Exploring Jazz and The Blues

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All That Jazz - 5 Minutes Silent Reading

For teachers who prefer to begin their lessons with quiet, focused openers.  All contain “Questions to Think About” which can also be used as Cover or Homework tasks.

1. The Blues

2. The Development of The Blues

3. Blues Musicians

4. Bessie Smith

5. All About Jazz 1

6. All About Jazz 2

7. Types of Jazz

All That Jazz - Music Theory

Learning about Seventh Chords

Constructing Chords I, IV and V and then I7, IV7 and V7 in C Major on staff notation and keyboard diagrams. 

All That Jazz - General Jazz and Blues Resources

1. The Blues

2. X

3. X

4. The Development of the Blues

5. Blues Musicians

6. Bessie Smith

All That Jazz - Performing and Improvising Resources

All That Jazz - Ragtime Resources

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All That Jazz - Cover and Homework Activities

Learning about Modes

Constructing and notating on treble clef staff notation 6 modes following given patterns of tones and semitones. 

This unit develops pupil’s understanding of the key musical features of Jazz and Blues, exploring chords, chord patterns and how improvisation is used within Jazz and Blues genres. 

The history, origins and development of the Blues and different types and styles of Jazz can be interspersed throughout the unit in as much depth as the teacher deems appropriate.  Instruments, timbres, and sonorities used in Jazz and Blues are also explored and the different roles between Frontline and Rhythm Section instruments within Jazz and Swing/Big Bands. 

The characteristic 12-Bar Blues chord pattern makes a traditional starting point for the unit with pupils learning chords I, IV and V as triads in C Major before pupils extend these into seventh chords triads and turn these into a Walking Bass Line.  The Blues Scale introduces a new melodic resource on which to improvise using ostinato, riffs and fills within the 12-Bar Blues.

The (adapted) Swing/Big Band piece “In the Mood” provides a case study into the 12-Bar Blues and textural layers of Swing and includes performance and improvisation activities consolidating knowledge, skills and understanding of Jazz and Blues from previous lessons. 

The unit ends with optional lesson pathways to either explore Modal Jazz, Ragtime (“The Entertainer”) or a Jazz-inspired song (“All That Jazz” from ‘Chicago’) in more detail.

All That Jazz - Blues Basics

Blues Basics

Step-by-step “Basics Guide” to the 12-bar Blues: Primary Chords in C Major as Triads, The 12-Bar Blues Chord Sequence as Triads, Primary Chords in C Major as Seventh Chords in the 12-Bar Blues, the 12-Bar Blues as a Walking Bass Line and Improvising using the notes of the Blues Scale.  

All That Jazz - Plenary Review Activities

A series of lesson reviews where pupils review their learning and understanding.

All That Jazz - DOITNOW (Starters) and Plenary Activities

All That Jazz - Scheme of Work and Lesson Pathways

All That Jazz - Scheme of Work and Lesson Pathways

Includes Scheme of Work Overview, Unit Learning Objectives, Learning Outcomes and Lesson Pathways.

All That Jazz - “DOITNOW” Presentation


Cutting down on printables, file storage and media files, the “new look” Musical Contexts “DOITNOW” All That Jazz lesson openers Presentation contains  a wealth (only two samples shown here), of effective “DOITNOW’s” when delivering the All That Jazz unit in just one place - all audio and video files are embedded and there’s accompanying Teacher’s Notes in the “slide comments” section. 

All That Jazz - Riffs in Jazz

Key Words, Concepts and Musical Knowledge

12-Bar Blues, Blues Chord Sequence, Blues Song Structure (AAB) Blues Scale, Blues Song Lyrics; Chords and Seventh Chords  I, I7, IV, IV7, V & V7; Chord Vamps; Improvisation; Swing/Swung Rhythms; Ostinato, Riffs, Fills and Solos; Types and Styles of Jazz; Modes and Modal Jazz; Ragtime; Instruments of Jazz: Frontline (Solos) and Rhythm Section.

