The premise is simple. The leader (teacher or student) improvises a one- or two-measure pattern on a single pitch and the class echoes that pattern back in response. I usually start this activity with the verbal cue “I play, you echo.” If the class is successful, the leader gradually adds pitches, one at a time, improvising with stepwise motion. In the next step, the leader invites the class to improvise their own pattern in response, instead of an echo (i.e., don’t follow the leader). The verbal cue “I play, you improvise” is helpful here. Much like the first step, the leader should introduce one pitch at a time, gradually increasing the complexity of the challenge over time.
The PowerPoint and play-along (below) in the e-book focus on the first five notes of the concert Bb major scale, which are the pitches typically introduced in beginning band method books. Feel free to swap out the play-along track with an Aebersold recording or another accompaniment. I frequently use Jamey Aebersold’s Volume 24: Major and Minor, which includes twenty-four play-alongs for major and minor chord qualities in every key. These play-alongs feature live jazz musicians, performing in a variety of styles: swing, latin, funk, etc., which helps to keep the student interest level high. For a variation on this game, invite the class to sing back, using solfege or another syllable system, whatever the leader is playing. This is a great way to assess students’ aural understanding through a live dictation activity.