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Elements of Jazz








1. National Center for History in the Schools, UCLA

2. Music Educators National Association

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 down loaded from the web site, printed, and photocopied.

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 (Grades 9-12)1

Historical Thinking
Students should be able to:
  1. Draw upon visual, literary, and musical sources (Historical Comprehension Standard 2i)

National Standards for Arts Education (Music Grades 9-12)2

Content Standard #6 - Listening to, Analyzing, and Describing Music
  1. analyze aural examples of a varied repertoire of music, representing diverse genres and cultures, by describing the uses of elements of music and expressive devices
  2. demonstrate extensive knowledge of the technical vocabulary of music
  3. identify and explain compositional devices and techniques used to provide unity and variety and tension and release in a musical work and give examples of other works that make similar uses of these devices and techniques
  4. demonstrate the ability to perceive and remember music events by describing in detail significant events occurring in a given aural example
  5. compare ways in which musical materials are used in a given example relative to ways in which they are used in other works of the same genre or style
  6. analyze and describe uses of the elements of music in a given work that make it unique, interesting, and expressive

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. CD player
  2. chalkboard (with chalk and eraser)
  3. overhead projector (optional)
  4. computer logged onto www.jazzinamerica.org (optional)

  1. The Instrumental History of Jazz
    1. two CDs
    2. accompanying booklet
  2. Song for My Father or Best of Horace Silver on Blue Note CD4
  3. Student Handouts (one per student)5
    1. chapter glossary
    2. Conversation ~ Improvisation chart
    3. Common and Uncommon Forms sheet
    4. Song for My Father arrangement sheet
  4. Overhead projector transparencies6

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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