Saturday, February 25, 2012

Music Education Blues

My friend and "music education guru", Mitch Robinson asked me to write a blues for his son who is in sixth grade and plays the clarinet.  I decided to write something in the vein of John Coltrane's "Bessie's Blues", which is relatively simple, swings like crazy, and focuses primarily on outlining basic chord tones within the 12-bar blues progression.

I wanted "Jacob's Blues" to have a few improvisational lessons within it.  The first has to do with rhythmic entrances.  We don't always want to emphasize beat one.  I tried to demonstrate that a simple 4-note grouping could be moved around within a measure.  The half rest in measures 3, 7 and 11 is designed not only to force him count, but to allow him to experience "space".  I also wanted to show that it is possible to be somewhat "hip" while limiting oneself to chord tones, to clearly outline the harmony.

I thought this melody could be used in conjunction with the subsequent exercises, as an introductory improvisation lesson on the blues.

I hope you dig it Jacob. Go Spartans!

If you're playing quarter notes, just play the first two notes of your pattern when you reach the last 2 measures (known as the turn-around).

After you can do the above listed exercises with ease and by memory, try applying the following rhythms.  (*If this image, or any of the others on this blog appear small, just click on them to enlarge them to their original size.)

Why is it that my best work is always done on napkins?


  1. this may be the most awesome thing ever!!! can't wait to print it off and play it! Jake is over the moon thrilled!


    1. Mitch, this lesson on my web site might also be helpful to Jake:

  2. listening to Jake practice "his" blues--it sounds great, Earl!

    funniest comment so far--"I'm glad Earl didn't make it too easy for me, just because I'm in 6th grade. I've only played Eb once before, in the Entertainer, and I didn't really get it in that song."

    out of the horns of babes. . .

    Thanks, Earl!!!