Jazz Improvisation & Its Importance in Our Music Education Programs

by Alison Buechler
Faculty advisor: Dr. Paula Keeler

Jazz is a genre of music that strongly impacts our music education programs in public and private schools. Jazz incorporates a laid back feeling of motion, compared to the concert band setting which has a strict rhythmic style. A crucial and unique aspect of Jazz involves a player improvising a solo. In other words, the solo is not written out. In schools today, it is critical that music directors understand how to create improvisations and how to teach their students to improvise.

In many cases, band directors will write out their students’ solos which defy the definition of improvisation. Improvisation should reflect the students’ expressivity, creativeness, and knowledge of the music and style. I believe the audience should be educated as well to listen for these characteristics from Jazz soloists.

All of this information I will be presenting comes out of the following books: Jazz Theory: A Survival Guide by Rick Stinzel, Comprehensive Technique for Jazz Musicians by Bert Ligon, and a Duke Ellington “Fake-book”. In doing research for my research paper for Music History, I’ve become more and more interested in the techniques and sequential teaching of jazz. In this presentation I will be mainly focusing on techniques in which students can develop and the importance of music educators being knowledgeable about this information.

In this presentation, I will describe the scales used, tone qualities used, and the chord structures indigenous to jazz style. I will demonstrate techniques on my alto saxophone and with the keyboard. An audio example will also be played of a famous jazz improvisation solo which will best demonstrate the techniques need to create improvisation.