Ron Fix

Saxophonist | Educator

Patrick Henry Jazz Masterclass

I had a great time working with students from Patrick Henry High School. Wonderful group of kids! Always a good sign when students can recognize Gerry Mulligan, Billie Holiday, and Coleman Hawkins by sight.


This masterclass focused on the blues and improvisation - specifically, using the major pentatonic scale. When it comes to beginning improvisation, I've never been particularly fond of teaching the blues scale, except in certain cases. I've found that with the blues scale, students tend to view all notes as equal instead of understanding how each note actually functions.

For this masterclass, I divided notes into three categories: chord tones, passing tones, and altered tones. Understanding these three note qualities allows students to form more logical and melodic solos instead of just picking a note at random from the blues scale and hoping for the best. Another benefit of this method is that it gets students to focus on playing the changes.

I'd like to thank the Patrick Henry band director, Mrs. Peters, for having me, as well as D'Addario for providing the students with free reeds and swag! 

Below are PDFs from the masterclass, including the melodic lines we created. I've also included a PDF of a few pentatonic shapes that work great in funk/ rock settings. There is also a link to a playlist I created on YouTube. The playlist includes various blues recordings as well examples of musicians using the pentatonic scale in funk/ fusion settings.


Masterclass Worksheet

Pentatonic Shapes

Blues Playlist

© 2017 Ron Fix. All rights reserved.