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Learner Reviews & Feedback for The Blues: Understanding and Performing an American Art Form by University of Rochester

583 ratings

About the Course

The blues is an American art form and the most important musical form in jazz. Although there are other formal paradigms of the blues, such as 8-bar or 16-bar, this course focuses on different incarnations of the 12-bar blues. There are considerable differences between Early Jazz blues, Swing blues, Bebop blues, Modal blues, and Post Bop blues. Each type has its unique harmonic syntax, melodic vocabulary and, associated with them, improvisational techniques. While other aspects of jazz performance practice have been constantly changing from one stylistic convention to another, the blues has never lost its identity and expressive power, and continues to exert a powerful influence on the harmonic and melodic syntax of jazz. This seven-week course explores important aspects of the blues, blues improvisation, basic keyboard textures, jazz harmonic and melodic syntax. Topics include: (1) Blues Progressions; (2) Blues and Other Scales; (3) Improvisational Tools, and others. This course will also cover valuable theoretical concepts enabling the student to master the art of jazz improvisation. Each topic will be introduced from a practical perspective with the clearly stated goal: to improve one’s improvisational skills. Jazz improvisation is rooted in spontaneity, creativity, self-expression and, at the same time, self-control and order. A unique pedagogical approach based on a one-to-one musical interaction conducted with different instrumentalists will help to reinforce many of the concepts introduced in this course and realize its stated objectives....

Top reviews


Jul 27, 2020

Very good and enjoyable mix of practice and theory - from basics to more advanced with good explanations throughout. I just wish I was a better piano player to be able to take full advantage of it!


Oct 7, 2016

Such a great course! Even though I am a bass player this course has made me understand patterns and ways in which the Blues can be taken to. Thank you very much for such an amazing experience.

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1 - 25 of 239 Reviews for The Blues: Understanding and Performing an American Art Form

By Karen S

Sep 14, 2017

I thought we were going to learn about the blues and it's all about jazz. I was looking forward to learning more about BB King and Muddy Waters and I'm very disappointed.

By Mitch R

Jun 17, 2017

If you are expecting an introduction to Blues (within the context of Jazz) this course may not be for you. This is a very complex course, and often it seems as though the terminology changes rather than evolves. I have a strong background studying classical, 20th century and modern music theory techniques, and that was the only reason I was able to finish this course. Give yourself a lot of time to practice and review the material. Two good things about the course. The professor is very passionate about the topic, and John the moderator has done a great job of collecting the charts and additional material presented for more detailed study.

By Juan L B N

Sep 28, 2020

Quite enlightening course to get me introduced to Blues forms. Even though I'm a guitarist, I find the topics very interesting and rich to use on improvisation and blues development.

By John E P

Aug 29, 2016

I find this course to be very practical and very rewarding. After a week I can come up with two-handed chords and comp with a singer or a soloist (after some prep right now). I found the various options for improvising to be very informative. I enjoy the teacher very much, he is enthusiastic and friendly and has excellent tips for practicing. I like the way the course is structured, working from a simple blues to more involved but still conforming to the basic blues structure.

I was fascinated by pentatonic chords and I am determined to come up with an arrangement of my own using these chord types. The drop-2 approach is a very useful way to get a great sound and is useful for comping. Guide tones and voice leading are extremely useful also and an essential tool in any jazz performer's portfolio.

I plan to practice these various methods and I will probably buy the teacher's book to see if I can advance my skills further.

I plan to use the play-along sessions to improve my improvising skills. I really enjoy playing with the band! Thank you so much for this great course.

By Anthony L

Mar 4, 2017

I found this course to be very informative. I am a self-taught amateur musician, and this course really helped me see the underlying connections amongst the various music theory concepts, especially those pertaining to harmony and improvisation, that I have tried to learn on my own. Using the historical evolution of the blues as the underlying pedagogic tool is a great idea and really helped my understanding. And I think it will also help my appreciation for jazz going forward.

The only regret I have is that I do not know how to play piano (I am a guitarist), although I am in the process of teaching myself how to play (I am literally just about a month in). Once I have started building my "chops", I plan to come back to these lectures and apply them to my piano studies.

Many thanks to Professor Terefenko and the forum moderators for a great learning experience!

