Compositional Tools from the UK

Apple Learning Interchange

Jamin The Blues

Jammin’ the Blues

Intermediate/Middle School Music Lesson Idea

Project Overview

Students work in pairs at each computer, using GarageBand, a MIDI keyboard, and headphones. Using a 12-bar blues in C that the teacher has previously created in GarageBand, students take turns improvising melodies. They record one of their improvisations, doing a number of “takes” if they so desire.When they get a “performance” that they like, they save it to play back for the class.

Project Steps

  1. Prior to class, create a 12-bar blues progression in GarageBand (or download the one accompanying this lesson plan). Place this GarageBand file on the hard drive of each student computer, or make it accessible to students over a network.

  1. Instruct the students on the notes that comprise a C blues scale (C-Eb-F-F#-G-Bb-C), if this has not been done in a previous class. Have the students take turns practicing the scale on their MIDI keyboards.

  1. Working in pairs, have students take turns improvising melodies over the previously created GarageBand 12-bar blues.

  1. When each student is satisfied with his or her improvisation, the student should save it to play for the class during the GarageBand concert to take place during the next class meeting. It is important to use the Save As command and save the performance with a different name than the one that was used for the original blues accompaniment file. Prior to playing the improvisation for the class, the student pairs should describe any special attributes of their improvisation.


You can post .AIFF files of the students’work on a website where parents and others can listen to them.


After completing this project, students will be able to:
  • Play a C blues scale (C-Eb-F-F#-G-Bb-C)

  • Improvise over a 12-bar blues progression

  • Listen to their classmates’ blues improvisations during a GarageBand concert

Sample Files

Duration: 2:24Listen to the horns sample

Duration: 2:24Listen to the sample

Technology Skills

After completing this project, students will be able to:
  • Use a MIDI keyboard to play a scale

  • Use GarageBand to create, record, save, and play improvisations

Assessment Suggestions

Students can be assessed on their description and performance of their recorded improvisations for the class. During the performance, students can evaluate each other’s improvisations. Students can also be assessed on their use of the C blues scale and provide other feedback (oral or written) on qualities of the improvisation.

Preparation and Duration

You can have the class do the following activities to prepare for doing this project:
  • Explore websites about the blues and improvisation

  • Listen to recordings of the blues

  • Practice the C blues scale on the music keyboard

  • Learn how to record MIDI sounds with GarageBand

This specific project can be completed in one class period, with the improvisation “concert” of students’works taking place in the following class.

Tools and Resources



Macintosh computers, MIDI keyboards, two sets of headphones for each computer, at least one set of speakers to attach to a computer (for the concert), GarageBand, GarageBand Jam Pack (optional)

Prerequisite Skills

Before beginning this project, students should have the following skills:
  • Functional knowledge of the MIDI keyboard, including beginning abilities to play melodic ideas

  • Understanding of scales, and specifically the C blues scale

  • Ability to play GarageBand files and to record MIDI sounds with GarageBand