The Take 5 Method
For Teaching Jazz Improvisation
By Thom David Mason
The Take 5 Method is a new approach to a perennial problem: How to begin teaching young musicians to improvise. Most of the existing beginning methods start at too high a level to really be of benefit to students who know next to nothing about jazz soloing (and often are still at a very early stage in their mastery of their instruments). Too many note choices and advanced rhythmic concepts can often lead students to believe they can't improvise jazz and to turn off the subject all together. An example of this is the seven and eight-note scales that students are asked to learn as they begin improvising. Over the past several years, the author, working with numerous elementary and middle school students in a Saturday morning band program located in the inner-city of Los Angeles, discovered that working with scale-sets (the first five notes of the major and minor scales) produced the ideal balance of safe notes (chord tones) and not so safe notes (the notes built on the second and fourth degrees of each scale) to challenge students to really explore soloing in a creative way. This is because when students are faced with too many note and rhythm choices, they often resort to simply memorizing licks that are "safe," -- not because they necessarily like the licks, but because they are too embarrassed to try something original on their own.