The DJAM curriculum

Below you find an overwiew of all subjects of the DJAM curriculum.


The combo lessons are the core of the curriculum at DJAM, where you can use all your skills from the other lessons by playing together, improvising and studying pieces and arrangements. The important thing here is communication and listening to yourself and your co-musicians.

We do our best to limit the amount of people per combo and certainly try to avoid having two people play the same instrument. However, scheduling problems sometimes make this impossible. By the way: we never put two drummers or bassists in one combo.

Besides arrangements of jazz standards, pieces are also taught which are specially composed for the different levels at DJAM.

Sufficient instrument technique is important for participation in the combo lessons. If we see in the audition that you are not far enough yet, you can prepare by taking main subject lessons, ideally in combination with the supporting subjects.

Play-along cd’s containing all the pieces treated during lessons (part of the lesson materials) will be made available for students, as well a mp3 cd containing original recordings of (for example) jazz standards (part of the lesson materials).

The various combos will give a short performance during the New Year’s Concert and Open House/Closing Concert.

Duration: level 1 and 2: one lesson á 90 minutes a week; level 3: one lesson á 130 minutes a week; advanced level: one lesson á 180 minutes a week

Watch performances of diverse DJAM combos here.

Supporting Subjects (theoretical and practical)

In addition to the combo lessons, DJAM offers a varied range of subjects that lead to a deeper level in music-making: the Supporting Subjects. These include subjects such as theory, improvisation, rhythm and ear-training. In addition to understanding content, you will also improve your rhythmic skills and your musical ear. Communication in a band gets easier because you better understand how music is organized, and it improves your ability to identify sound.
In the lessons you play a lot on your own instrument (for the vocalists that is the voice). In this way there is a direct link with practice. Our experience is that the material is better memorized.

Support 1 (the basic subjects, levels 1 through 3)

Level 1 to 3 is our basic training. Here music theory is divided into 5 different subjects (harmony, improvisation, ear training, rhythm and APM).

  1. Theory
    How does music actually work? That’s what this class is all about. Topics include: intervals, scales, keys, chords. At higher levels we add step analysis, chord extensions and voice leading.
    Duration: One lesson á 50 minutes every other week
  2. Improvisation
    In this class you improve your melodic, harmonic and rhythmic soloing. Phrasing and variation are recurring subjects. Links are established with the subjects harmony, rhythm and ear training. For example, how can you use the learned scales? How can this be applied to a chord progression?
    Duration: One lesson á 50 minutes every other week
  3. Rhythm
    In this class we are dealing with rhythms, both in playing and singing, an important skill. In addition we improvise rhythms and learn to notate them. We are also working on improving your timing within a particular style. Mastering the swing feel plays a big role in this. At higher levels the rhythms get more complex and the tempos go up.
    Duration: One lesson á 50 minutes every other week
  4. Ear-training
    In this class you train your musical ear. You try to recognize, replay and notate different intervals, scales, chords, melodies and chord progressions The goal is to improve your inner hearing, which will ideally help you to hear what you play in advance. A minimum of skills on the piano or guitar is important for this class because these instruments help you check the results.
    Duration: One lesson á 50 minutes every other week
  5. APM (Additional Practical Modules)
    These classes consist of modules that are an important complement to the other courses. The modules are: II-V-I progressions, solo practicum, modal practicum, turnaround practicum, blues practicum, guide-tone lines practicum, and big-band. In addition to the practical modules, there are modules that focus on active listening: Listening to Jazz and Jazz History. APM consists of 3 years, each with a different content. Some modules return with other items (big-band and solo practicum), while other modules rotate. When you have taken the 3 years of basic subjects, you will have completed all APM year courses.
    One lesson á 60 minutes a week

For our Supporting Subjects there are accompanying CDs and books available containing all the material you need. The CD recordings are also available for download at our student site.

In order to be able to follow these courses, DJAM requires the following prerequisites for participation:

  • you must have a chord instrument at your disposal
    Pianists, guitarists and accordionists are already equipped in that respect. We ask the other students to obtain a keyboard or piano before they start their studies.
  • you must have a basic knowledge of musical notation

    If you have no knowledge of notation yet, you can follow the preparatory course ‘reading music‘ (3 lessons á 60 min) through DJAM. You can choose to follow this course in July, August and September, prior to the start of the course year.

Support 2 (the extended subjects, advanced level)

In a continuation of the Basic Subjects DJAM offers lessons in arranging and composing, as part of Support 2 (advanced theory level). Jazz will be the starting point, but pop music will also be taken into account.

  1. Arranging

    In this subject you will learn how to harmonise a melody with chords for a particular instrumentation. An important part is instrumentation, where you learn about the characteristics of instruments, and how to write parts for these instruments. Much attention is also paid to the technical side of arranging: parallel harmonization, fills, countermovement and lateral movement. Reharmonization is another topic that will be covered.
    Duration of the lessons: one lesson of 100 minutes in two weeks.

  2. Composing
    In this course we look into song forms in jazz and pop music.This will reveal how to give structure to a composition. We practice writing smooth chord progressions within a certain song form. In doing so, you apply the knowledge that you have gained in the field of harmony. We pay attention to melodic structure, rhythm, climax effect and style characteristics. During the lessons there will be a lot of listening to recorded examples.
    Duration of the lessons: one lesson of 100 minutes in two weeks.

We recommend that you first follow arranging and then composing. You can then arrange your own compositions and have already developed extra insight into chords, which is good for composing.

In order to be able to follow phase 2 properly, a number of skills are required. That is why DJAM sets the following conditions for participation:

  • sufficient knowledge of music theory
    – Students already studying at DJAM:
    You have completed harmony level 3 or you also apply for harmony level 3 in the same course year. Ear-training and rhythm classes level 2 are completed.
    – New students:
    The entrance exam shows that you have sufficient theoretical knowledge, comparable to DJAM harmony level 3. Your skills in the field of ear-training and rhythm are sufficient, comparable to a completed level 2 at DJAM.
  • sufficient skills on piano or guitar
    You are able to play chords and melodies at a slow tempo.
  • sufficient knowledge of notation software
    You are able to work with apps such as Sibelius, Finale or Dorico.

Instrumental lessons (main subject)

These are individual lessons dealing with the student’s specific instrument. Main subject lessons complement the subject matter of the other lessons and generally guide you through your musical development. Main subject lessons can be taken for any instrument.

Duration: One lesson á 45 minutes a week

Subjects per week and level




Combo Theory Improvisation Rhythm Ear-
APM Main subject