music teacher at College Hill Fundamental Academy, had a vision. He wanted to create a series of
Orff-friendly recordings using the same Blues rhythm in a variety of keys and beats. We've worked with Tim
for several years now and believed in him, so we funded the recordings, helped arrange the band and bought
200 CDs and equipment to produce them for him to give them away to music
Tim's notes on how
to use them to teach scat singing, xylophones, glockenspiels and mallets are just below. The amazing band
Aaron Jacobs ~ Bass
Carlos Vargas-Ortiz ~ Guitar
Anthony Lee ~ Percussion
Click here to play or download them from
our DropBox folder.
The link above
lets you play them, too. A pdf file of Tim's notes below is in the folder.
If you use them in
your classes, please send us a
note and let us know what you think.
Tim Fuchtman's notes:
Our goal in producing these tracks was to provide elementary teachers a tool to help their
students experience jazz improvisation. Therefore these
tracks make a break from the typical play along. We decided
to make the music as authentic as possible by encouraging the musicians to play as if they were performing
for a live audience. Each track follows a pattern: sparse
and light texture at the beginning, growing in intensity, with the last chorus played full out. In this way, students experience being propelled forward by the rhythm
Each track is just over 3
minutes long – long enough to give a class time to practice improvising, but also a good length for
performance. A teacher could, for example, compose a blues
melody and lyrics with a class, and then perform it with solos using one of these tracks.
Tracks 1-4 are straight ahead jazz blues at a medium tempo (112) using the basic 12 bar form: I IV I I, IV IV I I, V IV I (V).
Track 1 in G
Track 2 in C
Track 3 in D
Track 4 in Em
Track 5 is a slow 6/8 feel in G
Track 6 is shuffle time, and faster in G
Track 7 features a four measure break (after the first two choruses) at 92bpm in G
Track 8 features a four measure break (after the first two choruses) at 144 in C
Track 9 is up-tempo including one chorus of double time feel, in Em
Track 10 starts with only bass and drums in G
How to use these tracks with students:
improvisation - Scat (all
Put up some scat words on the screen. (My scat words page includes: doo daht, bee
bop, skiddly diddly, bip bam boo, zoooooom, shoo ba dooot,
and others.) Turn on the track in D (or C). Sing two bar phrases and have your students echo you. Start your phrases on the note A, and use A, F, and D. (so me do) After a
while, you sing a phrase and then they sing a phrase but they can sing whatever they like. Finally, either have them just keep going (all at the same time) or
have them trade 2 measure phrases with a partner. In
my experience, adults – me included – sometimes feel a little uncomfortable with scat, but primary students
take to scat like fish to water.
Instrumental improvisation - Xylophone (Glockenspiel)
Replace the B bar with the Bb bar. Turn on one
of the many tracks in G. Sing a two measure phrase using
the letter names – I call B flat “bes.” Students sing back
the phrase using letter names. After a series of phrases,
when the students can sing them back accurately, the teacher sings the phrase on letter names and the
students play them. Start with Bb and G. Next, the teacher sings on a neutral syllable, scat words, or
plays on an instrument, and the students echo the phrase, still using Bb and G. Then, the teacher plays or sings a phrase and the students play their
own improvisation. Finally, students just keep playing, or
trade off with a partner. Next steps can include adding the
note F, and then low D.
improvisation - Scat
Modeling - developing
a jazz vocabulary using call and response.
I have found success with
students using this formula: I sing a two measure phrase, they echo me. After a few choruses I sing a two measure phrase and they sing whatever
they like. Finally, either they just keep improvising on their
own (all at the same time) or they have a partner and they continue to trade twos with each
After several sessions we often add a feature where students can be the leader and the class
echoes their improvisations. As students progress we
eventually work on improvising four bar phrases.
Use of Language
Vocal improvisation has the
added level of language, which makes it fun, especially for primary students. I put a list of “scat words” on the screen, and use these as the basis
for the 2 bar phrases I sing as models while we are trading twos. Playing with the language
enables us to make very fun, interesting phrases with only a few notes. Unlike playing an instrument, using only one or two different notes
doesn’t get boring.
When singing scat with the youngest students I use the 5, flat 3, and root (so me do) as the
melodic tone set, usually starting on the 5th and descending. I use the keys of D or C. This seems the most
compatible with the Orff and Kodaly based songs we sing in the primary grades, and descending intervals are
easier. Also, starting on the dominate and moving toward tonic gives their improvisations a sense of
direction. Later I have them experiment with the root-flat 3rd interval, which is, of course, the
stereotypical blues interval. Then we experiment with adding the flat 7 below the root. Using these regions
in the keys of D and C keeps them in the middle of their comfortable ranges.
In the Key of G it is fun to explore the 5, 6, high tonic region (so la do’). Of, course, 5, flat 7, root (so ta do’) is very cool too but I
don’t start with it because we sing 5, 6, high tonic (so, la, do’) and I think it is better to start with
what they already know. Later, 5, 6, 1, flat 3 (so la do’ me’) is a very nice expanded region, and
students can really start to make nice jazz phrases with this tone set.
Instrumental Improvisation – mallets
The key of D is probably the most comfortable for the primary grades, so we included the basic
track in D.
The key of G, of course, is the best key for blues on the xylophones when the Bb bar is