As a music educator, you have a lot of tasks on your plate, including selecting appropriate, high-quality repertoire for your jazz ensemble. With the amount of music out there, selecting the right pieces can be overwhelming! You have to consider your students’ experience, abilities and interests as well as take into account the audience for whom and the situations in which your students will be playing.

Here are some tips and tricks to remember that will help you pick quality jazz and big band jazz sheet music.

The 5 Ws

Think about the 5 Ws when choosing a piece: who will be playing the piece and for whom will they be performing? What are your students’ capabilities and are you comfortable with pushing them a bit? When will your students be performing the piece (meaning, how long will they have to learn it)? Where will you be performing the piece (in a small or large space; inside or outside)? Why are you selecting the piece (for a competition, a holiday concert, a festival)?

Considering these questions will help guide you right off the bat. Then, you can consider some of the more technical aspects of the music.

Reading Ability – what key is the music in and have your students played repertoire in that key already? Do they know the scale and chords for that key? Will your students be able to read the given notes in the arrangement? It’s okay if the answer is no for these questions, but you should consider whether the musicians are ready for the challenge.

Rhythm – consider the time signature, rhythm challenges and the overall feel of the piece. Have your students played similar rhythms before or will this be their first attempt? Make sure you take this into account along with the “when” from above. If this is new to your musicians, they’ll need to have enough time to learn and master any complicated rhythms.

Student Technique – how advanced are your students’ playing techniques? Will your selection challenge them or are they already familiar? Also think about intonations and balance that will be unique to your ensemble.

By answering the questions relating to the 5 Ws and then assessing the three skill areas – reading, rhythm and technique – you’ll be sure to select an arrangement that matches your students’ abilities and the audience for whom they’ll be performing, while providing enough of a challenge that their skills continue to grow as jazz musicians.

Woodwind & Brasswind has a vast selection of jazz sheet music and big band jazz sheet music. If you’re looking for some specific suggestions on great jazz music, here are some that will get you started now:

If you need any assistance in choosing the right music for your ensemble, our expert staff are only a phone call away. Call us at 800.346.4448 to discuss your needs. And, don’t forget to shop on the Educator Website, where you’ll save on sheet music every day.