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Blues 102—Variations

Having addressed in the last column how to help students compose simple Blues tunes, let's now consider how to help them add on to their creations.

1. Embellish the melody
Whether notated or improvised, ask your students to play their compositions a couple of times to be sure the melody is "set." If a melody is too elaborate, encourage paring it down to allow room for variation. Next, explore melodic embellishments together. Here are some ideas to get started.

Let's say this is an excerpt from a student's composition:

The student could embellish it with repeated notes…

…anticipate some notes by playing them a bit early…

…or fill the gaps with added passing notes.


2.Change up the accompaniment
Now choose a stock boogie pattern appropriate to your students' ability levels. Here are some possibilities:


3. Put it together
Ask your students to continue experimenting with embellishments at home. At the next lesson, they will play their original twelve measures "as written," followed by an improvised (or composed) twelvemeasure variation that combines an embellished melody with a more interesting accompaniment. As an example, here's a variation that might follow the sample tune in the last column.

Next time, we'll look at ways to extend a Blues tune even further with improvisation. Until then, enjoy your creative music-making journey

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