Five Note Jam

by Dan Thieman

"Five Note Jam" is a bluesy rock tune all about improvising. Improvising (or improv) will likely be a new concept to many of your recorder students, and it may also be a bit intimidating. But if the subject is approached in a fun, low-pressure environment, it can be exciting and very rewarding!

The piece has one recorder part and one alto recorder part. Both parts use GACDE. (You'll see that the high E is optional for soprano recorders in case your students have not learned that note yet). The first half has traditional written notation using simple quarter note rhythms. The second half is the jam (aka improvisation) section.

The notes that can be used in the jam section are shown in measure 12 inside the parentheses – any of these notes are fair game. The slashes in measures 12-20 help with counting. Our recording provides a stellar, yet attainable, example of improvising in the jam section. You'll hear soprano recorder the first time through, then alto recorder the second time. Encourage your students to experiment with different rhythms that fit with the accompaniment. Ask them to use their ears. Give them big obvious cues, or even loud verbal cues, so they know when the jam section begins, when it is ending, and when they repeat back to measure 3. They can make the improv as complex or as simple as they want to. Anything is acceptable! The improv could even be all one note with different rhythms, or one rhythm with different notes. Remind them they can use rests. There are NO wrong ways to do it – encourage and support everyone, no matter what happens. The point is to have fun, build their confidence, and get creative!

While you could have the entire class improvise together, this will sound very chaotic. One player at a time during the jam section is ideal. It will work best if you design a clear plan with the class for who will do the improvising before you begin. Because the tune repeats, you'll get a crack at the jam section two times. Start the audio over as many times as needed to make sure everyone gets a turn. Be sure the teacher also gets a turn. (Your students will love that!) Remember: praise, encourage, applaud, laugh, compliment, smile, cheer, motivate, uplift, etc. You get the idea.

A PDF of the piano/recorder score, as well as PDFs of the recorder parts for ease in duplication, are all available online, free to subscribers.

Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.