Let’s Sing Some Jazz!

Hey guys! Today, let’s learn a little more about jazz music by watching this BrainPop video about jazz. (If you don’t have a free BrainPop account, you should totally sign up. This site has EVERYTHING. There are videos for every subject, and other resources to go along with them). Big kids can take the quiz afterward to see what you learned! If you’re in 5th grade, definitely do the challenge afterward! The related reading button is also great to find out more fun information, or try out the games (if you play the meaning of beep, you might want to look at the vocabulary button first!).

We already know that composers are people who write songs, but now let’s see what being a jazz musician or arranger sounds like! Jazz musicians and arrangers get to take a song that someone else writes and use it to create something new. Do you remember what improvising means? Look it up if you forgot!

All of this might sound kind of confusing, so let’s break down how it works. Let’s start with an easy song we can sing, and then hear what a jazz arranger and jazz musicians do with that same song! Try singing along to this song-A Tisket, A Tasket:

So now, an arranger can take a song like this one and rearrange it for a different group of instruments, and add things to or subtract things from the original song. Then, the jazz musicians who play it have the foundation of the original song there while they try new and different things on top! Think of it like a cupcake! The song is the original vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting. The arranger rearranges our cupcake ingredients a bit to make a delicious chocolate cupcake instead, and the musicians frost it up with peanut butter frosting, or cream cheese frosting, or even just the good ole vanilla frosting with lots of extra sprinkles! Oh my goodness, I’m getting hungry! Let’s hear the jazzy version while we bake some cupcakes…

Listen to how the rhythm and the melody can change in this version sung by Ella Fitzgerald. What instruments do you hear now? Try singing along! Are the words all the same? 5th graders, can you hear the syncopation? Look in your notebooks to review what that means!

Now remember, cupcakes can have SO MANY different flavors, and our jazz arrangements and what jazz musicians do with them can, too! So here’s Natalie Cole singing the same song, inspired by Ella Fitzgerald’s version. What’s different this time? This one has even more improvising to listen for, can you hear it? Try singing along if you can!

So to sum up for today, I’ve got one more fun bluesy arrangement I think you’re going to enjoy! Remember from the video, jazz and blues music have a lot of things in common, including that blues scale you heard the jazzbot play. We’ll talk more about the blues tomorrow, but first…

Let’s get Jazzy!

Hey guys! Today, I was inspired by one of my favorite books to read with the students. I hope today you will spend a little quality time learning about jazz and Charlie Parker, before watching the video of the book at the bottom of this post.

Jazz musicians all have fun nicknames, so look up Charlie Parker’s nickname, his instrument and the kind of jazz he played first. If you had a jazz nickname, what would yours be? For the little ones, try dancing and singing along to this fun little song about the saxophone. With your 2nd-5th grade students, check out this fantastic House of Sound video to learn about the science behind the Woodwind Family of instruments. As far as the kind of jazz, talk about how bebop is fast, usually played by a smaller group of instruments with musicians playing lots of improvised solos. Improvising is an important vocabulary word, so look it up and write down what it means in your notebook 3rd-5th graders!

Now search for Charlie Parker on your favorite streaming service or good ole Youtube and listen to some more music-can you sit at the beginning and stand up when you think you hear improvising? Try doing a fast crazy dance to match the improvising you hear! Make your dance up high if you hear high notes, down low if you hear low notes, and watch out for rests where you body might stop moving for a beat.

Now it’s time to try improvising with more than just our bodies. Don’t worry, you don’t need a saxophone and anyone can do it! In 2nd grade, we would be starting to learn about scat singing right about now. Scatting is how singers can use their voice to improvise, but we need words to sing right? Singers can make up silly syllables to try to sound like instruments. Expert scatters like Ella Fitzgerald sometimes even use real words like at the beginning of this incredible scat! For your littlest scatters, Hoots the Owl from Sesame Street can help, all you have to do is repeat what he does! For your older ones, just give it a go with this backing track and see what happens. Parents, give it a try too-have fun with it, and enjoy being creative! There’s no wrong answer here, just do whatever feels good and explore all of the cool things your voice can do.

Close out your lesson with this read aloud of one of my favorite books in our music library: