Category Archives: Theory and Harmony

Top Down #6: Melodic Motion–Space is the Place

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You can give your writing rhythmic tension by varying the “groove” under a melody, melodic line, or syncopated figure. You can also create space for counterlines and more music material under, after and around your melodic figures. This adds a … 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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Top Down #3: Phrase Length and Form

Listen to some old-school blues tracks, and dig upon how some phrases/lyric lines are longer than the 4 measures that we’re used to. The performer goes to the IV chord, back to the I, to the V, when it feels … Continue reading

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Top-Down #2: Phrase Length, Strength, and the Third Dimension

There’s nothing wrong with strict song form, standards, blues, etc., and I have no objection to chord progressions – some of my best friends have strong resolutions. But, jazz music’s two big building blocks, song form (4-8-12-16 bar structure) and … Continue reading

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Scoring and Controlling Improvisation #2–Cells and Solos

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Writing “free” notation in jazz for pitched instruments is a challenge. While rhythm section players are used to making up their parts (reading chord changes, following ensemble figures with rhythmic notation), there might be some head-scratching at the session in … Continue reading

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Living in the Big City

Last week I stumbled upon a wonderful blog. On a seemingly daily basis composer and critic George Grella engages his talent, intellect and great ears and writes about a wide range of music topics from Classical to the Avant-Garde. I … Continue reading

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Posted in Free Jazz, Jazz Composition and Analysis, Jazz history, Theory and Harmony | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Scoring and Controlling Improvisation #1–Rhythmic Cells

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I’ve written a lot of ensemble music where my intention was to create an improvised texture, or a feel of rhythmic and melodic freedom—fully notated music that sounds non-metered and non-harmonic. Sometimes it works, sometimes it don’t. In many instances … Continue reading

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Last Night–One Attempt

So I tried it out again. I performed The Clothed Woman live with my trio last night. I played it last winter, but I didn’t feel comfortable with that performance. Last night it was better. Now I think I can end … Continue reading

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Posted in Duke Ellington, Free Jazz, Harmony, Jazz Composition and Analysis, Jazz history, Jazz piano, Solo piano, Theory and Harmony | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

More Revelations…

I’m getting a lot of hits on my post: “Revealing Ellington’s “The Clothed Woman” .  When I get a chance I’m going to have to fix a few typos/wrong notes in the transcription. I’m pulling this tune out on my … Continue reading

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Posted in Duke Ellington, Harmony, Jazz Composition and Analysis, Jazz piano, Solo piano, Theory and Harmony | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment