HS Virtual Jazz: Harmony

IV. Harmony

A. Chord

Two or more notes played at the same time constitutes harmony, also known as a chord (also known as a “change” among jazz musicians).

B. Jazz Chords

Jazz chords are usually four to seven notes played simultaneously.

C. Chord Voicing

Each chord and each chord voicing (the way the notes are arranged) depict a different emotion, e.g., happy, sad, angry, hopeful, etc. (most can’t be labeled as the emotion they convey is beyond wording and different for every listener; “music is in the ears of the beholder”).


Audio Snippets

speakerspacer Chords and Chord Progressions – Mark Gridley


D. Chord Progression

A series of chords (known as a chord progression or simply the “changes”) accompanies the composed melodies of and improvisation on tunes (songs).

1. Although there are some chord progressions that are used over and over for several different tunes, most tunes have their own distinctive chord progression.

2. Jazz musicians (primarily pianists and guitarists since they are the ones who play chords) have the autonomy to voice chords (put the notes in a particular order from bottom to top) the way they want, add notes to chords, and substitute other chords for the original ones, all in order to make the music “hipper,” i.e., more up to date, better sounding, more “happening,” and more personal.

E. Comping

1. definition: the rhythmically syncopated playing of chords

2. pianists and guitarists comp the chords

3. the term comping comes from two words: to accompany and to complement; that is precisely what pianists and guitarists do: they accompany and complement the soloists.


Audio Snippets

speakerspacer Comping and Syncopation – Mark Gridley


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9 HS Virtual Jazz: Improvisation

I. Improvisation

A. Improvisation – perhaps jazz’s most essential ingredient

1.Improvisation is spontaneous composition; that is, each musician determines what he/she is going to play AS he/she is playing it (easier said than done!)

2.Jazz improvisation is very similar to regular conversation (see Jazz Improvisation/Conversation analogy sheet).

3.In order to improvise, a musician needs to:

a. Be able to technically play his/her instrument well

b. Have an understanding of music theory (the way notes and chords go together)

c. Have the ability to play by ear (i.e., the ability to play the music one “hears” in his/her head without reading music)7

d. Have a musical vocabulary covering a wide variety of styles (i.e., be familiar with various styles of jazz, as well as blues, rock, pop, classical, etc.)

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8 HS Virtual Jazz: Elements of Jazz Glossary

Jazz in America Glossary –Elements of Jazz

arrangement: The specific organization or performance order of a given composition (i.e., who plays what when).

chord: Two or more notes played simultaneously.

chorus: A single play-through of the structure (i.e., the entire chord progression) being used to organize the music in a composition; one time through the chords of a tune.

comp, comping: syncopated chording by the keyboardist or guitarist which provides improvised accompaniment for simultaneously performed melodies, ideally in a complimentary fashion that enhances the soloist (comes from the words to compliment and to accompany).

embouchure: The position of the mouth in the playing of wind instruments.

ending: The optional part of the tune which follows the last chorus, sometimes referred to as a coda; could be a vamp, repetition of the last phrase, a tag, etc.

form: Refers to a composition’s internal structure; the repeated and contrasting sections in the design of a composition; common jazz forms include 32-bar standard forms (such as AABA and ABAC), 16-bar tune, and 12-bar blues.

harmony: Two or more notes played simultaneously and compatibly; the combination of notes into chords and chord progressions.

head: The melody statement of the tune; usually played as the first and last chorus.

improvisation: Spontaneous invention within the context of a given tune; spontaneous composition.

intro: The introductory section of a tune prior to the theme statement, or head.

jam session: An informal gathering and performance of musicians, stressing improvisation.

out-head: The last chorus of a tune when the music returns to the original theme, or head.

rhythm: The pulse or pattern of beats of a given piece of music; the element of music dealing with time.

swing: 1. To swing is when an individual player or ensemble performs in such a rhythmically coordinated way as to command a visceral response from the listener (to cause feet to tap and heads to nod); an irresistible gravitational buoyancy that defies mere verbal definition. 2. A way of performing eighth notes where downbeats and upbeats receive approximately 2/3 and 1/3 of the beat, respectively, providing a rhythmic lilt to the music. 3. A stylistic term to designate a jazz form that originated in the 1930s with the advent of the big bands (as in Swing Era).

syncopation: The accenting of a normally weak beat or weak part of a beat; the accenting of “upbeats.”

tempo: Refers to the speed of the underlying beat or pulse of a piece of music.

vamp: One chord or a brief chord progression which is insistently repeated numerous times in succession.

A Few “SAT” Words

autonomous: Not controlled by others or by outside forces.

autonomy: The condition or quality of being autonomous; independence (e.g., Jazz musicians have the autonomy to play chords any way they want.).

cognition: The mental process or faculty of knowing, including aspects such as awareness, perception, reasoning, and judgment.

cognitive; cognitively: Of, characterized by, involving, or relating to cognition (e.g., In the same way people converse, most jazz musicians improvise more intuitively than cognitively.).

extant: Already in existence; still in existence (e.g., A contrafact is a tune based on an extant set of chord changes.).

intuition: The act or faculty of knowing or sensing without the use of rational processes.

intuitive; intuitively: Of, relating to, or arising from intuition; subconsciously; reflexively; (e.g., In the same way people converse, most jazz musicians improvise more intuitively than cognitively.).

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7 HS Virtual Jazz: Jazz, America’s Music

A. America’s indigenous art form

Jazz is America’s indigenous art form, having its birth and evolution in the United States. In 1987 the Joint Houses of Congress passed a resolution declaring jazz an American National Treasure. Jazz masters have been honored in Washington DC (as well as throughout the country), appeared on postage stamps, etc.

B. Jazz is everywhere

Jazz is everywhere; it is an ingrained element of American styles and attitudes.
1. nightclubs and concert halls
2. sidewalks and subway stations
3. elementary, middle, and high school classrooms; college classrooms
4. television and film soundtracks; television commercials
5. records, CDs, and the radio
6. in America’s slang and jargon (see jazz jargon glossary)

C. A Reflection of American Culture

Throughout America’s turbulent 20th century, jazz has entertained, interested, affected, and inspired Americans; it has contributed to and been a reflection of American culture.
1. Jazz has inspired more praise and more controversy than any other American music.
2. Jazz, more than any other music, has been closely associated with the geographical, social, political, and economic affects of American cities as well as the fluctuating reputation of American culture throughout the world.
3. Jazz, more than any other music, has been intimately linked with legal and social equality for all, particularly African Americans.
4. Jazz emerged out of ragtime at the turn of the century during a tumultuous period of urban and industrial growth.
5. In the 1920s, jazz symbolized the cultural struggle between modernists and traditionalists.
a. This period in American history has been coined the “Jazz Age.”
b. As the “new” jazz music was, in part, a rejection of what traditionalists thought music was “supposed” to be, it was a metaphor for the rejection of Victorian values which dominated 19th century American life.
6. In the 1930’s, jazz reached new levels of sophistication in the Swing Era, reflecting America’s need for self-esteem following the Great Depression.
7. The World War II era witnessed rapid changes in American tastes as well as logistics of making music (e.g., the decline of large ensembles in favor of the jazz combo was, in part, due to economic and social reasons).
8. In the late 1950s and 60s, avant-garde and free jazz reflected America’s social and political changes and the loosening of strict standards of behavior.
9. Today, jazz is universal. It is performed and listened to by people of virtually every ethnicity, religion, and attitude — a reflection of the world becoming “smaller” (via technology and mass communication) and, perhaps, of the planet’s best-intentioned striving to bring its peoples together.
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Overdoing It- Eleven, Comparative Literature Part II

Journal Assignment 50 points: Due Tuesday, May 29th. In order to get full points, your journal should be well written. You need to pay attention to all writing six traits.  Put your entry in the comment section of this post. Please edit before posting. You will get up to 40 points for your own entry, if it is well done, and ten points for commenting on your classmate’s entries.

Write about a time when you were scared. In the story Overdoing it, the surveyor finds himself in an environment that is unfamiliar to him. He was a stranger in an unfamiliar environment, and was not used to the vast, open spaces. His fear got the better of him. Have you ever found yourself in an unfamiliar environment and let your imagination get the better of you?

Write a story about a time you were really scared.

By the end of the day, I will post your vocab, grammar, and spelling assignment, as well as your social studies and writing. These will be your final assignments for the year. Next week, Monday and Tuesday, will be for make-up.

Overdoing It, and Eleven

Literary Analysis

Characterization: Direct and Indirect

With Direct Characterization, the author tells readers about the character. With Indirect Characterization, the author reveals characters through speech and actions.

