Blues and Improv Program
Mark M., New York
The B&I training materials describe many of the projects, or groups of projects, as being able to be taught concurrently with earlier projects. It’s also mentioned that many or most of these should be done in different keys but not necessarily all keys. All of this serves the goal of keeping students feeling like they’re moving forward into wholly new kinds of projects while simultaneously giving them work continuing deeper into the projects they’ve already done.
I’m totally on board with all of this in principle but would appreciate advice on how those experienced in teaching the B&I program have coordinated all of this “concurrent” work effectively and efficiently.
Cindy B., Illinois
I don’t know if what I’m doing is the most efficient, but it seems to be working for me – I have several students in the “transpose to all 12 keys” portion of B&I, as well as transposing Acc Variations and Acc assignments, and in each case, there isn’t a lot to deal with in the actual lesson. Each student is required to design and maintain a checkoff list for each of the assignments that involve 12 keys, and to check off each key as it is mastered, whether it’s a fixed riff with singles and humpties and the 7th, or acc var 23, etc.
I only have to ask one student to play the current key blues riff they’re on, making a note to, in a few weeks, ask a different student. I also regularly ask the students if they’ve played for their parents recently, to keep that ‘at home’ support going. The parents know that I want to answer any questions or doubts they may have concerning what their child is doing. So covering comp and blues, anyway, is very brief each week.
I usually do EITHER rhythm OR note reading, alternating weeks, and I FOCUS on acc work every other week, with only a brief visit to acc on the alternating weeks. When I’m focusing on ACC, whether in a supplement or the acc book, I remind the students consistently that what acc variation skills they are learning MUST crossover into their other accomp work, so I almost never have to get the acc var book out except to introduce a new project, as I can evaluate their acc var skills in the other accomp projects.
The checkoff lists give them a real picture of forward progress, and when a lesson gets out of hand and I don’t get to a lot of the stuff on the lesson, everyone knows that whatever they were doing last week, they continue to do this week.
Additionally, I have found a way to put responsibility of evaluating the condition of their playlists into the day to day practice realm by having students use the 1st column of their playlist for grading, or evaluating, themselves. Most of you have seen the playlist evaluation forms by now – and while I’ve found them useful, to set aside a time for everyone to evaluate their playlists has been difficult for me to stick to consistently. By having the students maintain a column for evaluation on a daily basis, they, their parents, and I can see at a glance what condition the playlist is in, with occasional “hey, I haven’t heard this one in a while, why don’t you play it?” or, when a student seems to be too hard on himself, I can spot it and help him to see that what he marked as a 3 is really a 4, or even a 5.