Jazz Chants, the music-memory link and much more!

Hi everyone! Today I would like to present you an awesome tool, that thanks to Raquel we discovered during one of our last lessons, Jazz Chants.

However, in order to understand its multiple benefits and utility, I consider that it would be appropriate to deal with another issue before: the connection between music and our brain, or the importance that music has at the time of learning.




Image from: jonlieffmd.com/blog/unique-effects-of-music-on-the-brain

There are lots of studies and neurologists which have argued and demonstrated that there is, indeed, a real and direct relationship between these two elements: music and our memory. For instance the neurologist Petr Janata, as Hsu (2009) said, developed the first study using music to look at autobiographical memory. He carried out a brain-scan study to discover the most active part of the brain when we heard a familiar piece of music. He found that it is the prefrontal cortex, and he also found that it is the same region that lighted up in other of his studies, in “response to self-reflection and recall of autobiographical details” (Hsu, 2009). So he discovered the music-memory link. Related to it, he pointed out the benefits of music for people suffering from Alzheimer adding that “the prefrontal cortex is among the last brain regions to atrophy” (Janata cited by Hsu, 2008). In the same line, according to Oliver Sacks (2008) “the past which is not recoverable in any other way is embedded, as if in amber, in the music, and people can regain a sense of identity…”.

Moving away from scientific studies, and focusing on the educational field, the effectiveness of music at the time of learning is something that most of us have experienced by ourselves. Especially in foreign language lessons, because songs are fantastic tools to learn vocabulary and grammar structures.

However, as I said before, I discovered a tool which is even better than songs! It is Jazz Chants. They were created by Carolyn Graham 30 years ago, when she discovered that the rhythm, intonation and stress of natural spoken English language, are the same than the ones of a concrete type of music, Jazz. Due to that fact, apart from reinforcing vocabulary and grammar, with Jazz Chants you also practice something that in words of the BBC (2006) is “crucial for communication”: intonation and stress of natural English spoken language.

Other advantages that Jazz Chants have, are that the possibilities with them are endless (you can make a Jazz chant about almost anything!), and that everyone is able to do one! In fact Carolyn Graham offered the “magic recipe” for creating them:

  • Choose a topic of interest to your students
  • Write 3 words about that topic
  • Separate words by sounds (even with grammar chants)
  • Organise the words following a “magic rule”: 2 sounds word, 3 sounds word and 1 sound word, and add a little bit of repetition. You can also add grammar pattern between that words. And that’s it! You have it!

Finally, one of my peers and me reached to the conclusion that an example of a content that can be surely and successfully learnt through Jazz Chants, are the grammar structures of the Trinity exam that nowadays bilingual pupils have to be tested on.

If you want to learn more about this fantastic tool and its creator, you can visit the following links:



Hsu, J. (2009, 24 February). Music-Memory Connection Found in Brain. Live Science. Recovered from: http://www.livescience.com/5327-music-memory-connection-brain.html

Sacks, O. (2008). Musicophilia – Alzheimer’s/The Power of Music [Video]. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MdYplKQ4JBc

BBC (2006, 16 March). Intonation. British Council. Teaching English. Recovered from: http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/intonation

Jazz Chants official website: http://jazzchants.net/

Graham, C. (2010) Teaching Jazz Chants – Carolyn Graham [Video]. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_nPUuPryCs

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