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Miles Davis Lesson for Kids: Biography & Facts

Instructor: Suzanne Rose

Suzanne has taught all levels PK-graduate school and has a PhD in Instructional Systems Design. She currently teachers literacy courses to preservice and inservice teachers.

Have you ever heard jazz music? If you have, you have heard music that was influenced by Miles Davis, one of the most famous musicians of the 20th century. Read on to find out about his impact on jazz and other types of music.

Early Life

When Miles Davis first learned to play the trumpet, he was just another kid playing in local bands. His mother was a music teacher and his father was a dental surgeon, so he had a comfortable childhood. Right after high school, he started playing music that would influence generations of musicians.

Born in 1926 in Illinois, Davis moved with his family to Missouri when he was very young. He started trumpet lessons when he was about 12-13 years old and played in small bands when he was in high school. Soon after he graduated from high school in 1944, Davis had a chance to play with a professional band that was playing in his hometown. In this band were Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, famous for developing a new type of jazz music, called bebop.

The Influence of Bebop

Bebop was a brand-new kind of music that Davis found very exciting. Instead of music written and played to entertain the audience, bebop was 'art music' meant to be listened to, rather than danced to. It was also completely invented by African American musicians. Bebop music included a lot of improvisation, which means that the music wasn't written down and played the same way each time a song was performed; the musicians could change the way it was played each time.

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Have you ever been so excited about something that you didn't want to do anything else? Maybe you just made the soccer team and all you want to do is play soccer? That's how Davis felt about bebop! He convinced he parents to let him go to New York City so that he could play music with Charlie Parker, his idol. After just one year, he was a full-time jazz musician. Davis made his first record and practiced improvisation.

Lots of New Ideas

Miles Davis always looked for new sounds or new ways to improve his music. He tried using instruments such as the French horn and tuba in his jazz bands, even though other bands didn't. With this band, he made a series of songs that became a record called, Birth of the Cool. Different from any jazz music that came before it, it had a strong impact on the way jazz was played.

The most important music recorded by Davis was called Kind of Blue. Made in 1959, it's still one of the most important jazz records ever made.

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