of the text, and varied researched sources (MU:Re8.1.E.IIa).
  4. Support personal evaluation of musical works and performance(s) based on analysis, interpretation, and established criteria. – Identify and describe the effect of interest, experience, analysis, and context on the evaluation of music (MU:Re9.1.E.5a); Evaluate works and performances based on research as well as personally- and collaboratively developed criteria, including analysis and interpretation of the structure and context (MU:Re9.1.E.IIa).

The student will
  1. gain a fundamental understanding of jazz's primary elements
    1. improvisation
    2. rhythm and general swing feel
    3. sounds and instruments associated with jazz
    4. harmony
    5. form
  2. learn the basic definition of several terms associated with jazz
    1. improvisation
    2. rhythm
    3. syncopation
    4. swing (in the general sense3)
    5. harmony
    6. comp; comping
    7. embouchure
    8. form
    9. head
    10. out head
    11. chorus
    12. intro
    13. ending ("taking it out")
    14. vamp
    15. arrangement
    16. jam session
  3. learn the definition of several general words ("SAT Vocabulary")
    1. cognitive; cognitively
    2. extant
    3. autonomy
  4. listen to Song for My Father

  1. computer logged onto www.jazzinamerica.org
  2. LCD projector and screen
  3. CD player (optional)

  1. The Instrumental History of Jazz (optional)
    1. two CDs
    2. accompanying booklet
  2. Song for My Father or Best of Horace Silver on Blue Note CD4 (optional)
  3. Student Handouts (one per student)5
    1. chapter glossary6
    2. Conversation ~ Improvisation chart
    3. Common and Uncommon Forms sheet
    4. Song for My Father arrangement sheet

The instructor will
  1. distribute student handouts
  2. discuss the primary musical elements of jazz
    1. improvisation
    2. rhythm and general swing feel
    3. sounds and instruments associated with jazz
    4. harmony
    5. form
  3. play Song for My Father, pointing out various elements of jazz

Test Bank
  1. Multiple Choice
  2. True-False
  3. Matching
  4. Fill in the Blank
  5. Essay

the Herbie Hancock institute of jazz
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