Intro to Improvisation: Course Outline

Course #: MUSI 1601, section 1.  One credit
Semester: Spring 2019
Instructor: Earl MacDonald, Professor of Music & Director of Jazz Studies
Class meeting time: Mondays & Wednesdays, 11:15 a.m. – 12:05 p.m.
Room #: MUSB 109
Earl MacDonald’s Office: MUSB 207
Office Hours: Mondays, 10 – 11AM; Wednesdays, 12:05 – 1PM, and by appointment (room MUSB 207)

Text Books:

“Maiden Voyage, Fourteen Easy-To-Play Jazz Tunes,” by Jamey Aebersold
Volume 54.
* play-a-long tracks can be downloaded via iTunes.

“The Jazz Theory Book,” by Mark Levine (optional)
Sher Music.  ISBN 1-883217-04-0

A great jazz solo consists of: 1% magic & 99% stuff that is
explainable, analyzable, catergorizeable, doable.
– Mark Levine, jazz pianist/author

The intent of this jazz improv course is to focus on the “99% stuff”.  By concentrating on elements of jazz theory, ear training, transcription, and playing, students will attain a solid foundation upon which to build as beginning jazz soloists.

Course material will include: chord symbol notation, chord/scale theory, basic chord progressions, song forms, rudimentary reharmonization, transcription & analysis of jazz solos, ear training (aural recognition of intervals, scales, chords and progressions), jazz terminology, the application of “licks”, bebop fundamentals, and other relevant topics.


Performance tests: 50%
Solo transcription(s) and performance project(s): 20%
Written quizzes: 30%

A:    94 – 100%
A-:    90 – 93%
B+:    86 – 89%
B:    82 – 85%
B-:    78 – 81%
C+:    74 – 77%
C:    70 – 73%
C-:    66 – 69%
D+:    62 – 65%
D:    58 – 61%
D-:    51 – 57%
F:    0 – 50%

*The course content, schedule and grading scheme are subject to change at the instructor’s discretion.

Some useful telephone numbers:
Counseling and Mental Health Services: 486-4705 (after hours: 486-3427)
Career Services:  486-3013
Alcohol and Other Drug Services:  486-9431
Dean of Students Office:  486-3426

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