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Back to The Blues: Understanding and Performing an American Art Form

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

584 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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201 - 225 of 240 Reviews for The Blues: Understanding and Performing an American Art Form

By Maicon R H

Apr 11, 2017

Very good!!!

By John R

Oct 12, 2016


By Ángel L B G

Jun 26, 2016

Really good!

By Carlos A F

Jul 18, 2016


By fabian r

Nov 10, 2022


By Kelvin B

Jun 22, 2020


By Pedro B

Aug 8, 2016

Muy bueno!

By David Y

Jun 22, 2022


By Fabián A P

Sep 26, 2020


By Chaitanya T

May 2, 2020


By Laura R V

Oct 4, 2020

Loved it

By Ernesto D (

Dec 3, 2016


By Ricardo C

Feb 26, 2018



May 14, 2016


By Paulo G

Oct 28, 2022

By Steve R

Aug 24, 2017

At first I though it was a very poor course but certain parts of it were gold for me and I got a lot out of it. I particularly appreciated the advice on how to improvise through out the course. I was less keen on the parts on modes and pentatonics but on the other hand for someone further along in their musical journey it may be just the thing. Although the course is ostensibly on the blues it also covers a lot of material relevant to Jazz.

Pedagogically there were some problems.I think the course has way too much material and could be split into 2 parts each part maybe a bit slower.The presenter need to sharpen up his game a little as regards presentation skills, reading material of an IPad is not very inspiring. His English is not very idiomatic but that's not really a big problem. Written sheets with the changes and summarizing the lectures would have made the course better. Finally there are no peer reviews and all quizzes are theoretical - rather disappointing. I prefer a hands on approach with peer based reviews as in Gary Burton's course also on Coursera.

By Marc S

May 17, 2018

This course was not at all what I expected; I'm not sure if I misread the syllabus or just misunderstood its contents. First, I was expecting the course to center around the blues, a la Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, John Le Hooker, B.B King, etc. It turned out to be a lot less blues and a LOT more jazz with the likes of John Coltrane, Miles David, Joe Henderson, etc! Second, I was expecting more history with little to no theory. As it turns out, this course was highly theoretical and performance heavy. All in all though, it was a great course but certainly not for a beginner musician.

By Barbara S

Nov 29, 2020

I had trouble at first following the written transcripts of the various lessons as they had many word mistakes. The organization of the class material, demos and play-along videos was excellent. It would, however, be very useful to be able to easily print out the various music examples - I copied them off by hand and that was a pain. Overall, I learned a lot and am happy I took the course.

By Lorenzo A

Apr 25, 2017

This course is great and I found it very complementary to the Berklee Improv course. This is more advanced and it dives deeper. But it is less "hands on". My only remark is that people would benefit more from it if it had some practical homework beyond quizzes and if the material was made available in a nice format.

By Arthur G

May 16, 2018

My reason for only giving four stars is because I could not find the materials associated with the lessons. I created my own notes for the course which for me is very helpful. I also wish that the correct answers would be provided for the ones that I got wrong even though I passed the quiz.

By kk K

Jul 16, 2022

It introduce very important component about american Blue scale. Despite you have a basic knowledge about some Jazz thoery, this is a kinda interesting course and you can learn a lot with the marterials provided in this course.

By Henriet P

Apr 27, 2020

Very very interesting. I like the it is explained. Great

Week 7 is to difficult for me now. I need to practice to go further with the material

It could have peer review of exercises! it could help us to verify to understand well

By Roger P

Aug 3, 2023

This was an eye-opening introduction to blues composition! It explained much in the music I'd heard, but had never really understood. I think I'll be reviewing, practicing, and utilizing this for months, or years, to come!


Dec 30, 2020

It's a lot of years since I started playing piano jazz, nevertheless I got different interesting points to reflect into and several exercises to practice, expecially with pentatonics and scalar patterns. Very enjoyable!

By José M

Jul 11, 2017

Great overall planification and sequence of matters. Some errors in written materials. Some ambiguous questions on quiz. Great music examples played by collaborators. Very poor written transcriptions of spoken text.