Issue: Jul-Sep 2005
Bandworld Magazine Page


An ABC Masters Graduate Special Presentation

Jazz Ensemble Warm Ups (continued)
by Edd George

Scale Strategies

These are 3 exercises that you can use while playing scales to work on rhythmic accuracy and unity of ensemble articulation.  Once the students are comfortable with the different exercises, it is beneficial to play scales in different keys and different types of scales (major, dorian, mixolydian and aeolian being the most important.) 


  • This can be played with straight eighth notes or swing eighth notes at a variety of tempos.
  • The goal is to release the notes at the same time.  (breathe in on the release)
  • The drummer should work on setting up the band on beat 1 of every other measure.
  • The scale used in this exercise is Eb Major, which corresponds to major seventh chords.


  • Work on articulation always being long-short (du-dot or du-dit.)
  • The drummer should work on playing those hits with the band.
    • To play with the band, the ride cymbal and high hat play a standard swing rhythm.  The rhythm the band is playing is written above the staff and the drummer should play those rhythms on one of the drums.
  • Have the drummer play while the band (and rest of the rhythm section) sings the exercise. 
  • It is helpful to do this exercise with a metronome amplified so the band can hear it.
  • The scale used in this exercise is Eb Mixolydian, which corresponds to dominant seventh chords.


  • This helps work on counting through the measure.  The students should subdivide through the exercise, and work on not rushing.
  • The drummer should work on setting up the band for these different entrances.
    • To set up the band, they should work on leading up to the downbeat before the bands’ note.
  • It is helpful to do this exercise with a metronome amplified so the band can hear it.
  • The scale used in this exercise is Eb Dorian, which corresponds to minor seventh chords.


These are 4 count rhythmic figures that can be used when playing unison pitches, scales or the Circle of Fourths.  These are common swing rhythms, and are designed to give student practice in feeling swing subdivision.  It is important that the students make these rhythms “line up” and articulate together.  Each of the rhythms is divided into 3 groups that should be played concurrently.

  • Pick one of the Rhythms and assign everyone to Group 1.  Once the ensemble plays that rhythm accurately, assign half the band to be Group 2, while the rest of the ensemble continues to be Group 1.  When those 2 rhythms accurately fit together, then assign part of the ensemble to the Group 3 rhythm, and have all 3 Groups playing together.
  • Rotate the assignment of trombones, trumpets, woodwinds and rhythm section to each of the 3 groups. 
  • Have the band play a scale (major, minor, mixolydian) or the Circle of Fourths, 1 pitch per measure. 
  • It is helpful to do this exercise with a metronome


The scores for the two passages are included on the following page.  These are jazz chorales that are designed to be used for balance and tuning.  Each part has the chord symbols, as well as an indication of the notes’ place in the chord.  For example a “3” below a note means that student is playing the 3rd of the chord, (“R” = Root).  Many of the chords are written as seventh chords (F7) actually include the 9th, 13th or 11th.  It is common for these notes to be added by jazz musicians to enhance the chord. 

Chord Progression #1 is based on the jazz standard “The Way You Look Tonight,” Progression #2 is based on the bridge to Rhythm Changes in Bb.  (with some substitutions)

  • When tuning  a chord, have students join in the following order: R, 5, 3, 7, 9, 13, 11
  • Teach theory by asking “Is that a minor 3rd or major 3rd?” “How can you tell?”
  • Take a chord and transpose it to a different key. (If the chord is a C minor 7, have the band play a D minor 7)
  • Instruct the students to listen for moving parts in the inner voices
  • The drummer can play time or work on cymbal textures as in a ballad
  • Conduct dynamics, and don’t always do it the same way
  • Have each horn section play with the rhythm section while the other horn sections listen for the measures of best and worst intonation.
  • Get the students to listen for how different notes sound in a chord, so they can recognize when they are playing a 3rd or a root in their jazz band music
  • In the conductor score the chords are printed in the Alto, Trumpet and Bass part, so you can easily see them in each of the common transpositions
  • Have students improvise over the changes as sections or individually

Advanced students could write melodies to the progressions.


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