The Blues: Understanding and Performing an American Art Form

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  • Blues Progressions – Theory and Practice
    • Lesson 1 focuses on foundational aspects of the blues, examining its history, innovation, and evolving harmonic structure. At the end of this lecture, students should have a firm understanding of the harmonic structure of the basic, generic, and minor blues forms, as well as a familiarity with the A A’ B phrase-structure of the blues.
  • Blues Scales
    • Lesson 2 dives into what makes the blues tick, beginning with an examination of the blues scale and the basics of jazz rhythms and blues riffs. Students will then explore call and response techniques and application of the blues scale in improvisation through demonstration with a live musician.
  • Keyboard Realization
    • Lesson 3 introduces the concept of guide tones and its association with invertible counterpoint. Four-part and five-part chords are discussed in detail by exploring their construction and function, as well as techniques to facilitate good voice-leading between chords using chordal inversions.
  • “Bird” Blues and Other Blues Progressions
    • In lesson 4 students analyze harmonic progressions from 3 jazz standards: “Now’s The Time,” “Billie’s Bounce,” and “Blues For Alice.” Practice techniques are discussed, including ear-training strategies, rhythmic displacement, and voice-leading exercises.
  • Improvisational Tools
    • Lesson 5 introduces 3 more jazz standards for analysis: “Mr. PC,” “Mr. Day,” and “Isotope.” Tritone substitutions are examined, and pentatonic scale as tools in improvisation are introduced through exploration of their construction, typical voicings, and voice-leading principles.
  • Improvising the Blues – Part 1
    • Lesson 6 centers around the demonstration of improvisational techniques discussed thus far, including motivic development, guide-tone lines, and chordal arpeggiation. Observation of live Eastman musicians, as well as play-along tracks provided by the rhythm section, allow the student to imitate, assimilate, and apply the techniques discussed in the course.
  • Improvising the Blues – Part 2
    • Lesson 7 explores modal categories and scalar patterns in improvisation, in addition to continued discussion on pentatonics. As in the previous lesson, live musicians demonstrate key concepts and principles presented in the lecture, with additional play-along tracks provided for the student to explore concepts on their own.