By Victor M d A G

Jan 25, 2017

Congratulations to teacher and other musicians. This is a very nice course that helped filling several empty blocks on my knowledge.

I´d like to have all piano plays in complete musical score to better follow.

Question: Couldn´t you save it as midi and turn it available to registered students or capture this midi recordings and represent it as staff?

Suggestion for next turn: Do a carefull revision on subtitles. They have several (inaudible) blanks and some words that have nothing to do to the context, or simply do not exist. For a non English mother tongue speaker person, bad written words add an extra difficulty to understand each new information. (I have used subtitles, stopping the film and fixing concepts by reading these subtitles)

Best regards, Victor M A Garcia

By Audrey K

Aug 22, 2020

Fantastic in-depth music theory course on the 12-bar blues progression and how it evolved into more modern jazz elaborations of it. This course also teaches very practical step-by-step strategies on how to improvise a solo within a jazz piece. It also teaches how to practice the course material to make it easier to incorporate into your own playing. This course even provides play-along song-length tracks to practice your improvisation. A great course too for songwriters who want to learn how to compose a jazz piece. A very well thought-out course that's clearly presented and provides tons of practical information. Kudos Dariusz Terefenko, and thank you so much for giving us this wonderful course.

By Cliff B

Jan 6, 2019

I can't say how much I enjoyed this course. As an adult, I studied classical piano for 9 years. During that time, I made several failed attempts to learn to play jazz piano. When I began this course, it was if a light went on. It was clear to me that this course could be a path, and a framework for learning to play jazz. Now, I am enthusiastically pursuing that path. In addition, I believe it's important to know the history of jazz, as well as the theory and performance.

By Simone S

Sep 25, 2016

The assignments are not really commensurate to the content, i.e. they are much simpler and superficial and do not really test the content, which is deeper and implies practical activities difficult to measure. The title is also partially misleading, at least for me, and I would rather call it a blues introduction to jazz improvisation. But the content and the exercises proposed are great, one of the best and no nonsense approach to bebop improvisation I've ever found


Feb 12, 2019

I would like to express my biggest appreciation to Prof. Dariusz Terefenko and all fellow-musicians joined in this course. For me and all musicians who don't have enough financial capabilities to participate in official musical training programs, this is such a great source and incredible guidance to American music with all knowledge and materials needed for further musicianship development.

By Chris H

Oct 5, 2016

A very comprehensive and well-thought out approach to the Blues, improvisation, and practice techniques that will be invaluable as I go forward in my study of improvisation. Very enjoyable and great to hear the wonderful players - I was particularly impressed with Tyrone - what a fabulous bassist!!

By aly l

May 29, 2017

As a (mainly) self-taught musician, I find this course helps me a lot. Previously, I'm learning blues via YouTube or Google search, yet this course give me an opportunity to get an elaborated perspective in regard of Blues, its history, and its practical usage in music improvisation.

By Nicolle M

Jun 18, 2017

This course is more than a great introduction to blues, one of the most idiomatic genres in history.

I enjoyed it a lot and learned even more than I expected.

This course is perfect for beginners like me, who want to get familiarized with such a beautiful way of expressing ourselves.

By Stéphane S

Apr 27, 2019

This is a leading course that provides an in-depth understanding and all the background necessary for advanced blues studies based on jazz theory. The course is given brilliantly and very pedagogically by a virtuoso pianist.

By Danilo T B

Oct 8, 2016

Such a great course! Even though I am a bass player this course has made me understand patterns and ways in which the Blues can be taken to. Thank you very much for such an amazing experience.

By Alvis Z

Mar 3, 2017

This is very practical and useful course. I really learned something from it! I love this courser and I strongly recommend this course to everyone who is fascinated in Blues.

By Robert L

Jun 8, 2023

Great course for anyone who is interested in music and music history. Well done. Teacher is great.

By Peter M

Aug 14, 2023

It is important to appreciate when someone does a good job that can help others in life. This course may be intermediate on a music school level. But for everyone else this is advanced level. This is in fact the holy grail about blues improvisation. I have played music as an amateur for approx. 30 years and currently I do study dominant 7/Maj/min arpeggios, guide/target-tones along with the CAGED system for the pentatonic- and the blues scale on guitar. I have looked everywhere on the internet using Google for explanations on guide-tone soloing and chord-tone (arpeggio) soloing. There is lots of good stuff out there. But in my opinion, this course is the best introduction/overview that exists. This course will explain how things are working, why it is working, and how you should practice it. I would encourage every other reviewer to provide a 5 star review. In order to appreciate the material that the University of Rochester is sharing with the world. Thank you for reading and thank you guys.

