The DJAM curriculum

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

Corona info: read more here (first entry)


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 theory lessons.

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 Christmas concert and open house/closing concert.

Duration: prep. level to level 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.

Music Theory

DJAM is convinced that the study of music theory leads to a deeper level in music-making. In addition to understanding musical content you 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. Music theory at DJAM is anything but a ‘dry’ subject. On the contrary, in the classes we often play our instruments or sing. This creates a direct link with your playing. Our experience also shows that playing and singing helps memorizing the material much better. Music Theory at DJAM is always geared towards better music making.

Each level of music theory at DJAM has a different name and set-up.

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

Level 1 to 3 is our basic training. Here music theory is divided into 4 different subjects (theory, improvisation, ear training and rhythm).

  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

For our theory lessons 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 don‘t have any knowledge of notation yet, you can take the preliminary course ‚Reading music‘ (3 lessons á 60 min) via DJAM.

Phase 2 (the extended subjects, advanced level)

In a continuation of the phase 1 DJAM offers lessons in arranging and composing, as part of phase 2 (advanced theory level). Jazz will be the starting point, but pop music will also be taken into account.

  1. Arranging
    In this course you will learn to harmonise a melody for a certain instrumentation. An important part is instrumentation, in which you learn about the characteristics of instruments, and how to write parts for these instruments. Also, we will discuss the writing of intro‘s, outtro‘s, a special chorus and a tutti. Of course a lot of attention is paid to the technical side of arranging: parallel harmonisation, fills, counter movement and lateral movement. Reharmonisation is another subject that will come up, as well as dynamics and articulation, and the making of a score. As a final assignment you will write an arrangement for the APM big band.
    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. In this course there is also the possibility to compose for the APM big band.
    Duration of the lessons: one lesson of 100 minutes every 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
    – Former students:
    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.

APM (Additional Practical Modules)

Classes divided in different modules which form an important addition to the core subjects combo, theory and main subject. The modules are: II-V-I progressions, soloing, modal improvisation, arranging and analyses of combo pieces. Other modules: listening to Jazz and Jazz history. Each module takes 2 to 6 weeks.

Duration: One lesson á 60 minutes a week

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 Improvisatiom Rhythm Ear-
APM Main subject