Date of Award






Degree Type



Schwob School of Music

First Advisor

Sean Powell

Second Advisor

Amy Griffiths

Third Advisor

Lisa Oberlander


The purpose of this study was to provide preservice and inservice teachers with an alternative approach to teaching beginning jazz improvisation to instrumentalists in a classroom setting. It was determined that there exists a need for an accessible (to both teacher and student) method for teaching beginning jazz improvisation to instrumentalists. This is due to the lack of emphasis on jazz improvisation at both the public school and university level, as well as the inclusion of improvisation in both the national and Georgia state standards for music performance. The teaching method presented in this study is based on previous research, existing teaching methods and strategies, and the educational experience of the author. A number of valuable resources are used in the teaching process, but are presented strategically to avoid overwhelming the reader. This method suggests teaching improvisation using three separate components: Exploration, Language, and Application. Exploration involves the development of student aural skills through singing and playing improvised melodies, singing and playing back melodies created by other students, and playing improvised solos with an accompaniment (live or play-a-long) using previously learned knowledge and skills. In the Language component, students will listen to recordings of artist-level jazz musicians, transcribe solos, and develop knowledge of jazz theory by learning the chords, scales and modes used in various harmonic progressions. Application involves applying the developed improvisation skills to jazz repertoire, whether it is a jazz standard in a combo setting or a full big band chart; students learn to improvise in an actual performance setting, in the context of real music. These three components are used to reduce anxiety and teach improvisation in a comfortable and accessible setting, segmenting the process to allow time for students to process and absorb the given information and develop the skills needed to improvise.