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12 Bar Blues Composition Assessment: outline

Composition Assessment

Compose a medium tempo 12 bar blues in C
© Goldsmiths, University of London

Task: Compose a medium tempo 12 bar blues in C with a beat of 4 to the bar

(Please note this composition task is the first part of the overall assessment, later on there is a separate performance component)

For the 12 bar blues composition, you need to submit two items:

  • a lead sheet (i.e. top line and chords) in the form of a PDF. We recommend using the music notation system MuseScore to produce this
  • an mp3 recording of you performing the composition. This is simply to aid the assessor, your performance will not be assessed but it does need to be clearly audible

You can download a pdf of a page of manuscript paper to help you write out your composition for your own use at the bottom of this article. However, this assessment is in part designed to get you to use a computer music transcription programme like MuseScore to write out the composition clearly.

As we have said, most jazz musicians (e.g. pianists Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett) compose their own tunes. A system like MuseScore allows you to share your compositions easily with other musicians. You need only gain a basic understanding of MuseScore to complete this assessment.

I have produced a video in the next step to help you with using MuseScore for the first time, but it should be enough I hope to produce your Composition chart.

Assessment Criteria:

There are 3 marks available of 0, 1, or 2 for the following four aspects of composition. The performance of the composition is purely to help the assessor interpret the chart and there is 1 point for it being audible.

(i) Musical notation

This should be accurate and readable because the purpose of the chart is to communicate the composition. The assumption is that quavers are to be interpreted as “jazz quavers” and so we would not expect generally to see dotted quaver and semiquaver pairs.

  • 0 – Nothing submitted or unreadable
  • 1 – Includes two or more basic errors of notation
  • 2 – Largely error free

(ii) Consistency

Are the notes in a bar consistent with the chord for that bar? Is the chord sequence appropriate for a 12 bar blues?

  • 0 – Nothing submitted or unreadable
  • 1 – Includes two or more inconsistencies
  • 2 – Largely consistent

(iii) Phrasing

Does the tune contain identifiable “musical phrases”?

  • 0 – Nothing submitted or unreadable
  • 1 – Does not appear to include any obvious identifiable musical phrases
  • 2 – Acceptable

(iv) Singability

How “singable” is the tune?

  • 0 – Nothing submitted or unreadable
  • 1 – Appears difficult to sing
  • 2 – Acceptable
© Goldsmiths, University of London
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