Improvisation is something that we do all the time in everyday life and take for granted. We don’t usually have to “learn” how to do it.
We do it while talking to people, if something breaks and we need to “improvise” a substitute, or if we have to adapt to a new set of circumstances in a hurry.
BlueJam sessions offer simple and fun ways for children to improvise together musically using voices, instruments and objects in and around school.
We can also bring a range of instruments for children to try including trombone, trumpet, accordion, flute, violin, cello, samba drums.
These sessions are offered to Reception, Key Stage 1,2,3,4 using the same basic principles with a range of ingredients.
All sessions can be delivered sitting down in class or in a big space with room to move around in.
Here are examples of the different approaches we take, which we can discuss with individual schools to suit their needs.
Percussion Stories – Make up a story with words and accompany it with sound effects, rhythm patterns, loud bangs, soft thuds, soundbursts and tuned percussion melodies. Then tell the story without the words and see what happens!
Gobbledegook! – all speak together as fast as possible using made up words and sounds – be as dramatic as possible. Then go ‘underwater’ and do the same thing. Then do it on the moon in slow motion. Choose other scenarios (in a hot desert; while eating ice-cream; in a cloud of midges; at a loud rock concert)
Choose signals to move from one scenario to another. Then half the group picks instruments and performs the same piece to the other half using instruments instead of voices. (They don’t have to be able to play the instrument.)
Riff City – the tutor will play a descending chord sequence on the piano or guitar, or show students how to do it. The idea is to enable a call and response, question and answer, polite or argumentative conversation to take place over the top. Depending on the group and desired outcome, this can be done vocally, with or without words, in a rock, blues, latin or jazz style, with instruments using a specific scale (usually pentatonic) as solos or as teacher call and class echo. The decending bassline is one of many chord progressions which work under a single scale enabling creative melodic fragments, rhythmic phrases, repeating hooks and stylistically resonant tunes to be developed without being tripped up by a ‘wrong note’.
Rhythm Changes – BlueJam tutors are adept at working from Reception through to Uni with the ubiquitous song structure known as Rhyhm Changes. (I Got Rhythm, Flintstones). Classes can learn about the different roles instruments play in a jazz band. Our multi instrumentalist tutors can demonstrate swing drums, basslines, piano comping and horn parts and get the class to mime or vocalise them. The group can work from a specific song and learn how to sing or play it in style, how to get a jazz groove, or they can take it in turns to solo, using scatting techniques or instrumental lines.
This session does not imply a level of skill on an instrument – students can play FGA on a keyboard and make a good solo, using patterns, repeated phrases and a lot of rhythmic energy.
CPD for teachers – these sessions will explore the approaches listed above and offer a realistic assessment of which skills teachers will need to use to deliver them.
We will demo a sample session and chart the outcomes we would expect and possibilities for future work delivered by the teacher.
BlueJam can work in schools on a one-on one-off basis, creating specialist support for a teacher to deliver a confident progressive music course throughout the term or year.
We have online resources on the bluejamarts.org website with ultra simple basslines, chord progressions and rhythm change examples, plus useful and accessible songs for school bands of any level.
We offer a flexible programme of workshops from Early Years through to Higher Education.
We can come along to an assembly and write a song with the whole school in a 15 minute taster session.
We can work with a small group to write a song for the 6th form leavers’ concert, the school play, or even write a whole Christmas show with the Year 3s.
We are passionate about making sure we facilitate and enable rather than suggest and guide so the children have real ownership over their work.
We are happy to share our processes with teachers.
Drumming together is a great group experience, and a fantastic way of helping children and adults to work together in a safe, challenging and fun environment.
We offer drumming workshops appropriate to all Key Stage Programmes of Study in Music, and can incorporate elements or themes from other areas of the National Curriculum. Each package can be tailored to your group, and consist of one or multiple sessions. (We can also pitch workshops up or down if you are, for instance, particularly keen to do Samba with your baby group!)
We are also able to work with your group to produce a piece of work specifically for an event, such as school celebrations, sports days, fun days, concerts – or to enhance longer projects.
Our three drumming workshops are:
Samba Jam (KS3+)
What is a Brazilian bateria? Students will learn about the different samba drums and percussion instruments, their names, techniques and roles in the group. We will learn how to play several interlocking samba rhythms and how they are conducted – students can take turns in leading the group. They can make up their own call and response patterns (the break) with words, movements or even tunes attached.
Weather and space permitting, we can choreograph and and then parade our newly-formed bateria around the school, sports field or hall.
BlueJam will provide all samba instruments, beaters and straps required.
Recycled Rhythm! (KS2+)
Recycled Rhythm is all about having fun and finding new ways to look at ordinary objects. Investigate the sound potential of chairs, brooms, dustbin lids – anything robust. Often the objects we play will lend themselves to movement and so these drumming workshops can also lead to a visual, dynamic piece of physical theatre.
The music we create in a session will be led and directed by the children, and so is a great platform for giving every child a voice.
Percussive Play (Early years)
Incorporating singing, storytelling and movement, these sessions emphasise the ‘play’ element of music, and allow everyone to explore exciting instruments. At the end of the session we make time for a relaxing lullaby or soothing sounds to help everyone stay calm.
CPD for teachers
These sessions give teachers the experience of playing as part of a drumming group, enabling them to assess different teaching methods, suitable instruments and sound levels for different ages, optimum length and numbers for sessions and which approaches contribute to an enjoyable experience for everyone.
The training will show how methods and strategies teachers use every day (to manage groups and facilitate individual expression within groups) can be used to develop the skills needed for working with percussion and creating an exciting drum piece.
The session will alternate learning by drumming on instruments with learning using voices, quiet clapping and body percussion.
Teachers will be given templates for drumming sessions to take away, with stick and hand drumming technique diagrams, with easy interlocking samba rhythms to try out and links to more resources.
BlueJam specialises in working with groups using instruments from all sections of the orchestra or band.
We are able to do this because our tutors are multi-instrumentalists and composers so can quickly adapt tunes to suit the number and experience of the children in the class.
See below for examples and references.
BlueJam has a pool of tutors skilled in teaching instruments from beginner to advanced level. We are familiar with teaching in school and consistently give pupils an opportunity to get to know an instrument with solid technique using fun and relevant material.