Category Archives: Jazz Theory

Charles Ives for Jazz Orchestra Pt. 1 – “Tom Sails Away”

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I’d like to welcome composer and arranger Jack Cooper to Professorscosco as my first featured guest contributor. I’ve invited Jack to share with you some of his arrangements of Charles Ives’ music from his monumental 2014 release, Mists – Charles … Continue reading

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Linear Harmony #5: Block and Layered Counterpoint

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I’m revising a piece for my ensemble, perhaps for a recording in the near or far future. I’ve used “Take it Inside” in many posts because it’s a good example of linear harmony. It’s also free and I have the … Continue reading

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Linear Harmony #4 – Inner Roots and Voice Leading Pt. 2

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…the effect is fluid and free, almost like a composition is improvising with itself. I like this technique and I use it often. Thinking about strong lines and counterpoint first, and chords and harmonic movement second can make it all … Continue reading

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Linear Harmony #3 – From Point A to Point B

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Let your counterpoint guide you and write from the top down. Don’t worry about chords until it sounds good. Think about the beginning and the end of the phrase and how you want to get from point A to point … Continue reading

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Linear Harmony #2 – Inner Roots and Voice Leading – Pt. 1

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The layering of chords, with inner roots and strong voice leading are an important part of linear harmony; it’s a melodic way of writing with chords, and with apologies to Schoenberg and Debussy, a jazzy way of using “Klangfarbenmelodie”, or … Continue reading

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Linear Harmony #1: Almost Chords but Not Quite

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I started talking about linear harmony a while ago in “Lines Intertwining” (with apologies to Spinal Tap), and a few other Top-Down posts, like Melodic Pedal Points; in other posts I’ve discussed freeing up lines and counterpoint and not worrying … Continue reading

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The First Jazz Composer?

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Claude Debussy? Discuss…. Professorscosco is worn out by the holidays, a burning, but very cold rooftop New Years jazz gig, and a long bike ride today, and is thus not inclined at the moment to pontificate about music theory. But … Continue reading

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Top Down #7: Melodic Pedal Point and Vertical Dissonance

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We hear melodic pedal points all the time in blues, country, rock, jazz and classical…. it’s a complicated, jargony name for a simple concept: a note in the top voice repeats or sustains while other voices move underneath. A high … Continue reading

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Top-Down #5: More off the Grid

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When your phrases breathe and have some space, counterlines and background figures come more easily. When you write from the top, everything fits, because you decide how much space to allot each element, then you fill in the rest. When … Continue reading

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Top Down #4: Rhythmic Control and Moving off the Grid

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One goal of writing from the top-down is to compose more expressively. Not that your melodies need any help to be expressive, but perhaps there’s a way to “open it up” more. Thinking about your music with flexible rhythmic feel … Continue reading

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