C Jam Blues

“C Jam Blues”

Duke Ellington’s famous “C Jam Blues” is a great way to introduce the language of jazz to beginners, providing simple, yet effective building blocks for improvisation. Here are some suggestions on how to use “C Jam Blues” in the classroom or in a performance:

  1. Play audio or video recordings of professional musicians performing “C Jam Blues” (scroll down for video links)
  2. Discuss the composer’s life and contributions to American Jazz
  3. Teach students the riff using a backing track (scroll down to view and download sheet music- play one octave down)
  4. Improvise 1-2 measure phrases, building on the riff, and have students repeat
  5. Ask for student volunteers to take your role (as in #3 above)
  6. Have students who are comfortable improvising trade 2 measure improvisations with you or with each other as if in conversation
  7. Lead remaining students in playing the riff during improvisations.
  8. Rehearse one of the indicated endings (download and print sheet music below)
  9. Count up the number of choruses in the backing track and design a performance