 1. On a chart like the one shown, identify some of the key details of characterization for each character.

Character Words Thoughts Actions
Mrs. Price      

2. Describe each character in your own words:

3. Which character from these 2 stories seemed the most believable?

4. In which story did you learn more about the character, and why?

Vocabulary Development

Spelling Strategy:

Sometimes, the r sound is spelled wr, as in wry. For each word below, write the homophone, another word that sounds the same but has a different meaning and spelling, that begins with wr.

1. rap

2. ring

3. rest

4. right

5. rye

Fluency: Sentence Completions

1. Copy each sentence on your paper. Use one of the following words to complete each one. Use your dictionary, there are good ones on-line, if you don’t know the meaning of the following words. These words were found in Overdoing It, and Eleven.

ProlongedMeditatedEmaciated, Wry, Foresee, Emerged

 1. The hungry dog looked ________.

2. The ceremony was ________ by lengthy speeches.

3. He made a ________ face.

4. The butterfly ________ from its cocoon.

5. The professor ________ on the question.

6.  I cannot ________ the future.

Grammar Lesson

Subordinate Clauses

A subordinate clause is a group of words that has a subject and a verb, but cannot stand alone as a sentence. It is dependent on an independent clause to complete its meaning.

Subordinate clauses usually begin with words such as who, which, that, after, because, before, when, and until. In the following examples, the subordinate clauses are shown in italics. Notice that they do not express a complete thought.

“You may find some peasants over there who haul passengers.

When papa comes home from work, we will eat cake.  

Practice: Copy these sentences on your paper. Underline the subordinate clause in each sentence.

1. It was dusk, when the wagon left the station.

2. He’s noticed already that I’m scared.

3. It takes a few days before you say eleven.

4. She was not upset until she saw the letter.

5. After Rachel left school, she went home.

Complete the following sentences with a subordinate clause.

6. The wagon lurched forward (because) ________.

7. Kim had (until) ________.

8. It was clear ________.

Writing Lesson

Character Description

A character description is a written sketch of a character. It conveys a main impression about a character by focusing on his or her major traits. Write a character description about one of the characters from “Overdoing It” or “Eleven.”

If you like, you may come up with your own character, either real or imagined.

Prewriting:  Choose your character, and then review the story and find his or her three main character traits. Once again, you can also pick a character from another story you’ve read, or even a real person from your own life. Use a web like the one below to organize your thoughts.

1. Choose a character. (The character can be from Eleven, Overdoing It, or a character that you like from another story you’ve read. It can also be someone from your own life.)

2. Scan over the stories, and identify three main character traits.

3. Continue to scan, or re-read, to find supporting information for each trait, things the character says, thinks, or does, or other information given by the author.

Drafting: Write your description, discussing the three traits you listed. Include brief quotations as part of the evidence that illustrates your point.

Revising: Make sure you have provided evidence for all three traits. Then, proofread for spelling, grammar, and mechanics. The graphic organizer below should help you.





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Overdoing It, and Eleven

Click on the link below ☟to go to the blog post for Overdoing It, and Eleven


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HS Virtual Jazz “Blues, Bessy Smith, and Youth Culture in Bamako”

Choose one of the following 3 options.

This week, April 23 through the 29,  I would like to give you several options for you assignments but I am having a hard time embedding youtube videos here because of the internet speed. There is so much good information out there. In the meantime, here are your options:

1. Watch the following video and give me a basic translation in English. Discuss the message of the video. Discuss what this says about youth culture in Bamako and Mali in 2012. Find and post two other videos by young Malian musicians and write about them.


2. Listen to the following audio documentary about Bessie Smith. This streams very easily, at least in Ouaga. It is almost an hour long, but is very good and informative. In the history of Blues and Jazz, she is very important. When you are finished, write a summary of the information with plenty of personal reactions. Once again, your response should be worthy of a High School Music Class. Remember, I teach Language Arts as well.


3. If you have good internet speed and can stream longer video, this is an excellent documentary on the Blues produced by one of the greatest film makers of all time, Martin Scorsese. I actually got to meet him in Bamako a few years ago. You would respond to this much the same way I asked you to respond to the Bessie Smith option. Write a summary with plenty of personal reactions and reflections.


I have also created a page for Music Links. I am collecting links to the best sites on can find on the topics you are researching. These daily assignments are also related to your research topics.

Here is the latest version of Paul’s Song. Check it out and give him some feedback!

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