Music Theory


Seventh Chords

Links to GCSE Music

Popular Music

Vocal Music

Conventions of Pop




Creating a Blues Melody Line

Pupils create a melody line based on a given twelve bar blues chord sequence and lyrics in C Major

BLM Blues Composing Sheet

Pupils create blues lyrics to a given twelve bar blues melody and chords on the subject of Black Lives Matter.

The Development of Jazz and Blues (1)

4-page booklet covering Spirituals, The Blues and Dixieland Jazz.  Includes listening examples and questions with Teacher’s Notes and Answers.

Audio 1 - Standing in the Need of Prayer (The Caravans)                                Audio 2 - Sorry Feeling Blues (Bo Carter)

Audio 3 - Oh When the Saints go Marching In (Trad, Dixieland and Sidney Bechet)        Audio 4 - Jazz and Blues Genre Listening Quiz



In the Mood” Performing and Improvising Pack

An adaptation of the Swing classic “In the Mood” arranged as a 12-bar Blues using Chords, Walking Bass Line and Melody Line Parts for ensemble performing. 

Includes optional improvisation section using the Blues Scale on C over the 12-bar Blues chords and stretch and challenge introduction tasks.  Parts given with and without note names.

In the Mood Audio 1 - Walking Bass Line and Melody Line Straight then Swung Rhythms         

In the Mood Audio 2 - Less Effective Improvisation Example using the notes of the Blues Scale over the 12-Bar Blues

In the Mood Audio 3—More Effective Improvisation Example using the notes of the Blues Scale over the 12-Bar Blues

“All That Jazz” from ‘Chicago’ Performing Pack

Arrangement of the jazz classic including Song Sheet with Verse 1 Melody and Chords, Lyrics (full song), Introduction Riff, Chords I, V7 and bVI7 in C Major and Melody, Chords and Bass Line arrangement of Introduction and Verse 1.


All That Jazz Audio - Song Example






Vamping the Chords -

Ragtime Warm-Ups

Progressive keyboard warm-up for Ragtime Vamping

Listening to “The Entertainer”

10 Listening Questions on Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer”

Learning about Ragtime

Includes Listening Question on “Ragtime Dance” by Scott Joplin

Ragtime Audio 1 - “The Entertainer” (Extract) - Scott Joplin

Ragtime Audio 2—”Ragtime Dance” - Scott Joplin

Ragtime Audio 3 - “Maple Leaf Rag” - Scott Joplin

Performing “The Entertainer”

2-part arrangement of “The Entertainer” by Scott Joplin for keyboard, piano or melodic instruments duet.  Also includes chords (I, II, IV and V in C) for a vamp accompaniment. 

“The Entertainer” WWW/EBI

Presentation containing embedded audio extracts of paired performances of “The Entertainer” for pupils to peer-assess in terms of WWW (What Went Well)/EBI (Even Better If…), graded from least to most effective with Teacher’s Notes in slide comments.



Where did Jazz and Blues come from?


Can be done without using ICT.

Famous Big Band Leaders Word Search

Can be done without using ICT.



Exploring Modal Jazz

7-page booklet covering Scales, Modes and Mode Construction, Listening Activities, Modes in Popular Songs Jazz and “In the Mode” performing task  with Teacher’s Notes and Answers

Audio 5 - Gregorian Chant Example            Audio 6 - Dorian Mode and Example        Audio 7 - Phrygian Mode and Example

Audio 8 - Lydian Mode and Example          Audio 9 - Mixolydian Mode and Example        Audio 10 - Aeolian Mode and Example

Audio 11 - Ionian Mode and Example          Audio 12 - Benedicamus Domino (Plainsong)     Audio 13 - Modes in Popular Songs and Jazz

The Development of Jazz and Blues (2)

4-page booklet covering Swing and Big Bands, Be-Bop and Modal Jazz.  Includes listening examples and questions with Teacher’s Notes and Answers.

Audio 14 - Caravan (Duke Ellington)     Audio 15 - Regular & Swing Rhythms

Audio 16 - In the Mood (Glenn Miller) 

Audio 17 - Groovin’ High (Dizzy Gillespie)  

Audio 18 - Comparing Be-Bop and Modal Jazz


Riffs in Jazz

(537 MB)