By Cris M

May 20, 2023

O Curso é excelente, vale muito a pena e aprendi muito! As aulas estão muito bem elaboradas, o Professor Dariusz é muito didático e mesmo os conceitos que muitos julgamos mais difíceis, são colocados de forma a facilitar a compreensão. Ele não acabou aqui. Irei rever as aulas, refazer as práticas e já se tornou uma fonte de consulta muito útil para minha prática. Parabéns Prof. Dariusz e aos músicos que o acompanharam e relataram suas experiências durante o processo, o que nos ajuda muito. Sou brasileira e toco instrumentos de sopro. A tradução em Português foi vital para os que, como eu, não dominam o idioma Inglês. Parabéns, University of Rochester ! Parabéns Coursera! Que continue nos brindando com cursos de qualidade! Muito obrigada!

By marcel m

Feb 12, 2021

This course is very interesting. I play guitar but this has not obstructed me to successfully complete the course as its contents is also applicable to guitar. I had completed many courses of music theory and guitar including blues and jazz either through coursera (organised by Berklee college of Music, Michigan University, etc) or Udemy, but any of them did not address my curiosity on the blues music. It is only throughout this course that I gained a clear visibility on what is the blues music, its underlying rules and principles of improvisation clearly explained. I am very grateful to the university of Rochester and Professor Terefenko for having organised this course.


By Kingsley O

Aug 10, 2018

Special thanks to Professor Dariusz Terefenko and Coursera for this opportunity to learn once again. I have learnt quite a lot during these 7 weeks. Although the class is over I will slowly go through them again especially, week 6 and 7 to unpack and digest those materials. This is my first time to understand how the various modes (ionian etc) are generated and I really need to fully digest them and other things already learnt. I wish to use them in my compositions if I gain the experience in my experimentation. ONCE AGAIN, THANK YOU COURSERA!!! THANK YOU PROFESSOR DARIUSZ TERENFENKO!!!!!!

Dr. Kingsley N. Owhonda

By Alexander P

Feb 23, 2017

Excellent introduction into the subject. A lot of theory and practical illustrations. Surely, to master the material entirely you should practice for years. But the course gives a thorough overview of what the blues means. If you don't learn how to play it you at least will understand what happens there. My only critics is that I did not found any written materials that are used in the lectures. I don't understand why. I used the printscreen button to get examples from the videos. Would not it be much easier to include the music sheets that are disposed publicly anyway.

By Anton F

May 19, 2020

Excuse my english language (i'm French) but I really want to thanks the teacher for those courses. It's was very very clear and my girlfriend said to me yesterdays : "wouah your sound is better :)"

I hope that you will continue with the jazz standards. I know we can use all this tools for the jazz standards but the harmony and melody are sometimes more complex than the blues and it can be useful to have the same course for the most important standards.

Meanwhile, real thank you very very much, i will work tomorrow with the pattern of Coltrane.

Happy new years :)

Anton Fuchs

By Dave D

Oct 25, 2020

The two biggest takeaways for me from this course are 1) new techniques I can use to solo over blues standards such as Blues in the Night, Since I Fell for You and Please Send Me Someone to Love; and 2) a greater appreciation of how blues has been incorporated into the music of George Gershwin, especially in his orchestral works Rhapsody in Blue, Concerto in F, and his second Prelude for solo piano. Although neither of these subjects were presented in this course, it has enhanced my understanding of the blue sin general. Highly recommended!

By José D

Jun 21, 2016

An exceptionally good course on jazz theory and improvisation. Don't let the name mislead you, the blues is used in this course as the basis for form, harmonic and melodic improvasition, but this is a Jazz theory course, not a Blues (in the traditional sense) course. I recommend this course empahtically for anyone wanting to learn jazz improvisation. It is a good complement to another Coursera course, Jazz Improvisation by Gary Burton, which is also excellent, but more focused on melodic improvisation and with a more pratical approach.