Skip to main content

Exploring the Blues

This course is currently unavailable for booking

There are currently no upcoming dates available for this course. Be the first to know when new dates are announced by joining the mailing list.

This course is for musicians who have little or no experience of improvising and wish to give it a go.

It looks at a number of different approaches to playing the blues, as well as a number of variations on the blues form, from the '3 chord trick' to more sophisticated structures.

Students will be introduced to the repertoire and performing styles of a variety of blues music and will be given ample opportunities to 'jam'. All instruments and levels are welcome, but a basic level of competency is expected.

Learning and teaching

Teaching and learning are undertaken by means of small group work. Syllabus content will include:

  • The musical roots of the blues.
  • Theory: scales and other stylistic elements of the genre.
  • Practical study and demonstration of the blues style.
  • Solo or group performance of one or a collection of compositions in appropriate style.
  • Social and historical context in which improvised music and its main exponents can be situated and better understood.

Methods include aural analysis (recorded musical examples), presentation of material on video and/or DVD, and the practical study and demonstration of the styles and genres under discussion. One of the principal aims of this method is to stimulate students into discussion and debate, and further exploration.

Coursework and assessment

To award credits we need to have evidence of the knowledge and skills you have gained or improved. Some of this has to be in a form that can be shown to external examiners so that we can be absolutely sure that standards are met across all courses and subjects.

You will not have formal examinations but you will be asked to complete two assessment tasks:

  1. Written class assignment: This is based on scales and other stylistic elements.
  2. Solo or group performance: This can be in any blues style covered on the course, and appropriate to the student's instrument.

The most important element of assessment is that it should enhance your learning. Our methods are designed to increase your confidence and we try very hard to devise ways of assessing you that are enjoyable and suitable for adults with busy lives.

Reading suggestions

  • Davis, Francis, The History of the Blues: The Roots, the Music, the People, 2nd edn (Da Capo Press, 2003)
  • Russell, Tony and Chris Smith, The Penguin Guide to Blues Recordings (Penguin, 2006)

The tutor will recommend specific audio and/or DVD recordings and documentaries.

Library and computing facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University’s library and computing facilities. Find out more about using these facilities.


Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and dyslexia screening.