1st jazz cello lesson: the blues

The Blues

Blues is probably one of the most versatile and universal forms used in modern improvisation.

It started being heard probably somewhere in the cotton plantations chanted by black slaves and slowly moved its way up until becoming one of the most used forms of the 21st century music.

We will start talking about the use of Blues in a Jazz context and then we’ll explore the many variations done in more recent times.

The Jazz-blues is a 12 bars form that present itself like this:


For the purpose of this chapter we will use the blues in F since F is the key that our colleagues saxophone and trumpet jazz players usually choose (better be prepared to jam with them as soon as we can!).

This is the basic idea now let’s move our first steps into it.

One of the reasons why the blues is so widely popular is because you can play and improvise on it just using one simple scale: the Blues scale

Here it is:


You will notice that if you starting with the 4th finger on the 4th string you can play the whole scale without changing position.

The second scale “with grace notes it’s a slight variation of the scale that we can use to give a little more variety to our improvisation

Let’s make up now a little tune easy to memorize and based on the blues scale.


You can start already to play it and see what it feels like.

Here is also a little play along that you can use to play the tune http://www.jazzitalia.net/lezioni/luciofrancoamanti/audio/bluesjazzitalia.mp3 (right click on the link and “Save As”).

Once downloaded you can use it with a player and loop it to try out some improvisation.


About Improvisation

More or less in the same way we made our Blues tune we can now write down some improvisations.

I suggest beginning with very few notes trying to pay attention to how the chord changes while we are playing.

Impro1 :


Keep in mind that when you improvise (at any point of your development) repetition is never a bad thing! Repetition allows the audience to understand better what you are doing. In fact one of the typical beginners mistake in improvisation of any kind is to “play too much”.

It is in a way like if we build a sentence in our spoken language: you will have to repeat some letters or some words if you want people to understand what you are talking about!

The same goes also for pauses: don’t be afraid of stop playing and just listen!

Using simple patterns and repetitions we can create all kind of simple solos let’s see some examples:

(Note: the 8th notes should be considered played with “swing”)


Here is another one using grace notes:

blues6You can now start to experiment with this and see what you can come up with. To practice, try to make up your tunes and solos based on this form.

In the next session we will explore some well known jazz tunes based on the Blues.

1 Comment

  • Kay Roberts

    Thanks for this ! Its very helpful

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