Bandworld Magazine Page
An ABC Masters Graduate Special Presentation
Jazz Ensemble Warm Ups
by Edd George
Here is a description of the exercises in the order that they appear in the warm ups, along with suggestions for implementation.
CIRCLE OF FOURTHS
It is important for students to learn the Circle of Fourths because in many chord progressions the roots follow the same sequence. (It is also the order of the flats.)
- For consistency, it is best to always end on the same note you start on. (For example, start on concert C, play all 12 tones, then end on concert C.)
- You can start on any note and then repeat back to the beginning of the line to complete the circle of fourths.
- The parts have been written with multiple octaves. You should vary instructions to the students by having them play the most comfortable octave, then another day play the lowest octave possible, then the highest octave possible, etc.
- Use different rhythms for variety and ensemble tightness .
- You can use the Circle of Fourths along with descending chromatic scales to play dominant 7 chords:
Group 1 plays a descending chromatic scale starting on concert Bb
Group 2 plays a descending chromatic scale starting on concert E
Group 3 plays around the Circle of Fourths starting on concert C
- Have different sections of the band start on different notes to build other chords: For example, to get the band to play half diminished chords in all keys:
Group 1 starts on concert Bb and plays around the Circle of Fourths
Group 2 starts on concert Db and plays around the Circle of Fourths
Group 3 starts on concert E and plays around the Circle of Fourths
Group 4 starts on concert Ab and plays around the Circle of Fourths
- In following the American Band College standard pitch tendency notation, triangle shaped note heads indicate notes that have a sharp tendency, square shaped note heads (with flat sides) indicate notes that have a flat tendency. The severity of the pitch tendency is notated with S for Slightly, M for Moderately and V for Very. The note heads are consistently marked throughout the warm ups but the distinction of S, M, V are only shown in the circle of fourths. Students should memorize the tendencies for their instrument.
- Students should be instructed on how to correct flat or sharp notes.
- Flat Notes on Brass Instruments can be corrected by raising the tongue (more of an “eee” shape), and by using faster air.
- Sharp Notes on Brass Instruments can be corrected by lowering the tongue, lowering the jaw and by lowering the corners of the embouchure.
- Trombone players must adjust their slide position as well as adjust with their embouchure and air.
- Trumpet players should use their 3rd valve slide on the notes D and C# at the bottom of the staff.
- Flat Notes on Reed Instruments can be corrected by firming up the embouchure, raising the jaw and by using faster air.
- Sharp Notes on Reed Instruments can be corrected by bringing the corners of the mouth down and flattening the chin.
- Sharp Notes on Flute can be corrected by tilting the head down slightly or rolling the head joint in.
- Flat Notes on Flute can be corrected by tilting the head down slightly or rolling the head joint out.
ii V I PROGRESSIONS in 12 MAJOR KEYS
This exercise takes the students through 12 major scales in descending quarter notes while the rhythm sections plays ii V I chord progression.
- This can be played along with Aebersold Volume 3, Track 2.
- Have the band repeat each key twice (4 measures), brass playing once then woodwinds playing once. Students can finger and sing when they are not playing. The rhythm section should play the entire time.
- Challenge the advanced students to just look at the chord symbols and play the scale without having to read each note.
- For theory practice have students identify the chord tones for each chord. (The 3rds and 7ths are most important.)
- Have the brass players pick chord tones to play softly as whole notes while woodwinds play the scales and then switch.
- Allow students to improvise rhythms while playing the scale. Restricting the students to the 4 notes written in each measure will help them change chords at the right time and give them practice at hearing the resolution of the 3rds and 7ths.
- Allow students to improvise over the chord progression as sections or small groups, then as individuals as they feel more comfortable. Remind them to stay within the major key.
Most students feel more comfortable playing ascending major scales, and this exercise forces them to practice them descending.